Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Wildlife Tourism And Local Communities

Wildlife tourism though earlier considered to be the prerogative of elite has come far down the line. It has assimilated in its wake many fruitful aspects with the passage of time. Though still promoted with hiccups, and often seen in a narrow perspective, the industry has empowered local communities like none has.

It also augurs crucial foreign exchange through thousands of wildlife enthusiasts from overseas. Tiger tourism is in the wishlist of uncountable number of travellers all over the Globe. 

I have been visiting tiger reserves since more than three decades, and seen the positive. The ecosystems have grown to their completeness and round about holistic benefits have accrued. There have been a tremendous rise in converts as far as awareness of our environment is concerned. The reserves have also experienced a turn  around in animal populations (read bio-diversity). A new vocation has been generated in conservation research and skills of exploration i.e. guiding, birding, photography etc amidst the youth.

Though tourism is not contributing factor, at least not directly, but then safaris have become a learning experience for populations with no idea of how the ecosystems work, and how nature contributes to preservation of our immediate environment. The people who have worked hard to preserve our inheritance have brought about this turnaround.  
Tribal Family - Courtesy Neeraj Vegad 

On one sight of the big cats and other predators, the first impression that is done away with is the vermin concept. I too used to think of tigers and leopards as blood thirsty animals that would devour human beings on the first go. I now fear the ever burgeoning unruly traffic and hoodlums in our society a far greater threat than being accidentally mauled by wild animals. The activity has also brought forth the National Pride that we hold at our incredible inheritance,        

I remember witnessing my first tiger at a very young age. It was a dead tiger, it lay listless at peace in its final slumber. It was legal hunted at Nauradehi WLS in MP before the legislation, but still to me it appeared an unpardonable crime against the nature. I was too small to understand the implication of this heinous misdeed. The hunter moved amongst us...with his story of valour.. and had us running around him. This team of hunters visited us every year along with a wealthy relative far removed.  (sic).  The legislation put stop to this. 

Why I am writing about all this?

Well our impression about other life forms eventually shape our policies, and our attitude towards them. Today modern education has inculcated teachings about things precious to our environment, earlier it was not so. Contemporary conservation is based upon an equity...what we value, and the literature at our behest. India has been blessed with ancient conservation ethos but that has not proven to be enough...look where we stand today?    

In absence of (regulated) wildlife tourism, awareness about ecosystems would have moved back in to a deep recess. Our attitude towards wilderness would have been uncaring and drastic...well it stills is in case of many people. Secondly in a populist democracy hard facts have to be drained down the gullets of those who administer this country...with syrup. 

It is the hotel/tourism industry which has been at the forefront of local employment apart from the administration...namely the forest department. The work experience and training imparted have been contributing factor towards empowerment. This has subsequently resulted in greater job opportunities and hence better standard of living. Such initiative has been taken by Kanha administration in conjunction with an NGO as well, and trainees are finding job opportunities in the industry all over. There may be many more such examples.   These are aspects that are rarely talked about and little appreciated.

Most of the employees are locals who have the developed skill to work in many faculties. This has come about with time and tourism. With experience and skill development they have become part of vocations and small  businesses as well. And some in tourism industry do distribute fruits of labour towards local infrastructure in form of donations or contributions.  

Benefits have accrued to the displaced lot as well as those living in the periphery.  From being in far flung remote areas they been connected by the hospitality industry with the mainstream and contribute to Nation development greatly.     

Tiger Conservation The Buck Stops Here

The passing of legislation (Wildlife Protect Act 1972) and creation of protected areas, and the Project Tiger Program were milestones that laid the foundation of nature conservation in India. For the first time after independence the country had a serious look at the status of its wilderness. 

Subsequently a series of corrective measures were taken. Tiger was at the helm of conservative initiatives. The beleaguered animal had lost lot of ground, thanks to indiscriminate hunting, poaching and extensive loss of habitat.

The creation of protected areas was a master stroke, especially the inviolate core zones. In the core zones no human habitation except that of the forest staff is allowed, all activities relating to forest produce do not take place. As a result the ecosystems have vastly improved. The outer ring of the forests contains the buffer zone which is an amalgamation of forests patches, villages, fields and public road network. The buffer forests are patchily linked with  the regular forests, status of which is anybody's guess. 

Tiger Image Courtesy: Mukund Yadav

With proper initiatives, the the big cat has gained some ground in the recent times. Many well managed parks have seen a rise in population. But with the success have arisen problems galore. 

The buffer zone is inept in containing the swelling population of big cats and the prey. There is a regular decline in the forest cover due to illegal logging which has reduced the habitats into fragments often degraded, some of which are completely nonviable.      

The human population in India is swelling here like anywhere else and this is hampering the movement of wild animals. The extreme biotic pressure is weighing down on the wild  inhabitants of the ecosystems. The loss of space as degradation increases is apparent, so is altered behaviour seen among the big cats.    

