Suicide bomber kills 10 people in Nigeria

Suicide bomber kills 10 people in Nigeria

01/Feb/2015  //  224 Viewers

A suicide bomber blew himself up outside the house of a legislator in the northeast Nigerian town of Potiskum on Sunday, killing 10 people, two security sources told Reuters.

The bomber walked up to the house of Sabo Garbu, a member of the house of representatives in the federal government, before detonating the explosives.

Death Toll Mounts in Ukraine Fighting After Peace Talks Fail

Death Toll Mounts in Ukraine Fighting After Peace Talks Fail

01/Feb/2015  //  249 Viewers

Kiev:  13 government soldiers and at least as many civilians have been killed in the past 24 hours in eastern Ukraine's separatist conflict after the collapse of peace talks, Kiev authorities said.

Hopes of easing the situation evaporated on Saturday with Ukraine's representative and separatist envoys accusing the other of sabotaging negotiations.

"Fighting continues across all sections of the frontline," Kiev military spokesman Volodymyr Polyovy said in a briefing.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which took part in the talks in Minsk, Belarus, along with envoys from Ukraine and Russia, said rebel delegates had not been ready to discuss key points of a peace plan.

"In fact, they were not even prepared to discuss implementation of a ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons," the OSCE said in a statement.

It said rebels had instead pushed for a revision of a ceasefire plan agreed in Minsk last September.

The terms of that 12-point protocol have been repeatedly violated but Kiev and foreign governments see it as the only viable roadmap to end the nine-month-long conflict in which more than 5,000 people have been killed.

In eastern Ukraine, the Kiev military reported no let-up in rebel attacks on government positions.

Clashes are intense around the town of Debaltseve, Mr Polyyovy said, referring to a Kiev-held transport hub connecting the two main rebel strongholds that separatists aim to cut off.

"There is no question of encirclement or cutting off of the main communication lines. The situation is under control," he said.

The rebel advance has succeeded in seizing part of nearby Vuhlehirsk from Kiev troops, Mr Polyovy said. Today the town was being pounded by near-constant shelling, a Reuters witness reported.

Residents are being encouraged to abandon the areas of fiercest fighting, where many have been living in makeshift bomb shelters, waiting for breaks in the bombardment to make quick trips for food and water.

In Kiev-controlled Slaviansk, refugees arrived in buses from Debaltseve and other frontline towns.

Pensioner Vyacheslav Gurov said half of his town of Avdiivka had been completely destroyed.

"We don't even know who's shooting. Both the rebels and the national guard are at it ... there's no water, no electricity, no heating, nothing," he said.

In the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, the regional administration reported the deaths of at least three civilians in shelling on Sunday, describing the situation as "extremely tense."

A Reuters witness saw the body of a young man stretched out on a street in the city centre, killed when a shell struck a wall nearby. Nadezhda Petrovna, 68, a neighbour, said the man was trying to run away from the attack when a shell landed in front of him.

"It is like this every day, people are getting killed, we are sleeping fully dressed so we can run into the cellar, this is becoming unbearable," she said.

Following the collapse of Saturday's talks, there was no word on when renewed negotiations might take place.

 Jonathan Will Win Buhari In The North – PDP

Jonathan Will Win Buhari In The North – PDP

01/Feb/2015  //  237 Viewers

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) says its Presidential flagbearer, President Goodluck Jonathan will beat the APC candidate, retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, fair and square in the north, come February 14, 2015.
The party also said with President Jonathan’s soaring popularity among the voting population across the country, it would win more than two-third of the total votes cast as well as the required 25 per cent in all the states of the federation.
PDP national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh in a statement yesterday said President Jonathan will beat Buhari in the north not only because the PDP controls 12 out of the 19 states of the region but also because the citizens are pleased with the numerous development projects he executed in the region.
The party said the various projects and appointments in the north have placed President Jonathan ahead of Buhari especially following the fact that the APC presidential candidate never executed any in the region when he was head of state and has so far failed to articulate an acceptable blue-print for development.
“Indeed, Nigerians in the north are eager to re-elect President Goodluck Jonathan come February 14, 2015. Voters in the region appreciate the direct positive impact of the numerous development projects executed by the Jonathan administration in all sectors of life.
“They appreciate the fact that recognising that agriculture is the mainstay of the northern economy, President Jonathan ensured that out of the 2.7 million direct farm jobs achieved by his administration, over 2 million are in the north.
“They appreciate the fact that President Jonathan established the e-wallet system, which eliminated the corruption in the distribution of fertilizer and other farm inputs.”

