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Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Chp 859. Tiger in Mizoram!


Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Rumour has it that when William Blake wrote those immortal lines, he was a young Lance Corporal garrisoned at Calcutta HQ of the East India Company. He was sent to the Lushai hills as a part of the British Expedition to rescue Mary Winchester, and on his way to Chief Bengkhuaia's village, he saw a magnificent tiger, thus inspiring him to write the iconic poem.

Ok just kidding, William Blake died much before the first British arrived in India, but his poem lives forever in our school syllabus. I've been thinking a lot about this poem because there is now officially a tiger in Mizoram again!


This is absolutely great news for Mizoram, especially for those people in the Wildlife and Conservation sector, because it became a grave concern over the years as tigers were no longer spotted at "Dampa Tiger Reserve", the largest protected area in Mizoram.

The prayers of many, including Wild Life Guard and naturalist Zakhuma, were answered as one of the cameras he had planted across the forest, sanctioned by WII (Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun), detected a tiger on 16th May!

When Zakhuma sent the camera files to Lalani at WII on 30th May, it was like any other routine inspection. She casually opened the files and exported them to her computer, expecting to see the usual mix of Barking Deer and Spectacled Monkey.

Imagine her surprise when she noticed an animal that looked like a tiger! She immediately forwarded the image to her colleagues at WII. Dr. S Sathyakumar (Scientist-G, Department of Endangered Species Management) confirmed that the image was indeed that of a tiger! A small celebration took place at WII that day.

When Zakhuma, who was still unaware of the groundbreaking image his camera trap had captured, heard the good news, he was ecstatic as well! Here is the image of the much celebrated tiger caught on that camera.


I know, the resolution isn't very clear, but as I have mentioned in my earlier blog posts about "Dampa Tiger Reserve" (links at the bottom), people face a lot of problems when it comes to installing camera traps because many of the locals, poachers and insurgents remove or destroy any cameras they come across.

Hence, the guards and researchers sometimes use low budget cameras due to diminished funds. Imagine if the image above is as clear as the one below, where I bravely posed for a photo with a ferocious hungry tiger!


Lolz, the above photo was taken by Natalia at Lengpui airport when we went to see off Lalani as she was returning to WII. I love how the tiger statue above is still kept inside a cage, you know, for extra protection just in case! :D

Since this news about the tiger is now making headlines across our Mizo community, a lot of people are asking why there were no tigers at "Dampa Tiger Reserve" in the first place.

As a layman, I scoffed when I first heard the news that there were no tigers there. I thought immediately, "Are you serious? No tigers in a tiger reserve? Then why the hell do we call it a tiger reserve, this is sooo embarrassing for Mizoram!"

I'm sure you had similar thoughts as well. :)

But then I got to learn more about wildlife preservations, national parks and biodiversities across India, all thanks to my wonderful girlfriend Lalani, and I realized that "Dampa Tiger Reserve" wasn't actually the only tiger reserve with no tiger! Many bigger tiger reserves across India, like the Sariska Tiger Reserve (Rajasthan), Panna Tiger Reserve (MP), Buxa Tiger Reserve (WB) and Palamu Tiger Reserve (Jharkhand) had all seen the disappearance of their respective tigers.

You see, tigers, in spite of their sheer strength, power, ferociousness and majestic looks, are actually a very vulnerable and endangered species!

The main reason for this is because we kill them. The first instinct most people get on suddenly encountering a tiger is to either run away or kill it. You'll pick up whatever "weapon" you can find around you, be it a stone or a nuclear bomb, and chuck it towards the tiger. Kill or be killed, our consciousness screams out.

Doesn't matter if the tiger was just passing through with no signs of aggression, maybe it was just taking a casual evening stroll, or maybe it was trying to meet its fitbit daily target of 2000 steps, we don't know and we don't care, we're not going to gamble with our life! Kill it, kill ittttt.

