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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Charged By A Massive Tiger

This happened not for the first time. 

I was on safari with guests from Courtyard House Kanha. Jennifer, David, Heather and Mark all enthusiastic travellers from New Zealand.  

The evening ride was organised at Khatia Zone ironically not a preferred one for most. But recently, tigers and leopards have been seen here besides sloth bear, nilgai, barking deer, and the common animals of Kanha.  The area lacks water bodies that retain water during the scorching summers. 
The evening was interesting with some good sightings but no tiger. Since most of the travellers to the reserve come with this majestic predator in mind, I had some thinking head on for coming game rounds. 

While some distance away from the Mocha township a man on motorcycle waived frantically at us to catch our attention.  

"Tiger Ahead!"

I believed the man since Munna the dominant tiger now vanquished often roamed in this area. In no time we reached Budbudi Nala only to be confronted by locals and a retinue of forest staff. We could not see the tiger till the ranger pointed to a bush.

He was sitting in between the opening of two bushes. In the dim light we could see him pensive, staring straight at us. My guests had their first look of the magnificent predator.  Calm prevailed as the ranger informed us that he was Munna.

"Well he looks very big", I informed the guests. My suspicion proved right as the calmness was shattered by the deafening roar as the tiger rushed towards us on all fours crouched as only the cats can. It all happened in a split second and none of us saw him get up from where he was stationed.  

Stunned by the assault we kept looking at him in awe and wonder.  He covered few meters and than retracted but before we could settle down he rushed again this time more viciously with greater intensity. He came to about fifty feet near us. In that dim light photography was not possible.

In an instant the crowd moved far away from the scene of action. Trepidation ran deep among one and all. The snarl and the hiss was blood curdling. The huge tiger retracted once again and remained crouched  ready to charge...which never came.    

"This is Dabang," I exclaimed. Being a cattle lifter he is of aggressive dispensation as all his likes are. He was charging at our jeep and that of another stationed near us.

Dabang is the largest tiger seen so far at Kanha National Park. He had earlier charged us with greater ferocity last June. The charge was close distance and it was terrifying. This was my third sighting of the big cat, much earlier I had seen him at a bison kill on Karia Ghatti Road. He was grimacing and snarling menacingly then.

The ranger signalled us to move on and we did. Much relieved that my guest had seen a tiger and experienced a rare action in making.

Next day the animal was seen near the Ghangar Nala on Bahiar Road that leads to the Courtyard House.  At 3.50 pm. A big passer by crowd had gathered and witnessed another charge on a passing vehicle. The tiger had then moved into the forest leading to the Nala.

The cattle lifters survive among the livestock of impressive size and hence grow big and aggressive, often confronted by the cowherds. Unlike Dabang who is closer to human settlements, most of them live in buffer forests scattered around the core. These are inhabited by people and their livestock. Unlike the core the buffer is not much under scrutiny, man animal encounters and poaching often occur.

With ever increasing population of tigers and leopard, the management of buffer augurs a new look.     

Monday, September 5, 2016

Indian River Systems & Marine Life

India is rich in biodiversity both terrestrial as well as marine. We have amazing giant creatures swimming in our rivers. The notable ones are the Golden Mahseer, Dolphins, Crocodiles including the Gharial,  Ganges Shark, Goonch Cat Fish, Otters and Huge Turtles.  Among the turtles the notable ones are Olive Ridley, Flapshell and the Black Turtle.     

Most of these creatures can be seen in the Indus, Gangetic and Bhramhaputra River Sytems though the mugger is widespread. The large salt water crocodiles are found in estuaries in Sunderbans and some parts of Orissa.  

The marine life is as diverse and can be seen at Pirtoan Marine Park as well as in the seas for Andaman and Nicorbar Islands, Lakswadeep, Goa, Port Blair and numerous islands.  A vast coastal belts of Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean are home to millions of sea creatures. 

The marine creatures are the Whales, Elapid snake, coral reef snakes, Dugong, Mottled eel,  scarlet soldier Fish, giant moray rel, red sponge, sea squirt, sweeper fish, angel fish, spotfin, lionfish, starfish, thorny oyster and numerous species of sharks. 

