Sunday, January 15, 2017

In the Land of the Tiger

In the Land of the Tiger: A Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent
© 1997 Valmik Thapar
285 pages



Imagine a Planet Earth episode focused entirely on India, and then presented in book form. The result is In the Land of the Tiger, which takes readers on a guide through the lush natural landscape of the Indian subcontinent, starting from the mountains and following the rivers to the coast, from there visiting islands before examining other disparate areas of the land.  This volume is replete both with photos and picturesque writing, displaying a soul-stirring variety of animals. Many I had no idea existed, like   the Hoolock gibbon, India's only ape,  and the pied hornbill.  The expanse of human settlement has pushed many animals into new territories and created interesting adapational behavior: for instance,  although lions typically hunt in prides,  those who live in India's forested margins must become solo artists. There are also elephants who swim in the open sea between different island. (There is an extraordinary shot of an elephant swimming, taken from below. Talk about perilous photography!)    Land of the Tiger makes more cultural references than Planet Earth or related series did, connecting animals to Hindu religion and folk medicines.   I've been slowly guiding through this the past few days, savoring the photos and writing -- what a great start for the Discovery of Asia series!

When I finished this book I noticed that Land of the Tiger  was actually a BBC nature series. I was more on the nose than I realized!

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6 comments:

  1. we viewed a Netflix cd a couple of month ago with the same title; it must have been the BBC one... it was excellent; i was surprised that there was any wildlife left at all, having believed that the subcontinent was just wall to wall people...

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  2. The maps in this book indicate a scattering of nature reserves across the country. There are also areas so hostile to human settlement that the animals are protected, for the time being. Also, some remote areas of the country are occupied by tribes with strict animal-rights beliefs -- the kinds of people who repent if they swallow a fly that sort of thing.

    I imagine most of the population is concentrated on the coastal areas of the country, if the map in the book (displaying wet/arid areas) is any guide. An actual map of population density seems to bear that out, at least as far as the Indian archipelago goes:

    http://68.media.tumblr.com/24f66698cfd67d0944d1d3b8a565ad38/tumblr_nwgb5k1dxo1rasnq9o1_1280.png

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    1. interesting... come to think of it, i'll bet most populations tend to collect around coastal areas; or water of some sort... the non animal eating sect are the Jains, a Hindu offshoot, i believe

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    2. This group was referred to being related to the Jains, but not being Jains.

      The concentration around coasts is definitely true for the United States -- coasts and rivers. That's where life flows.

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  3. When I was in Sri Lanka in the mid-80s (only briefly, less than 24 hours, thank God), I noticed a horrible paradox: natural beauty shared spaced with unbearable poverty and filth. As I understand from people who have been to India, the same paradox exists and persists. It seems as though you have read a lovely book about natural splendor; if you want to preserve that perspective, I recommend against visiting the subcontinent.

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    1. Appropriately enough, I followed this with a book on sanitation in developing countries, including India!

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