Monday, March 29, 2010

Of a thousand tiger dead

Recently I came across a book on shikar tales by an acclaimed hunter of the past? India's past is rich  in natural wealth and hence tigers and wildlife, unfortunately it reeks of awful destruction and plunder that the country went through not only through the barbaric invaders and British Raj? But through our own as well.

The legendary shikari (Not Jim Corbett) narrates his accounts of bravado of shooting tigers in most difficult circumstances and succeeding (Sic!). He describes tiger shoots or hunts as an art without guilt, but  more so with incredible passion...that which belies that this country lives under the shadow of Vedic teachings  that shows utmost respect to nature. His account of tiger shoots is devastating to our generation and unfolds the saga of massive destruction that took place in the past.

The Shikari portrays himself as a legend and unwittingly as an insouciant pig of the British Regalia and the pleasure seeking Maharajahs. Dressed in British code, he narrates accounts of arranging shoots of the innocent animal for the Rulers and the Maharajahs! He narrates with shameless pride the accolades that followed - Brought me fame and fortune(Sic). 

On one hand while half naked fakir (Bapu) and other patriotic elements were fighting for India's freedom this man was totality ignorant of the country's subjugation under a foreign civilization. And so were many insouciant Maharajahs...many of whom hold a place of pride in Independent India. From the accounts...this masterpiece of senseless is evident...of the kind of support that the Rulers got from within.  

In order to please the Rulers and satiate the pride of the Maharajahs, thousands of tigers were poached ..ruthlessly...mercilessly...males, females....cubs...females with cubs...pregnant tigresses...     

His account of behavioral characteristic of tigers at best is comical, a man more adapt in the art of setting the machaan and ruthless murder of innocent animal could not be a field biologist...he appears more like a butcher.

What is disheartening of now...from the accounts is the abundance of tigers in all forested regions sadly gone. The animal and other life forms are still reeling under the threat of destruction from more immediate urgency.  Perhaps the coming generation will read this blog entry and decry us for not doing enough to save the tiger, hence nature. They will target at us, same ire that I and many conservationist are doing at the moment.

Whence the Rulers left and Maharajahs lost dominance the Brown Sahibs took over and the rest is history. 

From the above lines it is obvious that I am certainly not targeting any Nationality or ethnicity, my anger is more on historical times that were steeped in ignorance. It is more at why understanding did not prevail in spite of the preachings of Vedas...that our life depends upon existence of nature inviolate.    

No one including the Rulers would have let loose such destruction that prevailed if ignorance was overtaken timely. By the time the urgency dawned upon Jim Corbett and many others it was too late. 

Today the place of shikaris have been taken over by the poachers, not for ignorant pride or insouciance, but for monetary greed. The World watches helplessly as the beginning of the end nears. We miss in all sincerity our late Prime Minister Indraji more so now...the tables would have turned in favor of the beleaguered life forms by now.


The Government in India is doing its bit to conserve nature.  There are many individuals and organizations involved actively in conservation of species in India and from other countries but it appears to be a loosing battle. God give them strength!  

Jago re! India Jago re!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eco Resorts at Kanha

Tiger tourism is one of the main draw of the visitors from foreign countries and the locals. Tiger reserves like Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench in Madhya Pradesh are very popular for tiger safaris. Corbett National Park and Ranthambhore are also very popular for tiger tourism in India. 

In spite of large number of National Parks/Tiger Reserves greater tourism is limited to the above forests. The reason is high density of tigers and hence easy visibility. Though tigers are present in good numbers elsewhere especially in South India the visibility is lacking due to nature of the habitat. Periyar and Wynaad are examples.

To cater to ever increasing numbers of tourists on tiger safaris the accommodation has been steadily increasing. Initially the rest houses belonging to forest and other government departments were the only places one could stay. In recent times the influx of hotels, jungle camps and resorts has been catering to the tourists.

