Friday, January 31, 2014

1. How she killed 25 lions with a single arrow

On this day, Rebecca Bates killed twenty-five lions with a single arrow. To her credit, she did not premeditate it.  But once she had known about it, she did not regret it much either. 

Most people have a purpose in life, if only to survive from day to day.  Above mere survival, some would pursue happiness, whether at the expense of others or not.  Only a previous few serve someone or something greater than themselves, be it ones child, a cause, the common good, or the whole planet - at their own expense.  So, in this scheme of things, where does one place Rebecca's current purpose in life, which was to bag the BIG-5 - the leopard, the buffalo, the lion, the rhino and the elephant?

Up to two months before, her general purpose was to hunt every huntable African species, and have at least one head from every species adorning her trophy-room wall. Last time she looked, three of the four walls were crammed full of animal heads, from duiker to monkey to jackal to hunting dog to hyena to boar to ostrich to wildebeest to zebra to elan to hippo to giraffe. At the centre of the back wall was a cheetah, surrounding which being its prime prey species - the impala, the Thompson's gazelle and the Grant's gazelle, among others. But the front wall was blank. This wall, she has reserved for the Cape buffalo, the leopard, the lion, the rhino and the elephant - her now desperately desired BIG-5.  All in all, these constituted only her African trophy room.  There were two more in her vast basement, one for Asian animals and the other North American animals.

The primest of the prime specimens, these. No compromise there, thank you. An elephant, for example, the tusk length record was 3.264 meters (10 ft 8.5 in), and weight-wise it was 102.7 kg (226 lbs 7oz).  She was well aware that due to uncontrolled ivory poaching and the previously unregulated trophy hunting, such behemoths no longer existed, that the second echelon tuskers were disappearing fast, and that the average tusk size had been declining by as much as 1.5 pounds per year in recent years.  But she was not going to accept any elephant that was not the largest for its space and time.  As wild spaces shrank, time pressed upon her an overwhelming sense of urgency.  She must have the last of the big tuskers before they were eliminated from the face of the Earth.  She must be the last of the Great White Hunters, and a female one at that!

To further distinguish herself from her pining peers, she had set a certain criterion for her achievement. She would take the Big-5 down, one by one, not with a high-powered big-bored rifle, but with her 75-pound compound bow.  It started with nothing more profound than a dare when she watched a TV-show on women bow-hunters. At first she just wanted to join their rank. But gradually, she began to want to outdo some of them, then all of them. She took up archery in earnest. Measuring just 5'3 and 120 lbs, she could hardly draw a 40 lb bow at first. The African bow hunting rule stipulated a minimum draw weight of 70 lbs for the Big-5 - especially the rhino and the elephant. So she put herself through a rigorous body building program. When she landed in Africa for the third time two months before, she was a sleek and muscular 140. And with her shining blonde hair and icey-blue eyes, she was the mythological huntress Diana personified, or so she saw herself, although culturally this would be inconsistent with her having "accepted Jesus Christ as her personal savor", as defined and imposed by her evangelical and tyrannical father.

Subsequent to Rebecca's BIG-5 expedition, a woman named Shannon Stone, who eventually became the Vice President of a ten-thousand-members-strong group called the Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC, as in "We will, we will, GAHC YOU!"), published a blog series titled [The 12 Most Vile] female trophy hunters of the time. Rebecca Bates was the second. She did not make top spot because it was occupied by one Sarah Palin. 

Back to Rebecca meanwhile, to claim her Big-5, and to fully savour every tiniest nuance of the chase, Rebecca had set aside two months. Now, into the second, she had bagged a gaur-sized Cape buffalo and a lioness-sized tom leopard. No doubt these were the finest of the fine specimens, and each chase was a thrill and a half, but she could not fully concentrate on them even when the hunts were in progress. To her, they were the tokens of Big-5, mere steps to her goal, two means to three ends - her lion, her elephant and her rhino. She found herself somewhat robotic while firing three arrows into the buff, no more animated than while target shooting. And the leopard, well, the challenge was in locating one, and it was not her doing, but that of her somewhat handsome hunting guide Travis Waltrip. When it came to shooting it, she even felt a tinge of contempt for the animal, for being the least of the Big-5. She had her field-dresser and skinner bring her the buffalo head and the leopard pelt, then matter-of-factly called the taxidermist to come and pick them up, and that was that.

Since then, for five days now, she had Travis drive her to the far corners of the vast hunting concession, looking for the king of kings. In all, they found ten adult-sized males, three with voluminous blonde manes, who were the males of the nearer AAH pride, three with equally voluminous black manes, who were the males of the farther GXR pride, and four younger non-territorial not-yet-prided males called the GOF (Gang of Four). Travis identified the three blonde males as Achilles, Agamemnon and Hector of the AAH pride which comprised seven lionesses and twenty four cubs of various ages from two months to over two years. The GOF had been evicted from a third pride about a year before. As was the lion's way, the GOF roamed from territory to territory, making incursions and leaving calling cards in the form of their scent charged urine, thereby checking out the strengths and vulnerabilities of the pride males occupying those territories. Though they had indeed tested the formidable AAH, they had steered a wide berth from that kingdom. There were weaker prides to target, with older lions.  But they were never far away either. At night, Rebecca could hear their roaring contests, which sent thrills up and down her spine. By and by, she found herself losing interest in the GOF, and even when she dreamed, it was about the big blonde Achilles.

Still, for the last four days, she had patiently glassed AAH, minutely examining each - their relative sizes, their mannerisms, their blemishes or lack thereof, even their facial features. Especially their facial features. She would want none but the handsomest and most majestic adorning the front wall of her trophy-room back home. Having seen the AAH, nothing an iota less would do.

Day before yesterday, she had firmly made up her mind. Achilles was hers, and not even Agamemnon and Hector combined could shake her from this her new obsession.

Yesterday, she spent the entire day watching Achilles alone. When Agamemnon and Hector crossed his path, they were but a blur. Only Achilles stood crystal clear in her eyes. She had fallen in love.

Meanwhile, Travis had merely sat by while she did her interminable telescopic scrutiny of what he took to be the entire AAH pride, lionesses, cubs and all, plus the occasion glimpses of the GOF, without asking a single question, while surreptitiously admiring her curvy form obliquely from behind, and day-dreaming his own manly dream of romantic victory and sexual conquest. This was somewhat excusable, at least in his own mind. He's been out here in this wilderness for eight straight months, and client after client had been big fat bankers or lawyers or politicians, or else the odd hitherto surviving drug lord. Women-wise, they had been nubile mistresses hanging on to the trunks of their money-trees, or dumpy and fretful wives trying to sexify themselves with their name brand safari suits. Besides, with Rebecca shelling out $1250 per day for his just being there, she could take all the time in the world indulging in her inexplicable distant lion-scrutiny to her heart's desire. Then came the evening and the obligatory camp fire, and in the sensual flicking of the flames, her desire was revealed.

"Travis darling, bring me another cup that lethal brew of yours, will you?" she crooned.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure, Ms. Bates," said he, almost jumping to his feet.

"Are you really that easy to please, Travis? Anyway, now that tomorrow shall be the day, you may address me as Rebecca."

"I will be your servant to the end, Ms... uh... Rebecca. Your wish is my command," he said, while placing the second cup of strong coffee into her manicured yet powerful hands.

"And my desire is my wish."

He raised one eyebrow dramatically. "And what might your ladyship's desire be?"

"Not so fast, Mr. Casanova. I'm referring to the lions at the moment."

"Oh, but of course," he replied awkwardly, while regrouping with a touch of professionalism.  "So, you have selected your quarry?"

"Indeed I have. Indeed I have," she murmured, as if confessing to the fire.

"Who has captured your desire? Which lion, I mean."

"Achilles. He's the one. He is mine."

"Whoa. No no. Sorry Rebecca, he is out of bounds."

"And why not?" She cast him a sidelong glance, which became a steady stare.

"He is the poster boy in my website and my show piece to all clients. His purpose in life is to entice them to cross the seven seas. Once they have set foot on this land, his task is done. It will be other, lesser, lions that will take the bullet, or arrow, as the case may be."

"Ah, you have hit the nail on the head, with one word."

"What word?"

"'Lesser'. I want nothing that can be so described. I want the very best. I'm glad you concur on which one this refers to."

"I'm truly sorry, Rebecca, but Achilles is not to be touched. How would the leader of the Gang of Four be? He is one magnificent specimen of the much sought after dark-maned variety."

"Nope. Achilles it has to be, or the hunt is off."

Travis tried, but could not maintain contact with her piercing eyes, and let his gaze drift down to the one of the crackling imported logs. "Look, I'll have to consult my senior partner on this," he mumbled weakly.

"Well, well, so you're not man enough to call your own shot?"


"Alright, let's approach this from another angle, an angle I'm sure you can appreciate. Everything has its price. So, tell me what Achilles' price is."

"One moment, please." He stood up much more stiffly than before, walked over to the main tent and entered it. Moments later, he ambled back, and said, "Mr. Hawthorn said that he would required three times the fee."

"See? There is no such thing as not-for-sale."


"I will pay you double. Fifty grand. Plus five for you to keep."

"I'm sorry, Rebecca, three times $25,000 is $75,000."

"Fifty grand plus five, and I will throw in myself for the night. Take it or leave it," she said, without a hint of passion in her voice.

Minutes later, the sounds of the wild African night was polluted somewhat by those of human origin, emitted from Rebecca's tent to be exact, vocal, but non-verbal. Even so, the great orchestra of nature was dominated by the lions. The sound was awe-inspiring and horrific. The lions had taken down a large animal, which Travis said to be a giraffe by the sound of it. And the hyenas were the uninvited and unwanted guests to the feast, which lasted till dawn.

In the mid-morning, from about a mile out, they spotted Achilles resting in the shade of an acacia tree, alone. Travis tested the wind and said that they were at a cross-wind to Achilles. He guided Rebecca down wind, then made a stealthy tangential approach. At about a hundred yards, she halted Travis, who had his rifle on low-ready.

"Wait here," she ordered.

"I can't do that," he protested.

"You're gonna have to." And with this, she began to advance towards the sleeping lion, bow not drawn, but arrow nocked.

Travis hurriedly assumed a prone position on a slight rise, and kept the cross hair of his scope on his chest. With his other eye, he saw Rebecca approach Achilles in much the same manner as that of a lioness approaching a zebra herd. At forty yard or so, she stopped, stood up erect, drew her bow, took careful aim, and launched the arrow right through Achilles' massive torso. The lion gave a surprised roar, lept to his feet, fixed Rebecca with his fiery eyes, then charged head long with a hurricane in his mane. Rebecca cradled another tri-bladed arrow, and was midway through drawing her bow when a barrage of three shots came from Travis' rifle, which brought Achilles a crumpled heap twenty feet in front of her, enshrouding her with a red cloud of savannah dust.
She stood staring at Achilles for a long moment while Travis charged down the rise at a run. When he had come within striking distance, she delivered to his cheek a resound slap.

"See what you've done!" she scream at him. "You ruined this hunt for me! I wanted to kill him MYSELF!"

Within days of Achilles' demise, the Gang of Four invaded the AAH pride, crippled Hector, evicted Agamemnon, exterminated all 24 cubs thus terminating the AAH line, and claimed the seven lionesses for themselves for their own genetic propagation.

She might have felt a fleeting pang of regret when later she heard about the cubs, but cubs were worthless to trophy hunters anyway. She saw them as accepted bilateral damage in her quest to mount the magnificent head of Achilles towards immortalizing her BIG-5 wall.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2. How she killed one elephant with 25 arrows

Rebecca felt nothing about the two-dozen dead cubs, but she hired a helicopter to over-fly the old AAH territory until she spotted the scene of the carnage.  She instructed the pilot to circle the site several times during which she took over a hundred aerial photos, then to set the chopper down for her to take close-up shots.

Meanwhile, through her weeks of BIG-5 tracking, Rebecca had not relented on her upper-body-strength-training.  To take down her next prey, even her 75-lb bow would not suffice.  To drive the heavy-gauge tri-bladed arrows through thick and tough hide deep into the massive torso of her chosen Colossus, a draw weight of no less than 90-lbs would be required.  And 90-lbs is what her bow was now set at, which even Travis himself could hardly manage.  At 90-lb draw, she was over the edge and shook slightly, so her aim was less steady, but the target was huge - the heart itself weighs in at some 28 kg or 60 lbs, was by her own analogy twice the size of a butterball turkey - in which case accuracy could take a backseat to power.

While increasing the draw weight, she had to come to terms with decreasing expectation about tusk size.  The rigors on the ground, including over twenty miles of trekking in the fierce African heat on some days, and at that without much to show in terms of her quest of the 100-pounder, had drummed into her the difficulty of finding even a 50-pounder, or tusks greater than 5 feet in length.  Due to this she suffered a bout of belittlement, but emerged with the determination to find at least a 60-pounder, one with tusks at least six feet long.  

To track elephants is different from tracking lions.  Whereas the lions are highly territorial, roam the open savannah and sleep openly under acacia trees, elephants range widely in their quest for forage and water, and often frequent thick vegetation where the visibility is restricted to 30 yards or less.  Which may as well, since the ideal shooting distance of an arrow is only 30 yards.  

Other than the accurate shooting distance, which for the scoped rifle can be hundreds of yards, bow hunting has the extra disadvantage regarding the angle of attack.  Simply put, a rifle is capable of both the frontal brain shot meant to drop the elephant where he stood, and the frontal or broadside heart shot, whereas the flank heart shot is the only one the bow is capable of.  The desperate bow hunter could of course attempt a frontal shot in the chest between the massive fore limbs, but the arrow may not reach deep enough to reach the heart even if well-aimed, or it would end up being a lung shot, and the enraged animal would be directionally oriented to charge straight at you. 
Rebecca was not the only female bow hunter, and wouldn't be the first to bow-hunt an elephant.  The first woman who killed an elephant with an arrow was Teresa Greenfield, who dispatched her prey with a single arrow, resulting in the elephant staggering for over a mile before collapsing.  His body was recovered a day later, and it was still warm.  The pain in the arrow-embedded heart which struggled to beat faster and faster cannot be imagined.  

This did not exactly trouble Rebecca.  Her burning ambition was to out-do Greenfield, and she had found a way by which she could do it more, in her own words, "humanely". And it would Rebecca Bates' way.  She would fire as many arrows into the elephant as the situation would allow, the goal being to kill it as quickly as possible.  In elephant bow-hunting, everything is relative; there is absolutely no quick or humane way to kill an elephant with arrows.

"I expect that the elephant will collapse within 100 yards of where the first arrow is launched, and will die within an hour of when the arrows are shot," she wrote to a hunting magazine, to which Teresa Greenfield was of course paying rapt attention. 

The day when the 65-pounder was sighted, though "it" was too far to reach considering the time of day, the camp fire illuminated a scene where an act of extortion was played out.

Jacob Hawthorn, Travis's senior partner, was nursing a glass of whiskey in the fire glow, when Rebecca sidled up next to him.  "What a glorious day this has been, Jake," she crooned.

"Indeed, Rebecca, indeed," enthused Hawthorn somewhat guardedly.  For some reason, he often found himself somewhat guarded when sharing eye contact with Rebecca.  

"And tomorrow promises to be even more glorious yet.  I won't be able to sleep tonight."

"If you don't bring down that huge beast by sundown tomorrow, I will give you a ten percent discount."  He instantly regretted what he said, not because of the money, but the crassness that even he himself felt.

Her soft gazed transformed into a steely stare when she said, "It is crass to talk money in the campfire light, Jake, but since you brought up the subject, what I have to say to you is that you will give me a hundred percent discount, whether I bring down the beast or not." 

He forced a smile.  "Ha ha, nice try, Rebecca, I love you as a client, but not THAT much." 

"Oh, Jake, you will positively HATE me for it, but you will give me not only the 100% discount on the elephant, but a hundred and fifty percent discount on the promised rhino, and I don't want a docile White rhino either, but a fiery Black rhino."

"WTF!" he thought to himself, but said out loud, "I'm having a hard time interpreting your sense of humor, Ms. Bates."

"No laughing matter, I'm afraid, Jake."  She handed him a large and budging brown envelope. "Here, see for yourself."

"Wh... what's this?" he stammered while taking the enveloped from her hands.

"Go on, open it.  It won't bite."  She smiled.  "But I'd be careful if I were you."

He slowly set down his half-empty glass, awkwardly tore open the envelope, and extracted from it a thick stack of jaw-dropping and eyebrow-raising photographs.

"Wh... what's all these?"  He repeated.

"They are images of the remains of the AAH pride.  A tragic disaster perpetrated by one of YOUR clients that occurred on YOUR watch."

"Does Travis know about this?"  

"No.  No one knows about this, as of now.  But one such package has been sent to stateside, and received yesterday by my friend Edward Smith.  If he does not receive anything else from me by midnight our time, that is two hours from now, he will release them one per hour to the New York Times, the National Geographic and the CBS, with your name plastered all over them."

"This is blackmail, Ms. Bates, and blackmail is a criminal offense."

"So sue me."

At 11:45 pm, she received two "complimentary rewards" from African Nights Safari, Inc., one for an elephant hunt, and the other for a rhino hunt, plus a "bonus" of $175,000 deposited into her bank account in Manhattan - exactly half the fee for a rhino hunt.  At 11:59 pm, she made her call to New York.

"Edward," she said within Jake's ear-shot.  "Hold off releasing the package until month-end.  If I return to New York safely before then, we could burn it together with the flash drive; if not, release it to media the first of next month."

The next day, she did down her 65-pounder.  She did it on horseback, alternatively fleeing the charging elephant and charging after it as it was fleeing.  In all, the two quivers tied to the saddle contained 25 arrows, all of which having disappeared into the body of the elephant within three minutes.  

Within a hundred yards, and an hour, he died, just as she had predicted.

3. Bloody Superstition and Bold New Philosophy

Georgia Straight Magazine
April 1997
Pessimist give the world's tigers 5 years.  Realists, 10.

They're the kind of numbers that make you want to quietly despair, to give up, to flip the channel and think about something more pleasant.  Melrose Place maybe, or Roseanne.  Mark Lee, however, whether from a sense of conceit, ignorance, or a staggering sense of confidence, saw nothing impossible in the task of bringing the tiger back from the brink...  

... To highlight the extent of Vancouver's tiger trade, Lee kicked off a media blitz in January 1996.  Local journalists were invited on an endangered species tour through Chinatown's apothecaries.  The tour began in the low-ceilinged warren that serves as WCWC's headquarters.  Lee upended his briefcase, spilling out 15-20 boxes of Chinese patent medicines: tiger plasters, tiger pills, tiger-based medicaments for rheumatism, tired blood, soft bones, and sexual impotence, all of them purchased in shops in Vancouver's Chinatown.  Pointing to the ingredients lists on the diverse packages, Lee picked out the symbols, words, and phrases that in Latin, English and Chinese spelled out “tiger bone”.

The next part of the tour was a trip along Pender, Main and Keefer Streets, with Lee indicating here and there the shops and apothecaries dealing in tiger medicinals and inviting journalists to go in and check the shelves for themselves.  Six shops out of 10 stocked a variety of boxes, cartons and bottles labeled with some variation of the word Os Tigris - tiger bone.

The media loved it.  Lee made it on to TV news both locally and nationally, and stories appeared in city magazines and community papers.  He used his pulpit to heap scorn upon Canadian wildlife regulations.  “Canada's wildlife laws could use an aphrodisiac,' Lee said, “because right now, they're totally impotent.”

