Tuesday, 25 September 2007

TIGERS DILEMMA- A Dialogue Among Tigers

A Tiger Cub in a European Zoo,:A Wild Indian (Bengal) Tigers, A Thai Farmed Tiger and A Chinese Farmed Tiger are having a conversation.

Indian Tiger: “I have been the centre of discussion again lately. There seems to be a lot fewer of my kind now in India than previously admitted, only 1300”. See Daily Mail

Chinese Farmed Tiger: “I am the subject of discussion lately too. Some humans want to sell me as medicine when I die of old age in order to save you wild cousins. (See Report ). Others want to cull me now to stop me being used when I die -I overheard an official from the organization “Traffic” saying this on Oct 20th in the Felid Conference in Oxford. Either way the picture wont be pretty.”.

European Tiger Cub: “But my mates are already being killed and sold to taxidermists to be made into stuffed tiger! I overheard that if I am no longer cute and cuddly, I am no longer useful for attracting visitors so zoos have no space for us big tigers. I want to become a pigmy!.” (See Times Article ),

Thai Farmed Tiger: “How about me? My mates are already sold for food and skin! My owners got busted some time ago” ( See EIA Report) “But how can we stop humans eating us and wearing us on their belly when there are so many of them? Even a tiny fraction of them is a large number. No government or NGO will spend enough money to education 6 billion of them.”

Indian Tiger: “Worse is to come! There will be at least 9 billion of them by 2050. And there are 40 million poor humans living around me and my mates now. I am not sure the Indian government’s US $10million annual funding has ever reached any of these poor souls. What choices do they have but to trap us and sell our skins and bones to make a living??? Our sacrifice gives these poor souls at least a bit of money to live on!”

All the tigers, wild, zoo and farmed, fall silent.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Finally Catching Gus Mills at the Felid Conservation Conference in Oxford

For those of you who do not know who Gus Mills is, here is a short introduction. Mills was working at the Kruger National Park when he issued the below press release on behalf of five organizations: http://english.savechinastigers.org/node/264

He is now a freelance consultant. Before and after the above press release, various mutual friends tried to arrange a meeting between me and him, and I personally wrote to him and phoned him to invite dialogues. I never succeeded in meeting him. When he was confronted by an ex-colleague, asking why he could say that our project in SA was “against the Biodiversity Bill”, knowing very well that we restored 33000 hectares of overgrazed land and turned 17 defunct sheep farms into a wildlife reserve, thus gaining biodiversity for South Africa, he replied that he put it in “for effect” -such was his blatant disregard for the intelligence of the public! Such was his professional integrity but I was still very shocked when he tried to get the membership of one of our strong supporters in a conservation organization cancelled.

I came back from Beijing just to be able to go to this Felid Conference to say Hi to a few supporter biologists. I went there with my husband Stuart in the afternoon of Oct 21. I did not expect to see Gus Mills but his face is such a familiar one from the TV appearances he made in opposing our project that I could not but calling out his name-. It was a fateful encounter!

I have long wanted to ask him that same question.

Me: “Why did you say that our project damaged South African Biodiversity? You know we restored 33000 hectares of land from sheep farms to wildlife reserve!”.

Mills: “The tiger is exotic and free ranging”.

Me: “You know well the tigers are in camps-fenced off, not much more different from other animals in South Africa. The National Zoo of SA has David’s Deer on their land for example. Are you saying all exotic animals in South Africa should be taken out?”

Mills: “I am not saying that is right too. You will have my approval if you have African games”.

Me: “You know we do -we have reintroduced many African antelopes. We would not have bought the land if it weren’t for rewilding the South China Tigers. Our project has contributed to South African Biodiversity. Are you saying Cattle farms have more biodiversity than a restored wildlife reserve?”

Mills: “If managed right cattle farms have more biodiversity”>

I am quite appalled by what he just said!

Me: “Can I quote you on that? You do know the farmers have taken out everything they could-cheetahs, leopards etc. What kind of biodiversity is sheep farm?”

Mills: “You can’t quote me on that”..

Me: “Further, because of what we did, more people have now bought land in our neighbourhood for wildlife. One has turned sheep farm into game breeding and another has turned sheep farm into game hunting.”.

Mills: “That is not conservation. Further what significance does it have? It is nought nought percent of National Parks. Insignificent!”

This, coming out of the lips of a conservationist, is unforgivable- Gus Mills is now anti-conservation.