Reef Life of Andaman Video
Aquatic Life of Indian Ocean
Our oceans are facing numerous threats because of climate change, pollution, over fishing and industries on the shores. Nevertheless marine life is little researched and offer vast scope of discoveries during explorations.   

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Damocles Sword: Challenging the Conservation Ethos

License to Kill 

It hardly seems true that badly ravaged and plundered ecosystems in India support abundance of wildlife, anymore.  Well according to the government this is true somewhere in some States. Hence the permission for legal culling of  abundant species is on the table. 

Our five thousand year (plus) cultural heritage which boasts of conservation ethos ranging from the Vedas to the non violent concepts of preservation of life have proved to be ineffective as far as human greed for wealth , and in the contemporary times economic prosperity is concerned.

The  mala fide addition due legalizing this murderous assault on species well below the sustenance level in India is giving rise to lust for killing. Though the honorable have reasoned that this is being done to protect crops from damage hence boost economic growth.      

Taking advantage of this largess, it is alleged that the lustful are killing with glee even in premises where hunting has not been legalized.  

Wildlife in India is already under severe survival stress from rabid industrial growth, resulting pollution, unchecked human settlements, unplanned urbanization and rapid deforestation. Though we are discussing about the contemporary era, Indian ecosystems have been ravaged since thousands of years, more so since the beginning of the Raj. The wildlife has been continuously decimated resulting in critical existence of many species and extinction of some.        

Barely subdued, the lust for killing by the wildlife protection act and awareness, the legalization may renew the fervor of the big and small and open up new vistas of hunting illegally under the umbrella of the law.

To worsen the matter the demand for animal parts internationally is posing severe threat to rare species. Rampant poaching is taking place in this country in neglected areas not forgetting the sordid incidences in the protected areas during this decade.

The sharp retort from Menaka Gandhi (within the ruling government) who is erudite in matter of conservation took the environment ministry with surprise. Well "overzealous" is what the ministers and bureaucrats usually think of such reactions and most of the sane conservation voices are hence subdued.

It is for the people en masse to react to every ill advised policy, especially if it is published with populist desires. Wildlife in India is doomed till saner policies and proactive protection measures are put in place. Public should come into picture before it is too late.        

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

News: MP National Park Tiger Safari Rules & Rates

MP (Central India) National Park Tourism Year 2016  1st October 2016 Onward

The tourism in tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh has been accorded a big boost thanks to friendly changes by the State Government. 

The rates have been reduced and the charges for foreign visitors have been made same as that of Indian. The changes in rules and regulations are surely to enable more people to make incursions in the parks as well as at reduced cost (foreigners) on sharing basis for Indians 

This is bound to draw greater number of tourists for tiger safari and birding. The conditions for jeep safari though seem complex will prevent tourists from turning back empty handed. This will certainly benefit the hotels industry as well as empower the locals with greater work and benefit sharing. 

Applicable to Tiger Reserves = Bandhavgarh - Kanha - Pench - Panna - Satpura - Panna. 

Please have a look:        

Start Date for online booking begins 22nd Aug 2016 at 11am through MP Online Portal. This is the State Government website. 

 The Park Entry Fees will be Rs. 1500/- Per Permit  

There will be no more Premium Zones in Kanha & Bandhavgarh National Parks..

Single Seat will be introduced with 10% Quota from Online Tickets. In this case the person making the bookings will have to pay 1/6 of the charge while the rest five will pay the rest of the amount 1500 - 250.    

Tourists interesting to share the safari cost with others can do so at Add On Price of Rs.1500. For additional five tourists this will come to Rs.250 per head. For just one Add On Rs.1500 has to be paid.  .

Single Seat will be introduced with 10% Quota from  in Current Bookings.

Add-On Facility will be continued with following changes ...

In the original ticket, minimum 2 tourist names are must with the photo ID.