He was equally hard-hitting in his presentations to Chinese community groups and at Eastside Vancouver high schools.  Traditional Chinese medicine's use of parts of animals like tigers and rhinos, Lee said, and the cutting of many urban trees for that matter, were based on nothing but pure superstition.  That superstition was destroying a magnificent species.  The fact that the practice was tolerated by the Chinese-Canadian community only blackened their reputation in mainstream Canadian society.

Environmentalists heaved a sigh of relief.  Here was someone tackling a problem they had long known about but dared not touch.  “It's great that it's a Chinese person doing the work he's doing.” said Nathalie Chalifour, World Wildlife Fund Canada's tiger expert, “because when it's a person like me doing it, well, I'm white; I'm more likely to be accused to being racist, which is really unfortunate, but it does happen.”

Vancouver's Chinese media were as quick to jump on the story as their English counterparts.  Lee's campaign was covered by both the Ming Pao and the Sing Tao newspapers, and he appeared on several Chinese language radio programs.  According to Ming Pao columnist and CJVB radio host Gabriel Yiu, the Chinese community's reaction to Lee's campaign was mixed.  His straight talk on superstition did offend some, but there was also those who took pride in the fact that a Chinese Canadian was working on environmental concerns.  “For a long period of time when people are talking about monster homes, tree cutting, killing wild animals for some of their body parts,” Yiu said, “people do have the impression that the Chinese community is the cause of that.  I think the work Mark did set a very good example that we do have people in the Chinese community who are concerned about these issues.”...

According to Vancouver city councilor Don Lee, Lee's effectiveness was limited... “I don't know Mark Lee that well.  The Chinese Community doesn't know him well at all,” Lee said.  “We don't know where he comes from.  We don't know why he's doing all this.”  As it turns out, those are two of the most interesting questions that could be asked about Mark Lee.

Born in February 1944, in southern China, Mark Seeu-Sung Lee fled to Hong Kong along with the rest of his family shortly after the Communist revolution.  Family legend has Lee's father burning the deeds of the family's extensive land-holdings for a moment's warmth during the first refugee winter...

(In 1965), Lee came to Canada to study science at the University of Manitoba... At the same time, his relationship with a Hong Kong girl fell to bits when she dropped him on orders from her parents.  Lee has never forgiven Chinese culture for the snub.  “As a result of that incident, I have never dated a Chinese girl again,” Lee said.  It's a decision that isolated him somewhat from the Chinese community, but, according to Lee, it also allowed him to integrate more fully into Canadian society than other Chinese immigrants of his generation.

In 1966, Lee switched over to the physics department of the University of British Columbia.  His summers he spent in the bush in northern Manitoba and British Columbia, working as a geologist's assistant.  It was work that can only be idealized by someone who has never done it.  Lee said, “The student is the geologist's personal servant - more like slave, considering the pay, which was only $280 per month.  I made and carried his lunch, and every few feet, the geologist would pick up a rock sample about twice the size of my fist and drop it into my knapsack.  I had to carry that ever-heavier thing all day, wading into swamps that would sometimes come up to my chest or higher.  Your shirt would be black with flies and mosquitoes.  There could be a bear behind every tree.  It was brutal, but also absolutely beautiful.  And this was how I bonded with nature.”

After he graduated with a B.Sc. in 1970, Lee took a job as a live-in house-father for emotionally disturbed kids, then a career in real estate.  He said he had a heavy student loan to pay off.  One senses he also had a need to gain acceptance among the Vancouver business community.  “I made rookie of the year, then Gold Club, Diamond Club, all that,” Lee said.  “I bought a couple of horses - hunters-jumpers - and got involved with the high social elite you see down in Southlands.”  Snap shots from the time show a short-haired Lee in boots and riding breeches, sitting atop a bay Thoroughbred gelding.

The real estate phased continued for several years.  Lee bought a small acreage in the suburbs.  He dated but never Leeied.  “The work first became routine, then boring, then irksome, then unbearable.  I was still good at it, but the initial challenge was gone,” he said.  

Although some conservationists predict the tiger will be extinct in five years, Mark Lee is convinced he can reverse the prophecy…
China imported the equivalent of 400 grown tigers and exported 27 million tiger derivative products from 1990 to 1993… About 39,000 individual tiger containing products were seized in BC in 1996, including everything from medicinals to tiger claws…

A Vancouver branch of Asian Conservation Awareness Program is planning to begin an ad blitz this June, timed to coincide with the dragon-boat festival.  Ironically, Lee will likely not be invited to participate.  According to ACAP's Vancouver organizer Ling Zheng, Lee's confrontational style doesn't fit in with ACAP's approach, which hinges on establishing partnerships with the Chinese community groups and obtaining sponsorship from prominent corporations.  “We're trying to reach out to the Chinese community, so we try not to use his name,” Zheng said.  “If we mention Mark Lee, I will probably not get any help from organizations like SUCCESS or the Chinese Cultural Centre.  He can be quite harsh towards certain Chinese people, and I've even heard that in the Chinese community he's considered like a traitor.”

Whether that’s true or not, Lee has shifted his efforts from reducing consumption into preserving tiger habitat. With the aid of a $75,000 grant from the Canadian International Development Agency, Lee has gone to India to work towards protecting two Indian tiger reserves from encroachment and poaching by local villagers. The plan is to take a traveling multi-media show to villages around the tiger reserves and convince the villagers that the tiger is worth more to them alive than dead.

Do you think these women enjoy walking five miles every day into the bush to collect a bunch of twigs and carry it back to the village on top of their heads? They do it because they have no choice,” Lee said.  “If we give them a choice and say, Look, we’re going to develop ecotourism, we’re going to organize tourist groups to come to your village, and maybe you can develop some native products to sell to them… Wouldn’t you rather stay at home and weave baskets with your kids than walk five miles to haul water?” 

Other conservationists from other groups have made these arguments before, often with little success, but with characteristic confidence, Lee is convinced he will succeed.

Back in the offices of Western Canada Wilderness Committee, the video tiger rolls up from the ground and twists back through the gruesome contortions of death; the dark-haired man lowers a battered rifle and walks backwards out of the picture, and the orange-and-back form of a Bengal tiger stands once again beneath the forest canopy, proud, free, and alive. For a brief while longer.

4. The test of fire

February 8, 1996, Thursday.

Of everything Mark Seeu-Sung Lee did in the Chinatown campaign, the Chinese-language radio talk shows troubled his mother the most.  She was afraid to listen to it, but couldn't help herself but to do so.  This last one was the last straw.

What happened during this late-night open-line interview frightened his mother so much that she pleaded with him to abandon his enemy-making pursuit, and she didn't even know what he had to do to escape unscathed, which he concealed from her to prevent a total impasse. She was already worried enough about him riding a motorcycle! 

