Tuesday, December 21, 2010
An acclaimed wildlife photographer goes to India in search of its national treasure
I’ve been photographing the tigers of India since the 1980s, and every time that I’m lucky enough to spot one in the wild, the thrill is there. The beauty of India’s national animal never fails to elicit excitement and wipes out all the fatigue I may feel from the long trip. I’m ready and willing to get up every morning at five to go into the jungle for five or six hours, driving around in a Jeep® with a trusted guide, but with no guarantee that we’ll see a tiger. Then we return to the lodge for a late breakfast and a little rest. After dusting off the cameras, it’s back out to the jungle for the late-afternoon run. There’s always the hope that at dusk we’ll spot a tiger or two at a watering hole.
It’s ironic that China has a Year of the Tiger. Although the shrinking habitat of the tiger is a big problem, many say the biggest threat to the tiger in India is China’s hunger for tiger parts and the poaching that’s done to get them. Tiger bones are in high demand for use in traditional medicine and as an aphrodisiac, and one tiger skin can sell for up to $20,000. In Ranthambore, which in the early 1990s had nearly 50 tigers, the number is now down to about 30, but that number is hard to confirm.
On this particular visit to Ranthambore, I’m with my guide and a new friend who’s passionate about tigers and wants to help me get some good sightings. I’m here for a total of 15 days straight, hoping that going out into the jungle every morning and evening will increase my chances of seeing a tiger and, hopefully, cubs. There’s a lot of excitement buzzing around the lodge where I’m staying about some cubs having recently been born.
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