Thursday, March 3, 2011

India's Veteran Tiger Expert Fateh Singh Rathore Dead at 73

Fateh Singh Rathore

The Ranthambore National Park is one of the prime hotspots to look for wild tigers and other spectacular wildlife in India. It is also a place which once had a rich history of human occupation dating back to the 11th century. This is seen by the abundance of various ruins dotting the sanctuary. The largest and dominating of these ruins is Ranthambore Fort, which overlooks the park at 700 feet. However, like many of India's national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, Ranthambore has been a place of illegal poaching. Thankfully, in the midst of all the violence and bloodshed, there stood a figure which will forever be remembered as the face of India's wildlife conservation: Fateh Singh Rathore.

Since 1960 when he first joined the Indian Forest Service, Mr. Rathore worked as Ranthambore's Field Director in which he was part of the nation's first Project Tiger team. Fondly acknowledged as the "tiger guru", he became known for his knowledge of the big cat and ability to predict its whereabouts. For nearly fifty years, Mr. Rathore had been working tirelessly to save India's tigers. During his career span, he was granted two awards: First was in 1983, in which he received the International Valor Award for bravery in conservation. He was recently awarded the World Wildlife Fund's Lifetime Achievement Award in Jaipur last year. Sadly, the "Tiger Man" of India had succumbed to cancer and passed away on March 1st. He was 73 years old. He is survived by his son and two daughters.

I'm extremely saddened by the loss of one of the most dedicated individuals in India's battle to save the tiger. As a child, I had looked up to Mr. Rathore as an inspiration to why it is important to protect our motherland's precious and fragile nature from being mercilessly exploited. He has been always in the front-lines to saving India's wild tigers and the wildlife. But now, with his passing, it feels as if part of Ranthambore National Park is gone, too. However, I feel that even though the nation has lost one of its key figures in wildlife conservation, it should not stop experts and conservationists from doing what they do best. There is still a war going on out there in India's wild places, and should be fought valiantly in order to save the wildlife. Backing down will only result in the villains (poachers) taking advantage, and all of India's wildlife would be lost forever. This is why, in order to honor the life of Mr. Rathore, let us work side-by-side with our glorious nation's dedicated experts and conservationists to bring the threat of poaching to a permanent halt.

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