There will be no need to pay Add Charges for each guest. On payment of  Rs. 1500/- as One time Charge the rest of the guests can be accommodated. subject to maximum six guests per jeep. .

· Only One Time Edit, will be possible. Come one or come all at one go.

On the lines of railways wait listed ticket will be introduced. Only 25% of the Day’s Ticket Quota, will be issued as WLT. These tickets will stand cancelled, if not confirmed before 6 days of date of travel.

In case of foreigners passport is required for entry every time. For Indians any photo ID of the tourist will be acceptable during verification at the gate window. .

10) Guide Charges will be Rs. 360/- for each game ride. 

There will be no entry fee for children up to 5 years. Half entry fee is applicable for children between 5-12 yrs.

All the rules are applicable to game ride in the Khatia Zone but the excursion charges could be less. 

Jeep Safari 

For one game ride the cost will now come up to Rs.2500.00. The charge may be greater if the guests are picked up from the hotel.   

Note* Please conform these details from authentic sources least there are some discrepancies.   

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Tiger Conservation: It is a matter of space & protection

Although the tiger population has risen marginally in recent times, the animal is still in danger. Danger of extinction that is. The animal survives in National Parks and Tiger Reserves, these are protected areas. The survival can at best be described as precarious in some of the protected areas.

The core or the critical tiger habitat provides sanctuary to these big cats and a reasonable protection. This is where the animals breed the most. In protected areas, where human and livestock disturbance is minimal along with adequate protection measures the population growth is substantial.         

With the expanding population, the predators have to move out of the core into buffer in order to find space and avoid insurmountable competition from dominant tigers. The buffer zone contains human habitations with plethora of livestock contributing to grazing pressure and depletion of resources. The buffer zone which at many places has completely lost whatever reasonable crown cover was there earlier, also contains fields converted from forests during the era whence there was free for all. The road intersections, burgeoning and urbanization of settlements are all contributing to ever reducing buffer. 
Image By Doornik

In well protected ecosystems like Corbett, Ranthabhore, Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench National Parks there is significant movement of tigers in the buffer. The constriction of good habitat is creating terrible territorial conflicts with fatalities. The matter is compounded by reduced breeding, and reduction in prey base.  As the population increases the space availability would be a major already is at reserves mentioned.    

The human population pressure is constant as there are very little restrictions. The viability of the buffer zone is limited, hence the big cats are entirely dependent upon the core of which there is no scope of enlargement since the dense crown cover is limited, thanks to indiscriminate felling in the yesteryear {s}.        

Image By Doornik

The matter is further compounded by poaching which is limited locally but more vicious whence organized gangs descend unto the protected area. The well known poaching strategy is using hunter gatherer communities like pardhis, bawarias and behlias and perhaps more. The innervated communities are easily subject to enticement by the network operating locally on the behest of major gangs in India and outside. Being hunters since yore, these are expert at their jobs and many an instances go unnoticed, hence the mystery of missing tigers...  

The demand is fueled by China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan and to some extent other Asian countries. The  pelts, crafts, cosmetics and medicines are commercially available all over the World. 

The demand as mentioned will never be reduced let alone come to a naught. These countries are never going to mend their ways, hence no time or effort should be wasted on convincing them otherwise.

Strictly controlling poaching and penury is an option that cannot be otherwise.          

Greater impetus has to be accorded to what is already being done in the core. It seems highly improbable that human settlements could be reduced in the buffer zone hence more efforts should be spent on afforestation, development of habitat by creating water bodies and preserving whatever is there already. 

The crux if this article is that in spite of human settlements, livestock and agriculture significant pockets of forests should be protected and conserved in the same manner as core. This can be done by integrating the protection mechanism with that of the critical habitat. The burgeoning of industrial or commercial activity has already been restricted by the law but more vigilance is required in order to plug the loopholes.

Veterinary practices should be enhanced in order to control disease and treat ailments amidst the wild animals and the livestock. 

Until unless more is done in the buffer the viability of tiger surviving would be limited to the core area.         

