Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tiger Conservation - A Number Game

Tigers are illusive animals and amazingly apt at being unseen even whence in vicinity. Their habitat preference aids in camouflage, an art which they have mastered anyway, and a structure along with enchanting colour patterns makes the big cats practically invisible wherever they live.

The predator can sit or stay still for an amazing long period, crouch low in small tufts of grass and walk silently unheard, even whence in proximity. It has an amazing ability to freeze and stay that way for an exasperating time span. The animal can virtually vanish at will from human reckoning.   

I believe many tigers complete their life cycle and die without being seen or being recorded by the tiger counting mechanism or the field personnel. This also assures that the predators occupy wider tiger landscape then we assume. The ghost of the darkness is an apt way to describe the magnificent beast for it is a nocturnal animal made so by necessity and to some extent by massive human intrusion everywhere they survive.        

In democracies life forms that vote are the privileged ones, and hence others are always endangered or facing extinction eternally. Situation is not good in countries that are governed by autocratic or dogmatic beliefs as well. In fact the tertiary predator is nowhere safe.      

Counting The Cat 

Earlier the cats in India and Russia were counted using only the pug mark method. This resulted in greatly exaggerated figures leading to a chancy complacency that was disastrous for conservation. With the advent of more scientific methods like camera trapping and DNA analysis we are coming to more accurate figures plus and minus a few. This development has also led to discovery of tigers elsewhere outside the protected areas in previously undocumented tiger landscape. But do these exciting finds assure that the population in India is rising? 

Well Yes & No

Tiger population is well managed in highly protected reserves it is rising there thanks to the efficiency of the staff, wild life managers and the political will prevalent generously to say so. On the other hand there may be many habitats where the animal is still being persecuted leading to reduction in numbers. Man animal conflict, hunting, poaching are still the factors instrumental in the critical status of the big cat. And yes, I have not forgotten the tremendous biotic and abiotic stress that the modern man is imposing. 

Crown cover of most of the landscapes may be receding drastically hence habitat destruction is an ever going disaster in a heavily populated country like India. Dams, mines and infrastructure projects are never going to see an end, hence the threat will prevail unchecked ever. 

With a virulent stress on development or rather unplanned rabid development that always takes place in haste to be repented at leisure.     

Tigress - Paul Diggins

A Nation hell bent under prioritise, the beleaguered cat has no place in the list.        

Whence we count the big cats we have only one species in mind this is a gross miscalculation. There may be no more than fifty South China tigers in the wild as per reports. The tigers have gone virtually extinct in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. We have lost the Bali tiger in Indonesia, the Caspian and  the Javan. 

Around three hundred Siberian tigers survive in a small pocket, precariously under severe threat from poachers. India is the country which is home to Bengal tiger with the largest number standing at more than half the global population. This species also survives in Nepal, Burma and Bangladesh. The last figures registered an appreciable growth of around thirty percent lets see if it stays that way. The country is doing all that is possible to protect the carnivore in its protected areas.           

The drastic reduction in the habitat is the primary reason for the sad numbers of the animal almost everywhere,  and this threat does not seem to be mitigating. Of the roughly seven percent of the habitat left, the threat of denudation, wood logging and human pressure looms large. The animal needs vast space to survive. Are we willing to accord that do we have a policy which would enable increase the inviolate space badly required?

The populist governance prevailing in the country is incapable of doing this, containment will linger. The hopeless case of tiger corridors is evident so very much. This is due to lack of political courage. We have rapaciously taken over all the land for our cause without generously allocating some for other life forms. There seems to be no hope regarding this, and it seems to be wishful thinking and may seem ludicrous to some.       

The largest and single most threat that looms precariously is the use of tiger parts in Chinese systems of medicine and not to forget the culinary preferences. There seems to be no encouragement that the CITES convention would ever be followed there.      

Albeit the picture seems like doomsday prediction there is hope for the tiger at least in India. All it needs is stringent protection, political will and apt management. We must not forget laws that govern illegal practices regarding wildlife...these need a paradigm change if poachers and hunters have to be discouraged effectively.     

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Tiger Deaths - A Real Conundrum

In a short span of time four tigers died at Shahdol District in MP, one each in Corbett National Park in UK and Sanjay Dubri in Chhattisgarh. A tiger was electrocuted near Pench National Park, a tiger was found dead near Sehore....the story goes on. Though more tiger inhabited area should be taken under the net of protection on many instance the process has laggard behind due to reasons unknown.

If any process in this country has to gather pace, that has to be tiger conservation measures. It seems conservation bodies at National and local level are obsessed with tourism rather than finding solutions that could save the big cats in India.    

It no longer surprises whence the tabloids speak of death of the big cats including the leopard. Though not all deaths have a alarming reason many die of one. The ongoing threat is of course electrocution. But poaching and poisoning goes on hand in hand. 

Poisoning is preventable as they do so at Kanha National Park by quickly shifting the carcass out of reach of the predator. This must be done elsewhere too but not everywhere especially in an around our reserve forests. Fortunately not many tigers inhabit our reserve forests as their number has drastically gone down and they are found only in and around the protected areas or the tiger reserves.  

What is missed out by the above factors is taken care of by the railways and road accidents. In case of leopards which venture too close to human habitations they are killed by the marauding mobs and over zealous hunters often in connivance with local politicians.  Neither is the reporting by local press constructive and it is seldom brought to notice about human intrusion in the land of wild denizens. We are urbanising at a fast pace too fast as a matter of fact and bringing to nought the habitats that come on the way. The animals suffer in mute silence as they watch their land being taken away. 

Power play does not affect only the downtrodden humans it is vicious in case of wild animals. Some politicians and local hunters indulge in hunting misusing their powers. Corrupt official from the forests and other departments are often too eager for a shoot out. 

Some members of hunter gatherer tribal communities are a persistent threat to wild animals, and are active in feeding the illegal wildlife trade. Die hard poacher sitting at the helm of the network rarely face penal action, thanks to legal loop holes and an indolent judicial system which drags the cases so long that justice virtually has no meaning.            

