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A future for tigers

Bengal tiger pounces through water. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

If current trends continue, life will never be the same for the king of the jungle, if they even exist in the future.

I gave up biology in high school. For a guy like me, who possibly draws the worst diagrams and finds it difficult to memorise even the characteristics of phylum, biology was not my cup of tea.

But my love and interest for animals have always been the same—entirely pure and spontaneous. Nature’s creations are one of the things that astound me the most; nature is a perpetual source for divine creativity of which I am only a mere admirer and a weak connoisseur. The creation of tigers, an awesome creature like so many others on earth, is the point where nature’s brilliance and perfection pleasantly exist with harmony.

Ever since I was a kid, I liked everything about tigers. I never missed tiger documentaries on the National Geographic channel. I would find everything about it special—from its paws and whiskers to its roar and hunting strategies. I was a zoo fanatic. And the best part of every zoo visit was tigers. That was when I would get to see its gigantic, striped body, sun lit, white fur, and majestic appearance. I would yell at it until I got bored. Every time I think about tigers, I get carried away by an amazingly royal feeling. I often Google wildlife photographs from Bardia to Sundarbans and fill my wallpapers with them.  To tell the truth, I never run out of enthusiasm and respect for the Royal Bengal Tiger.

Last month, I was in Sauraha for a school trip. My long awaited desire to see a tiger in the wild was nearing. This time, I was not watching it from behind the bars that snatched away its freedom. I would not be spotting it beside a little pond, panting in the scorching sun, with nowhere to go. I would not be feeling pity at its capture. Rather, I would see a free tiger. A tiger who truly rules the jungle and has nothing to fear. A tiger who would welcome me for my visit. At least, it would show up with its kids. At least, it would shake me with its roar. At least, it would be swimming in the Rapti as the water would reflect light into my eyes. At least, I would notice its gigantic paws amid the grasslands. I wished nature would momentarily gift this token of beauty and perfection to me. I just wanted to relish that artistic beauty. I wished. I prayed.

The following day, an hour of elephant safari at the Chitwan National Park passed with no sign of them. Even the mahout told me that spotting a tiger was very rare. If lucky, they would see tigers once or twice a month. He explained that poaching, hunting and land encroachment had left their really hit their numbers.

Back home, my mom shared stories of her elephant safari of around 14 years ago at Sauraha. She had no luck either. She didn’t spot a tiger either. Nothing had changed for these many years, I thought. Tigers are rapidly decreasing in numbers. With every second, the probability of their extinction increases.

Curiously, I googled, “How many tigers are left in Nepal?” Nepal was, at a time, the land which organised tiger hunting. Kings and guests marched through the Char Kose Jhadis with troops of elephants and guns and killed tigers. The size and number of tigers were never cared for. Killing tigers was a matter of passion and prestige. The tigers and their bodies were gifted to palaces in the country and abroad. After decades of such pleasure killings, their number has come down to about 200. That is an alarming situation.  If their numbers don’t grow, I don’t think we will be fortunate enough to see them in a few decades.

Parks and forests don’t expand. We can only maintain its size and conserve. But what is expanding haphazardly is the human population. At this rate, there won’t be any more places to convert into settlements or alluvial soil to cultivate. The physical world will come too close to the wild. Habitats will be tampered with. The water in the sprouts and rivers will be too polluted for animals to drink.

If the same trend continues, life for tigers will never be the same. They will no more rule the jungle which they once claimed as theirs. They will never swim in the rivers with joy and freedom. In the midst of billions of humans, the lives of a few hundred tigers will not be valued. But today, there is just one word that can define the future of tigers. The word is “chaos”.

By Abijeet Pant

The writer is an A-levels student at Budhanilkantha School.