Although tiger populations in many parts of the world are on the rebound after years of being endangered, they still need help. In the foothills of the Himalayas, where the largest population of wild tigers in the world live, one man is using the private purchase of forest land to ensure the big cats’ safety for years to come. Abhishek Ray has made his living as a Bollywood singer, musician, and composer, and he decided to use his earnings to buy forest land adjacent to Jim Corbett National Park in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand to create a nature reserve for tigers and other wildlife.
The Bollywood composer learned more than 10 years ago how human activity can devastate the natural habitat of tigers and other wild creatures. Village life, unsustainable agriculture, and poaching all threaten the wildlife in India, leading Ray to the conclusion that purchasing land for a wildlife reserve was the only way to make a real difference for local wildlife. Over the course of seven years, Ray bought land from native families and worked to eradicate a dangerous parasite, created a year-round water source for animals to drink from, planted 400 trees, and worked to grow grass on stretches of land where none had been, thereby increasing usable habitat for many plants and animals.
The Sitabani Wildlife Reserve is home to at least 35 royal Bengal tigers, according to a recent count, as well as other animals that need protection: the Asiatic Black Bear, the leopard, the Goral (mountain goat-antelope), the elusive Serow, the yellow throated Pine Marten, and more. Over 650 species of birds also live on the reserve.
Ray’s motivation to turn his private estate into a wildlife reserve is the culmination of a lifetime of environmental protection work. He began supporting environmental protections as a child, and feels a close connection with nature. Ray even says his musical compositions are inspired by the natural world, including the composition he wrote and sang that became India’s national anthem for tiger conservation. “The forest has its own sounds and those are the best that I have heard,” he told reporters. “I inhale nature and exhale music.”