It was a cool and misty early morning in the tropical forest of Bandipur in southern India. There I was, with my eyes peeled for shades of orange, white and black stripes. The jungle was so dense that we could have been a few feet from a giant tusker and wouldn’t have known it.
I was brooding over this unnerving prospect when, suddenly, there she was, lounging under a canopy and watching us intently all along. She was magnificent. She had an air about her that left you in no doubt that she was fearless, omniscient and invincible. As she gracefully strode away from her awestruck audience, disappearing into the bush, all I had was absolute respect – no, reverence – for her species.
So I rang in this New Year in a propitious way by joining a small group of the privileged few who have seen the highly endangered wild tiger. This was the first tiger I had ever seen in the wild. Fewer than 3,500 tigers remain in the wild and each one of these magnificent creatures is seriously threatened by the trade in their skins for luxury home décor and bones for use in wine and other tonics.
Some may ask ‘Have we not saved wild tigers already?’ To this I would say ‘NO!’, we have not. Tigers continue to be killed for trade in their parts and products. For example, in January 2013, authorities in Nepal seized seven tiger skins and 167kg of bone heading to China.
The more cynical may ask ‘Can we save tigers at all?’ My response to this is a resounding ‘YES!’. Trade in wild tiger parts and products is facilitated by tangible problems including: failure to eliminate demand for tiger parts and products; lack of investment in the authorities charged with curbing the trade; lack of trust and cooperation amongst range, transit and destination countries along the trade chain; corruption; and lack of understanding of the value of protecting tigers in the wild.
Read the full blog by EIA Wildlife Campaigner Shruti Suresh at http://www.eia-international.org/why-we-can-never-relax-our-vigil-over-wild-tigers
Image (c) Robin Hamilton