Thursday, June 28, 2018

Populating Tigers in Satkoshia Gorge in Odisha

Satkoshia Gorge is a tiger reserve which has an extensive spread almost seven miles of gorge as reported. Thus the name Saat stands for 7 Kosh stands for miles. It is in Angul District of Odisha. 

The reserve has recent sightings of two females as per the reports. In order to populate tigers at Satkoshia an ambitious program has been chalked out, and good to know that it is an interstate program.

Well MP Government has sent one male tiger to the reserve and the translocation has been successful. The project was carried out under the aegis of Mr. Sanjay Shukla the present field director of Kanha Tiger Reserve in Central India.   

The program is to trans-locate six tigers of which one has already taken place. Another translocation  was carried under FD Mr. Mridul Pathak from Bandhavgarh. Here are some photographs of the events at Kanha  & Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserves. 

Repopulating Tigers 

With the use of modern translocation techniques and tranquilizing methods the exercise has become safer and good number of trans-locations have been carried out in India.   

This has been hailed as good conservation management adaptation. But then the fear is of wanton projects that could undermine the populations of resident tigers. Another fear is disturbance to breeding and family structure at the place of residence. Thankfully this has not happened because planned efforts are being made to conserve this critically endangered species in India. 

Repopulating tigers usually results in balancing populations in a given habitat in a reserve. This results in mitigation of territorial fights which often leads to fatality as has been witnessed at Mukki Zone in Kanha recently.

In a given area, the presence of even one dominant male keeps the breeding cycle going without friction between contesting males. The space between take over by other males is time stretched allowing the dominant male to complete a life cycle. This is also applicable to tigresses.

Population dynamics are studied carefully and imbalance in male to female ratio is also a consideration. The presence of cubs and the sire is also taken into consideration. It is a long drawn exercise and requires extensive planning. Another good that has taken place is the life forms have escaped the vicious net of parochialism as has been seen in the case of Asiatic Lion translocation from Gir in Gujarat.                   
Teams at Satkoshia 

Collaring

Darted Male

Elephants rounding up

ReleaseatEnclosure

Team Kanha 

Shifting

In enclosure at Satkoshia
Team BTR
Tigress BTR
Transportation 
Collared Tigress BTR
Team at BTR 
Tigress Being Tranquilized BTR

In the truck






 Tigress Bandhavgarh





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Thursday, June 21, 2018

No Parochialism This! - Tiger Translocation

Perhaps for the first time a tiger from Madhya Pradesh has been trans-located to another state. MB 2 male tiger has been tranquillised and is being shifted out of the state to Satkosia Gorge Tiger Reserve in the State of Orissa. He is a big male seen often in the Mukki Zone of Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

Since last couple of years Mukki Zone had become a battle ground for males seeking dominance. Internecine battles as can be described took place between Kingfisher, Uma and Bhima and perhaps Chotta Munna. The scuffle for dominance resulted in death of two male tigers Bhima and Kingfisher. The battles that took place where territorial as well as for procreation. 

       

Video Uploaded By Sharad Vats shows MB2 and Uma male in a scuffle.

MB2 was born from mating between female of Mukki and Uma male that is why in the scuffle here he was just pushed off and not killed. But the battle would rage on hence it is a good decision by the Kanha Management to trans-locate him to another tiger reserve.   

MB2 is no match for his father and in the ensuing battle there was a chance he could have been killed as has happened to the two males. 

With most of the tiger habitats destroyed in India territorial battles between males have become a regular affair with damaging consequences. Since the males cannot spread out trans-locating them is a means to mitigate vicious territorial fights which could lead to death of the tigers.  

Satkosia Gorge Tiger Reserve has two females once this male tiger from Kanha settles down tiger breeding will begin. Few more tigers are being sent to this reserve as per reports. 

This interstate tiger translocation is an heartening event and speaks much about the sagacity of Kanha management and MP Government. Practice like this one is carried out in good faith and for the good of the feline species which is in deep trouble.

If only the Gujarat Government takes heed and make translocation of Asiatic Lion possible to Kuno Palpur in MP it will augur well for the species as well fetch the State out of a parochialism. Well who knows this event will be an eye opener.  

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Munna Returns!

After missing for some time we came across this magnificent beast who is a legend of Kanha National Park in India. We where actually searching for M1 the new male who is often seen in the area.     

A look down below the steep precipice resulted in a tiger being sighted. We did not know who it was but the subsequent roaring definitely suggested of Munna. We could see him well from all angles a tiny diminutive figure hardly suggested of a big cat but it was. I could then see it moving and as per our judgement we too moved forward and came to stop in front of the dry stream. In summers in Kanha most of the sources of  water come to an end but this rivulet contained a pool some distance away from where we were stationed. And it was at this pool that we saw the tiger. Expecting it to emerge at the dry portion of the stream we waited patiently. Since it was time for the Sun to set the likelihood was great.      

