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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Basking Crocodiles

The first sight of Ramganga River forced me to call halt! The jeep driver was bit surprised at sudden intrusion into the smooth drive to rest house in Corbett tiger reserve. This was my first visit to Corbett in Uttaranchal a few years back.

With the large stretch of clear blue transparent waters and white stone on the banks - Ramganga river is an enchanting site to behold. I had never seen such beautiful river in my life earlier.

We were on the way to Sarapduli rest house in the core area of the Corbett National park famous for tigers and wild elephants. Sarapduli in my opinion is the best place to stay on a wildlife safari although certainly not star class. The rest house is surrounded on three sides by dense forests and a steep slope in the front which leads to the river bank.

Though silent at day time Sarapduli comes alive to the roars of the tigers and alarm cries of deer in the night time. For a wildlife lover what more? In wee hour of the morning in bitter cold and dense fog a number of Indian birds of come to perch on the surrounding trees and shrubs.

On my first day I photographed basking crocs on river bank. It was one of the best photo shoot I have had of the reptiles. I missed a tiger by a whisker, whence returning from the photo shoot. The pug marks were clearly visible on the damp soil of the trickle from the marshy grasslands. I could see sweat on brows of the accompanying forest guard as he ushered me out of there back to the rest house.

In summers the rest house is crowded by wild elephants and the whole camp is alive in the night. It is feverish with activity in effort to ward off the elephants and there cubs from the premises of the rest house. Elephant watchers visit the park February onwards to see wild elephants that are every where especially in the extensive grasslands.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Kanha Kisli

The name brings nostalgic memories of Kanha of old. I remember when I first visited Kanha in early seventies. That time the National Park was popularly known as Kanha Kisli.

The reason for the park being called Kanha Kisli was due to villages in what is now the core area of the park. When you enter the park from Khatia gate you first reach Kisli, here the village has been shifted out of the park and only the British period rest houses remain. Besides the two rest houses and canteen an MPTDC hotel and a dormitory has come up and a day center for the forest staff. The petrol pump is also functioning at Kisli.

Outside the park in the periphery of the buffer zone the lodges at Kanha have far overtaken the rest house which now caters to VIPs and Government officers of top ranking. At that time the rest houses where in near dilapidated condition and you had to cook your own food. At the time of my visit the village at Kisli was still there but shifted soon after.

Tigers prowled the vicinity of the rest house we stayed in, and one could hear the roars at night time. Thankfully tigers still prowl there and roars can be heard even now. Villages at Kanha where shifted earlier and the rest house is now a museum. At hill top at Kanha the Field Director’s residence is enveloped by forest canopy and is one of most enviable object for a tiger lover like me.

Kanha museum is worth visiting informative and entertaining as it is. For those on tiger safari Kanha is a resting stop where one is allowed to consume eatables prohibited elsewhere in the park. If you are not carrying food then visit the canteen for some hot tea and spicy samosas.

On that trip I spotted a tigress and large herds of Bison or gaur as they are called in Hindi. The gaur population was depleted in 1976 due to rinderpest attack. The swamp deer or hard ground barasingha where struggling to survive and were penned in a large enclosure. This assured of an increasing population in times to come and conservation of this rare animal is history.
The road to Kanha was lined with pristine forests and small but quaint tribal villages. Now a whole community of retailers, small business men, hoteliers and what not has added to the population. The urbanization forces you to find succor within the National Park.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Elephant Trekkers – The Mahouts

The most exciting experience of tiger safari in Central Indian tiger reserves are of course the elephant rides which take you into the deep recess of the jungles. Albeit long rides on elephant back is a thing of the past with only Bandhavgarh offering it? This long ride is subject to availability and to current policies of the reserve. And exorbitantly costly affordable only by those who are cash rich.

Nevertheless tiger safari on elephant back can still be enjoyed for a short distance during the tiger shows. During tiger show you are taken on an elephant back from your vehicle to the spot where the tiger has been cordoned by a group of park elephants. One can enjoy elephant safari at Bandhavgarh tiger reserve, Kanha and Pench National Park in Central Indian tiger reserves.

Elephants bear the gruel of the rough terrain and a difficult routine so do their riders or mahouts. The routine starts at perhaps four in the morning in winters it is freezing cold. The elephants are fed by the mahouts and then saddled if you may call it that.

In the National Parks wild tiger trekking on elephant begins immediately at predawn in the darkness of the night. As expert trekkers that elephant drivers are they succeed often. With a clue here and there a pug mark fresh, alarm calls of distressed deer or a tiger roar whatever. Picking these clues the mahouts ride deep into the inaccessible forest and trek down the tiger.

The communication between the elephant and his driver is a matter of marvel. The team work that whole lot of driven elephants and their drivers is a marvel again. By the time the tiger is located and shown to you much of trekking has been done. Keeping the located tiger at one place is again demonstration of the mahouts skill and the resilience of their animal.

