The first trip to see any predator in the wild is an unforgettable one. Actually every trip is. And why wouldn't it be? You know you are travelling through the very same lands where the animals roam free and hunt. We sit in tidy little jeeps and go all over the place looking for His Majesty. We tremble when he nonchalantly walks past the jeep to a water body. We either feel disappointed on not spotting him or feel satisfied seeing abundant wildlife in the form of birds and other mammals. There's a board at the exit gate of the park which depicts a tiger saying something along the lines of 'Even though you haven't seen me, don't feel bad because I have seen you.' Touche Tiger.
Night and Nature take over the forest when the sun sets. None of the tourists know exactly what happens after the park closes. They sleep in their hotel beds, shivering at the thought of a hunting tiger. But the ones living in the forest know. They dread an attack by the tiger on one of their people. The poor farmer living in the outskirts of the park knows. He fears a tiger may snatch away a calf from his cattle shed. He worries that Sambhar or Cheetal will eat his crop. The forest ranger knows that there may be human beings in the forest with no right to be there.
Most of all the tiger knows that there is something else lurking in the grass other than food. What it does not know is the trap of jagged iron laid out on the forest floor. That once trapped by it, his screams will only hasten the poacher to shove a spear into his throat to hack his vocal chords. That once muted, the poacher will proceed to electrocute him. His being the national animal of India matters very little to the poacher. His huge fangs hardly scare the poacher, trapped as he is. And the more he struggles, the more he is hurt. What matters is that a whole, undamaged skin fetches a larger sum of money. That the fangs, claws, bones and other organs will be hot property in the black market. The life of the tiger has no value. The animal does not even have an easy way to go like a bullet in the head. It's slow and painful electrocution. Why slow? Because by God, the poachers for all their brazen courage will run for cover every time the trapped animal struggles violently and snaps at them.
After my first visit, I promised myself I will go back to Bandhavgarh Hills in my lifetime and see the tigers again. The 'Save Tigers, only 1411 left' program couldn't have come at a better time. To me, 1411 no longer looks like just any number. 1411 is the legacy of our nation decimated so greatly it can be counted on fingers now.
Those of us who have never seen tiger land will probably never understand the magnetic attraction it holds for the people who have been there. But every one of us who has been to any national park and seen the beast in all its raw glory have a story to tell. A wish to make others see the magic they have seen. A desire to save it- so they themselves may see it once again and so that others may see it atleast once. That future generations see it. I am one of them. I say it out loud and clear:
"SAVE TIGERS! THEY ARE NATIONAL TREASURE. SAVE THEM BECAUSE
THEY ARE LIVING BEINGS. A TIGER SKIN CARPET ON YOUR FLOOR IS PROOF ONLY OF THE FACT THAT YOU ARE A GREEDY MURDERER. TIGER FANGS, CLAWS AND BONES HAVE NEVER CURED AILMENTS NOR GIVEN SPECIAL POWERS TO HUMANS. DON'T LET GREED WIPE OUT AN ENTIRE SPECIES.
As a common man far removed from the world of poachers and black markets, this is the least one can do. Spread the work, speak out against poaching, be informed about the status and the numbers of the animal, blog about it etc.
Greed is one part of the reason for such a demand of tiger products. In China, tiger bones, eyes and even penises are used in local medicine. On February 14 this year, the Chinese Year of the Tiger began. There are fears among conservationists that this may lead to an increased demand for tiger products. Many Indians too have a love for tiger skins.
The other part is need. Would not an utterly poor man, with no land ownership, hardly profitable crops and a large family to feed begin poaching which offers huge, lump sums of money?
To tackle poaching as a livelihood, WWF- India has begun courses which educate the childeren of a nomadic tribe called Pardhis in Madhya Pradesh. Pardhis are traditional hunters who make a living by killing wild animals. This is a firm step in reducing poaching and one that attacks a problem at the grass root level. Change through education is a superb idea and I fully support WWF- India's initiative.
WWF- India also organized a marathon supporting conservation of tigers in Central India to create awareness and garner support on the issue. Such marathons should be held all over India. A 'Run for the Tigers' would be great.
Make a noise, roar for our tigers. Tiger Supporters pledge your support: