Ultimately, the reason for conserving tigers may be less to do with their ecosystem or tourist economy benefits, but simply because they are magnificent creatures. "We have a moral and ethical imperative to save them in the wild," Barnosky contends. "I don't want to be part of generation that destroyed the last wild tiger."
I too like knowing that there are still tigers living in the wild. Back in Nepal, I hear the unmistakable sound of bones being crunched by a hefty jaw. Siteram motions for me to remain still, while he tiptoes forward. I can smell the tiger now – an incredibly strong musky odour, mixed with the scent of meat – and I start to sweat and my knees tremble a little. As I round the bush, a dry twig snaps loudly beneath my foot and I catch sight of a blur of powerful movement. With a massive bound, the enormous flame-coloured beast leaps away, disappearing deep inside the forest.
It is still warm where he had been lying, with fresh blood and chewed up deer bones. It takes a while for my heart to return to its usual pace, but it takes longer for the grin to fade. That heart-thudding glimpse of copper fur “burning bright“ will stain my memory forever; it will be truly devastating if mine is the last generation to have this experience.