Recent action by the Indian authorities has, at least temporarily, closed the nature reserves which try to protect the tiger- one of our planet’s most magnificent threatened species. This is very controversial. Many argue that responsible tourism offers the only realistic source of the money required to keep disastrous development-and poaching, at bay. The animals and the reserves in which they live can be seen as a precious resource.
What is it like to track a tiger? Each park has the beauty of a wild special place with peace and tranquillity. A ride through the elephant grass on an elephant in the morning sunlight is a sublime experience. You have to be on the lookout to spot the signs of the big predators and then the urgency is there… the driver and naturalist become very excited, the anticipation mounts and with supreme good fortune perhaps one sees tiger, or leopard, or bear.
My advice is: go to see everything. Be it a tiny owl sitting in a tree winking at you in the sunshine, a Sambar stag stately in his caution, or a herd of wild pig quietly drinking at a water hole; enjoy and marvel at them all. If you do not see the tiger, he will often have seen you and may even play games. He can track you better than you can follow him. If you see him, in his habitat, it is a sight that you will remember for the rest of your life.
There are 500 national parks and wild places in India, but in the long run, unless there is a more integrated conservation policy, these will be overtaken by population pressure. It is vital to ensure that these wonderful wild places are conserved and enhanced, so that the glorious tiger, emblematic of India, is allowed to live in the wild and thrive.
It is not now fashionable to recall Gandhi’s tenets for living, but I am a child of independence and he will always continue to inspire me with his ideals. He said ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated’. He also said ‘All creatures have an equal right to live on this earth’.
Please go and see all this wonder for yourselves, enjoy the very Heart of India, and when you are back and standing at a bus stop, or waiting to catch a train, in the grey pouring rain of a winter’s morning, be cheerful. Remember you have seen some of the world’s most wonderful animals – Gandhi also said if we all do a little then we shall achieve a lot. Let us all play our part in conserving the tiger and his habitat in India.
Aline Dobbie – Author of Quicklook at India