Google+ Badge

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tiger Conservation - Role Park Elephants Play

The elephant trudged laboriously traversing tortured terrain to reach the tiger. The animal restless and cornered was in an extreme state of stress surrounded on both sides by the giant pachyderms with humans on top.  After some pictures and a look we returned back. The Tiger Show was over.   

The practice came much under protests. The stress on the elephant and the tiger was palpable. But this practice was a precursor of  the shikar days whence the hunters rode on elephant back to shoot the helpless predator. But the tiger show was  much more innocuous since here the animal did not lose it's life.    

Tiger has to be seen to be believed!

In times of less, the show worked wonders.

Many a myths were shattered especially among the common man as well as the decision makers. The animal came out of a malicious opprobrium of being bloodthirsty and an enemy of men. To many one look was enough to understand its role in the ecosystem. That the carnivore only killed for food that too - it was limited to the prey base - came out as a relief for those who considered it as a vermin. Man eating is an aberration the happens much less frequently than a fatal road accident.      

Anyway the tiger show was stopped for good and a new mechanism of  tracking has been discovered by guides and naturalists that enables to see the big cat in its natural surroundings. This is much less stressful thanks to set regulations and rules in the reserves.   

The mahout or elephant rider were disappointed, the tourist offerings went missing. Nevertheless the pachyderms had an intense role to play. They became the sentinels of the reserves. Now used extensively in patrolling, they safe guard the tiger heavens. They are also instrumental in conservation efforts thanks to the accessibility that they offer in the dense canopy. They aid and assist scientists, guards, conservationists and film makers in the arduous task of reaching the animals in the deep recess.     

To mitigate stress the animals are used mostly during daytime and the off period offers rest and more time to look after the young one's.  There are elephants camps set up within the reserves which reduce the distance and offer privacy. The mahouts with their knowledge of the wilderness also regularly study the  big cats in their areas and report any incidence or anomaly that could require human interventions.   

In India capturing elephants in the wild is banned hence the camps act as nurseries to keep the stock going. The animals are indispensable for conservation work. Some parks do permit elephant rides where in the tourists get good views of the habitat. But this is subject to availability.   

The park authorities and the mahouts look after the animals with care and consideration. They are sighted with much joy by the foreigners who have never seen an elephant.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tiger Conservation & People Participation

Some years back I conducted kids for tiger conservation program organized by Sanctuary Asia at the behest of local campaigner Mr. Navneet Maheswari himself an avid conservationist and wildlife photographer. 

I went lecturing with the aid of slideshow provided by Sanctuary Asia to about forty schools. The enthusiasm was palpable both among the students and teachers.

Then recently, I conducted nature treks for schools in Jabalpur at the behest of then DFO Jabalpur, Mr. H.S. Mohanta an avid conservationist.         

My job as wildlife and birding guide leaves me with paucity of time now, hence I pen down my experiences regarding tigers. 

In order for a campaign or a program to succeed peoples participation becomes imperative. In a heavily populated country like ours complexities are four fold making success of a program riddled with problems. Getting over the complexities and problems is an arduous task but nevertheless  success is sweet whence overcome.     

Citizens from all walks of life need understand our inheritance and the importance of preserving the ecosystems that we have inherited.The younger the better. Peoples participation is a guarantee of success  especially whence an effort initiated by Govt. of India to save the critically endangered species like the tiger is concerned. 

Tigers need voice and what better than common men and children according it. Recently the tiger population has increased palpably but the predator is still on the brink of extinction. Hence much more has to be done. 

Active participation of  by people from all walks of life during International Day for Tiger was encouraging. 

An event was organized under Mr. Sanjay Shukla, Field Director, Conservator - Kanha National Park in the State of Madhya Pradesh in India. 

I have provided the FaceBook link below for people to know about this magnificent effort. 

A Leopard Dies!

30/7/2017
Jabalpur

This was the second instance whence a leopard was found dead at Barha Forest Range near Jabalpur. The first discovery was that of a mutilated leopard body with paws, canines missing few months back.

