Zackary Canepari February 27, 2009Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in India.
Tags: India, Sunderbans
Honey collector wearing mask to confuse tigers, Sunderbans, India
Zackary Canepari (b.1979, USA) is a freelance photographer specializing in editorial and documentary photography. His career began in 2003 shooting portraiture for American culture magazines such as XLR8R, RIDES and the SF Guardian. Before that he studied photography in Paris at the SPEOS photographic institute and later entered the Masters Program at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. He has been still photographer for two documentary films, My Blood My Compromise, about the struggle for Independence in Kosovo and REBORN, about rebuilding the New Orleans school system after Hurricane Katrina. For the past two years he has been based in New Delhi working with clients that include the New York Times, The Guardian, Newsweek, TIME Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune.
About the Photograph:
“Unofficially there are three stages of tiger personality when it comes to human interaction and hunting. The normal tiger generally will shy away from people and will only attack if threatened. Often, this will happen and the tiger will kill in self-defense. This sometimes will lead to a tiger becoming a man-eater, meaning it will hunt humans for food. Man-eaters almost always attack from behind, usually aiming for the victim’s right shoulder/neck. In the Sunderbans, the honey collectors often will wear human masks on the back of their heads, hoping to confuse or discourage their predator. But the tigers aren’t easily fooled, and the honey collectors twice a year enter the forest and risk an attack. For these poor people, the money earned is essential for survival. Finally, the most fearsome and rare of the tiger man-eaters is the man-killer. Man-killers have stopped fearing humans and no longer hunt in the classical manner from behind. Man-killers come from the front. With a man-killer, the mask is useless.”
“Life is Hard in the Sunderbans. The people are poor. The environment is unforgiving. The infrastructure is shoddy. And there is no consistent supply of fresh clean water. But in the world’s largest mangrove forest, there is another danger and it’s much scarier than public health. Depending on the tides, the region consists of 100 or so islands. Half house four million Indians and Bangladeshis. The other half 250 Royal Bengal Tigers. The people work in the forest collecting honey and fishing. The tigers live in the forest. Depending on who you ask, between ten and fifty people are killed by the animals every year. But the tiger is also embedded in the local culture. Traditional songs and ornate performances referencing the relationship are commonplace. and no one enters the reserve without performing a puja for the goddess of the forest, Bon Bibi. Despite the risks, the locals realize that without the endangered tiger, the Sunderbans would be vulnerable to the outside world. Today the Sunderban’s delicate balance faces a new threat. Rising sea levels are eroding the southern islands, forcing the tigers towards the more colonized areas. As the global population of the tiger decreases and as land dissapears under water, tigers will eventually run out of places to go.”