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Swamp Deer Conservation at Kanha National Park

It was probably my second visit to Kanha National Park, the year was 1976. We were on elephant safari. We swayed left and right on the pachyderm as it waded precariously through dense canopy towards the grasslands. We could see the pen a mesh of wires covering a large area of Kanha Meadow. The pen is still there.    

Human intervention in most of the tiger reserves in India is minimized. This prevents undue intrusion into a fragile ecosystem. But some times the intervention is necessary.

Swamp Deer - Uday Patel
After losing large swaths of grassland ecosystems due intruding human settlements, the status of the hard ground swamp deer or the Barasingha was endangered. Critically endangered. With only sixty six animals left in the meadows of the park it was time something was done about.

Swamp Deer survived in massive herds in grasslands and swamps in Central India, Terai or Himalayan foothills and extreme East. One of the most charismatic red deer it belongs to family Cervidae genus cervus species duvacelli with three races in India. The population has shrunk all over due to spread of human settlements and takeover of swamps and grasslands for agriculture. Incidentally this animal survives only on grass and that too on few species. They have also been seen consuming water plants in small water bodies that are present in the core area of the park. Being sensitive to human presence these animals are found only in the core zone which is inviolate. 

Branderi Barasingha as it is also known is the only race (branderi) that is found in Kanha. Through centuries of evolution, the hoof of the animal has lost its splay making it adaptable for hard ground. This happened as the swamps in the region began shrink out due to geological changes. This fact was discovered by British conservationist Dunbar Brander during the days of the Raj.

During the seventies intense research was carried out under the aegis of George Schaller et.el. The startling discovery made was extensive predation of fawns by the tiger and other carnivores. The solution was simple...let the deer breed in absence of predators. The large pen was a perfect fit, it was cleaned of all predators big and small. The deer bred safely in isolation...and still does.

Male & Female- Dinesh Makhija
The number gradually increased and today more than five hundred swamp deer roam the wild grasslands of Kanha.  With the numbers on increase some deer have been trans-located to Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Few heads have been sent to Van Vihar Safari Park at Bhopal for gene pool conservation. 

Images By John Matthai
 Dinesh Makhija
  Dinesh Makhija
Barasingha mate during the winters from November to February. The territorial fights during the breeding season settle out who is the dominant male. Adorned with tufts of grass the male then tries to impress the spouse to be. This is an interesting spectacle what with the accompaniment of the bugle call.        

Though in Hindi Barasingha means deer with twelve horns there can be more than twelve tines present. The female gives birth to one fawn after a gestation of six months. The fawns grow into maturity under the care of the mothers whilst males form a separate schools after mating is over.

The animals association with grasslands has led to extensive research. Thanks to active conservation and translocation of villages the deer have a stable habitat to breed and multiply. Almost all large meadows like Kanha, Saunf, Parsatola, Saunder, Bisenpura have associated water bodies thus forming and excellent habitat for this rare species in India.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Kanha National Park - Man Killing - Indian Tiger Conservation Issues

Kanha National Park
Madhya Pradesh - India

It is always unfortunate whenever a human is killed by a tiger. The tragic circumstances always manage to raise eyebrows - even among the avid conservatives. Human life is precious but we have ordained it to be supreme and in the gluttony we have forgotten about other life forms.  

It is because of this attitude that animals like tiger, rhino and many more have lost ground and are on the last leg of survival. I have rarely come across stress on increasing land for other forms. Anyway India takes the lead but is this enough? 

Unlike the Asiatic Lion which has survived and come out of the brink of extinction in South Gujarat in India the tiger lags much behind. There are more than five hundred lion in 22000 sq km in Gujarat and expanding.

Though this has created problems for large agglomeration of rural and small town folks the acceptance seems to be remarkable. Man animal conflict persists but it seems that there are many sympathizers of the big cat hence assuring its survival. The lions are slated for relocation in Kuno Papur in Central India which has still not taken place thank to parochialism.     

The tiger has been nowhere lucky in reserves in India where it now survives. Stray tigers outside the protected areas have no guarantee of survival. While many reserves are still not adequately protected unlike Kanha, Ranthambhore etc the populations in well managed parks has increased marginally. This does not ensure the animals survival. 