It is not easy to keep the tiger at one place yet they succeed amazingly. If the tiger gets restive they manage to hold him for a long time till beyond a certain point he is wisely let go off.

Elephant ride in through the dense canopy of dagger like and equally menacing bamboo clumps, steep rocky inclines and twisting water beds is an experience never to be avoided. Though petrifying at times you will relish the thrill of this elephant ride. Trust Me!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Where can I see the tiger?

Lot of tourists come to India hoping to see the tiger - rare and endangered - charismatic and powerful. Many ask me where can I see the tiger best?

There are many qualities about the Bengal tiger which makes it extremely popular all over the World. Myths and legends galore and the superhuman prowess of the tiger's strength the list is endless and would go on and on. Certainly I have encountered very few tourists who wished to see a tiger because it was endangered - Believe me!

Another reason is the thrill that the animal exudes among humans at its sight. Unfortunately many myths and mysticism associated with the animals has been the reason for its persecution. The tiger's power and strength has made many people believe that any part you consume of the tiger will deliver potent effect....nothing can be far from truth. Hence Chinese system of medicine is committed to the same fallacy and the tiger suffers. For most of the tiger poaching is due to the demand for its bones and other body parts in Chinese medicines. (SIC!)

Well, coming back to the question the best places to see the tiger in India are definitely as follows:

Kanha National Park - Central India

Bandhavgarh National Park - Central India

Pench National Park - Central India

Ranthambhore National Park - Rajasthan

Corbett National Park - Uttaranchal

Panna National Park

Choose these places in order for a tiger safari tour to see the tiger. Kanha and Bandhavgarh are my favorite places. All the above are tiger reserves and receive good degree of protection under Project tiger hence the tiger population is growing here.

When planning for a tiger safari in India one must first find out all about where to see the tiger best in accordance with one's itinerary. Contact a good travel agent online and get maximum tour details possible.

It is best to plan our trip in advance and assure all the travel details before leaving for the trip. There are many luxury hotels in Kanha and other National Parks. Choose the one that fits your budget and delivers what you desire. Many luxury hotels at Bandhavgarh, Pench and Kanha arrange tiger safaris for your trip. Some even provide trained naturalist guide service withing the package.

A minimum three nights package tour is advised since in that period you have an optimum chance of tiger sighting in the parks. Though tiger tourism in India is expensive some what but it is worth going for a tiger safari on your visit to India. Safaris are the best ways to celebrate holidays and long vacations.

The best season is always except during the holiday period and festival times when the traffic in the parks could be unnerving and hinder wildlife sightings. These places are by all means good for birding trips especially in winters when the migrants arrive.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tiger Photographer at Bandhavgarh

Tiger pictures by Micheal Vickers from Bandhavgarh National Park in Central India.

Tiger Photography by Micheal Vickers


It is said that wildlife photography is an adventure, but when adventure produces art indescribable, it is an ode to the natural World. An ode in its finest form.

Mr Micheal J Vickers from United Kingdom is a photographer par excellence as I just discovered. This is not hyperbole. A look at his images will justify the praise. It is easy to photograph tiger in a wild safari since the safaris are so well organized in India. But paradoxically it is impossible to capture rare moments by load since on a jeep safari the photographers is so restricted. This holds true on an elephant back also...the angle is awkward...and the elephant is never stable.

The images of tigers are published on my blog with due permission from Micheal for which I am gratefull. I will be publishing accounts of his expeditions in Indian forests as well. Micheal 's photographs have been published in prestigious wildlife magazing from BBC and in literature by Born Free Foundation. In publications by EIA and David Shepard Wildlife Foundation.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Bandhavgarh Tiger Photograph


Tiger at Bandhavgarh National Park

Image by Nev Robinson - Australia

Friday, October 24, 2008

Festival Time at Tiger Parks

Festival times at Indian tiger reserves is an event of mad rush. The National Parks in India are subject to traffic beyond carrying capacity. All over there is a hustling bustling crowd of tourists and tourist mongers. Service providers and seekers. The poor animals suffer!

This is a perfect example of lack of foresight. Number of times forest officials and perhaps tourism managers have been advised to open up infrastructure in other wildlife places. This will, apart from bringing cost down for ecotourism, reduce pressure on major tiger reserves as Kanha National Park in Central India, Pench reserve, Corbett and Bandhavgarh National Park the most popular. Incidentally this is an earning time for wildlife resorts in National Parks. But than this is not responsible tourism.

Good thing that has happened is that number of entries into the park have been restricted in Central Indian National Parks. Similarly other keystone species should be highlight to take pressures off tiger parks. Few good examples are wild elephant safari at Corbett and Rhino tours at Kaziranga National Park in Assam state of India. Lion safari at Gir National Park should be promoted more. The list is endless. Even for birding there are lot other birding spots that need promotion. I have been to Nalsarovar and Thol at Gujarat near Ahmedabad they are prime birding areas but lack development.

