Sometimes back there was roadside billboards and T.V. advertisements announcing that there are “only” 1411 tigers left in India (See Report Page 12 Table ES.1). This was as per 2008 Tiger Census report. We can speculate or wait for the January 2010 Tiger census release to check if their numbers have gone up or down. Any which way, by Natural Laws of Breeding, Tigers are doomed unless miraculously revived. The MVP (Minimum Viable Population) for Tigers to breed well is 300 (See Report). Statistics shows, Tiger count in all Habitats are close to dismal.
In 2005, it was announced, quite abruptly, that Tigers of Sariska National Park has disappeared. It jolted the Government, no doubt, but they all went back to snooze mode. In 2010, everyone seems to have woken up suddenly to realize that we must do something to save the Tigers. Now, why this sudden motivation? Why should the thrust suddenly shift from poaching to preservation? Is the situation really very bad? Or, is the government preparing us for some bad news?
It may be so. Earlier, the Tigers were counted by “Pug Mark” method. In the January 2010 census, our wild-life department has gone high-tech. This time they use the “camera-trapping” and “DNA” technique to count the numbers.(See Report) Is it that most of the Camera Shots turned out blank? Or, have they counted “Fake” pug-marks all these years.
Historically and culturally, we have never loved or respected the Tigers. So, we will never miss the beast. We see old pictures of our Maharajas standing over the corpses of Tigers grinning like they have done a jolly good job. It’s like a barber getting photographed alongside film stars. Our Maharajah’s too enjoyed this vicarious bask. The animal is exploited to project pride and bravado. There is envy than awe in our attitude towards Tigers.
Politically too, we have not spared the animal. We have played the game with the Game, so to say. Prior to independence, whenever the King or Queen or Governors visited this country, we honored them with a “Hunt”. Suddenly there would be a spurt of “Man Eating” Tigers in the country. Big news was spread and the “Raj” stepped in to save the gentry. Our servile nature won against the pride.
It is also significant that in the palaces of Kings or Maharajas, the walls of their huge chambers are invariably adorned with heads of animals. The floor may be “Carpeted” with skin of the “Man Eating” Tiger and its head would be snarling from the walls above. Desensitized tourists fail to notice other taxidermist’s trophies like deer, Gazelle, Black-buck etc. Where they “Man Eaters” too? Only “Tigers”, significantly, were killed due to “Old age-wounded-man eating-tendencies”. Other “grass eaters” were killed for fun. Are we fools to agree or we just string along!
In the light of all these aspects which conveys our native ignorance, the sudden “Tiger Awareness” in this country raises doubts. Who is orchestrating this exercise? What could be the hidden agenda? Who will benefit from this “campaign” besides the Tiger?
The politics which we had played against the Tigers are now shifted to target Indigenous Inhabitants. Earlier we tagged the Tigers – “Man Eaters” as a reason to kill them, now we tag humans as “Tiger-Killers” in order to drive them away from their land. It is not “Man-Animal” conflict but “Man-Man” Conflict. The Tigers are only “mute” sufferers.
When media, politics and some personalities walk in unison, try to “spot-the-agenda”. Media-Management exists and big money is paid. As per incredibleindia.org, Ministry of Tourism Website, Eco-Tourism is considered the “fastest growing market” with 11.4% of consumer spending. “Not a market to be taken lightly”.(See report)
In Annual Report 2009-10, the Ministry of Tourism has noted that, Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) from tourism increased from Rs. 15,064 crore in 2002 to Rs. 54,960 crore in 2009. The growth rate in earnings in 2009 vis-à-vis 2008 was 8.3 per cent (See Report Page 7 Table 4).
In Table 15 of India Statistics, India got only 0.58% of the Annual Global Tourism Percentage (See Report Page 18 Table 15). This means, our share is less than 1% yet this begets huge income. There is a immense scope of development in this area. We have just woken up!
O.K. this is not an exercise in Economics. The figures are quoted from the Government’s own sites to stress and show – Why there is enormous pressure on the Forest Land. There are more vested interests than tigers in our jungles. In there quest to infest further, they are now targeting the indigenous dwellers. Hence the News – “Poison Tigers Hidden Villagers”! We have to ask ourselves – Who is hiding behind who?
And, if profiteers find their way, can the government be far behind. They all have a whale to fry. There will be a scam “Tiger-Gate” unearthing in the near future. As for now, the Center has sanctioned some 104 Crores to relocate Ranthambore Villagers (See Report). Recently NDTV raised 4.86 Crores. One conservationist proudly noted that – 4.86 crores is enough to raise 35 Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to cover “all Tiger Reserves across the country” (See Report). Just imagine, less then 5 Crores to cover ” 28 Tiger Reserves in 17 states, covering an area of 37761 sq. km.” (See Report Page 3 Part 1.2) I get a hunch that this Rapid Response Teams are basically “Real Estate Watchmens” more intent to shoo the inhabitants than to protect the tigers.
Now, it’s not that the Government does not know. In the Tiger Task Force report presented to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2005 (around the time when Sariska Tigers Disappeared), it is noted that “current approach of guns, guards and fences is simply not the solution” (See Report). I believe NDTV never saw this report. Or, they along with Bachchans, Priyanka Chopras and other politicians etc., are “hand-in-forest”. They eye “Loins Shares” of “Tiger Territories”.
Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, clearly says that all critical tiger habitats are ‘inviolate’—out of bounds for human use (See Report Page 9 Part 4.9). Yet most of the national Parks are filled to the brim with small or big hotels. With the rise of Eco-tourism, more of “eco-friendly” and “exotic” Shacks and 7-Star “Huts” will appear. In the Project Tiger report on Ranthambhore. “Rs 22 crore is the annual turnover of the top 21 hotels near the park” (See Report).
This proves we have residence for everyone except the Tigers. In fact, animal-less world (or India) is even better. I bet nothing is going to happen (See Article). Tigers and other animals can occupy the “National Geographic” space. Redefined – A species is said to be extinct if it doesn’t have camera footage. Pug-Marks are out, fossils are in!
But we have to “show” that we care. I suggest we re-locate the Tigers to Serengeti, Masai-Mara or Amazon. Or auction the animals to some rich animal lovers of the west who can provide land and food for there upkeep. We can retain some in our zoos – just to show our kids “what is it all about” when they read this poem –
The Tiger – a poem by William Blake:-
Tiger Tiger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye.
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?