Fateh Singh Rathore
Raghu Rai-Courtesy Tiger Watch.
Month Year: December 2008
LIFETIME SERVICE AWARD
An iconic figure, he is widely credited with having fathered one of the world’s best known tiger reserves – Ranthambhore. This involved the painstaking restoration of a forest that had been overrun by humans. As the first Field Director of Ranthambhore, in 1973, he started the slow process of turning rice paddies and marginal farmlands into water and fodder banks for chital, sambar and wild pigs.
He also took on poaching gangs virtually single-handedly. As many as 20 villages were shifted out of the park. Wood cutting and cattle grazing were stopped… and nature responded. Slowly, water sources that were dry for most of the year began to run full again. Tigers returned. And the rest, as they say, is history. But nothing came easy. He was ambushed and left for dead by angry villagers who wanted the tiger reserve closed. But he survived. And so did his precious Ranthambhore. In his own words: “I was only an instrument, nature was the conductor of the symphony.” Fateh Singh Rathore lives just outside Ranthambhore’s boundary, on a farm that caters more to deer, monkeys, leopards and tigers than humans. Through ‘Tiger Watch’, an organisation he founded, he offers medical and educational assistance to villagers and looks after the families of apprehended poachers. He believes that the revitalisation of degraded corridors between Ranthambhore and the Sawai Mansingh and Keladevi sanctuaries is critical to the long-term survival of Ranthambhore. In his words: “To my last breath I will fight to secure this park for future generations of tigers and young Indians.” At a time when the tiger is facing its worst ever crisis, this Earth Hero fought to protect our national animal to his last breath.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXVIII No. 6, December 2008.