tv The Wonder List With Bill Weir CNN March 22, 2015 10:00pm-11:01pm PDT
when no one was watching. if you were a little girl and some of your neighbors are bears, you learn early that garbage should be locked. hikes should be loud. and when there are cubs, you stay way, way back. such are the laws of the forest. but what it is like to be a little girl in a neighborhood with tigers? special tigers. the last tigers. what are the laws of the jungle when suddenly man outnumbers these big cats by a million to
one? a land with so much human pressure, even an icon of eternal love is wearing away. oh, my gosh, that's just a cuteness overload. hi. look at how cute you are. look at how adorable you are. my goodness. this is the generation that will decide if man and man-eater can coexist, whether a place like india can build the future without destroying the past. so while a few crusaders fight to save a fragile taj mahal and the last tigers in the wild, this is a journey to savor both. turn off your engine. while anyone still can.
my name's bill weir, and i'm a story-teller. i've reported from all over the world. and i've seen so much change. so i made a list, the most wonderful places to explore right before they change forever. this is "the wonder list." ♪ india. it is exhilarating, it is exasperating. it is breath-taking color, hopeless romance. it is breath-taking poverty and hopeless bureaucracy. india is a third the size of america with four times as many people. people speaking thousands of
different languages and dialects, praying to thousands of different gods, divided into castes, broken by the british. how can a democracy this big, this messy possibly find a balance? how can they feed all these mouths, power all these lives and still preserve what is precious? well, the answer could be found in the fates of two very different treasures. one a man-made token of undying love. the other a wild source of fear and fascination. the taj mahal is at risk, some experts say, crumbling beneath the stress of population and pollution. and they say there are now more tigers living in cages in texas than in the forests of india. so i wonder how many we can
find. our journey begins in the very heart of this subcontinent, a place known as pench. here's some of the dos and don'ts in the pench tiger reserve. i like the one, number seven, do not go close to snakes or other wild animals including tiger. no kidding. ♪ the first life we see are spiders, the same species known to catch small birds.
and then come the monkeys. oh. the same species we used to shoot into space, and they are everywhere. ♪ oh there, stop, stop. okay. oh, there he is. look. it's a jackal. that's sort of like a starter kit for a tiger sighting. we saw a jackal for about 30 seconds. just when you get him into frame, he's gone. so i flew all the way over here
hoping to see a tiger in the wild in a few days. >> mm-hmm. >> was i drunk? was that a fantasy? what are the odds? >> it is really down to chance to a large extent. and there's only 1700, 1800 of these animals in the whole country. where we are here is the stronghold for the animals, between 300 and 350 tigers in this region. and so it's definitely the stronghold for india and india's a stronghold for the world. so we're in the right spot all right. >> i was reading around the year we were born there were three maharajas who were in an unofficial competition to see who can bag more tigers. over the three of them, they kill 3,000.
>> i think of it in terms of my daughter who's 10 and think there are some species that could be lost in her lifetime, and could be a huge indictment on humans if that happens but with tigers being so perilously in decline and numbers so low, it's a species that could go distinct in our lifetime. not our kids but ours. now just more than a century later we're down to around 3,000. >> okay. [ whispering ] that's a tiger calling. no, they're deer. >> they're alerting each other that there's tigers in the presence. >> that's a good sign. >> usually when you hear that call a couple of times, you know that the tigers are close by.
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that is the sound of a frightened spotted deer. the first indication that there might be a tiger somewhere nearby. and as we sit and listen, i can't help but flash back to a cell phone video i watched on the flight over. after a tigress and her cubs entered a village and attacked some cattle in 2004 rangers came in on elephants, but before they could tranquilize her, she
pounced, bloodied a man's arm and escaped into the jungle. and then there was this viral video of a 7-year-old white tiger named v.j. on the fateful day last year when a 20-year-old man fell into his closure at the delhi zoo. warning this next bit gets really disturbing. for a tense minute and a half, the man pleads and prays until v.j. grabs him by the neck and grabs him away from the horrified crowd above. man did not make it out alive. and this is jowra. he just killed a man in the forest, and after rangers caught him, neighbors and family gather around the cage and beat him with clubs. so what happens when there's human/tiger conflicts? there must be a blood lust by the village. >> yes.
