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Wild animals don’t want trouble from humans: Biologist George Schaller

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Sairopa (Kullu), Feb 18 Animals in the wild mostly avoid any encounters with humans – and when they do attack people, it is usually in self-defence, says legendary field biologist George Schaller.

And it would be wrong to declare tigers and leopards that attack humans as “man-eaters”, Schaller, who believes he’s still young at 83, told IANS in an interview.

Thus, there is a need for training the communities settled on the periphery of wildlife parks and sanctuaries because the wild animals — be it the tiger or the leopard or the elephant — don’t want trouble from the humans, said Schaller, who attended a two-day nature conservation biology workshop at Great Himalayan National Park’s camp office here in Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh.

“And if a tiger is a man-eater, then its killing is certain,” he added.

German-born Schaller, who devoted six decades to conservation of wildcats and their ecosystems, is currently the Vice President of Panthera, an organisation founded in 2006 for conserving the animals.

Schaller, who is wild at heart, said in India — a storehouse of biodiversity — development is a big issue.

“India is saying it’s doing a lot for the preservation of wildlife. But it is really disturbing that 200 sq km of forest area of the Panna tiger reserve (in Madhya Pradesh) which is being diverted for non-forest purposes. After the 1990s, the country’s image in preserving forests is going down,” said the biologist-cum-author, who travelled to Central Africa to study the mountain gorilla when he was 25.

It is greed and corruption that threaten nature more.

The problem, in fact, across the globe is that oil, mining and timber companies are prepared to pay anything to operate in sensitive areas. Sadly, governments and officials succumb to their pressures.

“I know people (supposed conservationists) who prefer to sit in their offices (rather than go into the field). Conservation has not to do only with animals. It also has to do with economics and politics.”

Schaller, who has studied wildlife in several reserve forests and national parks in India, said the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand is the most vulnerable to poaching for international trade owing to its proximity to the Nepal border, a major trade link to the Chinese traditional medicine market.

Estimates say India supports the highest population of tigers in the wild, accounting for 2,226 of the estimated 3,890 worldwide.

Schaller, who has worked for nearly two decades on studying endemic wildlife in the Tibetan Plateau, said the snow leopard also needs protection from pastoral communities.

“The Spiti Valley (in Himachal Pradesh) and the Hemis National Park (in Jammu and Kashmir) support a good population of the snow leopard,” said Schaller, who spent most of his time in the field in Asia, Africa and South America.

“They are beautiful and majestic animals that rarely attack humans. They attack only when the villagers attack them with sticks. I have spent nights in their habitat and they passed my sleeping bag.”

“Man-animal conflicts are more a social issue. For the conservation of the wildlife, you need cooperation of the local communities,” he said.

Apart from the Spiti Valley, the state’s Pin Valley National Park, which Schaller trekked in three-four years ago, the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, the Great Himalayan National Park and the Pangi and Bharmour areas of Chamba district have a sizable population of the snow leopard.

Even neighbouring Uttarakhand has a good population of the elusive and highly-endangered species.

According to Schaller, for conserving the snow leopard there is need to maintain a sizable population of its prey species like the Asiatic ibex — a wild goat — and the Himalayan blue sheep.

Schaller’s photograph of a snow leopard, taken in Pakistan in 1970, is the first recorded image of the wild cat.

The founding fathers of wildlife conservation advocated the need to link eco-tourism with the local communities.

Take the case of tracking the critically-endangered mountain gorilla — the world’s largest ape — in the Virunga Mountains in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda in eastern Africa.

“This is the best managed park in the world, in terms of both earning foreign exchange and wildlife management. Part of the income fetched from the visitors is used for the welfare of the communities who reside along the park, who are also making an effort to conserve the forests.

“If we fail to create awareness on wildlife, then we will fail to preserve for our future generations,” he added.

IANS

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Analysis

Can yoga make the cut for Olympics?

It’s only natural that the voices for and against will get louder and more competitive. Being the unofficial benefactor of yoga, India is expected to take an unequivocal call.

