Dr. Latika Nath: The Tiger Princess
“I was 3 months old when my parents took me on my first ever fishing trip! Growing up in surrounded by nature enchanted me and made me aware of the magic of wildlife. Having a father who was responsible for setting the Animal Conservation Movement in India, further paved my way to becoming the first female Wildlife Biologist of India to work on tigers.
Our house was surrounded by fields. We’d always have birds coming in. Not only did I have a Puppy and a Siamese cat as my pets, but an Elephant and Rabbit too! And at 7 I knew that my destination was in the wild!
But, the journey wasn’t easy. Remarks like ‘Women can’t survive in the forests’, ‘Wildlife Research in India is Male dominant’ often came my way. And working in this ‘male dominant’ field made me the center of a political crossfire during my WII (Wildlife Institute of India) fellowship. I was charged with false allegations of fabricating data. My research was stopped, my grant was taken away. It took me a year to fight that. After an investigation the charges were dropped and my grant restored.
But, things took a turn when I returned from Wales. For my Ph.D., I wanted to study the snow leopards in Kashmir. But the terrorist attacks in 1991 burned down our office and killed 7 members of our staff. I had to move back to Delhi.
Dr. HS Panwar (Director of WII) then threw me a challenge and said ‘Nobody in India has managed to do a scientific research project purely on Tigers. It is quite difficult to get the permissions and working on the field will require tenacity. So, are you up for this challenge?’ I immediately accepted. And, the rest is history!
Soon, I moved to Bandhavgarh. I was there from 1991-2000. On many days I’d be the only one in the park. I’ve witnessed the brightest sun as well as the storms in that park. But, most importantly I witnessed tiger behviour that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. I once sat beside a tiger for 2 entire days! This is the time that made me the person I am today, and the reason I chose to dedicate my life to tiger conservation.
From a young girl who dreamt of becoming an ecologist to facing the impasse of patriarchy, I’ve had a fair share of obstacles in my way. But, I survived – Tigers ke saath jo rehna tha.”