“I want to see a tiger” … “Yes, but does the tiger want to see you?”

The image is at an article which you can click on to read:

What’s stressing out tigers in India’s central reserves? Tourists

This is an increasingly touchy subject, touchy because a lot of people, particularly those connected to the wildlife tourism sector in any way, don’t want to know about it.  Of late I’ve had more than one uncomfortable conversation on this with friends but I wont back down, someone has to defend wildlife’s right for space.

But it goes far, far deeper than that.  As human and big cat conflict situations spiral out of control in some places the question of habituation has to be asked.  If a tiger or a leopard becomes less wary of humans and then find themselves lacking food (prey) then the possible outcome is obvious.  The likelihood of behaviour change due to increased stress levels, why needing more understanding, is also a factor.  From the article above, the following:

“A study examining stress hormones in tiger scat collected from two popular central Indian tiger reserves has revealed that these iconic carnivores suffer from high levels of physiological stress due to wildlife tourism and a large number of vehicles entering the parks.”

Best practice becomes an issue here but there are beckoning questions.

Apart from the pressing need for implementing coexistence solutions which I’m involved in, those of you have read my blogs over the years will know I’ve been a total advocate for isolation of captured leopards, in either of scenarios of if they are to be released or not.  Leopards are not easily seen in the wild, less seen than tigers.  Why?  Because they don’t want to be seen.  They are creatures of stealth and secrecy, their very survival depends on those attributes.  I’ve unfortunately witnessed several instances where stressed out leopards have died and having had the experience of living with a leopard during a rewilding project, I can vouch with all my heart the reluctance of Asa to have any contact with other humans as he got older.  Since he separated from me, in as natural dynamic as I could create, I have never made the effort to seek him out, I have completely respected his space.  One of the main reasons for this, and I will go into this more deeply when the time is right, is that I really began to understand properly just how hard it is for these big cats to exist and how so much of that is because of humans.

I’m totally convinced that tigers and leopards don’t want to see us but in the main they tolerate it because they have no choice.  I’ll have a lot more to say on the subject but as in the title to this short post … “Yes, but does the tiger want to see you?”…

I firmly believe each and everyone of us need to examine our attitude and actions with regard to wildlife because wild animal populations are dropping, this has to stop, the consequences otherwise are frightening.