Who does not have a fascination for the Tiger? The handsome ferocious beast known for its courage and cunning always brings a thrill to those who get a rare sight of it in the wild! The sighting of the tiger (Pantera Tigris) in Coorg is today very rare.
And yet these forests had numerous tigers a couple of centuries ago. There are many hunting tales that involve both the ferocious animal and the Coorgis. The ‘Coorg Knife’, a two feet long heavy instrument was often the only weapon the Coorgi hunter would wield in fighting the Tigers.
Tigers were reared as cubs or tamed and were Royal pets, displayed as prized trophies during special events and to welcome royal guests. An amusing story by one Captain Basil Hall who visited Coorg in 1813 reads, “On a signal given by the Raja a folding door was thrown open on one side of the court and in stalked two immense royal tigers held by several men on each side with long ropes attached to collars round the animals’ necks. These beasts appeared very tractable for they allowed themselves to be led very close to us. I confess I did not much like this degree of propinquity and eyed the slender cordage with some professional anxiety”. His alarm when the men to release the ropes of the tame tigers, (which just sit there ‘rubbing their noses’) provided much amusement to the Coorg Raja.
Like the Bull fights of Spain, there were Tiger fights in the Coorg arenas, and the famed ‘Coorg Knife’ would be used in these encounters. There are also tales of Tigers, especially man eaters, lurking at Coffee plantations, and making the plantation owner’s job that much more difficult.
However, that was an era where hunting for sport was much more in vogue than hunting in self defense. The ban on hunting was introduced during the last Mysore Maharaja’s times. But Tiger poaching does happen even in these days. At the turn of the century, there were almost reportedly 40,000 tigers in India, but now only around 4,000 remain in the wild. The denuding forests of Coorg are also another reason for the Tiger population to dwindle.
The Environment and Forest Ministry have initiated schemes such as Project Tiger to ensure that the Tiger population is safeguarded. Launched in 1973, it’s a central scheme that is dedicated for conservation and increased forest area for Tigers. One of the earliest reserves earmarked for the Tiger is Bandipur in the Coorg region.
The main achievements of this project are excellent recovery of the habitat and consequent increase in the tiger population in the reserve areas, from a mere 268 in 9 reserves in 1972 to 1576 in 27 reserves in 2003. The Tiger, being at the apex of the food chain, can be considered as the indicator of the stability of the ecosystem. Even if one doesn’t get to see the tiger in his lair, it’s comforting to know that today he has a lair to live in.
(Information courtesy: www.projecttiger.nic.in)