There are lot of wildlife sanctuaries that can attract a large number of tourists - even those who cannot afford to visit major reserves due to high travel cost. This will benefit the locals in terms of employment and strengthen conservation effort.

The best that most wildlife sanctuaries in India offer are a rest house for accommodation which is not readily available to general public. The road and tourism infrastructure is in a mess here and organized wildlife safari is impossible here. These places offer good wildlife viewing and may harbor rare exotic wildlife. Tourism here will help in conservation as well as exploration of the forests.

Some ignored parks and sanctuaries are:

Sanjay National Park

Nauradehi Sanctuary

Bori Sanctuary

Satpura National Park

All in Madhya Pradesh

Achanakmar Sanctuary Chhattisgarh

Indravati National Park in Chhattisgarh.

and many many more in India where tourism can be developed.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kanha or Bandhavgarh tour

Many tiger enthusiasts and wildlife photographers ask me about the best place to see tigers in India?

My straight forward answer is Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench tiger reserves in Central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Among others....if these destination are not reachable then Ranthambhore and Corbett National Park are also good tiger havens and wildlife resorts the latter being excellent for elephant safari in India. All three Central Indian parks are accessible from Jabalpur town in MP with air service from Delhi, while Pench and Kanha are also accessible from Nagpur town with flights from many major towns. Trains also ply between these towns from Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta.

Kanha or Bandhavgarh?

It is a difficult question to answer as both excel in tiger sightings. What I can say is that Kanha is larger with more mammalian species to see eg. Bison & Hard ground swamp deer. For those interested only in tiger photography then I would suggest either of the two or both. For those with wider photographic angle they should visit Kanha. But the best season for nature and wild tiger photography is February and after if you can stand the rising heat.

For first time visitors on tiger tour should visit Kanha and then Bandhavgarh since tiger is going to call them back I am sure.

Bandhavgarh National Park is extremely beautiful wildlife paradise with enchanting ancient remains of fort, temples, man made caves and stables etc. The landscape is esoteric and quaint and tigers abound. Bird life is also very interesting here and approximately two hundred and fifty birds have been recorded here which includes winter migrants.
Pench
is again exciting place with rising tiger sightings every year and different floral elements since it is a dry deciduous mix tropical forest. Leopard sightings have been good at Pench and so is the Indian wolf seen sometimes with luck. It is the setting for Kipling's "Jungle Book"- Mowgli the wolf child was discovered here. The birding too is very exciting at Pench tiger reserve and one can see lots of raptors and Malabar pied horn bill with ease. Reptiles and lesser fauna are mostly nocturnal and rare.

All the tiger reserves provide good hotel accommodation facilities from budget to luxury resorts. The only thing is that one should book tiger tours in advance as number of vehicle entries are restricted in these parks hence advance booking of accommodation and park safari is advised. Most of the resorts and jungle camps are well equipped for tiger tourism and arrange tiger safaris for eco tourists while some also provide trained naturalists to help trek tigers and deliver a holistic experience of these magnificent paradises of Earth.

Time to avoid tiger tours if you can is Diwali holidays and Christmas time up to Jan first week. Albeit this year vehicle entry restrictions will somehow manage the rush.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Indian wildlife

Wildlife of India

India is gifted with diverse habitats that overwhelms a visitor on each and every visit. The landscape is unique and amazing.

From cold climate of the Himalayas to Hot deserts of Rajasthan. In East there are tropical forests and to the West affinity with Ethiopian zoo geographical region. Hence the lion in Gujarat at Gir famous for it's Asiatic lion safari which have become very popular. And the famous Sunder bans National Park in West Bengal the abode of the Bengal tigers. The plains of Ganges delta differ much fro Indian peninsular region and so does the wilderness.

In the south Wildlife of Kerala the and true tropical forests in Western ghats. Southern culture differs from Western and Northern cultures in India and so does the cultures of the East. The diversity of India compliments in wildlife and biodiversity which changes as fast as the language and culture does after every hundred kilometers.

India has more mammalian species as compared to Africa and so is the number of Indian bird species. the bird species in India amounts to thirteen percent plus of the total species of birds in the World.

The insect and reptilian life is unique and yet to be discovered. From point to point region to region wildlife differs and how it does write to me Uday Patel from India.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tragedy at Kanha

The most gentlemanly creature on Earth is tiger. This fact is well enumerated in wildlife journals and story books. But yet man fears this creature the most due to myths and mystical beliefs.

The tiger is an enigma and mystery and many describe the animal as most fearsome creature with spiritual powers that can wreck havoc on its enemy - man.

But in my years of scouring tiger forests, I have never come across an incidence of wanton killing by this magnificent beast. The explanation is forthright...tiger kills only for food. This sentence on tiger facts should sum it all for logical beings who understand the meanings of written and spoken words well.

The incidence took place this year when a "chara cutter" (grass cutter) had gone into the forest in early morning hours to fetch the elephants that track tigers and carryover tourists to the spot where the tiger has been located by mahouts or elephant riders.

