Almost 50 years after George Beals Schaller’s first visit to the Kanha tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh, the 78-year-old mammologist fondly remembers the time he spent sitting a few metres away from a tigress and her four cubs.
“Since I wore the same clothes for a few days, the tigress may have identified me and thought I am a friend. So I wasn’t killed,” said Schaller whose India stint resulted in the first scientific study on the wild tigers in Kanha.
On Friday, Schaller received the lifetime service award at the 12th Sanctuary Wildlife Awards for his vast contribution to conserving wildlife from the mysterious mountain gorillas of Central Africa to the declining Pandas in China and the highly endangered bharal or blue sheep.
Based on his experiences in Kanha, the German-born American scientist also wrote the book, ‘The Deer and the Tiger’, which is considered the ‘gold standard’ for field biology across the world.
“In the 60s, there were only 100 tourists in Kanha. Today that has jumped to a lakh with a dozen tourists huddled in a jeep surrounding a tiger. This needs to be better regulated,” said Schaller.
With 1,420 tigers left in India, Schaller said there needs to be a political will to save the tiger. “If we save the tiger, we save other species of plants and animals that will eventually help human habitat,” said Schaller.