What’s in name? That which we call a rose by another name would smell sweet.. William Shakespeare
It is statement followed by forest department (FD) pretty in letter and spirit these days. Maharashtra’s most popular Tiger reserve – Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve recently released notice to everyone in eco system clearly stating “not to christen tigers with any names whatsoever”. So much so that “if tiger names are used by guides,driver, local home-stay and resort personnel and/or images and posts with names of tiger not removed from social media within a month it will attract legal action.” This decision is supported by the department and people associated with them. While I have highest regards for field force of department, sometimes things need to be looked at critically.
So what is logic of “not naming tigers”? According to FD giving name to tiger leads to attaching human emotions to a wild animal. Since animals have no emotions, it leads to unnecessary attention on an individual tiger. Instead tourist should enjoy whatever tiger they get to see without any differential considerations.
Why are nature lovers (everyone in eco system) is upset over it? Well they have their own reasons. First naming a tiger not only identifies a tiger but also helps guides create excitement in mind of guests. Thus guest start associating themselves with story of tiger thus creating an attachment. This attachment in turn fuels love for nature and makes tiger popular. As a result it is not just tiger that is made popular but also the park. Secondly when any popular tiger goes missing or not seen for long, everyone talks about it and new spreads like wildfire. Trust me, I’m regular to Tadoba and other parks and I know tigers by names but not by T numbers. After all it is easier to remember name than T-Number. So by not naming FD can control spread of news.
What triggered this decision by FD?
When season opened in October 2019, 24 month old female cub of T12 succumbed to injuries in front of tourists. This was exactly a month ago. Everyone blamed department for negligence since she was hurting for many days and department took no action to treat her wounds.(Whatever the cause of wounds.) According to them, it is a process of natural selection and we must not interfere with laws of nature. Point taken and appreciated. But what about protecting national animal? National heritage? How come it is done in other parks? With limited numbers of tiger left, this doesn’t seem to be justified.
Massive support was received by young tigress posthumously. Support came not only from critics of department but also tourists who come once a while and in few days it became sensational news for media. This put department in limelight for not so good reason. The support was heading T1 way. I mean Avni way.. Remember? The so-called man-eating tigress from Yavatmal. Were they are afraid T1 (Avni) uprising may happen again?
Whether the decision of FD is right decision or wrong, will always remain a debatable topic. Fact remains that it was because of tigers like T54,T12, T7, T30, P3 – Tadoba became famous. It was when T30 and her sister’s were showcased along banks of Telia lake on Animal Planet that Tadoba became popular. It was stories of tigers (with names) told by drivers,guides,naturalists,photographers that Tadoba became so popular. It is the effort of forest guards and forest workers who put their life on line to protect tigers that has made the park popular. It is resort and home-stay around who provide facility to stay for tourists that park became popular.
No one knew Tadoba for tiger 10 years ago. Few decades ago I have walked along Tadoba lake with no fear of tigers. Not more than half decade ago, safari charges were meagre INR 2500 and now permit fee’s has gone obnoxiously high upto INR 8000. In last few years many popular wild lifer have stopped coming to Tadoba because of sky rocketing price of jungle safaris. Every other day we hear stories of tiger getting killed/poached/electrocuted. In my honest opinion FD has better things to do than putting ban on naming of tigers.
We only know names of the tigers in tourism zone which is only 20% of total area of park. What is happening to tigers in the remaining 80% of park only FD knows. Maybe it is time somebody within the system has a re-look at the way awareness can be created to conserve forests and protect tigers. Easiest way to spread awareness is by creating a bond. A bond between spirits of wild and common man. One of easiest way to do this is by telling stories. Stories need emotions and Names!
As I write blog, I saw heartbreaking news on TV of a Tiger who died trying to protect himself while crossing road. Again near Tadoba! Tiger jumped off bridge to protect himself from vehicles coming from both sides. Poor soul! FD could not rescue it and the tiger died during rescue operation. Whom to blame? Who was he/she? No one knows, no names! Spirits of wild has only one message, Name the tiger, to Save the Tiger, to Save Forest thus to Save Humanity!
P.S – I am no tiger expert nor conservationist. I am just story teller who uses story ( freedom of speech), to create awareness among urban people about tigers and wild.