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Yoga

On a day when yoga is having to jostle for mind space with a hugely popular sporting event like the FIFA World Cup, many fans of the ancient regimen are seriously dreaming up for a world cup of their own. Are they getting too carried away by the euphoria around of the 4th International Day of Yoga? Or is it a case of trusting yoga’s extreme versatility to adapt itself to the demands of the time?

Will there ever be a time when a Yoga World Cup driving up a mania like the FIFA World Cup does? As yoga gets mainstreamed big time in the last four years, a debate on whether it can become a competitive sport has actually begun. The jury is still out with both sides of the divide putting out equally tenable and credible arguments.

It’s only natural that the voices for and against will get louder and more competitive. Being the unofficial benefactor of yoga, India is expected to take an unequivocal call.

Unfortunately, we have seen quite a flip-flop on this. After deciding to treat yoga as a sport in 2015, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) reversed the decision in the following year.

Giving in to the Puritans who frowned at any dilution of its spiritual core, it concluded yoga has quite a many subtle elements in which competitions are not possible. Many watchers see a not-so-yogic hand in this change of heart. Some of them ascribe to it a compromised arraignment to end a tug of war between MYAS and the Ministry of AYUSH over the control of yoga.

Surely, yoga isn’t just about asanas or body postures. According to the eight-limb (Ashtanga) paradigm of yoga, the other dimensions include such subtle things as adherence to social and personal ethics, control of breathing and senses and one-pointedness and meditation. It will be next to impossible to draw up a championship format for these realms of activities. Yet, sport-yoga is not a dead dream.

While it wouldn’t be possible to adapt the whole philosophy of yoga into competitive sports, we shouldn’t underestimate yoga’s flexibility to adapt itself. From being an ancient spiritual pursuit for those seeking enlightenment and becoming a hippies’ fad, yoga has shown remarkable flexibility to become the most-chanted lifestyle mantra of today.

The point is that some kind of competitive sports based on one or more limbs of yoga is a distinct possibility. Though it may not live up to the loftier promises, yoga-based games and sports will do no harm. Instead, they will do a lot of good to the cause of yoga promotion. Yoga as a sport will comfort quite a many who see a baggage of faith and welcome the greatest number of people.

Though some fear a dilution, not all yoga protagonists are against such an innovation. Big names have openly spoken about taking yoga to the Olympics. Going by the rising global craze for yoga, mats are going to roll sooner in the sporting arena. The real challenge will be in drawing up a competitive format that not only conforms to the definition of modern sports, but also doesn’t dilute the core. I don’t see any difficulties in making yoga “amusing”, “leisurely”, or “entertaining”. When martial arts and gymnastics can qualify and even make it to Olympics, asanas, the most primed candidate for being turned into competitive sports, can definitely make the cut!

Traditional yogis who swear by the spiritual and philosophical lineage of yoga need not worry. The tradition is on their side. The eight limbs of yoga are so interconnected that even if one does asanas, and that too as an exercise or a game, the practitioner is most likely to experience other dimensions like meditation, one-pointedness and bliss.

Even asanas, the most gross form of yoga, hold out endless promises. Maharishi’s Patanjali Yoga Sutra envisions asanas as a means of attaining what’s beyond the obvious. That means that adapting them into competitive sports isn’t likely to rob them of the power to unveil the Infinity.

Is it time then to tick a Perfect 10 on that gravity-defying Sirsasana?

(A former journalist, M. Rajaque Rahman is a full-time volunteer of the Art of Living. He can be reached at [email protected])

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Lifestyle

Yoga Day 2018: Present-age guides to yog and its health benefits

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Yoga

New Delhi, June 21: Is yoga just about being twisted into different positions like a pretzel or sitting cross-legged on a mat with closed eyes?

One might think of it as a class where you learn to twist your body but multiple gurus from Paramahansa Yogananda to Baba Ramdev, the yoga tycoon of the contemporary age, who have had a contribution in publicising Yoga in India and the world have popularised it as an ancient philosophy, much more than a mere physical activity and something which needs to be understood in order to fully benefit from it.

