Following the precursor in 2017, the International Tiger Week (ITW) formally kicked off its maiden edition at Dev Vilas in Ranthambhore, amdist an audience of serious tiger conservationists, wildlife aficionados and enthusiasts. The two day conference witnessed some high profile names participating and delivering some eye-opening lectures on the need to address the issue of the depleting Tiger across the world.
The International Tiger Week came into being with its Founder Suneal Mangal’s desire to replicate the wildlife experience of Africa in terms of Tourism and Conservation, in India.Following a precursor in December 2017, this year formally marked the opening session of the ITW which is being positioned as the premier conference for tiger lovers and wildlife enthusiasts to participate and share their views. ITW comprises of Mr Balendu Singh, Mr Jaisal Singh, Mr Yusuf Ansari, Ms Belinda Wright, Mr Marc Evans and Mr Ranojoy Mukerji, in their individual capacity as ‘Advisors’, who will continuously guide and provide direction to the platform and take up relevant issues for discussion from time to time.
Balendu Singh, Co-Founder and Advisor, International Tiger Week said, “It has long been my dream to make Ranthambhore a Global hub for conservationists to meet annually. The objective is to provide a platform to researchers, exchange ideas, apply successful practices learned from each other in new Landscapes and assist in formulating policies that will help conservation efforts Worldwide.”
Suneal Mangal, Founder of International Tiger Week said, “We have been working on this platform for two years now. This is just the beginning of what we see as a long journey to overcome practical and policy challenges that face our wildlife. We have seen some very interesting conversations in the last couple of days and are quite thrilled at the opportunity that the platform presents us to bring about a change in the overall perception of audiences sitting across the country about wildlife in our country. There is a need for a larger set of people to come together and join the force to save our environment and save our animals. I am happy that the first step has been taken and it has been received very positively. As a group, we believe in the need to have a serious conversation on protecting our wildlife.
Speakers at the two-day sessions included experts such as Dr Raghu Chundawat, Balendu Singh, Advisory, International Tiger Week, Sidharth Dutta, Director at E&Y, Ritika Maheshwari from the Wildlife Protection Society of India, Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO of WWF-India.
The ITW also saw the institution of the Anant Bajaj Tiger Conservation Awards. The LateAnant Bajajwas a passionate wildlife enthusiast and played an instrumental role in the creation of the International Tiger Week. His sudden and untimely demise has left a huge void for the ITW platform that just cannot be filled. The Awards are a tribute and a recognition for his immense contribution towards the work being done by conservationists across the country in a tireless manner.
The awards will be given in three categories: to a known tiger conservationist from the scientific field, a tiger lover from the business community and to a person or an organisation who has devoted their life towards .
This year, the Anant Bajaj Tiger Conservation Award for Lifetime Achievement was conferred upon Shri Y K. Sahu, Field Director, Ranthambhore National Park for his unrelenting contribution to the park for the last 25 years. The award was presented to him by Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO of WWF India
Commending the International Tiger Week for setting up an initiative that to have serious dialogues for the betterment of the wildlife, Shri Sahu said, “As a Forest Officer I have seen the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve evolve through different phases. Consolidating the area by notifications, relocation of villages from the core area, it has been a long and relentless war against illegal livestock grazing, wood cutters, illegal mining and poachers. Along with policing to curb offences a partnership was forged with like-minded NGOs to bring reform in the communities and associate them with wildlife conservation. At one time all the wildlife experts wrote off Ranthambhore saying it was an isolated island of tiger habitat. But the tigers of Ranthambhore proved their presumptions wrong by showing to the world that linkages exist to the nearby forests, sanctuaries both within the state and across river Chambal into the nearby state of Madhya Pradesh. With inputs from tourism industry and development of infrastructure, Ranthambhore developed its Eco-tourism. In the recent past progressive, steps were taken by the State Government.”
Tiger Watch, an NGO formed under the guidance and the aegis of the Late Fateh Singh Rathore, the Former Field Director of the Ranthambhore National Park was recognised with the ‘Wildlife NGO of the Year’ award. The Late Fateh Singh, seeing the deteriorating situation of wildlife and the grave condition of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in particular, wished to use his personal and intimate knowledge of the park and contribute towards its betterment. The award was presented to Tiger Watch for their yeoman service for protection, preservation and monitoring of landscape in South East Rajasthan and neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.Dr Raghu Chundawat presented the award to Dr Govardhan Singh Rathore on behalf of the NGO.
The third award was presented to former Union Minister, industrialist and philanthropist, Mr Kamal Morarka asthe Tiger Lover of the Year (Business / Corporate). Mr Morarka recently hosted an exhibition titled “Roar” encompassing a compilation of some breathtaking images from his collection. Post retirement from active politics, Morarka spent a lot of his time in jungles owing to his fascination for wildlife and interest for conserving the jungles which, he saw diminish pretty fast with growing industrialisation across the country.
Mangal added, “The format is set. We have outlined initiatives that we will be undertaken during the course of the year under the aegis of the International Tiger Week. This includes the annual event which will be hosted every year in Ranthambhore, along with an international conference which will be hosted in cities like London, New York, Johannesburg, etc. to attract tiger lovers from around the world, collecting voices, experiences and learnings from people who have invested their lives in the preservation of wildlife.