Protecting the environment with intelligence

More than skin and bones – Charlotte reflects on the spiritual value of nature

Tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park, India. © studio tygrrr, 2011

Tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park, India. © studio tygrrr, 2011

I’m now back at EIA from India. I’ll have to agree with a colleague on my lack of any kind of suntan, as I spent most of my time positioned firmly out of the sunshine, indoors, attending a suite of tiger conferences which included the release of India’s latest tiger census figures.

Recently, Debbie filled you in on these events by way of her blog Reading Between the Tiger Numbers. And yes, quite possibly the award for “most memorable moment” of the conference, along with the release of the census figures, goes to the Chinese delegation’s apparent reliance on NGOs to prove the existence of the illegal tiger trade in China – rather than proactively undertaking the investigations that could uncover and combat the underground trade (and help raise tiger numbers even higher).

Tigress T17, Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

Tigress T17, Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

But I also remember another comment. At a time where so much of the natural world is either being parcelled out or branded with an economic value; where it seems to me we’re dangerously close to living in a world where everything is being eyed up as a potential commodity – or at the very least, where commercial value trumps all other ways of defining and understanding our relationships with the world – one observation from a participant gave me hope.  That participant spoke about the importance of engaging with and promoting the spiritual value of nature, as a means to conserving it.

Ranthambore National Park, India at sunset. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

Ranthambore National Park, India at sunset. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

For me, simultaneously experiencing and being part of the natural world is a spiritual experience, and I believe that’s also the case for millions, if not billions, of other people. Many different faiths have teachings relating to nature, and idea of people experiencing nature “together” has a marvellously unifying force.

So whilst in India, I did manage to greet the open air in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan. My internal marvellings at the rugged silvery landscape, the unique light (perfect for painters, I reckon) and the wildlife we saw were simultaneously reflected out loud by my travelling companions in our jeep.

We’d set out very early in the morning. As our jeep wound along the dust road, we turned a corner and suddenly ground to a halt. Just ahead, an imposing male tiger was marking a tree. We had suddenly found ourselves in his territory. My heart leapt, my legs ran to jelly, and every last bit of breath left my body. Frozen, we watched as the tiger turned and started walking towards us. And he kept on coming. Slowly, we backed up.

It all seems to be in slow motion now. After many incredibly, what must have been long seconds, he changed course and climbed into the bank of bushes next to him. Craning my neck, I caught one last glimpse – he’d turned and paused so I could see him side-on. One gliding movement was all it took for his stripes to literally melt into the foliage and dissolve away.

Then of course we all turned to each other and couldn’t say very much. So that was a “shared moment”.

(And I eventually remembered to breathe again.)

Tigress T17 casts a shadow in Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

Tigress T17 casts a shadow in Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

I read one definition of “the Sublime”, as a concept, being something that inspires both fear and awe. We’ll always remember the experiences that lift our spirits – in fact, reveal our spirits. Pointing that out is nothing new. The originality lies in the truly endless opportunities the natural world offers to have such experiences, whether it’s seeing a wild tiger in India or experiencing the first bursts of spring here in the UK.

EIA’s vision is a future where humanity respects, protects and celebrates the natural world for the benefit of all.

Charlotte Davies, Intelligence Analyst

Charlotte Davies

Intelligence Analyst

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4 Responses

  1. Hi Charlotte
    Firstly a big thank you for letting your readers enjoy an insight into your wonderful recent visit to Ranthambhore and also to your emotional feelings when early one morning you were privileged to see a magnificent male tiger walking towards your jeep. Your experience of this sighting took me back some 11 years ago when I saw my first male tiger (B.2) at Bandhavgarh national park. Even though I have since returned regularly each year to India for the sole purpose of photographing tigers in their natural habitat I will never forget that first sighting which frankly took my breath away!
    As tigers are very much my passion I can fully appreciate your sentiments over the ‘spiritual value of nature’. However I have to say that in a material world where sadly commercial value plays such a prominent part in our way of life I feel that realistically for the wild tiger to survive into the next century it is imperative for local people living in around the various tiger reserves to receive some benefit for living in such close proximity to these beautiful but dangerous animals. Many times I have had similar conversations with others on the subject and I usually cite my experience on visiting the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda where the local people surrounding the Virunga National Park receive a financial benefit from money generated by tourists visiting the park. I see no problem in this kind of arrangement if helps to protect an endangered species to survive. As a matter of interest I return next month to Ranthambhore and hope that I will also enjoy some of the wonderful sightings seen by yourself. Best wishes Mike

  2. Claire says:

    The sight of any big cat even in a zoo leaves me in complete awe and brings tears in my eyes so to have the chance to actually see a tiger in the wild I imagine would truly be an unforgettable spiritual experience of a lifetime. I very much hope to have the chance to visit such a reserve in India.

    Thank you for this beautifully written very moving blog entry

  3. Dieter Gutmann says:

    Dear Charolotte,
    …we was just coming back from India; having almost 10 days at Tadoba-, Satpura-, Kali-Devi-, Ranthambhore- and
    Corbett-Nationalparks to see the Tiger-Habitats. We do that
    since 1974 – and of course it is always a fantastic moment to
    see such an environment – on top the Tiger – and of course -
    than I think the work of EIA-, CATT-, Smithonian-, US-Fishery-, WWF-, WCS-Organisations are so important to make sure, that oncoming generations will have the same feeling as you – when you was in front of an Male-Tiger !
    We wish you all the best for your further activities into the wild; not only in Asia – even also in Latin-America or in Africa as well. Do you know, that the situation for Lions in Africa is going so badly; the figures turned out from 200.000 in the 80th. up to 25.000 around right now !!!
    We humans have to fight to secure the rest of nature all over !
    Greetings out of Hamburg/Germany to you
    Dieter and Liz Gutmann

  4. Bandhavgarh National Park is spread at vindhya hills in Madhya Pradesh.
    Bandhavgarh National Park consists of a core area of 105 sq km

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