Local communities aren’t the enemies of big cats: Wildlife filmmaker Malaika Vaz - The Daily Guardian
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Local communities aren’t the enemies of big cats: Wildlife filmmaker Malaika Vaz

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National Geographic explorer and wildlife filmmaker Malaika Vaz talks to The Daily Guardian about her ‘wild’ journeys, how local communities in India play a major role in tiger conservation, and what endangers big cats in India. Excerpts:

National Geographic explorer and wildlife filmmaker Malaika Vaz.

 Q. How did you end up in the arena of wildlife conservation?

 A. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a wildlife presenter and filmmaker and even today, I honestly feel like I have the most exciting job in the world, as everyday is an opportunity to document a new wild place and help more people connect with the natural world in a way that hopefully triggers positive action.

Q. Your work has let you witness how local communities in India play a major role in tiger conservation. Please share more about that.

A. In India, human-dominated landscapes and wild spaces are beginning to merge. The result of humans and big cats living in close proximity is often substantial economic losses incurred to the communities through loss of livestock, and loss of life. This has resulted in an increased trend of retaliatory killings and poisoning of carcasses, putting yet another dimension of pressure on already threatened and vulnerable populations due to habitat destruction and debilitating rates of poaching. Yet, in some places in India, remarkable coexistence exists between man and big cat. Through my work, I wanted to focus on positive stories of coexistence between communities and big cats — to inspire an understanding that local communities are not the enemies of conservation efforts, but rather the grassroots leaders who can truly scale up wildlife conservation efforts in our country

 Q. While poaching is a major threat to tiger numbers in India, poaching communities have over the years turned into tigers’ biggest defenders. What have you found about this interesting transition?

A. I think the key is providing poaching communities with suitable alternatives that they can economically depend on in the long term. Global trafficking syndicates make the majority of the profits from tiger trafficking, while small-scale poachers are often living in financial instability, food insecurity and the constant fear of being arrested for their work. So, what I’ve found is when they are given alternative work opportunities that allow them to live a life of dignity — in most cases, they will gladly make the switch. These poaching communities often also understand tiger and other wildlife behaviour better than anyone else, so it is incredible to see them transition out of poaching and continue to leverage that skill set while working as rangers, naturalists and tourism operators. One of my favourite parts of filming Living with Predators for Nat Geo Wild was interviewing the children of poachers who are the first generation in their families to receive an education and will grow up to be the tiger’s biggest protectors!

Q. Besides poaching, what endangers big cats in India right now?

A. Habitat destruction is one of the biggest threats that big cats face today in India and across the world. These incredible predators require vast tracts of land to hunt, mate and survive. When we disregard the biodiversity of a region and unsustainably develop infrastructure through it, the forests get fragmented and species like tigers and leopards have to deal with a constricted range size. As a result, they are forced to disperse into human-dominated landscapes where incidents of conflict with humans are a daily reality. We need to prioritise the protection of our biodiversity hotspots and national parks and ensure that our wildlife protection laws and environmental impact assessment processes are upheld and not diluted from a policy perspective.

Q. Has the pandemic affected conservation efforts?

 A. Amid the pandemic, many of India’s most important wildlife zones have been threatened by hydropower projects, road expansion and mining. We need to start seeing the conservation of wildlife and wild spaces as part of the development agenda, and fiercely protect our natural resources. Without water, natural pollinators for agriculture, clean air to breathe and biodiversity to share our planet with — we will not be able to survive. It is important for us to innovate and find ways to simultaneously set aside tracts of untouched land for wildlife, while also providing work opportunities to the millions of Indians who live alongside wildlife.

This pandemic has also made the link between planetary and human health more clear than ever before. I hope that we emerge out of this pandemic with a stronger resolve to protect wildlife and their habitats not just from a conservation standpoint, but also to keep us safe from diseases that stem from exploitation of wildlife.

 As a Nat Geo explorer, Malaika recently created a 3-part film series on community-led big cat conservation in India titled ‘Living with Predators’ that will be aired on Nat Geo Channel on 15, 16 and 17 August at 7pm.

