Since the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report was published, the global media has been reporting that humans have killed 60 percent of the world’s wildlife since 1970.
While it has since been learned that this was a misinterpretation of the figures, it should not surprise us.
Between deforestation, big game hunting, the black market trade in animal skins, the killing of animals for their bones and meat, and man-animal conflict, we are likely to have caused the disappearance of much more than 60 percent.
Take the murder of tigress Avni, mother of two little cubs – aged between two and ten months – who in all likelihood will perish in the wild in her absence. She was killed, with no attempt to tranquillise her or otherwise capture her alive.
Permission for the five-year-old tiger to be shot on sight was given based on the allegation that she had “turned maneater”, and killed thirteen people since June 2016.
There is no indication she was responsible for the deaths, other than rumour. Activists said the victims had gone into forest territory it was illegal to enter, that DNA tests were conducted on only three of the bodies and that tiger DNA was found on only one. So, it is not even factually established that they all died from tiger attacks, much less from Avni.
While the fight to save Avni was being fought both in the courts and on the streets, hundreds of people, camera traps, packs of hunter dogs, a motorised paraglider, and thermal drones were deployed. Elephants and horses were used as bait. The urine of another tigress and perfume was used to lure the tigress, who had eluded capture for over a year, and she was killed by Asgar Ali Khan, son of the controversial sharpshooter Shafath Ali Khan. Not a single stipulation laid out by the Supreme Court was followed, including the presence of a vet on the spot.
But why should we bother about a tigress, huh?
Darwinism is all about survival of the fittest, and the fittest did survive, thanks to guns and technology.
The villagers did not simply survive, they rejoiced. By some reports, so did powerful corporate who were looking to buy a chunk of the forest.
Within days of Avni’s killing, a ten-year-old tigress was beaten to death and run over by a tractor stolen from forest officials in Uttar Pradesh. The tiger was in the protected Dudhwa tiger reserve when a mob of villagers, who live deep in the buffer zone of the reserve, marched into the core area, beat up forest guards, snatched their tractor, located the tigress, ran her over with the vehicle, and beat her to death with heavy sticks.
In their defence, they said the tigress had mauled a 50-year-old man – who had crossed into the forest, which was illegal – to death. They also claimed the tigress had killed their livestock.
Forest officials said the tiger had never attacked a person in her decade-long life.
Why, one wonders, are we trying to save the tiger and increase their population just to lynch them?
Where do we expect them to go when we encroach into their habitat, and take away their means of survival?
The very same week, the Forest Avisory Committee of Maharashtra cleared 87.98 hectares of forest land to the explosives company Solar Industries India Limited (SIIL). This land is believed to be populated by at least six tigers, and an unknown number of tiger cubs, leopards, spotted deer, barking deer, nilgai, civets, wild boar, sambar deer and wild dogs.
And yet, over two hundred acres of this land, worth over Rs. 100 crore, will be gifted to SIIL for Rs. 7.09 crore, according to media reports.
Why save animals when we can blow up their land instead, huh?
Earlier this year, 467 hectares of forest land in the tiger corridor was diverted to Reliance in Yavatmal district of the state.
Perhaps this is the way forward.
Perhaps, instead of wasting money on trying to save the national animal, we might as well do away with all our wildlife, and donate our forests to industrialists.
Industry is, after all, key to development, and that is where our future lies.
So, why are we trying to save an animal that has no qualms about eating livestock owned by humans, and which is territorial enough to attack humans that wander into its domain?
Why don’t we, instead, just build a massive statue of a tiger?
The monument would bring in more money through tourism than wildlife does, wouldn’t it?
And even if the cost of the statue were to run into thousands of crores, doesn’t the national animal deserve a grand monument in its honour after being driven into extinction?
Statues, after all, can’t prey on humans and human livelihood.
More Columns by Nandini Krishnan:
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No Confidence Motion: Why is the BJP nervous?
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Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage.