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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Dissecting The Tiger Reserves

The news is infrequent but the consequences are deadly. Already large part of our land mass has been stripped of all natural ingredients and more is being subjected to. Politician and bureaucrats do not accord consideration to land which has been deprived of an ecosystem bearing or is too difficult to be comprehended as of ecological importance.

The dispensation exhibits limits of ill planned approach, lack of logical thinking, no care for our environment and declining wilderness. Economic upliftment is an urgency often aimed without proper planning and with total disregards to remaining natural landscapes. Populist governance is a bane of democracies all over the World not only in India, otherwise a time tested meritorious system of governance.    

Large ecosystems under ambit of conservation and right under the public eyes do survive the rot, but this is not true entirely. Dissecting our tiger reserves, National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries under the road and rail development programmes is considered as prerequisite since that is imperative to our goal of economic development. 

During the Raj inaccessible lands were ripped apart by road and rail construction leaving the forest lands open for depredation and its wildlife for easy culling. The rulers had only one aim in mind and that was to generate revenue from an usurped Nation. But the land in question belongs to us and certainly does not justify emulation of policies of our erstwhile masters. But that is what we are doing since independence. 

After all it is just a strip. Is this well under the limitation of sustained development in green corridors? The impact of decimation of such strips of forest lands is disastrous, but it does not appear to be so whence quantum of land destroyed is considered inconsequential, and the imbalance and disturbance caused is considered negligible. Whence the conservationist cry hoarse this is equated with the parable cry wolf!     

The fact is even ill planned minimalist approach to urban development in green corridors or protected areas can augur fatal consequences and in some circumstances that negative impact may be futuristic. For example we have seen the impact of massive deforestation resulting in global warming in recent times. 
Teerath Singh 
Plans are often accepted and implemented by managers and bureaucrats with no insight into how ecosystems or natural lands work. They have no idea about the biodiversity prevailing in those places. They have no knowledge about the sensitivities of other life forms and their survival. Technical and economic viability are the key consideration taken into account, and yes the beneficial political fall out could favor the ruling dispensation. In the hurry to implement the projects wildlife mitigation are not taken into account while executing the projects or at times they are never placed on the information table for general public, NGOs and conservationists.  

Teerath Singh

We cannot continue to see development through a single prism, a multifarious approach towards management of our lands should be accorded priority keeping in mind the health of the environment as whole. Hence before we lose our natural lands a more circumspect policy should be in place which would mitigate conflict between wildlife managers, NGOs and conservationist. This would be a sign of less damage  being done to our natural lands if not entirely - under the developmental goals.  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Nauradehi WLS A Lost Paradise

Vanishing Ecosystems

Can humans take over any piece of land in India to acquiesce for our developmental and urbanisation goals? Will highest courts in India and the ministries stamp their foot down to see that development should not hinder? 

Should we repeat after few decades because development is not contemporary anymore and ravage and ravage till all other lifeforms cannot survive except some in zoos, herbariums and botanical gardens? 

Are we going to see the naked face of humanity and contend with evolving medical resources, artificial environmental dromes, and organised manicured floral landscapes?    

Yes humanity will survive till armageddon, and few will escape to another kingdom in celestial oblivion to continue to ravage again and again till the whole Universe is lost. 

Nauradehi Tigers

It started with Nauradehi? Barely aged eleven, I was witness to a huge male tiger being skinned right at my porch. My first tiger sighting was a dead one. I could see the cobbler assiduously collect fat. "This is good for joint pains," he explained to us without any expression on his countenance.

The hero stood around nearby devouring accolades. "I shot him sitting on a bullock cart - point blank. Could see his face lit up by the moonlight, and I aimed right without fear and trepidation." 

He was from Mumbai a rich man he came every year for hunt to Jabalpur along with the entourage of the Sahibs. They shot sloth bears, sambars and spotted deer from amongst a fast depleting lot of wild species in India. For a paltry sum in rupees as my father many a times lamented.
Tiger By Uday Patel 

The accolades continued. Brilliant! I too was admiring the brave hunter. He got rid of the vermin - a blood thirsty beast. It took me a decade to realise what grave error was being committed. This was in independent India, the Sahibs had left, the barbaric Mughal invaders had been vanquished long time back. This was us the Brown Sahibs. We took over immaculately from where they had left. 