The beast did emerge roaring as he used to do in his heydays. He came close on to the dry stream and began scent marking before he sat down near the tree to eat sand. Tigers do this to make up for lack of minerals. 

Munna had a habit of repeating his moves and so we reached the same spot the other evening. We were not disappointed Munna tiger emerged from a pathway and came to a halt near our jeep. He looked much feebler than before and could walk a few step and rest. He was not active as usual and appeared hungry unable to make a kill perhaps. He moved some distance away roaring profusely and came to rest again. The male tiger continued to roar as he sat resting under the shade of a tree. 

We watched the magnificent creature emphatically perhaps saddened by his plight and aware that his time has come. Will we see him next season? Well you never know ageing Munna is capable of springing surprises thanks to his indomitable survival instinct.  

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Fifty Years of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

I remember sighting my first ever male tiger at Bandhavgarh in 1974. This was at Kill Khuta where a bait was tied overnight to attract a tiger. Well it was successful, but I could see the magnificent beast only at the fag end of the day.  
Tiger

The forest belts encompassing the Vindhyan Ranges near Umaria where constituted as National Park in the year 1968. This was earlier the hunting reserve of erstwhile Maharjahs of Rewa. Mohun the first and only white tiger found in the wild was discovered somewhere in these forests by HH  Martandsingh Deo. The discovery threw light towards the remote and isolated kingdom of the tiger. 
Fort Wall

Temple

Look Out
The success as conservation unit was augured whence Bandhavgarh was brought under the aegis of Project Tiger, and hence became a tiger reserve. This happened in 1993 and today the big cat population is constantly on the rise surviving in approx 1100 sq.km of Sal forests. The protection accorded to the tiger eventually helped all life forms. They benefited from enrichment of the ecosystem as whole and protection accorded to the habitat niches.
Bengal Tiger

The limelight has also brought out into the open, remains of ancient civilisations that once thrived here. While the fort is in ruins many architectural splendours survive and enchant during the safaris.  
Ancient Stable

With the increase in tiger numbers sighting increased as well and Bandhavgarh from a sleepy little reserve became a popular destination as well. Though visited by few interested in wilderness since the inception, the number of visitors increased substantially in the late nineties. This called for a greater tourism infrastructure and as a result a number of hotels and resorts were built. 
Tourism Gate Bandhavgarh

Tourists flocked from all over the globe to see the legendary tigers as well as amazing birds that thrived in the National Park. Big cats like Banka, Barka, Sita, Charger and B2 to name a few became legendary and attracted lots of tourists, wildlife photographers and filmmaker alike. The reserve also contains training and research centres. Animal translocation and disease management are crucial elements of conservation and the techniques are being applied here.  
Leopard

Apart from conservation the park benefited immensely from the thriving tourism industry. Jobs and small businesses fulfilling the needs of tourists increased four fold and empowerment of local communities took place rapidly.                
Reclining Vishnu 

Today the park is one of the fifty tiger reserves set up in India. But the name and fame of Bandhavgarh continues to climb higher and higher. With greater efforts the tiger population in the reserve is going to increase thus helping in fetching the animal species out of danger of extinction. 
Sambar deer
Hotels

Image Courtesy Tirath Singh

Monday, March 19, 2018

Exciting Leopard Sightings at Kanha

Guests From UK 
Andrew & Rebecca
Courtyard House Kanha

We had missed the tigress having seen the cubs along with the mother we were seeking other wilderness experience. As it was bound to be the guide was bit overzealous and took wrong turn in spite of my instructions. We did not venture into the road of last days sightings. But then as always happens a tiger sighting missed is not a good experience.
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But I did not insist instead I decided to venture into a less travelled path, and rewarded we were. One benefit of a slow drive in the forests is that you come across more, you would otherwise miss if you shoot through. Anyway rules and regulations do not allow speed beyond 20km/hour, and I am a stickler.  

I could make out that the route we had taken was devoid of safari vehicles as most of them had already scoured the area and were on the way for breakfast. Silence, no traffic and slow speed besides alert senses fetch the unthinkable in the Indian forests. 

The leopard was actually turning back for as we realised later, the cub hearing the jeep sound was not willing to cross the road. We were at a distance from the predator as he crossed over and from an angle we could see her sitting peacefully well lit by strands of morning sun sneaking through the canopy.

Some times it is difficult to decide which animal is striking the tiger or the leopard. Well that's an individual judgement. I was awe struck as the light fell on the graceful creature looking inquisitively at us from between the thickets. 

"There is a cub with her!" I whispered upon seeing the young one in the thickets. We stayed put at a distance. The mother came out once again picked a fallen log and stood looking at us expecting the cub to cross the road and be on the way.  For a long time the female stood content looking at us surprised but not complete in that serene ambience. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Vanishing Leopard in India

One Starry Night in The Forest

The female must have been waiting to cross over the road whence my jeep intruded the serene ambience of the starry night. Thwarted by the strong headlights the disturbed leopard stood still peering into the ghostly darkness at the bizarre animal in the metal contraption. 

