Monday, January 13, 2014

Tiger for the General

It was just a chance discussion with the beat guards that lead to this magnificent tiger in Kanha Forests. We were going downhill at Dig Dola Road whence we met the guards, the true sentinels of the Kingdom. They walk on foot for hours to keep the animals safe from marauding poachers.  They come across animals of all sorts but return home unscathed thanks to their knowledge of the wilderness. The animals do not harm anyone but more often act in self defense. 

"Tiger Roar Sir at 300 meters," they informed me. We rolled down further than 300 meters, and I could hear the thunderous roar of the majestic cat. Deep inside the forest, it was discouraging, anyway we moved on and reached the Saunf meadow. There were clear cut pug marks on the jungle road, but the roar had ceased. At the instance of  crossing over to the mountains there were no alarm calls. This was puzzling since there was a deer standing about 50 yards from the spot. Is this going to be another fake chase? The thought was disheartening.        

After a some wait I sent one of my jeeps ahead for the search. I was positive about the direction the tiger was heading...but aware of the jeeps it could have stayed in hiding. The pug marks looked fresh but the confusion was compounded by the silence of the deer.   

Jeep returned without sighting the tiger."Let's go for the tiger with the kill," the guide suggests. He is a highly experienced guide and I am tempted. After some time I say "wait!," The tiger on the kill is a three day old story so not much of meat. We are in three jeeps. I suggest the guide to go and check once more and we follow. And Bingo" tiger on the road.    

Just as I thought the tiger had descended from the mountain after the jeep had returned. All clear he must have thought. We met him across the bend about 100 yards from where the pug marks were. 

This is Munna, I thought. The tiger was trudging head on without even a glance at us."The tiger sir, I whispered to the general who had already seen the animal. "Big Cat," he said. "Yes Sir, a male tiger and of impressive dimensions."     

The cat continued to trudge head on and we followed. There was an assemblage of about seven jeeps now but the tiger was relaxed and did not bother to look back. "We will have a fair idea about its dimensions whence we look at it sideways." I said, "It appears to be small because of its height. Two and half feet maximum." 

It was an ethereal settings as the animal trudged along at a leisurely pace.  The accompanying alarm cries invaded the already charged electric atmosphere.  "This is fear emanating from the herbivores," I said, "this is the advance warning system among them." 

The big cat moved graciously into the dense thickets on the cross road. Then a wonderful thing happened. The tiger started to roar again. We were absolutely thrilled by this development. After two tiger safari we were finally able to see the tiger in the wild. The General and his family's wish was fulfilled, a tiger was finaly sighted in the enchanting forests of Kanha National Park.      

I was duly rewarded with a medal of appreciation.  Jai Hind!
Army Tents at Courtyard House
GOC Medal

Courtyard House near Kanha National Park
Tiger Photo By Uday Patel