The plunder was unprecedented, forests and grasslands were being destroyed at rapid pace. The burgeoning population needed food to be cultivated in thousands of acres, and there was no check on plunder and ravage of our ever depleting ecosystems.     

There were no tigers left in Nauradehi and the surrounding regions. All the remaining big cats had been shot dead not only by the Sahibs but by anyone with a clout. Today Nauradehi the kingdom of cats is devoid. No tiger no leopard. The wolf rules the roost! It is the indicator species.   


A few years back a lady DFO had come across a tigress with cubs and recently a tigress was found dead because of old age. It is conjectured that big cats somehow cross over to Nauradehi from nearby Panna Tiger Reserve at distance of 250+ km. Well it is anybody's guess since there are inaccessible quarters in this forest itself for animals to hide and breed. 

Recently a pair of tigers were relocated here in order to kick start the process. If the predators breed successfully the cats may permanently find a heaven in Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary again. Situated near Jabalpur City in MP the distance is about 100 km. The area is about 1000 + and comprises of mixed forests and pockets of grassland ecosystem. Undulating landscape actually encompasses more than 5000 of tiger habitat but the crown cover may not be adequate. 

Bengal Tiger - Uday Patel 

Fauna & Cheetah Relocation 

Some of the key fauna found here is the nilgai, chital, sambar, barking and four horned deer, black buck, tiger, sloth bear and small predators jackal, fox, civet, porcupine and mongoose. The leopard is conspicuous by its absence but sooner or later will find place here thanks to the protection offered. There is proposal to shift African cheetahs to grasslands of Nauradehi but this at present is only in the news.

Crocodiles and smooth Indian otter, turtles and tortoise can be found in the river systems and the water bodies of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is a heaven for avian species and delightful prospects await the birders. No extensive survey has been carried out but the species number may be more than 200. 

There are more than 60 villages in and around the WLS and plans are to shift them outside...some of them have already been shifted as per the news. Relocation is badly desired here since humans have occupied space reserved for other life forms and some are a big nuisance. Albeit under control, profilage, wood logging is still underway. I hope relocation will solve the problem to a great extent. Lot of constructive work has been done by the forest department here.

For those interested in visiting Nauradehi can contact DFO office at Sagar at a distance of eighty km. There is a permit required for wildlife safaris for a charge. One has to organise the trip usually from Jabalpur airport or railhead. An open jeep is the best recourse on the rough jungle roads. There are two rest houses for accommodation but need prior reservation. It is good to carry lot of provisions as well. 

Marsh Crocodile

Early morning and evening drives could be planned from Jabalpur in Central India. The jungle is worth exploring hence organise at least two or three safaris. Jabalpur is a conduit for other tiger reserves like Kanha and Bandhavgarh hence Nauradehi could be included in a circuit. Jabalpur accommodation is very good so there should be no problem for a stay here.

Tiger Relocated at Nauradehi - News

Friday, August 10, 2018

Future of Tigers in India

Some ten thousand years back tiger crossed into India from cold climes of Siberia. It possibly migrated via IndoChina and entered the country to spread around many dense forest and grassland habitats.  It faced little challenge since the prime predator preceding its arrival was the Asiatic Lion which incidentally had a different habitat preference. The leopard and other predators were no match for this magnificent beast.     

Tiger in Forest - Uday Patel

The predator spread far and wide in the subcontinent perhaps leaving a few States that did not contain the requisite habitat. The spread was gradual till the population came to more than hundred thousand animals. The big cat flourished as a tertiary carnivore and settled down in the prevailing ecosystems well. That it could breed and multiply with ease confirmed that it had a strong survival instinct.     

For thousands of years all went well but not in recent times of history. It faced greater challenge from humans as they multiplied and spread. But the conflict was not daunting as there was plenty of space for all the species then. 

Tiger Reserve - Teerath Singh

It was the unchecked human populations...ever expanding for more space and utilization of resources that put wildlife and their habitats under pressure including the tiger. Since the carnivore is an apex predator the impact was worse  in its case.