The second instance that probably happened yesterday was reported by the locals. This was a young leopard cub probably one year old. Since the postmortem report is not out in the open the cause of the death could not be ascertained.  The presence of leopards in this area is a big surprise in spite of the available habitat. There is nothing there for them to feed on! May be the animals peripatetic by nature venture into such areas from pockets that still accord sustenance.  

Few years back a tiger was reported on a cattle kill in these forests. The animal was probably a vagrant in search of prey. There are none at all, the herds of chinkara and spotted that could be seen some years back have all been poached. Few barking deer do not make a meal for big cats. This leaves no option for them but to go for livestock and the ensuing man animal conflict results.  Some of the locals may be resorting too poisoning, or the killing could be the handy work of poachers or wood loggers which roam this forests in search of wild boar or anything that comes around. 

Neglected with lots of interference, the reserve forests are well known for their minor forest produce including tendu leaf. I have seen few poachers with guns moving around the forests without any fear, and wood logging is a frequent occurrence in these jungles. 

A part of the area was undertaken for some period by TFRI, an institution into forest research. A concrete wall was built for the purpose but this was for a limited period. Experimental plantations could be seen for some time - done for research. But anyway from what I hear the area is back to the concerned forest department.

Most of the visits are by birders like us since the Narrai Nala a perennial stream sustains many avian species. The stream is the lifeline of the ecosystem and supports impressive floral diversity in a limited area.          

The lean forests are mixed type with affinity with forests of Kanha and Bandhavgarh as they where once a part of the tracts which have been intensively inhabited by humans and extensively farmed. Small pockets scattered here and there comprise of good canopy rest need repairs badly. The area was full of wildlife during the period lasting up to late seventies perhaps but no more. A tiger could easily be sighted during that period but now literally not even a rat is visible.    

Well this is the story of most of the reserve forests in India leaving some of the protected areas aside. Once the country's finest ecosystems they now present only a skeletal picture - the wildlife is long gone. These are the pockets that sustained large population of tigers in India. They are devoid of all forms of wildlife in the contemporary period. In order to fetch the big cats out of peril these forest have to be reclaimed and due protection accorded. Such an action would offer extra space for the predators if carefully nurtured.

But do we have the resources and the will?         

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Paul & Amanda - Tiger Safari

Guests Paul Diggins & Amanda UK 
Courtyard House Kanha
Kanha National Park - India 
June 2017 

Tiger amidst Bamboo clumps 

"The weather is uncertain it may rain damping our tiger safari,"I informed the guests. For visitors from far off lands expectations loom large and rightly so. Short of holiday time, they may not be making another trip to India. That makes my job as a naturalist more challanging and  anxiety filled. - the desire to see a tiger is ever encompassing for lovers of wildlife and holiday makers alike.

Why Not? See for yourself. 

Tigers are usually seen with difficulty. This is the inherent nature of big predators they are all the time evading prying eyes of the prey as well humans which enter their domain. There cannot be a more exciting event then to chance this magnificent predator. 

It is one of the most beautiful and graceful animal in the wild. In fact it is matchless with its predatory instinct that accords esoteric behavior traits in its natural habitat.    

After four dull safaris the situation had become gloomy. But thankfully there were more rounds to go. Those arriving to see tigers at Kanha National Park must plan for at least six safaris in any season especially winter time. The fruitful tourism zones keep on changes hence visit all the zones on your trip to  this amazing reserve in Central India.  

Anyway things changed soon we were able to sight a young male tiger on fifth safari whom we had been unable to trek on the first day. The pug marks suggested a full grown huge tiger and whence encountered it on this day our surmise proved right. This was one of the fasted growing cub of Umarpani tigress who has four cubs now on verge of separation. This male now fully grown a about two and half is charting his own territory as he is number one the line. Possibly he has started making his own kills but is on some occasions seen with the mother.        

On the return we had a brief encounter with Neelam tigress (blue beauty) who rules Kanha meadows. She has four cubs which are seen on very few instances. Much liker her name she is one of the most beautiful tigers to see. She had been wandering with her last litters and managed to lose them to a rival tigress. I hope see has become wiser and would keep her progeny to safer confines of the meadows.     


