Saturday, January 18, 2020

Tiger in The Rain

Guests Nick, Aaron & Becky UK 
Courtyard House Kanha 

Tigers Enchant! 

These mysterious creatures have lately given us the impression that we have come to know everything about them. Do we?

There is an aura around them and a mystery that deepens more whence you get to know them on your search in the reserve. I have come across the tigress subject of this entry earlier along with her three siblings time and again during their growing up period at Kanha National Park in Central India or the State of Madhya Pradesh.      

Unfortunately of the four siblings two have been able to survive? Tigress cubs are often killed by rival males that have not sired them. The death can be a brutal mauling at the hand of the intruder. Hence until unless a surviving cub does not carve outs in own territory with dominance, its survival is under question. A relief discovery is that rival makes would more likely kill male cubs than females. But all younger cubs are killed if the rival wants to induce estrous in the mother. 

Tiger Cub

So we set out with Aaron and his parents in search of tigers and other animals whence they arrived at Courtyard House as guests on safaris. We did come across a tiger but hidden amongst the bush and we could see its back, head, limbs and body all disjointed by the bush. It was on a kill and we could hear the breaking of the bones as well. Well that's that!   

Our search for tigers was disrupted by rains now and then and we had given up all the hope of seeing another.  We did manage to see lovely creatures of the reserve and photograph them much to our joy!

Aaron had a wish on his birthday that to see a tiger on the road. Well it rained and rained. Huddled under the tarpaulin on the gypsy we had given up all the hope for sighting a big cat on the road.   

"Tigers like us are irritated by droplets falling on them." Perhaps their metabolism slows down due to drop in temperature." This was my explanation to rather disappointed Aaron. I had seen few big cats enjoying the rain during may works as a naturalist. 

While returning back to the camp, I decided to take the route where we had found tiger droppings and  heard calls some distance away. "There is a thin chance.......".    "And the road is devoid of traffic that will increase our chance." A path less traversed.  

It was drizzling whence we were surprised by a young tigress peering at us from the bush besides the road.

"Tiger Loooooooooooooook!"

The rain drenched creature was simply staring at us for a long time awestruck perhaps. Ha!

It then came on the road at a distance crossed over and was gone.

"Aaron Your Birthday Wish, I announced gleefully!"  

Tiger in Rain

Tigers are creatures of purpose and the rain does not hamper. I made another discovery that day.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Ecosystem Development: Saving The Sink Population of Tigers

Tiger conservation in India has expanded beyond the perspective of protected areas. Though PAs with inviolate space dedicated for other life forms are the best means to protect the source population of the big cats and will remain relevant for a long long time to come, the tiger's realm is an ever expanding phenomenon. 

With the success of contemporary conservation practises and increasing population of this tertiary predator, the paradigm is rapidly changing conservation needs and technology employed. This will challenge the approach and capabilities of wildlife managers and planners in our country. 

The recent induction (news) of funds into corridor development is one fine step from our Government. But will it be finely and boldly executed remains to be seen? Hopefully their will be some curbs on liner development as well which intersect our reserves and natural lands. Creation of wildlife passages or corridors is a must to save and prevent inbreeding among the migratory species. But for this purpose relocation of human population has to take place which requires political will besides facing stiff opposition that will accure from many quarters.   

Indian Tiger 

The tiger is a territorial animal and in case of dearth of space or conflict it becomes peripatetic and thanks to recent findings a good one at that. Well what this means is that the buck does not stop here at the core or critical tiger habitats. The predator's realm is an ever expanding one. 

As a naturalist, I have noticed local migration of tigers displaced by territorial conflicts now enhanced by expanding population. Hence in many cases pertaining to disappearance of tigers the reason is not internecine fights leading to death or an act of poaching. In order to avoid bloodshed the loser simply migrates to neighboring forests away from the core. 

In the neighboring region forests classified as buffer or reserve offer a stressful ecosystem to survive and mind you many of the displaced animals are not old but are capable of breeding and surviving their full lives. This is where the problems arise thanks to ensuing man animal conflicts. But this is not the end of the story is. 

Man animal conflicts that result in direct attack on humans are less compared to the acrimony generated due to killing of livestock. The general feeling of insecurity instigated by predator's presence further compounds the problem where this animal had lost ground earlier.

The vermin concept flouted during the Raj still infects our minds. 

The latter two are responsible for poisoning of the big cats in the buffer. Electrocuting small games in the periphery of the reserves often leads to the death of this apex species. 

