There have been documentaries that have been made on tigers in the past. Most of these documentaries have dealt with certain aspects- the behaviour of the animal, tiger-human conflict, poaching, to name some. Shekar Dattatri has dealt with tigers in a different and unique way in ‘Truth about tigers’. This is one of its kind conservation documentary which discusses basic facts about tigers which people would not know.
After watching Truth about tigers, a few stark revelations came by. Tiger is our national animal, so there is more emphasis and pressure on saving them. Tiger conservation initially began like this. Every forest has an umbrella specie, the main specie, so to say, which safeguards the forest and ensures that the ecological balance is maintained. To put it simply, if tigers are there, the population of monkeys, deer, butterflies, and so on will also be in balance. So, safeguard the centrepiece specie and nature will take care of itself.
Tigers are shy and territorial and they need their space. Due to increase in human population and rise in demand for land, there has been encroachment of forest spaces, leaving the tigers no room for themselves, to walk freely in the forest paths or to breed.
Long ago, people were connected with nature, in every way, however, in the last three decades, the human-animal connect has been declining. The animals were free in their own world and today they are scared, thanks to humans.
There are a few things that form a highlight here. First, poaching is a problem. This is a result of high demand for tiger skin, bones and teeth. China and Nepal are two countries where all our poached tigers land up. Ruthless killing of tigers for economic value has been one of the reasons for population decline. Sometimes, the tigers are poisoned to get their skin. They are captured using various forms of arms. Then their skin and other parts of the body are sold for a whopping amount. Another important point here-when a tigress is killed, the cubs are left abandoned. Without the mother, the cubs, incapable of hunting, die due to starvation.
It is not just the poaching of tigers which is causing population decline, but poaching of deers as well. The reason is this. The tiger hunts one deer a week, which makes it 50 deers in a year. If poachers kill 50 deers, it is equivalent to killing one tiger. Shocking? Yes, but that it the truth. Excessive poaching of deer poses threat to the existence of tigers.
As demand for land increased, agriculture is now practiced by destroying the forest habitat. There are more companies making amla oil and tapping other forest products. This leaves lesser number of fruits, trees and plants for animals to feed on. Deer, monkeys, etc. depend on these fruits for their survival.
There have been some attempts to make alternative livelihoods for people at Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka. There was a scheme were a family was given Rs 10 lakhs to relocate to another place. This scheme worked well and it was observed that the tiger population increased as a result of this initiative and the forest turned greener.
Training of forest guards need to get modernised. We need more training and efficient people as forest guards.
The government officials again have a huge role to play with regards to maintaining the tiger population. Many of them help in poaching, than trying to prevent. They also deny that the tigers are disappearing. The denial is substantiated with their fake facts-the tiger census and the pug mark way of identifying them. The age old system of identifying via pugmark has been wisely manipulated. In last so many years, people have been cheated on the tiger numbers. It was then the tiger scientist Dr. Ullas Karanth, who developed infra red method of conducting tiger census for the first time in Asia. This proved to be a success in Nagarhole forest where it was implemented. These novel methods will help in tracking the tiger population.
There is nothing against development goes the argument. Development and environment go hand in hand with each other. As long as development happens in the right place, environment also benefits.
Here are a few things which we can do to save the tigers. Get together with NGOs which are working on these issues, like OSAI in Coimbatore. Make sure the NGO you work with really works for the cause.
Create awareness, get together with people, form a group and reach out to the authorities. With the public pressuring the authorities, things will change.
To get more information on the film and get your dvd free of cost, check out: www.truthabouttigers.org