The last safari yielded the big male T2. The magnificent carnivore is one of the largest seen in the tourism zone and has overtaken the legendary Munna. Unlike Munna T2 is very aggressive and charges with impunity if disturbed. He is said to have mated with tigresses in his territory and promising future upholds the tiger reserve.     

Male Tiger

Images Paul Diggins UK 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Terai Arc Landscape & Tiger Corridors

Thats Dudhwa my agent pointed out to me. What!Where!" All I could see was some sugar cane fields and grassy patches. Not until we cut through a dense canopy of Sal did I realize that we where at the periphery of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.  

This was, way back few years a ago. The tiger reserve is now home to Rhino after a successful translocation. The reserve is host to the Northern Swamp deer, tigers, hispid hare, pygmy hog, wild elephants and number of mammals besides a large number of bird species. The region holds some of the rare and endangered species.     

Swamp deer was in abundance in old time but due to excess hunting and habitat destruction their population is limited to the tiger reserve. Singhai township is one place I frequently visited, this was once a hunting ground near the tiger reserve, and the name addresses the swamp deer. Singhai means assemblage of horns this is in reference to the rare swamp deer species. Maharajahs and the British favored this place for hunts. Rest is the sordid saga of destruction of wilderness in India.     

The North or Uttar Pradesh is a land of plains and intense agriculture. Heavily populated and urbanised, Dudhwa and adjoining forest patches are few that are left. Thankfully they are under much needed protection as wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves,

Dudhwa now encompasses Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and is connected to Pilibhit Tiger Reserve and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary through narrow corridors - weak and facing human intrusion. On the Nepal side the forest contiguity is provided by Shukla Phanta Wildlife Sanctuary and Bardia National Park.       

The green corridors connect the wildlife heavens but are in much need of protection and care. The corridors are denuded at place but nevertheless animals migrate to adjoining forests in times of stress.

Green corridor that  connects Dudhwa with Shuklaphanta is  Laldhadi. Lagga-Bagga corridor connects Pilibhit to Shuklaphanta. The Kartaniaghat-Khata and Boom-Brahmadev Corridors to Shuklaphanta and Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary. The latter is in Uttarakhand State of India. Bardia National Park in Nepal is connected with Katarniaghat through the Khata Green Corridor. Rhinos migrate to and fro through this corridor.    

Human settlements engulf and intrude the corridors reducing the connectivity and giving rise to frequent man animal conflicts. Many year ago the region had become volatile due to frequent cases of man eating especially at Gola and Mohammdi townships in Lakhimpur Kheri District where Dudhwa TR and Kisanpur WLS are situated. 

Man animal conflicts do occur in recent times but frequency has decreased thanks to greater surveillance and conservation measures.  A lot of work is being done to repair and rejuvenate these vital passages which has resulted in some improvement. The beleaguered wilderness needs much more work to be done if free movement of wild animals has to take place without stress.

Apart from afforestation, resource preservation including water and strict protection management has to be in place if tiger population in Terai Arc Landscape has to bounce back. This region had one time abundant tiger population and a high density of prey base. The resulting denudation has had an adverse impact on the floral characteristic. Human population and land use dynamics in the present circumstances have a negative impact on the habitats resulting in fragmentation affecting the viability of corridors used for migration. Understanding key factors that impact habitats and life forms that inhabit the ecosystems is vital for the conservation ecology of the region as whole.         

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Perspective : Protected Areas In India

Wildlife Protection Act 1972 - Provisions Chapter IV 

Image: Dharamagiri
In order to save the vanishing tiger and other life forms Wildlife Protection Act was constituted in India. This was in the year 1972 and thenceforth hunting of all wild species became illegal and punishable.  Hunting is permitted in extraordinary circumstance especially when an animal has become threat to human lives. Another reason for allowing hunting is in case of excessive damage caused to crops in agriculture fields. This permission is mired in  controversy but instances have occurred wherein it has been granted.    