With increasing urbanization and infrastructure development the meta population of big cats in tiger landscape and distant reserve forests are coming under severe stress. In the modern mind space increased intolerance of carnivores in India is bound to take place until unless conservation ethos are rekindled. This concept of man animal harmony is at best chimerical in material World where the beast needs inviolate space and has no equity. 

Unlike in the periphery of tiger reserves where tourism income flows directly to local populace the survival of dispersing meta population is difficult in areas devoid of connected income. Wildlife and ecosystems cannot survive without the sympathy of the local human population. It is difficult to curb exploitation of reserve forests and killing of other life forms, and yes prevent man animal conflicts, by implementation of law in isolation.    

If conservation practises result in increase and spatial expansion of the big cat, problems compounding conservation practices will be enhanced. This gives rise to many questions?

Do we have the will to save this critically endangered species?

Does the country has required political will to take right measures putting aside appeasement and developmental urgencies?

Are we willing to further safeguard forests outside protected areas and prevent encroachment and poaching?

Will ecosystem development take place in habitats not under the purview of protected areas?

Tigers need space and protection. A population increase that will extract the species out of the brink will depend upon their survival in both PAs and outside. A comprehensive approach is therefore required from the Center and States not forgetting institutions involved in conservation research and practises.    

And we the people of India  should also support!
Uday works as a naturalist and loves to write on conservation. 
Mobile: 09755089323

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Goodbye Munna : Tiger Iconic at Kanha

Munna Imprisoned!

Munna is an epitome of the tiger. His resilience, stamina, sagacity and the spirit of survival is insuperable.  
Munna - Mary & Andrew

The cage was a dreadful sight for us or for any tiger lover. The crowd comprising of police and forest officials made evident the sad event about to take place. We were shunned by the officials and we could not witness the capture. But the saddest part was his translocation to Bhopal a far away land. We expected him to be immortalized here!

The contingency had arrived because of death of a young girl in teens. Upon inspection no pug marks were seen in the vicinity as per some mahouts. Actually event details are not known accurately to me. But the teen was deep in the forest and could have been a victim of rape or could have been killed by another animal as the goats she was herding could have attracted the killer. 

Anyway it is unlikely Munna could have done because even in old age he was still able to kill cattle frequently. He was thus drawing ire of villagers by becoming a cattle lifter. He could have been poisoned or killed by an irate local. But with locals no one dares to take a chance, and so the sad incarceration of a majestic and iconic carnivore.      

He is still living, seventeen years plus but now far removed from his home at Bhopal conservancy. Born and brought up in Kanha National Park there was no tiger like this amazing big cat in the World. 

Munna With Bison Kill - Image Gopal Desai 

Red Eye - Paul Fear

I must have seen him earlier on my frequent visits to Kanha National Park as a naturalist but my first memorable meeting was in 2009. He had killed a bison and was fiercely protecting it from the crow nuisance. The place was near Schaller hide at Kanha and some lucky tourists had seen him making the kill. 

As freelance naturalist, I was frequently encountering this magnificent beast and had learned to track him with ease. He was one tiger which I had seen very often more than others as a naturalist. The study was revealing but most awe inspiring was his controlled aggression and sagacity rarely seen in dominant tigers. Another feature was his tolerance for humans whom he knew were not part of his food chain.       

Though he moved from one area to another all were within his dominance. I had seen him tackle red eye whom he managed to subdue using his posture and roars. Red Eye equally huge never ever came close to him, for Munna was more than a match in his prime.  

The iconic tiger made careers of many naturalists in Kanha and brought into prominence the forest guides as well. For us the awe had turned into extreme fondness for this mighty predator who made many holiday makers fulfill their lifetime desire of seeing and photographing this amazing tiger in the wild. 

Munna now far away from Kanha still lives in the park through his genes as he must have made a record of siring many young in his phenomenally extended rule. 

The last I saw him in summers of 2016 or was it 2017? I do not remember. He had emerged from the forests after spending time at a waterhole in the canopy. He came to sit besides us, in fact too near for comfort and we had to reverse. He kept on roaring at the top of his voice incessantly probably to attract a tigress that frequented the area. He could share meal with her...a practice which he often did in the old age. This he repeated the next day as well continuously roaring on both occasions he was a figure extreme sadness.

