Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 22, 2019

Tigerland

Filed under: animal rights,Film — louisproyect @ 7:58 pm

As the title suggests, “Tigerland” is a documentary about the efforts in both Far Eastern Russia and Bengal, India to prevent tigers from going extinct. It opens today at the Monica Center in Los Angeles and at the Cinema Village in N.Y. next Friday. It will also be available as VOD on the Discovery cable network tomorrow. As a genre, it resembles what you would see on channels like Discovery, Smithsonian and National Geographic. However you decide to see this beautiful but worrisome film, it is worth your time because it gets to the heart of the species extinction that confronts humanity today. As a symbol of wilderness, probably nothing can top the tiger, a creature that inspired William Blake to write:

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

At the start of the 20th century, there were 100,000 tigers living across Asia. Today there are less than 4,000. The same socio-economic forces that are acting to exterminate them are arrayed against us. The loss of forests across Asia not only threatens tigers but us as well since forests absorb greenhouse gases. With people like Modi, Putin, Trump and Jinping in control of natural resources, including tigers, our days are numbered.

When the film starts, you do a double-take since it shows a tiger walking through deep snow. After a minute or so, you learn that this is a Siberian Tiger—one of the few of the species living outside of India and Southeast Asia. Pavel Fomenko operates a tiger preserve in the Bikin National Park funded by the World Wildlife Fund.

In the years following the collapse of Communism, poaching became a major problem in Russia. Since there is a market for tiger organs as sexual potency aids in China, just as there is for rhino horns, tiger numbers fell precipitously. The film does not identify Putin as helping to reverse this trend but if he was, that’s one good deed in his sorry life.

Much of the film is devoted to Fomenko’s team trying to track down two tiger cubs who were separated from their mother. She was taken into the tiger preserve after attacking and eating a couple of dogs in a Bikin village. They finally succeeded in reuniting the family but nearly at the cost of Fomenko losing his life. When tending to the cubs, the mother smashed through a fence and mauled him badly. Fomenko said: “The tigress is not to blame. This is typical behavior of a predator defending its offspring.” If there is any hope for Russia, a country even more warped by consumerist appetites than the USA, it is that there are people like Pavel Fomenko living there.

The Bengal segment of the film features conservationists Amit Sankhala and Jai Bhati, the grandson and great-grandson of the original “Tiger Man of India,” Kailash Sankhala. Kailash Sankhala was motivated to campaign for the protection of tigers when he became Director of the Delhi Zoological Park in 1965. Appalled by the willingness of the government to promote hunting safaris that were drastically reducing the number of tigers, he took on the political elite that was fixated on “development”. This meant turning the habitat of tigers into plantations or mining sites, while coveting the foreign currency pouring in through big game hunting expeditions. Fortunately, he found a sympathetic ear in Indira Gandhi who pushed through legislation banning the killing of tigers.

It should be mentioned that the Indian gentry was just as bad. It was as addicted to killing tigers as Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway were to killing animals at the top of the food chain. One of the more disgusting historical footage seen in the film is an Indian hunting expedition that culminates in the killing of a tiger. As the creature lies dying on the ground, it is shot several more times at close range and topped off by the elephant ridden by some Mughal wannabe stomping on the head of the dead tiger. Seeing this, I was reminded of Bruce Cockburn’s “If I had a Rocket Launcher”:

I don’t believe in guarded borders and I don’t believe in hate
I don’t believe in generals or their stinking torture states
And when I talk with the survivors of things too sickening to relate
If I had a rocket launcher, if I had a rocket launcher
If I had a rocket launcher, I would retaliate

The film was directed by Ross Kauffman, who won an Academy Award for “Born into Brothels” and produced by another Academy Awardee Fisher Stevens, who helped make “The Cove” possible. “The Cove” was a powerful documentary that helped to put a stop to killing whales for Japanese grocery stores. Let’s hope that “Tigerland” will help shore up the resistance to killing tigers.

 

2 Comments »

  1. I assumed whales were still hunted for food in Japan, justified by “national heritage “ nonsense.

    Comment by Elliot Podwill — March 22, 2019 @ 9:20 pm

  2. You may be right, Elliot, but I do know that the film set the whaling bourgeoisie and its political allies back on their heels.

    My review: https://louisproyect.org/2009/08/30/the-cove-crude/

    Watch the film for $3.99: https://play.google.com/store/movies/details?id=C1Jh3kHYyaU

    Comment by louisproyect — March 22, 2019 @ 9:33 pm


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