Are They Receiving The Royal Treatment?

Photo: Collected

Right from kindergarten, our teachers illuminated how the royal Bengal tigers glorified this tiny spot among the mammoth stains on the globe as if royalty oozed from our skin. And we caressed our eyes over the pictures of the cats considered remarkable for its notable features that our curriculum books boasted, shrouding our edges with the air of pride. Back then, neither mine nor my peers’ foreheads painted the dent of this internationally exalted figure’s risks of wiping its footprint. Our world didn’t revolve around such negativity. It wasn’t supposed to. We believed in happy tales.

In 2009, I had the privilege to step on the salty soil of “The Sundarbans”. “Privilege” won’t do justice to the word itself since I didn’t get to see our so called royal heritage. I had to remain contented to have witnessed the flora and fauna that the holy land took pride in, but a child’s coveted motive was to spot the big cats with fire and ebony strips dancing on its skin. It was all too sensible to see only the footprints of the population since a devastating Cyclone Sidr hit the swamp in 2007 and Cyclone Aila struck a few months back, claiming a plethora of lives.

Same is the scenario in most of the present travelers’ diaries except the alarming accounts of unprecedented natural outrage. While it might offend the travelers who actually witnessed the big cats, it’s true in most of the travelers’ cases that they had to remain satisfied with whatever they saw, doing injustice to the longed purpose of observing the wild cynosure that our land flaunts on its chest. The world’s largest mangrove swamp undoubtedly is expected by the mass to be infested with The Royal Bengal Tigers since the name “Sundarbans” itself induces such sense. But the backlash of industrialization had some other plans for this once wildlife sanctuary.

One 2004 Joint India and Bangladesh Tiger Census estimated that there were 419 or more tigers in the Bangladesh side of the Sundarbans. And now the numbers are alarmingly declining. “Bangladesh finds only 100 tigers in the Sundarbans” a BBC article from July of 2015 reads, which evidences the extent of this dismaying fact. The figures depict a steep decline from the 440 mammals recorded 12 years ago. Despite the numbers being appalling, it’s no shocker that the declination is mainly the heavy price for rampant poaching. The poachers keep poaching the untamable cats for their enthralling skin and flourishing their financial structure while the numbers lessen, making it easier to hunt down more of the species from a kingdom that was once a safe haven. The gradual dwindle in their population signals a positive scope on the poachers’ way since there remains few paws to induce fear within a mob of poachers. Now they are the few left royal entities who are dragged off their thrones in their own territory and forced to erase their footprints off the salty mud for a highly worshiped exhibition of skin and skeletons in the near future.

Khulna venerates the tigers’ population as “Mamu”, and we, as a whole, flaunt its heritage on our skin. It evidences our reverence to their distinct species. Though we may keep parading its existence until they are only alive in the safari parks and venerated in the museums, in all seriousness, a royal family doesn’t deserve to hide under the bushes in their own territory.

Our government needs to put more emphasis on hard and fast measures against unbridled poaching than before and impose exemplary punishments on those who inspire such occurrences. Since the plummeting number of tigers in the wild make it more convenient for the hunters to hunt the species, a careful breeding system should be clinched so that the newborn cats could grow safely and dominate the wild, balancing the lessened population. While in the breeding stage, security should be provided by the wildlife authority so that cub abduction remains out of concern. Most importantly, the population of the exalted tigers needs to be taken care of as enthusiastically as the textbooks enlighten the kindergarten goers about our national pride in the distinctive wildcats.

Let’s be fair to the word “royal”, shall we?