                                                         Aging Munna Video

T2 or Kariaghati Tiger the big beast proved to be his nemesis. He had given way to a larger, younger and fitter T2 but kept dodging him throughout to escape injuries. After one or two confrontations between the two...the story continued with Munna cleverly avoiding him all the time. Fate of aggressive T2 is not known since more than year. Both the big cats had moved into the buffer in vicinity of Courtyard House Resort.   

Munna in incarceration...if looked after well may live longer than he would have in the wild. Let us hope for the best in conservation history and see a record being made.
Uday works as a Naturalist at Kanha National Park. He loves to blog on wildlife conservation and tiger safaris. Uday writes contents for websites and for search engine optimization.
He can be contacted at:

Friday, October 11, 2019

Tiger Conservation: Tourism or Not To?

For more than three decades I have been witness to tourism at the tiger reserves in India...well at some of them. I have seen rules and regulations step into the game rides as time went past. This was for good since regulated tourism meant less disturbance to the wild denizens. This also meant end of free for all joy rides for the miscreants...those who come just to drink and eat in the luxurious resorts. But thankfully this lot is on the go and more nature friendly tourists are visiting our National Parks and sanctuaries. 

Most of the my experience has been at Kanha which has been one of the best managed park in India and is so till this date. I have also worked at Bandhavgarh, Pench and Corbett tiger reserves as well.

Kanha National Park is the best model to study the impact of tourism on sensitive wildlife, the management inputs, human interventions and research that has been carried out since its declaration as a sanctuary . 

Contrary to popular belief especially among the extreme right, amidst the management and policy makers, regulated tourism has not been destructive at all. It has helped create public awareness among the general masses, brought focus on endangered tigers, other animals...and of course the issues concerning wildlife conservation and environment in India. It generates crucial revenue for all participants.    
From unhindered to limited vehicular entries as per the capacity by area - this has been a thankful change. The safaris has become more productive and undisturbed and joyful holistic environment prevails. This has also prevented a conundrum of jeeps gathering around the tiger or other big games.  

Banning of elephant safaris has also come around good since more efforts are made to track the tiger now using skills than disturbing both the elephant and the big cat in a crowded jamboree. The grudge of the mahouts is understandable but they have a greater role to play in the patrolling and protection.

Since tourism has a supporting economical angle and justified hence its significance should never be a matter of doubt...there are many views regarding how it should be conducted. The Government has set up NTCA a conservation authority who's writ runs large as far as excursions in tiger reserves goes. The Supreme Court has also stepped in to monitor activities related to tourism in these parks. Hence to bring around any changes regarding the limits and policy is nigh impossible for the Local Governments and the park authorities albeit some aspects are within the purview of the latter. Any leeway given or a way created by the Governments interested in greater revenue generation are thwarted by the higher echelons in the administration as well as by the bodies mentioned in this article.  

The tourism involves economic aspects of plethora of  investors and the local communities are stake holders too. The curtailing of activities in the park has a direct impact on their incomes. This also has an indirect affect on the revenue generation of the State as well since tourism revenue plays a major role in the economy. 

Many activists and some in the management advocate a total ban on tiger safaris. Some advocate stringent measures to curtail tourism as much as possible and even do away with the protected area concept. This is disastrous, for all aspects of the Nation are dependent on revenue generation be it tourism, manufacturing or trading.

In absence of PAs it is not at all difficult to surmise what will happen, the ecosystems will be completely ravaged and become a battle ground of interests encouraged by the greedy businesses and political entities.  We have already denuded large chunks of forests and other ecosystems, and the biotic pressures, greed and interference is ever threatening. Hence more and more remaining ecosystems should be brought around the banner of PAs.  Else we will lose everything. There is no need for human aligned activists and those with extreme approach to cause impediments since our wildlife managers are apt and understand all aspect well.

