Thank you, Gopal! How one tiger helps save his entire species

It’s ten years since Gopal the tiger arrived at our sanctuary in India but, during this time, his adoption has helped support our wider work, including impactful tiger conservation.

A Bengal tiger standing serenely in dense shrubland

Gopal (c) Wildlife SOS, Lenu Kannan

In January 2014, a six-year-old Bengal tiger arrived at Born Free’s Tiger Sanctuary in Bannerghatta National Park, in southern India, after coming into conflict with local people. Ten years on, with the help of supporters who adopt Gopal and our wonderful long-term partners at Wildlife SOS, who manage the sanctuary and co-fund Gopal’s care, he enjoys a peaceful existence in his forest enclosure, receiving expert lifetime care. But, that’s not all. People who adopt an animal with Born Free also support our wider work, including vital community-based tiger conservation in India. This exciting work is having a big impact.  

Gopal was born in the wild, we believe in 2008, in Nagarahole National Park in Karnataka, southwest India. The Indian authorities took the decision to capture Gopal when he was found to be preying on goats and cattle, and was deemed a threat to people and their livelihoods. Sadly, before he had been taken in, Gopal had been injured by people in retaliation and was at risk of being killed. But, at the sanctuary, with veterinary treatment from Wildlife SOS he recovered well from his wounds – though we had to reinforce his enclosure to make it safe for this powerful tiger.

A Bengal tiger peeking out from behind the long grass

Gopal (c) Wildlife SOS, Lenu Kannan

Today, in this expansive enclosure, or ‘kraal’, several acres in size and filled with indigenous trees and dense undergrowth, Gopal can be hard to spot as he relaxes in the shade of lush greenery. But, he also enjoys patrolling his territory, surveying the majestic mountains surrounding the sanctuary and exploring his large patch of forest, before taking a dip in a deep pool. His carers provide fresh ‘environmental enrichment’ to enhance his life and help him express natural behaviours, such as scent trails to investigate and food hidden in bushes to track down.

“Of course, this is not the same as living freely in the wild,” explains Born Free’s Head of Rescue & Care Maggie Balaskas. “But, at Bannerghatta, thanks to our wonderful adopters and Wildlife SOS, Gopal has the respect and privacy he deserves in as natural environment as possible.”

Unfortunately, habitat loss and the resulting lack of wild prey can lead to tigers coming into increasing contact with local people in India. But, for 20 years, Born Free has been working with Indian organisations and conservationists to protect wild tigers, support human communities and help people and tigers live peacefully alongside each other, in the vast forests of Central India. Known as the Satpuda Landscape Tiger Partnership, this important project has already had a big impact and today India has an estimated 3,682 tigers, more than 2½ times the number recorded when our work began in 2004.

The significant initiative is funded with the help of income from Born Free’s extensive adoption programme, including Gopal adopters. So, when you adopt this magnificent tiger, you don’t just help provide his loving, lifetime care. You will also support our wider work for wild animals, including the vital and successful tiger conservation programme in India. So, by helping look after ‘just one tiger’, you could also help ensure the survival on his entire, endangered species. He might not be able to live in the wild but, he can still play a key role – thank you, Gopal!

Our warm thanks to our friends at Wildlife SOS for taking such world-class care of Gopal, for helping support the costs of his lifetime care, and for sending us such fascinating, detailed updates on Gopal’s progress, plus the most delightful photographs. Intrigued? Adopt Gopal today and you’ll receive your own personalised adoption pack AND enjoy regular reports on how he is doing in India, with your help.