Me: “So you are essentially saying you prefer cattle farms to wildlife land. I will quote you on that”.

Mills: “There is no point for us to continue this conversation,. It will not yield any results.” Mills pushed through the crowd and left us.

He must be secretly regreting demeaning private game conservation areas because privately owned games reserves account for a large percentage of wildlife reserves in South Africa, many of them restored from cattle farming - such as Shamwari, Tswalu, to name a few, and they play a very significant conservation role. It is part of South Africa’s conservation legacy.

He must also be slapping his face for saying cattle farms have more biodiversity than restored wildlife reserve such as ours. We all know, sheep and cattle farmers have taken out all the big African predators on their farms and continue to take out other smaller wild animals such as jackals.

At least he is no longer with the National Parks of South Africa, so he wont be able to make discriminating policies against private initiatives in conservation.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Chinese Massage in Beijng Hotels

I was having a goodbye meeting today with a SCT supporter, who is a Post PHD biologist from Oxford. He is finally leaving Oxford, after fifteen years there, to start a teaching job overseas. Nobby is Japanese, and what an exceptional one he is! He is of course fluent in English from fifteen years of living in Oxford, and apart from biology, he is well versed in history and many other subjects, as well as has very thoughtful analysis on many issues concerning current affair. He is one of those people whose intellect and down-to-earth attitude I highly respect.

We do not meet very often, but when we do meet, we manage to touch on many subjects, besides cats and conservation. He is also my sounding board for some of the scientific issues we face at SCT. Although China and Japan still have past grievances against one another, I feel an incredible closeness to Nobby. Although he is somewhat western, he is still very Japanese in that he has all the virtues that I do admire in the Japanese culture-modest, hard working, polite, etc- plus many much more.

One of the recurring subjects is also of course the future of the planet and where hope lies. We both have very “politically incorrect” solutions. We both believe the only future for a better environment is to have proper family planning around the world to control the growth of the population. Very few humans want to sacrifice the comfort, status symbols and conveniences that come with getting rich, which are inevitably aggravating environmental problems that are already getting worse everyday. The solutions would be to have fewer children in order for the increasingly more and more wealthier people to use more resources. I have none and I told my readers I made that decision long time ago. Nobby is single in his forties and not married. My only sibling also has no offspring. I am glad China has a one-child policy. Even with the population at its current level, the pollution it has created with modernization, industrialization, progress and development is not only affecting the Chinese, but its neighbours such as Korea and Japan, and even as far as California!

Whenever in a conversation that someone attacks China’s one child policy, I always ask: “Would your own country accept half of China’s population of 1.4 billion people”? That is when I normally get surprised looks and when I get accused: “You are a fascist”. Actually, I am probably one of those people who truly care about the future of planet earth. In these situations I often reply: I do not want to be politically correct since I care about the truth. Today I learned that Nobby’s reply to being accused of political incorrectness is: “I am a scientist.” Therefore one plus one equals two!

Nobby told me an “strange” tail, related to him by a colleague of his from Oxford -Mr. A, who recently returned from a conference in China. I did not find it amusing though. I was worried, since this is not the first time that I was told such “strange tails” by my foreign friends.

"A" was staying in a hotel organized by the conference’s host, at a respectable hotel in Beijing. He heard Chinese massage therapy was fabulous (and indeed they are! In fact, I need the Tuina regularly to adjust my constant sore muscles and bones). He wanted to experience a proper Chinese massage while in China to sooth his sore muscles. He called the hotel service during his last night in Beijing. A few moments later, a very pretty girl knocked on his door and came in. She opened up a piece of paper which read: “US$ 200”. Mr. A was of course taken by surprise, to say the least. He could only gesture with his hands: “No, No, No”. The girl then made a gesture with her hand as if giving oral sex. "A" at his point had to push her out of his room door.

Before he could get over this episode, there was another knock at the door. This time a girl not as pretty as the last one came in. "A" thought now he could get a proper massage. This girl however displayed the same piece of paper, with the US$200 crossed out, and US$100 written below that. Now Mr. A had to give up the idea of a massage all together for his last night in Beijing and went to sleep fearing there might be yet another knock on the door with $50.

"A" and Nobby asked, rightly, what kind of image does China want to present herself to the world in 2008? Is money everything?

This is exactly the kind of questions I have been asking my fellow countrymen.