Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dummies Guide to Creating a Man-eating Tiger!

Sometimes we see glaring evidences of the imperfections in God's creative skills. The most imperfect creature he created is Man and I'm sure he regrets not going through the blue-prints sufficiently before plunging into his task!

We are perhaps the only one in his countless creations that have an surfeit of evil over goodness, and of all the evils that God planted in us, ego is one of the worst. Ego is like cancer, the more you have the more it grows and eventually it overpowers the person that sometimes they think they are Gods themselves.

I am posting a video here that left many of my sensible friends and me shell shocked. This was uploaded on YouTube by a certain M**u R******t recently and has since been taken off after the uproar it caused. I am re-posting it here not to show how great the gentleman, M R, was but to tell you how not to behave in the jungle. This gent has a Facebook page that says he is a writer and a teacher who does not want to set a bad example for his students by writing on alcohol but for some strange reason has a website that has Rum Road and Ravings in its name! The link to the website, however, is not working but I got to his blog! Perhaps too much of rum and the he forgot to renew the domain!

Anyway, this video is his singular contribution on how to convert an innocent tiger into an alleged man eater, and get the poor creature get lynched by some frenzied mob. I want you to watch the video, look closely at the tiger's expressions before it bounds away into the jungle and also the reaction of the gent in question. While he is setting an bad example for many DSLR swinging wannabe photographers, there is a lesson to be learnt on how not to do things also.

Many of the tiger reserves in Kerala offer trekking packages, sometimes overnight, with armed guides. While, I admit, all guides cannot be viewed alike, there are certainly some bad apples like our guide in the video who will take you for are tiger show, shoot the video and pocket some money for massaging your already inflated ego! This video according to his Facebook album was shot in Parambikulam with the assistance of his guide.

Before the video was taken off there was a lengthy treatise in Malayalam, (wonder who has the patience to go through all that gibberish) on his success story but that is also gone missing now. The hero of this story is very proud of his achievement and rightfully so. After all, how many of us ordinary mortals have the influence in the right places to make an adventurous trip like that! I take pride in the fact that I am a nature photographer but have been very reluctant to use influence to get access to areas that are restricted to us 'ordinary mortals'. A very famous wildlife photographer is credited with saying that wildlife photography is not wildlife photography, unless done on foot! I agree, and I'd love the chance to be close to the ground, but how many wildlife sanctuaries or national parks permit access on foot?

Most, if not all, national parks in Karnataka have safaris on forest department or government vehicles. They are strict about numbers and that tourists should confine themselves to the vehicles at all times. It serves the purpose of protecting the person from unexpected attacks from disturbed wildlife. Most importantly, it works the other way too. I have had many opportunities to photograph wildlife at close quarters from such vehicles and never felt that I was disturbing them because we were always on the designated track.

When you are on foot, you are going off the beaten track, into the territory of the wildlife. However good your forest guide maybe, wildlife should be treated with respect. They are wild animals. Period. Rules and regulations apply on to humans. When we encroach on their rightful territory, they feel threatened and react instinctively. The Gavi incident, 21st January, where a couple of tourists were trampled is a prime example.

In the video above our hero M R, creeps as close a s possible to a resting tiger. He was lucky perhaps that it had eaten and was sleeping off the stupor! It was certainly surprised to see a two legged man thing so close to what it thought, was a safe place to sleep. It growls threateningly but notices that there is another person in the vicinity, so understanding that discretion is the better part of valour, turns and bounds off into the forest.

Let us assume for a moment that it was a tiger feeding or a tigress with very young cubs. The reaction in such a situation would have been very different. The animal would have probably taken the threat head on, in this case a quick leap and a ferocious attack. Our hero would have been badly mauled and perhaps been killed, not as food, but as a perceived threat. The guides can do nothing but stand and watch because things will need only a few seconds to go out of hand!

Then Mr. M R, would be real hero for the media, and the poor animal would be branded a man-eater! Public opinion would influence the forest department decision and in all likelihood the tiger would be trapped or killed.

A few selfish, egoistic folks like Mr. M R here don't realize that more than the risk they undertake on themselves, it is worse for the tiger. Already threatened and confined to increasingly restricted spaces, they sometimes stray into human settlements in the borders of forest areas. Tigers need large areas; 20 square kilometers for a tigress and 60-100 square kilometers for a male tiger.  Increasing tiger population, mind you, not in millions like us humans but hundreds, mean less space for them in their already shrinking habitats. If we invade their privacy, we are forcing them to change their behavior. A man-eater is created in our minds even if it is only a mauling. We would still blame the tiger and not the stimulus that created a man killer.

For God's sake let them live peacefully in their little pockets of peace. Refrain from such acts of foolishness Mr. M R, or anyone else. This is an appeal for the tiger and all other creatures that live in India's forests. Let them be. We humans are over-populating the planet so quickly that the day is not far off when we'll either have to colonize neighbouring planets or kill each other for space! Let these beautiful creatures, untainted by human traits or vices live peacefully in their little confines. I hope there will be some responsible people from the Forest Departments who will read this and ensure that such incidents do not happen in future.

UPDATE: 31st, May 2015, 6.30 PM
It seems that this issue is more murkier that what I thought! Apparently, as is evident from many of the Facebook, entries on Mr. M R's wall, this was part of a grandiose plan. He keeps referring to a 'project' that would keep him busy for a few weeks. It seems he was part of a group of photographers sub-contracted to scour the forests of Kerala on foot to gather photographic footage for a COFFEE TABLE BOOK to be released by a rather famous, or should I say infamous now, self-proclaimed 'Independent Conservation & Travel Photographer' who is Kerala Forest Department's current favourite. More details will follow as I gather them. Watch this space..........

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Season of Change

First of all, my sincere apologies. It has been nearly three months since I sat down with a blog page open for typing. This time there is a good reason though. I was the organizing secretary for a midterm conference our district ophthalmic association was conducting. Almost four months of brainstorming & planning, it was finally executed rather happily for us a week ago.

Having set aside a major responsibility I am now free to pick up the threads from where I left off. The 100th blog post of the Woodcrawler's Journal came way back on the 20th February. In the final paragraph I had promised to place links to places I have already blogged about as the No.100 was getting unwieldy for a single read. My first task is that.

Then there are two places near here, in Palakkad that deserve a post of their own, Siruvani and Parambikulam. I will finish that before I go start the post recent trips on Bandipur, Kabini (Nagarahole) and BR Hills.

I have also decided that these post, in future will have a common framework around which the blog will be built. It will be on the lines of a travel blog giving information on routes, distance, accommodation (only those that I am familiar with) and any other relevant details. This has been necessitated by mails I get asking for information about these places.

This, then means, my blogs will not be just ramblings of a Woodcrawler but also, hopefully, a source of inspiration for other woodcrawlers in the making. It also means I have to find new places to blog about!

Happy Woodcrawling!!