In Photos: On World Tiger Day, See the Beast in All Its Glory
Tigers are terminal consumers in the ecological food chain & their conservation conserves the whole ecosystem.
When I started photography, I was confused what genre I should try to excel in. An unplanned visit to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh nailed my genre – wildlife photography.
Seeing a tiger in the wild is fascinating and photographing it is a different experience altogether. Each one I have sighted so far – from Noor, Fateh & Arrowhead In Ranthambhore to Maya and Matkasur in Tadoba to Spotty and Dotty in Bandhavgarh – has remained etched in memory.
There has been a surge in wildlife tourism primarily due to the tiger. This is evident from the fact that tourism slots for India’s prime tiger reserves get filled within a few minutes of the opening of the online booking window. Through my travels, I was thrilled to find parents bringing their kids to see a tiger in the wild rather than in a zoo.
It is common knowledge that India’s national animal is the prime protector of our forests – tigers are terminal consumers in the ecological food chain and their conservation ultimately conserves the whole ecosystem.
There has been a rise of more than 30% in our tiger numbers leading to over 2,200 of these magnificent big cats now roaming our forests. This has been possible due to the fabulous efforts of the government under the Project Tiger scheme and the untiring efforts of the forest department personnel at the local level.
All is not perfect – 122 tigers died in 2016 alone and there has been a grave depletion in their habitat. Illegal human encroachment in our forests has increased and there is a strong disconnect between policy-makers and the frontline people manning our tiger reserves. Although poaching has decreased comparatively, it remains the biggest threat to our tigers. Most tiger reserves are understaffed while there has been a distinct lethargy in handling man-wild conflicts leading to lack of sensitisation.
Increasing tiger population, however, becomes a strong reality due to the adaptive nature of these wild cats. A good thing about this magnificent animal is that it is not finicky about restricting itself to a particular diet, habitat or ecosystem like many other animals. Tiger tracks have been found in Bhutan above 13,000 feet, an altitude overlapping the habitat of snow leopard, while tigers in the saltwater mangrove swamps of Indian Sunderbans are powerful swimmers and have learned to supplement their diets with marine life.
As a citizen, we too can contribute in the efforts to increase tiger population and these might help - greater knowledge about tigers in the wild, becoming the eyes and ears of tiger reserve management, so that we can help them on issues like poaching, encroachment and habitat destruction, promoting responsible tourism and strongly protesting ill-planned development projects in the forest areas is also a form of contribution. Let this be our pledge on World Tiger Day.
(Mritunjay Tiwary gave up city life to work for blind people and the girl child in rural Bihar but retained his passion for wildlife and landscape photography)
(This article was first published on 29 July 2017 and has been reposted from The Quint’s archives on the occasion of International Tiger Day.)
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