Raza Kazmi Profile picture
Apr 1 17 tweets 6 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Some history Trivia on Project Tiger. A🧵

Though the Project was launched today, 50 yrs ago, the actual beginning was a year earlier. In 1972, an 11-member 'task force' constituted by Indira Gandhi submitted its report. They thought of a title for their report. They called it 👇
So that's the genesis of the name "Project Tiger", it was the title of the task force's final report.

We know that Project Tiger started with 9 tiger reserves. However, few know that the task force report recommended only 8 reserves representing the tiger's varied habitats. +
The 9th of the "Original Nine" i.e. Sundarban tiger reserve was actually added by none other than Indira Gandhi herself, a keen naturalist & conservationist. She'd visited, on 24th Jan 1973, what arguably is the most unique tiger habitat in the world - the mangroves Sundarbans +
and got it added as the 9th. @Jairam_Ramesh in his excellent book "Indira Gandhi: A life in nature" provides details in the bit excerpted below.

The 11-member task force that started it all, was composed of a mix of bureaucrats, conservationists & a politician. The bureaucrats +
included four IFS officers (TN Srivastava, NS Adkoli, SR Choudhury, and Kailash Sankhala), an IAS officer MK Ranjitsinh (another ex-officio member was the Financial Adviser who might've been an IAS too). The conservationists were Mrs. Anne Wright who was the first to raise alarm+
on the immense scale of the tiger-skin trade at the time, ornithologist Zafar Futehally, Duleep Mathai, and naturalist R.S. Dharmakumarsinhji. Chairing the task force was a politician, Dr. Karan Singh.

Here's a rare image of the official launch of Project Tiger at Corbett. +
Of those 11, three are still among us: Karan Singh, Anne Wright & MK Ranjitsinh, and I've been lucky to have closely known the last two.

However, a Project is always as good as those implementing it on the ground. Here, there was a team of remarkable IFS officers in each state +
who turned the prescriptions and ideals of a 123-page report into a reality. These were the inaugural 9 Field Directors of the inaugural 9 reserves. It is worth recalling the names of each of those phenomenal officers who turned the tide in the favor of the tiger when all hope +
seemed lost.

They were J.P. Sinha (Palamau), S.R. Choudhury (also member of task force, Similipal), HS Panwar (Kanha), Kalyan Chakrabarti (Sundarban), C.B. Singh (Corbett), S. Deb Roy (Manas), B.R. Koppikar (Melghat), Fateh Singh Rathore (Ranthambore) & DG Wesley (Bandipur). +
KS Sankhala, the inaugural Director of Project Tiger, wrote of these men:

"In Kanha, Panwar is mad about his Minolta camera, capturing the ecological changes in the meadows & studying the causes of depletion of the vanishing swamp deer. C. B. Singh protests even about angling +
with line and rod in the Ramganga River in Corbett Park; he is a purist. Debroy exchanges fire with poachers even at night in Manas and they know full well that he is a crack shot. Wesley's wife but for her age and the responsibility of grown-up children would have gone to the +
law court over his absences. Koppikar has lived most of his life as a married bachelor so his new life-style in the Project does not bother him; he prefers a bullock cart to a jeep. Fateh Singh' s wife is a Rajput girl..she is unlikely to protest. Saroj is virtually living with +
Khairi, a tigress in the Similipal hills. The commitment is total & the team is perfect....success of Project Tiger in just 2 years has dazzled even the field directors. No axe falls on any tree, no saw moves on dead or fallen wood."

('Tiger Pioneers', pic by Prosenjit Dasgupta)
Of these 9 remarkable men, only HS Panwar (Koppikar & Panwar would also succeed Sankhala as Director, Project Tiger) is among us today.

Of course, there were incredible superior officers (such as Kailash Sankhala, JJ Dutta in MP, SP Shahi in Bihar, and+
so on) supporting these field officers, & juniors right from men like Kafeel Sheikh in Melghat to incredible trackers and guards such as Manglu Baiga in Kanha, Umar Miyan in Palamau to Mahouts like Mohammad Ishtiaq in Cobett & hundreds of others like them. Equally crucial was+
the support of thousands of nameless men, women & children of the local communities across these reserves without whose cooperation all these good men couldn't have succeeded in their efforts.

There is so much more to add to this story of the initial years of Project Tiger, but+
for now, I end this thread with a fun trivia. Back in 1973, forest officers hardly had any vehicles (except motorcycles or bicycles), so one of the first material support all inaugural tiger reserves received was 1-2 Willys Jeeps (of which I'm a huge fan) for each!


