Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tiger Conservation The Human Conundrum

This period of April and May were months of extreme upheaval in India as the nation was embroiled in a contentious parliamentary poll. The largest democracy naturally conducts the largest exercise at the hustings. The highlight of parliamentary elections in the country was of course the virulent campaigns that began and ended with unending fervor. The aftermath ended in a reverberating but gradually quietening atmosphere as the results were declared and winners took their seat.

For all political parties in India the propaganda revolves around many populist  issues, but completely neglects the conservation and environmental issues though as matter of principle they are ingrained in our policies albeit executed with scant regard.

The first to inculcate the order of nature and wildlife conservation in India where the Vedic literature, but we have conveniently forgotten them, the scientific journals have been relegated into back ground as forgotten and inconsequential part of our history.

The conservation ethos were carried forward by Asoka the Great, and after centuries of continuous destruction we had a leader in Smt.Indira Gandhi who rejuvenated the conservation practises by inducting laws that mattered. The tiger and the ecosystem as whole were the major beneficiaries of steps taken during her governance. Her zealous pursuit of protecting India's heritage was effective in conserving whatever that was left. But after her sad demise no one stepped into her shoes. 

In midst of the mind boggling exercise one issue as always took a complete back seat for nowhere was there a mention of environment and nature in a country where multitudinous masses live. All through the campaigning there was  worst kind of slander that included personal jibes, insults and revelations all at the lowest level possible.

Forget about the environment and our remaining natural heritage no issues of serious nature were ever brought forth or discussed. That is how the prospects irrespective of their drawing treat their subjects - gullible, downtrodden, ignorant and living in stone age. The appeal for the vote is more of a tamasha, steeped in loud promises of piquant favors, charismatic chest thumping and yes development.   

After the hustings all promises are forgotten except the development mantra which all parties think will offer a permanent majority in the parliament for decades. All the time the mantra of development was aimed at more than one billion people a promise if rightly fulfilled could lead to betterment of living conditions and emancipation from abject poverty the large populace is steeped in.   

The goggle eyed voters could understand the mantra of development very well but the related issues were not even in the picture. The emancipation that was promised was all that mattered - a panacea for all that ails the society.

Where would the succor come from with deteriorating climatic conditions, abject shortage of water and badly polluted environment without proper mix of air. The water shortage is a serious matter that should concern one and all especially those at the helm of governance.

We are constantly hurting our ecosystems (rivers, forests, deserts, grasslands) that deliver clean and fresh air, large tracts of forests are being decimated for linear development for highways, settlements and infrastructure expansion. Mining woes are not being mitigating at all. Environmental clearances are taking place in a jiffy with no serious thought to impending disasters, industrial belts and deadly polluting mega industries are taking their toll in this country with ever increasing haste.

Species endangerment is taking place with the blink of the eye. A large number of species have already been lost. Does all this not matter? Aren't the participants of the democratic process the citizens not entitled to enlightenment as to what safeguards are being put in place that would prevent further depredation. Should not they be revealed during the poll propaganda? Who bothers? 

Human centric development has always been the core practice of ruling polities with abject disregard for nature. This has been a global phenomenon and cuts across the vast spectrum of political establishments everywhere. India is not alone in this disastrous way of governance, we are in tandem with the World.

But ironically this does not alarm us. Nature is our life support system but we have taken it for granted. A denuded patch of forest does not raise eyebrows as it should hence climate change in worst form is imminent.

A radical shift has to take place among the rulers as to how development and urbanization should be carried out. All the hindrances which are genuine should be respected and alternative found. You cannot write off a strip of forest just to aid a highway or an industrial area. But this is happening and slowly we are destroying our green lungs and precious habitats which will augur climate change to extreme.

The effect of our haste will result in an environmental condition that would make species survival  (including man) extremely difficult. The tiger has been the worst sufferer being an indicator species sitting at the top of food chain we cannot let it go. Proper development policies without damaging the ecosystems, and keeping in mind the environmental consequences are imperative we should change over to.

For every step we take towards so called development we have to keep its impact on nature all the time. The institutions in India will play a major role in safeguarding our environment in times to come. Provided  there is the necessary radical shift in our perspective and less destructive paradigm sets in. 

The public should play an important role as a watchdog and be conscious about social ills like exponential population growth which has to be brought down. Not only as tourists, we should reduce the biotic pressures on our surroundings in day to day living with responsible lifestyle.

Uday works as a naturalist at Kanha National Park in India.
He oftens writes on conservation issues as blogger.
He can be contacted:

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Amazing Jungle Lore - The Tiger & The Bison - Coexistence in Harmony

One Hot Summer!

