Pink for Girls, Blue for Boys?

‘Good News’ in India is celebrated with such enthusiasm that the happy couple are surrounded by so many well wishers from family to friends. The next step in this, ‘Good News’ saga is to buy everything under the sun for the new baby in the family. However, that sends us down another road of what gender is the baby going to be? For generations we have been informed that blue is for boys and pink for girls. It’s tradition really, and we do not mess with tradition.

How did this tradition actually set in though?

This leads us back to the world history of how this gender specific colour formed. From the early 1800s white was the norm for babies to toddlers. White dresses to be specific. It was easier to lift to clean dirty diapers {cloth diapers in those days} and far far easier to bleach when those dirty diapers exploded.

The fashion changed to different shades later when colours were introduced, however, it was still dresses – because of the ease of changing diapers. In fact, around 1918, in the US a statement was made about how, ‘Pink was a strong colour and hence for boys and blue was a softer, fragile colour, hence it was for girls.’ There doesn’t seem to be much backing for this story though and has hence been dubbed as an urban legend.

Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.

What did get recorded as fact, was a graphical representation on a map in the US of what colours departmental stores used for boys and girls, in the Time magazine in 1927. Even then, pink was subscribed for boys and blue for girls.

When did this trend change? 

The shift to pink for girls and blue for boys happened just right after World War II, during a time when mass marketing was just starting. Gender specific became the norm, because it was easier to market it as thus. In a time when the fear of the wars had bled into everyone’s psyche, society inadvertently built a structure of what was normal and what wasn’t. Marketing managed to weave a ploy around this.

What cemented the notion though was France, the leader in fashion. Traditional French fashion had girls in pink and boys in blue, however, the rest of Europe had the opposite. Early 20th century, tradition and marketing built the notion that gender specific colours were pink and blue and that has stuck since then.

Gender specific for the win

Mass producing for the baby industries became easier and they raked in more money because of this. They sold a concept that just wasn’t true. Science has found that while men and women do register on different regions of the colour spectrum, it has not found that they identify to pink or blue respectively.

How about here in India?

In the Indian context, the gender specific notion is a fairly new phenomena, considering the vast economic growth of this developing nation. Buying gender specific colours before the baby is born is also a tricky concept considering our laws are against finding out the sex of the baby – due to our female infanticide rates. However, we have been buying into the trend of how babies need to be dressed in one specific colour and not. Our shopping malls and baby centred shops have very specific colours for a boy and a girl. Another aspect that could be perpetuating this notion could be our culture as well, where girls have to be in glittery frills and boys in sober pants.

In Conclusion . . . 

Traditionally, girls are dressed in brighter, fun shades, while boys have sober, darker shades. Boys get dirtier, girls do not. Boys run around, girls do not. Girls only identify being a princess, boys love dragons. Stereotypical norms have been set in place, have been for centuries and messing with it as expected creates friction. Whatever the current scenario, it is interesting to mull over the fact that neutral dresses were the norm and pink was subscribed for boys than girls.

 

 

What is Social Justice? by John Rajkumar

Social Justice is not something I was aware of, not until my wife asked me to help her with a blog post. So I did what anyone with access to the internet would do, I Googled it.

The first bit I searched for was the definition of what Social Justice is, and here is what I found first.

The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.

The definition indicates that social justice looks to form a new society. A society where all citizens are equal and have equal opportunity. As an idealist, this does sound a worthy goal to me. However this definition is very basic. Tells me the what and not the how. So how will a society with Social Justice work? Perhaps before I try to define Social Justice I need to know its history and roots.

How did Social Justice start?

With help from Wikipedia I learnt, Social Justice has its roots in the 1840s, the term was used more towards the end of the Industrial Revolution. The key aspect at this point was POVERTY. The goal was to ensure resources were distributed evenly. Since then Social Justice has evolved to include other imbalances in society, such as, Equal rights – irrespective of gender, caste, colour, religion, etc. Essentially in a society there should be no reason to discriminate against an individual and prevent him from benefiting for the work he is trying to put in. At the same time there should be empowerment and upliftment of the underprivileged.

Are we aware of it? 