It was the wee hour of the morning with visibility near zero. The chara cutter had moved into the forest right up to the Kanha Meadow...laboriously following the elephant spoor. Whence he reached the meadow he realized that the elephant he was looking for was deeper inside.

Kanha meadow is the prime tiger country and is at present a grassland habitat for a tigress with cubs. Death was lurking in the darkness for the poor man. He had no idea that he was close to the tigress with cubs. Tigresses are over zealously protective mothers and charge at anyone who dares come threateningly close to the cubs.

The defense mechanism of tigers is simple...run away or move quietly from all dangers, and in other circumstance offense becomes the best defense. The latter was the case of the chara cutter of whose intentions the tigress was unsure. In order to defend herself and the cubs near by see charged. The chara cutter could see the tigress moving aggressively towards him. His last word over the wireless communication set was a desperate call for help.

It was all over in seconds and the mahouts who landed up on the spot later found him lying in pool of blood - dead. Death is instantaneous in a tiger attack as the canines target the neck region in order to rupture the blood vessels and the vertebrae is crushed completely on impact.

Had the tigress been alone she would have quietly moved out of the picture, but with the cubs around it was not possible, hence she charged at the two legged creature. In local folklore it is said that the tiger marks its prey much in advance by sound, but I have on many instances seen tiger surprised by other animals and man. This is because of preoccupation at times. She may have come to know of the man's presence but had no idea that he would come so close. She must have missed his approach as her attention was riveted on the cubs.

Had she enough time to move the cubs into a hiding, I am sure a life would have been saved.

I saw the tigress on many wildlife safaris later, carrying over her tiger business of finding prey or just relaxing after a successful hunt. There was no aggression or blood thirst on her countenance.

"It was pure self defense man," she seemed to inform me apologetically.

The false beliefs about tiger cruelty and about the magical healing powers of its bones has put the graceful and beautiful animal unto sad plight.

God Save The Tiger!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tiger Safari at Barnawapara

Situated in the newly carved state of Chattisgarh in Central India, Barnawapara Sanctuary is one of the popular wildlife destinations in India. Set in the district of Mahasamund, Barnawapara Sanctuary is small wildlife preserve with an area of two hundred and forty five kilometers as compared with area of Kanha National Parkwhich is 1945 sq.kms.

  • Fauna

In terms of wildlife viewing Barnawapara sanctuary is unique and has mammalian population equal to major National Parks and Tiger Reserves of India. Major mammals like tiger, leopard and number of deer species make Barnawapara their home. Flying squirrel, hyena and other lesser seen animals like chinkara and four horned deer are visible here.

The sanctuary has size able numbers of bison and sambar. The chital population is well established to support major carnivora like, tigers, leopards and Indian wild dogs.

  • Flora
The forests are mixed tropical dry deciduous type with prominence of Teak, Sal and Saaj. The undualting terrain supports Bamboo on slope and mixed tree species on plains. Other species of trees found at Barnawapara are Semal, Mahua, Ber and Tendu.

Best time to visit Barnawapara sanctuary is from November to June.

The sanctuary is at a distance of eighty five kilometers from Raipur and sixty kilometers from Mahasamund railway station.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tiger in the Bush

On my recent visit to Kanha, last week in June, I had a tough time locating tigers. It had rained a day before I arrived and continued to rain intermittently spoiling the tiger safari. Except for herds of Chittal and occasional sightings of Sambar deer it was difficult toe see any other animal.

On the second round of the wild life safari a barking deer went scurrying past too fast for my English guests to take some photographs. The rain kept troubling us and it was at times very heavy.

"Do we have a chance to locate the tiger?" Chris asked rather dejected.

"Very thin chance I replied." The tigers are inactive and their movement is limited as water and prey is available very close to them."

"So they keep to dense thickets?"

"Yes definitely Chris that is why there are no alarm cries or pug marks on the road." I replied unhappy that I was not able to show the tiger to my guests.

We did manage to see the Hard ground Barasingha, Gaur, a lone Jackal and eventually a Barking deer. And yes lots of birds. But my guests did not go away disappointed after all as we saw the Bengal tiger in a tiger show on the last round before leaving. It was the same tiger that had walked alongside us for a long time in January. The same tiger was well camouflaged hidden and sulking in the bush.

The camouflage was so perfect that even a few feet from the bush we could not make out that a tiger was sitting there in a bush and that even a large full grown tiger. The only clue was a partially eaten wild boar which it had hunted the night before.

With little bit of elephant maneuvers we could lay our eyes on the tiger and the guests could get some superlative images of the tiger as seen from the network of branches and twigs.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Kanha in Rains..

Kanha is subject to many seasons like any where else in India. The rains have major impact as they manage to get the park closed albeit delivering much succor to the tourist fed wildlife. The visitor stream is never ending at this magnificent nature preserve. The visitors keep coming even if the rain is forecast such is the attraction for this tiger habitat.