The threat to our tigers is real the rising numbers not withstanding. Multi pronged assaults can dip the figures dangerously there is no room for complacency. What is required is a concerted efforts to save the beleaguered animal not just physical protection, proactive policies are the need of the hour. Policing, habitat management, disease prevention and effective translocation of warring tigers wherever population is in plus category.                    

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Case of Missing Tigers of Kanha

The majestic bulk was moving straight towards us, a male tiger heading straight at you can be a chilling experience and if you are a novice it can be frightening. The tiger came close to us displaying its grace and beauty in the breaking light of the rising son.    

This was my first sight of the "red eye" a tiger so named because of a red blotch in his eyelids. Massive but gracefully built the big cat was literally gliding on the soft sand of the jungle road. We kept reversing for a long distance mesmerised by the spectacle that was looming straight at us. The male was busy scent marking and ignored us completely just keeping a slant eye to gauge our proximity. We were at a safe distance reversing all the time till eventually he disappeared on into to the bushes adjacent to the  Sulkum River. He was gone in a flip leaving us breathless and completely amazed it happened too quickly for us regain our composure instantly.    
Red Eye - Paul Fear

This male became the talk of Kanha and began to cover a large territory. His ultimate doom was Munna - who is still alive - whom he could not over power. In a tussle, which in reality was a roaring match he had backed out and left the space forever. Red Eye was seen in other territories and sired as well, but kept away from Munna. After some time he was never seen. he disappeared as mysteriously as he had surfaced. Many speculations where raised. 

Another legendary male of Kanha was Kankata who maintained territory besides that of Munna but never challenged. I had seen him in a family grouping with female and two cubs nearing 7/8 months. After that sighting, he was often seen and was believed to have sired cubs with a female in Kisli Zone. There were rumours of his disposition health wise but was seen often. He too disappeared completely and was never seen again. Many other big cats have made an about turn from the tourism zone much to the surprise of the guides, naturalists and regular visitors. This disappearance have shrouded the reserve in a mysterious veil of doubt.  

Albeit the usual conclusion is change of territory but this is doubtful. Why would big cats firmly entrenched in a a perfect habitat leave it all of a sudden. This especially whence they know that the cubs they have sired will be put to death by the overtaking male.            
Kankata - Doornik 

Translocation is another possibility but certainly those in charge would know that if they trans-locate a dominant male his cubs will surely be killed. 

The third possibility is of poaching because now and then a dead tiger surfaces which has died under mysterious circumstances or electrocuted. 

Take over or expansion of a territory is a regular activity of dominant males but the the loser is usually pushed to being a subordinate or left in command of lesser ground. The actual cause is difficult to ascertain as the non tourism area is out of bounds to all expect the administeration.        

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Searching For Tigers - Bandhavgarh National Park

Bandhavgarh National Park 

The Fort of The Gond Kings 

Rising majestically from the tortured terrain is the Bandhavgarh Hillock scaling 800 plus MSL. On the dizzy heights an ancient fort built more than  two thousand years back nestles imposingly amidst long stretch of grassy meadows and dense canopy. In spite of being in ruins the surrounding spectacle is mesmerising. 

Zoomorphic idols of Lord Vishnu the creator are scattered all over among them the Varha Avatar, Matsya Avatar and Kasyap Avatar are engrossing. Large reservoirs are spread all over the premises presumably surrounding the central building which is no more. 

An ancient temple devoted to Lord Rama, Sita and Laxman stands still over looking the expanse of the hilly forests, swampy grasslands and majestic trees. Rivulets snake through, down from the hills into the plains and glens to create a unique ecosystem of low lying swamps filled grass. These are favourite hunting grounds for the tigers. Known as “bohera” they provide food for the herbivores which in turn become a meal for tigers lurking unseen in the grass.     
Fort Entrance - Pic Teerath Singh

Tigers rule the wild kingdom but telltale signs of human intervention are scattered all over amidst the dense Sal forests of Bandhavgarh. Man made caves, idols, stables, shelters, pools lie still in the kingdom of the wild. The assemblage functional long time back housed armies of the rulers. Turbulent past is etched all over bloody conquests that took place time and again repeatedly one after the other. 

The indomitable spirit of the tiger preserved the species throughout the bloody conquests, and later the marauding hunting pogroms. The survival of the dominant species aided in preservation of the whole ecosystems albeit much reduced.        

Sesh Shhaiya      

Reclining Vishnu - Pic Gopal Desai
Somewhere near the ascent to the fort is an esoteric fairy tale like pool dating back many centuries. Ensconced in a groove of flowering trees a pool made of rocks lies listlessly in the centre. A twenty feet long rock idol of reclining Vishnu is the centre of attraction. Revered by the locals the idol is an archaeological wonder deep in the remote confines of Central India.  
Caves - Pic Teerath Singh
Idols - Pic Teerath Singh  

The pool is fed by number of springs that trickle down the edges over grown with moss, lichens and ferns. As the wind blows from between the hillocks a comfort level astoundingly cool enhanced by the shade of the grooves refreshes in parched heat of the intense summer. The fairy tale like  ambience is an esoteric experience for visitors from the contemporary Worlds. Here time stands still, and the panoramic spread amazes and enchants beyond belief.       

The Terrain   

Surrounding Bandhavgarh are a number of hillocks or tabletop mountains with a unique mix of steep edges and gentle slopes. The hills are covered with bamboo wherever fertility prevails else barren stony escarpment jut out like shining daggers creating an intricate tapestry a unique feature among the surrounding wilderness.        
Meadows - Teerath Singh

Rivulets arising from mountain tops snake through crossing through the low lying terrains. Here they form swampy grasslands which support a wide variety of life forms in their niche. Dense Sal, mix forests and bamboo cover the slopes and the deep glens.     
Bandhavgarh - Teerath Singh

The abundant diversity and unique land features enthral the visitors with their beauty and panoramic excellence. Bandhavgarh is amongst the most picturesque tiger reserves in India.  

