We didn’t get to see any live tigers at Ranthambore Reserve, where around 30 of India’s remaining 1850 tigers roam.  Halfway through our Monday afternoon game drive, torrential rains drenched us, and all drives were canceled for 2 days.  The 1,200 km square area is dry forest, with lakes, streams, and huge banyan trees with roots dangling from branches above.  From our 6 person jeep, we were able to spot monkeys, deer and birds (300 species in the park), crocodile and mongoose.

After another celestially delicious lunch, we were writing down the names of all the dishes unknown to us, when the general manager of this Taj hotel, Nagendra Singh, came up to us and asked if we would like to meet the chef.  He also invited us to join the Odyssey tour group to hear his lecture and slide show on endangered big cats.  We learned more from this kind and articulate man than during our 4 hour safari.

There were once 8 tiger subspecies, of which only 5 remain.  The population has greatly fluctuated over the centuries.  Causes include loss of habitat, poaching for Chinese medicine, accidents and disease.

It’s illegal to hunt them.  A Nov 24 article in the Guardian pointed to a 97% decline in tigers in the wild over the past century.  There are only 3,200 left in the world.  The Bali tiger went extinct in 1940, Central Asian 1970’s, Java 1980’s, S. China 1990’s, and now only 450 remain in Russia, 500 in Malaysia, 400 in Sumatra and 300 in Indochina.

There was a big conference going on to save the tiger.  We fervently wish they had a better chance, for local people graze in the forests, cut down habitat and ignorant people poison them if their cows (their god) are eaten.

We’ll just have to see them in the zoo.

Claudia and Gail

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