" Trees are Earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven." ~ Rabindranath Tagore

How to Kill the Tiger

Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary and Cub magazines writes about the criminal loss to wild life due to poaching and the fact that India loses one tiger a day to poaching.

Poachers are well aware of the fact that the Indian government has not been able to drum up the will to save the tiger and this is why they have stepped up their campaign to profit from the tiger. It is clear that our nation does not possess the requisite political will to save the animal. Meanwhile the demand for tiger bones and organs from China and Taiwan continues to rise. There are a minimum of 116 factories in China that cater to the market for supply of aphrodisiacs and rheumatism drugs.

The tragedy is that the lack of political will is also resulting in low wages and poor infrastructure for forest guards. This leaves them vulnerable to being attacked by better-equipped poachers. Consequently, in every tiger forest, guards are now being enlisted to join the poaching gangs and are turning a blind eye to their activities in exchange for a slice of the cake.

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Wild Life

As if the problems confronting the tiger were already not enough, tourism threatens to become the latest threat to some of India's finest sanctuaries and national parks. With no motive other than profit, operators have begun to use their clout to twist and turn the law to entertain their rich and pampered clientele. The tiger shows that had been banned for over a year, giving much needed respite to the tiger and the forest per se, have been resumed with a vengeance. MO< In effect, our National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries are being commercialised and the smokescreen behind which this piracy is taking place is ecotourism. Gone is the pretence that the prime purpose of these forests is protection and education. Money is now the name of the game and the entry of vehicles and people is virtually unregulated, as is the proliferation of new facilities within spiting distance of the fragile forests.


In the process, intrigue and back-stabbing has become the order of the day. In Kaziranga a Range Officer who was known for his tough stance against poachers was transferred on the insistence of a tour operator whose client was refused entry after hours. In Bandhavgarh, mahouts probably earn more than the Director of the Park thanks to the lavish tips being offered for that 'extra' service involving making the tiger roar, or bending bushes back to allow a clear photograph.

The advice of the Project Tiger Steering Committee, to limit tourism and alter its character to make it earthier and less luxurious has fallen on deaf ears. In our view no tourism facility should be allowed to come up within five kilometres of the border of a national park and sanctuary, even on private lands.

Huge groups such as the Taj Mahal Hotel (which was asked to stop construction of its facility in the Nagarhole National Park by the Karnataka High court) are the ones who bring finance to the fore to facilitate the destruction. The garbage, plastic waste and fuelwood demand of such tourism facilities far outweighs the simple needs of villagers who were shifted out to 'allow wildlife to flourish'. The resultant social unrest around almost each of these reserves is palpable.


To justify their pillage of wilderness areas many tour operators claim that their activities actually benefit the park by bringing in much needed revenue. This is untrue. The money is distributed far from the forest and forest communities and the parks are left to confront the by-products of this new money-making racket. Sadly, we must conclude that in addition to poachers and destructive developmental projects like dams, mines, we must add yet another cause for the decline of wildlife habitats... tourism.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.