The act also outlays the concept of National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Often known as protected areas, set of rules and regulations apply to both. Many amendments have taken place since the legislation, but only the concept in brief has been described here.   

Apart from protecting wildlife, the objective through conservation of habitats is to preserve all life forms in India.   

Wildlife Sanctuary 

In case of a Wildlife Sanctuary, the State Government will notify its intent if the area under consideration is of ecological and geological importance with prevalence of diverse life forms that constitute flora and fauna. The notification also specifies the area to be brought under the Wildlife Sanctuary.  

After notification powers are vested with the collector for land acquisition or rights. Continuation of rights under some circumstances with the permission of the Wildlife Warden is possible.    

The status of most of the wildlife sanctuaries in India is anywhere from being protected. Relocation requires political and administrative will which is severely lacking in this context. One of the largest wildlife sanctuary in MP, Nauradehi has more than sixty villages within the confines but no relocation has taken place so far.

In many of the cases there is a lack of funding, or the relocation itself is an immense exercise, hence the status is far away from the protection that is required. As compensation substantial amount is given to evacuee or in lieu a suitable land is awarded.      

Cattle grazing intrusion, illegal logging, poaching and even land use in these sanctuaries is rampant causing disturbance to wildlife which perhaps will never recover until unless corrective steps are taken with urgency. Although there is no dearth of conservation practices wherever enthusiastic staff prevails, increasing population and the uncontrolled resource utilization encumbers protected areas with biotic pressures. Immunization of livestock is also vested in the act. 

National Parks

NPs are notified in the same manner as the wildlife sanctuary, most of the conditions remain the same. Both types of protected areas may also be notified by the Central Government. This type of protected areas are symbol of National pride hence greater degree of protection is accorded to them.

No livestock grazing or other such activities that may be allowed in a sanctuary are permitted in NPs. Land acquisition and translocation are executed with greater urgency in National Parks. They have been better protected as well. The areas that have substantial tiger population have been brought under the aegis of Project Tiger Conservation Programme initiated by the Central Government.      

The success of conservation programs in India is checkered with some areas doing better than before. However large number of areas are facing immense problems as mentioned above. While the tiger population has risen marginally many species of plants and animals are still under the brink of extinction.     

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Diamond Mining: Lure of the Lucre & Tigers

Eventually after much hullabaloo the diamond project in Bunder Region of Madhya Pradesh was shelved by Rio Tinto. Citing financial reasons the concern handed over the project to Government of Madhya Pradesh along with all the assets.   

Obviously the Bunder Region was not a good enough take for the company despite which they got the approval to go ahead. The project was mired in controversy right from the inception as the land contained a biodiversity rich profile. Situated near Panna Tiger Reserve and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, the area is a link between the local ecosystems and constitutes vital tiger corridor. The diverse floral habitats are home to leopards, sloth bears, chinkara and other mammals, birds and reptiles. 

Tiger experts unanimously agree upon the status as it falls under the tiger landscape. Under the stalled project more than five lakh trees were to be felled spelling an environmental disaster. Under severe opposition and administrative hiccups the project viability was deemed as poor. Eventually wiser council prevailed.    

The project envisaged reaping of rich harvest of roughs up to the extent of 27.00 million carats of rough. The open cast mining was discouraged and the company was advised to  employ alternative means to dig for diamonds.  

But the disaster still seems to be in waiting since other investors are being sought by the concerned bodies. It seems the major discouragement is the environmental bye laws in India. Nevertheless projects which are ecological disasters should in the first place never be envisaged. By the time the mining would reach end cycle we would have lost a substantial forest region for ever.    

Central Indian States MP and Chhattisgarh are rich in mineral wealth including diamonds. Encouragement is being accorded to major global players to explore extensively and mine the invaluable ores.   

But the lure of the lucre would fetch in loosening of laws in order to enable global players to mine with ease. India has impressive diamond polishing industry but most of the roughs are obtained from Belgium. Finding substantial deposits for large projects is enticing for Governments aiming to become of the major diamond producing regions in the World.       

Hence the sword of Damocles hangs over our valuable resources some of which are situated in the finest wildlife habitats.