Sunday Post

Holding out hope for Ranthambhore tigers

We often visit forests and zoos and the animal that intrigues us the most is the tiger. We can spend hours in front of a tiger’s cage, appreciating its aura and enigma. However, in order to truly appreciate the elusive animal, it is important to witness it in the open. One man, who has spent more than 40 years studying tigers, explains what his mentor believed that it is important to “let them be free… Let our wilderness be really wild and not manipulated by man.” Though he has toured several places in the country to study tigers, the questions are based on tigers of Ranthambhore as we believe; there are very few places in India where tigers can be understood better. Excerpts:
In what way does human interference affect the tigers of Ranthambhore?

Human interference either by excessive tiger collaring or medical treatment is unnecessary and can impact on the tigers’ temperament leading to trauma that can increase conflict between man and the animal as it happened with T24. I believe our job is not to “play God” with the tiger and allow them to fend for themselves.

Do you feel that the attempts by the government agencies to artificially save tigers are an endeavour to keep earning revenue from the forest? Are the apparent concerns posing as a garb to hide a bigger conspiracy?

This is not about revenue or any conspiracy. This is about bad management and expertise about wild tigers and the rot starts in how we provide guidelines from Project Tiger and the NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority). Good management requires wisdom and we are short of it.

Revered conservationist Fateh Singh Rathore never wanted man-made interference to be a part of Ranthambhore’s tigers’ lives. However, do you feel that his attempts to make Ranthambhore have an importance in the wildlife map of India had a different effect, probably something which he had never imagined of.

Rathore believed in state-of-the-art protection for Ranthambhore with the primary purpose of reducing villages inside the breeding habitat of tigers. He succeeded in doing that. That process must continue without adding medical treatments of wild tigers into the menu. Therefore, Ranthambhore’s tigers are recognised the world over but we have no reason to keep them alive either by giving live baits when they are old or by medical treatments. Such human interferences are uncalled for and Fateh Singh Rathore would never have practiced them.

We know how Machhli was kept alive with live baits. Did this affect the tigers’ ecosystem in any way?

Machli’s extended life by artificial feeding created an unnatural situation for other tigers in the park and probably prevented the natural succession of young tigers into her area. Such situations are not required and should be avoided as they create unnatural tendencies within the tigers’ realm.

Is it too late already to save Ranthambhore and its tigers? Is the damage repairable in any way? Can we still reduce human interference and let the wild be wild?

Ranthabhore’s tigers are very safe and are not damaged. Correctives have already been taken to prevent both artificial feeding and medical treatments, so human interference has reduced. The population of tigers in Ranthambhore is at its highest.

The airlifting of tigers to Sariska has affected the tiger ecosystem badly. However, there was a need to save the tigers from being poached. Could there have been any other way to keep up the tiger count? 

You can only save tigers from being poached by getting rid of the poachers and the problems that lead to poaching — this was not done. Tigers were taken from only Ranthambhore to Sariska and breeding was very slow and still is. Reintroducing tigers is a complex process especially in areas where tigers have gone extinct. My opinion on this is that a mixture of tigers from Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh needed to have been sent to Sariska. I believe the reproduction would have been better. At the same time, villages needed to be relocated and protection enhanced.

Any message that you would like to give to our readers.

I have no message except that go out and watch the tigers. See how they live and enjoy nature. We need to respect natural landscapes and encourage people to see them. Tigers will look after themselves without any medication or food. The natural world finds its own solution and we, as human beings, have to respect that fact and ensure the very best of protection so that tigers’ habitat is kept safe.
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