Filmmaker: Fewer Than 1,000 Wild Tigers Left in India

By Frederick Noronha

NEW DELHI, India, May 3, 2007 (ENS) - In his new film on India's tiger crisis, conservation filmmaker Krishnendu Bose argues that there may be less than 1,000 wild tigers remaining in India.

Called "Tiger: The Death Chronicles," the 63 minute film in English had its premier today at the India International Centre Auditorium in New Delhi.

"Basically it's a film to share the truth with the people of the country," Bose told ENS in an interview. "I've realized [while shooting that there are] a lot of things even I didn't know as a filmmaker, as a person involved with conservation."

Have camera, will travel. Krishnendu Bose specializes in conservation films. (Photo courtesy EarthCare)
In 1995, Bose established the Delhi-based film studio EarthCare Productions and serves as its director. He also is managing trustee in the EarthCare Outreach Trust.

"Transparency is completely gone," said Bose. "We have trusted the state, we trusted NGOs and groups of individuals. But after trusting them for 30 years, they have completely let us down."

"This film is not only a blame-game. It's about ourselves, and whether people like us have cared for the tiger," he said.

"There are two questions," said Bose. "Is there any political will? Is there will from the people to save the tiger? For the last 30 years, largely nobody has shown that will."

"There's been a sensational government figure emerging from a presentation made in Kathmandu, though not yet officially released, that says there are less than 300 tigers left in the large central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh," said Bose.

"The official figures of tigers in Madhya Pradesh is 700. MP is known as 'The Tiger State.' Experts consider MP as one of main hopeful areas for the tiger. If you calculate this, then all the tigers across India could touch a figure as low as a thousand. It's a very critical state. Our tiger figures have never gone down to this level ever," Bose said.


A tiger in Kanha National Park, a tiger reserve in the state of Madhya Pradesh. (Photo courtesy
He said even in 1972, the earlier flashpoint when awareness of the tiger touched its high under the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, things were not so bad.

"The tiger, the symbol of India, and one of the most charismatic animals to walk the face of the Earth, faces its most severe crisis today," he said.

The tiger's prey, habitat and the animal itself "are being decimated" Bose found while traveling through "tiger hotspots" like Sariska, Panna and Buxa. He says the film attempts to "unravel the nuts and bolts of the crisis."

Bose says his film looks at states like Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Goa and "how they may be trading their tigers and their forests, for more economic revenue."


Tiger in Corbett National Park (Photo courtesy Corbett National Park)
The film maps the case of a mining project in the heart of a tiger habitat in Orissa. It also highlights the positive work being done in reserves like Corbett National Park and up in the BR Hills Wildlife Sanctuary of Karnataka state in southern India.

Voices from the film include tiger conservationist Valmik Thapar, who says, "The crisis comes from absolutely low-grade governance by the state governments and the Central government."

"The tiger has lost out because tiger conservation has become the domain of a group of people who don't connect with a larger number of people," Sunita Narain, chairperson of the Tiger Task Force, says on camera.

"When a species is down to four to five percent of its original range, in many areas it will go," says tiger scientist Dr. Ulhas Karanth.

"For the first time ever," Bose told ENS, "a film joins diverse voices, from tiger scientists and conservationists to ordinary citizens, to attempt a brutal and an honest assessment of the present and the future of the Indian tiger and its habitat."

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