Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Did Curiosity Kill The Big Cat?

Tiger Cub by Yves Blisson

Tiger Cub by Yves Blisson

Tiger Cub by Yves Blisson

Tiger Cub by Yves Blisson
With Yves & Maria - Esteemed Guests At Courtyard House Kanha

With her pugs huddled together, her body taught and tail in the air the tigress was in a position to spring forward and charge at us when I first saw her. The pug marks ended on the 4th mile at Kanha Zone. We have been following the pugs of a tigress with cubs at Kanha National Park. The cub had already been seen by a jeep on safari. 

"On 4th mile, a cub," the driver had informed us.             

As we traced the pugs, we soon came across smaller ones besides that of the tigress. "Mother with cubs I remarked." The jumble of pugs ended right there and the guide looked into bushes on left. Sitting there amongst the bamboo was a tigress, looking straight at us.

"On charge," I warned the driver as my French guests began to click excitedly. "Do not shake or move violently, I warned the guests who were  a bit  perturbed. 

We were quite alert, the dainty lass would have charged with a lightening speed. Blitzkrieg!             

It was a battle of wits, but the tigress gave in, frightened as big cats are of this ruthless two legged creature and his contraption. Afraid of her family being discovered she moved into hiding, making special efforts to tip toe. "Amazing," the guide remarked. I could see the big cat straining as she trudged into the safety of the bushes.  

"Not even a crackle of dead leaves," the guide remarked. The tigress soon vanished into the thick clumps and we moved a little ahead only to encounter the cub. This was perhaps his initiation of the surroundings with the bizarre creature facing him. 

It was a countenance filled with innocence, awe and wonder. Like all big cats he stood there confident and fearless. A picture of innocence I conjectured. Little did he knew that his future depends upon this strange two legged creature - uncaring, ruthless and full of greed. This was a strikingly beautiful encounter, perhaps one of the most awe inspiring moment of my life.      

The expert French photographer Yves was busy with his camera oblivious of all that was going in my mind. Time and again he turned around to shake hands with me, the guide and the driver."Merci". Short time after the rendezvous the cub vanished into the thickets.

"The tigress is watching us" I whispered to the guide and the driver. All the time she was watching us unseen while we were looking at the cub, I realized. She was again sitting in a position to strike at us. Although we were a good distance from her she could strike us any moment. This would have been mock charge I am sure. 

By now the photographer and his wife had realized the gravity of the situation. Just as he had stopped clicking the cub appeared besides the mother and then they both vanished.  

Better sense prevailed not amongst us but in the tigress. Feeling terribly insecure specially at her cub's proximity to us she was ready for a charge. But then sensing no real threat from us she gave peace a chance. No territorial claim as she quickly moved into the thickets with her cub in tow.      

This encounter was an eye opener. All the sagas of brave hunters killing the mighty beast the tiger as it charged at them were laid to dust. Certainly curiosity killed the big cat.

Monday, November 3, 2014

KanKata: Male Tiger Kanha

The pugmarks elated me. "We are going to see a tiger," I told Chriesty a tourist from Indiana State of USA.  She had earlier missed sighting a tigress we had encountered in Kanha. We moved on excited by the prospects of sighting a big male as I made it out from the pugmarks. 

Sure he was there on the road looking at us with some expectation. Though a little less in dimensions than Munna tiger he was nevertheless impressive. I had encountered this male on Kanha Ghat some years back. He trudged along quite oblivious of us but nevertheless keeping an eye on us. 

Our dear American friend was excited beyond belief as she continuously worked upon her camera. The big cat trudged along for about half an hour with many jeeps now following him. We kept a safe distance as he was in no mood to be threatened by us or other jeeps. Though quite tolerant these big cats can charge if the vehicle comes very close. These charges are mock but who likes to take such a chance. 

