The first time we laid eyes on a Royal Bengal Tiger was on cold November morning in 2011; the 24th of November to be precise. This was on the last day of a safari at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in India, a day filled with anxiety as tracking the tiger had proven fruitless on 8 jungle drives spanning 3 days.
I distinctly remember the tiger we saw; T-24 was a sight to behold! He was a huge majestic tiger that steadily gazed at us as if peering deep into our souls. No syllables can express the feeling; we instantly fell in love with tigers.
The following summer in August 2012, we were at the reserve, and this time we had much better luck, seeing three tigers, T-6, T-25 and Machili, the pride of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
We were, and still are truly in love with tigers, and in awe of the great work that conservationist do under tough circumstances. It was our sincere hope that we could do whatever we can to extend a helping hand towards conservation works. Our guide, Mazar Khan, was very helpful in helping us map out plans of how we can help. With the grace of God, we hoped to make a donation of 300 pairs of boots and four motorbikes to the forest guards during our next visit in October of 2012.
‘Tiger tourism’ is not without its controversies, with some arguing for and some against it. But with population of as little as 3000 wild tigers left in the world, the future for this majestic species is under severe threat, and it is time for less argument and more action. The decline of this species stems from many issues, including human encroachment on its habitat, and the misinformed beliefs that place value on dead tigers. On the Indian subcontinent, where the largest tiger population perseveres, only 11 percent of the original tiger habitat remains, albeit in a fragmented and degraded state. Tigers are a conservation dependent species, and tourism is well suited to bring the much needed funds to ensure that vital conservation work continues and is reinforced.
The decline of the tiger can be reversed, but everyone must take it upon themselves to become an ambassador for this species or any other species under threat. We certainly hope that we are living up to this creed, and indeed are playing a role in creating awareness for the challenges faced by the Bengal Tiger, which is close to extinction.