Friday, August 15, 2008

Tragedy at Kanha

The most gentlemanly creature on Earth is tiger. This fact is well enumerated in wildlife journals and story books. But yet man fears this creature the most due to myths and mystical beliefs.

The tiger is an enigma and mystery and many describe the animal as most fearsome creature with spiritual powers that can wreck havoc on its enemy - man.

But in my years of scouring tiger forests, I have never come across an incidence of wanton killing by this magnificent beast. The explanation is forthright...tiger kills only for food. This sentence on tiger facts should sum it all for logical beings who understand the meanings of written and spoken words well.

The incidence took place this year when a "chara cutter" (grass cutter) had gone into the forest in early morning hours to fetch the elephants that track tigers and carryover tourists to the spot where the tiger has been located by mahouts or elephant riders.

It was the wee hour of the morning with visibility near zero. The chara cutter had moved into the forest right up to the Kanha Meadow...laboriously following the elephant spoor. Whence he reached the meadow he realized that the elephant he was looking for was deeper inside.

Kanha meadow is the prime tiger country and is at present a grassland habitat for a tigress with cubs. Death was lurking in the darkness for the poor man. He had no idea that he was close to the tigress with cubs. Tigresses are over zealously protective mothers and charge at anyone who dares come threateningly close to the cubs.

The defense mechanism of tigers is away or move quietly from all dangers, and in other circumstance offense becomes the best defense. The latter was the case of the chara cutter of whose intentions the tigress was unsure. In order to defend herself and the cubs near by see charged. The chara cutter could see the tigress moving aggressively towards him. His last word over the wireless communication set was a desperate call for help.

It was all over in seconds and the mahouts who landed up on the spot later found him lying in pool of blood - dead. Death is instantaneous in a tiger attack as the canines target the neck region in order to rupture the blood vessels and the vertebrae is crushed completely on impact.

Had the tigress been alone she would have quietly moved out of the picture, but with the cubs around it was not possible, hence she charged at the two legged creature. In local folklore it is said that the tiger marks its prey much in advance by sound, but I have on many instances seen tiger surprised by other animals and man. This is because of preoccupation at times. She may have come to know of the man's presence but had no idea that he would come so close. She must have missed his approach as her attention was riveted on the cubs.

Had she enough time to move the cubs into a hiding, I am sure a life would have been saved.

I saw the tigress on many wildlife safaris later, carrying over her tiger business of finding prey or just relaxing after a successful hunt. There was no aggression or blood thirst on her countenance.

"It was pure self defense man," she seemed to inform me apologetically.

The false beliefs about tiger cruelty and about the magical healing powers of its bones has put the graceful and beautiful animal unto sad plight.

God Save The Tiger!