The Royal Bengal Tiger – a figure of immense power, courage and beauty which has always been in our imaginations, life and deep-rooted culture.
The Royal Bengal Tiger is the most magnificent animal that walks the face of this earth. His charisma binds most of his visitors – to his thick jungle home or his artificial zoological park ‘prison’. His manly looks inflict a sense of utmost royalty which proclaims his kingship. ‘The more we read about him, the more he comes in our dreams; was rightly said by hunter converted naturalist Jim Corbett. A look into the secret life of the tiger reveals much more emotional traits that remove completely all the devilish misconceptions attached to this beautiful creation.
Tiger – Our Life:
Tiger has always been deeply connected with our rich culture. Historians have found coins with tiger emblem, potteries with tiger paintings used during the early Mohenjo-Daro Harappan civilization. They have also explored some pre-historic cave paintings which had tiger-hunting scenes of men armed with spears and arrows. Many other paintings also been later recovered that had man-eating tigers attacking colonial hunters. Other old photographs showed the Maharaja’s royal style of tiger hunting as a sport.
Tiger is also depicted in many dance forms, films & poems- ’Bagh Mama’ of Satyajit Ray’s film ‘Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen’ to the rich & rhythmic dances of the many tribal of central India who dance the movements of the tiger in style as a sign of prosperity.
Tiger also has a rich poetic coverage.
In the forests of the Night!’
This famous poem by the great poet – William Blake has made the Royal Bengal Tiger a character immortal in time.
He is ‘God’ for the people of famous heritage swampland biosphere – ‘Sundarban Tiger Reserve in Bengal where the name – Royal Bengal Tiger originated. In Sundarbans, the tiger forests are worshipped as ‘Bonbibi’ and ‘Dakhinrai’ and every member who visit the forest to harness forest products like wood, honey, fish etc pays homage to the God before venturing out. Also many other tribal like Gondi actively worship the tiger. He is respected as the ‘bahan’ (vehicle) for ‘Ma Santoshi Ma’ – a deity of power for the Hindu culture.
Tiger by nature is a very secretive & very human-shy animal. Tiger never hunts when he is not hungry. A tiger will also never attack unless it is provoked or his comfort zone is overshot. A tigress is a very caring mother who fiercely guards her 3-5 cubs till first 3years of their life. Even the male tiger also share little responsibilities to raise the family unlike traditional beliefs. His presence vibrates with activity as all other animals like deer, monkey, peacocks all remain alert of his presence and raise ‘alarm calls’ to protect themselves from being converted to his meals.
He is truly the soul of the forest who walks the forest floor very silently like ‘the spirit of the jungle’.
Tiger is so sensitive that its prosperity depends directly on the health of the entire ecosystem he lives in. A tiger needs are pretty basic ingredients of life but they are all too complex to the core.
- Tigers need space- space to set up their ranges (kingdom), regularly mark them to proclaim supremacy. Every male tiger needs around 10sq.km area which is shared among multiple tigresses. The protected tiger habitats are shrinking rapidly and tigers outside these areas are many and are very unsafe. Tigers of the buffer zones (outside protected areas) frequently conflict with human by picking their cattle as easy prey in absence of natural prey species and die a death of poisoning or mob-beatings.
- Tiger need prey species like deer, wild boar, antelope and other denizens that help these prey species to survive.
- Tigers need water & shade i.e. thick woodland with a good perennially flowing stream.
The demand for more power, endless industrialization, greed for mineral wealth and blind trust in non-scientific traditional Chinese medicine has dragged the majestic cat near extinction. His habitats are shrinking as his kingdom is being cleaned to make dams over rivers for hydro-power generation; his mountains are blasted and forests cleaned to make roads, town-ships. Mafia’s also intrude into his forest & dig for precious minerals like coal etc.
Poaching is the main death trap for the tiger. Every part of the tiger is considered precious and fetches a very high international value in the black market. Poachers are generally poor tribal people having a deep cultural hunting background or opportunistic hunters of the same tiger-land who lay snares and bleed a tiger to death who accidently trips over it. The tiger is then secretly skinned, then its canines & claws are removed & bones collected and bagged to be exported through underworld connections to China to be grinded into traditional medicines with no scientific value. Their canines are believed to provide courage & man-hood. National Parks like Sariska & Panna had been wiped off its tigers by poachers. Recently tigers from other parks had to be relocated with radio-collars fitted to track & monitor them. It is believed that Panna Tiger Reserve still has poacher activity as recently a leopard (panther) was found caught in snare trap which was later treated and released.
It is really a concern that tiger populations have really declined rapidly from 5000 during 1980s to odd 1700 counted in the last census. Wildlife laws have started to strengthen and trials in courts have recently convicted major culprits. InterPOL also have pledged to save the illegal trade in tiger products and hope to book major heads in the trade. It has also being decided that every major park will have a tiger force that will monitor & protect the tiger in the park’s protected zones. Tiger Research is also on full swing where tiger populations are analyzed & habitat health is examined using high-tech DNA analysis & other tools.
The Last Word:
Not only is tiger a beautiful animal but it is also the indicator of the forest’s health where he freely lives. Saving the tiger is saving the entire forest ecology since tiger cannot live in places where trees have vanished and in turn secure food and water for all.
If we make sure tigers live, we have to make sure that deer, antelope and all other animals that the tiger eats (its prey base) live happily. To make sure that these herbivores live, we must make sure that all the trees, grass and other plants that these prey animals need for food are protected. In this way, the whole forest along with ants, spiders, frogs & fishes all gets saved!
Saving the tiger is saving its entire forest kingdom with all the other animals in it.
Also forests catch and help store rainwater and protect soils. In this way we protect our rivers and recharge groundwater sources. Areas with less trees lead to floods, killing people and destroying homes. It takes away the precious soil, leaving behind a wasteland. The soil jams up our lakes and dams, reducing their ability to store water. By destroying the tiger’s home, we not only harm tigers, but also ourselves.
The tiger thus becomes the symbol for the protection of all species on our earth since it is at the top of the food chain. This is why we sometimes call the tiger, an apex predator, an indicator of our ecosystem’s health.
Please, help us save the Tiger.
Founder President & Editor
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