Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Human vs. Wild Tiger Conflicts

Big Cats Survival ?

All cats are similar in that they are solitary (few exceptions), long-distance male dispersing instinct to ensure flow of genes and avoidance of inbreeding, territorial dimorphism in two sexes (males have relatively larger territory and often overlaps with couple of females). New males go out to seek territory of their own where there are plenty of prey to feed on, minimum reason to come into conflicts with any other predators, specifically their most feared threat, Humans. Since they are solitary and hunt all by themselves for themselves, except during when females are rearing cubs/kittens until they can fend for themselves. Due to this main reason, any conflicts with other predators can potentially inflict deep wounds that would make them unable to hunt efficiently and can even lead to hunger-driven weakness and finally death if really unlucky. So, most cats have an invisible boundaries of their own mediated by their scent spraying nature and the function played by olfactory system in respecting these boundaries of each individuals. Cats try to avoid any territorial dispute as far as possible just by communicating with these invisibly coded messages on different structures of nature in their domain. Only will the fight occur when challenger wants to take over the local ruler to claim his own territory there or if a wanderer is too hesitant enough to ignore the rules. These sort of finalizing battles can even result in death of a weaker one, either the local (if he is weak) or sometimes the challenger (if he is too overconfident and has misanalysed).

In the same way, big cats also would not want to come in conflict with any humans as they cannot afford any injury or threats to their life. Rare cases when the big-cat is too old and/or injured to be able to kill their natural prey, will go for easier prey like us humans. But the concern in today’s context is that we are invading into their territory, encroaching their domain, and competing against them for exotic wild meats and the trade thereof. People are most often doing this because they have no alternative solutions to this lifestyle. Life in villages are tough, not as simple as we people from urban city think of. They are deprived of many basic needs and resources, so basically their dependence in the forest is very obvious. But when people break the law of nature either due to their compulsion or greed desire, things will gradually move towards the most feared worst-case-scenario one day. And victims will be we ourselves as well as the big cats. These cats need to survive as well, and in order to do so, they also need to hunt and eat whenever and whatever they can. Usually, the cats tend to prefer among a range of wild native prey species, but are also opportunistic and will try attempting on any curious lost invaders or wanderers (humans). Increasing human population and thus anthropogenic pressures such as cattle grazing disturbs the natural ground and brings imbalance in the ecosystem. Due to the vegetation exploitation, the natural prey animals of the big cats start getting rarer which in turn will drive the cats into human-domains to fulfil their hunger. Cattles are quite easier to stalk than their wild preys as these domesticated ones lack most of their natural instinct to be relatively vigilant for any sign of danger. While on the other hand, poor people of the villages cannot afford to lose his animal to any big cat in the vicinity. Their daily basic needs are fulfilled by their domestic cattle, and these animals are like the income source of each family. Losing one animal could mean a huge loss of the basic salary required to feed their family for a whole year or even more. In either way or so, cases of conflict arises bringing threats to the life and existence of both we humans and the big cats.

Conflicts are mostly common in the places where the boundary of these two yet differently bound apex predators, humans and big cats, meet. As young cats wanders off from their mother’s territory to seek a territory of his/her own, they often have to come across human society because the forest is all pack and there’s no place for new younger cats and fighting with older and more stronger cats is no way possible. Also, due to prey base depletion, the cats are forced to prowl in human dominated grounds for hunting. Yet another situation, when an old or weaker cats get kicked out of their territory by younger and stronger ones, they are often inflicted with injuries that weakens their hunting ability to even more extent. This in turn will drive such old cats into the human domains where they can hunt easier preys and spent their last days of life. Either way, humans venturing into the forest of the big cats or the cats prowling into the locality of people, will bring conflict between each other. And what’s interesting and more troublesome issue is that both these situations are not surprisingly human-driven ones.

Baagh aayo, Chituwa aayo, maanche maaryo! The legend of Man-eating tigers and leopards start here. This is another most harsh condition of human driven conflicts and are very much fatal situation of big cats terrorism that gets inflicted as a nightmare into the minds of every people and children. Naturally, as always have, people fear big cats. Obviously, an animal equipped with four sets of 3-inch canines and razor-sharp claws and to add to this fear, the heavily bulky muscular strong body structure would bring a daredevil into anyone’s imagination who happen to have come face-to-face with the beast. We humans with our bare hand will be just no match for this incredibly armored killing machine. The one and only option left for this problem will be ordered from the decision making authorities now, and that’s to hunt down the man-eater. A very sad ending to the life of a most precious animal that has ever walked on earth will come for basically none of their mistake. Big cats will finally lose this battle of life, definitely we cannot call this a survival of the fittest or the competition for the existence. We humans have totally or at least at some proportions taken the nature in our hand and overruled the nature’s way. To all animal lovers, conservationists, big cats crazes, this is a very sad part of this very cruel human world. Big cats getting driven to extinction in front of our own eyes despite all the efforts to protect and conserve and not harm them. The legacy of once strong and top-of-the-food-chain apex predator has become just the lines of a history book. May god embrace this wonderful being of great courage and an influential being to many people and different walks of life with all the treasures of life they once owned. Let them flourish even into a non-worldly heaven-like place where there are no human-like creatures to torture them to the extent of completely wiping them out.

Actually, the situation outlined in the last parts of previous paragraph has not yet come but has highest chances of occurring if we do not realize it now. Are we really going to tell our children that there used to be this majestic tigers and leopards in the forests and mountains? Definitely not, big cats are definitely not going to go extinct any time sooner or later. I am not going to let this happen, no one is. We are going to have to protect them against all odds. People like me as well as people not like me are going to protect them, and there will come the new generations of young fresh minds who would get themselves involved in the conservation either directly or indirectly. And hence the need of awareness comes into play in this stage. More awareness means influencing more people to get involved in protecting the big cats and thus the long term sustainability of our ecosystem. Seeing people to understand the importance of these keystone species and live in harmony with them to ensure their long-term existence and our healthy life style in a healthy environment is a dream of every people fighting for the conservation of nature and its charismatic creations. Jai Bagh !

Big cats – small cats, every cats are an important indicator of the health of an ecosystem that they rule upon. They are strictly carnivorous and hunts down weakest animals, thus wipes out weaker genes from the gene pool, ensuring the evolution to continue. A domestic cat’s hunting skill is as good as of any tiger’s. The borne predators with the heart of a hunter will and always do what its made for. The fate of our ecosystem is totally dependent on these creatures. We need them as equally as they need us. Our efforts in saving them would certainly help them sustain their existence for long term future. Conservation of tigers, leopards, clouded leopards, snow leopards and all other small as well as big cats is today’s high priority for ensuring the conservation of not just the cats but also bears, wolves, dogs, ungulates, reptiles, amphibians, insects and all other classes of living beings. As a whole we will be conserving our ecosystem, our nature.

Tigers are our treasure of Terai Arc Landscape. Snow leopards are the legends of the Himalayas. Leopards and Clouded leopards be made the ambassadors of the Shivalik hills and the Mahabharat ranges. Nepal has very rich biodiversity and suitable habitats, lets conserve the species to conserve the nature or do either way round.


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