they look at the animal like a threat. and they're an angry lot then. >> reporter: poonam dhanwatey and her husband build success design in real estate but their current passion is convincing india that tigers are misunderstood. >> it becomes a problem for the animal because if in case, you know, by any politician, they want to be shot legally. then, unfortunate animal is shot then. >> right. >> and is branded as a man-eater. >> you have to convince these very angry people. >> yes. that's quite a task. >> that this tiger that just ate their brother or tried to attack their friend deserves to live. >> yes. >> how do you do that? >> it's very difficult, believe me. especially if you're there on the conflict site and the funeral happening and they're angry.
so -- but you cannot mitigate conflict when there is conflict. it has to be done much before. >> while many in india see clips like this as proof that tigers are insatiable man-eaters, they've investigated hundreds of attacks and say almost all were the result of wrong place at the wrong time, ignorance or needless provocation. >> you've taken her cubs away the previous day. you're cornering her. you're trying to get her repeatedly. she's annoyed. >> but what about the attack at the delhi zoo? >> see, he was on a full stomach. he had no reason to want anything to eat. and if you see his behavior, he's actually simply curious to see what's this unusual thing that's come into my moat. >> right. >> look, he's actually listening to his caretaker who was there and who was calling him.
he's just trying to get away from the people who are throwing stones at him. and in that, you know, the animal is so huge, human things are so small, and this man looks quite frail. >> right. >> and even if the animal did not mean to kill him, the way he picked him up, it just takes a second for the neck to snap. >> complete accident. it wasn't a blood thirst. >> no, not at all. it is absolutely wrong to say that the animal was man-eater or these kind of animals need to be put down. >> to spread that message, they hire local guys to be tiger ambassadors who then try to convince their neighbors that if cooler heads prevail and tigers are given space, all conflict can be avoided. >> one case is an example of a tiger just walks into a village and one day they're just trying to get a glimpse of the tiger. the whole day he was sitting on a haystack. he did not injure one single
man. >> so there were how many people here? >> there were about 3,000 people. i could not estimate the exact number, but like a star sitting on the haystack there. >> like a bollywood star. they'll be talking about this forever. >> and a mobile phone if everybody's hand. most of them wanted pictures. >> they even made sort of a video of the tiger. he just walked off into the jungle. tigers, they're okay. but then i realized something. he is better than any dog. my dog would have bitten three, four, eight people. >> 11 hours. >> 11 hours he was trapped by thousands of villagers and didn't lash out. >> no. one person -- he bit one guard on the calf. when somebody threw stones at him. >> that's the only thing that he did. imagine a full grown tiger.
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among the many bits of hindu mythology there's one story about the god shiva who roamed the forest naked. legend has it that he once wandered into a community of saints and their wive. to teach him a lesson the jealous men placed a tiger pit on one of the god's paths. one day shiva fell in, there were howls of pain and then shiva came out wearing a tiger skin. impressive. but it's interesting that in some aspects of this ancient faith that a tiger is not worshiped but worn or ridden. swamis would meditate atop tiger skins, but recent generations woke up to the crisis and by large tiger parts are taboo in india. but that is not the case in china where swapping a pelt for a favor or giving a bottle of tiger bone wine to your boss is still considered pretty
impressive. >> the wealth in china is increasing, so as a status symbol to be able to acquire products that include tiger bone, tiger bone wine, for example, elevates your status in the community. >> while there are just over 2,000 wild tigers left in india, three times as many are locked up in chinese tiger farms. a london group called the environmental investigation agency shot this undercover video. >> there are two in china that have more than a thousand tigers each. it's like farming tigers. >> see, while wild tiger parts are technically illegal in china, they do allow the trade of captive tiger skins. you see, though, the argument from some who say, you know, we can grow tigers in captivity, and that way those in the wild would live, and to that you would say -- >> no. it just doesn't work.
