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881Re: [Indianmoths] Re: [ButterflyIndia] French Poachers in Sikkim - a rejoinder to xenophobia

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  • Roger C. KENDRICK
    Jul 31, 2007
      Hi Ashwin,

      Welcome to the world of political intolerance.

      Whilst big business backs politicians, it will always be difficult for nature to survive. Why? because it gets in the way of profit. Big business backs political decisions that impede the distribution of knowledge that shows up how greedy it is. In India, this is illustrated by the law on collecting - even for genuine scientific reasons. In other words, the business community is stopping research that would otherwise stop business. The same happens in many other countries around the world. Probably the only area this is not the norm is in the European Union, where it costs business more to operate due to environmental directives (i.e. mandatory procedures that have to be taken into account whilst undertaking any business) passed by the European Parliament in Brussels. In spite of this, some EU countries still have prohibitive laws on general collection of invertebrates. Business is all too happy to fund research on pesticides, drugs, IT, engineering, marketing, commerce ..., because these areas help business grow (= economic growth = unsustainable use of planetary resources = human greed; b.t.w. there is no such thing as sustainable economic growth as the world has finite resources!). But as soon as it comes to the environment, business doesn't want to know! So when environmentalists cry foul at some area of wonderful habitat that is about to be destroyed, the powers that be say you can't go research there (because their financial backers told them that it's dangerous information!), then turn round and say you didn't provide evidence of there being X,Y,Z, endangered species using that habitat so we'll destroy it to create more jobs (e.g. housing, factories, roads....) (=more unsustainable economics!).

      There is only one way out - political lobbying & education. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK now has a turnover in excess of GBP100 million and over 1,000,000 members. This represents considerable political clout and the RSPB makes full use of it. More and more RSPB members are taking note of what is happening overseas. Maybe it's worth contacting the RSPB asking for assistance in political policy work to be taught by them for the Indian NGOs, such as BNHS. Education at grass roots level right through to top politicians needs to take place in order for the environment to stand a chance of surviving. Humanity depends upon it. Butterflies and moths, not just tigers, are icons of the wild and free; let their intrinsic appeal foster a better understanding and appreciation of what is being lost in the name of "progress", so that it becomes easier to do something to not just stop the environmental degradation, but to start its restoration. Making information on the environment public is one of the best ways of protecting the environment.

      Knowledge is very powerful - that's why those in power try to stop others gaining knowledge.

      I would like to add that I don't condone the methods of posing as a tourist, nor do I condone mass collecting (even though it's difficult in a few days to make more than a tiny impact on any given invertebrate population). Any honest scientist, whether paid (i.e. in academia) or amateur, should know that the legal issues must be checked and adhered to well before visiting any country, and any required paperwork applied for. If, as appears to be the case in India, a legal blanket ban is imposed without good justification, then official protests should be made to the Indian Government, stating why such a ban is detrimental to the conservation of the environment. Ideally, such a protest should carry political and academic weight, as well as NGO weight - this is what the RSPB are very good at doing. One really must also involve the public, because it is in the interest of the environment which we all share that it stays healthy.

      Time to step off the political soap box!



      Ashwin Baindur <ashwin_baindur@...> wrote:
      Hi ButterflyIndians & Indian Moth-ers,

      From reading the article/thread some of us may get the impression - the #@$ French, they come
      here, take away our butterflies, squeeze out the scientific juice, we are left all the poorer and
      exploited! So I offer some thoughts.

      The Wildlife Protection Act does not provide blanket protection to all species of Lepidoptera. So
      hypothetically, if the French were catching Lepidoptera which were NOT protected in an area which
      was NOT a protected area, then are they breaking the law? Secondly, the Forest Deptt is generally
      unable to identify Lepidoptera so how can they act unilaterally by assuming that protected fauna
      were being caught? Thirdly, the list of protected species is deeply flawed and not based on
      present scientific basis. What if on this basis the arrest was contested in a court of law?
      Fourthly, if they were catching specimens for science - whats so wrong with that? Were they known
      black market racketeers?

