Saving Sher Khan by Pracheer Saran
We all have heard of famous character Sher Khan the tiger from the Rudyard Kipling‘s classic novel Jungle Book. As a kid, we all were enthralled, mystified and excited and longed to see the animated film ‘Jungle Book’ by Disney Animation studio. Sher Khan the tiger is one such character in the film besides Mowgli the jungle boy, Baloo the beer, Bagheera the panther, etc who will never be forgotten. However, in reality we have forgotten to save and protect him.
It is true that in the movie, Sher Khan had infused fear among us but nobody wanted him to get killed. We all today want the same but contrary to our wishes our popular cartoon character is in reality getting killed and has been pushed to the brink of extinction. The killers here are not Mowgli, Baloo and Bagheera but someone among us who have brought the numbers of tigers down to just over 1,400 in India.
Tigers do not have any natural predators except humans who kill them for their skin, trophies and sports. And in certain countries like China, various parts of tigers have been used as medicines because Chinese believe that these parts can be used as pain killers although there is no scientific evidence to back their beliefs. Tiger is the national animal of India and it is an irony that India is one of the countries where highest numbers of tigers are killed by poachers. It is estimated that in India tigers were killed at a rate of one per day by the poachers who made national parks as their hunting grounds. Though Indian forest department has been able to lower the poaching rate but it is still far from satisfactory.
According to the figures from Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), in 2009, 32 tigers were killed by the poachers and till second month of 2010, three tiger deaths have been reported. An investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and the WPSI reveals that the trade of tiger skin is operating without any hindrance from the Chinese government. They have established a trade link between India, Nepal and China. The investigators found 11 traders in Chinese markets who offered them, tiger and leopard skins, fully aware of the fact that this is a highly illegal trade. The tiger hunting for their skin and for trophies are not only limited to poachers but also some zoo authorities are actively involved in it. An undercover operation in 2007 by The Sunday Times revealed that in England zoos officials were killing healthy tigers to be stuffed as trophies for private collectors. The undercover reporters were offered the skins of two young tigers for over US $12,000 each.
Industrialization has also led humans to encroach jungles, which are the tiger’s natural habitat. This has also brought the man and the beast face to face resulting in conflicts truly enforcing the phrase ‘Survival of the Fittest’ coined by British philosopher Herbert Spencer after reading Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’. Man has also hunted animals, which are the source of food for tiger, thus forcing tigers to choose humans as their prey many times, which is also a reason of hatred against the animal among villagers living near forest areas. This has only helped poachers. This illegal trade where the innocent animal is butchered for his skin is also thriving because of organized structure of gangs such as supply of vehicles, arms and ammunition, corruption among law enforcement officials, exploitation of local communities and huge profits. According to a report from EIA on ‘SKINNING THE CAT- CRIME AND POLITICS OF THE BIG CAT SKIN TRADE’ a poacher in India could be paid about US $1,500 for one tiger skin while a trader in China can sell the same skin for about $US16,000 resulting in 900 per cent of profit margin.
Tiger is at the top of food chain in the forest ecosystem acting as a direct mechanism, keeping a check on the overpopulation of species, which might lead to scarcity of food. Thus destroying tiger will result into disturbing and damaging the ecosystem. This will affect humans too as we too are part of the food chain.
It is up to man to stop their species from killing this beautiful and majestic animal, which we call Tiger. After all we do not want to leave everything to the imagination of our future generations especially when we know how our beloved character from Jungle Book – Sher Khan, looked in real.
Article contributed by Pracheer Saran