Oct 25, 2015

Tiger, Tiger burning bright - It's time to save them right!

Home to more than 70% of global tiger population, we sure have a far larger responsibility in ensuring their protection and survival. Tigers are apex predators and sit at the top of the food chain that implies saving one tiger saves an entire ecosystem!

To illustrate in simple words, a tiger needs a territory (roughly about 100sq km forest area) and a good prey base (ungulates and other prey) to survive; and for the prey base to be abundant, the vegetation needs to be good and for that there should be no habitat destruction or human interference (like forest degradation, cattle grazing, habitat destruction, poaching). So, in short you end up saving a large piece of fertile forest, a lot of wild ungulates and countless other species that survive in that protected land…; all in all to save a tiger.

Also to state we are currently in a situation that can be aptly described as – ‘Now or Never’ and the threat of our future generations seeing tigers only in zoo’s is a genuine possibility unless we act.

So, how can a common man contribute in saving the apex predator…? (Is it just limited to posting rants or anger on social media... does that really help!)

Let’s see a few ways on how every individual can contribute to tiger conservation:

1. Education & Awareness – Before anything get yourself educated about the tiger, its behavior, feeding patterns, its habitat and all about it. That way, you would realize the importance of saving the tiger in particular and the habitat in large.

2. Social media influence – Spreading the word helps, but we need to careful and sensitive of what we are posting.

a. A Facebook post about a traffic violator inside a tiger reserve may reach large audiences and finally end up with the department intensifying their patrol.

b. Another Facebook post about a tiger death (without knowing its cause and reasons) may induce a lot of hatred and negativity on the social media (about the forest department or people involved) with no much significance and from people who would not even know what is that all about. (A ‘tiger death’ can be made out to be a very sensational news by opportunists).

c. Do not get carried away by some social media posts. Do your research, collect facts and then post your views. A social media post in anger can cause more harm than good.

d. Write articles or blogs about tiger conservation and submit them to newspaper, magazines and other media sources (but again, know the facts before it ends up in print).

3. Responsible tourist behavior – Be responsible and act judiciously.

a. While on a jungle safari, everyone wants to see a tiger…, but you need to be aware that wilderness has much more to offer and appreciate than only tigers.

b. As a visitor, respect the laws of jungle and not create havoc on not seeing anything.

c. Avoiding bright colored clothes and using plastic (please remember you are not on a picnic drive).

d. Discarding waste or plastic items in the jungle (again please note this may get consumed by many animals out there and may end up killing them).

e. Respect wildlife, do not tease or feed them.

f. Educate others – you might see people shouting or doing something wrong… speak to them and educate them, do not pick up a fight.

4. Watchful eyes and ears (to help curb poaching, illegal cutting and hunting).

a. Report any illegal activities to the forest office. We, as normal people can play an important role here.

b. Be alert while on treks or when inside the jungle, look out for snares or traps set up for poaching animals. Hear out for any distress calls of birds/animals, specifically in reserves where there is human presence.

5. Educate Kids in particular – they can be ambassadors for conservation work.

a. Kids can play an important role, sensitize them about the wildlife and its importance.

b. If possible, visit the fringe areas of a national park and interact with the local students and educate them. This can help a lot in managing human-animal conflicts in fringe areas.

c. Educate kids in your locality, school, apartments about wildlife and its importance. Take them out for a nature walk or a safari.

6. Educate locals – The locals who live around the national parks or sanctuaries are the most distressed lot due to human-animal conflicts.

a. Involve them in workshops and educate them about wildlife and its behavior -- Why would an elephant cross over from a forest to the field to graze? (food availability, degraded forest areas due to domestic cattle grazing, wood logging leading to loss of green cover, etc…)

b. Support them in times of need or crisis.

7. Volunteer – If possible, approach your local forest office and offer to volunteer for them in patrolling forest areas, picking up trash, conducting medical camps for the department staff, conducting camps for the children of the staff, contributing basic things for them, etc…

8. Financial support (to NGO’s as well as staff) – This probably is the easiest way, donate to someone who is doing the work and sit and relax!

a. Be wary of unknown setups as they may be portraying themselves but not doing anything worthwhile at ground level.

b. Research about the org/NGO you are about to donate, make a note of what are they doing and how are they contributing.

c. Follow up with them on the activities and action plan and results that come out of it.

9. Do not buy tiger or wildlife related products (tiger skins, tiger nails, Ivory etc…)

As an individual, we have many ways to contribute towards tiger/wildlife conservation – we just need to make up our mind and spare some time and we can contribute significantly in conservation of a prime species like the tiger that in turn saves a whole lot of other wildlife and a large piece of habitat for them and others to survive.

Aircel, has been championing the cause of tiger conservation since 2008 through its ‘Save our Tiger’ campaign and its commendable to laud a big telecom giant take the lead in such a wonderful cause for the benefit of wildlife, for the benefit of us.

They have been associated with WWF India, Wildlife Trust of India, NDTV & WCT and Sanctuary Asia in championing many projects for the conservation of tigers like support in providing basic infrastructures across the tiger reserves, conflict management plans across many reserves, the Save out Tigers telethon campaign, developing and deploying Rapid Response Units, and involving kids with a unique campaign called ‘Kids of Tigers’ in association with Sanctuary Asia.

You can read more about their projects here.

I am writing for “You Are The Power Of We”, campaign by Aircel as part of their continuing #AircelSaveOurTigers campaign and blogging contest. Each one of us can make a difference. So, go out and help save the roar!

About the author:
Traveling, wildlife photography, bird-watching, trekking, blogging are some of Santosh’s hobbies. He involves himself in conservation related activities. Participating in the Naturalist Training Program and the Volunteer Training Program have helped him appreciate a lot of small things in Nature and the need for conserving them.