Understanding this I realise, this has been a topic we discuss often. Perhaps not under the term Social Justice and not completely under it’s definition. Most democratic countries have been a part of this. They have passed laws preventing discrimination. Laws have also been passed to provide welfare to the poor. This is entrenched in the Indian constitution as well. The chapter on Fundamental Rights has article 15, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, religion, race or caste. Article 17 abolishes untouchability. The People world over contribute to this as well. We pay taxes, we stand up for ourselves or for members of our society, either online or on the streets. Voices were raised in light of violence against women. This has been an ongoing conversation for decades – where voices have been raised. Some voices have been heard and some not yet.

True, but it is a long road. . . 

In my mind, the road is long and a lot more progress to be made. As an Indian, I see debates raging on various topics that affect the progress of Social Justice. We see citizens from underprivileged backgrounds, marginalised castes as well as women rising above their disadvantages and excelling. They have done this on their own will power, or with assistance from the Government or NGOs. However, we still see abject poverty, caste and gender-based discrimination. There are debates raging on how we should prioritise our citizens or on the methods we should employ to achieve Social Justice. This is normal I would presume in a functioning democracy. However, I do go back to realising, this is a long and difficult road.

How do we contribute? 

So, what is it that we can do to move Social Justice along the right path? I obviously don’t have the answer. I believe one important element in this is – the NGO. In a functioning democracy the primary custodian of this, is the Government. However, a Government has priorities that cover aspects other than Social Justice. Governments are not unknown to make mistakes as well. Here is where an NGO should stand as a pillar towards this goal. NGOs work at the grass roots, identify social and economic issues, work for the have nots and fight for their upliftment.

Contrary to what we read on the news, this world is seeing one of the most peaceful times. Perhaps now is the time for us to look outward, look at our fellow brothers and sisters, understand their trials and burdens and ask ourselves, what can I do?

 

John Rajkumar

One Billion Rising and What it means for YOU!

WHAT IS ONE BILLION RISING [OBR]

Based on horrifying statistics, we have realised that 1 in 3 women are beaten or raped and that is about one billion women/girls among our 7 billion population in this world. Women and girls is an inclusive term here though, it signifies that the weaker are oppressed and hurt.

February 14th every year has now been championed as a day for Revolutionary love, being as Valentine’s day focuses primarily on love. That’s what the One Billion Rising movement hopes to carry through their movement as well. LOVE. RESPECT and a chance for an EQUAL PLATFORM.

 

HOW DID IT START?

2013 was the first year of the OBR movement where people rose to express their outrage against injustices that women suffer. It spread through hundreds of countries, involving the local communities shining a light on the injustices faced by the survivours. This movement gave a voice to them and their oppression. It included a RISE through dance, talks, walks, strikes and dialogues to say that we shall stand together and shall not be silenced and we shall strive to create an environment where violence is resisted and believed to be unthinkable.

This movement included the struggle against sexual and physical violence, which has grown now to include economic violence and violence of poverty, racial violence, gender violence, violence caused by environmental disasters and violence impacting women in the events of wars, capitalised greed and much more.

The 2014 movement focused on One Billion Rise against Justice, while the 2015 to 2016 movement was focused on Revolution. That theme is carrying on to 2017 as well with a focus on ‘RISING IN SOLIDARITY AGAINST THE EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN.’

 

RISE! DISRUPT! CONNECT!

RISE! Women are at their most vulnerable to abuse – at home, in the workplace and economically. Women are abused in multiple layers of our society. One is through our patriarchal structures in society, while another is through the economic exploitation in the need for survival. This is quite prevalent among the marginalised communities – like our indigenous women, domestic workers and women from the lower socio-economic strata.

DISRUPT! OBR believes in a world of equality, freedom, peace and dignity. This belief carries through our YWCA movement as well and it strikes an intense chord with us. Through walks, dances and other creative resistances – a force is built with hope and will that is strong enough to ask for a dialogue and create a need for the Government to pay close attention to a demand of the people.

CONNECT! No movement, or in this case Revolution, can be without support or solidarity. No system change, no challenge to a patriarchal thinking process can be done alone. It needs support and lots of it. Solidarity with a movement, with a cause that will affect each and every one of us and those suffering at the hands of these injustices can help move our hopes and dreams for a equal world forward.

 

HOW TO BE PART OF THE MOVEMENT?

There are global coordinators from the OBR movement and there are two based in India. They are Abha Bhaiya and Kamla Basin from the Sangat South Asian Feminist Network. They organise events that support the OBR campaigns. You can contact them for more information, follow the links through their names to find out more.

