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Last Updated Thursday September 19 2019 09:19 AM IST

Call of the Wild: killing wildlife, buying trouble

Saikat Kumar Basu
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Call of the Wild Hunting has long been one of the corner stone for the advancement of humans across the planet as species till they learnt the practice of agriculture and rearing of animals for their benefit. Photo: Saikat Kumar Basu

Hunting has been long associated with human societies and civilizations around the planet since time immemorial. Early human history has been associated with the success of the hunter-gatherer communities all round the globe.

Hunting has long been one of the corner stone for the advancement of humans across the planet as species till they learnt the practice of agriculture and rearing of animals for their benefit. In other words, hunting always remained a dominant anthropogenic activity that has kept humans ahead of all other competing species. Hence, there is hardly any nation or community or society across our entire planet that has never explored hunting as a profession in their historic as well as immediate past.

Our existence today has to be credited to the success of the hunting skills and strategies of our prehistoric ancestors. Without their superior hunting skills and high level of competence in the trade, they would not have been able to survive under extremely harsh environments and challenging geographical terrains during the process of evolution. 

With the advancement of technology and the growth of human civilizations, hunting slowly turned into a passion and an expensive sport for the elites. From the need of procuring animal meat for sustenance, it changed into the need for adventure, exploring, revealing and understanding the wild nature surrounding us.

Among several ethnic cultures stretching from the Arctic to the African Savannah and from the American Neotropics to the Steppes of Eurasia, successful hunters have been revered as great local heroes and even praised and worshiped in folklores and stories as well as in ancient scriptures.

Call of the Wild Our existence today has to be credited to the success of the hunting skills and strategies of our prehistoric ancestors. Photo: Saikat Kumar Basu

All major epics have glorified stories of hunting made by heroes, gods and goddesses highly respected and revered in different cultures, both in eastern and western civilizations. 

With the passage of time, status of hunting changed and became restricted to two main communities, viz., the royal families, nobles, knights, rich and elites on one hand and on the other, hunting communities, including the poorest of the poor, marginalized, remote rural, tribal communities, forest residents and forest fringe dwellers who are heavily dependent on local forest resources for their daily sustenance and very ancient tribes isolated from modern civilizations and restricted to remote and inaccessible geographical locations.

For the former group, hunting has been a passion while for the latter, hunting has been their profession as well as their only source of sustenance. The latter communities are now restricted to the developing and developed nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as remote parts of the Arctic, Siberia and Oceania. 

However, human need (read greed) slowly started changing, as humanity encountered two major World Wars and the rapid rise of industrialization. With the rise of industrialization, economic prosperity emerged as the major determinant for human success. That also unfortunately made the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Prior to the world wars, the globe was brutally divided among European colonial masters who exploited the natural resources of the conquered nation to the best of their capacity.

Call of the Wild With the advancement of technology and the growth of human civilizations, hunting slowly turned into a passion and an expensive sport for the elites. Photo: Saikat Kumar Basu

Colonial hunters have wiped out several majestic species of wildlife and other rare flora and fauna through relentless and irresponsible hunting. The world polarized into a conglomeration of rich and poor nations following World War II.

The newly independent nations emerging from several centuries of European colonial rules across Asia, Africa and Latin America faced worst economic crises and struggled to survive and cope with their rising human populations, ethnic clashes, religious divide, nepotism, corruption and lack of proper economic growth. 

As a consequence, a section of rural as well as urban poor got pushed into remote areas for their survival and sustenance. This added further pressure on the forest belts that were already struggling to survive under the pressure of the remote rural communities, forest residents and fringe dwellers to subscribe to the additional pressure of humans encroaching into forested areas for their survival.

Hunting, therefore, slowly transformed into poaching of precious, endangered, critically endangered and vulnerable wildlife species to extinction. The high demand of the rich elites for wildlife trophies, wildlife body parts (skins, fur, pelt, horns, tusks, teeth, feather, gall bladder etc) for superstitious healing effects and ornamentation of residence and for illegal pet trade (like insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fishes, mammals etc) massacred several species and forced them towards extinction or near extinction across the planet.

It is quite important to note that a vast majority of mega-diverse or highly bio-diverse nations represent developing and under developed nations across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The unstable socioeconomic conditions of many such nations and poverty along with the rise of militant insurgency, anarchy and civil wars have ravaged the local ecosystems, pushing marginal communities towards poaching from sustainable hunting. From the use of traditional weapons such as the bow and arrow or spears, poaching introduced local guns and highly powerful rifles and machine guns to decimate wildlife in poor developing nations to sustain the greed of the rich western elites throughout the 20th century and now to fulfill the greed of newly economically empowered China. 

Call of the Wild Colonial hunters have wiped out several majestic species of wildlife and other rare flora and fauna through relentless and irresponsible hunting. Phot: Saikat Kumar Basu

Sadly, the world witnessed the transformation of sustainable hunting into reckless and irresponsible poaching that has impacted biodiversity across the globe. Culling of excess wildlife is practiced in several countries across the globe to keep the wildlife numbers under control. But outside the western world, such culling of wildlife has been often cleverly replaced with poaching instead of sustainable hunting management practices impacting the population dynamics of several wildlife species.

Unless appropriate steps are taken, poaching can transform into one of the most dominant factor of our time wiping off precious wildlife species from various global biomes and ecosystems within next two decades.

(The author is a Canada and India based freelance journalist specializing in global geo-political, strategic and foreign policy issues, science & technology and environment & conservation related themes.)

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