The drizzle casts a sheen of silver gray haze over the forests and savanna grasslands. The sun is conspicuous by its absence it is enchanting experience to go for a wildlife safari at Kanha. It is a new experience although Indian wildlife watching is difficult as all animals except the spotted deer move deep in the jungle. The tigers after facing the grime of the hot summers celebrate the cool rains and move in deep into the forest and relax. The rains ends the stress among the life forms at Kanha. It rejuvenates and nourishes and regenerates the whole ecosystem.

The surroundings are serene peaceful and refreshing thanks to the absence of heat and strong sunlight. The resorts at Kanha accommodate the last stream of visitors as they prepare for the end of the tourist season. For many resorts it is time to recollect the business that they fetched and what more they can do to make tiger safari adventure more appealing to the visitors.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Tiger Cubs

This year has been good for Ranthambhore tiger reserve in Rajasthan and Pench tiger reserve (Seoni Hills)in Madhya Pradesh. Tigers are prolific breeders but the extent to which their population has been decimated in last hundred years that this fecundity is hardly noticeable.

The reckless poaching has resulted in extermination of population all over India and has even resulted into skewed sex ratio at places. Combined with stress of human interference and continued threat of live stock and prey base depletion tigers survived in reserves and bred well. There was a marked rise in population of tigers in some National Parks. But when places which are disturbed and suspected of being under attack by the poachers - as Ranthambhore - report fourteen tiger cubs being born in the park, it is indeed heartening news. This also shows that the sex ratio among male and female tigers there is in balance and mating is taking place regularly.

Similarly at Pench nine tiger cubs where born recently. Pench is an upcoming tiger reserve in terms of sighting and successful breeding of tigers has resulted in good tiger sighting in the wild in recent times.

Another benefit of larger number of tiger reserves reporting good tiger sighting is that the tourism pressure will spread even and let off some air from Kanha and Bandhavgarh. The lodges and resorts at Pench and Ranthambhore tiger reserve will also see greater number of visitors if this trend continues.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Can you smell a Bengal tiger?

At Kanha that bitter cold morning in January this year, when sun was just on level with the horizon, I felt the worst punctured tire feeling in my life, ever. Right in the presence of my guests from UK. Ooof!

Can you smell a tiger? I asked the park guide inquisitively as we entered the park.

Sahaab! Have you come here for the first time? He! He! He replied with a crooked arrogant smile. Me my sophisticated binocs, fancy hat and bird/animal books and all.

"No" I retorted back at the guide rather hurt.

"You will learn Sir! Anyway tigers do not smell." He gave me an amused look as he said this.

Worst was about to follow!

Shhh! Sir! Please sit now and relax so that I can show tigers and wild animals to the guests, and then he nonchalantly turned away to peer in the dense thickets.

And I was the nature guide. (I hope no one is around.)

I must have been visiting Kanha/Bandhavgarh when this gentleman guide was in his mother's womb. That's no criteria for gauging a naturalists expertise, anyway.

Well is it! The Bengal tiger eats years, that is what I have learned in so many years of my roaming in the wild.

The tigers smell believe me, but I have not smelled it more than once..the smell was like a meaty...on so many occasions, I have come few feet near to the tiger and they did not smell?

But on that occasion at Bandhavgarh we located the tiger by smell on the forest edge besides the road to Chur bahera grassland.

It is instinct that some times leads you to the tiger. That instinct comes from within, only if you are as tiger crazy as I am.

Like that few second extra wait (much to the chagrin of Waheed driver and guide) when the tiger started to roar from the ravine....just at the moment when the wait seemed to be futile and foolish....

It is all the wonder of evolution for if a tiger smelled strongly every now and then, then it will go hungry for sure. When and how it emits odor that our olfactory senses can catch? This is the secret of tiger biology.

This is still a mystery perhaps one day we will discover.

*( The park guides at Kanha are a fine lot, and you do learn from their day to day excursion in the park every time) .

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

White Bengal tiger

The world's most charismatic animal and the rarest is no more found in the wild. The white tiger was discovered in the wild jungles somewhere near the forests of Govindgarh which is near the Bandhavgarh tiger reserve.

It is said that a white tiger cub was found alive in a hunting expedition, the mother and other cubs where killed. The erstwhile Maharaja of Rewa who governed the region decided to capture the cub alive. The white tiger cub was eventually captured by Maharaja' team and kept in Govindgarh palace. The white tiger cub was named as Mohan.

The white tiger is a recessive gene and not an albino or a sub species as it was earlier thought. This animal lacks the yellow pigment completely hence the resultant color of the fur is black and white. The white tiger's habit and habitat is same as normal orange tigers.

The history of white tiger shows that there where other white tigers discovered and shot in India in earlier times. But the white tigers in the zoo are the progeny of Mohan. The white tiger breeds with orange or normal colored tigers naturally and hence the population has grown in the zoos.