i mean, it's a convenient argument and we get it time and time again from the apologists or the exploiters of wildlife, but it's never worked. whenever you have any kind of legal trade, whether it's tiger bone in china or ivory in china, it's going to mask or allow for laundering of the illegal trade. so you're essentially providing a conduit for the illegal product, the poached animal, to get to the marketplace that wouldn't be there if it was just illegal across the board. >> eia's hidden cameras caught a vivid illustration of the gray area that now exists for tiger skin dealers. >> the whole of the world is trying to end demand for tigers, and yet china has a policy and a system in place that is stimulating demand for tiger parts. so it's undermining everyone
else everyone is trying to do to save the wild tiger. >> so what do you think an adult tiger is worth on the black market? do you have any sense? >> oh, it's tens of thousands of dollars. >> the pursuit of that payday usually begins in a remote tiger forest just like this one. >> so if somebody wanted to poach, he or she has to establish relations in this village. so they will come once, twice, thrice, they will establish rapport with the community. >> this man spends most of his time trying to put poachers out of business. he's seen how they first infiltrate a village like this. and once they've identified some down on his luck local with a need for money and a knowledge of the forest, they will buy the location of tiger trails and then call in the specialists. >> once they understand the tiger movement or the leopard movement, then they will use the local poachers and his information and set up those
traps on the tiger trail and kill the tiger and take the skins and bones and other derivatives. >> so sophisticated. i imagine a poacher is a desperate guy who has three bullets and looking for an easy payday. >> it's a steel trap. >> as one of born free's partners kishor tries to win hearts and minds before the poachers can show up. he starts with their gorgeous kids. you guys are so beautiful, i can't stand it. i can't stand it. oh, my gosh. look at that. adorable. india leads the world in unvaccinated children. rural medicine is a luxury. so they are much more open to
kishor's anti-poaching message when he brings a doctor to town. who else has seen a tiger? [ translating ] wow. most of you have seen a tiger? in village schools, they use games and plays to get the kids to think about the tiger forest in a new way. to realize that when they let a strange man come in and chop down all the trees, there is a cost. the wells will eventually run dry and then, oh, wow, this turned dark fast. i love your mustache. the lead actor is named jai, and he really loves tigers. let me see this guy. oh, that's very good. wow.
you're good. now, is he making friends with the deer or is he about to bite the deer's head off. >> he's going to eat it. >> he's going to eat it. >> he's going to eat it. >> well, you're a realist. so if somebody came to you and said, i will give you a lot of rupees, a million rupees if you show me where the tiger is, what would you say? >> no. >> no. >> good to hear, man. good to hear. >> thank you. >> nice to meet you. thanks, man, that was awesome. so young jai is on the side of the tiger. only a few million more to convince. but even if they all get on board, is there even enough space to coexist here? got to wonder is the world still big enough for man and beast?
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on elephants with guns and hundreds of brown men with rackets and torches, then everybody in the jungle suffers. the reason the beasts give themselves is that man is the weakest and the most defenseless of all living things and it's unsportsmanlike to touch him. though rudyard kipling never came here, pictures of this very forest inspired "the jungle book," and if they saw it today, mowgli's man-village would have power lines and mind-blowing machines that connect them to every other man-village in the world. when it comes to man-hating, the law of the jungle might need some revision. >> i think the indian population going way beyond our sustainable limits is a problem. >> reporter: this man runs wildlife s.o.s., a born free partner, which rescues everything from dancing bears to abused elephants to conflict tigers.
>> human/tiger conflict, human/wildlife conflict is inescapable. it is going be a huge problem for us in the future. we're having the same conflict with tigers, leopards, with bears, with elephants. >> when narendra modi took over as prime minister, he disappointed many conservationists by approving projects that would cut into the forest, but they're pleased they kept this guy, trenvassa reddy. have you ever seen a tiger in the wild? >> many times. >> what's it like? tell me. i came a long way, but i have yet to experience it. let me live vicariously through you. what's it like? >> it's very thrilling seeing a tiger in the wild. it's very thrilling. and whenever i see this tiger i was more motivated to protect
that beautiful creature. >> he dreams of a day when they can save tigers from poachers by drones. when real life flyovers will allow the big cats to roam from forest to forest despite eight-lane highways. >> having development with concern for the wildlife is a win-win situation. >> this is what we've created. >> poonam and harsh have another idea, convincing farmers to quit farming. let their land go wild and live off the eco tourists who they hope will come in droves. is it your vision that this whole area would be forest instead of farms? >> yes. and happier people with better return, people who look at the tiger as their own. and the next time the poacher comes here and he's going to say, can i lay a trap and give
you 500, the guy's going to say no, the 500 is useless to me. this tiger is mine and don't you dare come here. looking at the situation today, that's probably the only solution we have, that the local people, they benefit and they take care. >> to prove their concept, they bought seven barren acres between two tiger forests, put in a little water hole and let it go wild. in just a few years, it is an animal superhighway. oh, look at that. sloth bears. >> porcupines. leopards, you know, and, of course, many, many tigers. >> oh, my goodness. look at that. a family of four. what are your neighbors in the big city say when you say we're going to spend the weekend with the tigers out in the woods? >> it kind of freaks them out. yeah. because when i show pictures
that this is from my kitchen and show i have tigers walking here, yeah, it freaks them out. first thing, my god, isn't it dangerous? no, you have to understand that you have to be inside. because this is tiger land. it's theirs. so i think we can coexist. >> but to really coexist, they say rural indians have to be retrained on how to behave in the forest, which includes, ahem, potty training. >> because in rural india people still don't have toilets. they have to go in the field. it's ingrained in the social network, they do this, they go together, it's when the women go together and chat. >> just like all women in the states, they all go to the bathroom together at the nightclub, they do the same thing here out in the forest. >> yeah. >> but they have to know the right way to keep themselves from getting chomped.