From one of the previous campaigns, a group called New Light Girls performed the Anthem of the OBR called, Break the Chain. This anthem can and is still used till today and any new variations of it are encouraged by this campaign.

Follow the OBR blog for more information about the events taking place around the world and know how you can help. The Indian movement has been categorised here. And here is a list of all the events taking place tomorrow around the world.  In India, there are two events taking place, one in Delhi and another in Kolkatta with subsequent events taking place around 22 states throughout February.

 

 

 

YWCA OF INDIA DAY – THE STORY

YWCA of India currently has been a constant between all the YWCAs in India, that it is inconceivable to believe that it did not exist before the YWCAs in our country! India had about a 109 YWCA branches before it was finally decided that perhaps we need a YWCA for the country.

Here’s your crash course on the history of the YWCA of India.

THE IDEA THAT SPARKED IT ALL:

December 1896, Acting President of the YWCA of Calcutta, Ms. Alice M. Bethune realised that unity was required for the needs of the country. Hence invitations went high and low to the 109 branches in the country requesting their presence for a conference for prayer and planning towards this goal. Ms. Minnie L. Collins was the General Secretary of YWCA of Calcutta and Bengal.
Incidentally, the Biennial Convention for the YMCA was taking place, with a representative from the London YMCA, Mr. James Stokes Esp.

WHAT HAPPENED THEN?

Since the YMCA Convention and YWCA Conference were happening at the same day. The first session was held at the YWCA’s Home 31, Free School Street, Calcutta with Ms. D. McConnaughy Esq., the National Secretary of YMCA India chosen as the Chairman, and Ms. A. G. Hill from YWCA of Madras chosen as the Secretary of the Conference.
This was monumental, because with the guidance and reassurance of Mr. Stokes (who had worked with YMCA and YWCA in London) explained that the World Committees were hoping that National Associations be formed everywhere to ease in carrying out the mission that was the YMCA and YWCA effort.

WHAT CAME TO BE?

December 1856, saw the formation of the YWCA of India Association, under the guidance of Mr. Stokes suggesting for a simple union between the 109 branches of YWCAs in India.

Thus, YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon was formed on December 1896.

 

WHAT DID THAT MEAN?

With the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association in place, it meant that the National Association would work on the same principle as the World YWCA. The National headquarters were to be in Calcutta.

And most important, February 1st every year was to be marked as the inauguration of the National Association and would be a special day of praise and prayer.

 

WHAT CAME UNDER THE ASSOCIATION?

The National Association now had 68 English branches [with Calcutta, Bombay and Madras having several branches within their cities). 2 Vernacular branches, 27 Hindusthani branches, 6 Malayalam branches and 5 Tamil branches were also under the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association banner.

 

FEW YEARS LATER. . . 

National Headquarters is no longer the same, as well as the National Association India, Burma and Ceylon. The headquarters moved a few times after that, from Calcutta to Bombay, Madras to New Delhi – meaning the Association had many strong influences from all these regions before it became settled in New Delhi.

YWCA of India, as it finally came to be known was settled in New Delhi in the year 1958.

 

WHAT HISTORY SHOWS US TODAY?

The common goal of the YMCA and the YWCA was the same and always will be. We needed a common denominator that coordinated at the World stage and we had the guidance and support from the 109 branches in India as well as the YMCA to establish that.

Calcutta had the vision and foresight to bring us all together and Bombay and Madras supported the movement continuously. It must have been sad seeing the YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon Association become the YWCA of India Association alone, along with the shifting of HQ 4 times. However, it is to be noted, that HQ shifted 4 times, thus engaging every corner of the country’s YWCA branches. February 1st, requires us to take a step back, realise we all have the same goal and praise this movement that has steamrolled into the 22nd century. 120 years of the Association now, still younger than most of the YWCA branches in the country, but still the glue that binds us all together.

National Immunisation Day 2017

Lately social activism has taken on a hard edge to it. There is a sense of despondency that whatever is said will not be heard. The days do look dark ahead of us, however, we need to take our wins along with us as well.

