A while ago, I was talking with a friend of mine, Arjun Valsaraj, who lives in Pune. The point of our discussion was to do with “Environmental Conservation” and the need to protect our endangered wildlife especially the Tiger. After each point and subsequent rebuttal, Arjun finally said, “Well it may be nice to talk about conservation, send sms’ pledging our support for various campaigns or donate money, but if you really look at it we are nothing more than armchair activists!” That point struck home. It was true. For most of us, though not our fault, we often have these types of discussions or sign up for campaigns at the most and at the end of it pat ourselves on the back for having done something. Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that as it shows a mutual and growing consciousness amongst the Indian community for protecting the King of our Jungles – The Tiger.
Though the number of Tigers in India has increased on a whole from 1,411 in 2006 to 1,706 in 2011, as per the new wildlife census, that is still far cry from some of the census reports from a hundred years ago that placed the number between 100,000 to 125,000 across the subcontinent. I would, also, like to add here that out of the Eight Tiger species that once existed in the world, three have already become extinct in the last century. The causes for this rapid decline may be attributed to the excessive hunting by colonial and imperial powers, poaching; high demand for exotic animal based products and corrupt officials, who allow many of India’s affluent to go on hunting expeditions into protected forest areas for a price. This has adversely pushed the Indian King and Queen and their lot into a dangerous predicament.
A part from the Tiger, its other Panthera cousin the Asiatic Lion, has dwindled to a small number that now only survives in the Gir Forest in Gujarat. In relation to this, there are numerous other carnivorous and herbivorous species across the subcontinent, that desperately need our help. Hence, we need to pause and ask ourselves what more can be done to effectively help the forest authorities in ensuring that the subsequent generations of Indians and foreigner nationals, visiting our country, can still see these wonderful creatures in their natural domain, without them becoming confined to the realms of story books, National Geographic documentaries, zoo cages and museums.
Therefore, in order to address the problem, we need to begin by first asking ourselves one question – Is it already too late? The answer is not yet. We can still increase the “survival chances” of the Tiger by making a stronger effort in the following ways:
- Taking time out to study and know the major wildlife sanctuaries around the country.
- Visiting the nearest ones and documenting what we see i.e. photographs & video recordings. Showing these to friends and relatives along with that sanctuary’s current wildlife statistics. Thereby, garnering interest and support.
- Discouraging, educating and if necessary, rebuking those people we know who have bought or still buy wild animal based products.
- Engaging with forest official department heads, while visiting wildlife sanctuaries and finding out ways in which they currently get aid and support. Plus, checking to see how we can help.
- Searching for and engaging with wildlife documentary film makers and understanding how they help with conservation efforts.
- Establishing a National Wildlife Corporation, with relevant citizen chapters in each city to oversee a particular zone e.g. Mumbai for the Western Region.
- Creating a corporate hierarchy, complete with a board of directors and president as well as a manager for each of the four major zones – North, West, South and East. The corporation could consist of well-known animal rights activists, who would ensure transparency, accountability and provide detailed reports to local citizens through various communication channels as well as the media.
- Speaking to National and Multi-National Corporations for providing aid and support.
- Establishing a strong linkage with key regional Wildlife NGO’s and publications to lend grass root support.
- Establishing a strong linkage with key international Wildlife NGO’s in order to provide and share expert advice and best practices.
- Creating a lobby panel to further engage with the Environmental Ministry about security measures that may be adopted.
- Identifying security firms that could assist in providing support to forest officials in preventing poaching.
- Using the Right To Information (RTI) Act to get details on cases of poaching and the action has been taken so far. The same may be highlighted in the media.
I know this may sound idealistic and to some far fetched. But if we get this right, then we can ensure that the Tiger and their kind continue to live on. Otherwise, the well-known Tiger character from “Kipling’s” “Jungle Book” story would have to change his name from “Sher Khan” to “Sure Gone” and his hatred of mankind would then be justified. For, it would be the people he hated, who would have ensured that he has no hope to live on and see the next decade let alone next century. And unless we all act now, all that a few of us can then say is “God Save The King!” Next Take please!