There have been no more white tigers discovered in the wild till this date. The fact is the Bengal tiger population and its habitat has come down so drastically that chances of finding a white Bengal tiger in the wild has dimmed.

There are some morphological difference ascribed to white tigers as pink lips, icy blue eyes and larger size, which maybe true but it needs research to verify the facts. When I am on a tiger safari I keep a look out for white tigers. This may seem far fetched but who knows.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Indian Tiger Reserves

The best tiger reserves are without doubt in the following order. These ratings are for tiger sighting point of view. (Other reserves have their own plus points)

  • Kanha Tiger Reserve

  • Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve

  • Pench Tiger Reserve

  • Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve

  • Corbett Tiger Reserve

The first two have very high density of tigers while Pench is following suit as new breeds of tiger arrive and survive. The splendor of Kanha comes to life when you visit it. High number of major mammals inhabit Kanha. Bandhavgarh is unique with wildlife and historical relics of the past. It is most scenic and enchanting.

The survival rates of tiger cubs in these National Parks is very high. Recently 14 tiger cubs where sighted at Ranthambhore. Corbett is recently said to have high visibility of tigers but the focus there is on birding and wild elephants.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Man eating tigers of India

Every since Jim Corbett published accounts of man eating tigers in Kumaon region, the phenomena of man eating tigers and leopards reached the World.

Tigers are top predators in the food chain. They are tertiary carnivores and hence indicator species of the forest ecosystems. The main prey base of the tigers and leopards are the herbivores albeit the big cats eat anything that walks on four legs. In Indian forests the tigers hunt spotted deer, sambar deer, swamp deer, wild boar, langur monkey and at times bison, elephant calf and porcupine. Tigers are known to predate on leopards but that is more of a territorial conflict than the quest for food.

Tigers are dense forest animals and avoid open or scrub forest. They need cover to hide since they hunt by ambush. They need lot of shade as they cannot bear the heat. Hence good prey base, dense forest cover and water is essential to a tigers habitat.

By nature humans are not included in tiger's food. The reason is that tigers are afraid of humans and avoid them always. The jungles of India once harbored a large number of tigers before deforestation, unchecked hunting and poaching took its toll. Susbsequently it affected the prey base or the population of the herbivores. The scarcity of prey base put the tiger under a major stress and some resorted to man eating by accident in these circumstances. In quest for food, tigers in forests with inadequate prey base wandered near human habitation. In search of food they began to lift cattle. In the conflict with man it sometimes resulted in accidental killing of humans. On discovering the ease with which humans could be killed the tigers emboldened with this finding went on killing spree where lot of humans lost their lives.

Tigers also turned into man eaters when injured by hunters to such an extent that they could not hunt their natural prey since their hunting prowess get affected. Unprofessional adventurous shikaris where the main culprits behind this man killing by tigers.

Once the tiger turns into a man eater it goes after humans with amazing efficiency. A man eating tiger is difficult to track and kill as it moves swiftly from one place to another in order to avoid alerting humans. A man eating tiger can cover a range of as much as hundred kilometers during the period. The incidence of man killing has come down drastically as there are hardly any tigers left outside prime habitats. The incidence of man killing by leopards is still higher as the leopard is more stressed out due to want of space and prey base.

Rarely do tigers kill by intent. There are accidental killings taking place by tigers and these rarely result in tiger turning into a man eater. The accidents happen if humans venture too close to an unaware tiger, a tiger on kill or to a tigress with cubs. The first instinct of tigers is to move away from human beings. But in certain circumstances this is not possible and the animal is forced to attack in self defense.

Tiger is a gentleman and follows the law of the jungle to a tee. Man eating under all circumstances is an aberration as even the most powerful of the tigers are known to fear man.

If tigers are conserved in India and their habitats are kept intact there would be no man killing incidences. The tigers face a road uphill, and their survival seems to be a deep uncertainty.

Labeling tigers as horrible and cruel man killers without understanding the real cause results in hatred being created for the animal. It is labeled of as vermin (as in earlier times) in minds of the human society which further escalates its chances of facing extinction in India and elsewhere.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tiger Photos


The tiger on the left came out coolly from a dried river bed and walked for more the a kilometer in front of our jeep without even a glance at us..he just kept on walking and then sat down to have a look at the surroundings before vanishing in the wild. Brr! it was a cold winter morning ..but the tiger spread warmth..he.he!



Tiger marking territory
Tiger Photographs taken at Tiger Safari at Kanha Tiger reserve in India.

The images are of different tigers taken in a span of three days at different habitats in Kanha forest.

This young male at left behind dense foliage killed the largest male in Kanha "Kaunda" along with his brother in order to command a territory. Kanha is the best place for tiger photography in India besides other tiger reserves.

These pics of an adult tiger marking its territory below.. soft bark of tree trunk being scratched with its sharp claws. In the next pic he is rubbing loose the pheromone on grass.


Male tiger


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tiger - Photography - Nature

tiger scent markingstiger breeding behaviourThese photographs are video trimmings of tigers at tiger safari at Kanha National Park. The photos depict tiger biology and habits to some extent...