National Immunisation Day 2017, the day that marks the start of the Polio drive in India in accordance with the World Health Organisation [WHO] directive. WHO wanted to eradicate the World of Polio by the year 2000 and India met that deadline with aplomb.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease. It is caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis (can’t move parts of the body).

WHO had two Millennium Development Goals: halving the number of people who suffer from hunger (for which a key indicator is the prevalence of underweight children) and reducing the mortality rate of children under five years of age by two-thirds. With this in mind they set up building campaigns around the world to start the polio drive by immunising children under the age of 5. India successfully participated in this initiative.

It started in Delhi, with polio drops being given door to door. And the following season the Indian Government had taken up this crusade. Door to door campaigns, information to the public was issued at regular intervals, polio schedules were drawn up to ensure that children below 5 got their doses regularly.

Things were on track till one case popped up in Howrah, West Bengal in 2011. From then on, The Indian Government has been following the directive set by WHO to keep India polio free. So, here’s a feather in our caps for following through for 5 years through. There is some good news around, development is happening, we need to remind ourselves of it more often is all.

Oil & Gas Conservation Fortnight 2017

 

Oil and Gas Conservation Fortnight (OGCF) 2017 starts today {4th January} and continues till the 10th of January. First started in the year 1991, in order to spread awareness about the conservation of petroleum products. This initiative grew from just being the ‘Oil Conservation Week’ to ‘Oil and Gas Conservation Fortnight‘ in 2004 – since the nation-wide campaign was quite successful and new eco-friendly gaseous fuels were being substituted more regularly, that it needed to be conserved as well.

The campaign is conducted with the sponsorship by the entire oil industry under the guidance of ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. The campaign has two main concern addressed every year:

  1. the need to conserve resources for the future
  2. the environmental fallout from the non-judicious approach to the use of these fossil fuels

Conservation has always been the need of the hour, since we realised how quickly we run through our resources. Oil and Gas, however, do not feature on our ‘list for conservation’, mostly because we take it for granted. We do not realise the amount of wastage nor use of these resources, because of insufficient infrastructure and insufficient daily commodities among all the population.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-11-11-25-pm

On the flip side of the coin, is the mass usage of these fuels affects the environment that we live in. Besides depleting the earth’s reserves, the effluents from the factories, homes, etc are passed into the running waterways – i.e. our streams, rivers, oceans. Lead free petrol not being a must, we end up releasing a lot of gases into the atmosphere, polluting the very air we breathe.

One of the recent wake-up calls, was when Delhi was heavily polluted, making it the world’s first most polluted city in 2016. The population, the smog, the weather change and the indiscriminate bursting of firecrackers during Diwali made the pollution cross 650 µg/m³.  The high level of particulate matter in the air, made it impossible for the city to function efficiently for a few days.

This is not recent news however, the Taj Mahal recorded damage to it’s white facade turning yellow, because of the pollution in the air, which also pointed out the that air pollution was below the WHO standards for human living conditions.

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-11-15-59-pm

Every year, this campaign draws more supporters, more concerns and more information to protect not only these resources, but also our lives. Do join in and learn more about this campaign through the Petroleum Conservation Research Association [PCRA] and find out more of their activities to conserve oil and gas this year and for the coming years.

 

Orange the World: UNiTE to End Violence against Women

A little known fact: 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence from someone close to them, or someone they know.

Thus the initiative started by Secretary-General UNiTE to End Violence against Women calls for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in 2016 – from the International Day of Violence against Women [25th November] to Human Right’s Day [10th December].

‘Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence against Women and Girls strongly emphasizes the need for sustainable financing for efforts to end violence against women and girls towards the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ingrained in us is the inequality of roles, rights, opportunities and attitudes between men and women. It’s something that requires a lot of education, a lot of manpower, a lot of open dialogue to break down these barriers. Most instances, women believe they should be in these unequal positions, since a novel concept being spoken of breaks the balance that has been maintained, and that rocks the boat for most. All across the world, leaders realise that for economic and development of any nation, these injustices need to be worked on. However, they also realise that a lot of funds are required to invest into this initiative. Hence, Orange the World.

Evidence shows that even relatively small-scale investments that are timely and well integrated can bring enormous benefits to women and their communities. Donate to support efforts to end violence against women and girls worldwide.

Join in this campaign, by sharing your photos, messages and videos showing how you orange the world at facebook.com/SayNO.UNiTE and twitter.com/SayNO_UNiTE using #orangetheworld and #16days. Follow the UN Women website for the 16 days of activism from across the globe.