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Post Monsoon Safaris A Wild Goose Chase?

Well not exactly but searching for tigers during the period whence monsoon has just ended is an exhausting  exercise. Tigers are scarce while sightings mostly are of short duration and safaris often are not fruitful. But let me add this happens usually if it rains or drizzles or is intensely cloudy. The likely hood of this kind of the weather is much more whence the park begins in the month of October.  

Good weather in tiger reserves means good sightings post monsoon, winters or summers. Bad weather any time and you  are likely to miss the boat.

Tiger is an elusive beast and a wanderer especially the males. The males guard their territory avidly and post monsoon the water availability and presence of prey everywhere makes territorial patrolling easy and less trouble some.  Hence whence you are searching for tiger in the tourism zone he is well outside of it.

Females too wander extensively but usually those with cubs do not stray far for hunting. They are well ensconced in the dense canopy and do not come out needlessly. But knowing their movements helps in tracking them down.   The biggest joy is to find them with cubs which needs a lot of skill and understanding of their movements and of course a long wait. 

This period also requires extensive safaris because tigers can be found anywhere even in the buffer where most of the accommodations are located. So keep your senses on alert. Areas where extensive human movement has not taken place can yield surprises post monsoon.   

Tigers new to tourism zone are often seen at places unexpectedly this is the greatest fun. Regular movements of the big cats can also change put stress on you to redo your mathematics.     

Albeit safaris should be holistic which we make it but there could be instance whence the guest is only interested in the tiger. Well this is not surprising as we all wish to see one but an all-round interest in nature is rewarding, And this is the right approach as tigers are sometimes not seen during a trip making most of the amazing wilderness, birds and magnificent animals leads to a successful trip. 

 Photo Credits Anshuman Singh.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Post Monsoon Safari Begins Today - 2017-2018

1st October 2017 

With heightened expectations the post monsoon safari begins today in Central Indian Tiger Reserves and perhaps elsewhere in India. The beginning seasons that is October and November are in stark contrast to summer months. 
Tiger on KIll - Monu Dubey 

You come across lush green forests after being freshly inundated by months of torrential rains. The canopy is thick and grass is taller, greener. This is a good time for predators to hunt thanks to almost impenetrable and dense forest cover and grass with plenty of game.      
Tiger Reserve Forest - Neeraj Vegad

For those on tiger safari especially the naturalists and guides it is a tough season. The green cover offers plenty for the predators to hide. Their movements are full of stealth with few traces on ground and alarm cries as the only sources to track and locate the big cats - tigers and leopards. 

The surroundings creates immense pressure and throw open challenge to tracking skills. This is the time to be fully aware of animal movements pertaining to time. Reaching tigers is no guarantee of sighting them as they may remain hidden in the thick canopy. 

Courtyard House Kanha
Courtyard House Kanha - Mukul Yadav 

Last season we reached the tiger three times only to hear it roar. The last time we were terribly unlucky as one jeep was parked right on the pugdandee or jungle track from where the big cat was moving towards the road. Well...that's tiger safari!  

Wildlife Photography 

Grasslands - Neeraj Vegad
For nature photographers interested in capturing habitats along with the subjects this is a good time. While visibility of herbivores remain the same, the bison prefers higher grounds of table top mountains most of which are out of bound for the tourists. Hence less chance of photographing gaur as it is called in Hindi the local lingo.  

While on safari carry some rain-wear albeit the jeeps are equipped with a top if it showers. Most of the rains have been exhausted but some may visit post is not a surprise.    

Jungle Roads - Neeraj Vegad
This is good time for habitat shots as well with the Sun not shying away much. The verdant landscape offers some amazing panoramic delights. This equally good time to sun whence in your resort. Bit please do carry warm clothing until unless you are fond of shivers...     

Other Options

At Kanha - Night Safari

Other safari options are day and night safari at Khatia Buffer. Sarhi and Khapa Buffer. Pl confirm with the HO at Mandla regarding the safaris in these three places outside the core zone.

Visit to Ajgar Hill is also a good option if you wish to see the constrictors. Be there between 10 to 12 am the drive is about thirty five kilometres.

Penh Wildlife Sanctuary  (Micro Core Kanha)    

Directors Cabin
This is pristine and strikingly beautiful sanctuary about three hours drive from Kanha. Tiger sightings are practically nil, but it is good place to see the wild dog, sloth bear and the leopard. Excursions are available for day which is suggested. Phen is a very good place for birding as well.

No accommodation inside, but a MPTDC resort outside is available if open? Please inquire.

Take all the required eatables which you can consume inside the rest house. Carry all required cutlery and lots of drinking water.    

Phen Forests

Phen Landscape

Phen Grasslands


Some jungle roads may be closed due to slush not drying in time. Till 15th of  October whole of Kanha Zone is out of bounds because of  blocked, slippery roads caused by slush. This could be the case elsewhere as well. 

The core areas do not permit foot safaris keep this in mind and do not leave the vehicles. Permits may be available but better book in advance especially for weekends and holiday periods. 

 The parks close on last day of the June every year. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Why Are We Not in The Tiger's Food Chain?

Do humans taste awful? 
Do we have less meat?
Have we been ousted from genetic coding of the tiger's food habit? 

The last question seems more of a plausible answer. 

This Story : Is probably repeat but this time with a twist. 

Having lost a wonderful sighting of Chota Munna somewhere in Kanha meadow we set our brains busy. We then began to encircle a mountain to reach a fire line which the big cat often frequented after crossing over the grasslands in the plains.     

Two alarm calls made us stop a little ahead. And then we heard him. Thinking he would circumvent since there was no doubt that he knew of our presence and exactly.    

Hence I stood up to take a peak over the tall grass and bush. We could hear him brush past the thickets...he had come closer. We were in the middle of the jungle road but in that silence all seemed still except the massive tiger climbing up hill. 