>> exactly. ♪ back on the game drive, i can't stop thinking about the most dangerous bathroom breaks in the world when it happens again. turn off your engine. not unlike war and soccer, this is an activity that involves long stretches of mind-numbing boredom broken up by tiny flashes of adrenaline and excitement. you hear a monkey call or the woof of a spotted deer, you
think that might be a tiger alarm. so you just sit and listen, but these are some of the most reclusive creatures in all of nature. they're solitary, they're loners and they're so stealthy. it's interesting when people report tiger attacks almost to a person they say it came out of nowhere. ♪ but alas, after three days searching mowgli's forest, we are forced to settle for spiders and monkeys and deer. after three days of false alarms, it is time to move on without a tiger encounter. but we are guaranteed to see the
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before i see it for the very first time, here's pretty much all i know about the taj mahal. it was built almost 400 years ago by a handsome emperor for the beautiful love of his life. actually, these paintings are from my hotel lobby. so there is a chance they weren't really this good looking, but the story still superromantic. see, mumtaz mahal was his third and favorite wife. after she died giving birth to their 14th child at the age 38, the heartbroken king made a plan. he would build the world's most beautiful monument and it would last for eternity. now, thanks to shoddy maintenance and overwhelming pollution, some are worried it may fall into one of the most disgusting rivers you can imagine.
and among the warriors is a lawyer named m.c. mehta. m.c. mehta would be a great rapper name. m.c. mehta and the taj mahal. that's us. i've never seen the taj mahal. this is my first time. according to him everyone must park their cars and approach on foot or in an electric tuktuk. because someone came up to m.c. and called him out. >> he said, lawyers are very greedy. >> lawyers are greedy. >> and they don't do anything about cultural heritage and environmental and all these issues. but once i went home, it was haunting on my mind that why are lawyers so greedy? and i had not seen the taj mahal, i had only read about it.
>> you had never seen it. >> yeah, i had read about the taj mahal in the history books only. >> when he finally came, he realized why the guy at the party was so concerned. pollution, exhaust and acid rain was turning the snow-white marble of the taj a dirty yellow. so he launched a legal campaign to reduce traffic and move industrial polluters, and he won. and hundreds of companies had to stop burning coal or move their plants, which made m.c. countless new enemies, some even burned him in effigy. that's amazing to think that you risked your own personal safety to take this case, yeah? was it scary? >> it was. it is scary because you see there is a reason we were so afraid. see my wife and my daughter and the other people in the family. we have to raise our voice.
>> oh, there it is. that's the top, right? oh, my gosh, this is thrilling. i've seen a million photographs of this place, but to be here is very thrilling. security is so tight here, ironically, because muslim terrorists have threatened to blow up what is probably the greatest example of islamic architecture. wow. i didn't realize there was this sort of grand entrance before you even get to the taj. look at that intricate artwork. that's beautiful. that is magnificent. look at that.
oh, wow. and you can see it through the arched gateway, that is cool. oh, my gosh. wow, look at that. holy cow. shah jahan, the emperor that built this, said it was so beautiful that should a sinner make his way to this mansion, all his past sins are to be washed away. wow. that is so much bigger than i thought it would be. i pictured something about half this size.
once through the great gates, the focus shifts to the massive crowd. a few foreign tourists but at least 90% proud and curious indians. oh, and they may pretend to hold the eiffel tower from below in paris, but here you pinch the taj from above. >> well, this is a treat. what was it like the first time you saw this? >> i was also amazed to see this moment at that time. and it has to be protected not for present but for future generations also. >> protected from what you wonder. it looks more solid than any other building in india. well, approaching the taj mahal from the other side is a whole different experience. historians believe that shah jahan chose this spot because of the clear beauty and structural support of the powerful yamuna river.
