Tea, Tiger & Tiger Hills @ Darjeeling

MayaTeaTigerheader30Jul2019

Tyger Tyger burning bright,

In the forests of the night:

What immortal hand or eye,

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

(William Blake, 1794)

The above poem by William Blake aptly describes the beauty of this tawny and black majestic creature…

Ever since 2010, every year on 29th July the world observes International Tiger Day, to raise awareness of the decline in number of this largest species among the Felidae family.

In a 2004 online poll conducted by TV channel Animal Planet, spreading across 73 countries, the tiger was voted the world’s favourite animal. It is also considered to belong to the world’s charismatic mega-fauna.

Yet, over the last century, major and rapid changes due to expansion of human habitation, urbanization, fragmented wildlife habitat, hunting and poaching, there was a steady decline of wild tiger numbers, leaving them on the brink of extinction (Ahmad 1981; Nandy 2006). A recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report notes, globally, in 1900, there were 1, 00,000 tigers in the wild while in 2010, the number dwindled to just 3,200 (Chanda, 2017).

Through constant efforts at multiple levels, this scenario, however, is changing for better. Did you know, India is home to the world’s largest population of wild tigers? And the latest results of the tiger census (2018) shows the tiger population in India has increased to almost 3000- a huge growth of nearly 30% since the last count four years ago.

Now, have you started wondering what connection does ‘tiger’ have with Darjeeling- the land of world’s finest teas? Darjeeling is located in the same state of West Bengal- which is also well-known for its exquisite Royal Bengal Tigers. It is interesting to note that one of the major attractions of the Darjeeling Himalayan Region is known as Tiger Hill.  Located 11 km from Darjeeling town, at an altitude of 8482 feet (or 2590 meters) and above Ghum (the highest railway station in Asia and second highest in the world– a UNESCO World Heritage Site), it offers mesmerising views of the Kanchenjunga and the Mount Everest.

Though not quite documented as to why the hill is called ‘Tiger hill’, some believe tigers may have been a plenty at that altitude, hence the name. There are evidences that in the past, the tiger was common in the sub-montane terai of Darjeeling District. For instance, O’Malley (1907) observes: “The tiger is met with in fairly large numbers in the plains portion of the District, as well as in the lower hills up to the height of 2,000ft (606m); and it is said to have been found, in a few instances, as high as 7,000ft (2,121m). And recently, to everyone’s delight, the big cat was seen roaming around freely in Neora Valley National Park in Darjeeling district (The New Indian Express, 2017).

While sipping our finest Darjeeling tea, we immersed in the tea time chat and pondered…..

Tyger Tyger burning bright,

In the forests of the night:

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

References

  • Ahmad, Y.S. (1981). With the Wild Animals of Bengal. BRAC Printers. Dacca, 80pp.
  • Chanda, A (2017), First tiger photographerd in Darjeeling’s Neora valley, New Indian Express, 20th Januray, 2017.
  • Nandy, S. (2006). Wild Cats of West Bengal. West Bengal October, 11-16pp.
  • O’Malley, L.S.S. (1907).  Bengal District Gazeteers. Darjeeling. Logos Press, New Delhi, 12-13pp.

#WorldTigerDay #InternationalTigerDay #TeaTigerTigerHillAtDarjeeling #MayaDarjeelingTea #TeaTimeChat #TigerZindaHai

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