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.  

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


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 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.  

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

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.
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!              
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!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Wild Odyssey in India

Kanha National Park

Guests at Courtyard House

Mark & Karin Anger ; France
Denise Anfrui : France 

The drive was high in expectation a wild odyssey was in making as we boarded the taxi at Jabalpur Station and drove towards Kanha National Park. The enthusiasm of the visitors was palpable from their looks and they expected me to deliver which I did.

The guests were expecting to see some Central Indian wildlife after a visit to Gir National Park in Gujarat to see the Asiatic Lion.  

The next part of the journey was few days at Bera the popular leopard habitat in Rajasthan in Western India. 

The Kanha trip was a great success with excellent tiger sightings, bird watching and other enchanting mammals. 

Here are some of the images sent by Denise Anfrui.  

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tiger Safari Videos - India

Tiger safari video - Tigress at Link 8 Kanha National Park

Massive Male Tiger at Waterhole - Kanha National Park - Kisli Zone

 Legendary Munna Male Tiger at Kanha National Park in India

Early Morning Encounter Tigeress at Kanha National Park