Thursday, April 10, 2014


I didn’t learn it easily that Tiger is safe in nature but safer under human care. We won’t let tiger go extinct!

A little less than forty years back I may have listened to my heart and said that I want only ‘the best’; a species must be conserved ‘only’ in its natural habitat. That was because of the young and immature student of animal sciences in me then.

While working with crocodiles I learnt to recognize their warning when they do not like human presence. One of the lessons I have had from sixteen years’ work later in Similipal is that in a well monitored project a species gives messages to managers when all is not well in nature and there is the need for change in management strategy. One such message is the preponderance of tiger in colour other than the normal yellow body with black stripes.

In one of my earlier blogs I mentioned about tiger in different colours. It took nearly six years to go through the happenings and literature for making some guiding inferences about the occurrence and significance of colour variations. It all started in 1993 from Similipal with Salku of village Podagad who in defense of his father and himself killed a tiger that was discovered to be melanistic. The research that flagged off from Podagad culminated for that time in Florida, USA in 1999.  Dr Josip Marcan read about my colour-study and provided photographs of tiger in different colours. These photographs were God-sent for me as they fitted well to fill up some of the gaps hypothesized in the colour distribution curve from my study.

From those days, with gaps though, an academic link has developed with Dr Marcan. I get the opportunity of studying more tiger photographs sent to me. Out of around 4500 captive tigers in the USA, the Marcan Tiger Preserve owns one of the attractive collections that educates and offer more direct interactions of the public to gain support for Tiger conservation.

A few weeks back Dr Marcan wanted my reflections about captive breeding of tiger. My reply is essentially the same after my lessons from the wild. A lot of work has been done in India and worldwide to keep Tiger safe in nature. Yet, the lesson is, tiger needs a simultaneous safer life and abode under human care. Safaris in India and Preserves overseas are supporting answers to large ‘Tiger Reserves’ and prevent Panthera tigris becoming extinct. The approach offers scope to recognize and care for each tiger individually. No mathematical tiger!.

Back in 2006 and 2008 in my lectures to audience in Nandankanan Biological Park on tiger conservation and future of tiger, I was emphatic, not because I was speaking at NKBP but because of my rugged lessons that NKBP will prove to be an important place for a more secured future for tiger. Tiger in captivity will serve more direct and intense purposes of education, research, species conservation and visitor-satisfaction of sighting the tiger.

People all over the world want tiger to survive so that they are able to see the graceful king of the forests. The destination in the minds of people who love and care for wild animals is to see a Tiger.

But Tiger is an elusive animal. It has survived the wrath of total onslaught by humans for its quality of being elusive. Only occasionally the ‘Tiger obliges a glimpse of him’ in the forest. That is the common experience of old and serious tiger-spotters. People who have lived with families for generations in the forests that ‘abounded’ with tiger complement the statement of spotters by saying, ‘before we see the tiger once he must have seen us a hundred times and gone on its own way; we are not scared of the Tiger’!

Tiger have survived where wilderness continues to exist. As a result of conservation strategies some of the best remaining forests are termed Tiger Reserves. Yet, sighting a tiger on its own is becoming a rarer event day by day, or night by night.

Tiger in the wild continue to be a part of increasing biodiversity crisis due to expanding human population, fragmentation of forests, qualitative degradation of the integrity of wild habitats, and splitting up of tiger populations into smaller groups thwarting their genetic health and prevention of extinction. Tiger habitats need to be maintained inviolate. That is becoming difficult in spite of awareness and concern.

Tiger Reserves meant for conserving the tiger and its ecological associates in natural habitats may be the best places for tiger to live, but they cannot satiate the inner urge of a common man, a child, a young student for ‘sighting a tiger’, and to offer scope for study by serious students of morphology, biology and behavior. If all these are allowed to all the people of the globe the original home of tiger cannot remain inviolate and life of tiger in nature will become shorter still. 

A better and contemporary option is integrating management in the wild as well as in safaris, preserves and captivity. Semi-captive and captive populations are insurance to survival of tiger as a species.

Planned management for captive breeding can ensure an additional and better chance for Tiger to survive beyond the twenty first century. In environmentally enriched captive breeding programme…..
  • Tiger is safer as a species (Panthera tigris). 
  • Tiger is maintained in its morphological diversity.
  • Offers the scope for viewing and ‘feeling’ Tigers for education and research purposes.
  • Educate ‘tiger-oriented’ enthusiasts and tourists and help for relieving pressure on wild populations, wherever they may be.
Therefore, every decision for sending a critically endangered species to wild from the safety and future under human care need to be well justified.