      There really is no reason to get worried by the fact that they were French or caught a few
      butterflies or moths - the biomass of insects including Lepidoptera is phenomenally large.
      Secondly, no species of butterfly has ever been made extinct by collecting alone. Thirdly, there
      is no concrete evidence of our visions of LARGE SCALE poaching which is supposed to impoverish our
      lepidoptera biodiversity. Our butter/moth biodiversity is actually in danger due to habitat loss,
      habitat change, overuse of pesticides, pollution and so on. Its so easy to fall in the trap of
      applying thought processes concerning megafauna to arthropods - their science, ecology and
      conservation is radically different from that of large mammals.

      To those amongst us who feel that our scientists are deprived from identifying those species
      foreigners takeaway, the small fragment of our fauna that goes abroad doesnt form even a per cent
      of what our biodiversity holds - but almost nobody is studying it over here! There is enough for
      all. Yet we feel righteous when such an event occurs. What actually prevents Indians from studying
      our biodiversity are - the flawed laws passed by the Govt of India, a forest department which is
      out of synch with the needs of scientific researchers, lack of funding and the economic boom which
      draws our best minds away from basic science.

      We have a major problem - that there just arent enough trained taxonomists in India, the vast
      majority of us are amateur naturalists indulging in hobbies or field biologists who have very
      different mindset as well as very different priorities. Taxonomy is a very different kettle of
      fish and requires people with a very different bent of mind. Worst of all, the laws of India
      discourage the genuine taxonomically inclined person. Should you try to collect specimens for
      research, you are likely to be prosectuted if you attempt to do so. And almost no funding is to be
      found. You can mobilise funds to save the Tiger, but precious litle else. There are no funds from
      Govt of India for Project Snow Leopard or Project Great Indian Bustard (ask BNHS), much less for
      taxonomy of the many families of arthropoda which are creepy and crawly. Try getting a grant for
      studying say Pentatomiid bugs in any part of India and permission of Forest Deptt/Deppt of
      Environment for catching specimens as part of your research! Even if you do, will a second
      scientist get it? In the case of the tens of thousands of Indian moth species how many scientists
      are out there studying this large part of our fauna?

      We worry about Japanese taxonomist taking away our butterflies - but Japanese taxonomists are
      doing a sterling job in taxonomy of butterflies. Much of the true relations of Oriental
      lepidoptera have emerged from their studies. We learn about our fauna thanks to their efforts.
      Please point out any seminal work done by a single Indian scientist on butterflies in the recent
      past! You cant.

      There is greater danger that our biodiversity will vanish before Indians ever study it. ''Our
      biodiversity' ' - big deal, (except for our peninsular Indian endemics) the major part of our
      desert, jungle and montane fauna are common over Asia - Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh,
      Myanmar. We are part of a globe. Our fauna recognise no political boundaries. But if they lie in
      our political boundary - they are likely to face consequences. Ask a musk-deer! In India he will
      be butchered. In Bhutan, he is safe!

      OK, let us say that our scientists do get a fair deal - just how many are there that contribute
      back to you and me the general community? Some do, but the vast majority dont. In the case of
      publicly volunteered scientific information by scientists, not a single scientist in India has
      offered any intellectual property as yet to help make a list of Indian moths - but Roger Kendrick,
      a Hong Kong scientist, volunteered part of his intellectual property. In the case of Indian
      butterflies, only Krushnamegh has offered IP from his Western Ghats list for putting up on
      Wikipedia. So big deal, why should the turf be protected for Indian scientists?
      ==Relax, controversial point is over==

      All I can say to those truly concerned about butterflies or moths, do something about it. Study
      the animal scientifically. Collect and share information. It can mean something as small as giving
      the full details of the snaps we send to ButterflyIndia. Or making a local checklist. Or observing
      all the year round and noting which butterflies and moths we see in which season. Krushnamegh' s
      book gives so many of these ideas which are doable.

