TIGER EXTINCTION: Where Have All The Pug Marks Gone?

Posted on May 22, 2009 in Environment


-Anshul Tewari

It is a royal looking animal known for its magnificence, power and its agility. Our national animal, The Tiger, is one of the most graceful animals. But as time is passing by, we fail to realize that we are neglecting this royal species, and our neglection is thus leading to their extinction. Year after year, optimistic tiger figures, generated by dubious means are flaunted at us. But the reality is that the Indian tiger is at the verge of extinction. Neglection by the state government as well as the central government, tigers will soon be history, if we do not act now.

Image source: Asmita Sarkar
Image source: Asmita Sarkar

A number of NGO’s and other national and international agencies have quoted that tigers will live for about ten more years. But the fact is that Tigers will live for a maximum of 5 years if their rate of extinction is not curtailed.

There are a number of reasons for the deaths of tigers ranging from poisoning of tigers to poaching. The spurt in tiger deaths near Corbett and the Dudhwa Tiger Reserves have all been attributed to poisoning by villagers who, angry at losing livestock to the great predator, resort to poisoning them.

We certainly cannot look away from the fact that tigers are being poached at a very high rate even today. An activist of the Tiger Haven Wildlife Trust came up with a photograph that showed a homespun rope made out of moonjh grass, knotted around the foreleg of that tiger carcass in Dudhwa last year.

The authorities have not been able to explain this. Earlier there were more bizzare explanations, when a spurt of killings saw four tiger carcasses floating in the waterbodies in and around Dudhwa. The reality was that poisoned tigers, whose trachea is choking in spasms, will rush towards water in its death throes, as those tigers did.

An official census puts the number of tigers in the wild at around 3700, but the reality is that there are around 1600 tigers left. There have been a number of projects like the Project Tiger initiated by the Indira Gandhi Government in 1972, but none have been successful.

At the time of independence in 1947, the estimated number was around 40,000, but now the number has dropped drastically. Once a tiger death due to poaching is accepted, and the acceptance is backed up by the firm commitment to overcome the lapse, it would become much easier to go all out in evolving and implementing effective damage-control measures. Otherwise, the forest department’s folly will always be evident to others, even though ostrich-like, it may have hidden its head under some convenient, but unlikely, explanation.

On the other hand, there is the growing tendency of non-official conservationists to lay the entire blame on the forest department officials without taking cognizance of their limitations in terms of staff, equipment and commitment. That is the basic reason why these two protagonists, playing out the drama of the tiger’s extinction, are constantly at loggerheads. And so, while they keep their horns locked in adversarial contest, vital time is going waste, and nothing concrete is being done. Forest criminals and tiger poachers are having a field day. Trees are being felled to fuel illegal activities of the timber mafia, while tigers are being regularly killed for their skins and bones, which pass through greased palms, and find their way into countries like China, to be sold for astonishing sums in the black market.

As sad and shocking as the extinction of the Royal Bengal Tiger is, however, what is more shocking is what was learned was causing it. Private individuals, concerned about the fate of this magnificent creature, discovered at great risk to themselves and to their horror that the primary cause of the poaching was the illegal sale of the tiger skins to none other than Tibet, whose male population, awash with cash from the tourist trade now streaming into Tibet as the result of China’s wanting to integrate it into the rest of China (there is now a high speed train link to Tibet in China), prize the skins for their ability to attack desirable women. When this was discovered in the last two years, his Holiness the Dalai Lama, scolded the citizens of Tibet and pleaded with them to destroy their illicitly obtain tiger skins. Many did heed his pleas, but many did not. And so the tiger trade continues, Tibetan men continue to adorn themselves in tiger skins, and the tigers move closer and closer each day to extinction on this earth. It is now estimated by some that at the present lower rate of poaching, the Royal Bengal Tiger will be completely extinct in the wild in India within three years. But equally sad is the extinction of the authentic Buddhist sprit that once thrived in Tibet, where compassion for animals trumped materialism for millennia, but no longer.

This is the kind of sad story that awaits all of us as we rush headline into the 22nd century.

But are we crippled that we are quiet? Can’t we do anything. Save the tiger by voicing yourself. Youth Ki Awaaz will soon be launching a petition to save the tiger. Do sign up.

Do leave a comment or send them at info@youthkiawaaz.com