Kerala forest department to burn ivory worth Rs 50 crore

ivory forest.jpg

Thiruvananthapuram: The forest department is planning to burn its mammoth stockpile of ivory tusks, estimated at over three tonnes and valued at nearly Rs 50 crore in the black market. 
The department’s booty, locked in its strong rooms and range offices, has been accumulated over two decades. Trade in ivory was banned in 1991 through an amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act  1972.
As the ban had rendered ivory legally valueless,  the forest department might as well have been sitting on a pile of stones. “We have no use with this ivory. We cannot auction it to ivory carvers as 
we used to do in the 80s nor can we work on it. So what is the point in protecting it,” principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden Valliyil Gopinath said.  
There is also the threat of some of these tusks getting underground and watering the illegal ivory trade.  In 2002, for instance, CBI sleuths inquiring into the theft of wildlife articles from the forest department's strong room at Olavakkode in Palakkad had seized two ivory idols from the house of a suspect.  
Many of the range offices and strong rooms do not have 24-hour security either. Ivory is so coveted the world over that one kilogram could fetch more than Rs1 lakh in the underground market.

Forest ministry to study mangroves

The Forest Department, as part of a massive restoration and conservation programme, has decided to conduct the first-ever comprehensive study on the extent, biodiversity and status of mangroves in the state.
As of now, the department has only a vague notion of the spread of mangroves in the state.
“Our current understanding of mangroves depends mainly on an article that appeared in the scientific journal Indian Forester way back in 1992,” said O.P. Kaler, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Biodiversity Cell). The article states that the total extent of mangroves in the area was 16.71 sq km. It is felt that a large portion of even this petty mangrove extent has vanished.  
The Kerala Wetland Cell had also conducted a study during 2001-02, but mangroves formed only a part of the project. There is hardly any study, which gives the basic knowledge about community structure, resource utilisation and economic conditions of people living in or depending on mangroves. 
“This acts as a constraint for implementation of an effective plan for conservation of this ecosystem,” said P.K. Muralidharan of Kerala Forest Research Institute.
The proposed mangrove study will ascertain not just the location and extent of mangroves, but also  assess the status of mangroves, their  biodiversity richness  and their  present land use pattern to know the regions under pressure from tourism or livelihood activities like fishing.
The survey will also identify mangroves in private possession. “The objective is to know how many of the private owners are willing to hand over their mangroves to the Forest Department for better conservation and management,” Kaler said.


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