When you truly think about it, it’s amazing that we share Earth with thousands of animal species. Each one has a unique personality, likes and dislikes, and a role in the ecosystem. Despite this fact, however, every year, millions of animals are killed without a second thought. Some are robbed of their lives for the purpose of food consumption, some pass away from the utter exhaustion of being a part of the tourism industry, and some are crushed unintentionally by their own kind in the dark, cramped sheds of factory farms.
In the U.S., where people treat dogs and cats like they’re their own children and farm animals like objects, the majority of these animals are not given even a semblance of respect after they’ve passed. Instead, they are discarded like trash, carted off in bins, never to be seen again. Only every now and again do we stumble upon a group of people who are giving deceased animals the respect they deserve. Take the folks from Ranthambore National Park, one of the largest national parks in India, for example. Unlike zoos, this park leaves tigers in their natural habitat and conducts safari guides where visitors can admire tigers from afar.
One of the most well-known tigers in the park was Machli, who sadly passed away this week. The female tiger had been unwell for a few months before passing away at the age of 19, the equivalent to a human’s 100-115 years. According to the park, Machli was often referred to as the “Queen of Ranthambore National Park.” She received that moniker for her bravery (she fought and killed a crocodile threatening the park) as well as her tourist-friendly attitude and her loving nature towards her cubs. Even Machli’s face was well-known around the world. The tiger, who was extremely photo-friendly, has a postage stamp, a Facebook page dedicated to her and also has several documentaries and short films to her name.
Given her reputation, Ranthambore National Park felt a ceremony to honor her life was fitting. They laid her down on a sheet, donned her with flowers, and carried her nobly to her resting place.
The actions of the national park’s staff is refreshing and admirable. In fact, we can’t help but feel all tigers should be treated in this way! Tigers are majestic creatures. They are intelligent, fierce, and are part of incredibly tight-knit families, but unfortunately, they are also some of the most abused and exploited animals on the planet. As tigers’ natural habitat disappears due to deforestation, they are being pushed into much closer proximity with humans, making them the target of poachers who capture them for sale into the exotic pet trade. There are currently more tigers in U.S. backyards than the wild, to put the extent of this issue into context. Not to mention, these animals are frequently used as tourist props or killed for their bones and skins which are made into novelty goods. If we don’t wake up and start to view these animals for their immeasurable worth to their ecosystem – and our collective world – we stand to lose them forever.
We hope that one day all animals will be given the respect and love Machli was given throughout her life and even after her death. All tigers deserve this much care and appreciation – and they need it now more than ever.
To learn more about Ranthambore National Park, visit their official website.
Image source: Tiger Protection Society/Facebook