Bugs are cool, but the general idea of entomology seems a little like Japanese whale research. You catch your subject and viciously kill it. Only Japanese whalers don’t then leave a collection of ceteceans stuck with a giant harpoon through the chest on the side of there boat on display for all to see remarking at its natural beauty.
So to hear that two Czech entomologists are now languishing in an Indian jail does bring about a cruel sense of irony. Does India impose death penalty by giant magnifying glass?
The fate of at least one of the pair has been getting some serious attention. A petition of over 600 scientists is calling for Petr Svacha’s release.
Svacha and his colleague were arrested for collecting specimens inside a national park. According to some reports he was collecting endangered species, and according to others he was supplying Chinese herbalists. His equipment was also confiscated, presumably as evidence.
Svacha says he was doing legitimate scientific research on common organisms with no commercial value, and if anything the bugs are pests. There was no signage indicating he was in a national park, and he saw evidence of logging and livestock grazing in the area.
He is having difficulty with his state appointed lawyer and is attempting to find appropriate representation. The petition also mentions Svacha as being in a frail state. It seems like a tragic affair.
However I’m having a little trouble feeling sympathetic. If Svacha is such an impeccable entymologist working for the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic you would think he would attempt to be familiar with local laws and national park boundaries near where he was collecting. Ignorance really doesn’t cut it as an excuse when you hold a PhD.
Additionally the petition makes no mention of the other scientist, who is older than Svacha by around 12 months – so presumably just as frail. Credentials are not get out jail free cards.
Image credit: Gary Larson’s Far Side