Tigers and many animals sensitive to human presence and activities need inviolate areas this should never be forgotten. Human ways even in the remote are affected by greed and their activities like intrusions, farming, live stock rearing and hunting are not conducive to ecosystems. Anyway the fast spreading urbanization is now ubiquitous. This idea of human wildlife coexistence is barely plausible that too in forced circumstances where the poor wild denizens have no choice. Take the case of the buffer in a tiger reserve and you will see how humans are expanding their presence and how the wild animals are living in beleaguered circumstances not forgetting the ever increasing biotic pressures and commerce. This is not called survival and in present circumstance this belief is at best chimerical. Other life forms are certainly surviving under a hostile environment everywhere. We have conditioned ourselves to live in man made toxic environment other life forms have not that is why a large scale species extinction is taking place in our beloved Earth.                  
In case of tourism ban, the survival of the entity would be at stake. This idea of banning tiger excursions is at best romantic and the same time in absence of alternate income for the locals who would turn into least many would.  Another nightmare would be absence of public pressure and roving eyes that aid in saving our wild species for the subject would move out of the public sphere.
However naturalists, wildlife enthusiasts, some environmentalist and thinkers feel public participation is essential in all sphere of National Activities.  Therefore in an area out of bound for the public at least reporters and wildlife enthusiasts should be allowed. This is imperative because advocates of  safaris should understand that a large area cannot be allowed for tourist excursions due to security issues and infrastructure management therefore only few should be allowed to visit non tourist areas. 
Hence regulated tourism is the best option, both for revenue generation and preservation of the heritage. Without this activity the equity would be zeroed, and conservation efforts and the participation of people would come to an end. This would be disastrous for saving the endangered species and the ecosystems as well...which are equally threatened. Those who negate value of public participation in a suitable manner are not being honest to their task and wish to work in isolation.       

A sea change has been brought about by tourism in the reserves and State economy...and its overall impact on National income. Hence a balance should prevail without hampering conservation and thus tourism should be optimized for better revenue generation.

The hotel industry has been the most impacted by induction of new rules but this is an open economy and no protection can be accorded to the industry. They have to reduce their capacity. It is conservation first in these units and take what you get. Hence many resorts are on the verge of closure or running on ever decreasing revenue. This would also mean loss of local jobs and empowerment of communities. The carrying capacity of this sector may be limited but there are many alternate venues for income generation. Training locals in hospitality is possible with the help or resorts nearby.         

Although on the right track a paradigm shift has to take place as per our approach to regulations and rules that impact revenue generation. Finding a middle ground with an open mind would be fruitful.
Uday is a naturalist and freelances at Kanha National Park. He writes on wildlife and conservation.

Mo: 9755089323 

Friday, September 6, 2019

Tiger Conservation:Habitat in Himalayas

High Altitudes Himalayan Region comprising of tiger landscape in India, Nepal and Bhutan could prove viable  habitat and conservation unit for the beleaguered species. This has been pointed out in a report by NTCA or National Tiger Conservation Authority. Tigers have been found at 3600 MSL in Kedarnath in Sikkim at 3000 MSL and at 4000 MSL in Bhutan. This is encouraging for high altitude areas have less human footprints and less commercial activities due to the sheer scales of height. 

While presence of predators in Indian part of Eastern and Western Himalayas, Nepal and Bhutan have been confirmed so far there might be several other pockets with the presence of these carnivores. Also what is not known is that the tiger presence noted in the high altitude region is that of resident animals or those who have moved in from other territories or have followed the livestock. 

According to Minister of Environment(MOEFCC) Mr. Prakash Javedkar a masterplan is being initiated by the Government for conservation of this critcally endangered species at high altitudes mentioned here with cooperation of Government of Nepal and Bhutan. In such areas big cats have been found in West Bengal Northern Areas, Uttrakhand, Sikkim and Arunchal Pradesh States of India.    

Tigers survive only in habitats with good cover and prey base since they are ambush hunters. They have been found in dense forests, swampy mangroves, tall grasslands, arid and semi arid regions. 

A study led by GTF or Global Tiger Forum, WWF and Integrated Tiger Conservation Program (IUCN) along with Governments of India, Nepal and Bhutan for appraisal of tigers presence and prey densities is being initiated. With the involvment of neighbouring countries the conservation mechanism will change too perhaps augur new monitorings and conservation paradigm. 

This masterplan would provide active conservation measures in the high altitude regions and may lead to the big cats finding home in a less inhabitated and secluded areas. 

Read Mongabay Article

Uday works as naturalist in Kanha National Park in India.
He loves to blog/write on tiger conservation and environment.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Tiger Conservation: Rebuilding Our Ecosystems

As environmentalists warn us the 6th Mass Extinction is on the way. This is a certainty until unless we do something to stem the rot and put brakes on demise of many species.


There could be a vast cornucopia of  solutions but let us pay greater attention to what we have in hand...and that are the remaining ecosystems. The critical tiger habitats are limited in area but they are surrounded with badly fragmented and overused lands surviving under constant threat from human encroachment and biotic pressures. Subject to overgrazing by the livestock, they offer stiff competition to wilderness that prevails. In the periphery of tiger reserves they are called the buffer because this land is crucial for survival of the tiger in India. As a matter or practice or conservation technique we have to tackle each and every factor/element imperative or influential in the survival of the big cats in India.   