This was the third time in as many weeks when he was invited to go on a Chinese-language radio talk show, and there were hundreds of thousands of Chinese listeners in the Vancouver and Richmond areas.  With every succeeding interview, it got hotter than the one before.  And this third one was a late night show.

In this hour-long interview, a dozen calls came in, of which 7 or 8 were openly hostile, including: “What is more important – people or animals?  Why are you working for animals against people?”, “Our glorious culture dates back five thousand years.  Who are you to change it, not to mention destroy it, much less overnight?”, “How much are your white cronies paying you?”, and, last but not least, the not-so-veiled threat: "Remember what happened to Lam Bun?"

In 1960, Lam Bun was a 30-year-old radio personality in Hong Kong who starred in a prime time radio satire-sitcom as Tseew Jai, a quick-witted and sharp-tongued teenager who was constantly needling the old traditional culture and jabbing the new Communist Chinese government - a more than irritating thorn in the sides of both.  He wrote his own script, and by acting Tseew Jai, Lam Bun was being himself.  Lam Bun and Tseew Jai were one.  Both being well loved, even revered, as well as being openly hated, not without deadly intent.  His fans numbered well over a million, one of whom being the then 16 year-old Seeu-Sung (Beautiful Life - subsequently christened Mark).  Though it had never been thought of as such, Lam Bun was in essence very much Seeu-Sung's role model.

In 1965, Mark took his one way flight from Hong Kong to Canada in pursuit of his higher education and greater destiny, while Lam Bun had developed into a towering social activist.  

In 1967, Mark received one of the worst shocks of his life.  If you search Wikipedia for Lam Bun, you will come across the following passage:

[Lam was a radio commentator at Commercial Radio Hong Kong in the 1960s who was fiercely critical of leftists (*Communists). During the 1967 riots, he criticised the leftist agitators on his own radio programmes. He created a programme called *"Can't Stop If I Wanted To" (欲罷不能) to satirise the leftist agitators. Some leftist newspapers at the time labelled him an anti-China spy.

[On 24 August 1967, whilst on his way to work, men posing as road maintenance workers stopped his vehicle (*a VW Beetle as I recall) at the end of the street where he lived. They blocked his car doors and doused Lam and his cousin with petrol.  They were both then set on fire and burned alive.  Lam died later that day in a hospital; his cousin died several days later. A leftist group reportedly claimed responsibility for the assassination.  No one was ever captured...]

When the next call came in, the host got up to peeped out the front window, and, looking a little alarmed, waved Mark to join him.  There were five men loitering around the front entrance of the building.  There was what looked like a gasoline can sitting at the foot of a lamp post.  One of the men had a mobile phone pressed to his ear.

... You’re a Chinese person yourself.  Why are you trying to blacken the Chinese reputation?" the last caller blazed on the phone line.  Could it be the man with the gasoline can outside?  Or was he the precious caller?

This was such a tired question that Mark, keyed up as he was, answered it almost lethargically, "On the contrary, I'm attempting to save the Chinese reputation.  If we carry on the way we have, we will drive endangered species to extinction without a question.  Our already battered reputation will be forever mud.  Only if we rise up now and change our ways can we have a hope of preventing this from happening.  Only with our success can our reputation will saved."

"You will pay for this, traitor!"  Click.

The host called a commercial break.

"What do you want to do, Mark?" he asked anxiously, almost pleadingly.

Mark peeped out the front window again.  The men were still there.  He looked down the street.  His motorcycle was half a block away near the street corner.  He went to the back of the building and looked through a window, and saw that the alley was clear.  It was five minutes before the end of the show.  

"I will say a couple of things after the break, then I will leave, without seeming that I'm leaving," Mark told the host.  At 3 minutes to the end of the show, he left via the rear door, black full-face motorcycle helmet already on, key in hand.  He walked the half block down the alley, rounded two corners, peeked around the corner to see that the five men were still at the front entrance of the building half a block away.  As nonchalantly as possible, He went to his motorcycle, mounted it, full-choked it, started it, and, without warming it up, roared away to talk another day.

5. Entertaining the world's sexiest man

Present day

"Dear Sir," typed Jake Hawthorn on his laptop keyboard in his Namibia bush office tent, "I am much gratified that you have again chosen Mr. Travis Waltrip as your hunting guide.  Mr. Waltrip has already performed a thorough pre-hunt reconnaissance of the intended hunting area.  A magnificent blonde-maned lion has been selected for your pleasure.  This lion is the most handsome of the notorious Gang of Four which has just taken over the previous AAH pride.  The hunt can commence immediately upon your arrival.  I look forward to be of service to you again.  Patriotically yours, Jake Hawthorn."

He read it once over, then pressed "Send".

Still fuming over the blackmail of Rebecca, his business mind nonetheless began firing electrons.  How better than to use her to regain his loss?  The fee for a lion hunt is $25,000.  The current fee for a rhino hunt is $350,000.  There is no comparison.  And the timing is excellent.  This premium client would be arriving within a week, about the same time as Rebecca's unprecedented "complimentary" rhino hunt.

For ten days, Rebecca religiously followed "her" chosen Black Hercules on horseback, taking pictures of him from all angles and in all strides.  Lunch time or not, she was salivating.  Black rhinos have a certain ponderous grace unequalled on the African plain.  The lions are superb athletes, but even the large males do not possess the rhino's stupendous presence.  And while elephants are majestic, they're too heavy to break from their shuffling running-walk into a trot, much less a canter, not to mention a gallop, all of which the rhino can gracefully execute.  

Once, she got a little too close, and he mock charged, making her Thoroughbred stallion Fire and Brimstone take automatic flight.  With each succeeding encounter, she found herself getting closer and closer to Hercules, and with every succeeding charge, she found herself containing Fire and Brimstone longer and longer until the infuriated super-unicorn was almost upon them.  Then she would release the steed into an instant full-gallop.

Rebecca was in love.

Then, towards the end of the week, two what she recognized to be military Black Hawk helicopters arrived, flanking a white civilian Jet Ranger helicopter bearing a blue insignia on its flank.  The trio landed in a field some two hundred yards from the hunting camp, and parked in a triangular formation, each facing outward at 120 degree separations.  The Jet Ranger was the one facing the hunting camp.  

Within a minute, a man in safari attire emerged from the white helicopter, followed by four men in military fatigue.  The first glimpse of the man through her binoculars took her breath away.  No, not love at first sight, which Rebecca had experienced countless times in her life.  Nothing like that.  Just moments before, and all week long, she was head over heels in love with the Black Hercules, complete with sexual tension.  This man, well, he was dignified in carriage, presidential in fact, but not Brad Pitt handsome.  He did project charisma, but not in possession of a Schwarzeneggerian  physique.  But for those beholders who recognized him at first glance - and who wouldn't? - it was not irresistible appeal, but indefensible power - the legendary ultimate aphrodisiac.  She could feel it in her loins.

