Tiger Strong, supple, surreptitious — but above all, an arch strategist. The tiger is the apex predator in the jungles of India and Nepal. But more importantly, the tiger is a keystone species. Without this wild feline, the entire habitat suffers. Tiger is an important part of the ecosystem.
India has several critically important keystone species including elephants, rhinos and bears, not to mention an entire array of trees and shrubs that are vital to the survival of the ecosystem. Many of these ecosystems overlap with critical watersheds and green belts that provide the human population with life-saving water and oxygen resources. Protecting the animals’ habitat is vital for our survival as a species too.
What is a keystone species:
Keystone species are those species that have a dramatic impact on the ecosystem concerning their numbers. A keystone species is one that triggers a chain reaction up and down the entire food chain. As a keystone in an arch, they are an integral cog in the entire ecosystem’s dynamics.
What Is The Tiger’s Role?
Sitting at the crown of the food-chain, the tiger is the apex predator in the Indian jungle. It’s important to remember that for the most part, a tiger only kills for food when it’s hungry or to feed its young. Other times when it may kill are under extreme circumstances when it is under attack from an outside threat or it has been cornered.
1) APEX NATURAL PREDATOR
The tiger is vitally important in culling it’s prey-base in a sustainable manner. If it didn’t, the prey-base would breed exponentially with no natural control and the forest would not be able to provide it with sufficient fodder. Animals like deer and wild boar are prolific breeders Can also add about crops being destroyed by these animals. Felines like tigers and leopards are their natural predators.
Carnivores sit at the third trophic level in the food web and keep other animal populations in check. When a carnivore population is decimated by disease, disasters or human conflict, it can result in an exponential population explosion lower down on the food chain. In fact, in certain places, carnivores have been proactively brought in to curb rampant herbivore populations.
In a famous example of conservation of a species, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 — after being eradicated from the region 70 years earlier — to curb the elk populations which lead to the regeneration of woody plants that were being devoured by the elks.
2) CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY:
A tiger’s habitat is a breeding ground for several species. In protecting our biodiversity, we give tigers free rein to migrate and not only preserve their gene pool but also that of many other endangered species that inhabit the area. One tiger needs 25,000 acres of forest. These ecosystems supply both nature and people with fresh water, food, and health—which means that by saving tigers, we are helping to conserve our species too! Tiger reintroduction in Cambodia and Kazakhstan has lead to entire forests being rehabilitated and the regeneration of an ecosystem that can sustain the big cat. It provides an alternative source of income for local communities and helps to generate a sustainable fount revenue in the long run.
3) WATER IS LIFE:
Key tiger habitats overlap with nine globally vital watersheds across Asia, which supply water to over 830 million people. Hundreds of millions of people use high quality, regulated water from tiger reserves. The natural plant cover also reduces the risk of natural disasters such as flooding, tidal surges, and landslides. They also serve as a natural breeding ground for different landraces of a variety of plant species. In Karnataka, tiger habitat conservation managed to protect 16 rivers, such as the Cauvery, Nethravathi, Paalar, Bhadra, Varahi, Gundia, Kumaradhara, Seetha and Kaali Rivers, which play important local and regional roles in water security. These watersheds sustain the farming and drinking water needs of 80 million people in southern India.
4) OFFSETTING THE CARBON FOOTPRINT:
Tiger habitats help to store more carbon on an average, and therefore help to stem the tide of global warming and climate change. In fact, according to WWF, there is significant evidence to prove that eliminating a large carnivore population has a severe anthropogenic impact on nature. The loss of the Sumatran tiger population and habitat has contributed to a sharp rise in Indonesia’s carbon emissions.
5) PREVENTS TIMBER POACHING:
Across India, Nepal, and Bhutan, timber poaching is a major issue. However, a healthy predator population not only strengthens the government’s resolve to protect such forests but also gives the poacher pause!
6) CULTURAL HERITAGE:
The Tiger is also an important cultural and spiritual symbol in several cultures. Tiger conservation gives rise to sustainable tourism efforts and also influence the local economy by many folds.
7) SOIL ENRICHMENT:
A tiger can eat up to 88 kg of meat in a single meal. IThey don’t leave a single morsel on the carcass, if not disturbed. They often stripping it bare, right down to the hooves, horns, claws, and bones of the prey. They consume pure protein with other nutrients including minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. As a result, their excretion enriches the forest floor.
Despite the challenges faced in conserving the tiger and it’s habitat, the Indian Subcontinent has a strong tiger gene pool. The Royal Bengal Tiger, which can be found throughout India and Nepal, are extremely adaptable. Tigers can adapt across a variety of terrains, climates and even marshy areas like Sunderbans.
The adaptability of the tiger to a variety of environments and situations is an important trait and it is one of the oldest living species on the planet. Therefore, in essence, it is the tiger that can teach us how to save ourselves.
Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered.
Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park.
Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here’s a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger.