January 27, 2010

Save Me, Please

"January 13, 2010: The officials at Jim Corbett National Park have spotted a tiger dead, the fourth since December last year.
January 27, 2010. Another Tiger Found Dead in Corbett National Park in India."

It is sad news again with the announcement today of the death of the fifth tiger within a month. Reading that, I recalled my trip to Uttarakhand's Corbett National Park in February 2008.

Of late, why are tigers dying mysteriously there? I believe no post mortem reports are made available. I wish the information wing of Project Tiger is more transparent.

I can understand that at times tigers die as a result of territorial battles. My mind wandered to the extent of suspecting if lack of adequate food, or for that matter, not providing the right kind of food could also be a reason. Sometimes the reason given by authorities is poisoning or overcrowding. Poisoned? Overcrowded? And yet so-called “protected”?

Earlier this month, one evening while on my way from Mysore to Ooty, I passed through the National Parks of Bandipur and Madumalai. A narrow road passes right through a dense forest dividing the area into these parks which are Project Tiger Reserves. Two national parks in the same region divided merely by a road through which flows regular vehicular traffic (except from 10 pm to 6 am, I am led to believe). And that road is an inter-state highway of India!

While the sun was getting ready to set and as the sky was turning into a golden hue, I was thinking on the possibility of accidents on such roads, especially after it gets dark, resulting in loss of wildlife. Surely there must be a way to avoid that.

In the vicinity of these ecologically sensitive national parks, many new resorts have come up that can, in one way or the other, damage wildlife over a period of time.

Agriculture has encroached upon tiger habitation. Studies have revealed that the greatest long-term threats to tigers are the loss of habitat and the depletion of its natural prey.

Preserving tigers is a big task indeed. Tiger population is small and dwindling rapidly in spite of them being clearly on top of the food chart.

With Bali, Caspian and Javan already extinct in the last 60 years or so, and the rate at which the other sub-species of Malayan, Caspian, Indo-Chinese, South-Chinese, Siberian, and Royal Bengal are perishing, tigers may be spoken of in the near future as an animal that once existed.
Tigress at Bandavgarh National Park

I had a good sighting of a tigress walking majestically out of a dense forest towards a water body, quench her thirst for a full six minutes (calculated later from the time recorded on the many pictures on my camera), and then walk authoritatively back into the wilderness.

Photograph courtesy Rory, a fellow safari traveller

That was in December 2007 during a wildlife safari in the Bandavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh. In those days I used to frequent National Parks and felt “great” if I sighted a tiger or any rare species of animals.

Since school days, for reasons unknown to me then, I was never a fan of circuses or in favour of visiting a zoo (what I regard are places where animals are kept in captivity for the "viewing pleasure" of human beings).

These days, having been more educated on the plight of wild animals and upon seeing the way wildlife safaris are being conducted at times, to some extent, I’ve also lost my enthusiasm to go to National Parks.

Only about 4,000 tigers are estimated to be living in the whole world! Let us learn to respect and admire these beauties from afar in their natural habitats.

I received an email a little while back from a good friend that shocked me. Hence this post. I don’t know the source of the news and am yet to receive more details. A part of it reads:

“It is assumed by some that the skin peeled off a living tiger has more lustre and shine. Believing this to be true, some poachers have now started to inject drugs into illegally captured tigers and then skinned alive while in an unconscious to sub-conscious state!

This is shocking as well as disgusting. I can’t even get myself to hit my pet dog when I need to discipline him and here are people willing to skin tigers alive!

Look at what has happened to the conscience of the humanity! How can we be so insensitive and cruel? Shame on us.”

I was horrified at what I read. It made me think on a number of aspects. Who has done research on what amount of drugs are needed to keep a tiger in an unconscious state? Just when exactly would it come back to a state of semi-consciousness when it would begin to feel the agony of being skinned alive? While in that state, how much of pain and helplessness would that tortured animal feel! To think of the plight of the suffering animal in such a state continues to makes me shudder.

Clearly human beings are responsible for tiger depletion as tigers have been hunted by them since ancient times. According to WWF, tigers are at times “poisoned, shot, trapped and snared, and the majority of these animals are sought to meet the demands of a continuing illegal wildlife trade”.