If we have to see a constant rise in population of tertiary consumers space is vital. The maximum number of conflicts with humans occur in the buffer. Animals do not understand the concept of protected area, for them any good habitat is worth moving into. The presence of humans in large numbers and their activities are discouraging for a tiger seeking new pastures. 

The tiger is sensitive to human presence like the hard ground swamp deer. Though the big cat survives along with humans its breeding and life span are reduced. The conflict amplifies whence it is forced to prey of livestock.  In many of our tiger reserves a large number of livestock are regularly preyed upon, and besides the human antipathy generated the big cat becomes susceptible to disease transmission and poaching as well.         

Animals have been electrocuted, snared, shot and exterminated by poisoning their kill. (Sometimes exterminated legally). Even if some PA's may not be under the scanner of organised poachers opportunists are present everywhere and the cases are on the rise.     

Hence if we wish to increase tiger population in India, we have to conserve effectively all the remaining habitats irrespective of their status. Though it is impossible to create extensive inviolate grounds, conservative initiatives need a paradigm shift as far as human inhabited habitats are concerned.  

Some of the macro solutions could be control and reduction of human populations, alternative to pastoral lifestyle, alternative fuel supply, restriction on construction and commercialisation. Many laudable steps have already been taken but require a greater impetus. In time to come more solutions will emerge.   

Wildlife tourism in buffer zones has been lauded by many conservationists. They believe greater protection measures will augur as a result of increased importance of the status of habitats there. A rise in equity is certain to increase the importance of our wilderness hence well managed tourism does play a part.       

(But safaris in the buffer zones are a poor alternative to the experience in the core. Hence there are few takers.The habitats here do offer good bird watching experience.)    

Friday, December 23, 2016

Does Rise in GDP Absolves us of Environmental Hara-Kiri?

Ongoing destruction of natural places in lieu of development is at the behest of environmental concern in India. We have already lost large tracts of forests and grasslands to human settlements thanks to burgeoning human populations. Clear felling was another blow which did further damage in earlier times.  

In present times managing our environment is a prerogative of the ruling class. Our policies are populist and marred by ever growing human needs and concerns. Nature does not understand human inadequacies; it is sensitive, fragile and perishable.  The long term consequences of destroying the remaining ecosystems in the country are foreseeable. Unstable climate and plunging health indices are warning us to awaken before it is too late.   

A species lost is lost forever. The sad state of the tiger is an indicator of our environmental health not only that of the ecosystem that it is limited to.  The increase in population of lions in Gujarat is nothing to be proud of in absence of requisite habitat. The World is losing huge number of species along with large tracts of precious forests with each passing day.  This should act as an eye opener for us in India.    

Uncontrolled mining and uncontrolled use of natural resources will certainly lead to disastrous consequences, and its effects could be felt by generations. This much after the short term benefit of the materials has come to an end. 

The green house effect and the unstable climate in recent time is as a result of sum total of our negative approach towards the conservation of nature. Cities reeling under choking smog and pathetic living spaces are perfect example of resources being over overburdened.  

Economic growth is of utmost important to the Nation of 1.25 billion people. But that does not negate environmental concerns and absolve us of committing hara-kiri.             

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Do Away With Exotic Pets

Paradoxically this habit prevails even in countries most sensitive to human issues. Keeping exotic pets is an invidious and obsessive hobby of people in many countries. It may be of no consequence if the animals, birds, reptiles and insects are treated with utmost care and love.

Until unless we do not accord a status of equality to all life forms the heinous crimes will continue unabated. Such issues do not cause political or social upheaval sadly.     

This habit is one of the causes of species becoming extinct or critically endangered. Though innocuous it may seem, the demand for exotic pets is giving rise to illegal trade in endangered species. The time and effort spent by agencies to stop or curtail this maddening phenomena is tremendous - financially and physically.

The rise in wildlife crimes is due to the demand for exotic species, body parts like bones for medicine/cosmetics, body adornments, talismans, and of course drawing rooms items (stuffed butterflies) sic.

The desire to consume exotic/endangered life forms is suggestive of cultural inadequacies that should be corrected timely. This malady is widespread prevalent, and can be brought under control or stopped by creating awareness especially through the electronic and social media.     

I do not know how many of the pet keepers are aware of the gory consequences, and of untold misery suffered by these creatures, many of  which are certain to become extinct and hence lost for ever.    

Discouraging such hobby and the hobbyist is first step to prevention of illegal trade in wildlife. Stepping up pressure by people for auguring a protective legislation in place is of utmost necessity.   

India does not allow killing of wild forms as well keeping them as pets.  This sensitivity (Ahimsa) is attributed to Vedic Culture and hence the unique conservation ethos prevalent since thousands of years. Vegetarianism also helps.

But the global demand, certainly, has given rise to a criminal nexus (India) engaged in illegal exports of life forms. The status of tiger is critical due to the demand for its bones in China and other Asian countries used as wonder medicine sic.  
Bunty Jain - Bengal Tiger

Say no to pets before thousands of species perish. Say no to exotic food containing highly endangered species. Say no to cosmetics containing animal parts.....Say No to all that harms other life forms.         

