Masthead

Tigers - On Business-as-usual


Tiger mothers can be as gentle when handling their tiny cubs, as they can be fierce in their defense. This tigress, and all other cats for that matter, evolved from a tiny squirrel-sized mammal that chased down and ate insects in the mists of pre-history! After weathering incredible trials of life, tigers moved south some 12 million years ago from Siberia or China, when the geologic forces that fashioned the Himalaya created a land bridge across the Tethys Sea, connecting ancient Laurasia to the Indian subcontinent, when it drifted away from Gondwanaland. Fossil evidence gathered from Kurnool suggests that they probably colonised the Indian subcontinent as recently as 10,000 years ago.

Be that as it may, Panthera tigris is today at the very apex of its evolutionary pinnacle. Honed as a fine weapon of survival through natural selection, it has virtually no enemies save for man. Maya and her tiny cub, seen here, were first spotted on June 16, 2014, at the Tadoba Tiger Reserve's Panchadhara tank area. They exemplify the species' survival skills, without which they would have been hard put to endure the shenanigans of Homo sapiens - the ultimate neighbours from hell.

Let's put it like this. For the tiger, 'business-as-usual' without the lethal touch of Homo sapiens, would have been a cakewalk. But with our boorish behaviour against every life form on earth (including our own), tigers and a host of other creatures will perish if subjected to 'business-as-usual' of the human kind.

Consider this. Maya had two very beautiful little cubs. Both died just two weeks after this image was shot. Not at the hands of poachers, but in the jaws of the Katezhari male tiger who killed them because that is the way of tiger society. Their 'business-as-usual' model. Mortality at the hands of a male tiger Maya's kind can cope with. She is now actually mating with the very male that killed her cubs. It's the other 'business-as-usual' model that could be her undoing. Mining, dams, poaching, railway lines and highways through her forests? And agriculture that now out-performs industry in the deforestation race? That Maya's evolutionary survival skill-set never quite prepared her for.

Over the past 35 years the tiger has been the foundation of my life. Protecting them is a key reason that drives my existence. If truth be told, the stunning beauty of wild tigers have me in their thrall. But the aesthetic of their awesome, wild demeanor and their equally exciting and varied habitats move me less than their out-and-out ecological function. Everything works! And everything works in unison - the tiger, the ticks that move parasites between tigers, the butterflies that suck minerals from tiger-urine-wetted earth and the protozoans that help termites digest the cellulose-fashioned forest itself. Everything meshes to form the living, breathing, throbbing entity that is our only home... Planet Earth.

In celebration of the gift of life I make it a point to place myself frequently in spaces that allow me to breathe air cycled through tiger, elephant, ratel and hornbill lungs. And, when I am lucky enough to actually sight such creatures, like any other gawking visitor, that familiar "Sigh! It's-all-so-perfect" feeling washes over me.

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