Congrats. Celebrate. And Beware!
Editorial: April 2012
Hardnews Bureau Delhi
At the top of the food cycle, environmental historians tell us, there were thousands of tigers stretched across the vast Indian subcontinent in the not so distant past. Till the time they were wiped out by pleasure-seeking kings and nawabs, accompanied by hundreds of drum-beating slaves and soldiers, the colonial whites and their brown stooges, miscellaneous hunters and poachers, for trophies, for the vicarious seduction of the rulers’ male ego, for the conquest and subjugation of wildlife, and for quick, dirty money. In recent times, between 1993 and 2009, the Wildlife Protection Society of India documented at least 893 tigers eliminated in India, which seems a grossly underestimated figure. The majestic creature almost but disappeared in most parts of its habitat, including in Java, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Nepal.
In India, the magnificent Royal Bengal Tiger, glorified as a ‘national animal’, revered, feared and worshipped, suffered a similar tragic fate, until a renewed ‘tiger consciousness’ campaign swept the educated classes and the media, especially among sensitive and aware eco-conscious children in schools. Suddenly, the presence and absence of the handful of last remaining tigers became a subject of earnest debate in contemporary India. The debate called for intense concern and concerted action, especially when it was discovered that most traditional ‘pugmark’ surveys were proved to be fudged or manipulated by corrupt forest department functionaries in cahoots with sundry poachers and vested interests, including the mining mafia, to show the presence of the tigers when it had already become extinct in their habitats. The endeavour of this hated nexus was to take control of the mineral-rich forests by clearing them of tigers and other wildlife, so that the loot and plunder of the nation’s natural resources can continue unabated and unhindered. Indeed, the country found itself shocked when confronted with the bitter realism that the tiger count in Sariska and Panna reserves in Rajasthan and MP had hit rock bottom at zero, with every big cat murdered, poached, often without a trace of its body parts, except fudged pugmarks. That this poaching was linked to the tiger-medicine markets in China was no surprise. Every new revelation about the death count of these beautiful creatures ‘with no threat perception in the wild’ only exposed the depressing truth of our collective apathy and inefficiency, the unparalleled corruption in the establishment, and how insatiable greed and barbarism mark a landmark of the great human civilization.
Indeed, after a relentless debate on the rights of man and animal to coexist in a realm of peaceful environment reached its pinnacle, the philosophy and praxis of tiger protection and the sustainability of wildlife, biodiversity, nature, forests, mountains and rivers became an integral frame of ecological reference. If the tigers are eliminated, the entire food cycle of nature will be ravaged, devastating all wildlife and life cycles. Hence, can man escape this apocalypse now?
Hence, the resurrection of tigers. As in the contrasting realms of the stupendous success story of Panna Tiger Reserve in a short while, even while the Sariska reserve still struggles in compulsive failure. The great happy story, still unfolding at Panna, in the neighbourhood of restricted diamond mines, is at once and forever, also the great story of stoic resilience, non-conformist imagination and infinite commitment of the park director and his closest aides, as much as the dogged foot-soldiers on the ground. The nation should salute these brave hearts whose hearts beat for the majestic predator in the wild, despite vicious political lobbies, sections of ‘paid news’ local media, and the mining mafia, greedily eyeing the buffer zone of pristine forests, even while the tiger population booms.
Congratulations, we say at Hardnews, to the Panna Tiger Reserve. Celebrate the new birthday kids, little tigers with eyes shut in the sunshine. Celebrate the fabulous Royal Bengal Tiger. But also, beware! Beware of the human predators. All the murderers, masked, unmasked, in disguise.