Guest Interaction: Mr. Joseph Vattakaven, Tiger Biologist


On 15th September, students had the opportunity to interact with Mr. Joseph Vattakaven, a tiger biologist from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Over what seemed like a brief one and a half hour session, students learnt more about this iconic species. At present, there are less than 4,000 tigers in the wild, as compared to 100,000 at the start of the 20th century. Of the ten recognized tiger subspecies, only six are remaining, and all of them have been classified as endangered by the IUCN. They are found in only thirteen countries, and nearly half of them are in India due to its contiguous forest cover.

Mr. Vattakaven spoke about their critical role in the food chain, their being an umbrella species, their flagship and charismatic value, and their ecological and economical contribution. He touched upon the tiger’s spiritual and cultural significance in India, which has contributed to its conservation efforts. He went on to detail the work of tiger biologists and shared stories from his experience in the field. He spoke about his time tracking and monitoring tigers in the wild on elephant back recording kill intervals, scavenging methods, breeding and other social behaviours. He spoke about other data collection methods, such as radio collaring and tracking tigers, collecting tiger scat and analyzing footage from camera traps. His presentation was followed by an interactive question and answer session. By the end, all went away with newfound tiger knowledge, an almost instinctive desire to participate in conservation efforts, and the realization that what was presented was only a small glimpse of this remarkable creature.