In 1978 I was blessed with a unique
experience. One afternoon I found myself in Chitwan National Park, Nepal,
getting off an elephant, walking through 20 ft. high grass, and coming face to
face with a 350 pound Bengal tigress. Though she was sedated, her eyes were
open, staring at me, and her breathing was loud and heavy. The afternoon was
spent helping research scientist David Smith cool her down with water, taking
vital measurements, and fitting her with a radio collar for future tracking. We
sat on the elephants, late into the night, until she could safely get up and
stumble into the forest.
It was not until 1991 that I realized the
power the tiger held on my psyche. I began hearing stories of a new and
insidious threat to tiger populations in India and Nepal. For the first time I
heard about tigers being killed for their bones. This information came from
respected wildlife and conservation experts as well as published reports from
conferences in India. Some famous tiger reserves had suffered near catastrophic
losses in just two years. Indeed, the great tiger reserves of India and Nepal
had become shopping malls to satisfy a market based on ancient Chinese
medicinal practices and customs.
In 1993 I spent the afternoon with a brave
and dedicated Deputy Warden at Chitwan, Tikaram Adhikari. We talked about the
poaching threat to the tigers and visited some miscreants in the local jail who
been caught in a sting operation trying to sell tiger bones and rhino horns. I
decided to do something to help.
In 1994 I started the Save the Tiger fund
raising trip with Mountain Travel/Sobek. This has proven highly successful and
next March 2010 will be the 15th departure. [The trip was featured in a November 11, 2007
San Francisco Chronicle story by Travel Editor John Flinn]. The money raised
from that first trip had a very positive effect in helping the anti-poaching
campaign in Chitwan. When I saw how effective a relatively small amount of
money could be when given to the right people for the right project, I decided
to expand my base of support and establish an independent organization to help
block the tiger's path to extinction.
Fund For The Tiger was incorporated in the State of California as a
non-profit organization on August 25, 1995.
The Internal Revenue Service granted tax-exempt public charity status on
March 5, 1996 and the California State Franchise Tax Board followed with a
tax-exempt ruling on May 10, 1996. Contributions are tax deductible within the
limits of the law under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
I am pleased and grateful for the assistance
of two highly experienced people who have joined The Fund as Board of Directors-
Erica Stone, President of the American Himalayan Foundation and Larry Habegger,
Editor of the Travelers' Tales book series.