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World Environment Day : Hope Amidst Dark Times

Strange are the ways of nature and mankind. As we the citizens of Earth continue our battle with the unseen enemy, the World Environment Day falling on June 5 has brought with it the dual message of despair and hope. There is so much to grieve over, and also to raise a toast to. It all boils down to what we choose to believe, and how we act.

Two apparently unrelated events, occurring in the same week a few days ago but in different parts of India, reflect how we view the glass: half-empty or half-full. The first is the unfortunate killing of a pregnant elephant in Kerala, by making her eat a pineapple stuffed with crackers which burst in her mouth. She, and her unborn baby, met a horrible end. Our media and social media are justifiably going hammer and tongs over the unspeakable crime.

At around the same time this elephant died in Kerala, something wonderful happened in Rajasthan. Two tiger cubs were born in the newly set up Mukundra Hills Tiger Reserve near Kota. At first glance, this may not look like much of an important occurrence. After all, what’s so special about a tigress giving birth to cubs? Doesn’t it happens all the time and is a part of the circle of life and death? 

Maybe yes, but the cubs of Mukundra Hill underscore an extra-ordinary development. Given the threatened status, as well as huge appeal, of tigers in India, the state of Rajasthan till now had two tiger sanctuaries: Ranthambore and Sariska. Yes, Mukundra Hills was announced as a tiger reserve few years ago, but it could be seriously considered that only after a tigress gives birth to cubs there. The logic may seem strange, but is quite simple actually. A tigress will rarely conceive in a region, let alone give birth, unless she considers that area to one hundred percent safe for her off springs.

After declaring Mukundra Hills as a tiger reserve, two tigers (a male and a female) were translocated here a few years ago. Then subsequently, another tiger walked over here from Ranthambore and made this place his home. But Mukundra Hills had still not passed the litmus test, of welcoming new cubs. This week it passed the test with flying colours, and that’s why it is such a big deal. 

A member of our species killed a pregnant elephant, but collectively we also ensured a brand new healthy habitat for tigers! It showed us humans as both destroyers and creators. At a miniscule level, I would like to believe, we may be matching steps with Lord Shiva’s dance of life and death.

And therefore the World Environment Day, arriving as it does in these dark times of death, disease and crushed human spirit the world over, also brings with it hopes of better days ahead. The tiger cubs of Mukundra Hills may just turn out to be the much-needed light at the far end of the seemingly unending tunnel.

Ajay Suri is writer, wildlife film-maker and nature photographer.

He is also the recipient of Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Environment Reporting.

His blog is tigersandbeyond.com and he can be reached at suriajay@gmail.com

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