Kankata moves along the Kisli Zone to Mukki partially and can sometimes be seen on Kanha Ghat. He is not very visible these days and keeps more to inaccesisble parts of Kanha National Park. He is the one who killed a male frequenting the precincts of Courtyard House where I work as nature/birding guide as freelancer. The collar around his neck was in an awkward position but he showed no signs of discomfort.      

After a long distance of tension ridden but exciting walk the tiger vanished into the forests before the fire line that leads to Mukki Zone. Many jeeps arrived by then, but unfortunately they missed the grand spectacle. 

Our guest thrilled to bones was very happy satisfied that she had seen a tiger in the wild. Kanha National Park is one of the finest forests in India for sighting big cats. 
Male Tiger by Ruchi Patel

Monday, October 6, 2014

Awaiting Eagerly for Tiger Tours

Bengal Tiger
Ruddy Mongoose
Come monsoon the tiger reserves are closed. The parks are frequented by tiger lovers like me. Hence the monsoon offers a brief interval from various activities that we carry out at the reserves. I work as freelance nature guide while many visit the reserves out of love for nature. The photographers visit the parks in a planned manner independently or on contract with major companies.     

Sambar Deer
The three months pass over quickly and then the rush begins. The holiday makers constitute the largest segment and they come to see the tiger in the wild and take a swipe at other animals but much less at birds. Goggle eyed tourists are constantly searching for big cats they are least concerned with all that the ecosystems have to offer.   

Vine Snake
Crested Hawk Eagle
There should be greater impetus on interpretation of nature, wild animals and birds. Lectures, movies and nature treks are important mechanism to create awareness and goad people for conserving our inheritance.

All over the World wildlife tourism is not just tiger safari, it is enjoying nature holistically.One must learn from the experience and become committed to conservation. 

Savanna Nightjar

Images by Dharmagiri

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kanha in the rains

Tiger by Teerath Singh
During the monsoon the slush creates difficulties in driving on the jungle roads. This is also the time for breeding with young fawns of herbivores being born.   The deer and gaur which have mated during the winter delver their young during the season of plenty. The monsoon rain enriches the soil and vegetation all around the reserve is robust with new germination taking place.  

The transformation is magical all around you only see green. 

The jungle is silent especially in the absence of the tourist vehicles. The park is closed from 30th June till 15th October every year. The rains cease in and around September and the slush gets time to clear out from the roads.  

Most interesting aspect is the changing dynamics of tiger movement during this period.  The dense foliage accords lot of camouflage and shelter to the big cats. The tigers and leopards have to move long distances in search of prey. The abundant water and food supplies makes the herbivores spread out freely. There is no need for congregation hence the hunters have tough time chasing after then. 

It is very difficult to see the tigers and leopards during this period. There is no certainty of locating tigers unlike the summers whence they frequent water holes. Hence more accurate tracking is  required for sighting these big cats. Kanha offers little chance of leopard sightings but they do take place sometimes frequently when the spots become localized. This happens very rarely hence you have to count on lady luck.      

The wild animals get relative peace to rear their young ones. The park opens on 16th October and the tourism circuit comes to life. In the last season couple of tigers died nevertheless they are highly protected here. Almost all the forest patched contain big cats in buffer thanks to good conservation practices. the absence of wild dog sightings last season is a major source of very. I managed to see only one dhole which is surprising for an animal that is a pack hunter.    

In spite of the negativity, tourism in park has offered livelihood to many local communities and the travel professionals.  I have been visiting the park since the day of little tourism and now, it has done very little damage if any. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kanha A glimpse of natural history

Ashok looked at me and smiled, a recognition of our years of association. We had explored the infinite corridors of Kanha together as young over enthusiastic nature lovers. We have experienced the depth of the forests unraveled its mysteries, and learned about the intrigue of animal behavior.   

The imprint of numerous adventures at Kanha still recall instances which have been narrated thousands of time. Kanha is an exemplary display of fragile chain of life hinged together and constantly evolving. The bitter occurance of violence erupts unexpectedly amidst the stillness of the magnificent stands, gushing rivers and breezing meadows. Yes the forest offer an unbridled element of surprise that shatters the silence in one eye flip. 

