Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Snubbed by the Graceful "Mascots" - The Magnificient Tigers of Ranthambore

He turned around to look at us once, dismissed us with a disdainful glance, and walked away, leaving us bristling under the realization that we had just been brushed aside by a 20-month-old tiger "cub". I was numb, not because of fear, but because my childhood dream had just come true. I had seen a tiger in the wild.

The moment is imprinted in my mind forever, and keeps on replaying time and again. Needless to say, tiger is the most elegant, most regal animal ever. The realization that we had come so near to losing these beautiful creatures forever sends shivers down my spine. Still endangered, the Royal Bengal Tiger continues to fight against all odds - the crisis is far from over.

And the authorities are aware of this and are doing their best to reverse the damage. But it is an uphill task. Mr. Yogendra Kumar Sahu, the Conservator of Forest & Field Director, Ranthambore revealed that the greatest threat is of course from poachers. While the orders for tiger skins, claws, and bones usually originate from outside India, local tribes are a part of the machinery. These tribes, especially Mogias, who are hunters traditionally, are highly skilled in tracking and hunting wild animals.

Mr Yogendra Kumar Sahu met us in his office
Now, gradually, efforts are being made to provide them with an alternate way of making a living. Education is being made available to their children so that the tribe can gradually move away from hunting. When asked whether there were any plans to hire Mogias as forest guides, Mr Sahu was clear in his reply. "We cannot take such chances now. That stage is long past," he says. One cannot help but agree with him.

Anish's presence made all the difference
In spite of several ups and downs, things have taken a heartening turn with the tiger numbers increasing slightly. With corporates such as Aircel making tiger conservation a part of their CSR initiative we can expect substantial rise in awareness. A part of Aircel's #SaveOurTigers initiative, the Kids for Tigers Campaign, set up by Dr. Anish Andheria of Wildlife Conservation Trust, is aimed at spreading awareness amongst the children who stay in areas bordering the reserve forest. The cute little van that goes around the villages carries books by writers such as Jim Corbett for the young readers to familiarize themselves with wild animals.

The campaign seems to be quite successful, and as a result children have now turned into wildlife conservators. One delightful example of this was shared by Mr Govardhan, the person who runs the Kids for Tigers campaign in Ranthambore. According to him many times when there is a man-wild animal conflict, he receives calls from these children requesting him to come with the Rapid Response Unit to rescue the wild animal. Several wild animals have been saved because of this vigil.


Rapid Response Unit, a vehicle that is armed with tranquilizers, medicines, trapping equipment is another useful initiative by Aircel. So far a total of 41 vehicles have been donated to various national parks and these vehicles are instrumental in managing man vs. wild animal conflict, not only inside the parks but also in bordering areas and corridors. These vehicles make rescue convenient by ensuring that everything required for rescue is accessible and by reducing the time spent in coordinating the rescue.

"Tiger is just a mascot," Says Mr Sahu. "Efforts should be and are being made to conserve ecosystems, so that the natural balance can be maintained."

Most CSR initiatives are aimed at helping humans directly and are mostly corrective in nature. However, an investment in environment is an investment in future. There should be a healthy balance in initiatives that are aimed at solving a problem and those that contribute towards preventing a problem. Only then can we rest assured that our coming generations will be living in a better world than we inherited - a world where tigers rule the jungles and where humans know how to value what we have been blessed with.   

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