Tiger is one of the beautiful animals on planet Earth. There were about eight original subspecies of tigers in the world, three of which have gone extinct. There are five different subspecies of tigers alive in the world today: Siberian, South China, Indochinese, Bengal, and Sumatran. The subspecies that have gone extinct are Bali, Javan, and Caspian tigers. Tigers are an endangered species; only about 5,000 to 7,400 tigers are left in the wild. [Source of information: http://www.indiantiger.org/]
A lot of us are unaware of the fact that tigers and leopards (in the case of Mumbai) are the reason why we get fresh water. Our students as well were far away from this reality, until they met Raj Krishnani, a conservationist from Mumbai. He created a Facebook page called Save the Tiger about seven years ago to spread awareness about tiger conservation. According to Raj, “Around 600 rivers of Indian territory originate from Tiger reserves. Mumbai gets its share of water from water reservoirs in Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) which is a protected zone for Leopards. Because there are Leopards in wild in SGNP, the core areas where animals stay and fresh water lakes at present are away from human population.”
Students were learning about Biological Diversity in one of their science lessons. Apex predators like tigers are an important part of the food chain. Raj spoke in detail about the need, process and barriers in tiger conservation. Students were astounded to see the picture and videos of tigers in the wild. They were introduced to various hurdles in tiger conservation like poaching, deforestation, mining and encroachment. Raj continued, “Rich and influential people grab lands in forest to make their farm houses and holiday homes. Ultimately it’s the animals that pay the price of loosing their own homes to humans. We have started to build roads and railways through forest which has a huge impact on animal lives.” Raj displayed some of the picture of animals killed in road and railway accidents. Students were appalled to see the pictures.
As Raj was going ahead with the lesson, a lot of our girls were eager to ask him questions and give suggestions about what could be done to protect animals from road accidents. One of them said, “Why can’t we keep all the tigers in zoo? They will get food as well as protection there”. Raj elaborated that a wild animal should be kept in the zoo only when it is injured and can’t feed on its own.
The recent Delhi zoo incident was one of the hot topics of discussion. A man while clicking pictures of a white tiger, fell in its enclosure. The tiger Vijay did not do anything for initial 15-20 mins as he was observing the man throughout. People in the zoo gathered around the enclosure and started pelting stones at Vijay, the tiger. This made the tiger angry, but to protect the man fell in his enclosure from the pelting stones, Vijay lifted the man from his neck like he would lift his cubs and dropped him on the other side of cage. Tiger’s sharp canines penetrated man’s neck because human necks are very delicate. In this process the man died.
Raj created an imaginary interview of a reporter with Tiger Vijay and conveyed that Vijay’s behaviour was completely normal. You can have a look at the interview here.
Through an astonishing session on tiger conservation students learnt that its up to us to understand how we are treating our animals, our forests and nature in total . We have abused nature beyond limits and it’s our duty to take the right steps to conserve and respect nature.