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More from @RazaKazmi17

Mar 29
A bit on the book's stunning cover image. This is perhaps the most unique cheetah painting from India. Why so? Because this is, to Divyabhanusinh's & my knowledge, the earliest visual record (if we exclude prehistoric rock art) of cheetahs in the wild in India. How so? A short🧵:
This c. 1570 painting is ascribed to the famous Mughal painter Basawan, one of the chief painters in Akbar's court. Titled “A family of cheetahs in a rocky landscape”, it is described thus: “The mother lying in a glade, suckling one of her four cubs while grooming another, the +
other two playing in the foreground; the male cheetah lying amongst rocks on the right; a tree on the left with two palm squirrels, a pair of birds, and a monkey who watches the cats with interest” (Falk et al. 1978).

Now, Basawan may have studied cheetah anatomy in court (as +
Read 8 tweets
Mar 29
With cheetahs grabbing the headlines in India like never before, I'm delighted that historian Divyabhanusinh's new book "The Story of India's Cheetahs" is out for pre-order. It's the world's only book on the Asiatic cheetah's natural history, focusing on the Indian subcontinent. Image
Published by Marg Foundation as part of their excellent Natural History Books Series, this is a revised & updated version of Divyabhanusinh's groundbreaking book 'The End of a Trail: The Cheetah in India' (1st ed. 1995, last 2006) which had been out of print for many years now. Image
The publishers are offering a very attractive pre-publication offer valid till 31st March. The details and link for the pre-order form are below:


Marg Foundation website page for the book: marg-art.org/product/UHJvZH… Image
Read 4 tweets
Mar 5
While rewatching Satyajit Ray's Aranyer Din Ratri (1970), I noticed an error that seems to have never been picked up by anyone - neither by Ray or the cast & crew, nor the countless commentaries on the movie and its characters in books, media, and even academic papers. The movie+
is set in Palamau, and Ray, the cast, the movie itself as well as every bit of literature ever published on the movie repeats that the movie depicts the life of the Santhal Adivasis in Palamau. The primary Adivasi character, 'Duli', played by Simi Grewal (which in contemporary
discourse has generated a significant bit of debate over the use of Blackface) is identified as a Santhal lady. Even academic papers critiquing the movie's representation of tribal life repeat the Santhal story. Except that there are no Santhals in Palamau!

Palamau is home to +
Read 11 tweets
Feb 25
Hi Ishan, you are conflating two issues. Our paper was a chronology i.e. it included all Asiatic cheetah records we could find post 1772 & thus our work included listing of all categories of cheetah references (wild cheetah records, coursing records, visual representations +
skulls in zoos, museums, etc.) that we'd come across arranged in a chronological order. Precisely because of this reason we can't call our paper to be exclusively a distributional study since that would mean only discussing wild cheetah records & nothing else. Hence, we don't +
agree with the study being characterised as purely a distributional study.

However, can the study be used to draw conclusions and inferences on the range of cheetah in India? ABSOLUTELY YES! Because the chronology lists out all the wild cheetah references (apart from other +
Read 16 tweets
Jan 29
*Short thread*

More than a decade ago I came across a decaying image of a tiger shot in 1963 in the forests of Hazaribagh (Jharkhand). Looking at the picture, I was stunned. This had to be the largest tiger I'd ever seen with a head of absolutely unreal proportions.

I'd seen +
the famous photo of the Bachelor of Powalgarh – the immense tiger shot by Jim Corbett in Kumaon, widely believed to be the largest Bengal tiger ever killed – lying prostrate at Corbett’s feet, umpteen times.

I had no doubt that the behemoth I was
looking at outmatched him. +
I christened this tiger ‘The Bachelor of Hazaribagh’.

In today's Cover Story for the Indian Express Sunday Magazine, I tell the story of 'The Bachelor of Hazaribagh', and what has since become of the forests that he once prowled.

PDF of the page:
Read 6 tweets
Jan 2
*The Forest Bungalows of Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002): A Thread*

Much before Madhavan's Farhan (who eventually became a meme for a young wannabe male wildlife photographer) in 3 Idiots, @RahulBose1 's Jahangir 'Raja' Choudhary was the OG Wildlife Photographer of the Indian silver +
screen in Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002). While there is so much I love about this gem of a movie (making it one of my all-time favorites), what made it all the more special for me was how often it invokes, both visually (through stunning cinematography) & orally (through dialogues),+
quaint forest rest houses as an integral element of the entire second half of the movie. And those who know me even a little are well aware that I am hopelessly enamored of old forest bungalows.

Many years ago when I watched the movie for the first time as a young teenager who+
Read 30 tweets

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