Irish Independent - Weekend Magazine - - Drink -

ISun­day, BBC1, 8pm Eye of the tiger

n the 19th cen­tury, tigers abounded in the jun­gles of Asia, from north­ern In­dia to south­ern China, In­dochina, Malaysia and be­yond. But these elu­sive, myth­i­cal, dan­ger­ous and beau­ti­ful an­i­mals were bound to at­tract the par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion of pith-hel­meted Vic­to­rian hunters, who slaugh­tered them in droves and used their skins to adorn the floors of fusty clubs across the Bri­tish Em­pire. In the early 1900s, an es­ti­mated 100,000 tigers still lived in the wild: by 2011, the num­ber had dwin­dled to 2,300, as hunt­ing, poach­ing and hu­man en­croach­ment on the an­i­mals’ habi­tats added to the risk of their even­tu­ally be­com­ing ex­tinct al­to­gether, apart from the tigers who’ve been bred for many decades in zoos.

Of course, totemic an­i­mals like tigers and po­lar bears are sym­bols of a larger catas­tro­phe cur­rently be­set­ting

na­ture: it’s es­ti­mated that, since 1970, mankind’s ex­po­nen­tial ex­pan­sion has wiped out up to 60pc of the Earth’s mam­mals, fish, birds and rep­tiles. But in the case of the tiger, it’s not all bad news, and in In­dia a sus­tained gov­ern­ment pro­gramme to es­tab­lish na­tional parks and com­bat poach­ing has seen a steady in­crease in num­bers over the last half decade.

This last episode of the BBC’s spec­tac­u­lar short se­ries pro­fil­ing some of the planet’s most charis­matic but en­dan­gered crea­tures is set in the Band­hav­garh Na­tional Park in cen­tral In­dia, where the rov­ing fe­male Raj Bhera has just had four cubs. Her ter­ri­tory is wide, but at ex­actly the worst mo­ment a num­ber of ri­vals are begin­ning to en­croach, in­clud­ing her own adult daugh­ter, Solo. So Raj Bhera will have to take a big risk if her lat­est fam­ily unit is to sur­vive.

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