In December 2014, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted an India-led resolution recognising that “yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being” and declared June 21 as International Day of Yoga.

Since the time when Yoga gained prominence, the market has been inundated with books on
Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and Bikram Yoga which are certainly among the most popular types.

A recently launched read written by Madan Kataria endorses something called Laughter Yoga, which is slowly making its way to the ashrams, gyms and fitness centres.

Kataria in his book, “Laughter Yoga”, published by Penguin, speaks of various ways of practicing Yoga with an abundance of laughter. The book costs Rs 250 and has 230
pages.

“…I credit laughter yoga with giving me the ability to walk through this dark valley to the light and happiness on the other side,” he writes.

He says that laughter triggers the release of a cocktail of chemicals and hormones that are extremely beneficial and crucial to good health.

Theories and researches confirm that humour plays for people in situations such as dealing with misfortune, making sense of rule violations, and bonding with others, we propose that underlying each of these theories are the physiological benefits of laughter.

“We draw on findings from empirical studies on laughter to demonstrate that these physiological benefits occur regardless of the theory that is used to explain the humour function.

Findings from these studies have important implications for nurse practitioners working in hospice settings, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals,” says research done at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at Bethesda, Maryland.

Another new book in the market, “Yoga Shakti” by Shailaja Menon, is a like a catalogue of various yoga exercises presented on glossy pages alongside pictures demonstrating them. Published by Niyogi, the book costs Rs 495 and consists of 179 pages.

Menon, in the book, critiques the notion that yoga is a class where you learn to twist your body into different asanas.

Using personal experiences, she explains the origins of the philosophy and recommends daily exercises to help introduce beginners to it.

When we experience major trauma, the instinctive reaction is to shrink, Menon in her book writes, to the contrary the invitation of life and yoga is to keep expanding to keep evolving.

IANS

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Entertainment

On World Music Day, singing legend Lata Mangeshkar’s tips to singers

I never could bear to hear myself. Whenever a song of mine would play on the radio or television, I’d quickly leave the room. If I ever hear myself singing, I find a dozen faults.

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Lata Mangeshkar

Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) Singing Legend Lata Mangeshkar doesn’t listen to much of today’s music. Not that she listens to her own songs either.

“I never could bear to hear myself. Whenever a song of mine would play on the radio or television, I’d quickly leave the room. If I ever hear myself singing, I find a dozen faults,” says the eternal songstress with a laugh.

Strange, coming from a singer who is known to be ceaselessly faultless. In fact once the great Hindustani classical vocalist Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan had affectionately cribbed: “Kambhakt, kabhi besura nahin gaati(the devil, she never goes off-key).”

Lataji laughs at this. “Woh unka badappan tha (that was his greatness). But any artiste, singer or otherwise, must keep striving for excellence, no matter how much they achieve. Nowadays I don’t see that ‘lagan’ (discipline), that ‘junoon’ (passion) in singers.

“I get the feeling they are happy achieving what they get to achieve in no time at all. No artiste should be satisfied with what he or she has achieved. There is always another sky to conquer beyond the one that you think you’ve just reached.”

The one thing that Lataji sees lacking in singers today is practice. “Riyaaz. That is what makes singing worthwhile. I never felt I had enough time to do riyaaz because I was in and out of recordings constantly. But I still made time to do riyaaz. Alas, not enough time. I wish I had devoted more time to practicing my classical singing. Singers today are losing touch completely with their classical heritage. An A.R. Rahman or a Shankar Mahadevan are so successful and long-lasting because they know their classical heritage.”

Lataji also warns against imitative music. “Re-mixes and cover versions of old classics are very lazy routes to instant success. Remember, a song that has attained a classic’s status is regarded so highly because it is of a quality that cannot be replicated. I’ve heard some of the re-mixes of the songs sung by Rafi Saab, Kishoreda (Kumar), Mukesh Bhaiyya, me and my sister Asha. And I cringe.Please, create original music. Imitation is not creation. It isn’t even art.”

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