There are no tigers in Sariska. They kept telling me that, but I would not listen. I steadfastly believed that if you have the patience, you can see them. The ones who cannot sight the tiger are either unfortunate or are yuppie north Indians who look more for a spot to share sandwiches in the forest than to look for the majestic animal.
They have been vindicated and I stand corrected. It has been revealed that complicity with census officials has systematically killed all tigers in Sariska. On the other hand, we have enough tigers in the Southern forests. I recently asked a Keralite friend who was code named Ashok M about this (He says that is his real name). I asked him how the Southern tigers were spared.
He told me that tigers were not the object of poachers' affection in the South. There, brigands
preferred the tusks of elephants and killed more pachyderms than predators. Tigers were of no use to them.
I was confused. I wanted to know why hadn't the greed of taxidermists reached South India. He said that was owing to two reasons: A distinct language problem and vegetarian habits of South Indians. The very thought of Koreans eating tiger penises was revolting to any self-respecting
mundu. This was taking cock-sucking to a higher level.
There lay the solution. Why couldn't we transfer all the tigers to the South and import elephants to the north? The poachers may have less to do if we did that. My friend from California, Charles Shult was not impressed by this argument. He had a better idea. "I have heard that you have saved the
Nilgai or the Blue Bull from extinction as its name means 'cow'. The Hindus don't hurt the cow. So even if it is a deer it is better known as a cow. Is that correct?''
I nodded in agreement. "So all you have to do is call the tiger a yellow cow. That will do the trick,'' he finished with great satisfaction and took a long drag on his vodka. Yankee ingenuity at its best.
I somehow think we are all missing the point. If I had been a naturalist, would I fail tackling the wildlife problem for 50 years after independence? I don't think so. I think our lack of proper laws, proper awareness in the lower judiciary and in the media about wildlife is owing to a full scale complicity with the naturalists in this country.
The poachers can't keep doing it if the ecologists wanted to stop them. I think the sketchy picture that we have of wildlife needs, is a deliberate ploy by ecologists in India to keep the public guessing and keep the grants coming. NGOs are still the milch cattle they were. The law looks the other way or better still does not exist.
Consider this: Selling karikul caps in New Delhi's Janpath is perfectly legal. Who forgot to include it in the Indian Penal Code? Maybe it was the friendly neighbourhood ecologist. I am sure it was. Conservation is a farce in India. Getting camels to die on the Mumbai beaches is not against any Central statute. The Mumbai administration brought in a local rule after Zee TV spoke about it. There are no rules framed as per the Environment Protection Act and the Cruelty to Animals section in the Indian Penal Code. I could go on and on.
By DEBASISH ROY