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Pune: 15-year-old boy commits suicide for getting new phone

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Suicide

Due to his mother’s refusal to let him get a new phone, a 15-year-old boy committed suicide on Thursday in Baramati, Pune.

The boy, who was in Class 9, reportedly wanted to get a new phone for online studies, but his mother refused, and this made the child unhappy, so he decided to commit suicide. When he was home alone, he took a drastic step.

Arun Avchar, police inspector, Malegaon police station, said, “Prima facie, it appears that the child wanted a new phone and his mother refused. The neighbours and family members informed the Malegaon police about the incident. We reached the spot and sent his body for a post-mortem.”

A teacher from the child’s school said, “The boy died by suicide after school hours. His behaviour was normal. We had told him that there was no need for a new phone as offline classes have started, but he was not ready to listen.”

Malegaon police station has started an investigation and filed a case.

(A Pune-based non-profit organisation called Connecting strives to prevent suicide by offering help to those who are experiencing emotional distress by utilising the philosophy of mindfulness-based active listening. The toll-free hotlines are 1800-209-4353 and 9922001122, which are open daily from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Walk-in hours are Monday through Saturday from 12 to 5. Using Gmail to connect with an NGO.) 

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Woman arrested for eating at restaurant without hijab in Iran

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According to her family, a woman was arrested by the Iranian security forces for eating at a restaurant in public without a hijab.

Donya Rad was arrested after an image of her and another lady eating in a restaurant in Tehran without wearing headscarves went viral online, according to CNN.

The image, which surfaced on Wednesday, depicts the two ladies having breakfast at a cafe that, like the majority of cafés in Iran, is generally frequented by men.

According to Rad’s sister, security agencies contacted Donya and summoned her to explain her actions.

“After visiting the designated place she was arrested, after a few hours of no news, Donya told me in a short call that she was transferred to Ward 209 of Evin Prison,” her sister told CNN.

The dictatorship imprisons political dissidents in Tehran’s notoriously harsh Evin Prison, which is only intended for inmates under the control of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.

According to reports, security officials have recently imprisoned a number of prominent Iranians, including the author and poet Mona Borzouei, the Iranian football star Hossein Mahini, and Faezeh Rafsanjani, the daughter of former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

According to the non-governmental organisation Iran Human Rights, Iranian artist Shervin Hajipour was also arrested this week after releasing a poignant song based on tweets shared by Iranians expressing their feelings about why people are demonstrating.

The song “For…” by Hajipour became extremely popular online, garnering millions of views and being extensively distributed among Iranians both inside and outside of their nation.

The killing of a Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini sparked the country’s first anti-government protests.

Mahsa, 22, passed away in police custody after being arrested for reportedly wearing a “improper hijab,” in violation of Iran’s stringent laws regarding women’s attire.

The government crackdown has continued after almost two weeks of protests, with dozens dying in clashes between security forces. Iran Human Rights estimates that at least 83 people including children, are confirmed to have been killed in protests following the death of Mahsa Amini, reported CNN.

More than a thousand people connected to the protests have been detained as of last weekend. At least 28 journalists arrested were arrested as of Thursday, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In a statement released on Thursday, Amnesty International stated that they are “investigating the authorities’ mass arrests of protesters and bystanders, as well as journalists, political activists, lawyers, and human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists and those belonging to oppressed ethnic minority groups.”

Videos circulating on social media show protesters in the cities of Qom, Rasht, and Mashhad calling for the overthrow of the clerical establishment despite the rising death toll and a stern crackdown by the police, according to CNN report.

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‘If you want a change, choose me’ : Tharoor on Congress president poll

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Shashi Tharoor claims party's support

In the upcoming presidential election of the grand old party, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor reiterated on Saturday that his contest against senior party member Mallikarjun Kharge “is not a battle.” Following days of turmoil surrounding the intra-party troubles in Rajasthan, Tharoor and Kharge finally submitted their nominations for the crucial elections, which are set for October 17, on Friday.

