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Wildlife Camera » Tours seek the last of India’s tigers

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Tours seek the last of India’s tigers

12 September 2007


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bengal tiger

For nearly 30 years it has been believed that tigers were extinct in India’s Western Ghats, the range of forested mountains extending down the West Coast of the country. But a recent survey has revealed at least 20 tigers still survive in the Sahyadri range between Mumbai and Goa.

The same national survey is likely to reveal, however, that the total number of tigers in the country has fallen even lower than the 3600 recorded as living in the wild in India only five years ago. There may be as few as 1500 left, thanks to poaching and forest clearance.

Today your best chance of seeing a tiger is said to be in the United States, where about 10,000 live and breed in captivity. The ultimate status symbol for a millionaire is a breeding group of Royal Bengal tigers. They are also fashionable among Russia’s oligarchs, and about 6000 are believed to be held there in private zoos.

Although they thrive in captivity, tigers are difficult to protect in the wild. They are always unpopular with local people, who fear for their lives and their livestock. And poachers pay well for a dead one, whose body parts may be worth £20,000 to believers in Oriental medicine. One snared tiger is worth more than a poor farmer can earn in a lifetime and its bones sell for £350 a kilo in China or South Korea.

There are still wild places in India, however, where a sighting of one of the dwindling band of tigers from elephant-back or jeep is almost guaranteed. Ranthambore, Bandhavgarh and Corbett parks are included in many tiger tours. A typical 12-day visit is “India’s Wildlife, A Photography Tour” offered by Naturetrek in March and November for £1995, including flights from the UK and full-board accommodation in a park lodge.

As Naturetrek’s brochure puts it: “This wonderful national park (Bandhavgarh) richly deserves its reputation as one of the top tiger reserves in the subcontinent and we are confident that photographers will be delighted by the range of subjects during this specially designed tour.”

India’s wildlife is exciting for the photo enthusiast, although the lodges are less ritzy than their East African equivalents. Service is friendly and efficient but the atmosphere is often described as “decaying colonial” rather than “upmarket wilderness”.

If you see your tiger from elephant-back, you won’t mind. And India itself is fascinating, from end to end.

Other operators of wildlife tours in India include Exodus, Explore and Mahout.
From Alliance Press Features Correspondent, New Delhi. (copyright). 
Photo by Rene Drouyer, Fotolia, copyright.


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