Thursday, November 29, 2018

Safari at Satpura Tiger Reserve - Forsyth's Land

Satpura Tiger Reserve 
Forsyth Lodge

Lobby Forsyth 



Forsyth Lodge - Sustainable Hospitality 

Like a swish of fresh air the place descends upon you. Travelling to an unknown destination is full of surprises and Forsyth Lodge was our first one. The lodge manager's connectivity helped us reach  without much trouble.     

The welcoming faces and the warm interiors both did wonders to our sagging spirits after a long trudge of four hours from Jabalpur. Already delayed we managed a sneak peak into the forests of Satpura with Deepankar the lodge manager at helm. 
Dining 

Deer
The lodge encapsulates forty four acres of natural land with lush green vegetation  - climber, herbs, shrubs, grass and trees - wild to the core. Leopards, jungle cats and sloth bears are visitors along with the deer species. If you are a birder or a butterfly enthusiast you will relish going through the land. A trained naturalist is always in sight at this wildlife resort to help you.  

The hospitality at the lodge was reassuring...we were at the right place. Evening was fun besides the pool with wholesome delicious bits and warm fire to celebrate and chill. Asim and Manna the naturalists regaled us with some startling jungle lore and their knowledge of diversity of Satpura. There was more in store with sumptuous dinner to follow. It was the best of Indian cuisine...delicious to the core and tongue tingling till the last morsel. What more could we wish for ...a sound sleep in a cosy cottage and we fell for it. 

Rooms are spacious with balanced decor, aesthetic lights and well equipped with soft king size beds , accessories, peripherals and large attached bath. The separate cottages have a sitout large enough to seat a group overlooking the wild backyard. At Forsyth aesthetics and comfort have been kept in mind will designing, and the staff complements the build with their excellence.   



The safaris are well organised at Forsyth with a trained naturalist accompanying the guests. We were lucky to have Deepanker with us ...an honour. The munch is generous at Forsyth the jungle breakfast was well balanced with chicken sandwich, eggs, juices, cakes, cookies, tea, coffee and fruits. "That's enough now ...no lunch" said my guest Poonam. "Wait". I blurted. Lunch and Dinner are a gastronomic delights at Forsyth and we did full justice.  

The Jungle! On Safari!

As the sun breaks in soft strands of light fall on the floor highlighting the grass and the fortunate trees woken up with a jolt from slumber. The chirping of birds announce the day and loud raucous alarm cries of langur inform us that some excitement lies in store.  The leopard sulks amidst the grass as light descends unto the depression and we see him moving from one avenue to another. Our hearts thumping we move on for more is definitely coming.  

We were at a place called Ladda in the park and all around us was typical Satpura terrain...rivulets, pools bursting at seams, rocky outcrops and spurs, grass and dense canopies full of mixed variety of trees and impressive teak.  

The biodiversity that prevails is astounding, just what James Forsyth had discovered in the heydays of the Raj. If you wish to go back into the past read "The Highlands of Central India". 

With turbulent landscape comprising of verdant hills, fissured rocks, deep glens, rivulets, pools and tall stands, climbers, shrubs and grass the game drives are anything but enchanting. A big surprise is the tiger, the creature much persecuted is making its stand back here, other thrilling encounters are leopard, wild dog and sloth bear. Keep your eyes open for the giant and flying squirrels. 

Denwa 

For those with an eye for birds, the robust winged creatures will be a big surprise for birders coming here for the big cats. More than two hundred species of avian can be sighted here. Migration in winter fetches the bar headed geese in large flocks and other target species that can be seen is the Indian Skimmer at Denwa River!     
Denwa River
 Denwa River forms a natural boundary of the tiger reserve. Visitors have to cross over on a motor boat to the park. It is inundated throughout the year but the level can recede in summers. Those with a spotting scope will revel in avian discoveries. Plus the sight of marsh crocodile, turtles and otters add to the birding experience at STR.    

Pachmarhi Hill Resort 

The township is under the Cantt which mercifully protects it from rampant urbanisation as other hill stations have faced. Most of the wilderness is within the Satpura Tiger Reserve. Towering sandstone mountains clutter the holiday destination jagged edges, bare sandstone cliffs and dense canopies carve vivid formations mesmerizing the viewers. This is unique to Pachmarhi and many hills like Chauragarh and Dhoopgarh are named as per the impression they create. You can go wild with imagination as cliffs loom over.   

Dhoopgarh Highest Point in MP State
On the morning birding we come across tiger pugmarks on the way to Dhoopgarh, the highest point in Madhya Pradesh at 1352 meters MSL. The proximity to the township is startling, but with active conservation measures the big cats are gaining ground.  Wilderness can be encountered at Pachmarhi which anyway is excellent for bird watching, target species being Malabar Whistling Thrush. Take precaution
Tiger Footprints Pachmarhi
while birding since the movement of sloth bear and leopard is frequent in this hill station. 

Ancient Remains

Deep inside on hillock are two Shiva Temples built by the tribal at Zhinzhini. The visit takes place on safari and the sight of ancient civilization is as enthralling as that of a tiger. Built perhaps in the 9th or 10th AD or earlier they are now crumbling ruins, scattered around are idols and temple structures. Igneous rock formations abound at Satpura Reserve due to intense volcanic activity that took place during the tectonic plate movement.   