And then straight from the bushes I could see the white patches peering at me.  We were at a distance nevertheless fear engulfed me. I quietly sat down. Many times on safari the big cats emerge by surprise at a distance good enough to attack visitors. We reversed immediately to be at a safer distance. On our first sight the big beast could have charged at us but the attack did not take place. As it does not almost always...

From that spot the cat turned back only to emerge from an opening situated a little ahead. Without a glance at us he began to ambush deer time to time hungry as he was.     

A lone tusker in muust could have charged, may be we could have been charged if the animal was a wild water buffalo...   

That made me think ...the massive tiger was hungry...yet he did not go after us... he would not have attacked a forester on foot in his kingdom. The staff patrols the whole forest on foot and two wheeler every day without an incidence.... 
Anshuman Singh

Man killing is rare and is considered an aberration or an act of self defence whence surprised.  It is evident tigers do not consider us as food till more stressful situation arise....As we say there is plenty of meat (prey) for the predators to survive.    

In most of the man killing cases hunger drives invalidated tigers to kill humans but this is a cause. Else they prefer to stay away from us. 

Possible another answer to this benevolence is that somehow we appear indomitable to the predator. The other answer could be that we have managed to stay away from the wild food chain for long and that has cut us out of the system. 

It is true that other life forms are fearful of this two legged creature...and their intelligence warns them to stay away. Hence no animal attacks without provocation or fear. 

All said and done we should respect wildlife and maintain a safe distance always.      

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tiger Conservation - Role Park Elephants Play

The elephant trudged laboriously traversing tortured terrain to reach the tiger. The animal restless and cornered was in an extreme state of stress surrounded on both sides by the giant pachyderms with humans on top.  After some pictures and a look we returned back. The Tiger Show was over.   

The practice came much under protests. The stress on the elephant and the tiger was palpable. But this practice was a precursor of  the shikar days whence the hunters rode on elephant back to shoot the helpless predator. But the tiger show was  much more innocuous since here the animal did not lose it's life.    

Tiger has to be seen to be believed!

In times of less, the show worked wonders.

Many a myths were shattered especially among the common man as well as the decision makers. The animal came out of a malicious opprobrium of being bloodthirsty and an enemy of men. To many one look was enough to understand its role in the ecosystem. That the carnivore only killed for food that too - it was limited to the prey base - came out as a relief for those who considered it as a vermin. Man eating is an aberration the happens much less frequently than a fatal road accident.      

Anyway the tiger show was stopped for good and a new mechanism of  tracking has been discovered by guides and naturalists that enables to see the big cat in its natural surroundings. This is much less stressful thanks to set regulations and rules in the reserves.   

The mahout or elephant rider were disappointed, the tourist offerings went missing. Nevertheless the pachyderms had an intense role to play. They became the sentinels of the reserves. Now used extensively in patrolling, they safe guard the tiger heavens. They are also instrumental in conservation efforts thanks to the accessibility that they offer in the dense canopy. They aid and assist scientists, guards, conservationists and film makers in the arduous task of reaching the animals in the deep recess.     

To mitigate stress the animals are used mostly during daytime and the off period offers rest and more time to look after the young one's.  There are elephants camps set up within the reserves which reduce the distance and offer privacy. The mahouts with their knowledge of the wilderness also regularly study the  big cats in their areas and report any incidence or anomaly that could require human interventions.   

In India capturing elephants in the wild is banned hence the camps act as nurseries to keep the stock going. The animals are indispensable for conservation work. Some parks do permit elephant rides where in the tourists get good views of the habitat. But this is subject to availability.   

The park authorities and the mahouts look after the animals with care and consideration. They are sighted with much joy by the foreigners who have never seen an elephant.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Tiger Conservation & People Participation

Some years back I conducted kids for tiger conservation program organized by Sanctuary Asia at the behest of local campaigner Mr. Navneet Maheswari himself an avid conservationist and wildlife photographer. 

I went lecturing with the aid of slideshow provided by Sanctuary Asia to about forty schools. The enthusiasm was palpable both among the students and teachers.

Then recently, I conducted nature treks for schools in Jabalpur at the behest of then DFO Jabalpur, Mr. H.S. Mohanta an avid conservationist.         

My job as wildlife and birding guide leaves me with paucity of time now, hence I pen down my experiences regarding tigers. 

In order for a campaign or a program to succeed peoples participation becomes imperative. In a heavily populated country like ours complexities are four fold making success of a program riddled with problems. Getting over the complexities and problems is an arduous task but nevertheless  success is sweet whence overcome.     

Citizens from all walks of life need understand our inheritance and the importance of preserving the ecosystems that we have inherited.The younger the better. Peoples participation is a guarantee of success  especially whence an effort initiated by Govt. of India to save the critically endangered species like the tiger is concerned. 

Tigers need voice and what better than common men and children according it. Recently the tiger population has increased palpably but the predator is still on the brink of extinction. Hence much more has to be done. 

Active participation of  by people from all walks of life during International Day for Tiger was encouraging. 

An event was organized under Mr. Sanjay Shukla, Field Director, Conservator - Kanha National Park in the State of Madhya Pradesh in India. 

I have provided the FaceBook link below for people to know about this magnificent effort. 

A Leopard Dies!


This was the second instance whence a leopard was found dead at Barha Forest Range near Jabalpur. The first discovery was that of a mutilated leopard body with paws, canines missing few months back.

The second instance that probably happened yesterday was reported by the locals. This was a young leopard cub probably one year old. Since the postmortem report is not out in the open the cause of the death could not be ascertained.  The presence of leopards in this area is a big surprise in spite of the available habitat. There is nothing there for them to feed on! May be the animals peripatetic by nature venture into such areas from pockets that still accord sustenance.  

