Some experts said before, that “climate change” may turn Bengal Tiger, the apex predator of subcontinent forest, into a “snow tiger” eventually. This hypothesis lately made me visit high altitude of Western Himalayas at 4300 meters in late winter of 2020.
There I met another cat, the apex predator of tree less alpine ecosystem, the stealthy grey ghost – closest cousin of Bengal Tiger- the snow leopard of Spiti. There are quite a few evolutionary theories on why snow leopards are closest cousins of Bengal Tigers but not of leopards. There are quite a few theories which discard this relationship.
However, I must say although Bengal Tigers have quite successfully established their empire in high Himalayas of Bhutan and India, sub Himalayan Terai arch in India, Nepal and Bhutan, but enjoying status of undisputed ruler of alpine dry scrub forests would be a different ball game for them.
Their so called closest cousins, survive on cliff of high mountains, with less or no foliage cover to hide or ambush or secure their kill. Mighty Bengal Tigers need to learn those tricks first from their “closest cousins”. Then they need to accustom themselves to survive by feeding on Himalayan Ibex, Tibetan Blue Sheep and occasionally livestock (Yak if lucky), which are much smaller than a Gaur, Sambar or Deer.
Then only the high Himalayan alpine ecosystem, like ecosystems of deciduous, evergreen and mangroves, will be in their “shadow”.
What do we mean by “In the shadow of the Bengal Tiger”?
We may expand this idiom “in the shadow of the Bengal Tiger” in two different ways, in context of this ninety days commentary in the land of Bengal Tigers of this subcontinent:
One way could be, in this book, the so called superior species of the earth, the human being is given less importance or considered as less notable, compared to the mighty Bengal Tigers. We human being are living in the shadow of the Bengal Tiger;
Another way could be, every other species in the food pyramid of Bengal Tigers, are living with the constant fear of this apex predator. Everything else in this ecosystem is living in the shadow of the Bengal Tiger.
And we better respect and admire these two core postulations of this commentary for the sake of sustenance of this very ecosystem and survival of our very existence.
Anyway, my plan for 2020 was to look for the answer to my question whether the Himalayan Ecosystem is in the “shadow of Bengal Tiger”, in context of above two core postulations.
Therefore I wanted to explore the forests of Terai Arch, North East India, Nepal and Bhutan. But thanks to outbreak of COVID19 pandemic. Now I can only narrate the justification of title of this work in progress book in solitary confinement at my Bangalore flat.
Looking forward and hoping for the best.