Other articles in this section :   In defense of Mr.Crocodile    Stake Holders of the Miramar Beach 

  A Scientific approach to conserving Goa's marine mammal diversity   Bardez's Wings in Danger  

Master Plan for conservation :  Anti- Poaching  , Bird Habitats  , Crocodile   , Cumbarjua river 

Our recommendations to conserve the wildlife and forests of Goa. This plan is based on our experiences and observations of the situation in Goa.

  Master Plan for conservation… Anti- Poaching

Anti - Poaching forest officers 1 (a). Wildlife is part and parcel of the forest. Every forest officer is equally trained and responsible for protection of the forest in his jurisdiction. Therefore, every forest officer should be made responsible to protect wildlife, book wildlife offences and investigate them in his jurisdiction.

It is observed that the staff actually deployed in the field for the protection of forest wealth are very few. This is because ONLY the staff of Wildlife Ranges are supposed to be taking cognizance of wildlife offences. It SHOULD BE MADE OBLIGATORY for all forest officers to be fruitfully involved in protecting forests.

(b) There should also be an authority to monitor whether these offences are being checked or not.

(c) The staff involved in forest field work should be provided with vehicles, communication and arms.

2. Both the Tree Act as well as Forest Conservation Act need more teeth. The Tree Act empowers only the tree officer (i.e. DCF, Ponda for N. Goa; DCF, Margao for S. Goa) to investigate and file complaints. The Forest Conservation Act does not empower anybody.

To make both these acts more effective, Range Forest Officers should be given powers to investigate and file court complaints under both the Tree Act and (FC) Act.

3. It is a fact that violations occur mainly because there are no enforcement officers found in the field. It is high time that the Forest Department deputes Enforcement Officers ONLY in the field i.e. they should not see the four walls of an office except to file a 10-minute report at the end of the day.

Enforcement officers must be selected giving top priority to his/her moral integrity as well as physical fitness. They must have the support of force equipped with conveyance, communication and arms.

4. Forest Guards are a highly under rated force in Goa. People who play an important role in the protection of our natural wealth should be physically fit, taught martial arts etc., and should also be familiar with Forest Laws and the Cr. P.C. Added requirements for the basis of their selection should be knowledge of nature and love for flora and fauna.

5. Another big need of the hour is Funds for wildlife conservation. The Forest Department should allocate a budget for wildlife conservation activities like camps, snake talks, nature trails, research etc.

6. The forest department has already issued advertisements warning people against keeping wild animals in captivity. Still these offences continue. We must go one step further and fine people on the spot for possessing wild animals.

  Master Plan For Conserving Important Bird Habitats

Conserving Important Bird Habitats Birds are a key indicator to various types of forest in different biotopes. Their myriad features and rarity is more than enough reason to protect their habitat, where they co-exist with other equally fascinating life forms. Flagship species in various biotopes face many threats and need to be protected. (Such as nesting sites of Yellow wattled lapwing at Nerul, Brown Hawk Owl at Old Goa, Brown Wood owl at Saligao, Brown fish Owl and Greyheaded Bulbul at Arpora etc…)

1. As is evident from the list of birds in various areas, many village green belts support exciting birdlife and correspondingly, flagship species. They are at constant threat from builders, timber merchants etc. All villages must have their own 'protected forest or parks'. Adequate legal protection should be given to them under the Tree Act, or Forest conservation Act, or by making suitable amendments to these acts.

2. A large number of 'Private Forests' exist in Goa. To prevent these areas from being plundered by builders, the Forest Department should introduce a 'sustainable Forest Growth Plan' where every two years a small part of the rejuvenated forest growth is auctioned, thus giving financial benefits to the owner. For example, if at the end of 2 years, a forest of 100 hectares were to expand to 110 hectares due to natural growth, then 4 hectares may be sold by the forest department and these benefits be handed over to the owner, thus giving him an alternative to destroying the forest by selling it to builders.