Few years back a tiger was reported on a cattle kill in these forests. The animal was probably a vagrant in search of prey. There are none at all, the herds of chinkara and spotted that could be seen some years back have all been poached. Few barking deer do not make a meal for big cats. This leaves no option for them but to go for livestock and the ensuing man animal conflict results.  Some of the locals may be resorting too poisoning, or the killing could be the handy work of poachers or wood loggers which roam this forests in search of wild boar or anything that comes around. 

Neglected with lots of interference, the reserve forests are well known for their minor forest produce including tendu leaf. I have seen few poachers with guns moving around the forests without any fear, and wood logging is a frequent occurrence in these jungles. 

A part of the area was undertaken for some period by TFRI, an institution into forest research. A concrete wall was built for the purpose but this was for a limited period. Experimental plantations could be seen for some time - done for research. But anyway from what I hear the area is back to the concerned forest department.

Most of the visits are by birders like us since the Narrai Nala a perennial stream sustains many avian species. The stream is the lifeline of the ecosystem and supports impressive floral diversity in a limited area.          

The lean forests are mixed type with affinity with forests of Kanha and Bandhavgarh as they where once a part of the tracts which have been intensively inhabited by humans and extensively farmed. Small pockets scattered here and there comprise of good canopy rest need repairs badly. The area was full of wildlife during the period lasting up to late seventies perhaps but no more. A tiger could easily be sighted during that period but now literally not even a rat is visible.    

Well this is the story of most of the reserve forests in India leaving some of the protected areas aside. Once the country's finest ecosystems they now present only a skeletal picture - the wildlife is long gone. These are the pockets that sustained large population of tigers in India. They are devoid of all forms of wildlife in the contemporary period. In order to fetch the big cats out of peril these forest have to be reclaimed and due protection accorded. Such an action would offer extra space for the predators if carefully nurtured.

But do we have the resources and the will?         

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Paul & Amanda - Tiger Safari

Guests Paul Diggins & Amanda UK 
Courtyard House Kanha
Kanha National Park - India 
June 2017 

Tiger amidst Bamboo clumps 

"The weather is uncertain it may rain damping our tiger safari,"I informed the guests. For visitors from far off lands expectations loom large and rightly so. Short of holiday time, they may not be making another trip to India. That makes my job as a naturalist more challanging and  anxiety filled. - the desire to see a tiger is ever encompassing for lovers of wildlife and holiday makers alike.

Why Not? See for yourself. 

Tigers are usually seen with difficulty. This is the inherent nature of big predators they are all the time evading prying eyes of the prey as well humans which enter their domain. There cannot be a more exciting event then to chance this magnificent predator. 

It is one of the most beautiful and graceful animal in the wild. In fact it is matchless with its predatory instinct that accords esoteric behavior traits in its natural habitat.    

After four dull safaris the situation had become gloomy. But thankfully there were more rounds to go. Those arriving to see tigers at Kanha National Park must plan for at least six safaris in any season especially winter time. The fruitful tourism zones keep on changes hence visit all the zones on your trip to  this amazing reserve in Central India.  

Anyway things changed soon we were able to sight a young male tiger on fifth safari whom we had been unable to trek on the first day. The pug marks suggested a full grown huge tiger and whence encountered it on this day our surmise proved right. This was one of the fasted growing cub of Umarpani tigress who has four cubs now on verge of separation. This male now fully grown a about two and half is charting his own territory as he is number one the line. Possibly he has started making his own kills but is on some occasions seen with the mother.        

On the return we had a brief encounter with Neelam tigress (blue beauty) who rules Kanha meadows. She has four cubs which are seen on very few instances. Much liker her name she is one of the most beautiful tigers to see. She had been wandering with her last litters and managed to lose them to a rival tigress. I hope see has become wiser and would keep her progeny to safer confines of the meadows.     

The last safari yielded the big male T2. The magnificent carnivore is one of the largest seen in the tourism zone and has overtaken the legendary Munna. Unlike Munna T2 is very aggressive and charges with impunity if disturbed. He is said to have mated with tigresses in his territory and promising future upholds the tiger reserve.     

Male Tiger

Images Paul Diggins UK 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Terai Arc Landscape & Tiger Corridors

Thats Dudhwa my agent pointed out to me. What!Where!" All I could see was some sugar cane fields and grassy patches. Not until we cut through a dense canopy of Sal did I realize that we where at the periphery of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.  

This was, way back few years a ago. The tiger reserve is now home to Rhino after a successful translocation. The reserve is host to the Northern Swamp deer, tigers, hispid hare, pygmy hog, wild elephants and number of mammals besides a large number of bird species. The region holds some of the rare and endangered species.     

Swamp deer was in abundance in old time but due to excess hunting and habitat destruction their population is limited to the tiger reserve. Singhai township is one place I frequently visited, this was once a hunting ground near the tiger reserve, and the name addresses the swamp deer. Singhai means assemblage of horns this is in reference to the rare swamp deer species. Maharajahs and the British favored this place for hunts. Rest is the sordid saga of destruction of wilderness in India.     

The North or Uttar Pradesh is a land of plains and intense agriculture. Heavily populated and urbanised, Dudhwa and adjoining forest patches are few that are left. Thankfully they are under much needed protection as wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves,

Dudhwa now encompasses Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and is connected to Pilibhit Tiger Reserve and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary through narrow corridors - weak and facing human intrusion. On the Nepal side the forest contiguity is provided by Shukla Phanta Wildlife Sanctuary and Bardia National Park.       

The green corridors connect the wildlife heavens but are in much need of protection and care. The corridors are denuded at place but nevertheless animals migrate to adjoining forests in times of stress.

Green corridor that  connects Dudhwa with Shuklaphanta is  Laldhadi. Lagga-Bagga corridor connects Pilibhit to Shuklaphanta. The Kartaniaghat-Khata and Boom-Brahmadev Corridors to Shuklaphanta and Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary. The latter is in Uttarakhand State of India. Bardia National Park in Nepal is connected with Katarniaghat through the Khata Green Corridor. Rhinos migrate to and fro through this corridor.    

