Tip of the tiger-poaching iceberg



Posted on 16 April 2010  | 
Tiger
© WWF / Melissa WheelerEnlarge
In 2007, I spent six months travelling in Nepal and India and fell in love with this part of the world. Reading the newspaper daily, I was alarmed and motivated by the reports of ‘missing tigers’; ‘dwindling number of tigers’; ‘tiger found poisoned’ and frequent incidents of poaching representing only the tip of the tiger-poaching iceberg afflicting India. It shocked and horrified me. As cliché as it will sound, the truth is that I had a calling at this time to return and help the tigers if there was any opportunity to do so. Being a bit of a self-confessed yogi at heart, I also feel that the conflicts we see between humans and wildlife, between humans and their environment, represents an ill far greater than we perhaps realise. While i enjoy the benefits and comforts of living in a developed country, I have also come to realise that the developed and developing countries have a great deal to learn from each another. My travels have shown me that those developing countries which are emerging as leading economies are also the home of some of the richest biodiversity on the planet and need to manage their progress responsibly so that development is not to the detriment of nature. We must work towards a formula where economic progress with improved living standards is not mutually exclusive from wildlife conservation. All my views on wildlife and the environment had hitherto been formed from informal experience, so what i was really looking to do in volunteering with WWF was to take my interest to a level where I might be able to offer some help.

The opportunity afforded by this experience, namely to work within the TRAFFIC team at WWF-India, was my chance to learn all I could about the realities of international wildlife trade and the challenges of tiger conservation in India from within this huge organisation. By volunteering to work with WWF-India, I hoped to gain a real sense of the challenges involved in such work and to gain an understanding of the lives led by those people and communities who play their roles. Being able to observe how this critical work in conservation is carried out from within WWF-India itself is a priceless opportunity.

If I have ever had a situation worthy of the title ‘third time lucky’, then being selected to serve as one of the volunteers with WWF-India was it. The happy conclusion to three years of dogged determination and perseverance – a relentless drive to get involved with WWF – I received an email from the WWF-International co-ordinator just as I had all but given up hope. As a child, WWF had always been synonymous with the most beautiful aspects of the natural world and painted a picture of a world I wanted to see and help conserve. They have done more than any other NGO to influence governments and change public opinion and inspire youth. WWF-India was my ‘dream’ goal at the top of a long list of highly respected and established organisations and when I couldn’t accept my place in India in the first instance I was gutted. I had initially applied for the project in Madagascar the previous year but had not been successful. I then applied for the WWF-India project but the dates clashed with my brother’s wedding so I had had to decline. So, it was truly a case of ‘third time lucky’ when I was told that I had been awarded a place on the project for October 2009. In the true karmic sense, perhaps things do tend to come around when they should as they should – this WWF-India placement was meant to be?
Tiger
© WWF / Melissa Wheeler Enlarge

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