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.