Last & Least
Man Vs Tiger:
Pondering Conflict Resolution
Dr Binoy Barman
ANIMAL kingdom is set up in such a fashion that one creature is dependent on another and the damage to one species causes a ripple effect on the whole other part. As there is inter-dependency on one side, there is also struggle among the animals, inside and outside species, on the other. One individual member of a species vies with all other members while the species as a whole vies with all other species for existence. The fittest members in the species and the fittest species in animal world survive. Others just perish, failing to create generation. 'Survival of the fittest' is the rule of nature -- a Darwinian discovery, though, in the nineteenth century.
Struggle for survival is direct among some species of animal while for others it is indirect. One example of direct struggle is that between man and tiger. The tiger is a carnivorous animal while man is both carnivore and herbivore. The fight is inevitable as man and tiger share some common food like deer in the forest and both of them need territory. Man needs to go into the forest not only for deer hunting but also for other resources as timber and leaves. So they must confront. Now, who will win? Individually, a man cannot stand before a tiger with physical strength. If alone without arms, the man will be defeated by the tiger. But if a man is equipped with arms, the tiger is sure to lose. In the perennial brawl, many a man as well as tiger has lost life. I suppose, man has killed more tiger than the tiger has killed man.
In Bangladesh the Sundarbans has been the battle ground for man and the tiger. Man wants to kill tiger and tiger wants to kill man. No party is in a mood to forgive each other. They as if will stop at the annihilation of their opponent. Such is their hatred to each other. This hatred has developed not momentarily but over years and centuries. Men have intruded into the territory of the wild beasts that again have retaliated with attacking on the bipeds. The conflict, as it were, has turned into a 'kill or die' issue for them.
Let us first examine the situations in which the tiger kills man. A tiger comes upon a man when it is hungry and there are no other animals at its disposal to hunt. Once a tiger takes the taste of human flesh, it is said to turn into a man-eater, habitually repeating its action. It pries into the human habitation for a prey or jumps on a man while at work in the forest. On the other hand, man kills the tiger for several reasons: retaliation, poaching and pleasure of hunting. When a man is killed by any tiger, their relatives and other people are aggrieved and they will not miss any chance to hit back the ferocious animal -- any of its species. Some people would kill tiger to collect their skin and other organs for a financial gain. Even others may kill it for deriving just the pleasure of hunting, though this has been a less practiced occupation nowadays.
Centuries back there used to be thousands of tigers in the Sundarbans but at present the number has come down to only handful 300 or so. In recent decades there has been no year when tigers have not been killed in dozens; though the reports of men being killed by the tiger were also abundant.
Man-tiger tussle is not any conflict between good and evil, between the kind and the ferocious. No mystification and misleading justification. It would be unwise for men to think that only they would live on earth and do away with any creature that pose threat to them. The earth is in fact for all; all creatures have equal claim to it. It is not exclusively for men. Therefore, though men, in their current monstrous capacity of destruction, can efface all other animals from the face of earth, it will be inhuman and foolish to do so. Inhuman because it is contrary to the nobility of human nature. And foolish because it will ultimately deprive the world of animal diversity, adversely affecting the environment in which all animals live maintaining a subtle food chain. The loss will ultimately backfire to the destroyer.
Men have to think otherwise. They have to think of peaceful coexistence with all animals, big or small, meek or ferocious, surviving on earth. Ways have to be reckoned in this direction. It is mainly the responsibility of men, being superior in intelligence and capability. Other animals including the tiger are basically driven by instinct. Their behaviour is controlled by their fundamental need of biology. As long as their stomach is full, they are not going to disturb any human. As long as their territory is not trespassed, they are not thinking of extending their claws towards anybody.
Human responsibility is therefore twofold. First, it must be ensured that the jungle dwellers get sufficient food for their living. Secondly, it will also be ensured that they can roam their home without any outside disturbance. In our case, for the Sundarbans, we have to create, through legal protection, a sanctuary of wild life where all animals, herbivore and carnivore, will live in their own way. Humans will be barred from stepping into the forest for any kind of trade like collection of wood, leaf and honey, catching fish and travelling, let alone poaching.
Therefore, our community responsibility is to withdraw and rehabilitate those people who are dependent on forest resources because it is mainly these kinds of fellows who come into direct conflict with the tigers. They have to be gradually shifted to available alternative professions. In doing so, the incidence of human casualty will decrease to a great extent. Besides, there is another important thing to do. The forest will have to be expanded in a planned way and the deer and other animals, on which the tigers feed, have to be bred and released there. Once the food chain is well in place, the jungle king will not bother to clash with man.
This is the only way, as I outlined above, to resolve conflict between man and the tiger. This is also the way biodiversity can be preserved and wild life can be protected.
There is no loss on part of the government of Bangladesh if such a conflict resolution measure is adopted. Rather it will spawn profits of all categories. One economic profit is obvious. Tourists from home and abroad will be attracted to the largest mangrove forest of the world dwelled by the unique big cats known as the Royal Bengal Tiger. It may bring a lot of foreign currency for the country.
If we commit ourselves to the protection of wild life, we might notice that man is not the only adversary of the tiger. Nature itself seems to disfavour the beautiful quadruped. It has been predicted by the environmental scientists that in fifty to hundred years now the southern part of Bangladesh where the Sundarbans lie will go under water in the aftermath of global warming and the resultant rise of sea level. If so happens, it will surely send the tigers to extinction. Bangladesh, being a poor country, can hardly do anything about it. If only the pace of global warming is impeded anyway, the tigers in the Sundarbans will be saved.
I am all for preservation of the fantastic animal -- the tiger. I have a special reason for it, among others. The reason is cultural. The mythical king of the Sundarbans is Gazi, whose vehicle is a tiger. The people in the villages around the famous forest utter the name of Gazi, as a sacred incantation, when they set out for the forest. Gazi would save them from danger -- it is their belief. There are many religious rituals to satisfy Gazi, such as Gazi's songs sung in the glory of the tiger-rider with his paintings on cloth (known as 'Gazir pot' in Bangla) shown to the villagers. It is a rare cultural tradition. If the Sundarbans with its formidable denizens is destroyed, this piece of heritage, all the more secular, will also perish. I wouldn't like that day to knock.
Lastly, the Royal Bengal Tiger is the symbol of vigour for Bangladesh -- the nation. We must hold the symbol high. We must be resolute to protect its value in every possible way. It is our national duty.
(The writer is Assistant Professor and Head, Department of English, Daffodil International University.)