of the dead
Okay. So now you know who the real
culprits are. And who should be the main targets of Mowglis mission. But, folks,
there is one more issue, a pretty serious one too, that he will have to tackle if he has
to vanquish the Enemies No 1 forever.
He has to make sure that the king
has the domain that he needs to survive.
Every individual tiger marks out an area for itself, which is called its range.
Atigress needs about 10 to 15 square kilometres, and the males range covers the
territory of two or three females.
But now human beings have invaded the tigers domain. Highways, townships, dams
the habitat of the king is slowly being taken over...
Starving to death?
Tigers can survive in coniferous woodlands, deciduous forests, mangroves and peat swamps.
Its not really fussy about its habitat. But it does require a steady supply of food
to live and to reproduce.
Its favourite diet consists of ungulates or hoofed
animals such as gaur, nilgai, chinkara, wild goats, wild pigs and, of course, different
species of deer (moose, elk, sambar, barsingha). A full grown male needs 2,200-2,500
kilograms of meat in a year that is, about 40 to 50 animals. A female, with cubs to
raise, requires more 60 to 70. A prey base of about 400 is required to keep a
single tiger alive.
Again, a tiger can hunt only about eight to 10 per cent of the total number of hoofed
creatures that are found in its habitat.
Now with the disappearing forest cover, the prey base, too, has shrunk. Leaving the
tiger hungering for more...
Indian law strictly prohibits mining inside reserves.
Whats more, it states that no mining operation can be carried out within 10
kilometres of the boundary of any protected area. But illegal mining is a roaring business
in and around most reserves.
Take the much-in-the news Sariska for
instance. The Aravalli hills around it are mined for granite and sand. Talc or soapstone,
which forms the basis of the cosmetic and detergent industries, is also mined here. There
are as many as 145 of these illegal mines in Sariska and the adjacent Jamwa Ramgarh
Project Tiger: A rescue mission
Mowgli will certainly not be Indias first tiger
crusader. Attempts have been made in the past to protect the royal beast. In fact, around
1970, some concerned wild life specialists began to sound the alarm bell pretty
vigorously. In 1972, the first ever all India tiger census was conducted and the experts
were aghast to find that only 1827 animals remained of the 40,000-strong population
recorded in early 1900s!
In 1970, a national ban on tiger hunting was imposed and in 1972 the Wildlife
Protection Act came into force. A 'Task Force' was then set up to formulate a project for
tiger conservation "with an ecological approach".
And the Project Tiger was launched in 1973. Then it had nine reserves under it, and was
entirely funded by the Union government in New Delhi. Now it is spread over 27 parks and
its expenses are shared equally by the centre and the states in which these reserves are
For a while, it looked as if Shere Khan and his tribe were on a comeback trail. The
tiger population, here, bounced back, even while the Javan, Caspian and Bali sub-species
were gradually disappearing from the face of the earth.
But then something, somewhere, began to go wrong. Horribly. Tiger Census conducted by
state forest departments every year started recording a frightening dip in head count.
products: a lifeline for the locals
Then the Sariska National Park, that was included in the Project Tiger network way back
in 1978, brought everything to a boil. Despite desperate attempts made by forest officials
to trace the big cat, not a single one could be found! And what was really scary was that
the entire tiger clan seemed to have simply vanished into thin air! Surely if they had all
died due to some natural cause (unlikely story!) at least the carcasses would have
remained! The stunned nation was not left with any such illusion
clearly the poachers
had been on a rampage in Sariska.
Now we are haunted by a terrifying possibilityhave the other reserves
turned into empty graveyards as well?