If you are not a wildlife lover and/or an avid social media user, you are most likely to be missing a “national crisis”.
This national crisis is caused by the news that Avni, a tigress that has allegedly killed thirteen human beings is shot dead as she allegedly attacked a forest department team travelling in gypsy in the middle of the night.
I am not a wildlife lover, and hence not a policy or subject-expert, so I don’t see how I can have a locus standi on what to do with a man-killing tiger while living hundreds of kilometres away for her reign of terror. Thus, I would leave the judgement on how the issue was managed by administration in the able hands of the wild-life lovers and move to a bigger issue.
If you are a wildlife lover and reading this, I hopefully presume that you want to save the earth by educating and reforming the likes of me (though I have more often met those who see attrition as a more suitable solution after an argument with me).
So, knowing a bit about how average people like me think about this crisis should help you succeed in your future endeavour to save the planet.
To start with, this Avni episode is a great example of the fact that people like me fail to recognise the scale of your anguish.
As an uncouth commoner with million other things on my mind, even though my empathy circuit does light up thinking that the deceased tigress was also a mother with two cubs, my mind fails to resonate with your desire to look at it as a national crisis or a massive tragedy that deserves such an intense emotional outburst.
And, when you want to debate about legal issues such as did-the-vet-do-it-right or was-the-hunter-authorised, you may have a perfectly valid and important point but my mind wonders away to worry about where to order my pizza from.
So, in short, I am or rather almost a billion others like me too busy with our own problems who don’t share your love and expert understanding of the issue are your problem.
It is a bit unfortunate, but it is also an inescapable reality that we share the planet with you but not your priorities, and (if attrition is not an option) you have no real option but to reform us as we both are equal stakeholders.
So, if you want us on board, you need to press the buttons that we understand. If you cry wolf of “national crisis” with shooting of a man-eater tiger, it is highly unlikely that you will make us relate to it. The cruel, extrajudicial or illegal nature of the act may have worked you up, but your emotional frenzy may have a counterproductive impact on how we perceive you.
If you really want to reform us, it is not only about picking big issues that matter to us (though it will surely work better), it is also about remaining stable with your response to ensure that you remain credible.
So, if you are a serious crusader engaged in professional conservation, you need to be really savvy with the issues that you pick. Frenzied screaming will end up making you appear obsessive and irrational, while the real need of the hour is professional and rational action.
Looking at the social media, we appear to be slowly reaching a stage where public may start viewing a typical wildlife lover as a cynical paranoid who is angry with everything. If that happens, wildlife lovers will have no real power to impact public opinion.
Wildlife lovers need to grasp that they neither own the planet nor have power to force people to follow their orders. If they really mean business, they will have to become inclusive and get off the illusory high horse of moral superiority of having a greater cause in heart.
If anyone feels that nature conservation is about alleging and accusing others, especially the state-players, I doubt that he/she has an iota of a chance to succeed.
The real need of the hour for wildlife lovers is to develop a brand identity of positive and contributing people and not a screaming mob that is up in arms at everything. The only way to be effective is to be recognised by the general public as dependable sources of opinion instead of eternally angry men/women.
As there are some really respectable people in this sector, they need to step up and lead the debate. They need to stop falling in the trap of pleasing the lovers and, instead show rational and mature response that looks for viable middle path.
Death of Avni may be tragic, but it is neither the end of the way for tigers in India nor is it paving the way towards it.
It is a story with two sides so if wildlife lovers will keep insisting that only their version is right and scream at every voice of disagreement, it is surely going to undermine their credibility in public eye.
The emotional intensity of love may be a crucial motivator for a thankless cause like nature conservation, but going overboard with it and becoming aggressively self-righteous would be a very damaging development that needs to be mitigated by leaders and opinion-makers of the sector.
India needs pragmatic, cool-headed and rational leaders empowered by army of lovers. If such leaders will not step forward soon and guide the discourse, social media aided mobocracy of lovers will cause a serious setback to nature conservation efforts in India.