The concept of holiday accommodation in Indian jungle is steadily changing. The tourists prefer fully equipped wildlife resorts for a stay. These resorts are now being built on the principle of sustainable eco friendly tourism. The ambiances though highly modern is built on the exteriors were eco friendly sustainable resources have been used.      

Most of the eco resorts are built using the same technology as the ethnic dwellings of the tribal villages. Kanha Tiger Preserve leads in this aspect. The new concept has been encouraged by responsible eco friendly tourism which is the need of the hour. Even the energy is obtained from solar panels as much as possible. Though for temperature control electricity is a must. But much of the power is generated using solar panels.  

The ethnic construction is environmentally well heeled and cottages and rooms maintain an amiable temperature reducing the need for temperature control. As in ethnic dwellings the walls are used using locally available mud in conjunction with natural materials used by the tribal. The construction is safe, stable and rock solid as has been proved through centuries.    

The appearance of the resorts is that of beautifully sculptured dwellings in harmony with the surroundings. All this, without sacrificing modern comforts and utilities that the guests look for in luxury accommodations. The eco resorts are well equipped with wildlife interpretation center, trained naturalists, and professional managers and wait staff. The resorts offer in house activities relating to eco tourism iike tribal dance and music - this way they provide lively hood to the locals.   

In time to come eco friendly resorts at Kanha will be the preferred accommodation.  The tourists on wildlife safari do not wish for city type hotels anymore in wild habitats. With increasing tourism awareness of our wild heritage is growing among the tourists. They are more and more becoming conscious of responsible tourism practices.

Kanha and other tiger reserves our life sustaining eco systems. The support vast diversity of life forms with which our lives are linked. Conducting proper tourism will help save these vital ecosystems, and sustain lives of the local communities as well. The tribal are the real sentinels who conserve our green belts. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

An awkward kill

The leopard must have been very hungry to go for a kill twice or thrice his o her size. When we reached the spot we could make out that the kill was not severely injured or dead.

The awkward attack suggested of a young leopard male or female. It was difficult to make out from few pug marks that we could trace.The cattle was lying totally floored to the ground with not much loss of blood,  but its vertebral column was damaged. From the charge we could make out the the attacker was not a tiger. 

The attack took place around seven or eight in the evening and the alarm cries brought the owner to the spot. The leopard had remained rooted to the spot where it had made the charge. The cattle had staggered to about fifty yards before it was grounded.  

The alarm cries alerted the owner, and perhaps the leopard hesitated as many a times the owners must have been summoned quickly. The owner and some other people gathered around the cattle and tried to raise  the animal but could not. They than sat around the animal whole night in order to keep the big cat away. 

The kill had been made a few yards from the luxury resort at Kanha National Park in Boda Chappari village. We walked down to the spot at noon. The forest guard had been summoned and he was taking stock of the situation. There were claw marks on the back on both sides and the neck had been gnashed from the top. This had resulted in breakage in the vertebral column.  

The owner of the eco resort an experienced man about forest matters accompanied us to the spot. The cattle bull was undergoing great sufferance but there was hesitation in letting the animal finish and consume it or use some other method for a swift death. Eventually the bull was carried to a spot near to the villagers house for observation and prevention of poisoning of the kill.   

The leopard must have been very hungry and must have been unable to make another kill. It approached the cattle in the night and consumed it. It was later chased away in wee hours of the morning. The dead cattle was than cremated. The leopard  was a female with cubs as we found out later and hence the desperation for food.   

This is a frequent occurrence in the buffer zone of Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh in India. This reflects upon the man animal conflict and challenges the management capability of the department. In spite of good prey base big cats find live stock an easy target as compared to the fleet footed deer. Every year a large number of cattle are killed whence the venture into the forest.

The villagers receive compensation, it would not a big surprise if the cattle owners have made this a opportune business since I am told the proportion of bulls is higher than the cows in the Kanha buffer. This also explains scarcity of fresh milk in the buffer.