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Charged By A Massive Tiger

This happened not for the first time. 

I was on safari with guests from Courtyard House Kanha. Jennifer, David, Heather and Mark all enthusiastic travellers from New Zealand.  

The evening ride was organised at Khatia Zone ironically not a preferred one for most. But recently, tigers and leopards have been seen here besides sloth bear, nilgai, barking deer, and the common animals of Kanha.  The area lacks water bodies that retain water during the scorching summers. 
The evening was interesting with some good sightings but no tiger. Since most of the travellers to the reserve come with this majestic predator in mind, I had some thinking head on for coming game rounds. 

While some distance away from the Mocha township a man on motorcycle waived frantically at us to catch our attention.  

"Tiger Ahead!"

I believed the man since Munna the dominant tiger now vanquished often roamed in this area. In no time we reached Budbudi Nala only to be confronted by locals and a retinue of forest staff. We could not see the tiger till the ranger pointed to a bush.

He was sitting in between the opening of two bushes. In the dim light we could see him pensive, staring straight at us. My guests had their first look of the magnificent predator.  Calm prevailed as the ranger informed us that he was Munna.

"Well he looks very big", I informed the guests. My suspicion proved right as the calmness was shattered by the deafening roar as the tiger rushed towards us on all fours crouched as only the cats can. It all happened in a split second and none of us saw him get up from where he was stationed.  

Stunned by the assault we kept looking at him in awe and wonder.  He covered few meters and than retracted but before we could settle down he rushed again this time more viciously with greater intensity. He came to about fifty feet near us. In that dim light photography was not possible.

In an instant the crowd moved far away from the scene of action. Trepidation ran deep among one and all. The snarl and the hiss was blood curdling. The huge tiger retracted once again and remained crouched  ready to charge...which never came.    

"This is Dabang," I exclaimed. Being a cattle lifter he is of aggressive dispensation as all his likes are. He was charging at our jeep and that of another stationed near us.

Dabang is the largest tiger seen so far at Kanha National Park. He had earlier charged us with greater ferocity last June. The charge was close distance and it was terrifying. This was my third sighting of the big cat, much earlier I had seen him at a bison kill on Karia Ghatti Road. He was grimacing and snarling menacingly then.

The ranger signalled us to move on and we did. Much relieved that my guest had seen a tiger and experienced a rare action in making.

Next day the animal was seen near the Ghangar Nala on Bahiar Road that leads to the Courtyard House.  At 3.50 pm. A big passer by crowd had gathered and witnessed another charge on a passing vehicle. The tiger had then moved into the forest leading to the Nala.

The cattle lifters survive among the livestock of impressive size and hence grow big and aggressive, often confronted by the cowherds. Unlike Dabang who is closer to human settlements, most of them live in buffer forests scattered around the core. These are inhabited by people and their livestock. Unlike the core the buffer is not much under scrutiny, man animal encounters and poaching often occur.

With ever increasing population of tigers and leopard, the management of buffer augurs a new look.     

Monday, September 5, 2016

Indian River Systems & Marine Life

India is rich in biodiversity both terrestrial as well as marine. We have amazing giant creatures swimming in our rivers. The notable ones are the Golden Mahseer, Dolphins, Crocodiles including the Gharial,  Ganges Shark, Goonch Cat Fish, Otters and Huge Turtles.  Among the turtles the notable ones are Olive Ridley, Flapshell and the Black Turtle.     

Most of these creatures can be seen in the Indus, Gangetic and Bhramhaputra River Sytems though the mugger is widespread. The large salt water crocodiles are found in estuaries in Sunderbans and some parts of Orissa.  

The marine life is as diverse and can be seen at Pirtoan Marine Park as well as in the seas for Andaman and Nicorbar Islands, Lakswadeep, Goa, Port Blair and numerous islands.  A vast coastal belts of Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean are home to millions of sea creatures. 

The marine creatures are the Whales, Elapid snake, coral reef snakes, Dugong, Mottled eel,  scarlet soldier Fish, giant moray rel, red sponge, sea squirt, sweeper fish, angel fish, spotfin, lionfish, starfish, thorny oyster and numerous species of sharks. 

Reef Life of Andaman Video
Aquatic Life of Indian Ocean
Our oceans are facing numerous threats because of climate change, pollution, over fishing and industries on the shores. Nevertheless marine life is little researched and offer vast scope of discoveries during explorations.   

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Damocles Sword: Challenging the Conservation Ethos

License to Kill 

It hardly seems true that badly ravaged and plundered ecosystems in India support abundance of wildlife, anymore.  Well according to the government this is true somewhere in some States. Hence the permission for legal culling of  abundant species is on the table. 

Our five thousand year (plus) cultural heritage which boasts of conservation ethos ranging from the Vedas to the non violent concepts of preservation of life have proved to be ineffective as far as human greed for wealth, especially in the contemporary times whence economic prosperity is of greater concern.

