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February, 2010:

Discovering the animal planet

After reading the latest census numbers that only 1411 tigers were left in India, like you, I too felt like asking: When is the IPL starting? But this is what happens if you feature a serious public interest information mostly as a commercial during cricket telecasts.

Anyway, this 1411 number leads to many disturbing questions, none of which I am afraid I can think of now.  But as far as I can figure out, the way they could have possibly counted the number of tigers is: Send a census worker inside the forest, start solving a sudoku puzzle or attempt a crossword. In the fullness of time if the officer returns, mark ‘zero’ under the ‘number of tigers’ column on the census paper. If he or she doesn’t show up, then remember to include census officials in the list of endangered species. For all we cared, 1411 tigers may perhaps mean an entry of 1411 on the debit side of human census balance sheet.

The other possible method to have a headcount of tigers is to tote up all the pugmarks and then divide them by four. But this is an arcane mathematical method and can be attempted only by well-trained senior officials who are skilful in the complex science of divisibility in numbers above two.

Further, if the eventual integer is divisible by two and not by four, then it has to be logically deduced that one of the tigers is not actually a tiger, but just a man sitting with his two legs on tiger skin and trying to pass off as a sage. Generally, he is more dangerous than a tiger. And four human legs in the equation inevitably points to a different Tiger having his typical fun in the Woods.

Census officials are also known to perch themselves on high trees, and using high-resolution binoculars, spot the wild animals. The thumb rule here is: If it is striped it has to be a tiger. And if it is striped in deep white and black, it means the binocular is way too sharp and is actually able to focus on the zebras roaming in the distant forests of Africa. On such occasions, as a technical correction, forest officials are advised to climb down from the trees and go to Australia, so that their binoculars can be correctly zoomed in on Indian forests.

The scientific way that is, however, popular among wildlife conservationists is to buy top-end camping equipment and robust land rover kind of vehicles and camp in dense forests for days and nights together unmindful of the terror that the untamed beasts and untrammeled territory hold. They usually do this to escape from the reach of dangerous poachers known to humankind. Yes, home loan telemarketers.

And when all their food supply run out and it is time to present themselves in real world, the conservationists, using all their expertise and experience, scientifically think up a random number. It usually is: 1411.

Sorry to have been extremely casual and callous on a sensitive subject involving the country’s national animal. But it is fascinating to understand how countries name their national animal. England, for instance, is represented by lion, an animal that possibly does not exist in the entire continent of Europe. The only conclusion that can be rationally arrived at is: The team that named Britain’s national animal was drunk way beyond the acceptable limit. If they had been in a position to remember the spelling of hippopotamus, they would have probably named it as their national animal.

Elsewhere, America is symbolized by a regal eagle, perhaps chosen for its undoubted ability to fly high above the statue of Liberty and do the thing that birds generally do atop a convenient statue. New Zealanders settled for kiwis on the sound principle that an animal cannot fly and a kiwi doesn’t. Ergo, national animal. Aussies decided that kangaroo will stand for them because it was one animal that came with a built-in beer belly.

Human beings, in general, have a strange relationship with animals, especially if the animal happens to be a dog. Canines always bring the worst out of even the most sensible of folks.

The dog squad is a big deal in police departments. But to the best of my knowledge no dog has ever helped crack any crime. All they do all the time is to sniff a scent that run only up to the street-end, after that the dogs get back to their default mode: Looking for an ideal place to lift a leg on. If you’re looking for a spot to relieve yourself then it helps to have a dog squad.

Why should an otherwise savvy cellular service company try to hawk its products by featuring a cartoon-faced dog in its commercial? Yes, you’re right, they had the IQ of raisins and even with that IQ they could figure that the rest of populace lose all their IQ upon seeing a dog.

The world actually comprises two sets of people: Dog-lovers and those hated by dog-lovers. After this piece, I’m sure to belong to the second group. Which is to say, I, too, will be endangered. Somebody start a campaign to save me.  In return I promise to remain loyal to you. Like the adorable pug in that commercial.

I know this will work.