It’s all about the Tiger!

Tiger in Kanha in India picture for the blog in Bellingham Safaris in Luxury

Humans have always had an obsession with Tigers; this is reflected in our art, poetry, film and story books – The Tyger by William Blake, Netflix’s Tiger King, Shere Khan from The Jungle Book, Tigger in Winnie the Pooh, Hobbes in the comic Calvin and Hobbes, and the list goes on…… But nowhere on earth is this fascination more evident than when on safari in incredible India. Having recently had the privilege of a month travelling through India and visiting several wilderness areas, I wanted to share my thoughts on why the Tiger is justifiably such a focal part of a visit to many of India’s National Parks and how this iconic animal is “burning bright” at the forefront of positive change.

During the pandemic more Indian nationals visited their National Parks than ever before which not only helped to protect conservation areas from the lack of international tourism but also helped foster an increased interest and pride in their bountiful wildlife. There are many reasons why the Tiger takes the center stage of visits to their National Parks but undoubtedly many Indians visiting their National Parks are doing so for the first time and are drawn by the kudos of having seen this charismatic cat (the national animal and a symbol of bravery, beauty and power). Furthermore, vehicles that enter the national parks from more basic lodges, often lack skilled naturalists so the focus is on targeting the charismatic Tiger – an “easy” way to thrill guests. While this tigercentric approach may appear to be a version of “eco-terrorism” the Tigers seem to tolerate living in the spotlight very well, with more cats living in sections of the National Parks where tourism is permitted than in areas where it is not (National Parks only allow tourism in 20% of the Parks).

The allure of the Tiger has not gone unnoticed and the Indian government has for decades used this wildlife superstar to spur positive change for conservation. In 1971 a prominent Indian conservationist, Kailash Sankhala, conducted a survey on the Tiger population in India and when he noticed the declining numbers wrote to the Indian Prime Minister at the time, Indira Gandhi, to formulate a strategy to conserve Tigers. The strategy adopted was to set up “Tiger Parks” to protect viable populations of Bengal Tigers in their natural habitat, saving them from extinction. The project’s task force visualised these Tiger reserves as breeding nuclei, from which surplus cats would migrate to adjacent forests. Funds and commitment were mustered to support an intensive program of habitat protection and rehabilitation under the project. Since Project Tiger’s inception in 1973 the number of Tiger Reserves have grown from 9 to 54 and the Tiger population has taken a dramatic turn for the better. At the same time these Tiger reserves have preserved areas of biological importance that today represent the mega-diversity of ecosystems across the Tiger’s range.

The question most people ask who are planning a visit to India is, will I see a Tiger. Thanks largely to Project Tiger and the nonchalance of this species, the answer to this question is YES, with proper planning and some dedication it is definitely possible to see a Tiger and many more charasmatic wildlife species including Sloth Bear, Indian Wild Dog (Dhole), Guar, Asian Elephant, Great Indian Rhinoceros and more….. Visiting India’s National Parks today is an inspirational experience with concerted efforts having been made to remove alien plant species, restock native animal species and preserve the natural environment.

This year India became the world’s most populous country which makes it remarkable that it is possible to drive for hours through vast tracts of natural habitat in their National Parks – on our most recent visit to India we did one drive that took a full day traversing the breadth of Satpura Tiger Reserve, witnessing first hand the concerted effort made by government to protect conservation areas. Furthermore, at huge expense, corridors have been created between many National Parks to allow wildlife to move freely from one area to the next which is essential to preserve genetic diversity. Arguably, the most impressive part of these corridors that we were witness to were the long stretches of elevated highways which have been raised to allow wildlife to move safely below.

India currently has 25 percent forest cover and aims to bring this number to 33 percent by 2030 (26 million hectares). There is no doubting the role that one of the world’s favorite animals will play in helping to achieve this impressive goal!

Warm regards from Simon and the Bellingham Safaris team

We recorded our wild Tiger sighting earlier this month, click below to enjoy.

Indian Tiger video cover for the Blog in Bellingham Safaris in Luxury

For some travel inspiration, check our Instagram and Facebook pages and see our posts from January and February 2023 from our visit to India. You can also find more information on our website’s India page.

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