Large inviolate protected areas are need of the hour with adequate protection. This seems highly improbable in a populous country like India. For well managed parks like Kanha the problem stems from buffer zone which is not inviolate much disturbed by habitation and free movement. 

Tiger By John Matthai
A wise step has been taken to bring a large patch of forest in Khatia Zone under tourism thus assuring any further degradation. The buck stops here or does it? There are options to create more tourism areas using other blocks of forests in buffer - if any viable. 

Wilful relocation with adequate compensation for reclamation and expansion of existing forest land are a possibility.  Such efforts have been successfully made  at Laldang near Corbett Tiger Reserve. 

But this is impossible at many destinations due to immense complexities - social and political.             

There are large number of villages at Kanha buffer. Many have been trans located from the core zone.  The humanity is accompanied with overabundance of live stock and redundant agricultural land claimed from forest land. Usually single paddy crop takes place. 

The successful conservation in the reserve has populated tigers in all canopies. The animals have moved in or enlarged their territory in all viable tracts of buffer forests. Like lions in South Gujarat they have learned to be inconspicuous in human infested corridors. But unlike their cousin the Bengal tiger cannot inhabit open country - and degraded forests with no prey.  Hence widespread habitation by their expanding populations seems improbable.     

Hence tragedy occurs.     

An old man went into the forest and was killed by a tiger. This seems to be an accidental killing since no more such incident has taken place.  But the implications of this act of intrusion resulted killing does not augur a great future for the tiger in India. Human encroachment is rarely put to blame which is squarely transferred to the beleaguered predator.    

The big cats are still endangered. Reclamation of forests and creating i
intact ecosystems is one of the solution.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Man Eating Tigers

Yesterday I was watching a film on Sunderbans and the man eaters. The mystery has not yet been solved why this magnificent carnivore goes after humans only in these parts. The victims are usually fishermen, villagers, honey gatherers and such people who venture deep into the forest.  

People also venture into dense confines in other tiger reserves but no such incidence happen in these places. 

Why Sunderbans? 

Has rampant hunting elsewhere put the fear of man among the tigers which has been sent down the line. Such hunting has not taken place in the Sunderbans.  

Does this have something to do with absence of large prey like the sambar, rhino, swamp deer, bison. In recent times swamp deer, Javan rhino, one horned rhino, water buffalo, hog deer and barking deer have become locally extinct. Sambar and Bison have not been reported here.  .  

Tigers rely much on coarse grazers like bison, swamp deer and sambar for food. This accords them with sufficient amount of meat on low energy expenditure.During summers whence bison descend from hills to Kanha meadows the predation by tigers become frequent.

Tiger in Forest

Swamp Deer

Male Tiger
The second line of prey in most of our tiger reserves are the live stock especially the cattle and buffaloes. Perhaps this spares the live of humans around in the buffer zones as man eating seems unnecessary in these circumstances. 

Tigers are petrified in presence of humans, as I have often witnessed, hence leave them alone seems to be the motto of the predators. 

But not at the mangrove infested forest of Sunderbans it seems.  

Well one does not know.

Well not till some researcher discovers the reason that has bellied us so far. 
Sunderban tigers not only kill those who venture into deep confines but attack rural folks in the neighborhood as well.   

The film sent chill down my spine since as a naturalist I have frequent encounters with tigers and leopards. Well its a job and they all come with the negative. I would not let go with this adventure any way.   

Photo Credits: Dinesh Makhija - Motel Chandan Kanha

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mother Tiger Epitome of Womenhood

Ruth & Clive Williams UK  
Photographer Guests: Courtyard House Kanha

We had searched the tigress and her cubs thoroughly for many days but with partial success. My earlier guest was not interested in a glimpse at all. Well that is what we could get. The family was often seen near waterholes in depth of Kanha forest but would be conspicuous by its absence in between.      

Anyway we could not get a proper sight during our last tiger safaris.

