Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Night Safaris at Kanha

Night Safaris at Kanha are not allowed inside the park. But you can frequent the common public roads for a chance encounter with nocturnal animals.  The chances of sighting big cats are rare but the leopards frequent villages so there is a greater chance of stumbling on to the spotted one. 

It is unethical to use strong search lights on animals you encounter. Use your headlight and disturb the animal the least.  On many occasions I have come across small night animals like civets, mongoose, porcupine, ratel, hyena, and fox. These are rare to see in the day time. Larger animals like Nilgai, Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer, Barking Deer and Four Horned Deer can be seen on such rides.

A search for mouse deer would be an exciting discovery if seen since the animal is very elusive. Same goes for the Indian wolf whose sightings are in doubt now a days. One of its favorite haunts the Mocha Village neighboring forests is now occupied by hotel resorts and private bungalows.  Birds like night jars, large owls  and Eurasian thick knee are seen frequently hence you will always sight something or the other.

Even in summers the night sky can throw a chill down on you so carry a blanket at least.  It is wise to go in at early hours and come back to rest early. Take a naturalist with and some other hotel staff to be safe...albeit no untoward incidence has happened. Do not enter the park confines as night rides are not allowed inside the tiger reserve.

The starry night sky and the silence enraptures tourists on such rides. But be safe!

Trekking Tigers

Tracking tigers in the wild is most exciting and thrilling adventure but only for those who can take disappointment at times in a stride. It is an exhaustive exercise though sometimes the luck favors early.

Like all primary predators tiger leave telltale signs that may lead to the animal. The primary source is the alarm cries of the herbivores and birds who on sighting or scenting the tiger give a typical call. One should be able to make out the vocalization of the tiger. Other indications are the pug marks, excreta and territorial markings.

One needs trained eyes to see tiger which is always in excellent camouflage and of course sensitive ears to hear the alarm cries and tiger calls. Intuition sometimes works but once in blue moon. The reaction and behavioral pattern of the animals too indicates the presence of the Bengal tigers in the forests and grassland ecosystems.

In tiger reserves tracking tigers on the foot is not allowed one must track them while on a jeep which limits accessibility and makes the task more difficult. One must also understand bit of tiger biology and have complete understanding of the ecosystem as whole.

Understanding tiger movements and its habitual routine is also important in fact very important. Knowing the terrain is important as well. This is an exciting profession which requires years of experience. 

Silence is a golden rule. Sitting on the open jeep you can here sounds from far away to make out which animals is there. A cacophony of alarm cries means a predator is around. Leave for the spot at slow speed so that you do not disturb the will move towards the dense thickets.    

MP tiger reserves people behind the scene

Managing a wildlife/tiger conservation center is not an easy task. There are a large number of people required with ability and skill sets. The tiger reserve employees are from the state forest department. There are various level of temporary employment for people not directly employed by the forest dept.       

People we are more familiar with are the park guides who accompany us during the tiger safari. These are on temporary employment perhaps on daily basis; some may find permanent employment in the department. The guide fee has now gone up to Rs.200 per visit per day. In order to make an excursion in the park hiring a guide is a must you cannot enter without one. The guide is assigned at the park gate you cannot choose as per your wish.    

The guides usually act as beat guards whence the park is closed. They are the most knowledgeable about the routes that the reserve is divided into. They are also knowledgeable about the animals of the reserve. Some of the guides are expert in birding as well. The tourists depend upon them for discovering animals and birds in order to make their sightings successful.

There are behind the seen operators which are visible to the tourists at times. These are park rangers, deputy rangers and foresters. The latter you will often see at the jungle huts in the forests used for patrolling and fire fighting. These are the front line sentinels of the preserve. The park rangers supervise the range and the activities taking place. It is a responsible job and assignments are given to the deputy. You can see the park ranger during the tiger show whence he supervises the event.

The DFO and the Field Director are the top echelon of the park management. Complete control is with the FD with maximum powers. The DFO (Divisional Forest Officer) is more active in the field along with deputies.

There are people at the gate which manage tourists’ entry. The park excursion takes place on open jeeps. These have to be registered with the Park office that allots a number to the vehicle.        

Elephant riders and their junior staff are trained to conduct elephant safaris. They also play a crucial role in patrolling during the monsoon, whence the slush hampers vehicle movement. The park is also patrolled with anti poaching vehicles which are specially designed for the task. 

Lot of labor is involved in building of the infrastructure of the park. These are local people who earn a living from the employment offered by the preserve management. These are not employed on daily basis and you can see them working on the roads doing manual work.

Thanks to conservation efforts and tourism a lot of people find subsistence from the tiger reserves. The impetus is on employing tribal and other local community members as a principle of responsible management and tourism.