Kolkata: Advocating ecotourism as a conservation tool, wildlife conservationist, author and former cricketer Saad Bin Jung says India should "embrace" African laws which could help bridge the gap between locals and forest officials - the main reason for conflicts that are wrongly depicted as those involving animals and humans.
Drawing parallels between the conservation efforts in India and Africa, Jung, who has worked with tribals, villagers and forest officials in Karnataka to showcase the potential of ecotourism in conservation and also runs safaris and mobile camps in countries like Tanzania, Kenya and Botswana, stressed on shifting from protection acts to conservation laws.
A member of Karnataka's Wildlife Advisory Board, Jung said it was "embarrassing" that India, despite having large tracts of forests, doesn't have a conservation law but has a protection act - the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) of 1972.
"It is the most draconian law in the world. You need a conservation act. Can you imagine that India is the only country in the world without a conservation law? It is ridiculous and embarrassing," Jung, a nephew of the late Indian cricket legend Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi (Tiger Pataudi), told IANS in an interview here.
As for Africa, "there is not much of a conflict between the officials and the tribes... not as much as it is in India... because the locals themselves form the government," said Jung, a descendant of the erstwhile royal families of Bhopal and Pataudi and the aristocracy of Hyderabad's Paigahs.
"So, those in power in Africa understand the ground realities and are in complete dialogue with the locals. India has to come to that. We have to embrace the laws that have been established in Africa," he noted, adding the seeds for his work with society were aceplanted by the household" he comes from.
Jung cited the example of Namibia to drive home his point. "Namibia is the only place in the world where you have free roaming rhinos, free roaming elephants and free roaming lions.
"Free roaming rhinos are unheard of in today's world, but in Namibia the whole society and community protects them. And if a poacher comes in, he is apprehended even before he gets 10 km or 100 km next to a rhino," Jung noted.
Jung, who retired from cricket at the peak of his career to answer the call of the wild, said though India and Africa have borne the "curse" of colonial laws, African countries have moved on and established their own set of laws.
His book "Matabele Dawn", released at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival here, deals with that curse.
"Africa has changed and evolved and gone ahead and understood its own people, got away from colonial laws and got its own inherent laws. But India hasn't gone away at all from (partition in) 1947 and we don't have our own laws," he lamented.
Turning to eco-tourism, he said one example is the luxury lodge at Kabini, between Bandipur and Nagerhole national parks, where villagers and tribals work together.
"We have established ecotourism as a tool for conservation where we address the main issue of conflict. The babus call it the man-animal conflict.
"Actually there is no man-animal conflict. The conflict is between the local people living in the forested areas and the officials of those areas," Jung said.
An avid photographer and angler, Jung is the author of books "Subhan and I", "Wild Tales from the Wild" and "Matabele Dawn".
"Officials think the locals are thieves. So they are driven out. Again, the locals think officials are corrupt, so they fight against them. And because of that conflict the first to suffer are the ecology, the forest and the humans," said Jung.