The Courtyard House guests are expectant, for them the forests are an unfathomable mystery. They listen rapt with attention as to what to expect. 

"Keep you eyes glued on the forests and your ears always alert, " I said. "Tigers lurk surreptitiously in the depth of the canopy and you should not miss."      

The forest appears to them as diaphanous veil of secrecy, an exotic abode of mythical creatures. The tiger appears to be a huge blood thirsty creature along with equally rapacious animals that inhabit his kingdom. I turn around an look at them. They are Germans but surprisingly well versed in English. Ashok is busy delivering a lecture on the park in his own broken English. I do not interfere, he is a knowledgeable guide and experienced, he will certainly make them more informed.    

In the early morning just after dawn we could see the sun breaking over the horizon. The gold orange hue of ball of fire rises over the table top mountains impressing upon our guests to stop the vehicle. They are busy taking photographs of a magnificent spectacle that unfolds every day in Kanha. We are bit uneasy for we wish to come across the big cat before the sun goes up and an intolerable heats descends on the land of the tiger.

"We will go for Munna," I tell the guide.He nods in affirmation.We have crossed the Kisli barrier and proceeding towards the Dig Dola Road. The mesmerizing landscape of Kanha is ever changing from insipid grassland to rugged mountains that gain height gradually but are densely forested. We are on high alert for this is Munna's territory.  The road twists an turns as we climb up, I cling to the bar as the jeep turns sharply throwing us all around.

Finally we arrive at the top, the road here is straight and level. All the time we look for the tiger or expect the cacophony of raucous alarm cries. Nothing happens, we come across a herd of sambar and stop for a while. They are relaxed, forgotten are the days when they used to be hunted down mercilessly. They do not perceive humans and their contraption as threat anymore at least in the protected area.   

"Largest deer in Asia," I tell the guests busy taking photographs, they are impressed by the gentle creatures.  The majestic antlers of the leading male swell out disproportionately creating an appearance of diabolic proportions. Naturally he is the cynosure of the lot. "Beautiful," our guests utter as we proceed further.      

"Tiger! I whisper as we reach the water body. The large creature is absolutely camouflaged in the thick curtain of bamboo and shrub. The majestic proportion of the beast are strikingly evident, the most prominent is the foreleg hanging in mid air. The massive paw is being dropped very gently on the ground."He is going to ambush the deer at some distance," I whisper.

For  a long time the tiger is frozen in mid air, we watch intently at the natural history drama being enacted before us. Oblivious of us the deadly gaze is well focused on the deer who is unaware of death lurking at close quarters. The proximity makes the whole episode nerve wrecking...the tiger appears to be of extraordinary proportions.     

We watch with baited breath and then a rush and a scuffle. Well no, the tiger misses the query. The drama is over, the dried branches of the impeding shrubs has given the game away. In frustration the tiger  continues across the shore of the water body glaring angrily at the stupefied prey. The jungle is abuzz with petrified alarm cries as the deer, langur and sambar scurry away to maintain  a safe distance.

The tiger crosses over the lake, arrives right in front of us on the road and then sulks into the hidden creek on the other side. "That's it," I
exclaim. The guests appear to be thrown into throes of frenzy as they twist an turn to unwind themselves after an acrobatic rendering of their mind and body getting the tiger in full frame.   

We are all relaxed now...the tiger has been seen. We continue with the safari exploring the stunning features of the tiger reserve. The sunlight filters sharply through the tall stands of Sal in a well defined geometric pattern. It breaks through and strikes the ground with evangelical divinity creating a haloed spectacle, a curtain of grandeur no less impressive and spell binding as the big cat that enthralled us few minutes back.

All across on the soft jungle road the deer, monkey, wild boar and dancing peacock invoke a mild degree of thrill...for we have experienced the utmost thrill in terms of black, yellow and white.                    

