Tall tiger tales

“If you need to answer the call of nature,” said my Indian wildlife guide, “you’ll have to go behind that shed. But keep your eyes open: a villager was taken from there by a tiger, only a month ago.”

Finding a tiger in the wild is easier these days because conservation measures are proving to be successful and hunting them has been brought under control, particularly in India and Nepal.

But it still took me several days of early rising and tedious searching. The wait was worthwhile however: I was astonished by the animal’s size and beauty, and more than a little fearful of its obvious strength.

The guide was ready for a chat. “Tourists come and bring money which we need. And tigers are part of nature and must be protected – it’s unthinkable that such a beast should be hunted almost to extinction, which was previously the case.”

Not all of the locals agree. Living at the edge of the jungle is often to live in fear and I was shown a photo of a badly mauled man who had been ‘lucky’ to escape the clutches of a tiger.

And that’s the problem. Although tigers are good for the economy, they kill humans. As tiger numbers are increasing, so is is the human population, with the two coming more and more into conflict.

Each animal needs a lot of jungle in which to hunt. Older, infirm tigers often with broken or missing teeth, become desperate as they are unable to capture their preferred prey of deer and wild boar. Humans are then often seen as an easy target.

More tigers means more visitors with more chances of viewing tigers; and more sightings means more tourists.

My guide conceded that there was no easy answer. “If you go behind the shed you should take at least two friends with you. Attacks are usually made on people who are alone.”

Usually? I wasn’t convinced. Not in the habit of being chaperoned to the loo and not wanting to suffer death by tiger, I decided I could wait until I returned to the hotel. At least that problem was easily solved.

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