Monday, August 8, 2011

Shadows in the Grasslands

The hub of activity in tiger lands take place the most in grasslands or meadows. The grassland habitats are  preferred by the deer species which are the main prey of the carnivores. The grasslands in tiger reserve contain short grass in summer while they are taller post monsoon. 

Meadows in Corbett, Dhudwa and Kaziranga are larger with tall elephant grass dominating the ecosystem. Most intriguing are the Boheras of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in MP. These grass lands are marshy in nature due to slush formation by the intersecting rivers such as the Charanganga and Bhitari.  The Sidha Baba, Bhitari and Chakradhara meadows are unique since no where does such an ecosystem exists. 

These are the ideal hunting grounds of the carnivores, since the movement of the prey is often stalled and they can be brought down easily. The predators descend from adjacent hillocks and hide in the shadows.  Dominant tigers hunt here and prefer to rest during the day, hidden in the shades in small openings. The hide at Chakradhara was built during the Shikaar Days but act as watch towers now. This is where the cameramen sit and film the finest moments of tiger hunting down prey. 

I find the Kanha Meadows as interesting as that in Corbett. The main hub of activity is the Kanha Meadow in the core zone. This is an edaphic grass land and quite a large spread. In the post monsoon period the grasses are quite tall but decrease in size as the climate becomes warmer. The grass land is extensive and offers habitat to Spotted Deer, Sambar and Swamp Deer.

Langurs, wild boars and sometimes sloth bear are sighted here. The grassland is the hold of dominant tigers and tigresses. The Hard Ground Barasingha or Swamp Deer are dependant upon grass for survival. They inhabit grasslands such as  Kanha, Saunf, Bisanpura and Saundhar. 

Grasslands attract predators like tigers and leopards in the jungles of India. The animals hide in the tall grass and mark out the prey. Tigers cannot chase their prey hence the grass cover provides an excellent opportunity to ambush and kill. They emerge like a shadow and pounce on the prey, it is a thrilling but grim spectacle - nature at its best. The predators control the number of herbivores in order to preserve the ecosystem and keep the food chain intact.

Once a tiger had killed a huge bison at Kanha Maidan right in front of the tourists. The killing could at best be describes as gory since the hunter cut of blood vessels in the hamstring of the animal four times larger. The death was slow and painful - unusual for a tiger kill. This is the way nature works but most tiger kills are instant with very little torture.    

A tigress was regularly seen here for couple of years to the delight of the tourists. Every day in these mega meadows the drama unfolds the alarm cries are constant a predator stalk prey. The event could be witnessed by the lucky ones. Besides luck can fetch sight of wild dogs on hunt or a sloth bear tumbling by. During the peacetime the grasslands are a silent spectacle with deers, peacocks and birds all around.

The best time for visiting these grassy phenomena is early morning and late evening. Keen eyesight and hearing can be rewarding at taking you to the place of action. I have witnessed ample drama in years of visits to this lovely paradise.