The  malafide addition due legalising this murderous assault on species well below the sustenance level in India is giving rise to lust for killing. Though the honourable have reasoned that this is being done to protect crops from damage hence boost economic growth.      

Taking advantage of this largess, it is alleged that the lustful are killing with glee even in premises where hunting has not been legalised.  

Wildlife in India is already under severe survival stress from rabid industrial growth, resulting pollution, unchecked human settlements, unplanned urbanisation and rapid deforestation. Though we are discussing about the contemporary era, Indian ecosystems have been ravaged since thousands of years, more so since the beginning of the Raj. The wildlife has been continuously decimated resulting in critical existence of many species and extinction of some.        

Barely subdued, the lust for killing by the wildlife protection act and awareness, the legalization may renew the fervour of the big and small and open up new vistas of hunting illegally under the umbrella of the law.

To worsen the matter the demand for animal parts internationally is posing severe threat to rare species. Rampant poaching is taking place in this country in neglected areas not forgetting the sordid incidences in the protected areas during this decade.

The sharp retort from Menaka Gandhi (within the ruling government) who is erudite in matter of conservation took the environment ministry with surprise. Well "overzealous" is what the ministers and bureaucrats usually think of such reactions and most of the sane conservation voices are hence subdued.

It is for the people enmasse to react to every ill advised policy, especially if it is published with populist desires. Wildlife in India is doomed till saner policies and proactive protection measures are put in place. Public should come into picture before it is too late.        

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

News: MP National Park Tiger Safari Rules & Rates

MP (Central India) National Park Tourism Year 2016  1st October 2016 Onward

The tourism in tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh has been accorded a big boost thanks to friendly changes by the State Government. 

The rates have been reduced and the charges for foreign visitors have been made same as that of Indian. The changes in rules and regulations are surely to enable more people to make incursions in the parks as well as at reduced cost (foreigners) on sharing basis for Indians 

This is bound to draw greater number of tourists for tiger safari and birding. The conditions for jeep safari though seem complex will prevent tourists from turning back empty handed. This will certainly benefit the hotels industry as well as empower the locals with greater work and benefit sharing. 

Applicable to Tiger Reserves = Bandhavgarh - Kanha - Pench - Panna - Satpura - Panna. 

Please have a look:        

Start Date for online booking begins 22nd Aug 2016 at 11am through MP Online Portal. This is the State Government website. 

 The Park Entry Fees will be Rs. 1500/- Per Permit  

There will be no more Premium Zones in Kanha & Bandhavgarh National Parks..

Single Seat will be introduced with 10% Quota from Online Tickets. In this case the person making the bookings will have to pay 1/6 of the charge while the rest five will pay the rest of the amount 1500 - 250.    

Tourists interesting to share the safari cost with others can do so at Add On Price of Rs.1500. For additional five tourists this will come to Rs.250 per head. For just one Add On Rs.1500 has to be paid.  .

Single Seat will be introduced with 10% Quota from  in Current Bookings.

Add-On Facility will be continued with following changes ...

In the original ticket, minimum 2 tourist names are must with the photo ID.

There will be no need to pay Add Charges for each guest. On payment of  Rs. 1500/- as One time Charge the rest of the guests can be accommodated. subject to maximum six guests per jeep. .

· Only One Time Edit, will be possible. Come one or come all at one go.

On the lines of railways wait listed ticket will be introduced. Only 25% of the Day’s Ticket Quota, will be issued as WLT. These tickets will stand cancelled, if not confirmed before 6 days of date of travel.

In case of foreigners passport is required for entry every time. For Indians any photo ID of the tourist will be acceptable during verification at the gate window. .

10) Guide Charges will be Rs. 360/- for each game ride. 

There will be no entry fee for children up to 5 years. Half entry fee is applicable for children between 5-12 yrs.

All the rules are applicable to game ride in the Khatia Zone but the excursion charges could be less. 

Jeep Safari 

For one game ride the cost will now come up to Rs.2500.00. The charge may be greater if the guests are picked up from the hotel.   

Note* Please conform these details from authentic sources least there are some discrepancies.   

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Tiger Conservation: It is a matter of space & protection

Although the tiger population has risen marginally in recent times, the animal is still in danger. Danger of extinction that is. The animal survives in National Parks and Tiger Reserves, these are protected areas. The survival can at best be described as precarious in some of the protected areas.

The core or the critical tiger habitat provides sanctuary to these big cats and a reasonable protection. This is where the animals breed the most. In protected areas, where human and livestock disturbance is minimal along with adequate protection measures the population growth is substantial.         