She saw Jake and Travis each starting up their Land Rovers and raised a trail of dust which eventually joined the larger dust cloud raised by the helicopters.  They parked in tandem near the white helicopter and, through Rebecca's binoculars, obsequiously welcomed the world's sexiest man and his four body-guards on board the two vehicles, which then retraced the dust trail back to the main hunting tent into which all but two of the men entered.  These two men seated themselves with practiced casualness in two canvas camping chairs one on each side of the tent entrance.  Not so casual were the M-16s they cradled across they laps. 

While the engines of the helicopters were winding down, six men emerged from the Black Hawks, who effortlessly erected at the center of the triangle the biggest tent she had ever seen, surrounded by three military tents.   Meanwhile in camp, the kitchen staff brought heaping plates of what she had become familiarized to be venison, or bush meat, into the dining tent from which wind-distorted laughter emanated.  

At sunset, the men emerged, and were delivered back by the same two Rovers to the helicopter bivouac.  Lamps were lit inside the huge tent, with silhouettes cast fleetingly on the tent walls.  Soon, quietude descended, gradually replaced by the wild sounds of the African night.

Waking up the next morning, she saw that the sun had ascended halfway up the eastern sky, and the helicopter camp looked all but deserted save three sentinels guarding the perimeter.  She cursed herself for sleeping in.  After stewing until her coffee got cold, she had one of the staff tack up Fire and Brimstone and rode out solo in search of Hercules, per chance to come across the power-hunting party.  Without the guidance of the ever wolf-like Travis, she had no luck.  The invigorating running with the mixed herd of zebras and wildebeest did not stir her soul one iota.  In fuming frustration, she brutally spurred Fire and Brimstone ten miles back to camp.  

Upon her arrival, it was late afternoon.  As she trotted the horse back to the corral, something caught her eyes, by which she was momentarily stunned - the skin of a blonde-maned lion stretched out on a vertical frame, next to the one in which the hide of Achilles was spread-eagled.  The power-party had evidently returned to its bivouac.  Whom she did encounter was her hunting dog Travis, who was wearing his characteristic wolfish grin.   

"Hey Rebecca, where've you been?" said her one-night-stand airily.  "I was getting worried."

"Seeking Hercules," she answered with as few words as possible.

"Any luck?"

"Not telling, considering that if I said yes, you would frown, and if I said no, you would laugh.  Neither I find very appealing."

"I take it that it's a no then.  Haha!"

"Take it whatever way you like."

"My day has been fantastic!" he offer

"I don't remember asking."

"Well, our big client got his lion, under my expert guidance of course."

"I find neither earth-shattering."

"This day is the biggest day of my life!" announced Travis to the sky.

"Really?  Sounds familiar.  Isn't that what you said to me the night Achilles died."

"Ah, well, yeah, but this one is in a class of its own.  Tell you a secret, if you promise not to spread it around."

"That's what 'secret' means, Travis.  But what makes you think that I'm interested."

"Ohhh, if I told you, you'd become extremely interested, guaranteed."

"So tell me, if it really distresses you not to."

"Well, first off, he is not a good shot.  I had to finish it for him."

"Oh, really?  You had to finish Achilles for me too.  Now I see what you mean by gallantry."

"Hey, don't get me wrong.  His is a scoped 30-06; yours was a bow.  There is a big difference."

"Oh, so his is an 'is' and mine has become a 'was'?"

"Damn it, Rebecca!"

"Take your mind off it, Travis. My feelings are not your concern.  This is the Day of your Huge Client, so let's keep me out of it."

"You are twisting my words..."

"What do you mean by 'first off'?"


"You said, 'First off, he is not a good shot'.'"

"Oh, that.  Well, other than this, he is pretty fantastic."

"How?  So, he is my competition for your attention now?"

"For one thing, he is one of the most powerful men in the world..., hell THE most powerful man in the world bar none."

"Who?  The president of the United State?  Oh now I see how you are feeling, considering that you had a hard-on for just the king of Spain."

"I didn't!"

"So, what is the president going to do tomorrow?"

"Without confirming that this client is the U.S. president, he will be watching a hunt tomorrow."

"What hunt?"

"A rhino hunt."

"Whose rhino hunt?"


6. 1 anti vs 130 hunters

Alberni Valley Times

Bears, whether Black, Brown, Grizzly or Polar, are not endangered species in North America. Mark Lee wants to keep it that way.

The campaigner for Western Canada Wilderness Committee was in Port Alberni Thursday night with his effort to ban sport and trophy hunting of Grizzly and Black bears.

It was a very hard sell to the audience of about 70 dominated by hunters and hunting guides that packed into a into small, hot room at the Friendship Centre, made even hotter by the temper flaring up from wall to wall.

The hunters say they are the endangered species. They wanted the distinction between legal hunting and poaching to be clearly recognized. “Go ask the bears, to see if they can,” said Lee. He also said that some hunters and guides make this impossible, because they are themselves poachers.

Lee believes that, with both legal hunting, poaching and conservation officer kills, about 8% of the Grizzly bear population and more than 10% of the Black bear population are being killed each year. He said the province’s Grizzly Bear Conservation Strategy clearly states that the species can sustain no more than a 4% annual mortality before going into decline, and even this, according to Lee, is too high.

Members of the audience disputed Lee’s numbers saying that, on Vancouver Island at least, the Black bear population has been increasing by 15% for the last 10 years. Lee countered that the Black bear populations on southern Vancouver Island, and some in Mid-Island, have been decimated in various locales, citing the Cowichan Lake area as an example, and challenged the hunters to produce written documentation to support their claim, which they did not.

A number of people asked why Lee’s main thrust was to shut down legal hunting when the problem is poaching. Lee replied that both in combination is the problem, and that he has another sub-campaign targeting poachers and traffickers of bear parts. A Chinese Canadian, Marr has taken on both Canadian hunters and the Chinese demand for the body parts of these animals.

After about an hour of cross firing, WCWC campaign assistant Erica Dennis finally stood up and said that until poaching can be brought under control, they want to buy time for the bears to recover. One of the hunters pointed at her and said, “Young lady, you are not old enough to teach us anything. Sit down!” Lee pointed at a middle-aged woman in the audience who had been quite outspoken in favour of hunting, saying, “I’ve been listening to this young lady for the last hour. Erica, please proceed.”

Lee needs to get hunters on his side, the woman said, not slam them, because hunters also want to stop poaching.