Ringing the Warning Bell

We’ve heard about climate change. We’ve heard why it’s important to be vigilant. We some times prefer not to know, because we assume it does not affect us, but the future. However, the future is not so distant as we like to believe.

Leonardo Dicaprio’s film Before the Flood, is a documentary that meets with scientists, world leaders and activists to fully understand climate change, how we can change individual behaviour to protect the future and also, most importantly it promotes hope. Something, that most activists, environmentalists and climate change scientists forget to include in their discourse.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-12-12-49-pm

picture credit: Pete McBride from National Geographic

In Iceland, land is rising as fast a 1.4 inches per year in certain areas as a result of climate change. The melting of the country’s glaciers reduces pressure on the land below and allows the surface to rise.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-12-11-53-pm

picture credit: Thomas Peschak from National Geographic

While in Mexico, off the seas of La Paz, the Sea of Cortez has murky green rough waters, this year, the unusual climatic and oceanographic conditions resulted in ultra calm and clear waters.

screen-shot-2016-12-07-at-12-14-05-pm

picture credit: Brian Skerry from National Geographic

In the High Arctic near Navy Board Inlet, Canada, the sea ice has been declining in recent years. It is predicted in a year or two, the North pole will be ice free in the summer, meaning the ships will be able to pass over the pole for the first time in recorded history.

Meanwhile, in Belize, they are celebrating 20 years of their world heritage site, the Belize Barrier System Reserve System. The country’s laws protect this large reef ecosystem in the Atlantic-Carribean region (the second largest in the world).

Which brings us around to, the burden to protect our planet, rests in our politicians hands. Which, was true for our Indian Tigers. In 1973, a political framework was put in place by Indira Gandhi to protect our tigers. A Wildlife Act that banned hunting of wildlife {mainly tigers}, that also allowed for creating sanctuaries and national parks with strict measures ensuring the safety of the land and the wildlife within.

However, the Tiger initiative has had its ups and downs till date, with more activists and celebrities backing the project. However, nothing ensures results when any initiative has complete political backing and that has fallen short over the years.

This does not mean that we as individuals still cannot do something to help. During the floods in Chennai, a group of people came together and over the weekends following the flood, they cleaned up the beach and a few areas of all the plastic and other debris washed in by the river Cooum.

Another initiative started by a social organisation Grow-Trees.com, identifies locations that need tree cover in India, that will enable the wildlife as well as the tribals in that area, while giving you the opportunity to donate an amount in your name or in another person’s name allowing for a ‘grove of trees’ to be planted.

There are many more programmes that are out there that depend on individual support, volunteering and effort. The bottom line however is very simple, climate change is real. Climate change is happening. Do watch ‘Before the Flood’, the documentary if you can, and share the information with all around you.

 

Why Harambe?

October 2016, saw the resurgence of vigils being held for Harambe, in fact, there were two held in the country itself. However, it was strangely obvious that the true nature/reason for the vigils had been lost – which is surprising considering the social media firestorm that broke over this.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-10-26-38-pm

Who is Harambe?

In May, a 4 year old toddler had fallen into a Gorilla enclosure. Harambe – a 400 pound 7ft Silverback Gorilla – got ahold of the child and was roughhousing with the child, as he would a Gorilla young one. To rescue the child, Harambe was unfortunately shot and killed. Harambe, was one of the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla’s, a species that is critically endangered.

What does that all mean? 

Since the 80s, there have been reports of humans (toddlers and adults) falling into Zoo enclosures and either miraculously surviving or being mauled to death by the wild animals inhabiting those enclosures. Western Lowland Gorillas, like all Gorillas in the world are on the Endangered list. There are fewer than 95,000 present in the wild with about 765 being reared in captivity. Hunting for their meat along with the outbreak of diseases like Ebola (yes, even Gorillas suffer from these diseases) have wiped out their numbers by up to 60%. So killing Harambe has a lot of people upset about this.

Shooting Harambe, was a blow towards the conservation of this species.

 

Was there really no other way? 

Most people disregard the fact, that killing Harambe was a very difficult decision to make for the Zoo Officials, and in their shoes, we would have been shaking with fear. Protect the child, or save the critically endangered Wild animal.