With the expanding population, the predators have to move out of the core into buffer in order to find space and avoid insurmountable competition from dominant tigers. The buffer zone contains human habitations with plethora of livestock contributing to grazing pressure and depletion of resources. The buffer zone which at many places has completely lost whatever reasonable crown cover was there earlier, also contains fields converted from forests during the era whence there was free for all. The road intersections, burgeoning and urbanization of settlements are all contributing to ever reducing buffer. 
Image By Doornik

In well protected ecosystems like Corbett, Ranthabhore, Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench National Parks there is significant movement of tigers in the buffer. The constriction of good habitat is creating terrible territorial conflicts with fatalities. The matter is compounded by reduced breeding, and reduction in prey base.  As the population increases the space availability would be a major issue..it already is at reserves mentioned.    

The human population pressure is constant as there are very little restrictions. The viability of the buffer zone is limited, hence the big cats are entirely dependent upon the core of which there is no scope of enlargement since the dense crown cover is limited, thanks to indiscriminate felling in the yesteryear {s}.        

Image By Doornik

The matter is further compounded by poaching which is limited locally but more vicious whence organized gangs descend unto the protected area. The well known poaching strategy is using hunter gatherer communities like pardhis, bawarias and behlias and perhaps more. The innervated communities are easily subject to enticement by the network operating locally on the behest of major gangs in India and outside. Being hunters since yore, these are expert at their jobs and many an instances go unnoticed, hence the mystery of missing tigers...  

The demand is fueled by China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan and to some extent other Asian countries. The  pelts, crafts, cosmetics and medicines are commercially available all over the World. 

The demand as mentioned will never be reduced let alone come to a naught. These countries are never going to mend their ways, hence no time or effort should be wasted on convincing them otherwise.

Strictly controlling poaching and penury is an option that cannot be otherwise.          

Greater impetus has to be accorded to what is already being done in the core. It seems highly improbable that human settlements could be reduced in the buffer zone hence more efforts should be spent on afforestation, development of habitat by creating water bodies and preserving whatever is there already. 

The crux if this article is that in spite of human settlements, livestock and agriculture significant pockets of forests should be protected and conserved in the same manner as core. This can be done by integrating the protection mechanism with that of the critical habitat. The burgeoning of industrial or commercial activity has already been restricted by the law but more vigilance is required in order to plug the loopholes.

Veterinary practices should be enhanced in order to control disease and treat ailments amidst the wild animals and the livestock. 

Until unless more is done in the buffer the viability of tiger surviving would be limited to the core area.         

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Swamp Deer Conservation at Kanha National Park

It was probably my second visit to Kanha National Park, the year was 1976. We were on elephant safari. We swayed left and right on the pachyderm as it waded precariously through dense canopy towards the grasslands. We could see the pen a mesh of wires covering a large area of Kanha Meadow. The pen is still there.    

Human intervention in most of the tiger reserves in India is minimized. This prevents undue intrusion into a fragile ecosystem. But some times the intervention is necessary.

Swamp Deer - Uday Patel
After losing large swaths of grassland ecosystems due intruding human settlements, the status of the hard ground swamp deer or the Barasingha was endangered. Critically endangered. With only sixty six animals left in the meadows of the park it was time something was done about.

Swamp Deer survived in massive herds in grasslands and swamps in Central India, Terai or Himalayan foothills and extreme East. One of the most charismatic red deer it belongs to family Cervidae genus cervus species duvacelli with three races in India. The population has shrunk all over due to spread of human settlements and takeover of swamps and grasslands for agriculture. Incidentally this animal survives only on grass and that too on few species. They have also been seen consuming water plants in small water bodies that are present in the core area of the park. Being sensitive to human presence these animals are found only in the core zone which is inviolate. 

Branderi Barasingha as it is also known is the only race (branderi) that is found in Kanha. Through centuries of evolution, the hoof of the animal has lost its splay making it adaptable for hard ground. This happened as the swamps in the region began shrink out due to geological changes. This fact was discovered by British conservationist Dunbar Brander during the days of the Raj.

During the seventies intense research was carried out under the aegis of George Schaller et.el. The startling discovery made was extensive predation of fawns by the tiger and other carnivores. The solution was simple...let the deer breed in absence of predators. The large pen was a perfect fit, it was cleaned of all predators big and small. The deer bred safely in isolation...and still does.

Male & Female- Dinesh Makhija
The number gradually increased and today more than five hundred swamp deer roam the wild grasslands of Kanha.  With the numbers on increase some deer have been trans-located to Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Few heads have been sent to Van Vihar Safari Park at Bhopal for gene pool conservation. 

Images By John Matthai
 Dinesh Makhija
  Dinesh Makhija
Barasingha mate during the winters from November to February. The territorial fights during the breeding season settle out who is the dominant male. Adorned with tufts of grass the male then tries to impress the spouse to be. This is an interesting spectacle what with the accompaniment of the bugle call.        

Though in Hindi Barasingha means deer with twelve horns there can be more than twelve tines present. The female gives birth to one fawn after a gestation of six months. The fawns grow into maturity under the care of the mothers whilst males form a separate schools after mating is over.

