Billy Arjan Singh
Month Year: December 2003
Lifetime Achievement Award
A true legend, he is considered by some to be the 'godfather’ of the movement to save the Indian tiger. Born in Gorakhpur on August 15, 1917, Billy was always ahead of his time, recognising long ago that the tiger would never be safe, unless its forests were protected. This is why he chose to live in Dudhwa, in a corner of the world he christened ‘Tiger Haven’, from where worked to protect tigers for over four decades.
He used to be a hunter, something he deeply regrets today because, in his own words, he was “part of the slaughter that maligned the evolutionary processes that created such magnificent creatures”. He stopped shooting in 1960, and actively campaigned to end sport hunting. He was directly responsible for closing down 26 shikar companies four decades ago. Convinced that zoos ended up jailing wild tigers, he vowed to return a tigress, Tara, to the wild in his precious Dudhwa. The effort was mired in controversy and left Billy bitter and isolated from conservationists for years.
He lived at Tiger Haven near Dudhwa, from where he kept a close watch over the wilderness he helped save. Body-builder, reformed hunter, foster-father to an infamous tiger, and thorn in the side of the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, his wish was to simply be remembered as Arjan Singh, a man who loved tigers and fought to protect them from humans.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXIII No. 6, December 2003.