As human settlements increased and resource utilization became unmanageable the negative impact increased tremendously as well. The big cat began to lose its habitats, and the ecosystems were gradually destroyed one by one. In dire need of space humans began to invade habitats at a fast pace. 

Eventually the grasslands began to recede and so did the forests. In the period of contemporary history human populations in India grew at rapid pace resulting in unplanned acquisition of lands that were crucial for the tiger’s survival. Agriculture too expanded rapidly in the recent times sounding a death knell for the homes of the big cats. Large areas of forests and wide span of grasslands were taken over for human settlement and agriculture. Many species were lost and many are on the verge of extinction as a result.

After suffering decimation due to organized culling campaigns during the British Raj the remaining tiger populations were further being reduced drastically by modern day hunters with guns. But the conversion of habitats into agriculture had a major impact on the tiger populations in India especially during the post independence period.    

Modern Day Challenges 

Human population in the country continues to grow and continues to acquire land for agriculture or other purposes especially urbanisation. The new threat is from development as perceived by the planners. Much under pressure to create a robust World beating economy the fast expanding industrialization is threatening the very existence of remaining big cat habitats and other species  in the country.  Mining, encroachment and denudation of forests are slowly but surely suffocating the breath out of the big cats.     

It all depends upon what policies are shaped and executed. A lip service paid to conservation would be disastrous with habitats already decimated and surviving species on the verge of extinction. Conservation should be on the agenda of the governing bodies as well as the planners and executioners such that it evades threat from rabid industrialization that can take place. We should also reckon that public participation is the need of the hour.

Climate change is being augured by the use of fossil fuels as well as the decimation of natural lands. This poses a certain threat for the humans but it threatens the species survival as well.  Our rivers the only source of drinking water, fresh air and edible elements all are under severe threat. 

Consumerism is posing a big threat to the environment. The frustrating plastic menace has come to note. The use of toxic chemicals like pesticides and toilteories are threatening the health of our environment and increasing the extinction risk of many life forms.    

Poaching is a threat that exists in various quarters where the big cats survive. Local poaching is very much there at some place while organized poaching has completely decimated populations in Panna and Sariska Tiger Reserves.

Demand for tiger parts in the Chinese system of medicine is proving to be an existential threat. This is correlated with taste for exotic wild species in the cuisine of many countries. Pet keeping as a hobby is an unethical practice that is tolerated by many countries.  Activities like these encourage and help flourish illegal wildlife trade. 

A large population in the country still considers wild species as inimical to human safety and interest. It is organized awareness campaigns and tourism that will perhaps mitigate these horrendous beliefs. If only the big cat could create an equity for itself which it does to some extent due to tourism. But is this enough? Many erudite conservationists regret that the tiger cannot vote. Seriously!  

The Future
It would be unjustified to say that ruling dispensation does not care for wilderness. It does and so did the past Governments. What is questioned is the degree of commitment over riding political expediences and hasty development practices.   

Conservation cannot be considered just as a deemed policy matter and ethical or moral obligation. A concrete  and sincere efforts has to be made from all quarters to preserve and populate other life forms including the tiger.

The creation of Project Tiger Program was a shot in the arm for the beleaguered specie. The numbers were precariously low whence this effort was launched. In spite of all the initial hurdles and organized poaching racket the tiger in recent times has gained ground.       

The creation of tiger reserves or inviolate protected areas (critical tiger habitats) accorded much wanted breathing and breeding space for the other life forms including the big cats. But the preservation of the protected area is subject to many challenges ironically whence there is a dire need to accord greater space and protection to the tigers in India. The biotic pressure on our natural lands threaten the  coexistence of other life forms hence the inviolate spaces should be zealously guarded.  

As per 2014 Census using new methodology the figure arrived at was 2226 a rise over the earlier estimates. The 2018 census is going to result in indicating the survival of more tigers in India. But is this enough? 
We have a long way to go....   

Monday, July 9, 2018

Clive & Ruth's Photographic Expeditions

Clive & Ruth Photographers UK
Tiger Safari
Guests Courtyard House Kanha
Naturalist Uday Patel

Clive is a professional wildlife photographer and keen wildlifer along with Ruth who equals in enthusiasm and clicks wonderful images as well. Their enthusiasm for wilderness and local cultures is unmatched. They have visited India many times and are keen travellers from United Kingdom.