3. Certain areas need urgent protection, and a clear-cut Ban must be placed on felling trees, in a drastic move to protect these forests. This is urgently required for Saligao Springs, Arpora, Betim., Pomburpa, Tivim, Old Goa and other forest tracts in Bardez talukas.

4. NGOs may be also be asked to 'adopt a forest'.

  A Brief Status of Crocodiles in Goa

  Master Plan for conservationTwo populations of mugger crocodiles exist in Goa, one in the Opa river, and the other in the brackish waters of the Cumbarjua. Locals estimate the Opa population to be around 20 crocodiles while I would put the Cumbarjua tally at 40 plus adult crocodiles. While both are muggers or Crocodylus palustris, the Cumbarjua strain is unique in that, though the muggers are actually freshwater crocodiles, they have adapted to the saline mangrove eco-system - a feat nowhere else observed in India !.

Besides, stray crocodiles have also been spotted at Chorao, Tivim, Siolim and Carambolim. A small number i.e. 13 crocodiles are residents of the Syngenta freshwater lakes at Corlim.

Southern Birdwing, a wildlife group run by Neil Alvares and myself, have been closely monitoring the movements of these muggers as we have been regularly taking tourists 'croc-spotting' to the Cumbarjua in a boat, since 1997. The larger male muggers, being territorial, are known to us personally and we even have special names for them ! We are also part of the Goa Forest Department"s Wildlife Rescue Squad and till date, have been involved in 38 crocodile rescues. Inquiries with locals living along the Cumbarjua canal reveal that the muggers are not hunted; nevertheless, 2-3 crocodiles ranging in length from 1.3-2 metres, are spotted dead each year. These have probably been accidentally trapped in fishing nets, and then either drowned or killed. At least one case of definite intent to poach the crocodile was detected at Belloy, Nuvem.

  Our Case for Conservation of the Cumbarjua River

mysterious riverThe Cumbarjua river holds many a charm : the smile of a crocodile, colours of a kingfisher, whispering mangroves …… The mysterious meandering river has drawn tourists repeatedly year after year to its banks to observe the amazing biodiversity that thrives here. I strongly believe that if one wishes to inculcate a love of nature in the young, then the Cumbarjua is the right place to bring them too! (Where else in Goa can you reliably hope to spot wild crocodiles, peregrine falcon or white collared kingfisher - the last is a bird that foreign tourists find extremely rare!).

Certain measures need to be taken to preserve the beauty of the Cumbarjua. However, I must also state that the Government must play as minimal a role here. Already in the name of 'eco-development' and conservation, great crimes are being committed, such as the 'development of Pomburpa springs'. It would be a shame to pollute the Cumbarjua with 'eco-development' or 'cry wolf' about saving the crocodiles. The muggers are doing quite well in the Cumbarjua. Their nesting season coincides with the period when tourist boats stop plying in the Cumbarjua. And, as evident from our study, their lot is improving…
HOWEVER … we do have some recommendations:

1. All boats should pay an entry fee.
2. Speed boats, barges should be banned from the Cumbarjua.
3. Signboards detailing "Do's and Don'ts" should be erected at both ends of the Cumbarjua, as well as under the Banastarim bridge. A strict fine of Rs. 800/- should be levied on erring boat operators.
4. Only local fishermen should be allowed to fish in the Cumbarjua, not nomadic 'coracle' fishermen.
5. Rampant cutting of mangroves should be stopped.
6. Build up breached banks, to deter crocodiles that stray into fields and are killed.
7. Commission a patrol boat for the Cumbarjua. Southern Birdwing has already indicated to the Forest Department its willingness to cooperate with any such venture, as they already own a boat, and are familiar with the crocodiles.
8. It has been noted that of the introduced crocodiles to the Cumbarjua, a large majority are females. Former Conservator of Forests, Richard D'Souza had already expressed willingness to release some of the crocodiles kept at Bondla into the Cumbarjua. This would be welcome, especially if there were some male crocodiles.

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