Saturday, July 2, 2016

Tiger Conservation - Successful Breeding - Bandhavgarh

Success has come but is it too late. Recently a major newspaper reported birth of forty six tiger cubs in Bandhavgarh National Park. This is heartening news but there is more to it. The survival rate of cubs is  equally important. 

Tigeress with 4 cibs
In well managed protected area tiger breeding has been at its apex. Thanks to constant protective and related conservation practices tigers in parks like Bandhavgarh have increased. 

Tigress With Cubss
Left on their own the tigress are very protected and zealous mothers. She leaves no stone unturned in order to protect her progeny.  But the survival in the wild in tough the babies may be killed by other predators whence in infancy. They die often killed by a male tiger who has not sired them. Albeit there is no shortage of prey sometimes injury to the mother may result in the cubs dying of hunger. This often takes place in a territorial fight with another female of an intruding male. Last but not the least is the threat of poachers.   

The threats to survival of young tigers is increasing every day as fiction with surrounding humanity has increased with expanding populations. 
Young tigers

Nevertheless birth of tigers is a moment of celebration and extreme joy. Every birth augurs hope that the majestic carnivore the largest among big cats will survive for eternity. 

Here are some pictures of tigress and cubs photographed at Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh. The Indian Reserve is one of the finest habitat of the big cats and other mammals. There are more than forty tigers surviving in the park.   

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Big Brute Dabang on Full Charge

Courtyard House Kanha

Suresh Sinhji Patdi Darbar & Friends 

"One of our guests has not seen a tiger ever in his life," said Abhijeet Munshaw a wildlife enthusiast and photographer. This was our first conversation as soon as the check in formalities had been done with.  

"Well hope for the best," I said confidently. "Tigers being elusive are hard to come by."

Our first two safari were good but no tiger. Then while traversing through Kisli Zone we decided to head straight for Karai Ghati. A day before, a tiger was seen on this road and heard roaring incessantly.     

Searching for tigers is at times frustrating. We went right up to the junction which leads to Sarhi Zone. Nothing. Well there were pug marks of another male but they usually do not result in sighting often. We waited for the animal to emerge. But after some time we decided to move ahead and look for the tiger seen yesterday. The distance was not much and we could quickly bounce back if needed. There was no tiger there hence we moved on to score other areas. 

There is a female with cubs often seen near the Kisli Tank on the way to Karai Ghati. She deserted the water body whence one of the cubs was killed by a vagrant male. 

"Let look for the tigress," I told the guide."She may have returned." There were many jeeps waiting with the same objective. We waited for some time, then I said to the guide. "Lets visit the place were the big male was seen yesterday rather then wait here." The guide was thinking the same hence we drove on. It was about ten minute ride straight on.        

The tiger was lying in shade covering almost three fourth of the jungle road. "Massive." I stopped as soon as the beast looked at us. There was a deafening silence as the beats thundered. "Keep at a safe distance," I told the driver.

"This is Dabang."    

Last time I had encountered this beast on the kill and he was very aggressive almost threatening to charge. Even the distance of twenty meters seemed uncomfortable. The guests were busy with their cameras while we were having a nervous look at the tiger. 

There was another jeep ahead much ahead. We were wondering if they were aware of the predator. Well you remain silent on such occasions. 

The tiger kept looking at us, occasionally turning to look at the other jeep. He was not very comfortable but then lay quiet without any show of aggression. Well did he? 

In one instant the beast arose from his slumber and took a step towards us or rather charged. all I can say. We were at a safe distance but it seemed that he would be on the jeep in seconds. He did not, for he veered to right after a massive roar and vanished into the thickets.        

The tiger sighting was over and we turned back to look for the tigress. She was not there hence we moved on. The beautiful Kanha landscape enchants me every time and it did that to the guests as well.  

"Lets visit the male tiger again," the guest requested the guide. Well that would have meant going in for the tigress as well hence we proceeded.  

"Turn back," the guide of the approaching jeep requested us fervently. "He is charging too often." Then another jeep approached us with the same request.  

"We should not agitate the big cat further," I explained to the guests. "He is not used to the jeeps, hence he gets aggressive and charges."      

The charge is not at all a pleasant experience. In fact it could be nerve wrecking. 

We turned back. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Searching for Tigers

His huge bulk (250 kg+) passed by our jeep turning our continence into shades of blue and black. The imposing bulk aided with dagger sharp canines and claws that could rip open the mightiest on Earth all equipment for efficient hunting.  I could see all this as the animal literally glided noiselessly on the forest floor, past us on its digits and thickly padded paws. You can only hear the animal move whence its body brushes the twigs and leaves. 

Of course he was aware of us but did not care to look and ambled past without shaking a whisker. I shuddered to think what would have happened if he had a streak of violence in him. We were no match for the big beast, neither in speed and agility nor in brute strength that the tiger was equipped with. 

He passed us by non nonchalantly without a glance, and moved deep into the dense canopy sliding gently through the bushes without much ado. As we saw his contours slide through the dense foliage we heaved a sigh of relief.   

We were searching for tigers since last two days without success. My guests from UK came with an impression that the big cats were every where waiting to greet them. Their enthusiasm was childlike what with hundred clicks waiting for them to create tons of memorable moments to cherish for life.  

"Do you still feel the excitement upon coming across the charismatic beast," she had asked me during the dinner. 

"After so many failed searches and hard work my excitement upon sighting the majestic beast is as palpable as yours. Tigers are hard to come by in the jungles though their presence can never be undermined." I informed them.    

