Saturday, 27 July 2019

If tigers were extinct

There is a saying, 'you don't know what you have until it's gone'. So to understand the value of tigers, let's imagine a hypothetical scenario when tigers are extinct. 


Tigers are apex predators. Although tigers can hunt many other animals starting from small birds to medium-sized mammals, a large part of tiger's diet consists of herbivores like different species of deers, etc. If tigers are extinct, this predation pressure will not be there to control the number of herbivores. As herbivore population grows uncontrollably, their demand for vegetation for food will also grow. This will limit the natural growth of trees and can lead to a complete loss of vegetation over a few years. Herbivores can then migrate to agricultural lands in search of food, depleting human food sources. The disappearance of the forests will adversely affect all other animals. Insects and other species previously dependent on the forest will not be able to survive and will migrate to civilizations for food. Overgrazing by these animals can cause soil erosion, reduced nutrients in the soil, nonnative plant species invasion, deterioration of river water quality, river flow and integrity of river banks, causing floods. The impact on forest, rivers, and the soil will likely affect all aquatic life and every other species depending on them such as birds. The entire ecosystem will collapse. 


Apart from the impact on the ecosystem, extinction of tigers will cause losses in terms of tiger tourism revenue which is as high as $750,000 per tiger per year in a well-visited park in India. Forests and its surrounding ecosystem consisting of rivers and agricultural lands are also the main sources of income for millions of people. The direct and indirect impact of tiger extinction in economic terms will be too high to compensate. Loss of forest will lead to: more Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the environment, erratic rain patterns and further climate change. 


Wild tigers have been the biggest reason for my wildlife addiction. I hope wild tigers continue to fascinate people not only throughout my generation but for all future generations. But even if we ignore this emotion, tigers are an essential part of the ecosystem that our lives depend on. So by saving wild tigers, we will, in fact, save ourselves. 


Friday, 26 July 2019

Tiger tourism

There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a tiger in his/her own habitat. Their intense beauty, dominance, tenderness, intelligence fascinate many people and draw them back to the jungles over and over again. Tiger conservation is often at the top of the mind of such wildlife lovers. Being one of those, I have heard this question quite often, 'aren't you disturbing these animals by going to their habitat'. 

Tiger tourism is not a way to entertain wildlife enthusiasts and photographers in their crazy fantasy. It has a much bigger role to play in tiger conservation. Tourism has helped the local communities generate more jobs and income. This gives incentive to locals to protect the wildlife. A study conducted in 2010 showed that a single tiger in a well-visited reserve in India is now worth an estimated $750,000 per year in tourism revenues. Assuming only 1000 (less than half of the current tiger population in India) tigers inhabiting well visited reserves, the annual estimate comes out to be more than Rs 5 thousand crores in tiger tourism revenue. Currently there are 50 tiger reserves across the country providing livelihood to millions of people directly or indirectly. 

Tourism also offers protection to the tigers. It helps raise awareness for tiger conservation through photos and movies. Sometimes tourists are the eyes and ears of the forest department in their war against poaching. Due to the continuous tourist flow, any suspicious activity can be quickly reported back to the department which helps them to take immediate action and address the threat. 

And as far as the question of disturbing the tigers come, most of the times they are least bothered by the tourists' presence. Tigers are shy, illusive animals. If they feel disturbed by human activity and don't want to be seen, they won't even come out in front of the tourists. So those who have never experienced the joy of seeing tigers in the wild, I strongly encourage them to see it to believe it.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Lady of the lakes

We are a sum total of our experiences. The bittersweet moments, precious memories of those growing up years shape us. The dangers, challenges we run into, the trauma that we face in our day to day life decide how we react to situations. 


Arrowhead, the granddaughter of the legendary Machli of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve (RTR), was born in 2014, in a litter of 4. Her parents were Krishna, the then Empress of Rajbagh lake area who had mated with T-28 (Star Male). One of the cubs from this litter, unfortunately, died soon from a crocodile attack. The remaining cubs grew up together to be named as Arrowhead, Lightning, and Packman. Lightning and Pacman soon ventured far away from home, looking for territories, Arrowhead stayed back, and soon ousted her mother Krishna to rule the Rajbagh lake, the most famous and beautiful territory in the entire Reserve. 


