Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

“Tiger, Tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night……”

So said William Blake, the famous poet. May be they are not burning as bright as they used to do in the days of Blake. Perhaps, Jim Corbett is to be blamed for all his killing that eliminated the man-eaters of Kumoan region. But those were the days, when it was a matter of wild animals and the humans.

In some ways, it hasn’t changed much even today. While the rest of the world is clearing large tracts of forests to resettle people or to accommodate industrial expansions, we, in Bhutan had been coming out with legislation to save the wild life.

Every year we have reports of wild predators destroying our crops and fields and the farmers had been requesting the government to give them some sort of means to handle them. But no! They have to abide by the forest and wild life preservation rules and regulations.

To be quite frank, tigers are no big menace as predators in our country, unless and until one may take the matter of a bear being killed in the high mountains, where tigers were not supposed to be. Of course, there was a big talk about the effect of the climate change that led the tiger to move to new areas.

Why did it go to areas where it is not suited for and where it doesn’t have the right type of food? It certainly wasn’t looking for green pastures like the cows.

Of course, it is good to know that the prediction by the World Wildlife Fund that the tigers are going to be extinct by 2010 is not a correct assessment, at least for Bhutan, is a welcome statement. Bhutan has been taking all necessary measures to safeguard the wild life.

One thing that should be taken note of is that tigers are not the actual predators. Crop damages and destructions by wildlife have been attributed to elephants, wild boars and monkeys. Perhaps, the tigers killed a domestic animal or two and these incidences have never made it to the news.

These royals have maintained their exclusivity and elusiveness. Yet, they are priced for their colourful skins and bones and other parts, some of which are considered to be of medicinal value. At one time in history, hunting tigers was considered a game of the royals. And elaborate excursions and arrangements were made for such an event.

It is reported that there might be only some 3,200 tigers in the wild. That is sad. They might go the dinosaurs’ way. It is not only that their absence might change the balance in nature. They are part of what makes this world bright and beautiful. They are part of this world that is great and small.

As long as they have a peaceful habitat, where there is enough games to live on, they are the predators that they are believed to be. When actually, man is the real predator.

We are the ones who created conditions that they cannot live in. As poachers and trophy hunters, we went after their lives. As polluters of the environment, we changed their habitat and the environment where they lived in peace.

But there is a hope for them. Bhutan will maintain 72 percent of the land surface under forest cover. Within that large area, the tigers will find some space to live in. Not only them, but all other species that is native to the country.

So, despite what is happening to the rest of the world, given our environmental approach, the tigers may still be burning bright in the forests of Bhutan.

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