Some audience members said it is organizations such as WCWC, advertising the fact that bear parts are worth so much on the black market, that is increasing poaching. Lee scoffed at this as an “ostrich attitude”.

They objected to being told that they can’t legally hunt bears, but bears that get into garbage and smash bee hives can be killed for being a nuisance. Lee said, “The bears you kill are not nuisance bears, and killing nuisance bears is not your job.”

When shown a picture of a bear shut in a small cage with a tube leading out from its gall bladder to extract bile, one man said that countries that treat animals like that are not democratic and so they have no conscience. Lee countered that lots of capitalists have no conscience either.

Another man was convinced that if WCWC is successful in shutting down bear hunting, it will try to shut down all hunting. Lee said, “If another hunted species becomes threatened or endangered, I would champion its cause as well.

Back to poaching, Lee said that when an animal such as the tiger and the rhino is declared endangered, the demand and price, and so the poaching, skyrocket, hastening its slide into oblivion. “It is a very vicious cycle, and the purpose of this campaign is to try to keep our own bears out of it.” . . .


The Prince George Citizen  

It was barely civil and sometimes downright ugly. In the end, it took a representative of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee close to two hours to deliver a plea for help to ban bear hunting in BC. Anthony Marr was interrupted, shouted down, and generally abused by hunters in an audience of more than 100 that spilled out of the conference room at the Civic Centre Thursday evening…Marr had barely begun…before he was attacked… 

The Daily News, Kamloops, BC

With calm and respect, Anthony Marr faced rapid-fire questioning from hunters and threw back a plea for them to stop hunting bears…


Beaten but unbowed – Mark Lee says he is undeterred in his campaign despite beating. 
The Vancouver Sun
An environmentalist known for his opposition to bear hunting and the black market for animal parts was recovering Tuesday after being attacked in Vancouver’s West End.

Mark Lee said he was waylaid about 7:30 p.m. Monday in the 1600 block of Haro Street as he made his way to his car after a dinner with his parents at their home.

Environmental groups have been complaining about a sharp increase in threats of physical violence directed at their members.

I was parked in the lane”, Lee said. “There was this guy waiting for me by my car. He advanced a few steps and said, ‘Are you Mark Lee?’ I said yes and he immediately launched his attack.  It happened so fast I didn't even have time to turn the other cheek.”

Lee… said his assailant was “over six feet and around 200 pounds” and rained blows upon his head and face, fracturing facial bones and damaging his eye socket. 

Then he said, ‘Let this be a lesson to you,’ and walked off,” Lee said.

The University of British Columbia Hospital confirmed that Lee was admitted and treated in the emergency ward shortly after 7:30 p.m.. Vancouver city police confirmed receiving his report of the attack about 8:40 p.m.

Lee recently led a controversial and widely publicized Western Canada Wilderness Committee campaign to have bear hunting banned in BC.

He has also been active in successfully pressuring government for controls in the black market on endangered species parts in the Asian community…

Lee’s silver 1993 Mazda sports car and its license plate became well known during the anti-hunting campaign, he says.

Lee drove 12,000 kilometers and visited almost every significant community in BC during the summer of 1996, holding public and private meetings that laid the groundwork for a province-wide initiative petition towards driving a referendum vote on banning bear hunting.

Campaigners obtained 93,000 signatures in a 90-day blitz that mobilized 1,800 volunteers, but fell well short of the 250,000 or 10 percent of the electorate - needed to force government action under recall and initiative legislation.

The initiative campaign, however, gave Lee a high media profile.

He said he was constantly harassed by pro-hunting (forces). Pickup trucks tailgated his car and he received anonymous threats of violence by phone.

My reaction is that it merely strengthens my resolve to continue with this campaign,” said Lee...

7. A passionate journey to save the Bengal tiger

Vancouver Sun

A Passionate Journey to Save India's Tigers

by Mark Lee

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, May 14, 1999 (ENS) - The tigress was sleeping on her side in the undergrowth deep within Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, the self-appointed "tiger state" of India.  She was scarcely visible in the dense foliage with her camouflage of brown and white patches and shadowy black stripes. Within tail-flicking distance behind her was a half-eaten carcass of a wild boar. The tigress was not going anywhere, short of angrily bolting in fear of being stepped on by the elephant on which I was ensconced, which was indeed getting a little too close.

She tolerated our intrusion for awhile, but when the elephant ripped a branch off the tree in whose shade she was resting, she finally had enough, rolled on all fours, gave us a chilling glare and emitted a hissing snarl that could not be ignored. I snapped the last of a string of photos and instructed the mahout to beat a prudent retreat.

It was January this year, during my third expedition to India's Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves as Western Canada Wilderness Committee's (WCWC) tiger conservation program director. The program, with WCWC working in partnership with the Indian conservation group Tiger Fund (TF), is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency at $100,000 per year over three years. WCWC also generates further tiger conservation funds from its own 25,000-strong membership, hundreds of donors, educational outreach slideshows and its annual Save-the-Tiger Walk.

Of the original 100,000 to 150,000 tigers worldwide, only 4,000 to 5,000 remain with only three of the original eight subspecies surviving. The Bali tiger was extinct as of the 1940s, the Caspian tiger died out in the 1970s and the Javan tiger in the 1980s. Of the remaining subspecies, the Indian Royal Bengal tiger has the best chance of survival because there are still about 2,500 remaining compared with 1,000 Indo-Chinese tigers, 300 Siberian tigers, 300 Sumatran tigers and 20 South China tigers.

Wild tigers are dying at the rate of about two each day worldwide due to the dual cause of direct killing and habitat loss. By the same token, about one a day dies in India. At these rates, no wild tiger will be left anywhere in the world within a decade, and the Indian tiger's security is but that of the last carriage of a crashing train - unless tiger conservation projects everywhere succeed big time, and very quickly. This is what I'm betting on, starting with our Save-the-Tiger Campaign.

In 1973 when Project Tiger was launched, with founder Kailash Sankhala as the first director, tiger trophy-hunting was banned and about 25 tiger reserves were created. Meanwhile, however, consumer countries like Japan, Korea and China continue to demand for more tiger bone and penis to supply their traditional medicine markets, and India's human and cattle populations continue to sky-rocket - 980 million and 300 million today respectively.

These are the dual causes of tiger decline - habitat loss and direct killing. Direct killing refers to poaching for medicinal bone and penis, but also poisoning by villagers in retaliation for the occasional loss of cattle as tiger prey. Habitat loss encompasses deforestation and overgrazing. Currently, the biological contents of a miniscule three
percent of India's land mass are given any degree of protection, but even these "protected" areas are being eroded by government-condoned mining and logging, and by local villagers in desperate need of firewood for cooking and heating.  Especially hard to solve is the overpopulation problem of India's cattle, caused by their being milk-producers, beasts of burden, and, most importantly, sacred cows.