In February 2018, the 4-year-old Arrowhead was spotted with her 2 newborn cubs. It was her litter with T-86 male, and also her first. Ranthambore was ecstatic to see this beautiful bold tigress blessed with her bundles of joy. Unfortunately, tragedy was lurking and in a merciless stroke of deja-vu, both little ones were soon lost from another crocodile attack. Thankfully, life moved on, and by the end of 2018, Arrowhead had again given birth to 2 more cubs. As 2019 came by, she was spotted with her newborns, once more as the proud mother.


The history of personal losses had, however, made her cautious. In the scorching heat of May, Arrowhead was looking for a cool place to rest with her cubs. But the coldest place, by the water, held many ghosts from her past. As she came near this lake with her 6 months olds, she spotted the danger right away. At least 2 crocodiles had their eyes set on the tiger family. One careless moment and she could lose her babies once again. So instead, she decided to face the danger head-on. And she did – the crocodiles were soon scared off, out of her way. The first picture shows her victory before turning back to the cubs and reassuring them. Check out the second picture to see her little later, relaxing by the water with her cubs while the crocodile still keeps its focus locked on the family, but from a safe distance. 


Can you spot the crocodile?


I hope these 2 beautiful kids grow up to rule over the jungle for years, just like their great grandmother, grandmother, and mother. 

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Tale of a tail

Let me tell you a tale of a tiger’s tail. 

Almost a meter long, the tail can help the tiger balance while chasing a prey. They use their tails like sprinklers on hot summer days to keep their body cool. Tigers also use the tail to mark their territory with liquid. This marking can last for as long as 40 days. The smell can encourage (for mating) or discourage (to avoid conflict) another tiger to enter that territory. 

Tigers have various methods of communication. Most obvious one is the different sounds a tiger makes (like purr, growl, hiss etc.) But even the tail helps them to communicate. A droopy tail means relaxed tiger. Raising the tail and waving gently means friendliness. Twitching the tail can mean aggression. 

Look at subadult tiger's tail in the pic.. I think he is showing playfulness, what do you think what his tail is saying?

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

The hard addiction...TIGER

All passions have a source, an instance when it is kindled from a small trigger to a full blown inferno. Even tiger lovers tend to have a source to their lifelong obsession. For me, it's the beautiful Maya from Tadoba Tiger Reserve. 

Maya is undisputed queen of Tadoba. She is one of the most famous tigresses in India. There are kings and queens of every tiger reserve who are responsible for putting the reserve in the map of tiger tourism. Some of these famous tigers being Machhli from Ranthambore, Munna from Kanha, Collarwali from Pench, Sukhi Patiha from Bandhavgarh. 

Some of these greatest tigers/tigresses are not there anymore with us. Even if I will never get to see them, I am blessed to have the opportunity to see their lineage, the current superstars of these jungles. Even after seeing some of them (Arrowhead and Krishna - Machhli's lineage, Spotty - Sukhi Patiha's granddaughter), there are many more to go!! I actually wish my tiger obsession had started earlier so I had the opportunity to see more of these legends.

When I saw Maya, I was so excited that I couldn't even take a decent photo of her. I have seen many many tigers since then. But that first sight of Maya walking across Pandharpauni lake like a queen will be etched into my memory forever. If only we had the technology to print images from our memory!!

Monday, 22 July 2019


Natural system with its inter-dependency and symmetry has always baffled me. Every living being is dependent on the nature and contributes to controlling the nature. The rain nourishes the trees while water in leaves is evaporated to become rain water. Floods will wash out the trees but trees are the one which help to curb floods. Any imbalance in this picture perfect synergy will cause massive damages to the universe.

Sunday, 21 July 2019


Our first cry, that is the moment we learn how to breathe, how to take the oxygen in. After that first moment, we take this integral part of life for granted. Even though breathing is an involuntary act, sustaining the environmental balance (and effectively, a continuous production of oxygen) needs to become more and more conscious and a voluntary act. All of us need to make sure that we do our part- we need to raise our voices against deforestation. What is the value of progress if it destroys the planet we live in? What are the short term benefits if they cost all of us our precious future? What are we leaving for the next generation? All of us need to plant trees, water them and ensure that they are thriving, our survival depends on it.