Tiger spraying pheromones in its territory this is a way indicate to tigress of its presence and warn other male tigers to stay out. The tiger penis is bent in reverse direction and the hormone or urine laden with pheromone is sprayed on tree barks, clump of grass, leaves etc.

mating tigers
Tigers scenting another male tiger or tigress in estrous..ready for mating.


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Tiger on a kill in this case a spotted deer fawn which it had killed couple of hours ago. Tigers hunt mostly in the night but no rule hunger is hunger and it will hunt its prey any time of the day if required. Tigers ignore human beings when they are involved in an activity including rest. This is really surprising as they can be very shy and elusive at times..they are afraid of human beings.
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Tiger are thirsty animals and drink often in a day especially after a meal as in the case of this young tiger. Tigers love water as they are incapable of standing the heat of Indian summers. They move deep into the forest and lie in a shade or dip in a water to cool themselves ...this is known as thermo regulation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tracking the tiger


Tiger Safari

Tracking tigers in the wild is most exciting and thrilling adventure but only for those who can take disappointment at times in a stride. It is an exhaustive exercise though sometimes the luck favors early.

Like all primary predators tigers leave telltale signs that may lead to the animal. The primary source is the alarm cries of the herbivores and birds who on sighting or scenting the tiger give a typical call. One should be able to make out the vocalization of the tiger. Other indications are the pug marks, excreta and territorial markings.

One needs trained eyes to see tiger which is always in excellent camouflage and of course sensitive ears to hear the alarm cries and tiger calls. Intuition sometimes works but once in blue moon. The reaction and behavioral pattern of the animals too indicates the presence of the Bengal tigers in the forests and grassland ecosystems.

In tiger reserves tracking tigers on the foot is not allowed one must track them while on a jeep which limits accessibility and makes the task more difficult. One must also understand bit of tiger biology and have complete understanding of the ecosystem as whole.

Understanding tiger movements and its habitual routine is also important in fact very important. Knowing the terrain is important as well. This is an exciting profession which requires years of experience. Though I am a freelancer wildlife/content writer of shorts and as an amateur naturalist I get enough opportunity to get the tigers and sometimes handsome tips....

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tiger Tour at Kanha Tiger Reserve

Kanha beckons and again and again. Serenity is salubrious and the grandeur is amazing. It is an exciting amphitheater where tigers rule over man.....majestic...real life Bengal tigers. The amazing diversity invites a large number of tourists, wildlife photographers and researchers.

Over the years wild animal population has increased in the park. This has happened alongside the growth in vegetation and forest canopy. The rivers have become robust, water holes, rivulets, tanks and man made dams retain water for a longer time.

The number of Bengal tigers in the park is steadily increasing thanks to conservation. Kanha National Park will play a key role in saving the tiger from extinction.  

Kanha tiger reserves is the right place for wild Bengal tiger safari in India. Apart from the tiger, Kanha is famous for the Hard ground barasingha (cervus duavcelli branderi) or the swamp deer which was saved form the brink of extinction thanks to dedication and ground breaking research by Dr.George Schaller and Dr. Claude Martin and at the later stage by Dr. Rajesh Gopal former park director and director project tiger.

One can see the spotted deer, barking deer, sambar deer and with luck sloth bear and the leopards. The birds of Kanha are a delight to the bird watchers and tiger watchers alike.

As naturalist, I assist in tracking the tigers, in birding and wildlife watching in general. For bookings and details contact me...Uday Patel

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Old man and the tigers

Gordon wrote from UK. I want to see a tiger before I....

I wrote back sure Gordon I will try my best.

We arrived at Kanha Tiger Reserve in the month of February 2008. It was bitter cold and the jungle was at it's densest, but who cared we were all set for a wild tiger safari. Kanha is a prime tiger habitat and harbors major mammals of India including the tiger and the leopard.

Six Tigers!

That morning after an hour of incursion in the park we came across a tigress near Kanha meadow walking past us in full view.

"There is a tiger for you." I whispered to Gordon a bit excited that I had fulfilled his wish. After lot of filming we moved forward towards the gate as it was time to leave the park.

Perhaps one mile from the gate we came across a young male tiger in prime...about four years old. So one more tiger to film while making territorial markings, and then elegantly walking past the row of jeeps without even a glance. No wonder the animal is so majestic.

In the evening round we came across a full grown male tiger bigger and heavier than the one we had seen in the morning .

"Three tigers."I said to Gordon.

Tiger in the mist!

Next day as we entered the park we came across a male tiger ambling peacefully across the jungle trek. It was a misty morning but we could see the tiger clearly. Disturbed by the piling numbers of the safari jeeps it moved into the forest albeit at a leisurely pace so all could wish him "Good morning" and a "Good day to you sir".

"Thats fourth Gordon." In return I received a contented smile.