These core verdant lands are complete ecosystems albeit drastically reduced due to human activities. In India most of these areas come under the aegis of Project Tiger and are notified as tiger reserves. Also called protected areas they are a blessing for all life forms with beleaguered existence. The vital inviolate core offers a place for successful breeding for neglected life forms and protects them from ever expanding agriculture and marauding humans ways.     

Buffer zone management become crucial in the current circumstances of dire need. The viable lands where all life forms can live and flourish had been badly reduced due to urbanization, encroachment, agriculture and in some places commercial activities and manufacturing. The regulated ecotourism efforts in the buffer has proved to be beneficial and fetches revenue and keeps the areas under the scanner besides development initiatives for upkeep of the ecosystem. It provides employment to local labour, guides and drivers.  

In most of the buffer zones especially those surrounding the major tiger reserves protection is accorded. Patrolling is a means of according physical protection to these lands but the biotic pressure, culling of trees and encroachment by agricultural practises to some extent continues illegally.       

In the buffer limiting human population and limiting land occupancy (strictly) to the original inhabitants is an imperative and so is the need to discourage commercial activities therein. This sounds discriminatory but then we have to understand the right land use patterns taking these step would mean large area secured for the forests, grasslands and rivers the natural earthly phenomenons. We cannot put these lands to use for greed as well as for our economic survival because we have enough that is beyond repair - taken over by agriculture, settlements and manufacturing not forgetting the usurpation of forests due to reckless mining.   

Time has come for extensive in-situ conservation, and especially to rewild the areas with potential of regeneration like in the buffer zones with extensive plantation drives using the indigenous species. In order to ameliorate damage done we have to take some steps that could  redefine land use patterns in India. Limiting human populations and livestock - most of livestock is unproductive anyway - is a priority...if not complete trans location of people. This approach may be seen  as regressive or discriminatory but in later period this will help check climate change...turn it favourably for existence and continuation of life on Earth...and yes the ecosystem repair efforts will provide employment to the indigenous communities the right way. 

It would be unfair to say that protection offered and plantation drives are not being done by the present dispensation but this has to be done on larger scale. The departments can rarely influence the scale of activities required due to political and administrative constraints hence public pressure is required in circumstance like these.  

We have to learn to speak or express what we deem to be right in management of our wilderness and the Nation as whole. Sitting like mute will unfold the disaster in making with ferocity that will eventually destroy life on Earth. Time has come to tackle climate change seriously with full scale efforts. 

Plant few indigenous plants in your home that is the right way to begin.

Uday blogs on conservation and the environment. He is a freelance naturalist in India.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Tiger Conservation: Contingency History & Traffic

When the numbers fall and the home shrinks the extinction seems inevitable. Well that is what exactly has happened to the tiger in India. One after after another the misfortune arrived, always hunted but never in extreme in the ancient times the downfall came surprisingly in the modern times right between us. The clock has started ticking right in our life times..perhaps a bit earlier whence the Raj overcame us. 

Modern weapons, and the greed for timber and pure blood thirst were the reason for the big cats beleaguered state. The ball had started rolling, spinning out of control, and since then never come to a stop. Large scale tree felling and commercial plantation had started transforming unnaturally the profile of the carnivore's habitats all over the country. 

Those habitats today in perfect state of preservation remained so because of being out of reach or being privileged enough to gain the status of royal hunting preserves - the shikar gahs of the Maharajahs. Nevertheless hunting continued unexcerabated, in fact when the Raj ended and the Maharajahs began to lose hold the local big wigs duly took over to bring an end to a vermin and a vicious killer with haste. 

Hunting was the most indulged sport during the Raj with the rulers, noble man and Maharajahs joining in the spree. Tigers were the prized target, and many were killed with royal aplomb...beyond sustenance, mercilessly...and as one author put pregnant tigress, cubs and young all were slaughtered. The greatest decrease in the numbers was brought about by the bounty hunters during the Raj whence thousands of tigers and other predators were slaughtered mercilessly...cleansing the country of vermin for a few rupees in a decade.     

The unchecked human population implosion was another reason whence to meet hunger needs of the ever growing billions large scale tiger habitats were converted to fields. Commercial greed had never come to a halt and large scale clear felling for valuable timber continued unabated.  

As far as hunting is concerned the rot was stemmed whence in 1972 Wildlife Protection Act was legislated and Project Tiger came into picture. From one hundred thousand tigers the number had plummeted to 1400 or less. Horrendous! 

