National Geographic : 2011 Dec
A forest once stood here, and Sumatran tigers hunted wild pigs and deer in its glades. As forests are cleared for oil palm plantations, like this one near Longkib, Indonesia, tigers migrate in search of wild prey---or target farm animals. foot patrol, taking plaster casts of any pugmarks they encounter and making notes of evidence of prey animals. Ranthambore's history re ects in miniature the history of the tiger in India. Formerly the private hunting estate of the maharajas of Jai- pur, its original 109-square-mile core reserve is ringed by a containing wall, within which undu- lating forest skirts romantic maharaja-era ruins. One evening I met with Fateh Singh Rathore, the assistant eld director of Ranthambore a er it became one of India's rst Project Tiger reserves in 1973. Tiger hunting was legal in India until the early 1970s, and as a young man, in the days when Ranthambore had been a hunting estate, he had worked as a game warden. "To shoot a tiger, maybe a hundred rupees," he recalled---a couple of dollars. Always fragile, tiger populations have uctu- ated in recent years. Between 2002 and 2004, poaching of some 20 tigers in Ranthambore essentially halved its population. is was bet- ter than the fate of the nearby 300-square-mile Sariska Tiger Reserve, found to have no tigers at all: Every single one of its tigers had been killed n Society Grant Photographic coverage was funded in part by your National Geographic membership.