Have You Ever Been Bitten By A Tiger?

By new contributor Richard Rhodes. Richard lives in Thailand with his wife and children and runs an eco-frame business. If you feel like writing for us, drop us an email!

tigerShould this animal have image rights?

Consider this question: How many organisations exploit imagery of the natural world for commercial gain? Imagine the true value of those images; a potential treasure chest for the environment.

The second time I met Valmik Thapar was at the Waterloo Imax cinema, where he was hosting a film on Tigers. I don’t really recall too much about the film, but I do remember a question I didn’t ask him. It was a Friday night and one of our group had had a tipple too many. For most of the Q&A session I had to endure repetitive nudges in my side coupled with orders to “ask him if he’s ever been bitten by one”. Of course you had to be there, but the thought of such a cerebral evening being devalued by such a mindless question always brings a smile to my face.

Valmik Thapar is known as “Mr. Tiger” in India. He’s a bear of a man accorded the same level of respect as our own David Attenborough. The first time I met him was in Ranthambore national park, India. We were doing some fund raising stuff in the area and a crazy member of our group (I recall he carried a 10kg solar lamp for the duration of our trek in the Himalayas and remember him being intrigued by the “devastating beauty of camels”) decided we should meet Valmik. We were granted an audience, and duly discussed Tiger conservation.

There are probably fewer than 7,000 tigers left in the wild. It could be significantly less. This is a creature that almost everyone recognises and reveres. And yet its image is exploited by organisations all over the world in logos and marketing campaigns – at no cost. How weird is that?

If I take a photo of a not so endangered human, then model release rights have to be signed before I can use it to sell petrol or beer. And pretty looking humans don’t come cheap. So I suggested to Valmik that the commercial marketing rights to all endangered animals should be held by a global body (like the UN) and licensed to the highest bidder. The proceeds go to conservation. Of course he politely agreed that it was a good idea (I am not sure he was really listening). Well, at least I asked the question this time.

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