My dearest tiger friend.

As world wildlife day draws to a close, I would like to share with you an article I wrote for a book called ‘A Womans Guide to Saving the World’ by Karen Eberhardt-Shelton. I wrote this two years ago about a very special friend of mine.

“Dear Aysha, my wonderful tiger friend.

I often stop and wonder what your life would have been like if you were wild and free. How many cubs would you have had and what would they be like? But most importantly would you have ever come across a human? I have to say I am thankful you are not free – not in the world we live in today where you would be constantly persecuted for your skin and bones. But finding security in captivity is not the way it ought to be, you should be roaming the forests of India . . . but this is not an ideal world.

Growing up I was surrounded by an array of animals which made up my family and each day was something entirely new. I did not know who I would meet, whether they would have two legs, four or eight. I was just 12 years old l when I first saw you, I was still leaping around in my navy blue leotard and dreaming of becoming a renowned ballet dancer. I had seen tigers on the television, in storybooks and even in other zoos but getting to know you was an experience which changed my life immeasurably. Time would stand still as I sat by your side, separated only by the tall green enclosure barrier, watching you roll over on the grass, smelling the scent of other creatures in nearby enclosures, with the sun shining down your perfect bright white belly. It was after the times of total happiness like this when my mind would wander to your wild cousins as well as other wonderful creatures that are today, still facing a life of uncertainty and danger. Due to humans the rate of extinction is 1000 times faster. If you only knew of the horrors that we are inflicting upon the natural world you would be ashamed. I wonder what you would have to say to us, if only you could speak.

If I could ask the world to do one thing on your behalf, it would be to stop running away and face up to the music. It is so easy to turn off from the issues we find upsetting, we scroll past videos on social media displaying cruelty and we switch off whenever someone brings up climate change. Of course it’s a scary world, but if we do not learn about the issues going on right under our noses then we shall never be motivated enough to change it. It is individuals that recognise this that make the most difference to our precious planet. We have to start acting because just caring is no longer enough.

Now of course, you’ve never had any trouble making yourself heard, your roars roll for miles over the hill tops of the surrounding countryside, but a womans voice is sadly still largely silent, especially when it comes to protecting wildlife. In 2015, I travelled to China and joined the organisation Animals Asia who aim to eradicate bear bile farming. This practice, full of suffering, was beyond what I had ever thought was possible by the hand of humans. Many moon bears crammed into tiny iron cages so small that the bears could not even turn around. Bile would be painfully extracted from their gall bladder using unsterilized catheters and tubes – gapping holes left in their skin exposed to infection and disease. The charity was built from nothing by Jill Robinson, a woman who did not turn away from the cruelty but instead overcame any difficulties that arose using positivity and compassion. The once crippling cages now lie in a pile of dirt completely empty, and hundreds of moon bears, free from their constraints, are able to learn what it is to be a bear once again. Jill and the dedicated team at Animals Asia are recognised internationally for their incredible work which all began when someone cared enough to act. We, as humans, are so intelligent that we have been able to explore space and understand the mechanics of the Earth. Yet it seems so backwards that we are still not smart enough to adjust our lifestyles and stop damaging the animals which we claim to love.

You are now 18 years old, in your twilight years, and have lived your life as an incredible ambassador for your species, the Bengal tiger. I have learnt so much from you, as have the visitors which come and go each day. It is amazing what you can begin to understand when you put down your phone and begin connecting with the real, natural, world. I hope that one day I will be able to make a difference so that tigers, like you, may once again roam free along with other species that are faced with extinction. Woman are known for caring; we are often even criticised for caring too much, but this is what I believe will make me a better conservationist. I am only 21 years old, I still have a lot left to learn about the world but because of you, my dearest friend, I am not scared to speak up and I will fight till the end to make that difference.”

Link to the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Womens-Guide-Saving-World/dp/1846242002

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