For each of these problems there are long-term and short-term solutions. The long-term solution is to re-kindle citizen pride in the tiger as a national symbol throughout India and especially to motivate the villagers who live around tiger reserves to become tiger conservationists themselves.

This is easier said than done. While I was there, India was consumed by cricket fever. If Indian tiger conservation could captured but one percent of this enthusiasm, I could retire.

During my two-week stay in urban India, I gave our tiger conservation slideshow, seen by more than 30,000 students in British Columbia, to 3,000 students of ten Delhi and Jaipur schools. The show did generate the same degree of enthusiasm, resulting in ten "tiger clubs," which I aim to link with environmental clubs in schools in Canada.

What does it take to turn villagers into tiger conservationists? Consider first the villagers. During my eight-week stay in rural India, our WCWC/TT team, made up of TT field worker Faiyaz Khudsar, Vancouver volunteer Anne Wittman and myself, held six hour meetings with the leaders of about 120 villages of the 178 in Kanha's Buffer Zone. The meetings included discussion, a slideshow and a two hour safari in the park - a place most of them have never seen.

A sub-species of the Swamp deer - the Barasingha (Cervus durauceli branderi) in Kanha National Park.

Their most common concerns are crop plundering by park ungulates especially the cheetal deer and the wild boar, loss of cattle to tiger, insufficient compensation for both, the lack of irrigation, and, last but not least, the lack of financial benefit from the park.

Underneath these external factors is the general undertone of abject poverty that limits the villagers' mindset to the here and now at the expense of tomorrow into which the path of conservation extends. The key to overcoming these difficulties is actually quite simple: to let long term conservation benefit them today.

One of the key components of this is to introduce alternative technologies, such as biogas plants and solar cookers, to replace wood as fuel. Bearing in mind that village women currently spend their daylight hours gathering fuelwood from far afield, then walking kilometers back to their villages or to townships to sell their 50 pound headloads for 15 rupees (55 cents) each, they would welcome alternatives that could allow them to stay at home and work on financially more rewarding and more eco-friendly cottage industries.

Our team trekked long distances through thick jungle in Kanha's Buffer Zone to access remote villages with our demo solar oven on one of our backs. The demo cooker was designed and made in Canada, but units are modified in India so they can be constructed out of local materials.  With nine months of solid sunshine a year, India is well suited to this technology. In a multi-village conference at Bandhavgarh where I was one of the speakers, we signed up 23 villages who wished to try out our solar cooker, and further, five villagers signed up to learn to make the cooker on a commercial basis.

To combat the cattle overpopulation and overgrazing problem, we bought a special hybrid Haryanna bull that local people had been hankering for - one whose offspring yield ten times the amount of milk as the usual breeds. We provided it on a trial basis to a village named Chichrunpur on the periphery of Kanha tiger reserve - one of the 22 villages translocated from the Core Area into the Buffer Zone during the creation of the park. The villagers agreed to stall-feed the new bull and his offspring with fodder that can be grown on part of the land or obtained commercially, while gradually retiring the existing low quality stock and neutering all their existing random-bred bulls. After a generation two, the bull will be rotated to another village and another installed in his place. Stall-feeding is important because it frees the land from free-range overgrazing, protects the higher-quality animals from tiger predation, and makes cattle dung readily available for biogas (methane) generation - another alternative fuel technology.

Regarding the tiger reserves, the general sentiment of the villagers is that they are little more than rich peoples' playgrounds that provide little financial benefit to them save a few jobs in the park service, and worse, produce deer and wild boar that plunder half their crops without adequate compensation from the park authorities. In view of this, we recommended reforming the park system so that the reserves can at least compensate for themselves. Consider this: the world renowned Kruger National Park of South Africa charges $25 US per visit, Uganda charges US$180 for one hour of Mountain gorilla viewing. Neighbouring Nepal's Chitwan National Park grosses US$800,000 a year. Half goes to improve park services, including anti-poaching, and half goes to a benefit fund managed by the villages themselves, which helps to preserve the park as their benefactor.

In contrast, the Indian tiger reserves charge foreign tourists only US$2.50 for a full day park visit. Indian visitors, mostly wealthy people from other states, pay just 25 cents. We advocate using Chitwan as a model by raising the park fee by a factor of ten for both foreign and out-of-state Indian tourists, while offering local villagers free park access on a limited basis. Half the increased revenue could go to park services which could generate more employment, and half could go to the villages to compensate for crop plundering and finance cottage industry enterprises such as manfacturing solar cookers. This gives the villagers a real control over their own destiny.

The park officials, villagers and tourists we have spoken with at both Kanha and Bandhavgarh by and large wholeheartedly embraced the proposal. We further pointed out that tigers are in fact their benefactors, since they keep the wild ungulate populations down by several thousand a year, and tigers are what tourists from around the world pay the park fee to see.

While at Bandhavgarh, we were dismayed to discovered that the tigress Sita, made world famous by the cover article in the December 1997 issue of National Geographic, had disappeared. Her loss is most likely due to poaching. More than five other tigers out of a supposed population of only 45 have also vanished, all within the last six months. The entire park was in a state of subdued uproar, with fingers pointed in various directions.
Worth more dead than alive

Only yesterday I heard from Faiyaz Khudsar that 10 tiger skins and four tiger skeletons were recently seized in the Kanha District capital Balaghat. Some officials would deny it, but commercial poaching is alive and well at both tiger reserves. The proposed park reform should strengthen their anti-poaching measures.

During our visit, we maintained the medical clinic and free school weinstalled at the Tiger Fund Conservation Centre at Kanha in 1997. The school and clinic services three nearby villages. In the whole of Kanha's Buffer Zone there are only four medical clinics including our own, all with similar effective ranges. Of the 178 Buffer Zone villages, no more than a dozen have access to any medical service.

For the rest, we introduce local medicinal plant cultivation and use by means of our demonstration medicinal plant garden. We intend to establish a mobile clinic to benefit more villages in due course. From their perspective we are a foreign adjunct to the park system, and they likely would give some credit to the tiger reserves for any benefit they receive from us.

Finally, we can all learn something from India's experience. Tiger trophy hunting was not banned until there were fewer than 2,000 tigers left, in spite of which the Indian tiger may still perish. Currently, most independent biologists agree that there may be as few as 4,000 Grizzly bears in British Columbia, regardless of how many more the prohunting BC government claims there are. If we do not ban the Grizzly bear hunt here in our own backyard immediately, our Grizzly bears may go the same way as the highly endangered Indian tiger, or worse, the extinct Bali, Caspian and Javan tigers.

 @ Environment News Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights Reserved.