– By Kritika Dagar
National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has banned BBC from all tiger reserves in the country for 5 years over a documentary titled Killing for conservation, which depicted conservation efforts against poaching by Kaziranga National Park in a bad light. BBC correspondent, Justin Rowlatt, who made this documentary has also been banned.
The major controversy is over Rowlatt’s criticism of the park’s anti-poaching and conservation efforts. This did not go down well with the NTCA. BBC was banned as it did not submit the film to Ministries of Environment and External Affairs for mandatory preview and charges it of submitting a false synopsis while seeking permission to film.
BBC report based on the film- Kaziranga: A park that shoots people to protect rhinos claims to reveal dark secrets behind the successful conservation story of Kaziranga.
The documentary which was shot in and around Kaziranga National Park depicted some instances where people were shot or tortured for information. For instance, a small boy was accidentally shot. In the film it seems as if the boy was shot in cold blood. BBC did not mention that this was because a bullet misfired while a guard was trying to stop a rhino from entering.
In the video, Justin Rowlatt talks to the director of the park and finds out that 50 people have been killed by the guards in past 3 years. He does not prod further on the fact that the director also said that about 300 locals were involved into the rhino trade.
He also claimed that guards have shoot at sight orders at night. This was refuted by officials who say intruders are first questioned, and shot only if they open fire.
Needless to say, guards may not always be faultless in their pursuits. But does this mean the entire Kaziranga conservation model is wrong?
As an analysis of Kaziranga’s anti-poaching strategy the documentary shows just one side of the story, the complexities in conserving the 400 square km plus park are immense. The park faces enormous poaching threats, but the rhino numbers have been growing. It now boasts of about 2400 rhinos- two thirds of the world population.
It is also a World Heritage site. Surely the model is successful in preventing poaching. But are the rules too tough?
A point that strikes me in the video is that investigations and prosecutions are rare in poaching cases. Perhaps focusing on capturing the intruders would help in finding the poachers’ networks and linkages. Moreover, how guards determine that the intruder is a poacher is not answered clearly.
The important question this raises is – Is it okay to kill for conservation? You decide.
Image Source: Google Images.
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