Harambe was like any curious Gorilla, touching, prodding, dragging something new that was in front of him. He was rough with the child, because humans are weaker than wild animals. However, from the videos it did show that Harambe was in a manner playing and being protective of the little toddler – in essence, it might have been normal Gorilla behaviour.

Experts do mention that it was playful behaviour, and they stand by the Zoo’s decision, because at the end of the day, Gorilla’s are volatile creatures. No matter how much research into a wild animal and their behaviour, it is always difficult to predict how they will react or behave. Tranquillising Harambe would have been risky because it could have agitated him – thus harming the toddler – before it finally did take effect. Tranquillisers take time to release into the blood stream, precious moments when the Gorilla had his hands on the child.

 

Poor Harambe, Shameful Mother?!

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-12-15-17-am

Social media went into quite a rage, because when you are anonymous and behind a keyboard you are bolder than if you were to say it front of a crowd face-to-face. What was shocking was many calling out the mother for not keeping an eye on her son and for being responsible for the murder of Harambe. Also worth mentioning, is that while reporters talking about Harambe were passionate and had more emotion in their voices, reporters covering mass shootings or any other violence (in America or the world) had bland, calm voices, almost as if it was ‘par for the course’.

 

What’s wrong with taking sides? 

 

Argument A:

A video or an article does not give a complete picture. Toddlers are spritely and full of energy that losing track of them in a blink of an eye, does happen. Judging a mother and her apparent parenting capabilities is not right. We were not that family, we were not there, we were not in that family’s shoes. Condemning them is not our place. Parenting is a difficult job.

Argument B:

There is so much happening in the world today, keeping informed is easy and difficult. A beggar on the street, we walk by without thinking of their plight. A man doesn’t have a vehicle to transport his deceased wife because of his status in society, becomes the news of the hour. See another story like that and it’s no longer interesting. However, watch as a man throws a dog off a building and we get up in arms over it calling for that man’s head.

And that is the other side of the coin, Zoo officials and the experts were quite clear, Human life is important! However, it’s interesting to note, that most of us behind the keyboard place our preference with an animal than a human.

Argument C:

Also, many blamed the Mother of the child for bad parenting, instead of including the Father, he was around that day as well. It’s amazing how we all fall into the gender stereotype trap so easily. Anyway, the main issue here is not about the Zoo killing Harambe or the boy and his mother.

Argument D:

The issue is about this tragic situation in it’s entirety. A life was saved, while another had to be sacrificed. There are no sides to this argument –  each was horrifying.

The boy for being in the clutches of a wild animal for a few minutes, for the mother watching her son get dragged by a wild animal so much more stronger than her and her boy and wondering if she would see her son again all while blaming herself, and finally Harambe, for no fault of his, being a curious Gorilla exploring something that would not have been in his natural habitat.

Argument E:

We overtake these amazing creatures’ homes and develop their homes to satisfy our growing population, while we stick them in closed spaces expecting to protect them and view them at our own convenience as well. It was brought home once again when silverback Kumbuka escaped his enclosure from the London Zoo recently. It was a contained situation, however, Kumbuka did want to make an escape – someone noted that the more number of visitors, the more agitated the Gorillas got and attacked each other or growled at the visitors in the zoo.

 

Back to Harambe

Mentioned at the start of this article, we discussed how vigils were held for Harambe. The importance of these vigils isn’t to focus on the tragedy or the blame game. It needs the focus to be on CONSERVATION. Many species are being held in captivity to propagate their species because there is no guarantee that they will be safe in their natural habitat. Humans have amassed a lot more land taking away from theses magnificent beings, however, something’s got to give. Conservation is the need of the hour. Education towards the need for these species being important for the environment is a must. That is what Harambe symbolises, not the divide between humans and wildlife nor the divide between Harambe and the mother of the toddler.

The Truth Behind Those ‘Cute’ Wildlife Viral Videos

Recently there has been an influx of ‘cute’ videos on social media – the bear, lion and tiger cub living together, or the tickling slow Ioris and the latest being the ring-tailed Lemur asking for a back scratch. However, these create a market for an illegal wildlife/pet trade.