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tiger On The Road

"He has just crossed over at Karia Ghati and heading this way (Towards Silyari Jalasay)", the excited girl on the jeep said. We were right there at the Silyari Water Hole in Kanha National Park in MP. 

I could see the excitement on her face. In these tiger reserves you can make out if tourists have seen the tiger or not. And you can also make out the grim countenance whence the tiger is not seen. This is applicable to one and all including me since my job is to fetch the tiger for my tourists.        

There is an excellent tiger tracking mechanism in place amongst the forest guides. 

Not to boast I do have a roll to play at times in fetching the big cat out as we are close friends - rather age old friends as I have been visiting the park since seventies. Out of love and faith they heed to my request and make a special appearance (Only for me) Hic!.  

Anyway we were  waiting at the water hole for some time since tigers and other animals localize around the water during intense summer. The big male tiger we call Munna (Loved One) had probably gone deep into the forest to check on Lal Aankh another big male challenging Munna's territory.

We knew that Munna hangs around a hidden creek near the water body whence the sun goes up and hence we were waiting in expectation. As it transpired the tiger did not appear and we went towards Karai Ghati in order to check him out. There was no sign of him....

"Turn Around," I told the driver. So we returned to the water body to begin a long wait. In between we saw many birds and a monitor lizard on a Saaz tree. When you are in a tiger land the world comes to stop and your eyes cease to focus on every thing but yellow and black...the mystical stripes and ignore the surroundings... and your ears await the nerve wrecking roar and your heart thumps incessantly. But I always keep a look out for numerous illusive & amazing creatures in this wonderland as well.   

At Courtyard House while leaving for the tiger safari our German Tourists had requested to see a tiger on the road. But so far there was no alarm cry that would have signaled the tiger's approach. 

We had to leave the park by 9.30 am since the guests had a long drive to Bandhavgarh. "Another half an hour", I requested Raimond. He agreed and we waited. The thrilling and nerve racking alarm cry epitomizes harbinger of death.

And that is what we heard, a staccato of sambar alarm cry from a distant followed by a barking deers terrified bark. Our eyes where glued towards the direction of the calls. And then spotted deer near the water body started crying in extreme frenzy. Out of anticipation the guests held their camera ready. 

The tiger emerged from the far end of the water body. He completely ignored the deer, langur, wild boar and sambar foraging in the neighboring grassland on shore. We could see him walking at a brisk pace  nonchalantly towards the jungle road we were on. The tiger paid no heed to the men on jeep, he completely trusted us knowing we were harmless. This makes one realize how cowardly the big cat hunters were. And how ruthless betrayal  do the poachers indulge into.  

He was about twenty five feet away from us whence he came upon the road and then crossed over. "He has gone into the creek and we won't be able to see him" I said. But that was unwarranted, my guests had a good load in their camera for memories sake. 

"Incredible" Raimond said. His wife shook her head gleefully in affirmation.

"Chalo", I said to the driver. 

Male Tiger
Photo Teerath Singh

Monday, May 5, 2014

And the winner is?

Yes Munna retains his hold over his domain at Kanha National Park. The big male tiger was hard pressed to retain his kingdom by a bigger more powerful male Lal Aankh which I had first seen at Mahua Dari in Sarhi Zone.     

This is amazing Munna is considered to be about nine years old while Lal Aankh is much younger.  On my last trip there was a constant scuffle between the two male tigers and at that time nothing could be concluded.On my recent trip I saw Munna at his favorite perch Siliyari Jalayasay calm and fully composed with know hint of any fear. 

Perhaps it is experience that counts in territorial fights. Or is the battle just begun we will see with time to come....
Image By Teerath Singh

Monday, April 21, 2014

Big male tiger in Kanha - 16th April 2014

A big dominant male we saw Munna at Ghoda Chapar in Kanha Zone after a long gap. The tiger paused at what he thought was the limit. This may not be the exact video but the event was marked exactly. The big male is now in tussle with Lal Aankh which we photographed some time back. 

