Sunday, January 22, 2006

"India's Big Cats" - "Amm, who?"

"India's Big Cats" - "Amm, who?"

Well, do not be disturbed, if you hear such a conversation sometime in the future. What's bad is, you could hear this, much sooner than you would expect. Yes, that is as much a startling fact as is the 'almost' record-breaking feat of Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag at Lahore. Sadly enough, India' big cats are fast becoming a thing of the past. It is not too far when someone would ask you, "What does a lion look like?" Then again, what's worse is that there is no guarantee that you could reply, "Let's go to the Gir Lion Sanctuary in Gujarat, and I will show you some lions." because, as CNN-IBN points out in a recent series dedicated to lions, even Gir lions are facing a serious danger of extinction.

If you noticed it, the report focused on lions, as against the media favorite - Tiger. This can be justified by comparing the populations of the two big cat families - around 3000 tigers, while only around 300 lions. Add to it the fact that tigers are found all over India, while its wild cousin, the lion, is concentrated only in the Gir Sanctuary. So, one epidemic breaks out at Gir, and the entire lion community is extinct. If this isn't sad, then what is?

Returning to my previous statement, " ... tigers are found all over India ... ", did it amuse you? I am sure it would have, because we are so used to hearing that the tiger is almost extinct and is found only in certain parts of the country and such other 'facts'. So to confirm whether the national animal - tiger - is actually found all over the country, I decided to check out a few websites on tiger conservation, Indian Government's Wildlife protection acts, and such other reliable sources. And interestingly enough I found the following results;


The magnificent Tiger ,Panthera Tigris (Linnaeus), is a striped animal. It has a thick yellow coat of fur with dark stripes. The combination of grace, strength, agility and enormous power has earned the tiger its pride of the species known, The Indian race, the Royal Bengal Tiger , is found throughout the country except in the north -western region and also in the neighboring countries, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh...

...Outside Africa, India is the only place where lions exist today. Its wild cousin, the tiger, on the other hand is found almost throughout the country, numbering around 3000-5000...

...People have started moving towards these national parks as the ultimate tourist destinations. Besides this, the wildlife in these nature parks is blooming...

So, is this an irony or what? On one hand, we are compelled into believing that the tiger is fast reducing in number, while on the other, we are given an impression that the tiger family inhabitates almost the entire country. This is both, an irony as also a lament. To put it in simple words, the tiger, even today, is actually found almost all over India and the whole sad story is that we are not protecting it.

Then what can we do to protect it?

The Media (people's favorite scapegoat), on its part, can do much better than publish front page NEWS about celebrities' dogs being lost-and-found. It can do much better than focus on limited facts or still worse, misquote facts or let people misconstrue them. True journalism is the need of the day, should I dare say this? I don't suggest you bore people by telling sad tales about the endangered species, but please let people see hope in their protection programmes. Do not predict the year when we will have no tigers or lions, project a possible increase in their population and show some means of realizing it. When a wild cat kills a child outside Sanjay Gandhi National Park, please don't lie by saying that the cat encroached into city land and killed a human; when we all know, who is encroaching where and who is killing whom, don't we? Atleast, stir we people out of our tolerant sleeps and instigate us to do our bit for wildlife protection.

Well, we people, can we do only a bit on our part or is there anything more that I and you can do? As they say, a collective effort can definitely prove helpful. We can start by pledging our support to organisations involved in the safety of the big cats (You can easily do this on the net). We can also give in our suggestions to them at their websites. Instead of sending (should I again dare say this?) silly emails we can collect such startling facts and have them sent, so that atleast a few of us can be made aware of our responsibilities towards mother nature. We can post on official government websites regarding this and atleast hope that they take some initiative on this front. There is a lot we can do on our part, we just need to start and the results could be good.

As we near our Republic Day, can I quote a slogan: 'Save the Tiger - Save The Lion - Save The Wildlife - Save Nature - Save Us?'

Or should I pen, 'Let Mother Nature retain (or should it be regain) some of its dignity. Let us behave as responsible citizens of India and of the world on the whole.'

Does this seem too far fetched? Is this asking for too much? No, I don't think so. What about you?


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