Guests Ansi & Micheal UK
Courtyard House Kanha
Kanha National Park - Central India 

Little could I imagine whence I stopped the safari jeep at Nakti Ghati (a large water body) as to what all would transpire.  Wild safaris at Kanha National Park turn electric at any given moment but more so if you know the place well and the movement of the animals.   

Albeit, I knew this was the area of a huge male, we actually stopped to get a glimpse of birds as well as admire the lovely and pristine landscape. Kanha landscape retains its pristine glory, frozen in time and space whence our prehistoric ancestors roamed in the wilderness. The tigers in this area are less seen...one reason being less vehicular movement. Hence it is at such places that surprise sightings take place. 

Confined to our jeep, I was photographing the creatures of the wetland, and my guest were busy admiring the surroundings. Well we were in no hurry as some jeeps zipped past us. 

"Let them go," I blurted to the guide and the driver. "We are in no hurry!" 

My movements during the safaris are sometimes heavily laboured as I try to capture the essence of every nook and corner...in jungle parlay it means a niche habitat. 

Those who have never been to Kanha should visit Nakti Ghati water body if they ever do. We were heading towards the Kanha Meadow in order to see the tigers which we had located in the morning. And so after the brief we decided to move ahead. But as soon as the driver placed his fingers on the starter I  stopped him. 

"A sambar alarm cry," I whispered. 

Now this is a sure shot sign of a tiger's presence for these large Asian deers' are rarely alarmed by small predators or spooked, and not often surprised by jeep movements. 

"It could be a leopard,"my driver whispered back. Well I had seen tiger pug marks often here and I was expecting one to arrive to drink. Anyway we decided to wait, the alarm cries continued intermittently stopping for a brief - now and then. 

In order to track tiger one needs incredible patience, a time tested quality of all experienced  naturalists and forest guides. There is a deep urge to move ahead in order not to miss the imagined. Ha!    

"Lets shift the jeep back to the bunch of trees behind us, I instructed the driver." He did. 

In case of tigresses most of them are very very shy and if you are not inconspicuous or dead silent they never emerge as has been my experience. 

The alarm cries where confusing emerging from different direction but all close by. This made us think that a tigress was trying to move stealthily away from us after having seen the jeep. They usually do before we can spot them. 

Well we stayed put, and silent. Nothing happened, and the forest guide suggested that we move ahead without losing any more time. We had waited for almost half and hour. But I had an inclination that whatever it was a tiger or a tigress it had moved behind us. So I instructed the driver to move behind us to about twenty yards and wait for at least five minutes. Well we did not had to wait that long. For from behind the far away bushes a huge male tiger emerged walked coolly towards us, crossed the road, and headed towards the water body. These creatures, the male tigers are bold and dominant, they rarely flinch a muscle in presence of man.

Can you imagine what transpires in your mind and body whence you sight a tiger like that? If you cannot then join me in a tiger safari and bet on your luck and my tracking. Both are essential. Anyway my guests were busy with their mobile camera, and I with my Sony Bridge Camera  busy making a video.   

We knew that the tiger (with a gash on the right brow) would move towards the water in this summer heat. And so we moved back to the wooden bridge at Nakti Ghati and found the tiger immersing back first into the water. It had managed to frighten the sambar and spotted deer but a group of bisons (Gaur) persisted. 

Normally the snorting bisons (blowing wind from their nostrils) too move away to avoid being close to this magnificent predator. But this did not happen. 

An Amazing Spectacle! A Spirit of Coexistence!

Their where two behavioural surprises here. One, the tiger nearly always moves away from the huge bison. In fact most of the guides do not look for the big cat in vicinity of the Gaur. The second surprise was that the bisons too keep a safe distance from the predator. This time they stayed close busy quenching their thirst.

None of this happened as we watched absolutely stunned. The distance between the tiger in water and the gaurs was perhaps not more than five yards. And both were quenching their thirst peacefully without any apprehension. I have captured this sighting in my videos and inserted them here.

In wild, energy is a crucial life support element to be preserved, the bisons having noticed the mood of the male tiger were at ease and did not scamper away. They could see him well and hence could scamper if any aggression did take place. That saves energy!

There was no show of aggression as both had one purpose that of quenching thirst in the heat of the summer. The bisons, as usually all females were in a group, so less chance of being attacked. Anyway the carnivore was not on a hunt. 

The moral of the story live in harmony with a spirit of coexistence in diversity.  

We watched the spectacle in peace for a long time as the tiger often raised his huge head to look at us now and then. In absolute silence and privacy we waited a long time enjoying the ethereal moment and then turned back to the gate to make a timely exit.

Uday Works as Sr.Naturalist at Kanha National Park in India
He loves to blog on Indian Wildlife and Tiger Conservation
Contact: pateluday90@hotmail.com