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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.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tiger Conservation: Tiger Corridors in Muddle

Though a lot has been done for the survival of the tiger, it is still not enough. The growing population of tigers in some protected areas is throwing new challenges to the wildlife managers. The population of this big cat is nowhere out of the brink of extinction.  

Tigers need more space if their populations have to increase. But most of the space is taken over by human settlements including those in the buffer regions, and in vital corridors adjoining protected areas. Most of the corridors in India are mired in conflicts especially those that are hinderance to massive road projects aka development.

As per law no development activity is allowed within 10 km of mandatory buffer.    

The Pench - Kanha corridor was mired in such conflict between the Green Tribunal and Nagpur Bench of Mumbai High Court. The Court was in favor of expansion of highway that transacts through this crucial corridors meant for migration of tigers and other animals.

Tigers migrate a long distance if the prevailing conditions do not favor them in the place of residence. This is applicable to other animals as well. The migration provides additional shelter to animals and enables gene transfer which is vital activity since it prevents inbreeding which could be fatal to coming generations of the big cats.

Pench - Kanha corridor is one of the few unfragmented patch of forests which has made interbreeding possible between big cats of both the tiger reserves. Widening NH7 was proposed in spite that it would result in substantial damage to the forests as result of axing of trees. As a mitigating


solution elevation of the highway had been proposed, but that still involved axing of large number of trees.

Well to cut short development has won what with MOEF easing clearances for developmental projects that transact through niche habitats. A number of corridors vital for the survival of tigers are facing some or other kind of dilemma in India.  These connecting forests are home to wide variety of flora and fauna including the endangered species.

The muddle is formed between Green Tribunal, Courts, NHAI, WII and MOEF. The tug of war continues over large swathes of  forests that could be vital for saving the beleaguered animals that constitute the wildlife of India.

Though those in favor of saving the wildlife have proposed mitigation measure albeit at substantial increase in the cost of the projects. But this is the correct approach even if there is increase in the cost since the eventual aim is to save endangered animals for extinction and thus protect our environment and inheritance.

Conservation of our vital forests is mired hopelessly in developmental projects. These include not only highways but industrial belts, mining, settlements and other resource utilization.

Very few viable corridors remain in the country and most of these are not privileged enough to have a legal status akin to the protected areas.

Interesting News Articles

Expansion of Pench Kanha Corridor 

MOEF & Tiger Corridors

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tiger Surprise: Out of The Tunnel!


UK Guests at Courtyard House: Emma
Tiger Safari At Kanha National Park

Water Body - Uday Patel 
It was one of the difficult evening at Kanha Zone. The tigress and her four grown up cubs were not being sighted for some time and suddenly there was gloom. This is one tigress which is easily sighted and guides take easy credit whenever she is seen. 

So the first move that is made upon entering Kanha Zone is to drive straight to Link No.7 explore all the water bodies. It is most likely that the big cat family would be there and bingo your guests are all smiles. Many times it does not happen that way especially whence the family migrates to non tourism area.    

It was a bright and sunny summer evening whence we arrived at Kanha Zone. 

"What shall we do?" the guide asked. "Should we look for Neelam?"

There was little possibility of catching with the Umarpani tigress and her grown up cubs. They were not seen for some time. 

"Thats a good idea!" I exclaimed. "By the time we run through Link 7 there is no time for excursions in another area." 

So that was it and we began moving towards Schaller hide where Neelam and her four little cubs are seen. They are seen less frequently since the cubs are small and hence the mother keeps them hidden, 

A dull evening I thought. There was not a single vehicle on this tract and we were crusing alone. In safari it is always sensible to drive at slow speed else you will miss lot of signs that would lead to a tiger or other animals. And birds as well.     

We covered a long distance with no luck. We were making halts at many places to look for birds and animals. My idea was to kill time and wait for the Sun to mellow down. Tigers dislike heat and direct sunlight whence it is at its peak.    

Eventually we were to reach the culvert near which the tigress keeps her cubs whence in the meadows. A stream flows underneath in between the grasses that is a unique feature of Kanha Meadow.

It all happened in a flash. As we reached the culvert out popped a huge tigress from the tunnel through which the stream flowed.. I could see her flying away from us. She landed on the ledge of the stream  gnarled viciously at us and then trotted down to grass patch amidst the stream. She kept looking at us as curiously as cats do.   
Tiger in Marsh - Uday Patel 

We kept looking at her as amazed as we can be upon sighting this majestic creature no less a wonder of the World.

It seems that the big cat was resting in the cool confines of the tunnel in the culvert. Tigers love water and the stream flowing underneath must have been comforting in that blistering heat of the summer Sun. The noise of the engine awoke her from the slumber and surprised here. Well anyway the Sun had mellowed down and it was time for her to reach her cubs. We could not find the cubs around her. Well never mind Ha!   

My guest were spell bound by the sudden encounter but did take pictures as good as they could. Excitement rose towering over calm and composure as it usually happens upon exciting finds. It was amazing the big cat slid down amidst the grass and it became difficult to see here. Anyway the evening had been made. A tiger sighting for out esteemed guests Emma and her husband.    

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Booking Tiger Safari - MP Online Details

The details available on MP Online Website are in form of details FAQs, letters and notifications. The most searched information is the availability of permits. There is an option to book the  safari permit then and there.  Online payment facility is available on the portal hence you finalise booking then and there. Booking for other types of entry permits are also available. 

Most of the information provided is about the various aspects of tiger safari in Kanha, Pench, Bandhavgarh, Satpura and Panna tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh or Central India.  

If you are looking for the reservation page than you have to click on citizen services and then slide down to click on reservation after which the option to enter the National Park page will be visible. The Pandora's Box will then open for you.    

In the announcement section you will see the entry and exit timings, and the fee structure which is important for the visitors. 

If you click on the save the tiger logo you will reach the page on Madhya Pradesh Tiger Foundation Society. This non profit organization works towards wildlife conservation with emphasis on tigers along with its registered members. Further reading will enlighten you more,  Other links on the page point to Project Tiger and related aspects of tiger reserves.
Tiger Photo - Dharmagiri

On the page with logo you will find FAQ's on each  of the tiger reserves mentioned. This is important if you wish to know rules and regulations and various aspects of tiger safari in the reserves.   

The Faq is all encompassing hence tourists planning a safari to the reserves should read the respective information thus provided. The FAQ also offers information on Government  accommodation at Kanha but only the one at Khatia gate is available to public. It is basic accommodation. 

Hence tourist planning a visit should search for accommodation in Kanha on the SERP. This will lead to a large number of hotel websites offering a stay. The Kanha buffer contains five star, luxury and budget accommodation hence choose your pick.       

For more information visit MPOnline Website.