Groundhogs Aren't Looking for Their Shadow—They're Scoping Out the Opposite Sex

Groundhogs Aren't Looking for Their Shadow—They're Scoping Out the Opposite Sex

01/Feb/2015  //  212 Viewers

It’s déjà vu all over again. On February 2, a groundhog (Marmota monax, if you please) named Phil will poke his head out of his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and look around, as he has for the past 128 years.

February 2 is Groundhog Day. If Phil sees his shadow—so they say—brace yourself for six more weeks of winter.

Is Phil—or any groundhog, for that matter—really acting as the Oracle of Spring when he pops out of his hole? Not quite, it turns out.

Many male groundhogs do come out of their burrow on Groundhog Day, but not to see their shadow, said Stam Zervanos, emeritus professor of biology at Penn State Berks, in Reading.

“At this time of year, males emerge from their burrows to start searching for the females,” he explained. “The females come out probably seven days later and stay just outside of their burrow or maybe just inside their burrow.” After the males determine where the females are, both sexes “go back to their winter burrows and spend a little more time in hibernation.

“In March, they all emerge together, and that’s when mating occurs,” he said. “The males know exactly where the females are, [so] mating can occur very rapidly.”

Where did the idea of the groundhog as winter weatherman originate?

It’s European in origin, says Zervanos. Groundhog Day is related to Candlemas, a mid-winter Germanic holiday that had a hedgehog as its weather forecaster. When German-speaking immigrants came to Pennsylvania, the tradition came with them.

These immigrants, the Pennsylvania Dutch, may have picked groundhogs as their new holiday mascot because they saw them emerge around Candlemas. But there was also a more practical reason to find a new representative from the animal kingdom.

“We don’t have hedgehogs in Punxsutawney,” said Katie Donald, executive director of the Groundhog Club, which celebrates its 129th Groundhog Day this year.

The mission of the club, which holds a Groundhog Ball and sells memorabilia like towels emblazoned with the words “6 more weeks of winter,” is to protect and perpetuate the legend of Punxsutawney Phil. “The only true weather forecasting groundhog,” the club’s website says of its favorite native son. “The others are imposters.”

Meet Phil

Phil isn’t just unusual because he made a cameo appearance in a Bill Murray movie; he lives a life a wild groundhog can only dream of.

For one thing, Phil doesn’t really come out of hibernation on Groundhog Day to look for a mate, because he doesn’t hibernate at all. According to Donald, Phil doesn’t need to hibernate because he lives in a man-made, temperature-controlled burrow at Barclay Square in downtown Punxsutawney.

His burrow (should you care to send him a note, the address is 301 East Mahoning Street, Punxsutawney, PA 15767) is connected to the Punxsutawney Memorial Library by a glass window so that visitors can see Phil and his “wife” Phillis.

Although the pair make a cute tourist attraction, adult groundhogs don’t normally live together. “They can get a little aggressive [with] each other if one comes too close to their burrow,” said Zervanos.

Most groundhogs leave their mother when they are a few weeks to a few months old. That’s when they dig their own burrows, where they live alone for the rest of their lives, except when they mate and rear their young.

So how many groundhogs have played the role of “Phil” since Punxsutawney’s first Groundhog Day in 1887? The Groundhog Club isn’t telling.

“There’s only been one Phil,” Donald maintains. “Every year [the club] has the groundhog picnic in the late summer or early fall, and at this picnic he drinks ‘the elixir of life.’” The elixir, which grants Phil seven additional years of life with each sip, is made with fruit, vegetables, and strawberry Kool-Aid.

Large Warehouse Fire Continues to Burn in Brooklyn

Large Warehouse Fire Continues to Burn in Brooklyn

01/Feb/2015  //  201 Viewers

A seven-alarm fire that engulfed a warehouse near the waterfront in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, continued to burn on Sunday morning, more than a day after the blaze began.

Firefighters were still working early Sunday to put out the fire, officials said. On Sunday morning, television footage showed large plumes of smoke still rising from the charred warehouse.

About 275 firefighters were on the scene on Saturday night, and units have been switching out about every three hours.

The city’s Department of Health recommended on Saturday night that neighborhood residents remain indoors with their windows closed to limit their smoke exposure.

The fire began around 6:20 a.m. on Saturday at the CitiStorage building at 5 North 11th Street, near Kent Avenue, a facility that houses many official documents.