Human settlements engulf and intrude the corridors reducing the connectivity and giving rise to frequent man animal conflicts. Many year ago the region had become volatile due to frequent cases of man eating especially at Gola and Mohammdi townships in Lakhimpur Kheri District where Dudhwa TR and Kisanpur WLS are situated. 

Man animal conflicts do occur in recent times but frequency has decreased thanks to greater surveillance and conservation measures.  A lot of work is being done to repair and rejuvenate these vital passages which has resulted in some improvement. The beleaguered wilderness needs much more work to be done if free movement of wild animals has to take place without stress.

Apart from afforestation, resource preservation including water and strict protection management has to be in place if tiger population in Terai Arc Landscape has to bounce back. This region had one time abundant tiger population and a high density of prey base. The resulting denudation has had an adverse impact on the floral characteristic. Human population and land use dynamics in the present circumstances have a negative impact on the habitats resulting in fragmentation affecting the viability of corridors used for migration. Understanding key factors that impact habitats and life forms that inhabit the ecosystems is vital for the conservation ecology of the region as whole.         

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Perspective : Protected Areas In India

Wildlife Protection Act 1972 - Provisions Chapter IV 

Image: Dharamagiri
In order to save the vanishing tiger and other life forms Wildlife Protection Act was constituted in India. This was in the year 1972 and thenceforth hunting of all wild species became illegal and punishable.  Hunting is permitted in extraordinary circumstance especially when an animal has become threat to human lives. Another reason for allowing hunting is in case of excessive damage caused to crops in agriculture fields. This permission is mired in  controversy but instances have occurred wherein it has been granted.    

The act also outlays the concept of National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Often known as protected areas, set of rules and regulations apply to both. Many amendments have taken place since the legislation, but only the concept in brief has been described here.   

Apart from protecting wildlife, the objective through conservation of habitats is to preserve all life forms in India.   

Wildlife Sanctuary 

In case of a Wildlife Sanctuary, the State Government will notify its intent if the area under consideration is of ecological and geological importance with prevalence of diverse life forms that constitute flora and fauna. The notification also specifies the area to be brought under the Wildlife Sanctuary.  

After notification powers are vested with the collector for land acquisition or rights. Continuation of rights under some circumstances with the permission of the Wildlife Warden is possible.    

The status of most of the wildlife sanctuaries in India is anywhere from being protected. Relocation requires political and administrative will which is severely lacking in this context. One of the largest wildlife sanctuary in MP, Nauradehi has more than sixty villages within the confines but no relocation has taken place so far.

In many of the cases there is a lack of funding, or the relocation itself is an immense exercise, hence the status is far away from the protection that is required. As compensation substantial amount is given to evacuee or in lieu a suitable land is awarded.      

Cattle grazing intrusion, illegal logging, poaching and even land use in these sanctuaries is rampant causing disturbance to wildlife which perhaps will never recover until unless corrective steps are taken with urgency. Although there is no dearth of conservation practices wherever enthusiastic staff prevails, increasing population and the uncontrolled resource utilization encumbers protected areas with biotic pressures. Immunization of livestock is also vested in the act. 

National Parks

NPs are notified in the same manner as the wildlife sanctuary, most of the conditions remain the same. Both types of protected areas may also be notified by the Central Government. This type of protected areas are symbol of National pride hence greater degree of protection is accorded to them.

No livestock grazing or other such activities that may be allowed in a sanctuary are permitted in NPs. Land acquisition and translocation are executed with greater urgency in National Parks. They have been better protected as well. The areas that have substantial tiger population have been brought under the aegis of Project Tiger Conservation Programme initiated by the Central Government.      

The success of conservation programs in India is checkered with some areas doing better than before. However large number of areas are facing immense problems as mentioned above. While the tiger population has risen marginally many species of plants and animals are still under the brink of extinction.     

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Diamond Mining: Lure of the Lucre & Tigers

Eventually after much hullabaloo the diamond project in Bunder Region of Madhya Pradesh was shelved by Rio Tinto. Citing financial reasons the concern handed over the project to Government of Madhya Pradesh along with all the assets.   

Obviously the Bunder Region was not a good enough take for the company despite which they got the approval to go ahead. The project was mired in controversy right from the inception as the land contained a biodiversity rich profile. Situated near Panna Tiger Reserve and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, the area is a link between the local ecosystems and constitutes vital tiger corridor. The diverse floral habitats are home to leopards, sloth bears, chinkara and other mammals, birds and reptiles. 

Tiger experts unanimously agree upon the status as it falls under the tiger landscape. Under the stalled project more than five lakh trees were to be felled spelling an environmental disaster. Under severe opposition and administrative hiccups the project viability was deemed as poor. Eventually wiser council prevailed.    

The project envisaged reaping of rich harvest of roughs up to the extent of 27.00 million carats of rough. The open cast mining was discouraged and the company was advised to  employ alternative means to dig for diamonds.  

But the disaster still seems to be in waiting since other investors are being sought by the concerned bodies. It seems the major discouragement is the environmental bye laws in India. Nevertheless projects which are ecological disasters should in the first place never be envisaged. By the time the mining would reach end cycle we would have lost a substantial forest region for ever.    

Central Indian States MP and Chhattisgarh are rich in mineral wealth including diamonds. Encouragement is being accorded to major global players to explore extensively and mine the invaluable ores.   

But the lure of the lucre would fetch in loosening of laws in order to enable global players to mine with ease. India has impressive diamond polishing industry but most of the roughs are obtained from Belgium. Finding substantial deposits for large projects is enticing for Governments aiming to become of the major diamond producing regions in the World.       

Hence the sword of Damocles hangs over our valuable resources some of which are situated in the finest wildlife habitats.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tiger Conservation: Tiger Corridors in Muddle

Though a lot has been done for the survival of the tiger, it is still not enough. The growing population of tigers in some protected areas is throwing new challenges to the wildlife managers. The population of this big cat is nowhere out of the brink of extinction.  