Just when we thought that the mayhem was over another menace surfaced and the system under the spell of recent success of Project Tiger was shell shocked. A poaching mechanism comprising of importers of animal parts (TCM) smugglers, some people of the department and small time but deadly hunters of yore was in the act surreptitiously.

Panna and Sariska were the eye openers whence all the tigers in the conservation units were poached. Thankfully it was not too late and intense protection of the big cats came into picture. Albeit such incidence are unlikely to happen thanks conservationists and wildlife managers and staff the leak continues. 

The poaching intent is for smuggling tiger parts to consumers of TCM etc in many countries. The nexus is deep and underground and continues to operate though actively pursued by the agencies and NGOs like  WPSI there seems to be no end. The emergence of recent trafficking reports carry a foreboding of doom. India ranks highest among the countries from where trafficking of tiger parts takes place. This is suggestive of a leak and calls for revamping our protection and intelligence gathering mechanism.     

Although body parts used for medicine is most lucrative the number of tiger skins seized every year is frighteningly high. All the most the figures of seizures are consistent every year which indicates a modus operandi which has not be stemmed. 

In spite of encouraging census figures of recent counting in India the dangers to our precious big cats looms large. How well will we be able to protect the dwindling species is a question that we should ask ourselves? Will constructive efforts and sound policies continue to fetch the species out of red? 

The pride of India needs National Support a strong political will and conservation management that up till now has been exhilarating.  In all National Endeavours public plays and important role we the people should do whatever we can to the Save The Tiger!
Uday freelances as naturalist/birder and loves to write on conservation.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Tiger Conservation: Unspoken Sentinels The Forest Guards

I remember long time back whence I was freelancing with TigerLand Resorts at Kanha National Park, I was assigned a group of school children from New Delhi. The group also included teachers from the DPS School who obviously were the caretakers for the tour. 

The tour comprised of safaris and lecture on wilderness, a sort of awareness campaign full of fun and interesting experience for the children. 

On the first night, the teachers refused to sleep in their rooms facing the jungle. Well the staff was instructed to sleep in the front of the doors and the matter was taken care. 

"We will be eaten by a tiger!"

Dead tired, I promised to discuss with them the next day. All I had to state next day was the fatalities, murders, road accidents, robberies. psychopaths, nuts, killers, fast cars, and blah blah dangers which they confronted daily or rather each given moment in the Metro.

"It is unlikely a tiger would kill you, if you sleep here in the room or venture out on foot everyday. The rural folks trudge into these forests for collecting wood every day without fear. The forest guards move alone in these forests to protect wildlife.

People die because of accidental encounters or due to deliberately impinging on the animal's private space. But these incidence are rare as a matter of fact very rare. You are  a thousand times safer here, so please all through your stay be at peace." They did!      

The true sentinels are the front line staff the forest guards, deputy rangers etc. They are the people who traverse or scour through the forests on foot looking for snares, traps, local goons, illegal minor forest produce collectors and yes sophisticated poachers and ultras. That is huge burden on two small feet and feeble body.

Forest Hut & Guards
In the deep confines of the forests they trudge on foot, bicycles and motor cycles. In the tiger land this would be an extreme adventure for most of us, not for the guards, they are on duty that needs extreme courage, sincerity and dedication. Coming across the tigers, other wild animals and reptiles is frequent, for some it may be on daily basis. But they are well versed with the ways of the wild and keep themselves safe.   

Whence we revel in the ever increasing tiger numbers these are the people who deserve the awards and the glory for successful tiger conservation in our country facing extreme odds, adversities of unparalleled nature whence compared with dwellers in the cities.  The threat is not from animals, the threat is from the intruding humans, poachers and the criminals etc. As stated above. 

The threat from animals is of a different nature head on charge is a rarity, they have to avoid accidental encounters the most at which the guards are good at. An odd aberrant behaviour may be the reason for a tiger killing a guard. Yes this does happen but once in a blue moon...but we humans are more likely to die of accidents, criminal charge or in an act of terrorism.

We especially the reporters should abstain from vilification of wild animals in case of a tragic encounters, we are no longer in their food chain and accidental killings should seen from a rational perspective. Habitual man killers are anyway incarcerated or killed.

Sometimes the forests guards have to face the wrath of the locals whence a big cat kills a man who has come too close. Yes most of such killings are in self defense whence a threatened tiger finds a man very close for comfort, or whence villagers try to snatch away the kill.        

