Living with Wild Tigers
Living with Tigers Might be Terrifying, but Living without Them would be Fatal
When you see a photo of the iconic tiger or one that is at a safe distance in an enclosure, what do you think about? Perhaps that it has charisma, beauty, power and presence. Now imagine that wild tigers lived just a few steps from your home. Would your perceptions change? Would you feel the same or would you perhaps view the tiger with fear, as a predator of your livestock, or as a serious danger to your children? Most of us would agree that this would be a natural response.
Conservation happens all over the world, but it is usually balanced with political, economic, social and other factors in order to enable development and to align with cultural norms within a country. In some countries such as the UK, apex predators such as wolves and wild cats were driven to extinction centuries ago and it is unimaginable to think that these animals might be reintroduced to live alongside towns and villages in the way that tigers do in India and other countries. Society would not tolerate it and human-wildlife conflict would be high with wildlife suffering the most.
The tolerance of those who live with wild animals, such as tigers, in close proximity is enormous. Wildlife and tigers have been an integral part of Indian history and culture for nearly 100,000 years and unlike some western doctrines where humans have dominion over animals, Indian cultural beliefs promote humans as custodians of nature. Most Indian villagers do not want to harm wild animals and most see the tiger as an essential part of the ecosystem they rely on.
In tiger regions, people have the challenging responsibility of balancing their custodianship of nature with their own livelihoods and ultimate survival. Farmers living in small villages on the edge of protected areas, such as Bandhavgarh National Park, will strive to grow food for their families and sell produce to raise funds for their children to gain an education. They experience untold hardship and life is not easy when confronted with extreme weather events such as drought, cyclones or floods caused by climate change. To add to this the fear of predators such as tigers threatening their very existence the unpredictability of life can be unbearable. Due to the loss of their own forest habitat, tigers are increasingly being forced to live alongside human settlements. When droughts occur tigers and other wild animals are driven to search for water further afield, sometimes beyond the forest. This might be in villages on the forest edge or a cattle watering hole, but wild animals will not differentiate if they are desperate. An opportunity to steal livestock they may come across will also not be missed as forest prey becomes scarcer due to human activity. This abnormal activity puts both human and tiger lives at risk.
Tiger Conservation Charities are making progress in reversing the decline in wild tiger numbers
Thankfully, Tiger Conservation Foundations in India and charities such as Tigers4Ever have made significant progress in reversing the decline in wild tiger numbers, through supporting local communities to achieve a better future through education and alternative livelihoods away from forest use. The wildlife waterholes that Tigers4Ever has built outside of villages have also gone a long way to reduce human-wildlife conflicts and restore the balance of co-habitation that has existed for so long.
From a declining population of around 1411 in 2008, India now protects around 65% or 2969 of the world’s 3900 wild tiger population. However, most protected areas are still not large enough to maintain a viable population. Protecting areas such as Bandhavgarh National Park in central India, which has one of the highest tiger densities, is therefore essential. Creating and maintaining ‘tiger corridors’ so that they can move freely through forest strips between larger forest areas is also essential to enable the population to grow and find new territory. Tigers4Ever is eternally grateful for the generosity of its supporters in enabling the protection of an additional 772 km (483 miles) of wild tiger territory each month in 2021. https://goto.gg/28767
We’d all be affected if there were no more Tigers
Whilst national governments have the responsibility of protecting their country’s biodiversity on behalf of the rest of the world, we all have a responsibility to support those who bear the costs in this endeavour. After all, we would all be affected if there were no more tigers.
A world without tigers would be like a world without trees – our own survival would be threatened. Why? Because tigers are apex predators that are essential for the health and survival of biodiversity in an interconnected ecosystem. Here are 10 reasons why all we need tigers:
- There would be thousands more herbivores such as deer.
- They would trample the forests, the fields and the flowers.
- So there would be fewer insects for pollination.
- Therefore our crops and vegetables might fail –
- So our own food security would be threatened across the whole world.
- Other species would become extinct.
- Trees would not grow –
- Because seeds would not be dispersed by wildlife.
- This would reduce the air that we breathe –
- And our long-term survival would not be guaranteed.
A world without tigers is therefore not an option for us. Over the last 11 years, Tigers4Ever has reduced wild tiger deaths in Bandhavgarh by 97% and seen tiger numbers double since introducing patrols in 2015. We are working towards solutions where people value the whole forest and see tigers within forests as more valuable alive because they help to maintain the ecological balance.
To celebrate International Tiger Day (Global Tiger Day), please share this message with others so that they will want to be a part of helping brave and hardworking people to live safely alongside and to protect these beautiful and essential animals.
Tigers4Ever is Giving Wild Tigers A Wild Future!
You can help too: https://tigers4ever.org/donate/
Jhala, Y, Gopal, R, Mathur, V, et al. (2021) ‘Recovery of tigers in India: Critical introspection and potential lessons’. People Nat. 2021; 3: 281– 293. https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10177