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This Time is Real:印度的虎照和新闻

已有 10013 次阅读 2008-8-19 08:23 |个人分类:感言社会|系统分类:海外观察|关键词:印度的老虎,图象,社会经济| 图象, 社会经济, 印度的老虎

The Great Cat's Last, Best Hope

 

An Indian tiger reserve experiences a sudden, welcome baby boom. The lessons learned may help save the animals from extinction

 

A Bengal tiger at India's Ranthambore tiger reserve.

 

Tiger in Kanha by Nigel Picknell

 

The good news was embedded in the dirt trail that snaked its way through the brush: two prints--one belonging to an adult tiger and, within it, the distinct outline of a cub's paw. Later that March day, as the light began to dim in the dry, scrubby forest of India's Ranthambore tiger reserve, range officer Daulat Singh Shaktawat finally saw the new litter in the flesh. Atop a small hill, a tigress stood watch as her two cubs played. Marveling at the scene, Shaktawat moved closer until the mother snarled, keeping him at bay. "There's a thrill to the first sighting," he says of the encounter. "Always."

 

  These days, the sight of a new tiger cub has become almost routine in the tiger-friendly central core of this roughly 515-sq.-mi. (1,334 sq km) reserve nestled in the parched hills of India's northwestern state of Rajasthan. At least 14 new cubs have been spotted in the past 18 months, and there may be more to come: forest guards report that two more tigresses may be pregnant. The sudden abundance of tiger tots has delighted conservationists. Some are already looking into the future and predicting a problem of plenty. "These babies are great news," says Ravi Singh, head of the World Wildlife Fund in India. "The question is, 'What happens next?' When they grow up, when they're bristling tigers that end up in your yard, will we still love them as we do now?"

 

Too many tigers? That's not a problem India is likely to face any time soon. Ranthambore is a rare success story in the country's attempts to save its national symbol from extinction. In February, a government-backed report found there were about 1,400 tigers left in the wild--a drop of more than 60% in five years, driven by poaching and human encroachment into tiger habitats. Conservationists are studying Ranthambore's success closely, hoping to replicate it elsewhere. The lessons learned here are vital not because they illuminate some secret key to saving the big cat but because they reinforce the idea that tiger preservation comes down to getting the basics right, over and over and over again.

 

Deputy forest conservator Raghuvir Singh Shekhawat, who took over the reins at Ranthambore in November 2005, says the park was "in chaos" when he arrived. Driven by demand for pelts--a single tiger skin in India was then worth about $1,200, a sixth of the price today but still more than the average annual income--poachers had laid siege to the park. Meanwhile, the proximity of villages, whose residents collected firewood and grazed cattle in the reserve, drove away the cats' natural prey and cramped their love life (tigers seem to mate successfully only when they feel secure and unobserved). From 2003 to the fall of 2006, Ranthambore's tiger population fell from 40 to 26.

 

To reverse the trend, local officials persuaded villagers to stay away from the tigers' turf in exchange for fresh water and cooking gas. Patrols were stepped up and better equipped, penalties for breaking the rules were increased, and some 60 camera traps were placed around the park. At the same time, forest officials won over the Mogiya community--a nomadic hunting tribe that had turned to poaching--with jobs, housing and schooling. In return, the Mogiya agreed to help authorities crack open poaching rings.

 

There have been changes higher up the chain of command too. In the past few months, New Delhi has promised an extra $153 million for tiger conservation, outlined a plan to move 200,000 people away from the edges of tiger parks and said it wants to expand tiger reserves. But with the conviction rate for poaching still pitifully low, saving tigers will often come down to better park management.

 

While others study Ranthambore's tiger boom, range officer Shaktawat is enjoying its fruits, keeping tabs on the cubs he first sighted three months ago. "I've been watching them play. It's nice to see they're growing up well," Shaktawat says, sounding like a proud parent. "For us foresters, this is no less than a birth in the family."

 

       Global Dispatch For a new postcard from around the world every day, visit time.com With reporting by With Reporting by Simon Robinson







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