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Meet Latika Nath, India’s Tiger Princess & The 1st Indian With A Doctorate On Tigers

  • IWB Post
  •  July 11, 2018

Let’s talk about Latika Nath – a renowned wildlife conservationist who’s also known as India’s Tiger Princess, a title given to her by National Geographic. Well, do you know she’s the first Indian and woman with a doctorate on tigers?

Remembering what led to it, she says it was a terrorist attack in her locality which destroyed the nearby Dachigam National Park in Jammu, that impacted her deeply. She tells YourStory, “My grandparents’ home was burnt using incendiary bombs, the staff was tortured, shot and murdered and we lost everything. I then took the decision to join the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), where the director Dr. HS Panwar, advised me to consider doing a doctorate on tigers as no holistic scientific studies had been done on India’s national animal till date.”

Latika studied Environment Science from Maitreyi College (University of Delhi) and later, grabbed a scholarship to study at the School of Forestry at the University of Wales, Bangor.

Talking about the nature of her job, she describes that, as a wildlife biologist, she gets to spend weeks in jungles conducting research, and hours together with the animals, observing them in their natural habitat. She says, “In the initial years, we had absolutely no access to civilization – and often no company, no means of entertainment, and no means of communication either, so our family would not hear from us for weeks on end. There are days when you are alone in a forest outpost, managing with dry rations and basic amenities. On the other hand – I spent years in some of the most beautiful places in the world. And then suddenly, when you least expect it you see something that you know very few people have the privilege of seeing, and it changes you forever.”

Her resume holds some huge accomplishments, for example, her first career break at INTACH, coordinating the activities of 172 regional offices in the Marwar region of Rajasthan and working in detail on the issue of river pollution, handling the landscape ecology issues in Bandhavgarh National Park, and researching the wildlife corridors in Eastern Madhya Pradesh using a combination of Satellite Image Analysis and Geographical Information Systems. Apart from this, she was also a part of Project design for Terai Wetland Conservation in Nepal that was responsible for creating watering holes and new tiger territories in the forest region.

If you think it’s all fun and adventurous, read what Latika once told to The Hindustan Times – “At times mine would be the only vehicle in the forest. It was hard work, but nothing could match the experience of living with tigers. I got to know every member of the tiger family intimately.”

Author of a kids’ book called Takdir, the Tiger Cub, she’s founded Wild India Resorts (Kanha) Pvt Ltd. (2015) and Singinawa Foundation (2018). Both the organizations have a mission of establishing model eco resorts for the wild cats. While working at Kanha Tiger Reserve, she also helped provide livelihood to the villagers living around the national park. Their job was to create charcoal briquettes from lantana and cow dung as a fuel source, funded by TOFT. What more? She has been working with middle-school children from 11 schools of the Kanha Tiger Reserve on environmental projects, funded by TOFT, helped raise funds to provide seven 4×4 vehicles for patrolling the seven ranges of Kanha Tiger Reserve, and imparted computer education to the tribal children there, using computers donated by friends.

Latika concluded the conversation by talking about her struggle in a man-dominated field. She says, “It was a daunting prospect to break into primarily a male bastion and work in the field shoulder to shoulder with men.”

In Africa and other countries, one is allowed to carry protection with them – but India does not permit the use of anything, including pepper sprays. “You learn to adapt and live in sync with the other inhabitants of your habitat, and most importantly to protect and nurture the fragile ecosystems you’re part of. I am just about beginning to prove that I am not a socialite adopting a cause but a serious conservation ecologist who can prove her right to be counted in the ranks of India’s foremost conservationists, and I have what it takes to do real work on the ground.”

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