Flip side of focus on Machhli: Is naming tigers a threat to conservation?

  • Nihi Sharma, Hindustan Times, Dehradun
  • Updated: Aug 19, 2016 23:04 IST
A tiger named ‘Khali’ at the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand. (Naseer Ahmad/HT Photo)

Everyone knows Machhli, the Queen of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan the 1997 born tigress that died on Thursday morning. But, only a few knows the flip side of its existence in the reserve.

Machhli was a ‘non-functional’ tigress that stopped having litters since more than 9 years. Due to its popular name and also the longest surviving tigers, the reserve management was forced to earmark its territory and artificially provide food, a serious breach of conservation in wild, say experts.

VB Mathur, director Wildlife Institute of India told Hindustan Times, “Artificial feeding and earmarking its territory is a serious slap to conservation. Certainly, there was pressure on reserve management to protect the individual because it was named and most sighted tiger in the tourism zone.”

Naming tigers thus is a serious concern for scientists and officers. According to them, giving names to individual tigers diminishes existence and conservation for the entire fraternity. Needless to say, it’s a ‘tourism uprooted system’.

Yogesh Kumar Sahu, director Ranthambore said, “Naming or giving numbers are one and the same thing. We do feel pressure when people start recognising a tiger by a name and then start following it close informing about its movement.”

In the case of Machhli, what bothered scientists is an injustice to other adult tigers that could have had better and wider habitat.

“Tigers should do their ecological role in a system. Machli though moved towards fringes because of its old age, yet its territory was earmarked by the management breaching and disallowing other adult tigers to claim territory. Where are we taking conservation through such efforts? Just because it was named Machhli and bore cubs that were re-introduced in Sariska does not make it important over other tigers in the reserve that are less sighted and camera shy” Bilal Habib, scientist WII said.

Read | Machhli and her magic: The tigress who renewed Ranthambhore’s success story

There are several popular tigers in tourism zone of various reserves of the country that are extremely popular. For example, nature guides in Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary in Nagpur address two male young tigers by the name of Srinivasa (Srinivasa Reddy-IFS) and Bittu (Bittu Sahgal of Sanctuary Asia).

“Nature guides and locals play a prominent role in naming tigers in tourist zones of reserves. Srinavasa and Bittu in Umred is a classic example,” Digambar Chaple, wildlife photographer based at Nagpur informed.

Shivanjari and Choti Tara in Tadoba Tiger Reserve, Collarwali in Pench Tiger Reserve, Khali in Corbett Tiger Reserve are some of the popular tigers that are a huge attraction in the field as well as social media.

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