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 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 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