The Indian Connection:
"A sparkling diamond
A fragile life
Through the trees
A shaft of light
Your coat so white
As fallen snow
Your eyes so blue
Like rivers when they flow"
From the song - Shine a Light
I have just spent 8 fascinating days
with some of India’s leading conservationists.
Nikhil Nagle is a businessman who has
a passion for wild life photography. Nikhil has
established The Last Wilderness Foundation which works in and around where
tigers still exist. The Foundation works with
communities & in the area of tiger & human conflict.
Vidya Venkatesh works for the
Foundation & is at the cutting edge of the tiger human
conflict. She is constantly engaging with people that
live alongside the tigers, lecturing, negotiating &
educating the people to find ways of reducing conflict
between people and tigers.
Dr Harbhajan Pabla has been warden of
the some of the most famous Tiger Reserves in India,
including Kanha & Panna. Dr Pabla has been one of most
progressive creative conservationists in India for the
last 40 years.
Greatly inspired by the film "Living
with Tigers", Dr Pabla has reintroduced Tigers into
Panna Reserve, after they became locally extinct. Dr Pabla has engaged the help of South African
conservationists, Les Carlise, Geoff Cook & Dr Dave
Cooper to help him move tigers & gaur into parks where
they previously existed.
In short Dr Pabla has pioneered the
birth of the wildlife animal capture industry in India.
After seeing Tibo in the wild at
Tiger Canyons, Dr Pabla is determined that the white
tiger will return to Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve where the last white
tiger, Mohan, was removed from the wilds in the early
1950’s (There are nearly 100 white tigers in zoos in
Doctor Pabla who is a world
expert on tigers, is not too concerned with
inbreeding of big cats. His theory is that a certain
amount of inbreeding occurs in the wild & over years
of evolution, the strongest genes survived and the
weak genes perished.
All tigers have a narrow genetic
base proving they once experienced a evolutionary
bottleneck (that is a small population of tigers
survived an evolutionary crisis).
Dr Pabla believes that the white
tigers presently in captivity in India, are healthy
& strong enough to return to the wilds, should the
Indian government give the green light. I would tend to agree with him.
I am thrilled that Dr Pabla could see
both Londolozi & Tiger Canyons working under a private
I would like to congratulate "andBeyond" (previously known as Conservation Corporation)
on their brave investment into India some years ago.
"andBeyond" have not only introduced
to India the concept of private enterprise working in
government parks, but they have brought a new standard
of lodges to India.
After a talk by Vidya Venkatesh, I
was fascinated to learn that around the city of Mumbai,
some 40 leopards thrive & survive. Scientists have
studied this population of Leopards as they survive by
feeding off stray dogs & cats which live in the city of
I couldn’t help thinking that in a
hundred years from now, when the world's human population
is 15 billion, (that’s if it ever reaches that high)
towns like Nelspruit, White River, Hoedspruit, Phalaborwa &
Nelspruit may have populations of Leopards living off
their cities, just like occurs in Mumbai today.
Unfortunately for tigers, needing
larger prey & more dangerous to humans, it is not as
easy for the tiger to adapt to living off a big city.
One of the biggest advantages that
India has, is that the Indian people like and admire the
tiger. Indeed, some of them worship the tiger. This
gives conservationists a huge advantage in solving tiger
/ human conflicts.
However, when the Tiger has killed
one of your family or eaten your entire flock of goats,
it becomes a competitor to be exterminated by whatever
The huge challenge for Indian
conservationists is, how do you conserve the tiger &
still meet the needs of the people. India’s population
is already 1.2 billion. By 2020 they may exceed China as
the most populated country on the planet. The challenge
is enormous & it will need creative thinking of
conservationists around the world to solve the problem.
I believe the answer lies in the
Londolozi Model. If India pursues the concept of private
enterprise working in government parks & in investing
in rural people who benefit from the eco-tourism which
the tigers brings, they could save & even expand the
tiger home range.
If India pursues a policy of the
government will do everything & will own everything,
they will doom the tiger to extinction.
Indeed, I would like to see the
Indian government privatize some, but not all of their
parks & even privatize a few of their tiger
Some years ago, the Indian government
supported an idea to ban tourism from the parks in
India. Fortunately this has been reversed. India needs
to open up restricted areas to tourism so you get a Londolozi scenario of 3 vehicles at a sighting (At times
surrounding a tiger in an Indian park, can be 70 vehicles
all jostling for position)
India needs to grow the cake and bring
in the unknown parks to help take the load.
They need to
invest in colleges where guides are trained. This will lift the
standard of guiding and make it a lucrative career.
Above all, they need to invest in the
"Elmon Mhlongo Scenario" where they make the tiger more valuable alive
to the rural people then dead. (Elmon Mhlongo used to
kill Leopards for their skins, then he got a job at
Londolozi as a tracker. Now it’s more lucrative to keep
the Leopard alive because Elmon can make more money
from a Leopard that’s alive than dead.)
The Last Wilderness Foundation
Tread lightly on the Earth
Various people will join the Safari to
relive the experiences including Julie Brown, Julieanne
Reid, Elmon Mhlongo, Lekakany Sukuli, Karino Sukuli,
Beatrice Ndutu, Gulam Patel, Yusuf Patel, Karin Slater, John
Knowles, Lloyd Gumede, Warren & Heather Samuels, Andries
If anyone is interested in going on this
safari, then please contact Sunette:
Oria produced a litter of cubs
The Tigress Oria has produced at least
three cubs in a dense thicket in a dry river bed in the
southern part of Tiger Canyons.
The setting of the den is extremely
attractive and will provide beautiful photographic
All cubs are normal colour. The father is
Tread Lightly on the Earth