Before I get into my story, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Haley Kernell, and I am currently a second year student at the University of South Carolina School of Law. I graduated from Clemson University in 2012 and can’t believe I am now a Gamecock (still a Clemson Tiger at heart). I decided to pursue law school after travelling to India in March 2011 because it established in me a strong desire to strive to promote the importance of conservation. It has become increasingly evident just how important our efforts as an organization, and even my individual efforts, are in successfully preserving our mascot. I am excited to be the new Journalist Intern and look forward to writing about the various conservation issues surrounding the tiger and the numerous Tigers 4 Tigers clubs across the country.
March 2011: I can remember seeing the most gorgeous tigers almost 3 years ago, and it feels like it happened yesterday. It was our first day in Kanha, and we had gotten up at 5AM for our game drive. By this time, we were used to the early wake-up calls, even excited to get up considering we had the potential to see the precious tigers. Kanha National Park, created in 1955, is located in Madya Pradesh. This park is the heart of the Kanha Tiger Reserve, which covers 1,949 km2 and is rich in Indian wildlife. It is home to 43 species of mammals, 300 species of birds, 26 species of reptiles and over 600 species of flowering plants. It seems like we saw a majority of the wildlife!
We were driving along, and all of a sudden, our guide split off from the group to (hopefully) spot a tiger. We were skeptical at first since the rest of the jeeps had gone the opposite direction. Then, just when we had decided it was a false alarm, THREE tigers crossed the road directly in front of us, a mother with her two cubs. The cubs were about 20 months old. We were speechless and amazed at our sheer luck to catch them at the exact right time. Our guide was beaming, especially since we were the only jeep there. It only took a little luck and a little faith.
It must have been our lucky day. A few hours after our first sighting, we spotted a beautiful tigress basking in the sun with her fresh kill, a sambur deer. She decided to back into the watering hole to cool off. I couldn’t believe I was watching such a majestic and powerful animal for the second time that day. The large gathering of jeeps did not phase her one bit. The giant honeybees, on the other hand, got to be such a nuisance that she didn’t stick around for too long. Those few precious minutes watching her were breathtaking and a reminder of why we are working so hard to preserve this magnificent creature. Being able to lay eyes on four of the remaining 1,400 tigers in India was a wonderful blessing, one that will stay with me for forever.
This trip inspired me to work towards making a difference to the survival of the tiger. It opened my eyes to the fact that it is not a widely known plight, even in India, which is why I am so passionate about spreading the work of this organization.