January 20th 2011..the Big Day finally dawns..we have been waiting for this for 5 years! India’s first wild-to-wild Gaur relocation becomes a reality!! The M.P Forest Department has taken a bold step to relocate Gaurs to Bandhavgarh NP. Now it has the confidence to undertake such a monumental task, as it is well prepared..years of planning have gone into it. Firstly, they have deployed the best practices and technology in moving wild animals from South Africa, acknowledged as a world leader in this area. Secondly, their Park managers and Vets have been sent to S.Africa on an exposure trip. Thirdly, the Wildlife Institute of India are very much a part of this project and lastly they have involved three of the best experts in the world in the actual operation. Dr.Dave Cooper, a Senior Vet of KZN Wildlife..who has an experience of 35 years and who has handled more then 50,000 wild animals so far! Jeff Cooke, head of Game Capture Unit of KZN Wildlife..15 years of experience and Les Carlisle, Conservation manager for andbeyond with 30 years of experience and who has moved over 40,000 animals in his checkered career! So we are talking about over 80 years of combined experience and a total of over 1,00,000 wild animals moved by these three gentlemen!!
A Gaur herd tracked by Elephant back by H.S.Negi, FD of Kanha and Les Carlise.
The first Gaur darted by Dr.Akhilesh Mishra from Elephant-back!!
Dr.Dave Cooper in action!
Jeff Cooke with one of the tranquilised Gaurs being shifted to the Boma..
The Man with boundless energy and Vision-Les Carlise!
The Transport truck designed and built to safely transport big animals like Gaurs over long distances…it is seen parked along the capture Boma..or an enclosure in Kanha.
The first Gaurs released at 2.35 am on morning of 22nd Jan 2011 at Bandhavgarh!!
A total of 19 Gaurs were translocated..in four trips.
World over re-locations like this have contributed in reversing local extinctions..Black Rhino, Arabian Oryx are two famous examples. In India, if we have to move ahead to save animals like Asiatic Lions. Cheetah and Barasingha, we have to adopt a similar strategy. In this background, we have to laud the M.P Forest Department’s vision to bring back the Gaurs which have disappeared from Bandhavgarh in 1998. This new population will be tracked by two researchers from WII for a period of three years (the adult animals have all been radio-collared)..so that their movement and range behaviour will be well understood.
There is no dearth of critics in this country..especially in the field of Conservation..in my opinion, most of them are either cynical or ill-informed or both. This move will be criticised endlessly..but i am totally convinced that if we have to save our wildlife, we have to adopt a more pragmatic and proactive strategy of managing our wildlife resources…gone are the days of ‘passive management’. The philosophy of ‘wildlife will take care of itself’ is not going to work anymore. In fact,Tigers are already being translocated..so are the Rhinos in Assam. The translocation of Gaurs is one more such bold step in that direction of ‘active management’. The difference is that M.P Forest dept decided to get the best expertise and technology in the world!
Personally, this is a highpoint in my life..i feel i have managed to contribute my two-pence to the Conservation movement in India..what started as a dream 5 years back..is now a reality!! My Company,Taj Safaris, fully backed my crazy dream..i am so proud of it!
But this is only a beginning..we have to Dream on….
These are only a few pictures i am sharing with you all..i have hundreds of them! I was fortunate enough to be an active participant in the entire operation! These were the most exciting ten days in my life!!
You all will have to wait for more news and pictures of this path-breaking project!!