What I really love about wildlife parks are the stories and legends that they are saturated with. The simply sensual and lilting names they have for animals. The goose-bumps a visitor experiences when sighting even a mongoose or a peacock. Every moment inside a wildlife park is like a scintilla that is ready to explode into a conflagration of love for nature, conservation, animals, and plants. Ranthambhore is no exception.
Ranthambhore is just a few hours’ drive from Delhi and you actually drive through a terrain that is full of ancient structures and lots of ghost stories. So by the time you reach this small town, you are already thirsting for legends and stories. Once in the town, the first thing everyone seems to be talking about is T24.
‘What is T24?’ I asked Brinda from the CSR team of Aircel. She told it was the name of a tiger and that I’ll be hearing of T16, T17, T19, Jhumroo, Machali, Sundari, Dollar, Mala and a whole lot of other famous tigers. Brinda is the brain behind Aircel’s CSR team that came up with the idea of ‘Kids For Tigers’ scheme in their #SaveOurTigers campaign that they run to not just deal with animal-human conflict issues in the wildlife zone but to also increase awareness about tigers and the reason why we need to make sure that they don’t dwindle in numbers. After all, a tiger helps conserve the delicate eco-balance that ultimately affects the entire human race.
I was excited and this wasn’t exceptional. The tiger is one animal that ‘one never tires of seeing and observing’ says Anish Andheria, of the Wildlife Conservation Trust (www.wildlifeconservationtrust.org) and then he went on to tell us this rather interesting story of T24.
They say that T24 is a ferocious one and that he is responsible to have struck even a forest guard and a couple of villagers. ‘They must have done something to deserve that,’ I said.
Anish said, ‘Obviously, because tigers don’t just attack humans. Predators help us in keeping the population of other animals in control. They are a natural check for a whole range of eco-parameters and, most importantly, they don’t kill unless they’re hungry.’ He went on to tell us a little about the hunting habits of the tiger and the fact that that tigers believe in ambushing their prey… and that they stealthily stalk and circle around a prey until it is within easy reach. Tigers don’t go roaring and rushing into foolhardy Bollywood type of attacks… they just use the right amount of energy for whatever target they have in mind. Tigers don’t even want to go jumping up and down and don’t opt for the steep path if they can patrol their marked area by walking with minimal energy spend.
‘Wow!’ I said, ‘Tigers seem to be quite well versed with the physics of life.’
‘They know the chemistry and psychology and geography too,’ laughed Anish. The story of T24 is all about the self-preservation instincts of a well-meaning tiger. This tiger has been seen straying out of the park too at times… and there have been villagers and locals who just stand there clicking pictures on their mobile phones. T24 is loved by the locals… and they were the ones who said that this tiger shouldn’t be declared a man-eater. After all, he had only swiped at the humans who had happened to stray too close for comfort… and a tiger swipe can be one mighty one that can make our ligaments go limp and the muscles go flaccid.
I asked the locals to tell me more about T24 and one said that we have truckers who have ‘Ranthambhore ka T24’ painted on the rear of their trucks. ‘T24 is feared and revered sir,’ said one, ‘he has proven that he does what he wants to do, goes where he wants to go, appears when he wants to, and he is our mascot for gentility and power.’ I smiled at this and said, ‘You are lucky to have such a wonderful story coiled around a tiger.’
‘We have other stories too,’ he said, ‘people from all over the world come to sight Machali and they all want to know more about the tiger stories.’ I resolved to hear most of these stories… yes, the story of the ‘lady of the lake’ was fascinating and the story of T19 and her dominating instincts was spell-binding. But these stories will come later.
For now, let me just say that there is no dynasty rule in the jungle… and this is one of the conclusions that will emerge from some of the tiger stories that I heard. These stories will connect with what interests the vast majority of Indians – the connection of politics, power, and families. However, let’s not forget the wonderful work that the Wildlife Trust of India is doing and the committed way Aircel’s #SaveOurTigers is making inroads into our psyches.
#saveourtigers project where Aircel and WCT are actively involved… helped us come closer to conservation in Ranthambhore!
Aircel on Facebook
#saveourtiger on Facebook
Wildlife Conservation Trust
Save Our Tigers Initiative on the web
30 April 2014
This article was published in ‘The Education Post’ dated 28 April 2014…
A few pictures from my Ranthambhore trip… animals and birds will be in a separate photo-essay…