The fire continued to burn throughout the day Saturday, with flames consuming court files, hospital records and social service documents, and firefighters battling brutal cold and wind in addition to the blaze itself, Chief of Department James E. Leonard said.

“They’re extremely, extremely exposed,” he said on Saturday. “The cold can be painful, it’s going to hurt you.”

No firefighters were injured in the blaze, fire officials said on Sunday. Chief Leonard said on Saturday that one neighborhood resident was treated at the scene for slight smoke inhalation.

The weather conditions almost could not have been worse for firefighters, Chief Leonard said on Saturday. Stiff winds fed the flames, while ice formed around fire hydrants and pump trucks.

Chief Leonard said that fire crews were likely to be on the scene for weeks.

“This is going to smolder for quite some time,” he said.

Those that said they had records stored in the warehouse, which occupies nearly half a square block, included the state court system, the city Administration for Children’s Services, the city Health and Hospitals Corporation, and members of the Greater New York Hospital Association.

The city's child welfare agency said it had been in the process of removing its files from the building. “We are currently working to assess the number and type of files that may have been impacted by this massive fire,” the department said in a statement.

A spokesman for the state court system said that it, too, had been in the process of transferring its records out of the building. The city hospital agency said in a statement that it had electronic versions of patient records stored in the warehouse and added, “We do not anticipate this will affect our operations.”

Along the wind-whipped waterfront, slips of charred paper swirled through the air, and people grabbed handfuls of soggy documents strewn near the East River shoreline. One man picked up a scrap of paper documenting a urine sample. “Patient given specimen cup,” it read.

Firefighters were first called to a small fire at the warehouse around 4:30 a.m. on Saturday and — with the help of the building’s sprinkler system — doused it in 45 minutes, Chief Leonard said.

They were called back a little more than an hour later for a second fire that was so big by the time they arrived that they could not enter the building, he said.

It was unclear if the two fires were related. The causes of both were being investigated.

Passers-by held scarves over their mouths to filter out the pungent smoke.


Albuquerque toddler shoots dad, pregnant mom with single shot after finding gun in handbag

Albuquerque toddler shoots dad, pregnant mom with single shot after finding gun in handbag

01/Feb/2015  //  206 Viewers

Two New Mexico parents were recovering after being shot by their 3-year-old son over the weekend.

Albuquerque police said that the incident occurred around 2 p.m. on Saturday at an America’s Best Value Inn.

Justin Reynolds told KEB that he and his pregnant girlfriend, Monique Villescas, were about to order a pizza to their hotel room when the gun went off.

“It was like if I was to get up shake your hand and sat back down. That’s how fast it happened,” Reynolds recalled. “All of a sudden we heard a gun go off and the next minute I realized my girlfriend was bleeding. Then I sat down and realized I was shot too.”

An initial investigation determined that the boy removed the handgun from his mother’s purse, and was able to fire a single round. The bullet traveled through Reynolds’ buttocks, and then struck Villescas in the right shoulder.

“I just took action right away,” Reynolds said. “I was more worried about my girlfriend than myself and anything else that was going on. And my son because I didn’t know if he had shot himself or not. He was shocked and crying. It was traumatizing.”

Both parents were transported to a local hospital. Reynolds was released on Saturday, but doctors were keeping Villescas under hospital care until she goes into labor. She was reportedly in stable condition.

An initial investigation by Albuquerque police indicated that the shooting was an accident, but investigators were also waiting to speak to the couple’s 2-year-old daughter. The district attorney’s office was expected to decided whether to file felony criminal negligence charges.

“The Albuquerque Police Department cannot emphasize enough that if you choose to be a gun owner ALWAYS secure and lock up your firearm out of the reach of children and adolescents,” a statement from the Albuquerque police department said on Saturday.


Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

01/Feb/2015  //  209 Viewers

Hawaii's Kilauea, one of the most active volcanos on Earth, has been erupting for more than 30 years. But lava from a vent near Pahoa that started bubbling up last June has been edging toward the town, outside the city of Hilo.

It has become a tourist attraction, and visitors gather near a trash transfer station where the lava has claimed a home. Its roof can be seen in the distance, above the black hardened lava.

At the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, scientist Jim Kauahikaua of the U.S. Geological Survey said the lava flow near Pahoa, one of two active rifts, is intermittent.

“For a brief period, we were trying to forecast that, and every one of those forecasts was wrong because of this start-and-stop feature," he said. "So the USGS and Civil Defense are still trying to give people the idea of maybe the worst-case scenarios and such, but there’s virtually no way of forecasting more than a day or two in advance.”