Tigresses are possessive and protective mothers and keep shifting from one place to another. This is done to teach cubs to survive in the vast ecosystem and get familiar with things around. Other reasons for regular shifts are to avoid male tigers who have not sired the cubs, avoid other predators, and yes the prey as well. The latter is a practice among the hunters to deceive prey such that they are unaware of  the predator's presence.    

In our recent tiger safari we stationed ourselves near a bridge over a rugged nullah which was favored for its ample water during the blistering summer. For some time there was no big cat in sight nor any alarm cries. My heart thumps with disappointment when the jungle is silent. 

We were thinking of our next move whence the jarring call of deer stilled us into silence.

"Alarm cry." I blurted, out well it was obvious the sound was loud and clear. The call was from deep inside, a bit away from the stream. Then silence again. We scored the neighborhood for signs of the tiger but none. After a long wait the calls erupted again this time further back.

"Where to?" I asked the guide. That was enough for him. We drove to a grove beside a Banyan Tree. There we waited till we heard the mother calling her cubs. A strange call more like the langur. We drove ahead for a surprise that lay ahead. And what a surprise. "Tiger!"         

At a distance from us the tigress, three cubs were resting on the jungle road. With his long lens Clive began to work till the big cats eventuality vanished into the woods. They then emerged well ahead in the grassland challenging our eyesight by their camouflage. The the big cats continued, perhaps on the hunt as we left for the exit.        

After a couple of days we visited the area again. Thinking that the family has moved to another area we were not going to wait for long. But the ways of the jungle are strange they had come back as the pug marks indicated some distance ahead. As we drove further we came across the mother's spoor. "They are still near somewhere here." I whispered to the guide.  

"Lets check the Banyan tree and the surroundings." The guide instructed. We did but there was only stillness that greeted us. "Back!" I said.

The roars were anxiety filled as we saw the tigress scampering madly, constantly calling loudly. "She is looking for the cubs/cub," I spoke. I could observe the desperation on the mother's face as she came onto the road and then began moving towards the Eco-tone.     

I was moved beyond words, the missing cubs/cub create loads of anxiety for the mother. She then headed towards the bridge on the nullah roaring continuously.  

Out of nowhere emerged the cub. He ran frantically towards the mother. There were howls of greeting and the writ of relief ran large on their countenance. Together they moved towards the favored spot and vanished.

"The other cubs are already at the spot near the stream." I said."Well lets wait."

A number of jeeps had arrived to witness the solemn moment. And it did happen. The tigress and cubs emerged and proceeded towards a large puddle and began to quench their thirst.

For my guests photographers this was an absolute bonanza. They were witnessing and capturing the moment with gusto.                  

Work done we moved on memory of the spectacle etched etched forever.

The images are awaited. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

World in My Camera

Mic Clark 
Wales U.K

Guest Courtyard House at Kanha

Mic Clark is a much traveled man. And if your travel takes you to wild wild places than you are lucky as well. Well it is hard work and much sacrifice. He is a wildlife photographer, as dedicated as one can be. I had the honor of guiding him consequentially for two expeditions at Kanha National Park.    

For naturalists accompanying professional photographers is a learning experience...experienced or amateurs. The discipline and committed approach to tasks offer much to gain I did. 

Mic has been to Gambia, Kenya and Sri Lanka besides India where he has visited many tiger parks. Though he photographs all things in nature his love for the big cats is evident. 

It is a challenging task to capture images of tigers and leopards elusive as they are. We have been quite successful in the endeavor.  Tigers, sloth bears, leopards, swamp deer, barking deer, sambar and many bird have come our way in the pristine magnificence that is Kanha. With great care Mic has captured images of subjects that he chose to. I am sure images would be startling.          

Wildlife Photography by Mic Clark: Bengal Tigers - Kanha National Park Madhya Pradesh &emdash; Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
As is apparent from his wildlife photography website his images are spell binding. Years of hard work does pay which is important for young entrants to understand. There is no magic wand that showers these hard won imagery.    

His wildlife photographs have been sold and widely published on reputable resources.