The animals association with grasslands has led to extensive research. Thanks to active conservation and translocation of villages the deer have a stable habitat to breed and multiply. Almost all large meadows like Kanha, Saunf, Parsatola, Saunder, Bisenpura have associated water bodies thus forming and excellent habitat for this rare species in India.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Kanha National Park - Man Killing - Indian Tiger Conservation Issues

Kanha National Park
Madhya Pradesh - India

It is always unfortunate whenever a human is killed by a tiger. The tragic circumstances always manage to raise eyebrows - even among the avid conservatives. Human life is precious but we have ordained it to be supreme and in the gluttony we have forgotten about other life forms.  

It is because of this attitude that animals like tiger, rhino and many more have lost ground and are on the last leg of survival. I have rarely come across stress on increasing land for other forms. Anyway India takes the lead but is this enough? 

Unlike the Asiatic Lion which has survived and come out of the brink of extinction in South Gujarat in India the tiger lags much behind. There are more than five hundred lion in 22000 sq km in Gujarat and expanding.

Though this has created problems for large agglomeration of rural and small town folks the acceptance seems to be remarkable. Man animal conflict persists but it seems that there are many sympathizers of the big cat hence assuring its survival. The lions are slated for relocation in Kuno Papur in Central India which has still not taken place thank to parochialism.     

The tiger has been nowhere lucky in reserves in India where it now survives. Stray tigers outside the protected areas have no guarantee of survival. While many reserves are still not adequately protected unlike Kanha, Ranthambhore etc the populations in well managed parks has increased marginally. This does not ensure the animals survival. 

Large inviolate protected areas are need of the hour with adequate protection. This seems highly improbable in a populous country like India. For well managed parks like Kanha the problem stems from buffer zone which is not inviolate much disturbed by habitation and free movement. 

Tiger By John Matthai
A wise step has been taken to bring a large patch of forest in Khatia Zone under tourism thus assuring any further degradation. The buck stops here or does it? There are options to create more tourism areas using other blocks of forests in buffer - if any viable. 

Wilful relocation with adequate compensation for reclamation and expansion of existing forest land are a possibility.  Such efforts have been successfully made  at Laldang near Corbett Tiger Reserve. 

But this is impossible at many destinations due to immense complexities - social and political.             

There are large number of villages at Kanha buffer. Many have been trans located from the core zone.  The humanity is accompanied with overabundance of live stock and redundant agricultural land claimed from forest land. Usually single paddy crop takes place. 

The successful conservation in the reserve has populated tigers in all canopies. The animals have moved in or enlarged their territory in all viable tracts of buffer forests. Like lions in South Gujarat they have learned to be inconspicuous in human infested corridors. But unlike their cousin the Bengal tiger cannot inhabit open country - and degraded forests with no prey.  Hence widespread habitation by their expanding populations seems improbable.     

Hence tragedy occurs.     

An old man went into the forest and was killed by a tiger. This seems to be an accidental killing since no more such incident has taken place.  But the implications of this act of intrusion resulted killing does not augur a great future for the tiger in India. Human encroachment is rarely put to blame which is squarely transferred to the beleaguered predator.    

The big cats are still endangered. Reclamation of forests and creating i
intact ecosystems is one of the solution.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Man Eating Tigers

Yesterday I was watching a film on Sunderbans and the man eaters. The mystery has not yet been solved why this magnificent carnivore goes after humans only in these parts. The victims are usually fishermen, villagers, honey gatherers and such people who venture deep into the forest.  

People also venture into dense confines in other tiger reserves but no such incidence happen in these places. 

Why Sunderbans? 

Has rampant hunting elsewhere put the fear of man among the tigers which has been sent down the line. Such hunting has not taken place in the Sunderbans.  

Does this have something to do with absence of large prey like the sambar, rhino, swamp deer, bison. In recent times swamp deer, Javan rhino, one horned rhino, water buffalo, hog deer and barking deer have become locally extinct. Sambar and Bison have not been reported here.  .  

Tigers rely much on coarse grazers like bison, swamp deer and sambar for food. This accords them with sufficient amount of meat on low energy expenditure.During summers whence bison descend from hills to Kanha meadows the predation by tigers become frequent.

Tiger in Forest

Swamp Deer

Male Tiger
The second line of prey in most of our tiger reserves are the live stock especially the cattle and buffaloes. Perhaps this spares the live of humans around in the buffer zones as man eating seems unnecessary in these circumstances. 

Tigers are petrified in presence of humans, as I have often witnessed, hence leave them alone seems to be the motto of the predators. 

But not at the mangrove infested forest of Sunderbans it seems.  

Well one does not know.

Well not till some researcher discovers the reason that has bellied us so far. 
Sunderban tigers not only kill those who venture into deep confines but attack rural folks in the neighborhood as well.   

The film sent chill down my spine since as a naturalist I have frequent encounters with tigers and leopards. Well its a job and they all come with the negative. I would not let go with this adventure any way.   