They are our regular guests at Courtyard House Kanha. This season we had some exciting safaris and photographic adventures at Kanha National Park. 

Though the focus was on tigers we came across many other wild animals, and the guests photographed them with vigour. On this tour they have taken thousands of photographs.They have been kind to send some of their works at Kanha and Panna. 
Changeable Hawk Eagle




Sloth Bear


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Tiger Conservation - Water Woes - Community Initiative

On safari at buffer zone in Kanha, we realised that there was hardly any source of water. The summer had peaked and most of the rivulets had dried down completely. Thus the trip was a partial success except sighting of four horned antelope pair, Nilgai female and few spotted deer we could see nothing. The jungle was dry and barren the sole reservoir was completely empty.  Bird life is always good here but not in late evening!  

Through many of the buffer zone roads local human traffic continues unchecked. Albeit this is the recourse accorded to the locals since they have always been using these pathways the problem of intrusion persists.

In most of the buffer areas previous human settlements, agriculture and small time commercial activity related to local needs is permitted by law. New laws have been inducted to prevent large scale commercialisation of this land. I think settlements by outsiders into buffer also needs to be checked.     

Tiger By Mukul Yadav 

While this is good, incidence of electrocution, poisoning and poaching does occur to some extent. This is correlated indirectly to water woes especially in the buffer. Creation of saucers and ponds and bunds is not easy at all since these can easily be poisoned using insecticides which are locally available.

Whereas in the core or the critical tiger habitat patrolling is buffer it is relatively less probably due to priority or lack of resources. 

Importance of Buffer

Why The Buffer? 

After heavy destruction of forests in India the habitat available for tigers is much less, and it is further compounded by commercial activities, presence of livestock, populous settlements and agriculture resulting in extreme biotic pressure.

The dependence on local wood and on minor forest produce creates more pressure than desired. The wood is used for energy as well as furniture. The availability of gas has to some extent mitigated the demand for wood but not all are implementing the generous availability of  CNG out of sheer habit or lack of purchasing power. Scattered felling of trees continues, and I have found many areas in or near the buffer to be incapable of holding other life forms. Perhaps greater awareness need to be created among the locals. The forest department does offer properly collected dead wood to locals at affordable price. 

Conservation in Buffer        

Why does tiger conservation takes into account the buffer area whence core offers complete sanctuary to the big cats? 

Well the answer is simple. In order to come out of endangerment the big cats and their prey have to multiply. The core area will not be sufficient to hold as many tigers as desired. Hence they have to spread into the buffer which they have already done in case of Kanha where conservation has been a big success. Tigers need large space to survive, this is one fact that all conservationist are aware of.     

While predator and prey movement into buffer helps reduce deadly conflicts between tigers inside the core to a good extent, it simultaneously augurs man animal conflict outside. During the scarcity of water big cats move into the core intensifying territorial conflicts due to disruption of population dynamics. There is tremendous stress on wildlife during the dry season from March onward. Wildlife from all areas facing shortage of water congregate in the core.     

Experts - Watershed Management 

In the core area many water sources remain though many dry out early hence water management is required. Though the management is earnest about preserving the water sources, I think inviting or taking assistance of  experts or watershed management should be thought of. One incidence I noticed a continuous trickle that supported a water hole was erroneously clogged whence efforts to enlarge by drilling proved failure. This may have been occurring elsewhere? 

In buffer areas most of the water bodies have been taken over by settlements - this is the case every where. Creating water holes or saucers is difficult as elucidated earlier in this article. Hence solutions have to be found by human intervention or by extended protection to source already existing.   

Perhaps forest communities and the tourism industry could be involved in some manner to offer extended hand in managing the buffer. 

At the moment tiger conservation in India at many places is succeeding thanks to committed management and sound policies. Macro solutions will spell success much faster. We should all assist in some manner to augur success. 

Community Initiatives   

Community initiative is the way forward, the tourism industry already provides jobs to the locals impressively and some partner in benefits as well through commerce and sharing. Little more contribution by all will do wonders      

This is where the industry and well wishers can contribute by helping the local institutions and empowering people (some may already be doing). A small contribution will create greater equity about wildlife and forests in minds of the locals, and about their inheritance. Well it is a good deed as well.    