Tigers need more space if their populations have to increase. But most of the space is taken over by human settlements including those in the buffer regions, and in vital corridors adjoining protected areas. Most of the corridors in India are mired in conflicts especially those that are hinderance to massive road projects aka development.

As per law no development activity is allowed within 10 km of mandatory buffer.    

The Pench - Kanha corridor was mired in such conflict between the Green Tribunal and Nagpur Bench of Mumbai High Court. The Court was in favor of expansion of highway that transacts through this crucial corridors meant for migration of tigers and other animals.

Tigers migrate a long distance if the prevailing conditions do not favor them in the place of residence. This is applicable to other animals as well. The migration provides additional shelter to animals and enables gene transfer which is vital activity since it prevents inbreeding which could be fatal to coming generations of the big cats.

Pench - Kanha corridor is one of the few unfragmented patch of forests which has made interbreeding possible between big cats of both the tiger reserves. Widening NH7 was proposed in spite that it would result in substantial damage to the forests as result of axing of trees. As a mitigating

solution elevation of the highway had been proposed, but that still involved axing of large number of trees.

Well to cut short development has won what with MOEF easing clearances for developmental projects that transact through niche habitats. A number of corridors vital for the survival of tigers are facing some or other kind of dilemma in India.  These connecting forests are home to wide variety of flora and fauna including the endangered species.

The muddle is formed between Green Tribunal, Courts, NHAI, WII and MOEF. The tug of war continues over large swathes of  forests that could be vital for saving the beleaguered animals that constitute the wildlife of India.

Though those in favor of saving the wildlife have proposed mitigation measure albeit at substantial increase in the cost of the projects. But this is the correct approach even if there is increase in the cost since the eventual aim is to save endangered animals for extinction and thus protect our environment and inheritance.

Conservation of our vital forests is mired hopelessly in developmental projects. These include not only highways but industrial belts, mining, settlements and other resource utilization.

Very few viable corridors remain in the country and most of these are not privileged enough to have a legal status akin to the protected areas.

Interesting News Articles

Expansion of Pench Kanha Corridor 

MOEF & Tiger Corridors

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tiger Surprise: Out of The Tunnel!

UK Guests at Courtyard House: Emma
Tiger Safari At Kanha National Park

Water Body - Uday Patel 
It was one of the difficult evening at Kanha Zone. The tigress and her four grown up cubs were not being sighted for some time and suddenly there was gloom. This is one tigress which is easily sighted and guides take easy credit whenever she is seen. 

So the first move that is made upon entering Kanha Zone is to drive straight to Link No.7 explore all the water bodies. It is most likely that the big cat family would be there and bingo your guests are all smiles. Many times it does not happen that way especially whence the family migrates to non tourism area.    

It was a bright and sunny summer evening whence we arrived at Kanha Zone. 

"What shall we do?" the guide asked. "Should we look for Neelam?"

There was little possibility of catching with the Umarpani tigress and her grown up cubs. They were not seen for some time. 

"Thats a good idea!" I exclaimed. "By the time we run through Link 7 there is no time for excursions in another area." 

So that was it and we began moving towards Schaller hide where Neelam and her four little cubs are seen. They are seen less frequently since the cubs are small and hence the mother keeps them hidden, 

A dull evening I thought. There was not a single vehicle on this tract and we were crusing alone. In safari it is always sensible to drive at slow speed else you will miss lot of signs that would lead to a tiger or other animals. And birds as well.     

We covered a long distance with no luck. We were making halts at many places to look for birds and animals. My idea was to kill time and wait for the Sun to mellow down. Tigers dislike heat and direct sunlight whence it is at its peak.    

Eventually we were to reach the culvert near which the tigress keeps her cubs whence in the meadows. A stream flows underneath in between the grasses that is a unique feature of Kanha Meadow.

It all happened in a flash. As we reached the culvert out popped a huge tigress from the tunnel through which the stream flowed.. I could see her flying away from us. She landed on the ledge of the stream  gnarled viciously at us and then trotted down to grass patch amidst the stream. She kept looking at us as curiously as cats do.   
Tiger in Marsh - Uday Patel 

We kept looking at her as amazed as we can be upon sighting this majestic creature no less a wonder of the World.

It seems that the big cat was resting in the cool confines of the tunnel in the culvert. Tigers love water and the stream flowing underneath must have been comforting in that blistering heat of the summer Sun. The noise of the engine awoke her from the slumber and surprised here. Well anyway the Sun had mellowed down and it was time for her to reach her cubs. We could not find the cubs around her. Well never mind Ha!   

My guest were spell bound by the sudden encounter but did take pictures as good as they could. Excitement rose towering over calm and composure as it usually happens upon exciting finds. It was amazing the big cat slid down amidst the grass and it became difficult to see here. Anyway the evening had been made. A tiger sighting for out esteemed guests Emma and her husband.    

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Booking Tiger Safari - MP Online Details

The details available on MP Online Website are in form of details FAQs, letters and notifications. The most searched information is the availability of permits. There is an option to book the  safari permit then and there.  Online payment facility is available on the portal hence you finalise booking then and there. Booking for other types of entry permits are also available. 

Most of the information provided is about the various aspects of tiger safari in Kanha, Pench, Bandhavgarh, Satpura and Panna tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh or Central India.  

If you are looking for the reservation page than you have to click on citizen services and then slide down to click on reservation after which the option to enter the National Park page will be visible. The Pandora's Box will then open for you.    

In the announcement section you will see the entry and exit timings, and the fee structure which is important for the visitors. 

If you click on the save the tiger logo you will reach the page on Madhya Pradesh Tiger Foundation Society. This non profit organization works towards wildlife conservation with emphasis on tigers along with its registered members. Further reading will enlighten you more,  Other links on the page point to Project Tiger and related aspects of tiger reserves.
Tiger Photo - Dharmagiri

On the page with logo you will find FAQ's on each  of the tiger reserves mentioned. This is important if you wish to know rules and regulations and various aspects of tiger safari in the reserves.   

