Thursday, March 10, 2011

Champion for Tigers Dies

Fateh Singh Rathore (Photo: Getty Images)

The situation is desperate for tigers and environmental groups estimate that the tiger population worldwide has declined to 3,000 today from 100,000 in 1900.

Now, the man who fought for four decades to save these majestic cats from extinction has lost the good fight. Fateh Singh Rathore, known among environmentalists as the Tiger Guru for his understanding of the cat, died of cancer on March 1 at 73 on his farm outside the 116-square-mile tiger preserve that he did so much to create.

Just last month the World Wildlife Fund presented Rathore with a lifetime achievement award. The president of its India chapter, Divyabhanusinh Chavda, said that largely because of Rathore, “Ranthambhore National Park in northwest India, became the place which brought the tiger to the consciousness of people the world over.”

Fateh Singh Rathore was born in a village in Rajasthan in 1938, the eldest of 10 children of Sagat and Inder Singh Rathore. After working as a store clerk and selling coal, Mr. Rathore was offered a job as a park ranger by an uncle who had become deputy minister of forests in Rajasthan. He found his calling after completing training at the
Wildlife Institute of India in 1969.

He also became a photographer, his pictures of tigers appearing in the book “Tigers: The Secret Life” (1990), with text by Valmik Thapar. They show tigers lounging at the gate of the fort, standing on the parapet of a crumbling mosque and striding among the roots of a giant banyan tree.

“Both the author and his photographer-teacher profoundly want the tiger to survive,” John Seidensticker, a curator of mammals at the National Zoological Park, wrote in a
1990 review in The New York Times Book Review. “But the lingering sense running through the book is that its position is desperate.”

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