      Now my intention is not to cause heartburn to any of you. It is just to provide an alternative
      viewpoint. The best thing you can do is neither believe me nor disbelieve me. Make up your own
      minds - but be very discerning in examining all issues. Dont get swayed by emotion - stick to the

      Regards, Ashwin Baindur

      --- Naseer Ommer <naseerommer@ gmail.com> wrote:

      > Hi All
      > Such activities from foreigners are not an unknown matter. More n more
      > similiar activities are concentrated in Asian countires and especially in
      > India they fail officially A times but they do have other ways of accessing
      > the materials or info. We've lots of restrictions in India but are easily
      > manageable by the foreigners. Even some experts are found doing the
      > necessary help for this 'scientific smuggling' ..
      > Recently in a remote area was emjoying the natural beauty around, noticed
      > some movement inside. Waited for sometime to watch and found two locals and
      > two Japanese so called tourists with nets catching butterflies! ! Immediately
      > alerted the Forest department and hope that they've taken action against
      > this.
      > I've recd. mails for snake tail tips esp. that of pit vipers... they even
      > send the container thru post, means they did a nice home work about people
      > who are working n similiar research or other studies and collect their
      > details.
      > another routine and common nowadays thru e-mails!! one such mail received
      > recently added below FYI. removed his complete postal address from the mail.
      > We've to keep our eyes n ears open to prevent such things happening again.
      > regards
      > Naseer
      > :: spider egg sacs from Kerala
      > Hi Naseer,
      > I am the moderator of
      > http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/cocoonswap ping
      > In case you find eggsacs (cocoons) of spiders from Kerala
      > are you willing to send them to me? If so, just let me know
      > what I can do in return to you. I find your photo of the
      > Nephila maculata (male with female) just awesome.
      > You are hereby invited to join my spideregroup. If so, you
      > first have to get your id at www.yahoogroups. com.
      > Cheers,
      > Friedrich van der Wart
      > On 7/26/07, usha lachungpa <ulachungpa@gmail. com> wrote:
      > >
      > > Dear All,
      > >
      > > FYI: We recently had three French students who came as tourists from
      > > Darjeeling and were caught catching butterflies, moths, beetles and
      > > damselflies (41 specimens, mostly common species and none from Sch 1) in
      > > West Sikkim. Our field staff after information from the local police caught
      > > them openly collecting besides the road and they admitted that they planned
      > > to give them to some museum (ACORES?) in France. They pleaded ignorance
      > > about the law and said nothing was mentioned about ban on collection in some
      > > Sikkim tourism brochure they came across at Varanasi! And department was
      > > soon receiving faxes from their embassy. I have not yet seen these faxes.
      > >
      > > They were released after paying a fine of Rs. 25000/- each and
      > > surrendering their equipments which included a black bulb, a white
      > > flourescent bulb, lots of wire, collection papers, butterflies, moths and
      > > damselflies in triangles and glazed envelopes (which have old dates of 1981,
      > > etc.- probably from the institution called ACORES), alcohol, a syringe and a
      > > large butterfly net. In fact yesterday after cancelling their remaining
      > > period of stay in Sikkim they were escorted out of the state. First hand we
      > > did not find scheduled species but I will try to post the pictures for
      > > confirmation of id and your comments as the seized materials have been
      > > handed over to me yesterday. Due to the high humidity the specimens are
      > > already attacked by fungus though the lone Great Orangetip was still alive
      > > in its envelope after three days.
      > >
      > > Am attaching two pictures taken by the field staff of West Sikkim for the
      > > present.
      > >
      > > Regards,
      > > Usha
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > > --
      > > Usha Ganguli-Lachungpa
      > > Sr. Research Officer (WL)
      > > Dept. of Forest, Env. & WL Mgmt.
      > > Government of Sikkim
      > > Deorali, Gangtok 737102
      > > Tel/Fax:91-3592- 280402;
      > > Cell:094340- 25273
      > > ulachungpa@gmail. com
      > > ulachungpa2001@ yahoo.com
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > --
      > Naseer Ommer
      > www.flickr.com/ photos/naseer_ ommer
      > http://community. webshots. com/user/ NaseerOmmer

      "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."
      Albert Einstein

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      Roger C. KENDRICK Ph.D.
      Senior Conservation Officer, Fauna Conservation,
      Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Garden, Hong Kong

      C & R Wildlife (sole proprietor), Tai Po, Hong Kong

      Hong Kong Moths - http://asia.geocities.com/hkmoths/

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