Courtyard House Kanha - Community Initiative

As an example Courtyard House Kanha owned by Neelesh & Kirti Agarwal along with donors have adopted Patpara school. They have helped create a boundary wall (fence), painted the walls and equipped the school with much needed furniture and accessories. Since inception the resort has been donating paraphernalia useful on request from teachers.      

New Fence for Patpara School 

Student Interaction - Donation from Bishop Stratford School UK

Donors Visit George & Norah France



Thursday, April 12, 2018

Gory Killings Nature At Work

Whence herbivores are killed by the predators it cannot always be a scene picked from a National Geography wildlife serial. Some the moments could be heart wrenching, agonising and a strikingly painful experience. The pathos such incidence generate are difficult to contain what with emotions streaking through the over awed mind. 

While tigers and leopards are efficient hunting machines causing swift death, predators like the wild dog and jackals are not. The charge is often a series of fumbled attacks that end up mauling and scaring the terrified prey. The resultant attacks lead to torture misery and painful death sometimes taking a long time.          

I observed jackal attack on two occasions on tiger safari in April. The first one was a single jackal in a meadow that managed to pick out flesh from cheeks and eyes of a terrified fawn. Agonised to extreme the helpless fawn bleeding and weakened stood up its ground but to no avail. In a series of charges the the jackal could succeed in an awkward kill as other deer watched haplessly.   

The scene was heart wrenching and many among the crowd had closed their eyes, and some simply left the scene. The end was agonising slow but he predator succeeded in availing food. 

The second incidence was at the edge of the forest where two jackals had managed to rip open the stomach cavity, and the entrails where hanging loose. It was indeed a gory event and certainly not for the weak hearts. The animal eventually succumbed and became a meal for the jackals followed by crows and vultures. All was over in a short time.  

Though the events are described here as gory this is the way nature works. In almost all the events the death is painfully slow there is an inbuilt death mechanism amongst the prey but sometimes it does not work. 

User discretion

Jackals by nature are omnivorous animals but whence there is preponderance of prey they develop instinct and capability to kill the small one's. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Tiger Ambush & Chase - Hunting

With Margaret & Georges France
Guests Courtyard House Kanha

Tiger Hunting Deer Video - Uday Patel
Kanha National Park in India

She must have arrived at predawn in the grassland and had settled down unseen. Whence we saw her she was safely ensconced in between the grass and could hardly be seen. We stayed there admiring the big cat in sylvan surroundings and serene settings that the forests are popular for. The rising sun had lit the strands of grass here and there creating a awe striking splendour. 

We must have waited for some time observing the tigress taking a peek at deer in and around preparing for the kill. This continued for some time till there was a rustle amongst the bushes across the road. Swiftly she turned around and vanished into a grassy patch behind, right opposite to the deer preparing to cross the road. We could not see her at all. Where was she?     

Ambush & Chase     

Suspense mounted as the deer (fawn + doe) slowly edged towards probably where the tigress was waiting. The camouflage was incredible as the big cat lay flat on her belly without a whisker being shaken. Tigers can sit incredibly silent and still of a very long time in wait for their prey and this is what the female was doing. She must be in the range of 130 to 150 kg weight and fully grown. 

The black stripes and yellow must be aiding her due to pattern disruption making her invisible in the meadow. The camouflage is remarkable and many times it is difficult for the prey to sight the predator. The body contours fit well in the terrain completely engulfing the animal, this is a unique feature and makes tigers stand out from other predators. Stealth and surprise are the key aspects of hunting and survival.       

The deer had yet not seen her and were few feet away totally unaware of death waiting ahead.  The fawn was following few steps behind the doe.  

It happened within a flick of the second as the tigress lunged at the fawn totally taken by surprise and fear. Rolling on its digit the big cat closed on the fawn covering a distance of about thirty feet. The move was effortless and strikingly fast. Upon nearing the fawn she struck at the tiny leg making him lose balance. Thus grounded she pierced her canines and broke the vertebrae of the prey. 

I could hear the heart wrenching sound of the fawn as it struck the ground. But mercifully it was all over in seconds. In nature death strikes fast due to a shock mechanism thus reducing the sufferings.

