And so, as we slink silently from Year of the Tiger and bound into the Year of the Rabbit, we pause to reflect on whether the last twelve months have been truly auspicious for the great cat, have we turned a corner, can we look to 2022 and the next Year of the Tiger with hope?
The Global Tiger Recovery Program, adopted in St Petersburg last year by the governments of countries where tigers live, sets out the broad brush stroke actions they are committed to, in order to double the wild tiger population by 2022. Last year, we reported on how many of these promises have been made before, and already we are starting to see cracks in this road to recovery.
The beleaguered Minister of Environment & Forests for India, Jairam Ramesh, constantly has to defend forests from industrial encroachment. Having boldly declared no-go, hands-off forest areas to stop the coal miners from ripping them up, today he was forced by louder voices in the cabinet to concede a significant amount. Where was the Prime Minister during these cabinet decisions? What of his government’s commitment in the St Petersburg Declaration to tiger and biodiversity-compatible management of forest corridors and landscapes?
Meanwhile in Burma, the authorities are hunting down the activist who blew the whistle on the colonisation of forest by a private corporation in the Hukawng Valley, which was only recently declared the world’s largest tiger reserve. Villagers have been turfed out to make way for sugar cane plantations. How does this fulfil the commitment in the St Petersburg Declaration to engage local communities, let alone ensure the security of tiger habitat?
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so at EIA we’re baking a cake. The ingredients are all the positive and negative decisions governments make following the St Petersburg meeting, all the incidents of forest rescue or forest destruction, poaching and trade, convictions, intelligence sharing or lack thereof. If you want to help us, feel free to email us with verified reports of the good and the bad, and lets see what we can turn out.
My own tiger guru, Valmik Thapar, recently gave a talk at Asia House in London about the tiger in Indian art. Really, he was talking about the Cult of the Tiger; of the value and role of the tiger in hearts and minds, expressed through rituals, dance, paintings and sculptures dating back centuries.
Perhaps the Year of the Tiger, symbolic of bravery and competitiveness helped the tiger jostle for position on the political agenda. Maybe the Year of the Rabbit, symbolic of creativity, compassion and sensitivity will help us touch the values of those who live with tigers and reignite a cult that can save the cat from extinction?
A combination of the two might be good, and thanks go to my colleague Debby Ng, for sharing reference to such a symbolic creature, the Sumatran Striped Rabbit.