Grand plans for conservation are being made. Plans sound great, but they serve little purpose until they fall in place. In spite of the national parks and tiger reserves, poaching continues till today. Setting a paltry sum to be paid as penalty for offence is not going to solve the problem. Only imprisonment and severe penalties to offenders, and effective enforcement by authorities would prevent extinction.

To me, the tiger epitomizes power and splendour, a majestic animal to be respected and admired in its natural habitat.

I certainly do not agree with the belief of some egoistic and insensitive dumbasses that a tiger is a magical symbol with mystical power in its organs. Let those same dumbasses experiment with celery or dark chocolates instead or better still, go fly a kite.

January 24, 2010

Home, Sweet Home

It was a scenic 6-7 km trek one early morning to Landour from the hotel I stayed in Mussoorie. Leisurely climbing most of the way to a height of more than 1,500 it took almost 4 hours to reach Landour around noon. Landour is a small cantonment adjoining Mussoorie.

The journey was rich with varied Himalayan flora along the way. After reaching Char Dukan, it was not steep anymore, and crossing the Lal Tibba, it was a pleasant walk through the mist to the Sisters Bazar.

On the way, I came across this neat little house tucked in the Himalayan mountains.

It is estimated that there are only about 100 detached private homes in Landour and under 200 buildings overall.

This home may look ordinary at first glance. However, keeping in mind that some places in Landour are at a height of up to 8,000 feet above sea level, just think of the height at which this house is built!

I also like its rustic facade and cut-stone roof with its little chimney. What do you think about it?

The mist played with the scenery, like a curtain rising and falling, giving glimpses of the vastness of the vista from that height.

I shall always cherish beautiful memories of Landour.

January 23, 2010

2009: Another Year of Travel

Hello friends. My best wishes for a happy new year.

The year 2009 has been a good one for me. That applies also to my travels. Here’s a summary:

1. Feb 2009: Egypt, the Land of Ancient Wonders
Cairo, Giza, Dashour, Memphis, Alexandria, Aswan, Agilika, Abu-Simbel, Karnata, Luxor, and to the Sinai regions of Sharm-El-Sheikh and St. Catherine.

2. May 2009: Celebrate the Open Road
Mumbai, Andheri, Varsova, Thane, Shahpur, Kasara Ghats, Nasik, Sinnar, Shirdi and return to Mumbai via Ghoti.

3. July 2009: Egypt Revisited
Marsa Alam, Esna, Edfu, Karnak and via the Sinai region, to Luxor again.

4. Aug-Sep 2009: India Travels and India Travels-continued
Mumbai, Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, and then via Delhi to Mussorie and Landour, and continuing travels to Cochin and Mangalore in the monsoons.

5. Oct-Dec 2009: Greetings from New York
My trip to USA lasted from mid-October to early December. Of course, it is not practical to elaborate on it here but am glad it covered quite a few places, thanks to my sabbatical. It included travels from the East coast to the West in the following states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Ohio and California.

My previous travels to USA have been once in the Summer, and then another in Winter (*argh* *shiver* it was so cold then that I almost bribed the alley cats for a snuggle in those days;)).
Anyway, this last trip began during the Autumn season and then, not being a fan of extreme cold (as you probably guessed by now), I was glad to get back just as the freezing winds of winter began to howl. Now, did I hear someone whisper: How about a trip in Spring? Shh...Don't tempt me!

6. Dec 2009: Greetings from Hampi
Towards the end of 2009, I took a flight to Mumbai that was soon followed by another to Bangalore to spend Christmas there, and then began a road journey that covered a good number of places. To name a few: Mysore, Hampi, Hospet, Madikere, Kushalnagar (and Dubare Elephant Camp), Ooty, Coonor, Kotagiri, Coimbatore, Kannur (Cannanore) and, though I am supposedly a resident of Mumbai now, as always, I ended up at my native place, Mangalore.

To all those who inquired during my absence here the past few weeks, and wished me well, I am grateful. Thank you for your good wishes. Yes, I am just done with writing a few more examinations, and am free again. Free to either:
  • take up a new challenge of earning another degree learning something new; or
  • start with a new job; or
  • maybe travel some more!
I am sure all of you had a good 2009 and here’s hoping that the new year has begun well for you. Do let me know. All the best for 2010.