8. A Cat among Pigeons.
By Lavkumar Khachar
Vashishta, Himachal Pradesh; Sunday, 17th October, 2010.
The cat here is a male tiger in his prime and the pigeons are the Rajasthan State wildlife officials and the experts of Project Tiger! Today, on a Delhi bird photography site there is a report of a tiger having made kills in the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary, Bharatpur. Birders to the famous water bird sanctuary are warned not to stray into the more unfrequented parts of that sanctuary where the tiger seems to have made a temporary bivouac. Earlier there had been newspaper reports of a rather aggressive tiger in farmland around Mathura with people like myself guessing from where the animal had come; it was only when photographs were taken within the bird sanctuary that the animal has been identified as a four year old male in his prime from the outskirts of the Ranthambhore Project Tiger Reserve. The Rajasthan State Forest Department officers will be having sleepless nights until the feline is tranquilized and captured since it is obvious that his stay with the birds is temporary despite the large number of feral cattle and neelgai to predate on, since quite obviously this male is in search of some territory with tigresses to take over, and so will move on.
Do we rejoice that the great predator is spreading to its former areas? I am afraid not. Till the photographs were taken, the Ranthambhore authorities were blissfully unaware that one of their peripheral tigers had gone missing. Many of us on reading the news about a tiger scaring farmers around Mathura were wondering whether one of the tigers shifted to Siraska was not trekking back to Ranthambhore as domestic cats are believed to be so adept at doing. The entire question is troubling since finally, we are faced with some rather serious questions. Our wildlife reserves are all unfenced and so, successful protection would end up with far more animals than would amicably live in the proscribed areas. The younger males and the older and evicted ones would be ranging on the outskirts to come in conflict with the bludgeoning human population along with the domestic herds. The lions in the Gir have already scripted the need for conservation rethinking and now, finally, this errant tiger has done the same for his species. Even after he will be tranquilized and captured, the million rupee question is, what is to be done with him? Take him back to Ramthambhore? Release him in Siriska Tiger Reserve? Pass him onto some other sanctuary in the country with tigers? Or place him in the Jaipur or some other zoo?
What should be worrying is that until the animal was photographed in the Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary and identified, the authorities at Ranthambhore were blissfully unaware that one of their prime tigers was missing; had the animal ended up as a bundled skin and a bag of bones waiting to be smuggled out of India, the excitement would have died down with no further reports of a tiger in the neighborhood. The time is long past for any fuzzy concepts; we need to develop laser sharp understanding of actions to be taken well beyond efficient protection.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
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