In the same movement the tigress gripped the fawn and was on her way to the cubs. She had come near to our jeep as it happened in few seconds and we could not reverse.  What was really surprising  the big cat had not run out of breadth and was moving swiftly probably towards her cubs. 

Dual Mode of Hunting 

The female had not only used an ambush but also chased the prey exhibit how the tigers hunt in the wild. The patience exhibited was remarkable and the ground chosen to hide showed how experienced the animal was.     

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Intruding Male Tigers Killing Cubs

With the sad demise of Budbudi female her cubs would have perished as well or perhaps eaten by the intruding male tiger. An impressive number of cubs are born every year, but few survive to repopulate the reserves in India.

The males that sire the cubs do not kill them rather protect them from attacks and often meet and share meals with the family as a matter of assurance. It is the duty of not only the female but the male as well to see the cubs through the two plus years of vulnerability.   

Territorial hold of dominant males is porous and is often intruded by transgressing rivals. This is bound to be as male tigers are peripatetic, busy patrolling their territory leaving females and cubs vulnerable to an attack by an intruding male. It is difficult to manage large territories that the dominant cats hold. They may have mated with other females in their area in order to ensure healthy population of their species. Darwin's survival of the fittest is very much evident in tiger landscapes where battle for space and food is intense.    

The killing of young ones is a natural phenomenon and insures transfer of better genes. Well this can not be often as many times the intruding male is sent packing or is unable to kill all the cubs. Death of all the cubs could mean female coming back into oestrus. This is what the intruding males seek. By killing all the cubs they are able to transfer their genes. 

The big cats are possessive mothers and go out of the way to protect young ones. Not only protection but they also impart skills for survival in the wilderness. In order to remain safe they keep on shifting their territories but the shifting process may make them more vulnerable to attacks by rival males.  

Whence the tigress is able to resist takeover it could ensue into an internecine battle often resulting in the death of the female. The male is hurt too but being stronger and larger is able to fend off death. This is what happened in case of Budbudi tigress in Kanha National Park. The male eventually consumed the female which again is not surprising.     

Tigresses do mate with more than one male to ensure fertilisation as well as avoid conflict with a rival. This often happens whence the males are siblings and hence allowed to stay in vicinity. The big cats show greater tolerance towards their siblings then towards strangers.     

Within a spate of couple of months about ten cubs have been killed at Kanha National Park. This is a regular occurrence and those that have lost young cubs may soon give birth to another litter. These events certainly do not call for human intervention since it is nature doing its bit.  

The loss of young ones is certainly sad since we are losing tigers fast due to other factors chiefly lack of habitat, electrocution and poaching. But many times hundred percent survival rate is experienced in well managed parks, and this is what maintains a population balance in the ecosystem.

The cubs are vulnerable for two years but take more time than that to learn and gather experience. This is essential to fend of dominant males hence they have to find uncharted territory. In case of space restriction they have to face humans which are more dangerous than rival males.      

Tigers are prolific breeders and swiftly replenish the stock if adequate protection and space is provided.  Winters are preferred for mating albeit it goes on throughout they year as and when opportunity arises. This is the period whence conflicts are accentuated including territorial fights among the males. 

Generally the core undisturbed area is sought after by dominant males. The high prey base, water and adequate shelter makes the core inviolate area more preferable than the buffer which is littered settlements and farms.             


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tiger Cannibalism - Budbudi Queen Lost

Loud roars where heard during the morning safari at Karai Ghati road. But no tiger was seen and the commotion was made out to be a kill by a tiger possibly Dhamangaon male who frequents the area. 

Whence we heard about the incidence we explored the area nearly an hour later. The jungle had fallen silent and there was no sign of any life forget the big cat. 

During the evening safari, I advised guests staying at Courtyard House Kanha where I freelance as a naturalist and host to inspect the spot. They sighted what was actually Sangam male a visitor to Karai Ghatti.  

Sangam Male
Pranav Ade & Pratik Mudholkar are wildlife enthusiasts and keen photographers they have taken some excellent photograph of the killer male. The partially eaten carcass was later dragged towards the road and it was discovered to be that of another tiger. On inspection by the forest department it was found to be that of Budbudi female the star of Kisli Range and Queen of Kanha. 

