It has recently been decided that National Parks and sanctuaries such as Corbett and Ranthambore remain open throughout the monsoon season. Normally, they would remain closed between June and October, giving the denizens a break from their “tourism duties”. Down in Jungleland (DIJ) interviews the alpha male and female tigers of Corbett, who aren’t too happy about this and other wildlife-related issues. Excerpts:
DIJ: What is your first reaction to this decision?
Tigers: We are extremely annoyed! This is our only downtime: to do and wander as we please without being afraid that hordes of paparazzi would be aiming 800mm telephotos at us and sending intimate pictures around the world on social media, or that our cubs would get run over by tourist jeeps. It’s an infringement on our privacy!
DIJ: But you’ve just enjoyed an extended people-free break thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Tigers: Yes, we certainly enjoyed the break. So much so that we think it should be made a permanent state of affairs. No tourists at all. It’s like your working from home.
DIJ: But if there’s no tourism, there’s no income, and park staff need to be paid, etc.
Tigers: So, raise the money by imposing another cess on petrol and diesel. You’re doing that all the time (grin). Then you’ll really have a tiger in your tank!
DIJ: Are you opposing the opening up because you’re afraid of catching COVID from human beings? There have been cases in some zoos across the world.
Tigers (Roaring; your reporter reverses hastily): Bah! You fools may not know how to maintain social distancing but we can keep you away very easily. LOL.
DIJ: Point taken. Very funny. But big cats have got COVID…
Tigers: In zoos, where people think they’re being very brave by walking up to the enclosures or cage bars.
DIJ: How do you propose to deal with this “imposition”?
Tigers (grinning): Oh, we have a plan in place. The roads in the parks become gooey sludge when it rains so all we have to do is to wait for the first few vehicles to get stuck in the mud. A few of us will just circle around them, roaring, snarling and launching mock charges. Once word gets around, no tourist will dare to enter the park (grins evilly). We call it tiger revenge-terrorism! And hopefully, like your vaccinations, this will be effective even during the official tourist season and keep people out! Want a demo?
DIJ: Er…no need for that, thanks. To another matter now; what do you think of this ‘rewilding’ fad that’s become the rage in wildlife circles? You know, teaching abandoned or orphaned cubs to go out and hunt on their own…
Tigers: It’s disgraceful that a human being might have to teach a tiger cub to hunt, because clearly they’re not cut out to do so. We tiger ‘dude’ dads are now being encouraged to raise our cubs if the moms die (usually at your hands). But humans training tigers to hunt will never work!
DIJ: There have been many cases where jocks have raised tigers and wolves from cub-hood, set them free to hunt and when they meet up again after a period of several years, they greet, and embrace each other like long-lost chaddi-buddies!
Tigers: That’s exactly our point. No wild tiger would ever be a “chaddi-buddy” with a human being, and those animals are totally brainwashed. You exterminated 95 per cent of our population, razed our jungles, rammed highways through them, called us a ‘protected species’ and claim to be our chaddi-buddies?
DIJ: But that’s exactly the point: those rewilded animals are taught to fear and stay away from us, and not be our chaddi-buddies! But you still remain so.
Tigers (rolling their eyes): Talk about mixed messaging! Boy, get your fundas straight! Even madam here ferociously throws out our cubs once they’re two years old and our own babies will depose us one day!
DIJ: Well, we are also trying to teach our youngsters, especially those in trouble — about the ways of Nature in what’s called ‘wilderness therapy’. Your views on this?
Tigers: Oh yes, all those kids who have been screwed up by your social systems or parenting, or education and whatnot… So, you send them off into the wilds, and get some ex-commando to teach them that Nature (that includes us) are the Big Enemy — out to kill them at every opportunity?
DIJ: About this tiger terrorism business again: what if the visitors during the monsoons are important political VIPs?
Tigers (flintily): Hmm…you may have a point: we’ll have to terrorise them just enough to make them order the closing down of the park during the monsoon, but not so much as to make them decide to turn it into something like the Mughal Gardens, or worse, a “dev-lope-ment” project. Maybe we should just eat them!
(Ranjit Lal is an author, environmentalist and bird watcher)
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