In Honolulu, University of Hawaii researcher Bruce Houghton is analyzing the eruption using high-speed photography. He said that our understanding of volcanoes is improving with input from many scientific disciplines.

“Bits from chemistry, bits from physics, and always with an overlay of social science, because when all is said and done, it doesn’t matter how well we predict the behavior of the volcano," he said. "If the behavior of the community is inappropriate for what’s happening, then you still get a disaster."

In Pahoa, weekly meetings update the residents, as the lava approaches within 500 meters of the local highway.  Some businesses are open, while others have relocated.

Business owner Constance Rojcewicz is keeping an eye on the creeping lava.

“It’s a little bit unnerving," she said. "You want to be ready. I’ll be ready to move out if I need to, in a day or two.”

The uncertainty is hard on residents, said church worker Karl Ragan of Hawaii-Pacific Baptist Disaster Relief.

“We’ve discovered the stress level on families, on interpersonal relationships, on children — that’s the crisis right now,” he said.

Hawaii County Fire Chief Darren Rosario said the lava is bringing long-lasting changes.

“When the lava flow comes through, its effects remain for hundreds of years," he said. "The hardened lava rock remains there for a very long time.  But that’s how the islands were built.  That’s how we grow as a state.”

Rosario said the volcano is a part of life on these islands.


13 Soldiers Killed in Eastern Ukraine

13 Soldiers Killed in Eastern Ukraine

01/Feb/2015  //  234 Viewers

Ukrainian officials say 13 soldiers have been killed in the past day during fighting against Russia-backed rebels in the eastern part of the country.

A defense spokesman in Kyiv said Sunday another 20 soldiers were wounded.  There is no immediate word on casualties to rebels, but the French news agency, AFP, reports that six civilians died.

The latest fighting comes one day after peace talks between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatists were held, but went nowhere as fighting raged, killing both soldiers and civilians.

The talks in Minsk Saturday were adjourned after several hours.  A statement from the Trilateral Contact Group (Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - OSCE) said that the representatives from the rebel-held areas of Ukraine did not come to the talks prepared to discuss implementation of a cease-fire and withdrawal of heavy weapons.  Instead, the group said the rebels wanted to revisit the Minsk Protocol that laid the groundwork for a cessation of hostilities.

The cease-fire the sides agreed to in September has been repeatedly violated and collapsed completely last week when rebels announced the start of a new offensive designed to expand their territory.

Shelling in the strategic transport hub of Debaltseve killed 12 civilians Saturday, according to the police chief of the rebel-held Donetsk region, Vyacheslav Abroskin. Debaltseve is located northeast of the city of Donetsk, connecting it with Luhansk, another major rebel stronghold.

The government still retains primary control of the vital rail and road junction, which has been without water, power and gas for days.

The Ukraine conflict has killed more than 5,100 people since it erupted last April following Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko had called for the new round of peace talks in response to the recent upsurge in fighting.

Pro-democracy protesters back in Hong Kong, no violence

Pro-democracy protesters back in Hong Kong, no violence

01/Feb/2015  //  202 Viewers

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters returned to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday in the first large-scale rally since demonstrations rocked the global financial hub late last year.

Some 2,000 police flanked an estimated 12,000 protesters marching on the city's glitzy shopping and financial districts, seeking to avoid a repeat of the so-called Occupy Central campaign that saw demonstrations shut down key roads for 2-1/2 months.

Last year's protests for a fully democratic vote to choose Hong Kong's next leader were the most serious challenge to China's authority since the 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations and crackdown in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

While organizers stood fast to earlier demands for full democracy in the former British colony, they insisted Sunday's march would be peaceful and not seek to occupy any sites.

"We want to make it clear to the government that ... we want true universal suffrage," said Daisy Chan, one of the organizers.

Packed streets resembled rivers of yellow as protesters carried yellow banners and umbrellas - a symbol of last year's campaign after protesters used them to fend off police pepper spray attacks.

Chants of "we want true democracy" echoed off high rise buildings.

While the turnout by late afternoon fell far short of the 50,000 anticipated by organizers, some participants said they were pleased the spirit of last year's action had not been lost.

While anti-democracy groups were seen on the fringes of the protest, no scuffles were reported and police separated potential troublemakers.

Other protesters feared they might face violence from anti-democracy groups later in the evening, and some were arming themselves with protective shields.