Photo Credits: Dinesh Makhija - Motel Chandan Kanha

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mother Tiger Epitome of Womenhood

Ruth & Clive Williams UK  
Photographer Guests: Courtyard House Kanha

We had searched the tigress and her cubs thoroughly for many days but with partial success. My earlier guest was not interested in a glimpse at all. Well that is what we could get. The family was often seen near waterholes in depth of Kanha forest but would be conspicuous by its absence in between.      

Anyway we could not get a proper sight during our last tiger safaris.

Tigresses are possessive and protective mothers and keep shifting from one place to another. This is done to teach cubs to survive in the vast ecosystem and get familiar with things around. Other reasons for regular shifts are to avoid male tigers who have not sired the cubs, avoid other predators, and yes the prey as well. The latter is a practice among the hunters to deceive prey such that they are unaware of  the predator's presence.    

In our recent tiger safari we stationed ourselves near a bridge over a rugged nullah which was favored for its ample water during the blistering summer. For some time there was no big cat in sight nor any alarm cries. My heart thumps with disappointment when the jungle is silent. 

We were thinking of our next move whence the jarring call of deer stilled us into silence.

"Alarm cry." I blurted, out well it was obvious the sound was loud and clear. The call was from deep inside, a bit away from the stream. Then silence again. We scored the neighborhood for signs of the tiger but none. After a long wait the calls erupted again this time further back.

"Where to?" I asked the guide. That was enough for him. We drove to a grove beside a Banyan Tree. There we waited till we heard the mother calling her cubs. A strange call more like the langur. We drove ahead for a surprise that lay ahead. And what a surprise. "Tiger!"         

At a distance from us the tigress, three cubs were resting on the jungle road. With his long lens Clive began to work till the big cats eventuality vanished into the woods. They then emerged well ahead in the grassland challenging our eyesight by their camouflage. The the big cats continued, perhaps on the hunt as we left for the exit.        

After a couple of days we visited the area again. Thinking that the family has moved to another area we were not going to wait for long. But the ways of the jungle are strange they had come back as the pug marks indicated some distance ahead. As we drove further we came across the mother's spoor. "They are still near somewhere here." I whispered to the guide.  

"Lets check the Banyan tree and the surroundings." The guide instructed. We did but there was only stillness that greeted us. "Back!" I said.

The roars were anxiety filled as we saw the tigress scampering madly, constantly calling loudly. "She is looking for the cubs/cub," I spoke. I could observe the desperation on the mother's face as she came onto the road and then began moving towards the Eco-tone.     

I was moved beyond words, the missing cubs/cub create loads of anxiety for the mother. She then headed towards the bridge on the nullah roaring continuously.  

Out of nowhere emerged the cub. He ran frantically towards the mother. There were howls of greeting and the writ of relief ran large on their countenance. Together they moved towards the favored spot and vanished.

"The other cubs are already at the spot near the stream." I said."Well lets wait."

A number of jeeps had arrived to witness the solemn moment. And it did happen. The tigress and cubs emerged and proceeded towards a large puddle and began to quench their thirst.

For my guests photographers this was an absolute bonanza. They were witnessing and capturing the moment with gusto.                  

Work done we moved on memory of the spectacle etched etched forever.

The images are awaited. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

World in My Camera

Mic Clark 
Wales U.K

Guest Courtyard House at Kanha

Mic Clark is a much traveled man. And if your travel takes you to wild wild places than you are lucky as well. Well it is hard work and much sacrifice. He is a wildlife photographer, as dedicated as one can be. I had the honor of guiding him consequentially for two expeditions at Kanha National Park.    

For naturalists accompanying professional photographers is a learning experience...experienced or amateurs. The discipline and committed approach to tasks offer much to gain from...as I did. 

Mic has been to Gambia, Kenya and Sri Lanka besides India where he has visited many tiger parks. Though he photographs all things in nature his love for the big cats is evident. 

It is a challenging task to capture images of tigers and leopards elusive as they are. We have been quite successful in the endeavor.  Tigers, sloth bears, leopards, swamp deer, barking deer, sambar and many bird have come our way in the pristine magnificence that is Kanha. With great care Mic has captured images of subjects that he chose to. I am sure images would be startling.          

Wildlife Photography by Mic Clark: Bengal Tigers - Kanha National Park Madhya Pradesh &emdash; Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
As is apparent from his wildlife photography website his images are spell binding. Years of hard work does pay which is important for young entrants to understand. There is no magic wand that showers these hard won imagery.    

His wildlife photographs have been sold and widely published on reputable resources. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Amazing Wildlife of Pench - Dharmagiri

As an experienced naturalist he earlier worked in Nepal but since a long time he is looking after Jungle Home Pench at Turia near Pench Tiger Reserve. I met him some years back on my visit to the reserve and was...well his images will complete the sentence. 

Dharmagiri has an eye for photography that is all encompassing with stunning imagery of natural history and rare moments.  As a blogger, wildlife enthusiast and naturalist I present his work below.
Male Tiger at Pench

Collared Tigress


















Wilddogs at play

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Debacle at Pench - Poaching of Tigers

The poaching of Bagin Nala Tigress and her cubs reminds me of my first visit to the park at River Pench. 

