Thursday, November 7, 2013

Searching for tigers during the festival of lights

We trudge slowly avoiding as many as we can but the inevitable happens more than we accept. It is about ten in the night and we are negotiating the treacherous road to the World famed National Park - Kanha.  My friends had arrived from UK via a Agra and then Varanasi for this tiger tour.

"Tired" I ask them as they alight from the train. "Not really," the lady replies. I like her spirit. We had straight for dinner at the owner's place in Jabalpur. We were to lodge at Courtyard House in Kanha. We reach the National Park around midnight and quietly slip into our rooms.  

This is my second trip to Kanha and we have come across the tiger only once. As we head for the morning drive I am quiet apprehensive. This year it had rained till quite late and water is everywhere in the park, the pray base is also scattered. This is an easy time for tigers and they are not moving. The safari is anyway livened up by the birds and other enchanting animals of the park. The couple are disappointed - Clas and Helen. Both reside in Scotland hence some information gathering for me. This is Diwali time and they are quiet inquisitive about the festival of lights. "Quiet Colorful and Joyous," they remark. "Yep," I give a dull reply, my mind is occupied with possible tiger movements. Last year we had sighted tigers on all our trips.

On the last day we miss a leopard by few minutes and then come across a tiger in the grassland. The tigress is lying about fifty yards from us in the patch of grass near Shravan Taal. We wait with bated breadth but to no avail. The tigress remained for what seemed like eternity.

"Time Up," whispers the guide. Sad and disappointed we move back to the gate. We next time I wish them luck for their journey onwards. After a day of rest our next guest arrive from Dubai. "Two Indians, Six Swedes and a lady from UK. One car from Jabalpur arrives in time the rest lag behind. We have a quick lunch and then had for the Khatia Gate. We wait for an hour before the other guests arrive and load on the safari jeep.                   

Quiet late I think but then I should chance upon Munna who awaits the jeeps and then makes his move. This is a huge tiger and we drive over Sal Ghat. This jungle road leads to Kanha Meadow and is a mixed as well as Sal forest. The Bamboo too  is abundant here specially on the hills. 

After driving for about twenty minutes we dash straight into Munna. This is a huge tiger well over two hundred kilos. The tiger rules over the territory of Sal Ghat, Digdola and Kari Talia. But the beast is so powerful it transcends into other territories with brazen impunity.    

Back and forth the jeep scatter in grip of frenzy. There is panic as the seven year old tiger rolls along the Sal Ghat Road like a massive ball of fur oblivious of humans on the contraption. Cameras click on the shaky jeeps. My Guest Dag and Annund manage lot of images as we scamper here and there to avoid being trampled over by the tiger.

The next day my guests sight a sloth bear with two cubs on Kanha Ghat. Bison, Swamp Deer, Wild Boar, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer, Langur and Jackal along with very many pretty birds make up for our trip.

The guests are happy and immersed in the hospitality at Courtyard House. This fantastic Kanha Resort accommodation offers sumptuous food. This is the best Indian cuisine in the park prepared with trained chefs. The place offers luxurious comforts and spacious living experience in private, picturesque settings.         

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A tiger died!

It is said that "Nero Fiddled While Rome Burnt". That is what, precisely, is happening with our tigers and wild animals. The whole focus is on the tourism which is there since ages with no visible negative impact on wilderness. The ministry and management spend more time on nuances of tiger safari rules and regulations than the patrolling and security of the park and its magical wildlife.

A tiger died in the corridors of Kanha National Park. It is suspected that the tiger was poisoned. The big cat roamed between the sanctuary of the tiger reserve and the periphery of villages. The question of poaching cannot be ruled out. As in case of Panna and Sariska danger looms large on this tiger reserve. The nexus between some forest staff and organized mafia cannot be ruled out. Hence extra vigil is always on the cards. 

The male tiger was in its prime and was often sighted by the tourists on tiger safari in Kanha National Park. Two spotted deer and a panther have also been found dead. How the endangered animals died will take lot of time to know.  The viscera will go to many departments for the postmortem to be completed.

Getting to the root cause of the death of rare animals is a tardy process with clinical and analytic facilities available at few places.

Tiger - Teerath Singh
Now a tiger less will make a difference since there a few left in India. The census at Kanha Tiger Reserve will take place in January 2014. If conducted properly we will get an idea of tiger numbers in the park. The participants include volunteers. The registration form can be had from the Field Director Office in Mandla City in MP.       

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Joy And Despair

Come October and all the tiger reserves in MP are abuzz with activities. In Central Indian Reserves the tiger safari starts from 16th of October every year. The tiger safari  in the beginning of the season is a new experience.  

This is the toughest season for tiger watching in India. Fresh from monsoon torrents the vegetation is rich and the canopy dense. There is water available everywhere besides plenty of prey spread all around. This is the least stressing time for the Bengal tigers in the country. With no need to make a forced move the big cat sighting is scarce. Many tourists go back disappointed since on many game rounds the tiger is not seem. 

The sightings in MP are further limited by division of tourism area, timings and limited route. Unlike earlier whence you could move around with will you cannot do so now. The jeep has to move in a particular direction and within the area specified. Well this is in order to cause less disturbance to the animals but I believe the regulations could be relaxed a bit since the vehicle numbers have already been limited. 

On recent tiger safari at Kanha we were hampered by these factors and my guests could not see the big cat. Most of the tigers start to move at dusk which is the time for the jeeps to exit the park. The morning safari pays much more dividend due to reasonable time. After couple of failed game drives we came across pug marks of tigress at Sal Ghat Hill. The tigress was moving downhill and we stopped at the point where we deduced that she would move across the fireline. 

The shrill alarm cries of the bison herd ascertained the presence of the tigress. Assured that we have made the right decision we waited. Then with the increase in alarm cries we could sense the movement. The tigress came close to us but remained hidden in the canopy. 

By now we could hear her soft roars close to us. I cherish these moments when I hear the roar of the tigers. The sound can best be described as ethereal. This was exciting and unnerving as we waited with baited breadth for her to come out. The excitement ran large on the face of my guest a lady from UK. But the hope and excitement turned into despair whence the tigress did not emerge and went further downhill.         

"So close yet so far!" I whispered to my guest who was visibly disappointed. "Well we had a close encounter," I tried to pacify her. "Quiet an experience," I tried to get the point home. But it was not to be for see wanted to see one. She had come from far just to see the tiger and I could not fulfill her wish. The consecutive drives where devoid of tiger sightings but we came across many wild animals that are as exciting to watch. The two guests who joined us from UK had already seen the tiger so birds and mammals enthralled them. 
Courtyard House Kanha
But yeah dil mange more..that's
the story of the tiger!           


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Neelgai in our tiger reserves

Nilagi by Teerath Singh
India is rich in diversity of fauna with a species tag of three hundred fifty plus. The country is home to both the deer and antelope species.  Nilgai or Blue Bull belongs to the family of antelopes and displays all characteristic morphological and behavioural traits of being one.

Unlike the Black Buck and Indian Gazelle which belong to the genus antelope  Nilgai is widespread and abundant. The animal is considered sacred by Hindus hence spared from hunting. Nevertheless conflict with man is a severe problem as it raids the agriculture fields all over its area of existence.  

In MP the animal can be seen in Kanha Tiger Reserve at Sarhi Zone. It can also be seen at Bandhavgarh, Pench, Panna, Nauradehi and other tiger reserves and WLS in Madhya Pradesh.