Colonial-era Hong Kong flags and Union Jacks were seen flying among the crowds, prompting one old woman to yell at a student waving the British flag: "You say you want independence, but you don't."

The student, Sherman Ying, 20, said the protesters wanted their fates to be "controlled by us, not some government officials in Beijing or some puppet in Hong Kong".

"It is just that simple," he said.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and enjoys wide-ranging freedoms and autonomy under a so-called "one country two systems" arrangement but many fear tightening controls from Beijing.

Beijing has allowed city-wide elections for choosing the next chief executive in 2017, but wants to screen candidates first.

The prospect of screening has riled local democrats and their supporters, who fear pro-democracy candidates will effectively be barred from standing for election.


The roar is back: India's tigers are on their prowl again

The roar is back: India's tigers are on their prowl again

01/Feb/2015  //  219 Viewers

It was a year of despair and a year that turned things around too. In the history of Madhya Pradesh’s Panna Tiger Reserve, 2009 will be remembered as the year the big cats went missing. A nation-wide estimate in 2006 — the first one to use the more scientifically accurate camera trap system of counting instead of the earlier total pug mark count method — had already revealed a dwindling tiger count in the forest. “Over the next few years, the number continued to drop, till alarmed by reports of no tiger sightings, the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the state government decided to conduct a count only for Panna in 2009. It revealed what many had already feared — the tiger count in the forest had indeed dropped to zero,” says R Sreenivasa Murthy, field director, Panna. The authorities panicked. But instead of giving in to despair, they decided to act. A special team was constituted to bring the big cats back to Panna and Murthy was one of those who joined. “Six tigers were brought here from other reserves within Madhya Pradesh as part of a reintroduction programme. In the following years, 32 cubs were born at Panna, of which 26 survived. Poaching was stopped,” he says. Now, according to the 2014 count, the reserve has over 17 adult and sub-adult tigers.

The story of Panna is representative of a bigger battle, one that was fought across forests in the country to check the dwindling number of tigers post 2006, when the nationwide estimate had revealed that India had only 1,411 wild tigers older than 1.5 years of age. Today, according to a recent report released by the ministry of environment, forests and climate change, there are 2,226 tigers. Between 2010, when the second estimate was done, and 2014, there has been a 30% increase in the number of wild tigers over 1.5 years of age. Four years ago, the number stood at 1,706. “One can’t compare the estimates prior to 2006 with the count in 2006 and since. Before 2006, the estimates were based on the total pug mark count which was not as scientific” explains Rajesh Gopal, who just retired from the post of member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority and ADG Project Tiger. Without indulging in the debate of whether the drop in the tiger count was abrupt or took place over a period of time, what the 2006 estimate did establish beyond doubt was that India was left with very few tigers. As conservationist and author Valmik Thapar puts it, “In 2006 poaching was causing the decline. Ranthambhore had lost half its tigers, Sariska all its tigers, and Panna was on its way to losing all its tigers.” While the counting methodology continues to be contentious — conservationist and wildlife biologist Ullas Karanth says “the double sampling method to estimate numbers of tigers is invalid statistically. The results are not reliable for large areas,” — 2,000 plus tigers is a good indicator, says Thapar. So how was this success story scripted? “Since 2006 successive governments have taken some milestone initiatives. While the Project Tiger scheme already existed, it lacked statutory support. In 2006, The Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 was amended to enable provisions for constituting the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Tiger and other endangered species Crime Control Bureau. Punishment for offences related to hunting in tiger reserves or altering the boundaries of tiger reserves was enhanced.”