The Faq is all encompassing hence tourists planning a safari to the reserves should read the respective information thus provided. The FAQ also offers information on Government  accommodation at Kanha but only the one at Khatia gate is available to public. It is basic accommodation. 

Hence tourist planning a visit should search for accommodation in Kanha on the SERP. This will lead to a large number of hotel websites offering a stay. The Kanha buffer contains five star, luxury and budget accommodation hence choose your pick.       

For more information visit MPOnline Website.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tiger Conservation: The Mayhem Continues

Tiger Poaching in India

With the electrocution of tigress at Sanjay Dubri National Park in Madhya Pradesh another ghastly incidence unfolds. The electrocution of tigers in India continues unabated since more than a decade.

A pick on newspapers will reveal how frequent is this menace. Taking advantage of high voltage electric lines passing through and near the conservation units this form of poaching is a regular affair with the system having no answer to curb.
Tiger By Teerath Singh

Poachers small time or big time do not understand the National loss of an inheritance invaluable. This also sums up the fact that in spite of active and continued conservation efforts the beleaguered animal is not out of danger. This is also suggestive of ongoing man animal conflict in areas harboring the big cats. 

There are no answers even after decades of existing of this method of killing tigers and other wild animals. Taking into account the critical status of the predator one would have expected a quick reprisal or prevention exercise such that the menace is stopped for ever. On the contrary it seems that such incidents are considered as isolated and hence have no effect on the conservation fraternity in India.      

Compounded by other threats like poisoning and snaring facing the tiger, this is going to result in reduction of its population on long lasting basis or even extinction. 

In spite of all International hullabulloo we have not woken up from slumber. The animal requires proactive concerted and compounded efforts to brink it back from the brink of extinction.

For the political fronts at various level this issue lacks imperative as compared with more inviting actions that fetch votes. This has weakened the administrative impetus required to save wild animals in this country.

The legal system too is to blame as many culprits go scot free due to lacunae in the framework. The required punitive measures harsh enough to discourage the marauders never take place. The lethargy entwined in our legal framework further vitiates the atmosphere.

For example the recent electrocution case in Kanha buffer has not resulted in punitive action thanks to myriad of legal loopholes in our system and administrative lethargy.  

If a methodology to curb this menace is not found soon, we are going to lose large number of tigers. A nation bent upon cow protection needs to pay heed to this majestic animal in dire need of attention. Least we lose this valuable inheritance forever and lose our pride as well not forgetting the inimitable part it plays in the ecosystems across the country.  

The sad end to the recent case of electrocution at Sanjay Dubri was the subsequent death of her cubs. Taken into intensive care at Bandhavgarh Reserve they were unable to cope with infection in absence of the immunity accorded by the mother's milk.. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tiger in The Brook

Mr. Sivaraman & Family USA + TN 
Guests Courtyard House Kanha

The move belied all logic. The stream was full of deer and langur. There was no sign of the magnificent tiger all was magical, serene and fairy tale like. After taking the morning round of safari at Sarhi Zone of Kanha National Park we were returning disappointed that the big cat had eluded us. 

I looked at my watch there was more than hour to go. Nobody was expecting a tiger now since the sun had risen the animal does not like heat as we all know. It arrived in India from somewhere in Siberia or China about ten thousand years ago. The animal could not reach Sri Lanka as the Island had distanced itself from the mainland and was too far for the tiger to swim.  

We where returning via Karai Ghati Road famous haunt of magnificent male tigers, Munna, Dabang, Dhamangaon male, Saunder male and new arrivals. The Budbudi female has been irrevocable etched in our minds by its presence at Budbudi Nala or the stream where we had come to a halt. 

We stood there admiring our surroundings, the enchanting stream full of life and the beautiful birds hidden in the shadowy crevices of dense leaves and twigs. That was all. 

Some jeeps arrived looked at us with a question mark. They did not bother to stop. Why should they with a bunch of deer and troops of langur all around the tranquil stream?

At Kanha the mornings are chilly even in summers but the heat of the noon makes all run to cosy comfort of climate controlled environs of the wildlife resorts.  

There was an air of complete despondency with no expectation. But we waited. Since the time was with us the guide did not force us to move.  We spent time watching the antics of langur babies and the deer enjoying blissful cool environs of life sustaining water in the stream.   

We at Courtyard House utilise full time in the park during the safari. This is an unwritten rule. Hence we waited. I was expecting some thirsty tiger, leopard or a sloth bear to arrive and quench.  Well if wishes where tigers I would jump with joy!

Well nothing happened for a long time till the silence was disrupted by two alarm cries of the spotted deer. In my mind hell broke loose. "Where exactly? I asked the guide. We drove right to the spot few yards ahead to the spot from where the cries had erupted.  Frantically I began peering into the bush containing bamboo, shrubs interspersed with rock and yes puddle of water. Still there was no expectancy. This could be call of the deer spooked.     

Well it was not to be. I was searching for a predator in the shades with puddle. Tiger! Tiger! I whispered with confidence which usually belies my circumspect nature.  For right in front of us I could see the yellow and black stripes. Heart thumbing with excitement, I pointed to the guest who were amazed as well as bewildered. Of Yes! The guide said.  

"It is a young tigress!"

When the animal raised its head to look at us we were all thrilled. It went back to quench in the brook in the cool shade. I could make out that the big cat was shy. It stared at us thrice but was so thirsty, it went back to gulp loads of the life sustaining liquid. It was an enchanting moment as we witnessed through the thick canopy of bamboo, vines, shrubs and trees, we were witnessing a spectacle most astounding.     

Our guest tried to photograph the moment but could achieve little in the shady brook. "Well this is how the tigers are always hidden and well camouflaged, and we were witnessing an activity in its natural surroundings."

"Not a cardboard cut out this," I appraised the guests in absolute wonder. The wild cat took long time to quench and then it moved uphill and was seen no more.  A sighting had been made for visitors who had never seen a tiger in the wild.  
Image By Blissons - France