>> and the foundation of the taj rests on 16 wells are there and under the well there are timber and sal wood, i think. the wells and the foundation, they require water and moisture round the well. now the people are saying that there is no water and the building could be in danger. >> it could fall. >> it could fall, it could sink. >> he's one of the many critics of the government agency in charge of the taj, the archaeological survey of india. they declined our interview request. but most of their conservation effort goes into keeping the taj bright and shiny, with the treatment of bleaching mud packs. >> the entire focus on the monument conserving the monument
giving it a beauty treatment, giving it therapy and the beauty parlor treatment, which may work, nobody knows. but they're totally ignoring the river. >> i'm so anxious to see the effects up close, to revel in intricate detail, learn more of the love story behind the taj. >> it's very disappointing. >> but in india, some things are easier said than done. oh yea, that's coming down let's get some rocks, man. health can change in a minute. so cvs health is changing healthcare. making it more accessible and affordable, with walk-in medical care, no appointments needed and most insurance accepted. minuteclinic. another innovation from cvs health. because health is everything.
after a day admiring the taj mahal from afar, it is finally time to get close. there must have been scaffolds the size of manhattan office buildings around this thing. for people to hand pieces of marble. >> yes, that's right. >> unbelievable. >> that's right. >> najaf haider is a history professor, an expert on the mogul that built this token of love. he explained how shah jahan hired the best builders in the land, how he brought white
marble hundreds of miles centuries before there were roads or rails, all of it for lost love. everyone who loses a spouse understands mourning, but usually time rubs the edges off that pain. >> absolutely. >> and you move on. he didn't move on. how long to build this after she died? >> something like 11 years. 11 years day after day. so he perhaps did not want to move on even if he had wanted to forget mumtaz mahal, he perhaps could not do it because of this beautiful monument and then he wills -- >> nothing ruins a romantic sound bite than a guy with a little authority and a big whistle. we spent months getting permission to film here, filled out countless forms paid fees,
but mr. whistle says otherwise. so we move back. >> well, i wish we could have a closing time to the taj, a closer. >> me, too. they won't allow us up there, but it looks like they'll allow everybody in northern india to come in here. >> yes. >> are you worried about stresses? >> yes, i am. i'm quite worried. >> he's worried about the unchecked crowds inside, the messy river and air and politics outside. just as he gets warmed up. >> and his name will last until eternity. >> here we go again. [ speaking foreign language ] >> he has a special permit.
so you can see that we are being pushed further and further away from the monument. >> i know when i'm not wanted. >> which is rather sad and -- very disappointing. >> when the professor overhears the guards threatening to take our cameras and erase all of our footage, we give up. supposed to be the biggest democracy in the world, but honestly, it feels like the biggest bureaucracy in the world. later, as i describe this moment to indian friends, to a person they said, why didn't you just pay them off? it never occurred to me. of course we wouldn't and had no idea that's what they would want. but in 2003, there are grand plans to turn all of this into parks and modern malls. the taj corridor it would be called.
but that project is long dead, buried under allegations of corruption. turns out that getting close to the taj is just as hard as finding a tiger, wonders both natural and man made jeopardized by the sheer weight of human nature. which makes the efforts of all the crusaders all the more impressive. somehow m.c. mehta keeps fighting the system. >> we have to change. we can change. we can change. because it is necessary for our life. it is necessity for life and health of the people in the world. >> poonam and harsh, they keep spreading their ideas of better days and abundant life on two legs and four. >> you want to set an example of, you know, just a place bringing back life, the tigers, everything coming back. >> i'm telling you, i've been all over this country the last few days and this is heaven.
you know? if this is what india could be, my goodness. and kartick keeps hoping he can get one more tiger back on its feet and safely back into the forest. >> we've got to go forward and not give up at any point and say, well, it's a losing battle and give up and sedate him and this won't help the tigers or our life or the forests or india at all. >> in a gentle way, you can shake the world. ghandi said that. and maybe he's right. maybe with enough gentle world shakers, this place from the tigers to the taj will survive and thrive there are a million reasons to believe that india cannot be fixed but there are over a billion reasons to try.
singapore mourns as one of the most significant leaders of the 21st century passes away. chaos and law willness in yemen. special delivery. the pope gets a tasty surprise on the visit to naples. we'll kick off the week with papal pizza here. i'm errol barnett. welcome to our viewers in the u.s. and around the world. >> good you don't have to back. >> good to be back. thanks, rosie. >> i'm rosemary church. thanks for joining us. this is "cnn newsroom." at this hour, condolence are pouring in to singapore where they're mourning the