Like our soldiers who face violence of the worst kind, the sentinels being discussed here also face threats to their lives...remember they are unarmed. In some of the tiger reserves the threat is from ultras while that from organized sophisticated poachers too is prevalent albeit not extensively in India. As a precaution the foresters move in a group or in company of another. But whence occasion arises they have to move alone.

The hard life of labour and constant patrolling -even in challenging weather day and night- is what our foot soldiers do in the tiger reserves keeping it safe so the wild animals thrive. They safe guard the ecosystem as whole. They also supervise small construction works like building dams, roads, waterholes and canals etc. The foresters are responsible for the safety and well being of the labourers who are involved in the construction works.

They are the virtual arms of the mechanism that keeps the reserves alive and kicking. Like the patrol elephants they keep an eye on the wild animals and the forests, and report to the higher officials or the camps nearby for assistance or attention.   

Most of the foresters live in the patrolling huts or fire watching camps deep inside the forests. For items of basic necessity they depend upon feeble supply chain mechanism or acquire it themselves whence they visit the small towns nearby.  They are always at beck and call of any emergent situation that arises in the deep confines of the forests.

Far away from emergency care and their families, they live in isolation but nevertheless fulfill their duties without fail. They are the stars of the conservation units and deserve appreciation and all benefits that can be possibly accorded to them.

Some of the foresters are excellent animal trackers and have an in depth understanding of animal behaviour. They are very good at recognizing the floral elements present in these biodiversity hubs. I have been interacting since many years with our front line warriors and never felt lack of resolve or spirit amongst them to protect the magnificent ecosystems that the country has inherited.

The forester's job involves multitasking for they can work as clerks, tourism supervisors, maintenance crew, as host for filmmakers and esteemed guests, and assist the veterinary staff whence the need arises.

Hail The Heros!!
Uday freelances as a naturalist and loves to write on tiger conservation and environmental issues.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Tiger Conservation: Urban Assault

Rising urbanization all over the World is seen as gauge in a positive perspective...a gleaming example of development . 

An article on UNDP website terms mega cities as centers of learning, culture and innovation. Besides this it surmises that these population silos are wealth/resource generators and productivity centers, and therefore of immense importance to human settlements connected with them. It also mentions that these silos boost holistic progress, look after the well being of the societies, address poverty, tackle pollution and create infrastructure.  This is UNDPs own view of urbanization which many may not agree.

Urban Ghetto

Chaotic Traffic

The Rat Race

This is a constricted perspective of human development indices because we do not seek more pliable alternatives. The article does mention the poor quality of urban development that creates economic disparities, pollution, furthers poverty, hardship, diseases, and most of them are environmental disasters. 

We all have realized this anomaly prevailing in the major cities bursting at seams due to overpopulation and unchecked migration from suburbs, smaller towns and now deep interiors. 

Yes we all know this  except the developers and those who reap huge benefits in terms of political agenda and the businesses amassing wealth. These are the privileged ones that unfortunately take to the helm and become city planners, developers, ruling politicians, esteemed citizens and active propagandists that never fail to advocate reckless urbanization at any costs.  

The fall out of urbanized ghettos is limited to their surroundings and to some extent to the neighbourhoods. 

Think carefully! 

In order to sustain one infrastructure another extended or connected is required...and then another till the network pathway leads to the deep interiors where our rural societies subsist  on bare minimum with rational utilization of natural resources, and where most of our tiger reserves or natural places are. 

The last leg is the micro urban center greatly susceptible to unplanned and unchecked development or linear development to be precise. It is these micro urban centers that eventually continue to expand haphazardly denuding and eventually swallowing the reserves.   

Over looked and accorded lesser importance our tiger reserves or other ecosystems are most susceptible to this developmental threat. The phenomenon is universal pan India and is rapid. 

In Project Tiger we have an ambitious tiger conservation program which is experiencing the day light at the moment...but the impending space constriction and environment degradation due to rapid development is going to hinder the progress in time to come. 

We are so enamored by modern development as we see in this World that we have forgotten to set limits and checks which are of utmost importance. Though the inviolate core areas are safe at the moment, the stress is on the buffer (surroundings) where stringent policy of protection and no commercial construction should be  well in place. The region surrounding the core faces huge biotic pressure from human intrusion and livestock, and the forests are nowhere secure with wood logging and sporadic poaching. The settlements here are subject to expansion and the agricultural practises old age with low yield. An alternative more environmental friendly alternative for agriculture should be looked for as soon as possibly. One solution is to promote non wood handicraft industry since some communities have proficient artisans. This is being done at many places but needs greater impetus.    