Laws on paper were, however, hardly enough to check the decline. “There were three main threats that the tigers were facing — habitat destruction and encroachment, poaching of tigers and animals that serve as prey for the tigers, and human-tiger conflict. Patrolling and protection was poor and there was a lack of good crime detection and intelligence-led enforcement,” explains conservationist Belinda Wright. A new set of guidelines was issued to state governments. This included financial support to states for enhanced voluntary village relocation or rehabilitation packages for people living in core or critical tiger habitats (varying from Rs 1 lakh per family to Rs 10 lakh per family) and the rehabilitation or resettlement of communities involved in traditional hunting. Elsewhere, the local people, those living in villages around the core forest area, were involved in the conservation process. “For instance, they were inducted into the local taskforce for patrolling against poaching. The Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) was set up,” says Gopal. Non-governmental authorities contributed immensely in the conservation efforts. “Dr Ullas Karanth influenced the science of counting and his NGO in Karnataka works both with conservation and monitoring of wild tigers across southern states. Other NGOs contributed to antipoaching efforts,” says Thapar. The threat from poachers, though, is hardly a thing of the past. Says Shekhar Niraj of TRAFFIC, “We continue to lose approximately 20 to 25 tigers to poaching every year.” While there are no estimates of the worth of the illegal trade in tiger parts, that big money is involved is a given. “China is the biggest market for tiger parts — skin, claws and bones,” says Wright. The country’s tiger farms are notorious for breeding animals in captivity to satisfy commercial demands. India is the founder member of the Global Tiger Forum of Tiger Range Countries for addressing international issues related to tiger conservation. As of 2014, “India has 70% of the world’s tiger population,” says Gopal. During a conference in Hague in 2007, India introduced a resolution along with China, Nepal and the Russian Federation, with direction to parties with operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale, for restricting such captive population to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers. India has also appealed to China to phase out tiger farming. There have been bilateral understandings with Nepal and Bangladesh. A sub-group on tiger and leopard conservation has been constituted with the Russian Federation.

There is, however, little time for complacency. “The present estimation reveals that, in Buxa Tiger Reserve, in West Bengal, there is no presence of any tigers and only a suspicion of two or three,” says Thapar. “We need to have more coverage of the area under strict protection and we need to enable the wider participation of researchers and NGOs in tiger conservation. We have enough forest still to support 5,000 or more tigers,” says Karanth. In a book titled Dynamic of Tiger Management In Priority Landscapes, Gopal writes of the importance of corridors to facilitate the movement of the animals across different tiger landcapes. Such movement also ensures good gene flow. Says Wright, “One does not need to make these corridors protected areas. People can live here or use them as agricultural land. The movement of tigers is restricted only when one makes highways or railway tracks on these corridors, or deep canals, mines or factories.”

As Gopal writes in his book, “There is a great demand from various sectors for using forest land.” This is unavoidable in a developing economy like India’s. The trick is to find that oft-quoted balance. While the conservaiton of forests and wildlife shouldn’t mean turning one’s back on construction and industrialisation, the government needs to approach such projects with caution to ensure that the economic benefits do not damage the country’s ecological balance.

How Periyar Saved Its Big Cat Population
By Kumkum Dasgupta

The Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Kerala is one of most-feted tiger reserves in India. One of the main reasons for this is PTR’s people-oriented and park-centered conservation and ecotourism programmes that the forest department runs with the help of eco-development committees (EDCs). Earlier this month, the 925-sq km reserve, home to about 40 tigers, bagged the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) award for encouraging local public participation in its management. In 2012, PTR, situated in the Cardamom Hills and Pandalam Hills of the southern Western Ghats, won the UN-India Biodiversity Governance award for holistic management strategies. “The work with the EDCs — local communities are its members — started almost 10 years ago. We keep adding and deleting programmes depending on results,” says Sanjayan Kumar, deputy director of PTR. The reserve has also been identified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests as a ‘Field Learning Centre’. “This recognition came as a result of the PTR being designated a centre of excellence for successfully implementing the India Eco-Development Project (IEDP),” added Kumar. The goal of IEDP was the conservation of bio-diversity through people’s participation.

In India, protected areas (PA) can never be ‘exclusive’ because people live in and around them. This population is rural, poor and dependent on the resources of the PA. Ecodevelopment programmes, like the ones in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, aim at conserving the bio-diversity by addressing both the impact of local people on the PAs and the impact of the PAs on local people.

“I am a supporter of people-centred conservation around our national parks and PAs. PTR is the best example of how locals can engage in a larger mission. India is very different from region to region and each area requires its own site-specific intervention outside the boundary of the PAs,” explained Valmik Thapar.

He added that local people on the edges of PAs must be encouraged to create “wildlife conservancies” in order to benefit from tourism. “In some areas, there should be engagement of locals with decision making in order to create genuine partnerships that can benefit wildlife and boost local economies,” said Thapar, who is working on a book on the issue. The PTR has 78 EDCs in three categories: hamlet, user group and professional. With hamlet EDCs, investment goes into building community assets like schools. User-group EDCs are for people like graziers, who depend on resources within the PTR. Professional EDCs are groups who have developed tourism skills and now generate a regular income from the forest. “The inclusive agenda of involving local people has been innovatively addressed in the PTR. It has institutionalised this and is a role model for others,” former NTCA chief Rajesh Gopal said.