And so, to consecrate our survival, we started wiping out the apex predators slowly. No wonder tigers are disappearing fast. Three of the eight sub-species of tigers (Balinese, Caspian and Javan) were already extinct by the late 70's.

And then we have the trophy hunters, whose sole aim is to kill a tiger, not as a defence mechanism, but to masturbate their fragile ego as they show off the carcass of a tiger they had killed.

Back during our glory days of head-hunters and pasalṭha when killing a tiger was considered as an act of bravery, homeboy at least used to fight a tiger with his bare hands, or using an unreliable musket or ulhbun (single-use breech loading rifle), whereas today's hunter is equipped with the latest automatic rifle that can mow down an entire ambush of tigers without even breaking a sweat (yes, a collective noun of tigers is called an "ambush").

Truly, there's a special place in Hell reserved for such mindless cold-hearted killers.

Tigers can also go extinct without directly killing them. This usually happens when we hunt their food. As it gets harder and harder for them to find new prey, they migrate to unfamiliar and dangerous territories, where chance of them being killed is many times higher (see first point).

That's why when I went to "Dampa Tiger Reserve", Lalani and her team of researchers were studying the ungulate (animals having hoofs) health and population because they are ecosystem engineers that play an important role in the ecosystem, like being one of the primary sources of food for tigers.

If we keep eating up the food of tigers, then the tiger has no other option but to eat us as food.


Do know that tigers very rarely kill humans for food, though.

A tiger will become a man-eater only if it is extremely hungry, and that too only if (1) it is too old to hunt, (2) too weak or sick to hunt, (3) can't find any other prey to eat. Other than these 3 points, tigers will avoid killing humans for food. I guess they too know how toxic and undesirable we are. Tigers be like, "Whoah, that dude is a Manchester United fan, no way am I going to pollute my body with that disgusting flesh!" :D :D :P

Another reason why it is so difficult to protect tigers at "Dampa Tiger Reserve" is because of insurgencies. There are at least 27 different insurgent camps active inside and near the reserve area, according to a report by Hindustan Times, and WLG (Wild Life Guards) and other forest officials are regularly harassed or kidnapped by such groups.

Last but not the least, human population explosion and encroachment are also crucial reasons that can lead to the diminishing population of tigers. Deforestation under the guise of development causes further habitat fragmentation, pushing the remaining five sub-species of tigers closer and closer to the brink of extinction.

So these are some of the many reasons why tigers have disappeared from "Dampa Tiger Reserve". However, now that the presence of a tiger is confirmed, I hope our Forest officials will take utmost care and measures to guarantee its (or their) safety.

This new revelation is not only good news for the ecology, but it will affect the economy as well. Many of these Wild Life Guards are under flimsy contract and earn meagre salary. They have given their sweat and blood to protect the biodiversity of Dampa which usually goes unrecognised. Perhaps this will open a new chapter for them and give them the resources and finances that they so badly need.

If you've enjoyed reading till here, do read my earlier blog post series about "Dampa Tiger Reserve". The links are given below:


Hope you'll visit the place soon and moreover, hope you'll get to see this famous new tiger! :)

Until my next post then, take care everyone.


Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
          - William Blake



Ps. Sorry for the delayed post. I've written this post the moment I heard about the tiger but I was actually waiting for the Department of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Mizoram, to issue an official Press Release about this new tiger re-discovery and include that report in this post, as that is a basic etiquette to do.

However, till today (10.06.2021), there has been no such Press Release from our government, even though there are already many news report with quotes from the Field Director and other Forest Dept officials confirming this re-discovery, like Pu Vana's Special Report, my pal Adam's "The Frontier Despatch" issue, as well as renowned Environmental Conservation Organization "The Green Hub" among many others. I find this quite weird. So I too decided to publish this post without the official Press Release since others have already reported it, hope this won't create any problems.

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BZ said...

Thank you for this early information about the new Tiger re-discovery 🙌🏻

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