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Greenpiece: Animal celebs and big cats can be better used for education

Dead bodies of animals in protected areas should follow the natural route-of being food and nutrients.

The celebrity tigress, Collarwali, lived and died in the grand landscape of Pench National Park, aged 16. Her passing made emotional headlines, an irony given how forest lands are shrinking. Eventually, they cremated her.

I wish her magnificent body had been put to better use. I understand cremating your pet and holding a puja — I’ve done it too. But a wild creature, however popular, should not be part of our urban sensibility of losing a pet.

What if her body was prepared so it was available for hundreds of young people to see and learn from in a local college? Young people could have been taught so much about their own backyards; That India is home to 2,966 tigers, 0.8% being her cubs. That tigers need huge land, which means giving up certain kinds of development in tiger country. Should we make that sacrifice or not? That Collarwali was the first radio-collared tiger-and that tech and science has transformed Indian conservation.

That it’s a complex business to administer protected areas- substantial money is required for this. Collarwali’s final images were distressing : she was suffocated by Tiger Tourists, as she sought a quiet place to pass on.

Her bodily presence once offered people delight, if not knowledge. In her death, we could have bridged that gap. Dead bodies of animals in protected areas should follow the natural route-of being food and nutrients. Yet, animal celebrities and big cats can be better used for education. Let’s clarify in our national policies.

The writer is the Founder and Director of Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group



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