A learning encounter with a tiger, a fallen giant, turning 60 and some mango kindness

I’ll come to the encounter with the tiger two days ago further down the page because what I write before that is relevant to that learning. It wasn’t lost on me yesterday that my granddaughter’s 1st birthday on 15 August (yesterday) was Independence Day in India. In a post I made at Facebook yesterday (embedded at the bottom of this post) the photo was for my granddaughter, I want to meet her before she turns two. The words were about Nepal, in the hope that this incredibly important nation from an environmental aspect retains its true independence and strengthens. Anyone who truly cares about the region will be aware of the geopolitics at play, it’s very much about water. The two most populous countries in the world not only share Nepal’s borders, they are conscious and deeply involved in the future of Nepal’s watersheds. There’s a lot at stake, all three countries know it as well as those countries with political alliances with China, India and Nepal. Events of recent times are shifting and shaping alliances, this is a critical time.

Almost like a metaphor for this an excess of water in many parts of our jungle area has meant unstable ground, giant trees have fallen. Huge sal trees plus other vegetation find their roots struggling to cling on in their watery beds. You can get a feel for the size of a fallen giant as a security camera I test captures me next to it. The massive tree now takes on another vital ecological role as part of biomass. The nutrients provided to the soil and the new found home for ants and other insects (which provide food for birds and many ground dwelling species, part of the ecosystem at work) mean this tree is still a fundamental part of nature and it needs to be left there. This is the difference between a protected area and those which are either unprotected or harvested under management, strict or loose.

Unfortunately there are those who disobey the rules and illegal logging and wood collection is as serious a problem as wildlife poaching. Normally tigers use this area as a pass through, part of a path to other hunting grounds but a reduction in disturbance has meant a recovery of prey base and it now seems a strong young male striped cat is looking to become resident. I’ve monitored his presence for about three weeks and two days ago I saw him. I was treading carefully after detecting early sign, then there was a warning growl followed by a brief eyeballing with about 40 metres between us. I had been on my way to check a piece of non-invasive equipment but I quickly changed my plan and from this point I’m modifying all movement needed for security of the area. Camera data had already shown this tiger using the same path as some local women who had permits to forage. The problem is a resource one for locals but this needs to be examined and it is. Sometimes the rules are not followed, permits are not sought, the entry is illegal and the parts of the jungle removed equals illegal activity.

A report was made, the authorities have acted quickly and now it is down to people doing the right thing. Sometimes compromise is necessary but this tiger is simply going about his business as the big cat population stabilizes and new territory with adequate prey is needed. It’s a sensitive zone, not a place for tourism, there needs to be places where wildlife can go about their lives with as little disturbance as possible. That is how robust ecosystems are rebuilt. I’m not sure how many people truly understand this or realize how much work goes into it. This is what we are trying to teach the children here so that they become the guardians of this philosophy and work.

As I approach my sixtieth birthday I look forward to the day when I can start passing on these stories and messages to my granddaughter. Like that tiger I am also examining my territory and how that unfolds. I am not one to gallivant around the world although I have been fortunate to have seen many places. My own environmental footprint is important to me, keeping it as low as possible and understanding a place intimately so as to be effective. That’s just my way. There is such an opportunity for change as more and more people understand that the pre covid world was suffering far too much damage by humans. Sadly there are those who simply refuse to understand or listen to this message, the next ten years will be pivotal. A country like Nepal can have a major role in stabilizing the desires of huge powers and like that tiger finding territory plus a man turning 60 there must be open minds for change but at the same time never forgetting that without healthy nature our struggles will increase.

Protected areas are fundamental to this. Let them be, undisturbed and natural but at the same time do whatever it takes to keep these jewels safe.

Finally a bit of mango kindness. Although our area is in a designated emergency phase due to covid, with communication and planning I managed to be the one to pick up some assignments finished by the wildlife kids. In a little mud and bamboo kitchen at a Tharu house I was offered some mango. It was such a simple pleasure and much appreciated at a time when things are difficult. I thank all those who help in any way, you make a difference…