Very sad news came from Jim Corbett National Park last week. A tiger attacked two bikers on the main road outside the national park after sunset. The tiger was apparently sitting in the bush and when the bikers passed by, he lunged on the bike. The two riders fell, he took one in his mouth and disappeared into the bush. The Forest Department is doing its utmost to track the tiger and the man concerned. Camera traps have been laid out in the area, patrolling has been increased and cages have been installed. Today it is 5 days since the biker has not been found, except for some blood-stained clothes, and his mobile phone.
My heartfelt condolences to the family of the person. This is a sad loss to the family. An incident that was most likely not intentional by the tiger.
The attack was post sunset, and that is the time when tigers are more active. It is possible that the tiger was about to cross the road, but on hearing the bike he stopped, and just when the bike appeared he too showed up resulting in imbalance and falling of the bike, which is normal. And seeing a person fall on the ground, he took it as potential prey. It is said that when you sight a tiger, stay put, and stand your ground. Anything sitting, running, or falling on the ground seems smaller and is potential prey to the tiger.
When I read this news the first thought that crossed my mind was the writing of Edward James Corbett a.k.a. Jim Corbett, wherein he says, “A man-eating tiger has been compelled, through the stress of circumstances beyond its control, to adopt a diet alien to it. The stress of circumstances is, in nine out of ten cases, wounds and in the tenth case old age”. He also goes on to say, “A tiger on a fresh kill, or a wounded tiger, or a tigress with small cubs will occasionally kill human beings who disturb them; but these tigers cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be called man-eaters though they are often so-called”. What could be the case in this incident none knows yet.
My personal observation over the last 3 decades has been that the tigers do not like the sound of motorcycles. I know of numerous cases where tigers have done a mock charge on the bikers in and outside the forest, on local passersby, and at times even on the forest rangers. The reason behind this is unknown, maybe they do not like the sound of the motor, does it sound like some form of growling? Or it is disturbing to his ears, we cannot say.
I hope the forest department is able to track and cage the right tiger. It should not be that other tigers in the region pay the price for things they did not do. Usually, the forest department is able to locate such predators pretty fast, but not always. There have been some cases in other states too when such tigers have dodged the department successfully for months on end. I pray that there are no further human fatalities in the interim in this case.
Such cases happen on the periphery of the national parks in India mostly, and not inside. The tigers in the tourism zone have kind of got acquainted with the humans, but nontourism zone tigers are shy and a tad inexperienced in handling humans. But I would still give out a warning to all fellow tourists, you are going into the forest to see the tiger, it is the apex predator in the region, so show some respect, stay at a distance, and never take a tiger’s presence for granted.
As expected, everyone already has sentenced this tiger as a culprit, and his fate is sealed, if not caged, he will be shot. He will not be allowed to roam free for the damage he has done. If not done the local community will continue to live in fear of the tiger and may take matters into their own hands and do more damage to the other wildlife and forest. Hence it is important that this individual tiger is located soon in the larger interest of the species and the forest.
But it is time we pause for a few seconds, slow down, and do some introspection. Is this planet only meant for humans? Where would other species go? To some other planet? We need to co-exist, peacefully, and respectfully. It is sad that humans are plundering the planet in the garb of development. Forests are being cleared at an unmatched speed in the history of human existence. Almost one football field of the forest is lost every second, or one Switzerland size forest every year. We are losing about 135 species of plants, animals, and tree species daily. Over 30% of prevalent diseases today are results of deforestation, Covid included. This is alarming for everyone involved. Humans are doing it for their comfort and they are already paying the price for the same.
Many of us consider climate change as only a hoax, little do we know that it is already upon us. No country is spared today of the impact of the same. England has not seen temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius in the month of July. There are fires in many areas outside the cities, trains are not working. Practically half of India is under flood as of today, and another half is in a state of drought. This is getting serious by the day. Let us not forget that we cannot escape this, and we will pay dearly if we continue to ignore it. This is not a problem of one state one country, this is the single largest impending disaster we as humans face.
While some countries are doing a few things, and some more, it is time we all take upon us things we can do. For e.g., plant a tree, and look after it. As Gandhiji said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. So, it is time for action.
Yes, the topic of the tiger attacking a biker and planting trees does not connect. But to avoid much bigger challenges ahead we need to do something about it. We have taken away the space meant for the animals it is time to give it back to them if we wish to live.
I took a small step a fortnight back by planting six trees in the park behind our home, and proud to say that 5 of them have survived. Go ahead, and plant one, if you can.