Many of us know about Jim Corbett, who played a significant role in tiger conservation in India, and because a famous tiger reserve in Uttrakhand is named after him.
Only a few of us would know about the man known as the “Tiger Man of India,” Kailash Sankhala.
Kailash was a renowned Indian conservationist and wildlife expert whose tireless efforts played a pivotal role in the conservation and protection of tigers in India.
Sankhala’s dedication to preserving India’s national animal and his significant contributions to the field of wildlife conservation have left an indelible mark on the history of tiger conservation in India.
Our series, Change Blazers, where we disseminate stories about famous people doing work around environment conservation, lets us know the life and legacy of Kailash Sankhala, highlighting his exceptional work in wildlife preservation.
Kailash Sankhala was born in 1925 in India’s western state of Rajasthan. His early years were marked by a deep fascination with the natural world, particularly the magnificent Bengal tiger that roamed the dense forests of India.
His passion for wildlife and conservation led him to pursue a degree in biology from the University of Rajasthan. Later, he earned a master’s in wildlife biology and conservation from the University of Michigan in the United States.
In 1953, Sankhala joined the Indian Forest Service, and for two decades, he worked in various wildlife sanctuaries in India and at Delhi Zoological Park.
Founding of the Tiger Project
In 1973, Kailash Sankhala was pivotal in establishing Project Tiger, a groundbreaking initiative to protect the endangered Bengal tiger and its natural habitat. The Government of India launched this initiative, and Sankhala was appointed its first director.
The primary goal of Project Tiger was to reverse the alarming decline in the tiger population, which had fallen to critical levels due to poaching and habitat destruction. Interestingly, Project Tiger was launched on April 1, 1973, from Jim Corbett National Park in Uttar Pradesh (now in Uttarakhand), one of the prominent spots for Tigers in India.
Under Sankhala’s guidance, Project Tiger implemented various measures to safeguard the tiger’s habitat and prevent poaching. This included the creation of tiger reserves, the training of forest guards, and the implementation of stringent anti-poaching laws. Sankhala’s unwavering commitment and passion for tiger conservation were instrumental in the early successes of this project.
Kailash Sankhala believed conserving tigers was not just the government’s responsibility but required the active participation of the public. He worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the plight of tigers in India. Sankhala initiated several educational programs, including documentaries and publications, to inform people about the importance of tiger conservation. His efforts helped foster a sense of national pride in India’s rich biodiversity and the need to protect it.
Legacy and Recognition
Kailash Sankhala’s remarkable contributions to the conservation of Bengal tigers and India’s wildlife earned him widespread recognition and accolades. In 1982, he received the prestigious Padma Shri award, one of India’s highest civilian honors, for his outstanding efforts in wildlife conservation.
His legacy lives on through the continued success of Project Tiger, which has significantly contributed to the recovery of the tiger population in India.
Kailash Sankhala, the Tiger Man of India, was a visionary conservationist who left an indelible mark on India’s wildlife preservation efforts. His tireless dedication to the cause of tiger conservation led to the establishment of Project Tiger. The success of this initiative can be assessed from the fact that after 50 years of Project Tiger, India harbors almost 75% of the world’s wild tiger population.
This pioneering initiative has since become a model for wildlife conservation across the globe. Sankhala’s educational initiatives and unwavering commitment to protecting tigers and their habitat continue to inspire a new generation of conservationists. His legacy is a testament to the power of one individual’s passion and determination to make a lasting impact on the world of wildlife conservation.