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-11-31-10-pm

What is Illegal Wildlife Trade? Selling of wildlife or animals parts or even plant resources is wildlife trade. Not all wildlife trade is illegal. When there is an overexploitation of certain species of wildlife or plants laws are put into effect in a bid to sustain and maintain the balance in nature. Poaching of tusks from elephants, horns from rhinos and skin and bones of a tiger are examples of illegal wildlife trade.

What is Illegal Pet Trade? Selling of wildlife for use as pets is illegal pet trade since it threatens countless species that sends them towards extinction. Parakeets, turtles, Lemurs are a few animals that are captured from their habitat gradually emptying forests, rivers and skies for a global consumer market.

How does this start? Demand drives the illegal wildlife trade. Rhino horns have become a much more prized commodity since inaccurate information got around about rhino horn curing cancer. Tiger skin and bones have always been traded illegally because of its apparent health benefits. With the illegal pet trade, it mostly stems from cute viral videos that misses crucial context. Slow Iorises were a species not known to most people, however a video of an slow Ioris lifting her hands up while being tickled turned into the most demanded pet.

What other reasons are there?

  1. There are many nations that have a high demand for wildlife or wildlife goods and expect that lifestyle to be supplied.
  2. On the flip side of the coin, there are people suffering in extreme poverty who see bartering of wildlife as a viable source of income.
  3. Governing bodies do exact laws and have harsh penalties, however, there are gaps in conserving wildlife.
  4. Certain countries have competitions with these illegal pets taking centre stage.

How do the viral videos tie in with the bigger picture? Watching the bear, tiger and lion cubs tumbling around with each other similar to a littler or puppies or cats disillusions you to the actual danger of the wildness of these magnificent beasts. Watching a slow Ioris with its arms raised while being tickled makes you believe these are animals make adorable pets. The lemur being back scratched again disillusions you into believing that this wild animal can be domesticated and live as pets.

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-11-31-21-pm

Why is this dangerous? Half information, out of context information is always very dangerous. Rhino horns do not cure cancer and tiger parts do not help make you healthy. However, that has not stopped the illegal wildlife trade. In the same vein, a slow Ioris doesn’t actually like being tickled. Arms raised is a sign of distress, because a venom is released under its armpit that it licks and then bites the source of threat. Lemurs are social creatures and need to be surrounded with other lemurs, they are also vicious and do not like being domesticated.

What has been the fallout from the Illegal Wildlife Trade? Tigers, Elephants and Rhinos are among the most endangered animals in the wild. Conservationists are trying their best to protect these wild beasts however, deforestation, reduction in habitats and poaching are causes for concern. Governing bodies and conservationists can only do so much, however, there are too many ‘illegal trade hot-spots’ that eradicating this trade is difficult.

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-11-31-29-pm

What has been the fallout from the Illegal Pet Trade? The slow Ioris is a prime example of this. No one knew what a slow Ioris was until there was a YouTube video. The pet trade flourished because of this, because they bite their threats with a venom from under their arms – their teeth were clipped out without proper anaesthesia causing a lot to die from infections or blood loss. Many died during transport conditions which are very overcrowded, stressful situations. If a slow Ioris survives the transport to its new owner, they do not survive too well, since even well-meaning owners do not understand the animals needs, habitat requirements and food requirements. Most of these social animals die in loneliness. This has caused the slow Ioris to become an endangered animal. The lemur is already an endangered animal as well, and many owners are unable to maintain them as pets and these are locked, abandoned or killed, since even in a domesticated environment they are aggressive.

What can you do? Learning more is always a plus. Find out more about the animals that are there in the videos – are they endangered, do they really make good pets? It’s always beneficial to learn more, photos and videos tend to skew our perceptions, as many people believe dolphins and chimpanzees are perfect animals in captivity. However, till date every dolphin in captivity has died as they are social creatures and we do not know much about their way of life that we cannot recreate it in captivity. Chimpanzees, though ape-like and show similar characteristics to humans are wild animals and cannot be domesticated either as they tend to show aggressive tendencies as well. If you end up sharing videos make sure you spread the correct context about the creature involved. Speak out about wildlife trade. Stand with the Indian Government and conservationists in protecting the countries endangered wildlife {India is committed towards fighting illegal trade of elephants, tigers and rhinos}.

Remember – Increasing an animal’s appeal as a pet, encourages illegal trade and threatens the species.

Sources: National Geographic, Huffington Post, WWF