My staff had whispered as we were negotiating the bend on the highway near Jabalpur my home town. 

"Shining Eyes Sir!"  

It was eleven pm, and I was returning after a busy day purchasing tendu leaf from Government godown  at Kundam about forty km from Jabalpur in the hinterland. There are few places in urban India endowed with forest as good as Jabalpur...albeit losing ground fast due to intruding urbanisation.

The reserve forests are losing crown cover here and hold a scarce prey base which support few remaining leopards desperately surviving. I was also able to come across tigers mating here in the denuded confines of Baghraji Forests perhaps trying to revive their population coming to a definite end in this vanishing wilderness.       

Upon notice by the staff I brought my jeep to a halt and then reversed. "Point out where exactly did you see the eyes reflecting." I switched out the headlights and waited for some time before moving towards the bush where the reflecting eyes were noticed. Pointing my jeep towards the bush I switched on my torch.    

Not one but four pairs of eyes shone as I threw my torch around the bush. It was a female with three cubs about seven feet from us staring at the spectacle of humans in an open jeep. A few decades back this would have a normal sighting but in these beleaguered times this was a rare instance. 

"She will get us!"

I was too engrossed in the spectacle to be cautious about the proximity. I could hear her warning coughs as I put the jeep in the forward motion. The story had a sad ending, one of the cubs was poisoned a year after and another ended at a police station platform in broad daylight. The fate of the animals was not known thereafter.   

Leopard Cub


Leopard Female


The Status

The status of leopard in India is on a steep decline. The drastic loss of habitat  and the ensuing man animal conflict is resulting in endangerment of this beleaguered feline species.  As per the recent news more than hundred leopards have been found dead in a spate of two months all over India. This is an alarming figure and the rot does not in any manner seems to stem.  

The rapid decline of feline species speaks of our callous attitude towards wildlife and their habitats in general. The situation is further compounded by the colonial  legacy which labelled wild animals as vermin especially the predators in India. Unfortunately wildlife conservation finds only lip service in the country and no major policy decision takes into consideration the preservation of our heritage wilderness wealth. 

The phenomenal diversity is fast disappearing now limited to protected areas and that too the one's receiving dedicated inputs. In vast country a minuscule portion of land is subject to preservation, the rest is being exploited without any concern.

We live in an era that takes into account the well being of one species only...that is us. Other life forms are shamefully neglected. Our news and politic speak is only concerned with economic growth figures, welfare schemes and rabid industrialisation at cost of crucial natural resources and of course our health. The society has become so human centred that we consider other life forms as unimportant and often a big nuisance.  

The attitude will certainly result in warming, water scarcity, pollution, lack of productivity that sustains us and chaos. Name it and you have it. Beware!              
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The image of predators as blood thirsty rogues is permanently etched in our minds and that shapes our attitude. Albeit hunting is banned by the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, mass scale lynching by humans on intruding leopards is a frequently occurring event. Poaching by electrification finds no solution and rising prices of wild life products is an ever looming threat the country faces.  

The Vedas preached conservation in an ecosystem known as Hinduism where in many thoughts originated and survive till today irrespective of extreme divergence. Why are we not following the sound principles preached by our ancestors as regards to nature?      

In bygone era wild animals including tigers and leopards lived in close proximity to human populations. The conflict was limited to one odd instance of man killing in urban scapes... not anymore. Man eating was due to advancing settlements and reducing prey base. All this good was due to ample forests/habitats prevailing before the denudation took place. Our greed for rabid urbanisation, uncontrolled agriculture and illicit wealth generation has taken a heavy toll of natural places all over and the disastrous practices continue. Human beings in any shape, size and type have repeatedly shown extreme neglect of their surroundings affecting health of habitats and ecosystems prevailing their in. There is hardly any inviolate space left for other life forms in our country.

The decline of wild animal populations started with bounty hunters and elite sport during the Raj, and large scale conversion of forests into agriculture fields not forgetting the ever increasing settlements. Another age old activity that has had far reaching consequences was and is commercial forestry and wood logging.     

Poaching has a substantial role in the large number of leopard deaths that take place every year. This sounds a death knell for the feline species as the population is estimated below ten thousand all over the country. 

Poaching and denudation is the major threat to our wilderness and strong protective mechanism and conservation practices are the need of the hour. The onus is on the Indian administration and politicians who shape our policies. But this does not keep general population out of the loop. People participation and awareness will go a long way to preserve or we will certainly lose our heritage.

Images By Suttons UK.        

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tiger Videos

These are series of mobile video uploads of tigers seen in Kanha National Park in Central India. The videos have been taken during numerous safaris in the park with the guests at Courtyard House Situated in the buffer region of the park. The poor quality is due to mobile limitations and local conditions however I have tried my best to improve. The effort is to display aspects of tiger behaviour and characteristics for amateurs.    

Here is the link!