MelanieC – Champions wild tigers
TigerTime is lucky to have a huge supporter base that includes celebrities like Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley and Sir Paul McCartney. Taking her passionate support to the next level former Spice Girl, singer Melanie Chisholm, visited India with the TigerTime team this summer to find out more about wild tigers and raise awareness of the issues they are facing.
“I’ve been a supporter of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation’s TigerTime Campaign since its launch in 2011 and I was thrilled when they asked me if I’d like to go to India to meet fellow TigerTime supporter, the Indian wildlife filmmaker Nalla Muthu to see a tiger in the wild and to help raise awareness of the issues these amazing big cats are facing. I jumped at the chance! But with as few as 3,000 tigers left in the wild I knew that there was no guarantee of a sighting.
“We arrived in Ranthambore on a very hot evening after a five hour train journey from Delhi and Nalla asked ‘does anyone want to go into the park tonight’. No one hesitated! As the sun was setting we caught our first glimpse of a tiger, a huge male known as the ‘Star Male’ (he has a star shaped spot above his eye). He was lying in a pool of water trying to keep cool with scores of chattering birds and squirrels nervously trying to get to the water to drink. The tiger flicked his tail and they all scattered – it was amazing to watch – a wonderful first glimpse. That same evening we also saw a beautiful pair of very dark male cubs, again cooling in the water. One looked at me and I felt my heart rate soar. I couldn’t believe we were so close and that they were so relaxed in our presence.
“When we went back into the park the next morning I had no idea that the magic had only just begun. That is when we met the family of four – a mother with her almost fully grown cubs – who roam the lake area of Ranthambore. We watched the cubs stalking each other, growling, playing, literally within a few feet of our jeep by the side of the park track. And I have to admit that at times I felt petrified!
“We managed to catch up with that same family on the remainder of our drives into the park. I cannot explain how lucky we were – how magical it was to spend time in their presence and to watch their family drama unfolding. At 14 months old the cubs are about to move on – by October they will have left their mother in search of territories of their own – so there was a real shift in the dynamic. The cubs picked fights with one another and the mother came to sort them out. She was particularly rough with one of the female cubs and Nalla managed to film behaviours that, in ten years of chronicling the tigers in Ranthambore, he had never caught before. They definitely knew we were there but were so disinterested in us. Tigers seem to have this amazing sense of being absolutely top of the food chain. It’s both exciting and terrifying!
“It’s very hard to explain how it feels to be in the presence of a wild tiger, the whole forest is electrified by their presence. Most memorable moment? It’s hard to pick one. The whole experience was memorable. I just have my fingers crossed for the female cub, she seemed to be having a hard time with her mum – it may have been because she is a threat to her, we don’t know. I’d love to follow their story and can’t wait to see the new documentary that Nalla is making.
“I learnt alot about wild tigers – that they are truly the most beautiful, serene, majestic, strong, frightening, playful, awesome creatures on which the whole health of the forest eco-system depends. Without them the forests would be overgrazed and turned to dust.
“And it infuriates me that the trade in tiger parts from both wild and captive tigers continues. It was banned in 1987 but the demand continues. When once it was health that drove the killing – using tiger parts for ineffective medicines – it is now wealth that drives demand. People want tiger skins for status symbols and house decoration, they want tiger meat to serve at exotic banquets to impress their friends, tiger bone wine as a gift to influence others. It has to stop and TigerTime is helping to raise awareness of this issue with their campaign to ban the trade in tiger parts – everyone should sign up, everyone who has ever cared for tigers or forests or the health of this planet, not just for them but for their children and their children’s children – should sign up at www.bantigertrade.com In 2016 there is a hugely important CITES meeting at which the fate of the tiger may well be decided and the intersessional working group on tigers is being chaired by China – by a man known to be pro-trade. We have to ask China to do the right thing and need 500,000 signatures by October. Time may be running out for the tiger. We have to act.”
Please join our campaign and spread awareness to your friends and family. Please help us save the tiger www.bantigertrade.com
VIDEO: See the video by clicking here
Melanie travelled to India with British Airways with in-country assistance from Indus Experiences (who make a donation to parent charity DSWF for every wildlife booking) and Balendu Singh at Dev Villas. The TigerTime team is hugely grateful to Melanie for giving her time so generously and for the support of British Airways, Indus Experiences, Balendu Singh and Canon Europe. The trip would not have been possible without you.
PHOTOS: The TigerTime Team