January 28, 2014


India only has 1,000 tigers left. Every one is precious
By Andrew Buncombe
For the officials at Kolkata’s zoo it is a rescue mission like no other – saving the sight of a Sundarbans tiger.

The middle-aged male was spotted this month at Sajnekhali in the Sundarbans delta, edging closer to human settlements, in poor condition and bearing several injuries. After he was captured by means of a baited cage, forestry staff could tell he had no sight in his right eye.
They suspected a cataract but the only way to know was to place him in a covered cage, lift it onto a truck and bring him to the city. And so they did.
“In most areas where tigers live, the catching of prey is easy,” the zoo’s director, Kanai Lal Ghosh, said as we sat in his office. “But the Sundarbans is difficult. It is the only place where tigers eat fish. Bengalis like fish, but the tigers have no choice.”
At the beginning of the 20th Century India was home to 100,000 tigers. A hundred years later, hunting (now banned), poaching (banned but continuing) and habitat destruction (supposedly banned but also still happening) has reduced the figure to 1,700. Every one is precious.
One of the biggest populations is in the Sundarbans, the remote, shifting delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. Up to 100 animals are there.
It is said Sundarbans tigers are more aggressive and bad-tempered than others because they are obliged to drink salty water. If villagers enter the jungle they will wear a human mask on the back of their head as means of protection. Locals believe tigers don’t like to be stared at.
Mr Ghosh said the animal in question was very weak and malnourished. It had perhaps not fed for 15 days.
How long might a tiger live without eating?
“During our independence struggle against the British, Jatindra Nath Das went on hunger-strike. He lasted 63 days without food before he died,” replied Mr Ghosh. “But I don’t know how long a tiger can survive.”
Belinda Wright, of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, said she had never heard of wild tigers suffering eye problems. She said the report followed earlier incidents of Sundarbans tigers being found with weak hind quarters. 
A plaque on Mr Ghosh’s wall suggested he was the 22nd director of the establishment officially known as the Alipore Zoological Gardens. The zoo dates back to 1875 but over the years it has attracted controversy.
In the 1970s it was condemned for a breeding programme involving a male tiger and a female lion that produced a so-called tigon. A previous director was suspended amid a furore over the theft of rare Brazilian monkeys.
Mr Ghosh and  Dr DN Banerjee, his chief veterinary officer, said the tiger had been placed on saline drips and was being fed boneless beef to help it recover its strength. Then they would take a look at the eye, hoping to use sprays or injections to bring back its sight. Their wish is for the animal to return to the wild.
“Humans can either have artificial lenses or wear these,” said Mr Ghosh, as he slipped off his spectacles. “The tiger cannot.”
Mr Ghosh refused a request to visit the sick animal. But on the way out, I stopped off at the zoo’s tiger enclosure where an elegant female, Krishna, was pacing the perimeter.
Schoolchildren were taking their turn at a glass viewing window.

When they stopped in place for too long a guard wearing a bright orange turban blew a whistle and hurried them along. 
Organisers abandon event in reminder that the young education campaigner is loved more abroad than in her home country

By Rob Crilly, Islamabad
Pakistani academics have been forced to cancel plans to launch Malala Yousafzai’s memoir in her home province, claiming they came under pressure from local government ministers and the police.

Malala has become an international icon of resistance to the Taliban after being shot for her campaign to get more girls into school, but she is a divisive figure at home where she is widely suspected of being a Western stooge.

Sarfraz Khan, director of the Area Study Centre at the University of Peshawar, said he received telephone calls from two provincial ministers asking him not to go ahead with Tuesday’s launch.

They include a figure from Imran Khan’s Movement for Justice and one from its coalition partner, Jamaat-i-Islami, a religious party.

Mr Khan said he had to cancel the launch after police said they would not be able to provide security and served him with an order banning the event.

 “All we want is a normal campus life with the free exchange of ideas,” he said, dismissing the order as illegal. “This has nothing to do with ministers or the provincial government. We are independent and autonomous.

“It is part of our work to read books and discuss them.”
The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of the 15-year-old campaigner in 2012 as she returned from school in the Swat Valley.

Commanders have also threatened to attack shops that stock her book,“I am Malala” – although it has not acted upon them.
That hardline stance has permeated mainstream opinion.

There is widespread envy that Malala has been allowed a visa for Britain when many other victims of terrorism have no such escape route. Many take it – along with her visits to the United Nations – as evidence that she was part of a foreign plot to introduce secular, Western values to the Muslim country.

Imran Khan took to Twitter to distance his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party from the move.

“I am at a loss 2 understand why Malala's book launch stopped in Peshawar. PTI believes in freedom of speech/debate, not censorship of ideas,” he said.

Inayatullah Khan, the provincial local government minister, denied putting pressure on the university.

“I never spoke to anyone regarding the book launching programme,” he told Dawn newspaper.

@ The Telegraph