The vision of wildlife and humans subsisting in harmony living in the same space  is at best romantic and purely chimerical. This idea defies practicality in modern times with limited span of ravaged forests and grasslands. Some wild animals are too sensitive to thrive along with humans anyway. And then we know the ways of contemporary human society.   

At many tiger reserves due to peer pressure tigers move in the buffer, and some have become permanent residents. With sparse prey base, weak crown cover and increasing tiger population the problems are further compounded.

Munna Tiger With Kill _ Gopal Desai 

Meanwhile the urban assault continues relentlessly with no possibility of stoppage. This is a challenge that wildlife managers and the field staff will face till some mitigating measures are put in place.

Uday freelances as a naturalist and loves to write on tiger conservation and environmental issues.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Importance of and Understanding Niche Formations in an Ecosystem.

Tiger reserves or National Parks everywhere are complex ecosystems with a simple overview. Writers or wild lifers in India describe the reserves as comprising of type of forests, grasslands, dominating Sal or teak and the water formations in form of water holes, streams and rivulets all woven together.

A simple overview that makes us look through these writer's prism forgetting the immense complexity of ecosystems which include niche habitats or rather micro habitats. The neglect would mean loss of biodiversity both in flora and fauna. 

Pandanus or Kewra Break at Bandhavgarh
Hence the ecosystems also comprise of uncommon niche with abundance of special floral elements and containing a unique geography which comprises of a catchment, rivulets, streams, ponds, swamps, sand, minerals, plain or scattered rocks, unique grass, micro life forms and more. The appearance of vegetation and geological formation is unique but they can also pass off as a dense patch of forest.  To make out a niche one need not be a biologist or a geologist etc. A close look is enough. 

Thus in a small spot or place, a complex ecosystem exists which sustains unique life forms, water in dry season, shelter, food and often climate control, tigers and other mammals, reptiles, insects and birds find succor or life sustenance environment during the time of stress and even on regular basis. 

These are important and fragile components of  life support systems that if damaged or broken can have a disastrous impact upon the ecosystem as whole. Absence of these niche which are often due to obliteration or neglect is not a good sign and will eventually lead to disintegration of the reserve or National Park in time to come.

Similar life supporting effect or preservation could be brought about by presence or grouping of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals in a reserve. 

To make it  clearer even within the large confines of your house, garden, office or factory premises such niche can exist. Whence destroyed you wiould discover absence or diminishing of a species of flora or insects like butterflies and birds if you are a nature lover with keen sense of observation. This is precisely how unplanned urbanization destroy biodiversity in our towns and cities.  This is another reason why linear development is often criticized or cautioned in India by acclaimed conservationists.    

In case of violent intrusions by humans and livestock in area not protected as inviolate or out of bounds the diversity diminishes. Many species become extinct and the environment as whole suffers. Though well preserved in the core of our tiger reserves they are conspicuous by absence in the buffer. This is due to constant biotic pressure especially caused by livestock, denudation, logging and many other factors.    

Any visitor if vigilant during the safaris in our tiger reserves would make out such spots albeit they are often presented as picturesque or described as place containing water etc. That is why it is important to be observant during the safaris and not only chase tigers and other mega fauna. 

Thankfully our wildlife managers and field staff of the reserve are in the know of these niche or micro habitats and their ecological value. That incidentally makes habitat preservation extremely complex is not only saving the trees or grassland.    

This is another reason why indicator species like the tiger has become extremely important. Presence of an animal at the top of the food chain is an indication of a healthy ecosystem and a certain proof of presence and well being of these niche or micro habitats. 

We are the worst whence it comes to the preservation of our ecosystems because of our unmindfullness, greed and a hording mentality.       

Though I am only a naturalist, I always advocate that   tourists must visit tiger reserves with an inclination to learn sincerely so that we can better shape our surroundings and the environment as whole. Children should be encouraged in this endeavour more and more for they will be the policy makers of tomorrow. The wildlife managers or field biologists in our country should organizes camps to educate our masses. This is how greater benefit will accrue out of eco-tourism globally especially whence there is an unrelenting onslaught on our diminishing ecosystems.   

Micro Habitats
Find description and photographs of micro habitats in Bandhavgarh National Park in Central India.

Uday is a naturalist and is passionate about conservation and the well being of tigers in India. He loves to write on these issues on his blog and elsewhere.