Much is conjectured about the incidence but it is assumed that the male killed her as she was not willing to mate. Or it could be that he was after her cubs? In defence of the cubs she gave up her life. But it is not certain that she had cubs albeit search is going on. 

Often seen at Kisli Talao and Budbudi fire line she was very popular with guides, naturalist and regular visitors to Kanha National Park. 

Another tiger lost, a sad story but what is more saddening is the fate of the cubs? Search will reveal the  true status of the female and I hope soon.        

   Image Courtesy Pranav Ade

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tiger Conservation: Securing Food

Most of the protected areas that have registered an uptick in population of the tigers have also experienced an uptick in prey base. This has happened simultaneously along with improvement of the habitat after relocation of villages from the core zone or the critical tiger habitats.  

Predators are totally dependent upon prey base population for survival and breeding. The two categories of animals are inextricably linked and one cannot think of conserving the tertiary predators in absence of adequate prey base. 

The big cats intake includes spotted deer, sambar, wild boar, gaur, swamp deer and langur in descending order. Outside the core area frequent consumption of livestock chiefly cattle takes place. But this is the bone of contention which endangers the species at  the hands of the locals. Though the compensation plan mitigates the ire the incidence does create a grudge against the animal which could prove as further detriment for the existence of the already beleaguered species in India.  

The Project  Tiger Program in India is certainly inclusive and has been successful in preserving the ecosystems as whole. With proper implementation tiger populations have increased and could increase further.   

The positive number game has favoured the predators immensely and with increased breeding and protection. Subsequently the overflow of prey base into the buffer has also resulted in marginal increase in tiger population in the zone. Marginally because many big cats inhabiting the core areas have included parts of buffer zone within their territorial command. Hence the density though appears to have increased it is not the case. Well not to that extant.

There are tigers inhabiting the far regions of buffer zone where ever sufficient area is contained and wood logging and poaching is restricted. This is where challenge arises by the virtue of constant man animal conflict,  frequent transgressions, timber felling and poaching. The prey base is most susceptible in far flung areas whence inadequate protection mechanism is in picture. 

This is also the case of our reserve forests outside the purview of protected areas. Though infrequent incidence of the carnivores presence comes to our notice now and then these are the grounds with virtually none or scare prey base. Poaching is major threat in such areas while wood logging could be regular. Hence hope of saving the species lies within the precincts of the protected areas in India.     

As a smart strategy greater concentration is accorded to hitherto badly ravaged areas within the core and the viable corridors. Once these areas have been replenished with prey base the focus should include the buffer zone inhabited by humans, their farms and livestock. There is a tremendous biotic pressure in the buffer zone with scores of villages settled post relocation exercise. 

Many areas of the buffer zones have been degraded due to human pressure namely wood logging and indiscriminate grazing. Wetlands and other water bodies have experienced severe stress and need to be brought back. Creation of new water bodies wherever possible is an urgent requirement. Poaching though appears to be sporadic can run uncontrolled as many areas are neglected or could be deliberately overlooked by the patrol teams. Wildlife disease management is another important issue which is certainly being addressed in the core. 

Extensive afforestation programmes have to be initiated in order to create a habitable ecosystem. Human activities have to be contained, and no commercial activities should be permitted at all including construction of private houses.   

The buffer zones would be crucial inclusion in tiger conservation activities if the population has to sufficiently increase. Perhaps the number game if successful would fetch the tiger out of its critically endangered status and perhaps preserves the species forever. 

Though this malady exists possibly in all tiger reserves, Kanha sets a fine example. The population of gaur, chital, wild boar and sambar have definitely increased in the buffer augmenting more habitable regions for the tigers. But here too cases of sporadic poaching using various means especially electrocution surface now and then. 

Installation of solar based fencing which accord a mild shock is the answer to prevent man animal conflict or reduce the instances. Though this may appear as wishful thinking relocation from buffer or containing local or migrant populations would benefit immensely. Excessive human intrusion and activities especially livestock grazing could have a negative impact on the wilderness.      

At the moment things seem to be moving upwards greater efficiency and innovative management techniques along with strong political will can secure the future of the tiger in India. Perhaps forever.