Carving in stone 
Tribal Shiva Temples 
The reserve has a core area of 1500 plus sq.km which encompasses Satpura, Churna and Pachmarhi forests to form a biosphere reserve called Satpura Biosphere Reserve. Teak dominates but it is present mostly in mixed forests while Sal can be encountered in an around the Pachmarhi regions. Night safari is possible at buffer area for which a permit is required. Interesting nocturnal species like palm civet, large Indian civet, small Indian civet,porcupine, ratel, leopard, sloth bear and the rusty spotted cat can be encountered with luck. 

Sehra Buffer Zone

There are around 40 tigers in the region and yes sighting does take place in the tourism zone besides that of plenty of other mammals. With active conservation measures the big cat species is sure to bounce back after a ravage of more than a century. Interesting species of small cats include the felines like rusty spotted cat, desert cat and the jungle cat. 

The Lodge at Madai 

Satpura
Soft strands break in through the huge crystal clear glass panel as I read a book on Satpura from the well stocked library. A warm cup of tea keeps me rejuvenated and cookies crumble inside refreshing me to no end. Naturalist Asim and Manna arrive to give me company, I am astounded by their knowledge and dedication. Thorough indulgence in luxury and adventure has been the highlight of this visit to STR. 

It is our last day at the lodge and an emotional one. The hospitality and service has been without blemish and the jungle rides have been deeply fulfilling. For a naturalist every visit to the pristine lands is a revelation of facts hidden deep in the folds of nature and the biology of the living. The  wonderful living creatures and the surrounding earthly elements. To yearn is to learn I tell everyone - knowledge is the key so discover.    

Monday, November 12, 2018

Who Shot The Tiger?


AVNI!

The gun silenced her. The deadly bloodthirsty weapon that is responsible for death of millions of wild animals. The weapon yielding Sahib stood proud after having killed Avni. He was the master of all he surveyed not the tiger! A non government actor did he have the legal powers to kill? If not, is this the way we wish to be governed? None of the gazetted could shoot??? More hunters will be born.

The deed has been done and precious human lives have been saved. But there emerges a question mark(?) - Our conservation ethos and policies that govern wildlife in India. Another fact emerges that our administrators are helpless whence mass agitation takes place for an event that requires deeper initiative and careful handling. Exigency could be unjustified.   

A few signatures, paperwork, administrative proceedings and the ground was cleared for the extermination. No court!No Judge!No protests! No recourse to her life! Animal!

It is all populist. It is for votes. No it is for saving precious human lives...there you have it kill the tiger. We will take care of the cubs later or let them perish.   

Did Avni deserve to die? 

Don't know the answer?

Well here is the clue. 

She was allegedly responsible for death of thirteen humans who had intruded into her land now usurped. She was intruding into land slated for development and was moving in between sensitive human habitats. 

With cubs in tow she was aiming to increase her lot and claim back the land where her ancestors once roamed free. 

It is tigers versus development! Was it a happening land...under development - highways, factories, cities, storehouses, markets, shops, restaurants and what not? The way to go! Usurp all the land in the country. We are the masters. 

She was an impediment to our way of life and of course our fast changing habitat filled with the suffocating warmth of carbon dioxide, rich particles and ever pervasive foul smell that we attribute to pollution, garbage, road shit and dense human settlements.         

In India the die has been cast long time back. It is development unhindered, unplanned and a ruthless march to economic progression. We the rulers of the Earth have defined a way of life no other life form can challenge or act as an impediment. 

Peace, justice, security, prosperity and development are not possible for us amidst marauding carnivores in vicinity. They should be shot. No Hearing! No Appeal! No Redress! After all tigers are animals not humans.

History!

The erstwhile British rulers were ruthless whence it came to exterminating the wild species in India designated as vermin. The hunters took guns they brought, and the Maharajahs, elites, sahibs and their satraps indulged in ruthless orgy all contributing to cleanse the Earth of vermin so that humans could plough and live in eternal peace. They were brutal, irrational, devoid of compassion and had no understanding of nature and the diversity upon which our lives are so dependent. 

We are worse!

We follow a creed that inculcates nature worship and teaches us the value and sanctity of all life forms and the precious elements. We live in the land of Vedas!

But we have acted worse! Why blame the masters! We have killed more animals, we have extensively ravaged forests, grasslands, deserts, mountains, waterways, river systems  and other habitats for our greed and we continue to do so. Ha! We have been comprehensive.  

In contemporary India we are denotifying protected areas, we are denuding forests if not by intent then by pure negligence and greed, we are dissecting forests for highways, granting lease for mining in remaining natural lands, even small pockets of wilderness are being allocated for construction. 

Why because we certainly do not care. In my hometown an institution came up on a patch of forest  with wildlife whence there was plenty of completely denuded land around. This is our state of planning. 