“This is not a war. We can belong to different schools of thoughts. Let the members decide,” Tharoor told news agency ANI in an interview on Saturday. “All I am telling the members is  that if you’re satisfied with the functioning of the party, please vote for Kharge Sahab. But if you want a change, choose me.. If you want the party to function differently.”

His remarks came as news spread that the Gandhis were endorsing the 80-year-old Kharge for the top party position. On Saturday, Kharge announced his resignation as the opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, a day after more than 30 leaders surprised many by end-of-nomination support for his candidacy. In contrast, Tharoor was not accompanied by as many senior leaders.

“But there is no ideological problem here. Whatever the message has so far of the Congress will continue to remain,” Shashi Tharoor said on Saturday, dismissing any differences.

Even though the Gandhis made it clear that they would no longer be running for president post, their management has continued to draw criticism. Regarding the family’s importance for the party in light of the BJP’s dynastic politics allegations.

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Student visa interviews to start from November by the US Embassy

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The US embassy in India has announced that interviews for the student visas will open from mid-November. Minister counselor for consular affairs at US Embassy, Don Heflin, said that the process of interviews will continue till the end of December.The announcement was made by Don Heflin while answering student visa queries for the United States related to waiting and processing time. He said, “We will open up for the first half in mid-October and for the second half in mid-November.”Last month, US missions in India said that record 82,000 student visas have been issued in 2022 so far, higher than in any previous year. Indian students received more American student visas than any other country, the missions added.Amid delays, foreign minister S Jaishankar also raised the issue of the huge backlog of US visa applications from India with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.S Jaishankar said, “To the people who are concerned about the visa issues, I would like to give the message that I understand their anxiety and the urgency and which is precisely the reason why I took up the matter.”

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Iran : 19 people including guard colonel killed in anti-govt protest

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Iranian women chop off hair to mark protest over death of Mahsa Amini

In one of the deadliest clashes between police and protesters since Iran’s anti-government demonstrations began, nineteen people were killed on Friday. This was in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died in police custody after being arrested for allegedly disobeying Iran’s strict dress codes for women by donning an “improper hijab.”

Iranian protesters and police had a violent confrontation in southeastern Iran. The confrontation happened as worshippers from Iran’s Sunni minority left Friday prayers at the Makki Grand Mosque in Zahedan, capital of Sistan and Balochistan province, reported Voice of America (VOA).

“Nineteen people were killed and 20 injured in the incident,” regional governor Hossein Khiabani told the state broadcaster.

“Provincial intelligence officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Colonel Ali Mousavi was also killed,” state television added.

Iranian state media earlier on Friday stated that security personnel had retaliated after armed men attacked a police station in the provincial capital of Zahedan.

The protesters were labeled as terrorists and separatists by the Iranian state media, who also charged them with shooting guns at police.

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Auto & Tech

Using 5G technology, PM Modi test drives a car from Delhi in Europe

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5G

Using the newly launched 5G technology, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted a test drive of a car in Europe from Delhi’s Pragati Maidan on Saturday. Union minister Piyush Goyal tweeted the photo and wrote, “India driving the world’.PM Modi inaugurated the India Mobile Congress 2022 exhibition before he launched the 5G mobile telephony services in India. At the exhibition, he visited the pavilions of the different telecom operators to experience the first-hand experience of the 5G technology.PM Modi was briefed about the technology by Mukesh Ambani and Akash Ambani at Reliance Jio stalls.Then PM Modi went to the stalls of Airtel, Vodafone Idea, C-DOT and others.Union telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “Telecom is the gateway, the foundation of Digital India. It is the mode to bring digital services to every person.”Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani promised to deliver 5G to every town, every taluka by December 2023. He said, “I can say we are ready to take leadership and Indian Mobile Congress should now become Asian Mobile Congress & Global Mobile Congress. India may have started a little late, but will finish first.”

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