Intro: The theme for this year is Big Cats. Here’s where you stand a good chance of spotting one in the wild
The impact of human activity has changed the world we live in. We are unlikely to ever see many species again, as they are either extinct or on the brink of extinction. Natural phenomena play a part in some extinction events, but that’s usually attributed to species being unable to adapt to changing environments. Human pursuits such as hunting for pleasure, poaching, encroaching on natural habitats, deforestation, and mining are responsible for localised extinctions, but the one aspect that has an impact across the globe is climate change.
Of course, climate change has its share of deniers, but scientific research over the past four decades has put the blame squarely on our shoulders. So it may seem ironic that the very species responsible for this wanton destruction is creating ‘safe’ areas – national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, nature reserves, and biodiversity zones – in a bid to preserve what used to flourish before humans began to walk the earth.
World Wildlife Day
In December 2013 the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared March 3 as UN World Wildlife Day. The aim is to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. World Wildlife Day has now become the most important annual global event dedicated to wildlife, and the theme for 2018 is Big Cats: Predators Under Threat.
Big cats are feared and admired in equal measure across the globe. While the term is mostly associated with the lion, tiger, leopard, and jaguar, the definition has been expanded to include the cheetah, snow leopard, puma, and clouded leopard as well.
Over the past century, we have lost the planet’s most majestic predators at an alarming rate. Most of this loss has been caused by human activity. According to the UN, tiger populations have plunged 95 percent in the past 100 years, and that of African lions by 40 percent in just 20 years.
World Wildlife Day 2018 provides an opportunity to raise awareness and garner support for global and national initiatives to save these iconic species. Through big cats, the hope is to generate attention, involvement, and action to ensure they are around for a long time – not only for us and our children, but for future generations to enjoy.
António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, said, “On World Wildlife Day, I call on people around the world to help raise awareness and to take personal action to help ensure the survival of the world’s big cats and all its precious and fragile biological diversity”.
We must also recognise the lifelong efforts by those passionate about protecting and preserving wild fauna and flora. More importantly, we must remind ourselves – and those around us – of the need to step up the fight against poaching, wildlife crime, and human-induced reduction of species, all of which impact us economically, environmentally, and socially.
Protected Areas in India
Countries around the world, including India, have identified and preserved vast areas of their respective nations – including oceans and seas – as ‘safe’ zones. Visitors to these areas may see it as an adventure safari. No doubt it is; but there is a greater purpose. So when you visit a wildlife reserve, do enjoy Nature in all her glory, but respectfully.
According to figures published in January 2018 by the Wildlife Institute of India, just over 7 lakh sq km (21.34 percent) of India is covered by forests. There are 769 protected areas measuring 1.62 lakh sq km, which amounts to 4.93 percent of the country’s area. There are 103 National Parks and 544 Wildlife Sanctuaries, of which some of the best-known are:
• Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand
• Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
• Kaziranga National Park, Assam
• Sariska National Park, Rajasthan
• Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim
• Sunderbans National Park, West Bengal
• Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka
• Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh
• Gir National Park, Gujarat
• Periyar National Park, Kerala
• The Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh
• Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra
• Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
• Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Uttarakhand
In the Midst of Nature
The list above is but a small but significant glimpse of preserved areas that cover the length and breadth of India. Some are famous the world over, while others are still relatively unexplored. Some are known for their fauna, others for their flora. The scope of wildlife is so vast that it is almost impossible to cover them in detail. It’s far better to visit and experience it for yourself.
However, the species that enthral everyone are the big cats. The majestic Bengal tigers and the elusive leopards lord it over many areas, while the lions of the Gir Forest and the shy and mysterious Himalayan snow leopards are small in number and limited in geographical reach.
Visiting one or more of India’s great natural reserves can be an end in itself, but the means to the end is made easier and more comfortable by the presence of Club Mahindra resorts in many of these pristine areas. Built with your comfort in mind and impeccably maintained, ensuring local tastes, sensibilities, food and culture, our resorts serve as a welcome rejuvenator after a long day spent exploring nature.
A tiger sighting, being relatively rare, is something that you can share and relive with friends and family for years to come. An elephant ride might just make you feel like a rajah of yore. The songs of myriad birds will keep you entertained. And if you wish for a moment of solitude, a spectacular sunset can be watched in silence.
If you decide to visit the oldest national park in India, Corbett, you can stay at a Club Mahindra resort. As you can when visiting Gir, Kanha, Nagarhole, Eravikulam, Periyar, Khangchendzonga, Machia, Jambughoda, Kudremukh, the Great Himalayan National Park, the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, and even Mollem National Park in Goa.
So you don’t need an excuse – just a reason to visit, explore, and learn. And to be moved enough to explore someplace that’s different. But more importantly, to do your bit to encourage others to respect nature. Because nothing is more important than preserving our wildlife heritage for generations to come.