Let us understand one thing the large section of administrators and politicians are unaware regarding nature conservation and many care little for our wildlife. Do not expect much from governance to take care of remaining habitats in India. The inviolate protected areas are a must but the rot does not stem at that since there is plenty of wilderness all around the country and that has to be guarded with zeal and utmost sincerity.  

We do not want the whole country to turn into urbanity comprising of highways, malls, smoke emitting factories and unplanned settlements. All this should constitute a small portion and greater expanse should be that of natural lands untouched by humanity. Stay away from our forests, rivers, deserts, mountains and grasslands, Do not kill our animals not a tiger and not even a deer. 

Tiger Conservation

Incidences like the extermination of AVANI are a cause of consternation. Are we moving in the right direction in order to save the big cat from extinction? Tiger conservation is a comprehensive program and it is a National imperative.  

As a Nation are we capable of saving the tiger? We may not lack the ability and resources but do we have the will and concern? For example can we allocate more inviolate land to the tigers and other life forms for their survival or let them suffocate in fractured land.     

Will we keep losing AVNI time and again! Saving the tiger is a matter of National Pride for all of us and we should overcome.  
Tiger - Teerath Singh

Monday, November 5, 2018

Killing The Tigers Are We Living in Stone Age?

Indian Tiger


News

The recent incidences of killings of tigers and leopards at the hand of humans is alarming and is suggestive of extreme loathing of these earthly creature. It is also suggestive of continued intrusion into wilderness - that which remains.  

Why? 

For those living in the periphery of forests an incidence of man eating could be unnerving, but the chain extends much longer for there are vested interests that are keen to exploit the situation.   

Let us be honest, in case of man eating menace the locals are the target and an extreme fear and insecurity develops. When humans are killed the sentiments rise and the immediate instinct/solution is to exterminate. This in spite of technological means that could avoid killing.    

From the killing of the tigress Avni it is evident that we do not resort to measures to stem the rot at the very beginning in order to avoid human deaths including that of the predator. Satkosia could be another impending disaster. We have to stress more on the proactive methodologies and safeguards to prevent the big cats turning aberrant. I think our institutes are doing commendable research and there is hope.  

For the politicians, bureaucrats and local leaders - the singularly powerful people - elimination of problem animal is the only solution...for them it is also a populist goal. These are the people who can pressurise the local administration into an unholy act? 

But the question remains are we in India willing to do more than just providing physical protection to the cats in protected areas? The animal survives in non designated areas as well, and the stray population is as important for the gene pool and conservation. 

Tiger conservation is a comprehensive act and it involves the whole nation. Frequent incidence of man animal conflicts indicate that there are still grey areas that remain unplugged in species management in India. The lacunae is further compounded by utter disregard towards conservation among some of the ruling coteries, bureaucrats and NGOs.  The public besides few are equally to blame for being unconcerned and ill informed. 

We live in Human First Era!

A developmental imperative accords low priority to conservation which could prove disastrous in the long run. We are destroying remaining natural habitats helter skelter in our zeal to develop commercially, urbanize and create unnatural wealth by destroying the crucial natural resources. Rabid development is not the solution for myriads of problems facing the society, and sooner or later there should be a paradigm shift. Will it be too late then?     

Man eating is not an aberration as most people believe, it could be a natural recourse in absence of prey base, since long time back we could have been a part of the food chain. An accidental encounter, stress, self defense whence in proximity all could lead to man killing and could initiate consumption of humans. The repeated act leads to the big cat being termed as man eater. 

The reason for aberrant behaviour as we term is the scarcity of prey base, destruction of its home and intrusion into its domain. All this is rampant in the present circumstances.    

It is circumstances that have pulled the species apart and we no longer are deemed as prey. But it is always in the capacity of the predator to kill us. That it does not leads to justification that the species kills only for food. Energy in the wild is crucial and a specie cannot indulge in wanton killing. The fear of humans also contribute to the big cats maintaining distance from. All life forms on Earth fear us since we have amply demonstrated our ability to kill wantonly.   

Much more is required to understand the beasts that stalk the Earth. Tigers, lions, leopards are predators along with the lesser carnivores. Their role is to limit the populations of herbivores and maintain an equilibrium. Although hunting and consumption could have been an act of natural selection or an opportunistic food preference. The specie is at the top of the food chain in most ecosystems and is crucial in maintaining the delicate balances. 

The forests which nurture the predators for example are the source of food, water security and fresh air. None of the elements that constitute this ecosystem can be removed or damaged beyond repair if the productivity has to be continued. This means the tiger is as valuable as any element in the crucial web of life that shapes our environment.    

Selfish Humans!

Humans are a selfish breed albeit they have been nurtured by the same ecosystem that was shared by other life forms. We were once part of the same food chain that now works in the remaining ecosystems all over the Earth. We constituted the tiger's prey base, and perhaps humans targeted the predators as competitors. The stone age could reveal a saga of bitter animosity between the carnivore and homo sapiens if we could peek back. But nature works in such a manner that there is no room for wanton killing.   

Saving the tiger is crucial for our environment as well as for our survival. Species extinction is like a catastrophe which we also call an Armageddon.   

The Tiger is a matter of National Pride for a diverse India. Save It!