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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 monsoon...it 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


Regulations 

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!

30/7/2017
Jabalpur

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.