Sunday, September 11, 2011

Strange Tiger Encounter

In spite of their endangered status tigers pop out from anywhere, I mean any forest. Unlike panthers they do not pop out in the cities albeit some cases have taken place near Dudhwa National Park

I used to visit a village for some purpose near my home town Jabalpur. On the way to the village there is a steep climb or ghat as we call in Hindi. There is a left turn off the Kundam Shahpura Highway that reaches Baghraji. From the main road after few km of drive in the plain you reach the ghat which twists and turns upwards on the rise. As you make a descent you reach Kundwara which has a quaint little rest house and is a favorite picnic place for nature lovers and families from Jabalpur.    

I used to visit this village called Baghraji (Tiger place) often crossing through the good patch of forest on the way. One day while returning back from the village we reached the ghat around 7 pm. It was a busy day since the weekly bazaar was at full swing. I would often come across spotted deers in this patch of Kundwara forest range, but I was sure due to regular movement of villagers I wont see them today.

We began to climb up on my open jeep, me and my salesman beside. At a point on the rising hill there is a sharp S turn and you can see what lies far ahead but no immediately ahead. It was here that my salesman pointed out some animal in dim light.

"It certainly does not look like a spotted deer", I said. "Well lets see", I continued to drive. We were about to reach the spot when I saw one animal climb down the mountain slope and vanish. The other one moved up hill and we could see it climbing slowly as we reached the spot. 

I turned the jeep and threw the head light upon him. I sat stunned for a moment and then in shaky voice whispered, "Its a tiger".    

It was a tiger in fact two of them, the other one a female was sitting down on the slope of the hills perhaps very close to me. I could see the male tiger climbing uphill about ten feet from me. He was hesitant to climb since the female was down there. I had a good look at him before he vanished into the dense canopy.

Not used to big cats my salesman sat petrified frozen to death. I straightened the vehicle and drove off, I could have peeked down the slope but did not. The tigress could have been too close for comfort...her comfort. These animals charge at you in defense if you venture to close.  

We heaved a sigh of relief especially my companion as we reached the main highway. For me it was exciting and encouraging to see tigers outside the protected areas. For my salesman it was a sacred moment as he had come across the vehicle of the Goddess. How ironical, people would kill these magnificent creatures in spite of the such regards.

I heard the mating cries a couple of days later whence I stayed overnight at Kundwara Rest House. This was around three am. The male was scene regularly by the forest ranger near the nursery tank where it came to quench its thirst. The female was never seen...probably breeding in some secluded patch of forest. 

After a year nothing was heard about tigers in Kundwara Forest Range as I did not happen to go there. But certainly the animals might have moved far across the long corridor.  There cubs may be surviving now hope they are for a few tigers more. This patch of forest perhaps connects to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in MP. 

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