When I googled “Tiger”, I got more info on Tiger Woods than Bengal tiger. I grew-up with zoos and circuses, I had no awareness or guilt in watching and marveling at captive animals. My children are different, they are more aware of environmental issues than me as a kid, thanks to their schooling, teachers and media. They refuse to see animals in zoos and circuses; I had to buy bluray “Planet Earth” series for them to watch animals up-close.
I visited Sunderban National Park and Tiger Reserve in West Bengal, last weekend with my son. At last I wanted to fulfill my desire to show my son a tiger in its natural habitat than much hated zoos. Sunderbuns is a vast delta with confluence of three great Indian rivers: Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna spanning over 10,000 sq kms with exquisite waterways, mudflats and numerous small mangrove islands.
I had been psyching my kid to be patient in spotting an animal (as he was set with his 200mm zoom camera to click panthera tigris tigris), our hired boat sailed hours together without any luck of spotting any other animal apart from monkeys, after six hours our guide from the forest department declared that the water tide was too high for the tigers or for that matter any animal to come out and advised us to visit in winter mornings as the animals come out toward the waters to sun bath and as the tide is usually low in the mornings. Helplessly we headed back.
Project Tiger was launched in 1972 to conserve the nation symbol from extinction. According to my well-informed forest guide tiger population in the country came down from 3642 in 1990 to present 1411. As per the legend he adds there were over 100,000 tigers in the world a century ago. With hung jaws we listened to the expert of the world’s largest tiger populated forest.
When I posted our status of not spotting a tiger on the Facebook; one of my friends responded by saying “Pops you may not have spotted a tiger but certainly it would have spotted you” This comment left me thinking whether I should have taken my son to this fenced mangrove islands to see the most precious and endangered species at all? Why can’t we let them live the way they are meant to live? Why this voyeurism?
Last night we were lisining to David Attenborough again.