Jan 21, 2010

Saving the Tigers

We have always had the often unpopular belief(from a human standpoint), that nature should not be placed below humans in the pyramid of species as we are taught in high school.

We believe every life on Earth should be cherished and respected. In order to practice this respect, we must allow certain habitats to be undeveloped so the animals can have their space just like your high schooler wants their space to be with their friends.

Below is an obit from the FT(Big Cat hunter who became their passionate protector-Phil Davidson-1-16-10) that speaks of Billy Singh who became one of the biggest protectors in the world of bengal tigers from his perch in India.

"Born into a dynasty of Sikh Maharajas with plenty of land and forest to hunt in, Kunwar "Billy" Arjan Singh grew up, in his own words, a "bloodthirsty, murderous urchin who shot anything that moved". Then one day, in his forties, after shooting a young leopard in the headlights of his jeep, he had an epiphany. "I watched the fire fading from its eyes. I was overcome with remorse. I had no right to destroy what I could not create, to kill for personal pleasure." From that day on, and for more than 50 years, he became one of India's greatest conservationists, winning government agreement for the Dudhwa National Park in Uttar Pradesh and a sanctuary for his beloved "big cats" - tigers and leopards. He called his home Tiger Haven......

A born outsider, cantankerous, crusty and often controversial, he liked to call himself an "honorary tiger". Armed only with a walking stick, he tracked tigers through forest and jungle to follow their progress, trusting - correctly - that they would not attack him unless he threatened them. "With their strong sense of smell, a tiger will run away from a human because our excreta smell so foul," he once said.

To watch Singh with a tiger was like seeing someone meet an old lover again, according to American author Geoffrey C. Ward who wrote about Singh in his book Tigers and Tigerwallahs . A body-builder all his life and with a powerful physique into his old age, Singh showed short shrift to poachers, fought for a ban on tiger hunting for sport and thereby put dozens of shikar - sport hunting - companies out of business. To Singh, the tiger was the apex of the food chain, and a healthy big cat population meant a healthy jungle. "We must save the tiger," he liked to say. "It's to the tiger that we owe the air we breathe, the water we drink. If it goes, we go......"

How he became a naturalist,

"(After military service), he rode his elephant to eastern Uttar Pradesh and bought land in the Lakhimpur Kheri district with the original intention of farming and hunting. After his 1960 experience with the dying young leopard, he decided to concentrate on conservation, having his first success by introducing and preserving a herd of barasingha, or swamp deer, that had been considered an endangered species. Describing his new home, he wrote: "The stentorian bugling of the swamp deer, the urgency in the rutting bray of the cheetah, the lilting crow of the jungle cock and the clarion call of the peacock all combine to make up the pulsating rhythm of the great forest."

He in effect appointed himself as a wildlife warden in what had previously been a magnet for hunters and poachers and, after he single-handedly fought off and lobbied against the hunters, persuaded Mrs Gandhi to declare the entire area a national park in 1977.

By then, Singh had brought Tara, described as a Royal Bengal Tigress, from Twycross zoo in Warwickshire, trained her gradually to get used to the wild and to hunt, and then set her free. When his tracking revealed she had produced a litter, he was over the moon. Critics said that Tara was not a pure Bengal tigress but had some genes of white-faced Siberian tigers and threatened the purity of the area's native cats. She was also blamed for a wave of deadly attacks on humans. Singh denied both claims. Tara is thought to have survived to a ripe old age with several more litters.

In 2004 Singh was awarded the J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Billy Arjan Singh, who never married, died at Tiger Haven, Jasbirnagar, on New Year's day at the age of 92.

Even though Singh was from a wealthy family, we feel everyone can practice respect of nature in their lives by doing small things. Plant plenty of trees in your yard. Trees will filter CO2 for humans and will naturally bring many species to your yard. You can always donate to a worldwide nature relief fund. Of course buying unimproved land and letting it sit for natural habitat, although maybe not feasible during a recession, is surely the most you can do.

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