"Sighting tigers is a chance and also as result of our tracing abilities." The conversation ended as the time to pop onto the bed arrived.   

That was Munna the loved one, a tiger who has carved his name in the history of Kanha National Park. As a dominant tiger he commands a huge area that encompasses three zones. He is most visible of the big cats but nevertheless he springs surprise by being  unseen for weeks.      

In spite of their bulk these animals can hide themselves easily into their sylvan surroundings. Through thousands of years of adaptation and evolving constantly they have mastered the art of camouflage. The changing hues of yellow orange fur, shapely body contours and limited height all contribute besides the ability to stay still for a long time.     

Sharp eyes and ears besides incredible patience are recipe for success whence searching for tigers.  Understanding the behavior codes lead to making you good at the job. 

Our tiger reserves need to be experienced in the holistic manner by observing all the salient features. Nevertheless the desire to see the tiger is understood. The parks are rich in biodiversity, bird life and other life forms that accord great thrills while on wildlife safari. 

Photo Credit: Dharmagiri Pench

Monday, February 8, 2016

Holy Banyan Tree & The Horn Bill

Of impressive spread a magnificent tree
Of massive girth and grows annually
Shelters one & shelters all
A silent sentinel that stands tall

Day by day it engulfs the host
The very tree that offers support
But that is the nature's design
To life and death all resign

As it grows a crown emerges
All the undergrowth it submerges
From the branches the aerials shoot
Spread around to prop up as roots

Like an umbrella it spreads with age
And begins to appear like an old sage
Ungainly shape makes it look untidy
Nevertheless it grows strong and mighty

Banyan tree a regal splendor
Makes us admire in awe & wonder
Lightening storm and thunder
Cannot shake it from under

A lone stranger in the wood
Offers shade with its massive hood
The leaves large and long
Huddled together all along
When the figs ripe in the canopy
Flocks of birds arrive in a jiffy

In a frenzy they devour
Like a true frugivore
As they swallow the delicious feed
The flesh tumble downs along with the seed

Using big down curved bills
The horn bills swallow all the figs
After gorging day and night
Off they fly out of sight

From one canopy to another
The avian fly far asunder
They disperse the undigested seeds
Such that they germinate to prolifically breed

In the tormenting heat unbearable
The banyan saves the parched miserable
The shady tree offers much respite
From the scorching sun flaming bright

Altruism is what the scribes say
When you serve without a pay
The Vedas describe it as a holy tree
The one that nourishes & shelters for free

Live and let live all big and small
Protect & preserve one and all
Rise to occasion at one call
Save trees from axe and fall

Conserve nature's diversity
Sustain the bounty for eternity

By Uday Patel

Friday, January 15, 2016

Sleepy Tigress and Low Speed Elephant Ride

Sat Tal - Uttrakhand

Nainital District - India

Jungle life is always exciting but it has many facets. Recently on visit to Sattal and Corbett with guest from Auckland I had an amazing experience of wilderness in the foothills of Himalayas.   

Sat Tal or Sattal is a geological formation of seven fresh water lakes that are incredibly clean. The periphery of the lakes and adjacent areas are much preferred for searching the avian wonders that abound.Situated at  height of 1400 MSL the township in Uttarakhand is more of a holiday resort. Hence majority of the visitors arrive here for fun and frolic in the cool confines of Himalayan foothills. 

The destination is also visited by birders like us. Albeit the construction is rampant resulting in damage to many natural places there are still hot spots for birding present. Sattal is home to many species along with altitude migrants that arrive here depending upon the cold in upper reaches of the mountains.    


Chir Pheasant


Grey Faced Woodpecker

Koklass Pheasant

Wild Elephants

Wedge Tailed Green Pigeon

Green Munia

Photo Credit: Hari Lamba 

On a good day one can see many species of bulbuls, woodpeckers, barbets, shrikes, thrushes, warblers, laughing thrushes, sunbirds, drongos, flycatchers, forktails, dipper, pheasants, passerines and raptors.   

In the cold climes the hands and feet become numb and it challenges your sensory apparatus.  But the amazing bird watching experience puts paid to the cold. 

After a fabulous bird tour we descended to Corbett Tiger Reserve. The safaris were arranged by our host a guide who owns a small guest house called Sparrow's Nest.   

Our first tiger safari took place in Bijarani Zone. This is a densely forested zone with long stretches of river and grasslands that are home to many wild animals.  It was in this area that we managed to locate a tigress that had crossed over from the mountain to the river bed  and eventually lay down to rest in the grass. It was after some time that we realized that the big cat was quiet near to us. With lot of efforts we could have a glimpse of it lying down asleep
Tigress by Teerath Singh
. But before we left the tigress came out in the open and then quietly melted away in the dense grasses.

Next day our game ride was in Jhirna a picturesque zone with lot of tiger activity. Here we were able to see elephants, notably a mother with calf crossing the road. The rest of the trip was spent on searching for the tiger without any results.   

The evening was slated for a search for the forktail at Kumeria and then a ride on an elephant back. We saw a spotted forktail as well as many birds like long billed thrush, brown dipper, redstarts and yellow bellied fantail.

The birding over we left for Ramnangar and on to the pachyderms back. The ride was anything but exciting as we crossed over the Kosi River and unto the forests on the banks. For my guest this was his first ride on the elephant back. Not too pleasing an experience as the pace was slow and there was no signs of the tiger. However hard the mahout tried but the elephant was in no mood to budge at a greater pace.  

After an hours ride we departed for the guest house where we spent the night. The next day we left for New Delhi.