B2, probably one of the most famous wild predators in the world, died in Bandhavgarh National Park on Monday. He was15. He passed away from injuries sustained after a territory dispute with a new male.
More tourists have enjoyed this tolerant tiger than probably any other striped predator. Ranthambore National Park, north-west of this park has Machali – always called the $10m tiger. Machali was actually the name of two cats, mum and daughter and it is calculated they bought $10m worth of income to that park.
He must have doubled that as he has been park alpha male for ten years and sired many cubs, ironically including the one that led to his demise. A whole infrastructure of guides, rangers, lodges and schools are based around tigers in this park and none was more of a meal ticket than B2. This is the very essence of conservation – local people feeling the warmth of their striped neighbour. Money comes in for proper sustainable projects so people feel ownership of their local predators. It is not about B & C list gushing celebrities crying crocodile tears in their latest schmaltzy, cheesy docu-love-in.
Last Sunday, the Indian tourism minister was quoted in The Sunday Times saying no parks would be closed in the near future due to excessive demands of tourism. This was after some incompetent bureaucrat tried to make up this bilge earlier this year to cover his and his governments own incompetence in looking after tigers. What is more galling is that some pious headline grabbers here tried to jump on this absurd bandwagon, they should be ashamed, where there are tourists in good numbers there are still tigers.
He was the first male tiger I saw in the park in 1999. I saw him many times since then and for the last time in March. He looked his years, but still magnificent, tolerant to the end. This totemic tiger was a great survivor and it is astonishing that he had evaded this new male for so long.
He has died in natural circumstances, savage but natural circumstances. The grim reaper's scythe is indiscriminate and often bloody, but his life is that of a legend. He has gone to the great ark in the sky; far better to perish in this way than have a longer life incarcerated in some ghastly cage or worse, be butchered by poachers for the incomprehensible and craven demand for traditional medicine that does not work.
B2, Bandhavgarh Alpha Male, died 21 November 2011, 1996 - 2011, legend burning bright.
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