After a long drive from Delhi we reached #Dudhwa on 14th Nov by lunch to do safaris. The Park was to open on 15th November. The thrill of being amongst the first vehicles when the park opens after a gap of 5 months is unique. The mind is pre-occupied thinking on what would have transpired in the past months when the park was closed. As we had time on 14th hence we went for a small drive. Into the countryside through the surrounding village fields to explore the area where Tigers and Tribals (tharus) have co-existed together.
Farmers were ploughing the area. We got off the vehicle and walked towards a small water stream. With fields on one side and sugarcane crop on the other, Suresh suddenly noticed fresh pug marks of an adult male Tiger. The pug marks were moving in front of us, rather, we were following them. After a while the pugmarks entered the bush just adjoining the sugarcane crop. It is not wise to follow the Tiger pugmarks on foot into the sugarcane field. We were left with a satisfied feeling that the Tigers are roaming in the fields of villages around #Dudhwa #National #Park.
It was then that we saw one farmer approaching us with his teenage son. We got talking to them, and wanting to know how they felt with Tigers as their neighbors. What i heard from him was totally shocking to an extent. He said, they were happy to have Tigers share their home. Taken aback i asked him for the reason, and if they were not scared for themselves or their cattle. His answer shook me completely, he said, “Sahab, jab Tiger yehan hota hain to baaki jaanwar hamari fasal se door rehte hain, aur hamari kheti acchi hoti hai” (Sir, when the Tiger is in the area, his presence does not let the other animals from the forest enter our fields, and we get a good crop). Showing his mustard crop he said, had Tiger not been here, this crop would have been damaged by the herbivores.
He went ahead to say, that Tiger is a gentleman. When he (Tiger) hears them walk and talk in the field, he leaves the farms and goes away. There had been occasions when they encountered the Tiger on foot, but he (Tiger), always left the trail for humans. I was delighted to hear about the peaceful co-existence of Tigers and Tribals. Yes, this is the only way for Tiger to be saved, we have to accept them, while they have gladly adapted themselves. We cannot send Tigers, and other wildlife to any other planet. Both have to live together.
The sun was going down, and the farmer said, let us go now as it is time for the Tiger to come out. I felt on cloud nine hearing this. Not sure if all tribals in and around other national parks would share similar sentiments but i am confident that most of them respect wildlife much more than what we anticipate. Be it the #Baigas of Madhya Pradesh, or #Tharus of #Terai, they are more tolerant towards Tigers than the urban dwellers.