At times big tigers become pensive and thoughtful as we see here how the animal abstains from crossing his limit. The Video by Stuart Mackenzie is an excellent work on Kanha National Park in MP.  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A major menace - The stray dogs

I have seen this often near my home town of Jabalpur. The city still contains wilderness bereft in others. There is a substantial population of chital deer, barking deer, Chinkara, sambar, wild boars, langurs and peacock in the reserve forests surrounding Jabalpur City in Madhya Pradesh.  

A pack of dogs (not dhole) chasing a deer or seeking for one is often seen. Like any town of India stray dogs abound not only are they a menace to human population as they carry rabies they have become a major threat to wildlife. The menace if not controlled will take a heavy toll of wildlife all over the country.

After the organized slaughter during the British Regime in India and subsequently by the Maharajahs, Satraps and Nawabs the pillars of imperialism in India, stray dogs are next. The natural predators like the wolf,  jackal, fox and hyena are loosing  ground and this is causing an imbalance in predator prey relationship - by the sheer numbers of the stray dogs. The prey species in reserve forests, buffer and periphery help support a greater number of predators that includes tigers and leopards. 

The Central Indian Tiger Reserves the best managed in India also face this threat since every pocket of conserved ecosystem outside the CTH contains tigers and leopards. The gains we have made in terms of increasing tiger/leopard populations in the reserves will be done away by the stray dogs.  

I believe this issue is being taken lightly. If the danger is realized to be of threatening proportion, stray dog population control will get impetus which anyway is a must.  

Thanks to excellent conservation measures prey species in parks like Kanha has spread over the reserve forests in the periphery thus supporting greater numbers of predators.  But this gain will be short lived if preventive measures are not immediately put into action. 

Spotted Deer


Barking Deer

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pictures by Jagat Flora

Sambar Deer

Langur Monkeys

Wild Boar

Young Tiger at Kanha
These are the photographs taken by Jagat Flora on his visit to Kanha National Park recently.
Herd of Swamp Deer
Spotted Deer
Swamp Deer Male

Friday, March 28, 2014

A tiger at ten for the General - Yes Again - He!He!

The entourage landed in the afternoon at Courtyard House full of expectancy. The General full of smiles appeared relaxed and was expecting much more. 

"A tiger would be fine" he said to me. "Else Kanha will be a wonderful experience anyway."  

The General and his family made us feel at ease. Smiling and beaming upon seeing the Courtyard House the family did not seemed tired from travel at all. 

The General's Entourage & Us
Time to Leave

Neelesh Agarwal Owner
Just two safaris is not enough to see the tiger sometimes and we missed Munna and Dig Dola Tigeress fair and square in the evening safari. We also missed a new male tiger by inches as he vanished into the forest before our arrival. We came to know this from the laborers and the jeeps waiting in expectation.

The next day we did not come close to any tiger on the way to Kanha Zone. We waited at Ghoda Chapar where I had seen Munna male tiger while guiding a Scottish Couple. "No sign of tiger," the guide remarked and we moved forward.  

The meadows at Kanha were empty and lifeless when we arrived through the forests. After lot of futile searching we decided to have breakfast along with Mr.O.P.Tiwari the Deputy FD of Kanha. While having breakfast I heard alarm calls from somewhere near the Minkur Nala crossroad. Earlier a jeep had encountered a tigress with a fawn which she had killed crossing over the road here.

As we left to continue our safari the General said,"A tiger at Ten!" I affirmed his belief and we proceeded to the spot where the tigress was seen. 

Look the tigress has not enough to eat and she will rise again," I said. Rightly so after few minutes of waiting a monkey alarm cry confirmed our belief, the tigress was just a short distance from us in the bush. We were waiting in expectation which proved rewarding. From our left at Kanha meadow a serious of loud alarm cries confirmed presence of the tiger.  

