Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Searching for tiger in Pench

"When they do not want to be seen you don't see them." I explained to my friend who had just been to Tadoba. "Yeah that's what happened at Tadoba," my friend replied back. We were very hopeful that he and his family would see the tiger there since it was so much in picture. There had been frequent tiger sightings at Tadoba in Maharashtra, surpassing the Central Indian Tiger Reserves.     

Well I had warned them about the rains that could disrupt tiger safaris at the end of the season. That's what happened. It rained at both places and the safari was ruined. My friend was more hopeful at Pench with me along. He knows that I conduct tiger safaris and birding trips. But tigers are tigers unpredictable yet fathomable.

In National Parks these big cats are seen whence stressed for water and food. Heat and the need to chalk out their territory time and again brings them near the jungle roads. Yes a search for a mate also fetches them into the open. But on rainy day they prefer to relax under the canopy, and have water all around. There is no need for thermo-regulation which keeps indolent. The prey base is scattered all around. But tigress with cubs are more likely to move. If the cubs are grown up they stray away, but keep  in the vicinity of the mother. In such circumstances you should keep to the area of the family.       

Without tiger sightings, the long rides in the forest are not as disappointing as people think. It is the singular chase for tiger that dampens the whole excursion.

There is so much to experience, in these lovely forests, deers, monkeys, a sudden surprise - four Jackals on a kill. The birds are simply fantastic they are must watch even for those who are not bird watchers. The resplendent colors, the acrobatic flight and remarkable camouflage that surprises you no end. 

The massive bisons and the stately sambar peacefully foraging on long grasses is a wonderful sight to watch. Other life forms are an intrigue that thrills. A sloth bear ambling along and a leopard on prowl can be as exciting as a pack of wildlife chasing a deer and consuming it while still alive. Well that is how the nature works.         

The tiger some of us did see on the trip. We decided to move to the part of the river banks which was frequented by a tigress with grown up cubs. Another jeep spotted a tiger few minutes before we reached the banks of Pench River. They left as soon as the animal vanished leaving us to look for the big cat. We could hear lots of alarm cries but the bushes were very thick. 

We waited ahead in the direction of tiger walk but the animal had decided to change its course, I presumed. Hence I turned my binoculars towards the river and its bank. It was one roar that told me where the animal was. We headed back for some distance and then looked at the river bed through the clearing. All us were standing on the jeep seats to get a better view. (You are not allowed to get down from the jeep and you shouldn't.) 

"There it is! I whispered and pointed in the direction. Only one or two could see the tiger moving fast towards the other bank. The roar continued as it vanished into the tall grasses and that was that. I could still picture the scene but the roar was more exciting. My friends also appreciated this event. 'The roar was frightening," they said. Well it was!                

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Saving The Tiger - Amitabh Bachaan

It is heartening to know that one of our star celebrities with massive following has joined hands to save the tiger. His involvement is an encouraging factor and with his persuasive power many an uninterested people will join in the foray. I was listening to the debate on TV and realized that his voice was more rationalistic than that of some of the erudite conservationists and conservationist speakers not necessarily present on the show.

In many years of my association with wilderness, I have realized that NGO's and activists too resort to populist measures. This may raise eyebrows, but I am perplexed myself as to why tourism is in focus all the time. Let me explain, I am visiting Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Parks since just whence tourism started.

In spite of rapid development of tourism in the boundaries and the tiger safaris in the park, the conservation methods have been immensely effective. The tiger population has grown and prey base has increased. The crown cover and the niche habitats have recovered as well. The massive awareness of our heritage wealth has been brought about by tourists visiting these reserves. Filmmakers and photographers have brought about International awareness about the wildlife and conservation hurdles in  India.

As far as controlling tourism goes, the authorities in tiger reserves of Central India have taken an appreciable measures. Tourism at Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench is being regulated effectively by the park authorities and the staff. Further study will certainly introduce more measure to reduce harmful effects if any. Employment to locals should be in priority basis. 

So how far does tourism pinch the conservation efforts?

There are issues as were being discussed on TV. One I heard very clearly was the large number of wildlife resorts on the periphery which are not viable. They have certainly blocked the movements of animals at places and have begun to host events that are not at all suitable near these forests meant for other life forms.

But these issues are not contributing to the decline of the tiger in India. The immediate concern is prevention of poaching. This threat is well realized since the incidents at Panna and Sariska. Tadobe Tiger Reserve has been in news lately of tiger poaching. This means an effective apparatus equipped with protection trained forces and an intelligence network that is proactive in nature. Most important is the will to act. Since years villages in the core areas have not been trans-located due to lack of funds, political interference and what not. Well Yes! Resorts and establishments obstructing the corridors should be included in this exercise.   

There is no mechanism which screens people concerned with conservation work before inducting them in this onerous task.  I have come across many an indolent lot without dedication and commitment. For such people park duty is more of a punishment posting. A hard working and committed staff at conservation units is a prerequisite for saving the tiger.

The regular reserved forests are being denuded almost all over the country. These where tiger habitats before hunting and land takeover began. Some of these forests are totally devoid of wildlife and subject to uncontrolled resource utilization. Many of these can be reconverted into habitats for animals like the tiger and the leopard.    

Disease prevalence becomes a big threat whence human incursion in wilderness increases. There have been cases of foot and mouth disease and rinderpest in such areas due to livestock. Man animal conflicts are taking serious toll of wildlife everywhere in the country.

With large number of people (who matter) participating in conservation efforts, things would work out better. There will be some succor for the beleaguered life forms neglected and persecuted by the dominant species - Man.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wildlife Photographs by Teerath Singh

Tiger Photos by Teerath Singh

Some fine example of Tiger Photography by Teerath Singh based in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in MP in India. Teerath Singh organizes tiger photography tours in India in tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh.  He and his team is able to assist amateur and professional photographers in their endeavor to capture tiger and wildlife images. Years of experience and guiding skills deliver their best for the photographers who come from all over the World.