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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Why the wild tigers are on the rise

An interview with one of the big cats reveals disturbing truths behind its impressive numbers

Written by Ranjit Lal | Updated: August 16, 2020 11:55:27 am
tiger population, tiger numbers, indianexpress, sunday eye, eye 2020, ranjit lal,Talk to the paw: Tiger numbers in India have exponentially increased. (Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons)

On July 29, we celebrated International Tiger Day, and, indeed, there was something to celebrate, with India’s wild tiger count nearing 3,000. Down in Jungleland went deep into the forest to interview a spokesperson for tigers for their take on the matter. Reader discretion is advised — the interview did not go strictly according to script.

DIJ: Congratulations. You guys have nearly hit the 3,000 mark. Already, you’re spilling into areas outside national parks and sanctuaries.
Tiger: Hey, let’s put this in perspective. There are more than 1.3 billion of you and over 536 million head of livestock. So who’s spilling where?

DIJ: Don’t you think it’s a great idea that the minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, and Information and Broadcasting are all one and the same person? So, no more delays in clearing projects and files going back and forth forever from one ministry to another. People can be given the good news straightaway.
Tiger: (with a deep-throated growl): That’s like saying we are carnivorous vegans!

DIJ: Tigers have been spotted eating greens…
Tiger: Only when we need to throw up after consuming something indigestible, such as those who thought the above was a good idea.

DIJ: But earlier projects used to get stalled for years for clearance. Now, they’re allowing the projects to go ahead and then seeing whether rules have been broken and how to sidestep that.
Tiger: You mean, now that the Taj Mahal has been standing for hundreds of years it’s fine to take it down with JCBs and build a cement factory in its place and then ask people if it’s all right? And, if someone complains, then say, “But why are you complaining? Look at that park in New Delhi where we’ve already built a replica out of trash!

DIJ: Well, I suppose that’s also what they’re doing to the Central Vista in New Delhi. But, I mean, with 16-lane superhighways running through national parks and coal mines being excavated in them, don’t you think this will make people more aware of your existence?
Tiger: (snarling) Sure, over our dead bodies, judging by the way you people drive and your industrial safety standards. Besides, we like our peace and quiet.

DIJ: Then you must be quite happy with this pandemic. It’s kept jabbering tourists out of your parks and sanctuaries. Is that why there’s been a tiger baby boom? You’ve had more quality time with the missus…
Tiger: Sure, it’s been a good thing. The last thing we want is to be photographed with your species. But thanks to COVID, patrolling has also reduced and poachers now can come and go as they please.

DIJ: But, overall, don’t you think it’s wise to keep people and tigers apart? A couple of tigers have caught the virus from us and it would be disastrous if it spread among your species.
Tiger: For a change, I agree, though I doubt any of you will dare to get within six feet of us and breathe into our faces, let alone cough or sneeze.

DIJ: The government should be lauded for its attempts at afforestation though.
Tiger: That’s hogwash. Your All India Tiger Estimation Report 2018 says that tiger forests larger than the area of Mumbai and Goa combined have been lost in six years.

DIJ: But what’s the harm in having a coal mine or cement plant inside a National Park? It’s all for the good of the country. We need more energy and industry…
Tiger (rolling its eyes): You mean you don’t already make enough pollution? It’s already killed more people than COVID-19 has. Your children and grandchildren are really going to hate you. And coal mines? Why? So your minister can proudly proclaim that in addition to black panthers, you have black tigers, too?

DIJ: What do you think of this idea of maintaining forest corridors, so you can travel from one forest to another and meet the ladies or gents there?
Tiger: As long as those corridors are not like the vestibules you have between train coaches, which rattle and shake and are jammed with smokers, it’s fine.

DIJ: On that auspicious note, what would your message to humankind be? Erm, why are you looking at me like that?
Tiger (grinning): Don’t worry, sonny boy, I’ve recently eaten. Just assessing your potential as a toothpick though.

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