Fateh Singh: The legend who built Ranthambore
In a village near Jodhpur in the desert state of Rajasthan, Fateh Singh was born to a family of Rajputs. With a police officer for father and a grandfather from the army, Fateh Singh’s famous handlebar mustache looked more like a passed on tradition than a mere matter of chance. After all, there’s little to do with chance when a warrior takes upon himself to protect the clan of none other than the tiger.
It was in a jungle in Rajasthan that Fateh Singh saw the magnificent animal for the first time. Having joined the Rajasthan Forest Service in the 1960s, he was working for the Maharaja of Udaipur when he was asked to arrange a hunting expedition for the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. The tiger shot by the Duke was the first one ever that Fateh Singh saw.
Hunting had become such a popular sport among the Jaipur royals and English officers that it threatened the once brimming wildlife and tiger population of the Rajasthan jungles. The government took notice of the situation and issued an immediate ban. Project Tiger was launched then and Fateh Singh, who was involved in the scene, made sure that Ranthambore became a part of the project.
From then on, he dedicated his life, over 50 years, to Ranthambore. He helped relocate the villagers from the park and transformed the arid desert into a natural habitat for wildlife. Soon the Tigers returned to make Ranthambore their home.
It is said that Fateh Singh could recognize a tiger by its pug marks and stripes. He even named a tigress after his eldest daughter, Padmini. His close association with tigers and understanding of the big cat talks volumes about his love for the animal.
Once he became a Field Director, he made sure that live animals were not used as bait to lure tigers and banned night driving in the forest to protect the wild animals.
Ranthambore was declared a National Park in 1980.
Fateh Singh constantly fought against the poachers and the ignorance of the government in crisis situations. After his retirement, he set up Tiger Watch, an NGO that works to save the Ranthambore Tigers and provide alternate sources of income to local people and the nomadic hunting tribes in the area.