The Royal Bengal Tiger attracts even the high and mighty. Even the former President of the USA – Bill Clinton was not immune to its charms. The current ban on tourism on Tiger Reserves in some states of the Indian sub continent has been drawing attention and conflicting views from all quarters. Pretty recently I found a very interesting view point and sensible views echoed and reported in The Times of India. Since the views echoed resonate with my view point I am reproducing the article here.
“Supreme Court ban on wildlife tourism in reserves is endangering the magnificent creature. Oct 12, 2012, 12.00AM IST.
Former US president Bill Clinton once quipped: “There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who have seen the Taj Mahal and love it, and those who have not seen the Taj and love it.” For well over three decades now, i have been an inveterate wanderer in the wild and untamed lands of India. And i can safely report that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who have seen a tiger in the forest and love it, and those who have not seen a tiger in the forest and love it still.
Unfortunately, this magnificent creature is now stranded at a perilous cross-road – and its fate lies in the hands of us humans. Not a reassuring prospect, to depend on humans when they cannot even guarantee the survival of their own race! A case in point is the recent rumblings in the Supreme Court, where a coterie of so-called wildlife experts have opined that keeping tourists away from national parks and sanctuaries is the best way to ensure the tigers’ safety.
But this would bring about the tigers’ doom sooner rather than later. Way back in May 1985 as a tourist, i came across a dead tiger in the Dhaulkhand range of Uttarakhand’s Rajaji National Park. The poor animal lay before me, obviously poisoned. At first, the forest authorities went into denial mode. But a series of correspondences which i had with the top authorities of the day ensured that that the matter was properly investigated. A few weeks later, i was duly informed that it indeed was a case of poaching.
I shudder to think what would have happened if, at that time, the area was closed to tourists. In many cases of tiger poaching, it is they who first press the alarm-bell. Another example: two years ago, the famous Jhurjhura tigress of Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh was knocked down dead by a vehicle inside the park. Now, she was a celebrity tigress; a darling of wildlife photographers who would troop down to Bandhavgarh from all over the world to capture her with their cameras.
The sudden death of the Jhurjhura tigress, proud mother of three newborn cubs, caused a furore which continues to this day. If the tourists and guides at Bandhavgarh had not raised that ruckus over the tigress’ death, who would have? Of course, one must grant that C K Patil, then field-director of Bandhavgarh, left no stone unturned to nab the culprits.
But very few forest officers are of his calibre. When Sariska and Panna National Parks lost their tigers, the entire forest staff from top to bottom was found napping. It was the media and the tourists who alerted the country to these twin tragedies. It is safe to assume that the tigers in Sariska and Panna were not wiped out in a single day.
Even a well-coordinated poaching operation would take weeks, if not months, to achieve the objective, given the elusive nature of a tiger. What was National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the all-powerful central body, doing during this crucial period?
Tens of thousands of families today depend on the tiger for their livelihood. Be it a low-paid guide or those working in resorts and hotels around a national park, their kitchen fires are burning because of the tiger. If tourism is banned in tiger reserves, many of these people may well vent their anger on the tiger in sheer frustration. How prepared is the government machinery to take on this challenge?
Is it any coincidence that tigers have emerged stronger in those places that attract large numbers of tourists? Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Corbett, Ranthambore, Tadoba; the evidence is irrefutable. In the words of formidable tiger-man Billy Arjan Singh, once a tiger moves out of the protected area, it becomes a forgotten tiger”. It then becomes an easy mark for any passing gun.
True, untrammeled tourism in tiger reserves is also a problem – and at times, a grave one. A tiger needs a great deal of breathing space; being a territorial animal, it requires large tracts of undisturbed land. Therefore, a prudent tourism policy – one where picnickers can be separated from wildlife enthusiasts – would be a welcome first step.
Jim Corbett hit the nail on the head perfectly when he remarked over half a century ago: “The tiger is a large hearted gentleman with boundless courage and when he is exterminated – as exterminated he will be unless public opinion rallies to his support – India will be poorer by having lost the finest of her fauna.”
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the days of Colonel Corbett. Thanks to Indira Gandhi’s initiative which led to the setting up of Project Tiger in the early seventies, we did manage to pull the tiger back from the brink of certain extinction. But a bigger battle is before us now. It will indeed be an unparalleled tragedy if the tiger breathes his last in a forgotten, silent corner of a forest, where a ‘No Entry’ board greets tourists“…. The article source from here. (The writer is a builder and wildlife enthusiast)
Amazingly I have had a similar experience at Bandipur where a Large Cuckoo Shrike was lying on the road (main highway inside of the park) and a few dozen vehicles were passing it without even stopping or trying to help the bird. It could have easily been squashed by any speeding vehicle. It is a different story that I did rescue the bird, but it also highlights the sentiments expressed in the above article.