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A flawed effort

Book>> Conservation by murder: Maneaters of Sundarbans • by Sudipt Dutta • 201 Quicksilver • Rs 499

By Anurag Danda
Published: Thursday 31 May 2012

CONSERVATION BY MURDER: MANEATERS OF SUNDARBANSConservation By Murder is unlike any other book on Indian Sundarbans I have come across. It is a brilliant piece of research marred by appalling production quality.

The piece de resistance is Chapter 2 where Sudipt Dutta examines the seven prevailing theories about the so-called Sundarbans man-eaters in light of available data and concludes that these theories be junked. The theories are, however, not examined in the order they were introduced in Chapter 1.

So to make sense of the discussion the reader has to go back and forth between the two chapters. The problem also gets compounded because the numbering of the theories in Chapter 2 does not match the numbering in Chapter 1.

Dutta, however, keeps the reader rivetted by a thorough analysis of data on 1,300 casualties inflicted by tigers between 1964 and 2010. It surely is a stupendous effort in data mining and analysis.

imageThe book’s other major strength is a set of eight appendices, covering topics ranging from the socio-economic profile of people living in the Sundarbans to the biodiversity of the region. There is an appendix on how the forested part of the eco-region worked its way up the ladder of protection, first becoming a reserved area, then a protected one, then a tiger reserve, a national park and, finally, a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. There is also an appendix describing the complexities surrounding resource extraction permits.

Managers of protected areas and administrators of the Sundarbans forests would find the concluding chapter useful provided they bear with Dutta’s accusative tone and unsubstantiated allegations.

Dutta claims that time constraints forced him to seek a local publisher. I wish he had given his manuscript to a reputed international publisher. Incomplete sentences, faulty grammar and factual errors mar a very well researched book.

But I still recommend Conservation By Murder as compulsory reading for those interested in the conservation of this unique patch on Earth we call the Sundarbans.

Anurag Danda has been working in the Sundarbans since 1998. He joined WWF-India in 2005 and till recently was the head of its Sundarbans Programme

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