Who is really the tiger?
Future of captive tigers
The giant cat syndrom
India and the Mahabharata
China the Empire of one million tigers
Siberia, nucleus of a multicontinental civilization
North America: 10 000 captive tigers and huge wild areas
Europa: bringing occidental tigers to life again
Africa: a future in southern territories
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THE GIANT CAT SYNDROM

  1. BIOLOGICAL PROXIMITY
  2. CULTURAL KINSHIP
  3. WHY A CULT FOR BIG PREDATORS ?

    EURASIA : THE PLANET OF SYMBOLIC LIONS

    FUSION

    THE GIANT CAT, BETWEEN NOSTALGY AND HOPE.

  4. A COMMON FATE

 


After their separation by speciation process, lions and tigers have been reunified in human perceptions.

Their fates are intimately linked.


  1. BIOLOGICAL PROXIMITY

If lions and tigers are now different species, they come from a common root (the tiger could even proceed from lion’s branch). Supposed elements of divergence are, in addition, restricted by many and significant exceptions :

Social, living in open field, or unstriped furred tigers, for one part ;

Solitary, living in forest, or aquatic, non maned, striped lions…

Even about geographical distribution, particularly during Pleistocene interglacial maxima, numerous « exclusive » areas where infact common.

(More details on page « Who is really the tiger »)

Lion is now threatend by a quick extinction in the wild (before 5 years, like the tiger).


CULTURAL KINSHIP

A. WHY A CULT FOR BIG PREDATORS ?

Every religion is in relation to death. Prehistorical religions considered giant carnivores as a preferential messenger to an other world. Gigantic « cave » lions could statistically be the first choice, as they were present and dominant not only in Africa, but also in Eurasia, North America (and even South up to Peru…)

Doors for world of beyond have canine teeth, in Meso – America as well as in Southern Asia.

Numerous populations in direct relationships with the ocean have the shark for emblematic animal.

In western Africa as well as in many regions of Australasia, crocodile obtains the preference.

Near Ivolga (village of oriental Siberia), chamans organized, up to the last century, big sacrifices of domestic animals in front of an enormous rock that looked like an opened tiger’s mouth…


B. EURASIA : THE PLANET OF SYMBOLIC LIONS

Cultural influences from some civilizations towaeds others were determining in a progressive « lionisation » of previous giant cats’cultures in Eurasia.

During Pleistocene, there is both variety in big predators and in human cultures attached to them.

At the Protohistoric epoch, after a severe drying episode in central Asia inducing a dramatic breakdown in tigers’ presence, indo – european people of iranian mountains choice the lion as the major symbol of political strongness.

Their historical influence will be huge.

In a first time, their weapons as well as their ideology quickly overthrow Mesopotamia (western campaign) and a territory including present northern India, eastern Pakistan and Nepal (eastern campaign).

In a second time, symbolic lions are spontaneously adopted by cultures in contact with them and submitting their direct or indirect influence.

Pharaonic Egypt integrates the lion as a royal animal.

In asian far east, the evolution is particularly spectacular : this region, saturated by tiger cultures since millenaries, is connected to himalayan buddhism and the emblematic northern indian lion : southern India, Ceylan, Indochinese peninsula, Sunda islands, Japan and southern China submit a « lionny tsunami ».

« Protector » tige ris now deviled, and lion takes his place in temples.

Like buddhism in eastern Asia, christianism imposes the symbolic lion in Europa : besides the fish, he is an important element of christian representations : cubs are supposed always born – dead, and taken to life again by their father’s breathing three days after…

European bear culture is snuffed (Pastoureau 2007) like this of tiger in Asia

(in his travel to China, Marco Polo sees « tricolorous lions »…).

Tiger culture stays alive in her initial cradle : lacustrine steppa and forest from Baïkal to Yellow River.

The Eurasia of empires and cities is so symbolically unified under the lion’s mane, from Venice to Beijing.

Nevertheless, the emergency of scythic civilization introduced a new deal.

Central asian populations renonce to sedentarity and adopt a nomadic way of life. Everything changes. A true resurrection of prehistoric cultures occurs from Yellow River to Danubia up to the end of 15th century.

Representations are centred on wild animals. Leopards and tigers take place besides lions, with no exclusion nor hierarchy (Schiltz 1994).

America stays protected by ocean up to the end of eurasian steppa empires.

Meso – America has the culture of jaguar, Andin region has that of puma.

After the invasionof the continent by europeans of sedentary culture, the jaguar becomes « el tigre » and the puma « the mountain lion »…


C. FUSION

At the beginning of the 17th century, the symbolic european bear takes strongness again in Russia, in the same time of the resurrection and expansion of this country.

