Always makes my day to see a wild tiger. Perhaps because I don’t see them very often. Twice to be precise. Or once, to be strictly honest.
Bruce has pretty much caught the tiger look supreme with his latest photos. You can’t get much more tiger than this and that is the Hugh Paxton Blog verdict.
My best photo of a tiger was also from India in Nagahole. Exciting, but it was being hassled by a furious gaur (a gigantic wild Asian ox) and jabbered at by monkeys and barked at by deer in full alarm mode. It was an irked tiger and was stalking off in ill temper. My photo captured stripes, colour, a gaunt but powerful frame but mostly it captured the tiger’s flank and a bunch of vines that were in the way. National Geographic cover material it was not!
The second sighting wasn’t wild at all. It was fraudulent and childishly obvious. This was in a nearby government run national park. It stank from minute one. Huge bus loads of Indian tourists weighed down with silly, heavy ostentatious but obsolete cameras, jabbering children and half dead grannies clutching lunch boxes. We waited in a disorganized parking lot covered in discarded fruit skins and coconuts, paid lots of money at an impatient kiosk, were loaded into a rough tough safari vehicle and immediately upon entering the park encountered an elephant.
This struck me as rather suspicious. Wild elephants don’t normally hang around a park gate unless somebody’s feeding them. Obviously somebody was. There was sugar cane in evidence.
As the adventure progressed I checked the track for spoor. There wasn’t any. Our intrepid guide ordered the driver to turn back and try another route. Now there were spoor. Tiger spoor! Paw prints.
I’ve never seen a tiger with four left feet and this one seemed to have been hopping about erratically on all of its four left feet. There were human foot prints, too.
In the last twenty minutes somebody had clearly been punching pug marks into the mud and had brought along a watering can to make the soil more receptive. It hadn’t rained! And only this brief stretch was wet.
Presumably the pug an had a plaster of Paris mold on a stick.
Our wilderness adventure progressed.
Hours later my beloved wife woke me. A sighting? Well. Yes, sort of. Our guide, perched at the back of our all terrain vehicle was fast asleep. She had been sighting this for an hour and had finally had enough of this utter indifference.
“He’s snoring,” my wife said. She’s always right. She was right and he was snoring. Indiana Jones, our fearless guide and protector, tiger tracker, cobra wrestler, if the tyre has a puncture I’ll fix it no cause for concern madam, was snoring.
“Why have we stopped?” I yawned.
“The driver’s seen a tiger.”
“Has he fixed his costume? Zipped up his mask? If he’s still stumbling around looking for his tail and whiskers I’m going to go back to sleep. ”
“It’s real. But there’s something wrong with it. Why don’t you wake the guide up?”
“Tiger!” he shouted.
The great American showman Barnum said there’s one born every minute. He was referring to suckers, idiots who would empty their wallets. In fecund and increasingly overpopulated India there’s one born every nano-second. Everybody on the bus became excited, even the grannies rose from the semi-dead. Tiger!
There was a man-made clearing in the dry forest, a large one. Right in the middle, out of range of most cameras and cheap binoculars was a tiger. Lying down. At the far end of this unnatural expanse of openness was a line of jostling tour buses and they were being moved along by people pretending to be kind.
How do I know this?
Because exactly the same happened to us at the other end of the clearing. We were informed that this sighting was extremely rare and that the parks authorities didn’t want us to disturb it so we must move. We could get closer but it would be risky but the driver would try it if we didn’t mind the danger.
More driving. We ended up at the other end of the clearing, exactly where the other buses had been.
By strange coincidence on the far side of the clearing (where we had been) were all the buses that had been here, where we were now. No doubt they, too, had heard what we had heard and been told.
The tiger was still lying there. Dusk incoming. Photos impossible. But my wife has sharp eyes.
“It’s just tried to stand. It’s fallen over!”
It certainly was. That tiger had been knocked out, hauled into a position calculated to give Barnum’s viewers a glimpse but no real view, strategically located and then left in the hot sun without water (you can’t have a wild tiger with a water bowl) to enthrall the public.
The whole foul charade is a testament to gullibility, avarice, indifference to what constitutes a national park, and what really impresses me, is that a government entity can embark upon such a ludicrously inept fraud.
There is no point in me posting any of my tiger photos. The pug marks were sent to an expert who thought we were joking.
Let me leave you to Bruce and his tigers. Wild, un-drugged, alive.
Cheers from Bangkok!
From: Bruce [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2014 1:01 AM
Subject: [Wildlife Photography in Thailand and Southeast Asia] WPB2D – Weekly Digest Email
Bruce Kekule has posted a new article,
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L. Bruce Kekule