Medal for Courtyard House
Me & the medal
So we had two tigers to chance upon. "Keep an eye on the jeep on road at Minkur Nala," I told the guide. Well said I thought as the jeep started moving in the reverse. Move back the guide said to the driver but very slowly. As we were moving on the Minkur Nala road the guide spotted the tiger. It was the tigress's cub about fifteen months which moves along with its siblings on Kanha Meadow. The rest is history as the young tiger moved around without fear. The young tiger had emerged right at ten and I shook my head in disbelief. The General smiled at me. 

The tigress did not venture out and we left for our abode. It was a happy ending and post lunch we bid farewell to a smiling and beaming General and his entourage.      

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bandhavgarh National Park Wildlilfe Images

Bengal Tiger

Wild Animals Bandhavgarh

Tiger Territory Marking

Long Billed Vulture Bandhavgarh

Indian Roller Bird



Sloth Bear

Bandhavgarh National Park Sunset

 Image Courtesy MP Tiger Safari Teerath Singh

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tiger Safari: Raining Big Cats

The leopard must have been waiting still for long completely frozen and hidden in bamboo stunts.  The big cats both the tigers and leopards have an incredible ability to stay still perhaps for hours in order to surprise and ambush their prey. 

In one instance it was all over the large spotted deer was grounded instantly. We heard the deer's last cry before the canines ruptured the jugular. We had reached the Kanha Ghat road from Raja Kachhar a water body in Kisli Region of Kanha some distance from the Chimpta Camp. 

The cry emanated from the direction we were heading. We waited to make out the right location of the cry and missed one of the most thrilling moment. The kill happened few yards ahead of us and we could not witness. By the time we  reached the spot the majestic antlered deer was lying dead in the pool of blood. The leopard we knew was hidden in the bamboo bushes. 

"There!" The guide on jeep ahead pointed the bush to us as they moved on ahead. 

We decided to wait. The kill was too precious for the hungry leopard to leave. With excitement overpowering us we managed to wait silently for the animal to emerge.  We could see him inch towards the kill and then retract a couple of times. He was in no hurry to forage. The prey was too big for him that meant he had to drag it in the bush and consume.      

We wanted to photograph him but he would just inch towards the carcass and retract. The cat and human game continued for some time then there was silence. Many jeeps came after us but unfortunately they could not see the Kanha leopard.

My guests from UK - Cavan, Grace and Gwayne had earlier seen two young tigers at Badrinath in Kanha Meadow and the leopard sighting was a bonus. But more was yet to come. 

The same evening we saw a male tiger in the bush at Badrinath in Kanha Meadow. This was followed by another fantastic leopard on the rock sighting. Incredible posture of the big cat was a big opportunity for the wildlife photographers - amateurs and professionals.  The guests from Mumbai at Courtyard House could also see the spectacle and were happy. They had come to relax and enjoy great food at Courtyard House and they did, besides the Leopard Darshan.  

The morning ride to Mukki Zone was uneventful till we returned back to Kanha Ghat and saw another leopard in the canopy near the Kisli Meadow. That same evening we saw a young male tiger emerge from the bush at Badrinath and proceed towards the rivulet to drink. It was an ethereal moment as the big cat quenched his thirst. Busy photographers, gawking tourists, happy naturalists and guides all witnessed this spectacle. The guest from Mumbai were missing so I had some story to narrate. Well I did.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Tiger Photos at Pench

Tigress and Cubs following at Pench National Park in MP.

Photograph by Ramesh Rana..who lives in Seoni

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tiger Images by Teerath Singh

Be it Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench or Tadoba, Teerath Singh, MP Tour Operator manages to get the best shot. The photographer certainly knows how to combine work with pleasure. The finest wildlife destination on Earth the tigers of Kanha National Park offer the best photo tour. The other tiger reserves offer an equal opportunity to capture images of the king in his wild realm.