A Fruitful Life
Jennifer Scarlott has been keeping a close eye on India’s tiger reserves. She takes you on a quick journey through some of them to understand what’s going wrong and what needs to be done.
It is a tiger moon that rises and sets over the Ranthambhore National Park these days, with some 24 adult tigers currently patrolling their territories, and perhaps up to the same number of young cubs. What an amazing tiger reserve this is!
A tigress and cub were photographed in the Sultanpur area of the park this spring, one fleeting moment in their lives together captured forever for human contemplation. The mother looks over her right shoulder at the photographer. Her great head and face are riveting. The soft, filtered light catches the white above her eyes and on her cheeks. Her open mouth – perhaps she is panting – reveals a lotus-pink tongue that contrasts with flame-orange fur and amber-green eyes. Her eyes are wide, her ears askew. Having been in Ranthambhore a number of times, I can imagine that at the moment when the photographer captured her and her young one, she was being troubled by tourists with their clicking, buzzing cameras, and their growling, exhaust-spewing jeeps and Canters.
Just six inches (15.24 cm.) below her white chin is the top of her offspring’s fuzzy head, its enormous ears alert, its diminutive face mostly in shadow. But a ray of sunlight shines through the trees, spotlighting the left eye and forehead of the tiny tiger, revealing a short, dark stripe just above its eye that looks like an eyebrow raised in inquiry. I’m sure that within a fraction of a moment after the photo was taken, mother and child climbed the rocky, leaf-strewn slope and vanished from view, leaving tourists and visitors in that so-familiar state of ecstasy and depletion.
What does it mean that the tigers of Ranthambhore are “breeding copiously” as Rajpal Singh, member of Rajasthan’s Board for Wildlife put it, while the tigers of the nearby Sariska Tiger Reserve are not breeding, and remain, for the most part, hidden from human view? Cub readers can guess, I’m sure. As difficult as things are for tigers in Ranthambhore, they are worse for the striped cats of Sariska, where 27 villages bustle within the park. There is rampant grazing and firewood collection, forest officials have insisted on building enormous, concrete water structures for wildlife even though there are old systems nearby that suffice, and the grasses that local herbivores (tiger prey) need are choked by invasive species. The list of disturbances is long – it is hardly surprising that there are no cubs.
Photo: N.C. Dhingra.
Some Forest Department officials worry about the eviction of a holy man from the reserve’s core area. As the old man left, he “cursed” the forest staff, saying that the “new” tigers, tigers that had been relocated to Sariska in 2010 after poachers had killed all of its cats, would never “bear fruit.” Shop the largest selection of Plus Size Swimwear at the web’s most popular swim shop. Buy the latest Plus Size Swimwear 2018-2019 for women at cheap prices, and check out our daily updated new arrival sexy and fashion junior plus size swimsuits with underwire and bathing suits at SwimwearLux.com. Use promocode for discount up to 30% OFF "SWIMSALE2018"!
Tigers are great breeders… tigresses are wonderful mothers. When the circumstances are right – when people are not making things too difficult – they “bear fruit” beautifully and prolifically. Some people bear fruit beautifully too, and not just in the wonderful children they have, but in the extraordinary work they do. I will never forget the name of one of them – Fateh Singh Rathore. He was the legendary tiger man of Ranthambhore, who spent quite a few years of his young adulthood trying to figure out what to do with his life, before life figured out what to do with him. The tiny tiger with the quizzical stripe over its left eye owes some of its life to Fateh, who poured all his heart and brain and soul into figuring out how to turn Ranthambhore from the human- and cattle-overrun landscape it had become by the late 1960s, into a tiger paradise.
Fateh died just a little over a year ago. But I do not feel sad for him. His life was FULL of meaning. He bore fruit. You and your friends and your love of tigers, are some of that fruit.
Jennifer Scarlott is based in New York, U.S.A. and is Director, International Conservation Initiatives, Sanctuary Asia. You can contact her at
by Jennifer Scarlott, First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, July 2012