In that bright sunny day I could feel that I was in a tiger heaven just as Kipling had penned in his famous Jungle Book. I could imagine Mowgli along with the wolf pack waving at me from behind the dense canopy that lined attentively all along the road to Karmajhiri.  

The forest ranger had given me a lift generously from Khawasa but was in no mood to elaborate what lay all along us. In his deep husky drawl he informed me, "animals here are larger." And then there was silence as we moved on to the final destination the forest rest house.    

Those enamored by negative fall out of tourism..there were no hotels then as tourism was in infancy.  Few people from Nagpur made day visits for excursions.  

Seoni Hills and surrounding forests of Chindwara were once abode of the tigers and teemed with wildlife. Most of the forests have been denuded in the last few decades, but the ecosystem is still intact in the Pench Tiger Reserve that engulfs Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra border region on the Jabalpur Nagpur highway.  

The tiger was in the precarious state whence I arrived at Pench. Along with the tiger, other animals were being electrocuted using the 11 KVA line that passed through. The villagers had access through the park, possibly translocation had still not taken place?

The charred remains of the tiger unnerved me no end, the seat of the administration at that time was Karmajhiri barely two kilometers away. Other animals besides a poacher were charred to death using this hideous method.

The countenance of those responsible for protection of  wilderness was, at best could be described as shocking. There were more explanation for the events than action...
Tigress Pench

Tigress with cubs at Pench
and as we see in India all things gradually fizzle out. It did.

The shocking incidence at Pench is suggestive of prevailing presence of  the poaching fraternity, and nothing has been done regarding this. The wildlife is still in danger thanks to ineffective mechanisms and lack of will to foresee what threats are emerging. Is there a proactive strategy in place?   

The animals are surviving somehow, but a noose hangs around them all the time. After engaging abundant resource we could not prevent the murder of the most popular tigress. The fate of  many a big cats hangs in balance...entirely at the mercy of humans. 

Photo Credit: Dharmagiri

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Tiger - A Poem

Black stripes on fur white orange & yellow
The mighty tiger is a gentle fellow
When all white he is a spectacle
A rare gene that is a miracle

Lives in the mysterious jungles of India
Completely hidden amid unexplored recess
Where the dense canopy accords no access
Invisible elusive & well concealed
He is forever evasive and on his heels

In ancient myths that unfold
A thousand stories are told
Of the Lord a ghostly marauder
Of the king a bloodthirsty exterminator

In belief a mystical kind
A jungle spirit hard to find
One that fears none at all
All the creatures big and small

He stalks invisibly in the night
Nary a sound nary a sight
He kills with impunity without a fight
In one strike powered by the beastly might

A snarl and deafening roars
A lightening charge always in store
All core of many a jungle lore
He kills not for fun but for need
On wild animals does he feed

A dreadful fear the beast invokes
Among those who dare to provoke
When he learns the taste of man
He is no more a gentlemen

He kills mercilessly near and far
In the day he strikes afar
Even in the night devoid of stars
Terror strikes with ferocious rage
Till he is shot or put in the cage

Of enormous proportions the beast
Of impressive agility & speed
An epitome of power and stealth
He is coveted by those with wealth
For fur claws and bones
They leave unturned no stones
A magical mystical beast indeed
He is frightening none the least

For hunters he is a trophy
For poachers he is a bounty
From hundred thousand to handful
The vanishing tiger is in a status dreadful
Critically endangered and fast loosing ground
The destiny awaits its final round

Save the tiger do not let him perish
From face of the Earth lest he vanish

Uday Patel

Photo Credits Teerath Singh

The Elusive Leopard

Yellow fur dotted with rosettes black
Painted like an artist's board to attract
He is the nature's star Lo behold
Handsome creature with striking features that on one look unfold

Leopard is the cynosure of all the eyes
A jungle spirit that depends on guise
An animal strong and very wise
He lives in the jungle to survive

Of cunning and guile and ferocity untold
The ghost of darkness is a predator very bold
He kills only to eat for he is a carnivore indeed
He hunts only herbivores and some birds to feed
That is the nature's design eat only what you need

He hides in the jungle in between rocks and canopy
Seldom seen the elusive cat is camouflaged to the tee
To hunt the unwary prey in the night
He uses stealth and complete surprise
He climbs trees with liquid ease
To save himself he often flees

Full of beauty and grace
With striking eyes on charming face
Smaller than his cousin the tiger
But equally strong and much wiser

The spots change are never the same
They have brought him name and fame
Poached for fur and game
Struggling to survive and loosing space
An animal labeled vermin and disgraced
The beast is facing his last days
He will be extinct for sure
Lest we mend our greedy ways

Save the leopard save his life
Give him space and let survive

 Uday Patel

Photo Credit Dharamagiri