Later (18th and 19th centuries), the formula « russian bear against turkish tiger » will be famous.

Some decades before, the same phenomenon occured in Eastern Asia for tiger culture, but in a much more progressive way. Buddhism is influenced by traditionnal local cultures (a bit like Islam in Western Africa for instance).

Representations of the striped cat begin to grow again in number.

Lions and tigers finish by becoming commutable in artistic and religious representations.

India (like Ceylan) has still the lion as first symbolic reference.

It will be the case up to now.

But muslim conquerors of this country, that bear the double heritage of both Persia and Steppa civilizations, quickly offer to the tiger a growing part in representations.

Later, in the 19th century, the islamin indian leader Tippu Sultan, opponent to english occupers, will take the tiger as a fighting banner.

From 1619 to 1636, in the Samarkand Registan (Uzbekistan present territory), the Shere – Dor (« of lions ») madrasa is erected. This monument has a gigantic door on which are painted two roaring big cats, colored like tigers and with a thin mane along their back.

So, the « absolute cat », famous figure of scyth art, lion/tiger hybrid, is glorified inside the biggest religious complex of the world.

Moreover, the islamic prohibition about living animals’ drawings is here broken.

The architects were infact, culturally speaking, secondary islamists, but primary and first of all nomads of central Asia.

In more western regions, armenian and georgian christian arts, impregnated of scythic style, massively illustrate lions, leopards, tigers or chimeras composed from these animals.

Enormous cats in the armenian Geghard monastery (oriental Anatolia) have been probably drawn from a model of Caspian tiger. They are not striped.

In oriental Siberia, the temple of Datsan Ivolginsky, which is the official center of buddhism in Russia, has an enormous sculpture of siberian tiger as a guardian, a few kilometers far from Ivolga, area of traditional chamanic ceremonies of tiger cult…

This shows that great historic religions are deeply permeable to a prehistoric one, which is fundamental, indestroyable, eternal.



D. THE GIANT CAT, BETWEEN NOSTALGY AND HOPE.

After the 19th century, matrix of positivist ideology, destroyer of wild Nature and Human spirituality, some writers of european culture have illustrated the nostalgy of lost world (or those in agony).

Nicolas Baïkov, a russian naturalist, has consacrated several books on manchurian tiger, that clearly show that ecosystemic and cultural disappearance are simultaneous.

J.H. Rosny Ainé, in his « prehistoric novels » describes the alliance between a human community and a gigantic cave lion (« The giant cat »).

This fiction is a stonishing anticipation of the « life in whole biodiversity » of villagers and tigers discovered by J.P. Galhano – Alves (2000) in Sariska valley, Rajastan.

P.Benoit, in his novel « Gobi desert » presents as first character a gigantic green eyed and white furred tiger without stripes, as big as a Bactrian camel.

J.L. Borges was obsessed by tigers during his whole life. These animals occupied his dreams and drawings when he was a child, and his novels later. One of those is the strange story of blue tigers in the Ganga delta… (in Thapar 2004, 268 – 270).



5. A COMMON FATE

In August 2008, the Buriat authorities are preparing a massive industrial and mine exploitation of the lake Baïkal Region.

This policy is going to put into agony a unique and gigantic ecosystema, who was the heart of the oldest tiger culture.

Iranian government has began the upset of Golestan and Hirkan national parks.

The first is a sanctuary for an incredible flora’s richness, and is the last known area where was officially recorded a living caspian tiger,

The second was officially created in 1936 to protect this animal (with no result).

Wild lions are so heavily and quickly destroyed on african continent (particularly in oriental Africa) that the species is nowadays threatened by an extinction in the five years to come, like tigers.

Since summer 2008, the styriped cats have virtually lost their last subspecies in the wild (Sumatra tiger) destroyed by oil palm industrials linked to powerful traffickers in this region.

From an other side, after publication, on this site, of the page « Future of captive tigers », 2 american studies show the beginning of change in the global approach about big cat populations management.

Luo, O’Brien and al. (22 April 2008) indicate that genetic richness of american captive tiger has been dramatically underestimed up to now. She could be much more important than in the wild, now. This aspect coupled with a reevaluated level of « purebred ancestry » takes them a major role in the species’ future.

Williamson & Henry (end of July 2008) show the tremendous vulnerability of these concerned populations confrontated to the international trade of tiger products.

Biological brothers (if not twins) and commutable in historical human representations, lions and tigers can be commonly saved. For that, realization of rewilding protocols coupled with restoration of large wild areas are of absolute urgency.

This implicates a reopening of space - physical and mental – like scyths knew do in the ancient times.




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