At Kanha meadow the unbelievable happened. I heard a tigress roaring somewhere near the edge of the meadow from where the dense jungle begins. Shhhhhh!

There she was reclining on a rock camouflaged as well as all tigers can be. With trained eyes one could see the tigress without the binoculars....amazing!

"That's the fifth one." I received a welcome pat on the back. It had begun to look me that the world is full of tigers.....

Tiger on Elephant Back

The sixth one a young male we saw from the elephant's back in a tiger show so no credit for me on this one.The exciting and thrilling elephant safari was enjoyed throughout by the old man. 

Any way Gordon went back happy with lots of thrilling memories and filming. And I was few more bucks happier! He! He!

It is all Gordon Luck. May you live for 100+ Gordon and keep fetching tigers for us.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bengal Tigers in India

News Article on Bengal Tigers

Status of Tigers in India in the National Geographic Magazine. The latest tiger census figure have been released by the Project Tiger Directorate in New Delhi.

The falling numbers of tiger population is alarming and if poaching, habitat and disease are not curbed immediately than the tiger has a bleak future. The latest statistics show the tiger numbers at 1411 which is half what it was few years back. At the turn of the 20th century there were 40,000 tigers in India. Poaching for bones and habitat destruction is the major reason for the fall in the population of Bengal tiger in India. The major demand for tiger parts and fur are from Nepal, Tibet and China. The mafia engaged in tiger poaching has to be dealt severely.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

About tiger sightings

The tiger is the most elusive animal on earth but for reasons unknown it throws caution to winds and comes out in the open completely relaxed, this is more applicable to conditioned tigers that are used to seeing the tourists.

Tourists’ guides and naturalists alike are not permitted to disembark from the vehicles hence active trekking is not possible. One can trace a tiger’s presence by the alarm calls and pug marks on the soft jungle roads. It is a standard practice to follow the direction of the pug marks after they have been conformed to be of recent origin. Once the limit of the movement has been ascertained, patience is all that is required. If the tiger is somewhere nearby it is most likely that it would emerge of the roads or the meadows.

In summers, tiger can be located near the water holes, while sighting a tiger in dense foliage is near impossible. Knowing about the seasonal movements is worthy of the effort.
The wild animals apart from alarm calls keep a keen eye on the predators the direction of their sight and the ensuing unease is a sure shot sign of a predator’s presence. This happens when the animal mostly deer, monkeys and sometimes the gaur has had a glimpse of the crouching tiger or caught the scent of the animal.

Sometimes just a keen sight works to catch sight of the tiger sitting at ease in the open forest or the grassy meadows. But all said and done a tiger sighting is never guaranteed. It said that you see the tiger if it wishes to be seen for you may cross path a hundred times from a crouching tiger and not see it once.

Summers
are the best months for sighting tigers since wildlife congregates near reducing water holes and tigers themselves are hard pressed for water. The concentration of animals brings tigers into open since this is an ideal time to hunt the prey species with ease. In winters just after rains the water and prey is available all around the park, which is under dense cover of trees and long grasses. Hence, as the water level recedes and many water holes begin drying up after January, animal sightings increase.

Best time for sighting animals is the early morning period and the late evening when the big cats get active for a hunt. During the noon major mammals laze under shadow or in the safety of the grasslands. The presiding scenario with alarm calls, mystery of movements and prevailing excitement is worth being part of. Tiger or no tiger, wildlife watching is fun and an exciting adventure that can rarely be surpassed by any other activity.

Tiger Tamasha at Kanha

The decision to limit entry of vehicles into the Bengal tiger reserves is the best thing that has ever happened to the ecosystems. Eco-tourism is good for tigers and Indian wildlife. But during the rush hour, things can go hay wire and the shy wildlife suffers.
My visit during the peak holiday season in December at Kanha tiger reserve was a disheartening event. I was pained to witness the rush of vehicles into the sensitive Eco-system. Tiger Reserves like Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench are becoming increasingly popular, thanks to the tiger sighting, which is the highest in India.
I was part of the milieu of more than hundred and fifty jeeps lined up to invade the reserve in a mad rush to see the elusive tiger. Of the nine hundred and fifty square kilometers of the park’s core zone barely twenty five percent of the area constitutes active the tourism zone. When you have one vehicle after another chasing the park animals they suffer the brunt - it is a distressing sight.
There is no effort on educating and enlightening the visitors about various life forms that habit the park. Apart from knowing the intricate structure of road networks in National Park the forest guides accompanying, the tourists on tiger safari know very little. There have been no efforts to educate the guides on wildlife. They could help disseminate interesting aspect of the park’s animals and birds. This could aid in diverting the visitor’s attention from the tiger, since the attention of the visitors is focused on only one animal.

The whole system of tiger safari is geared to deliver the tiger sight this is quite palpable on one short visit. It is the most humiliating aspect for the naturalist who is supposed to deliver a quick tiger sight because of his expertise. No one on earth can guarantee a tiger sight since the animal is so elusive and unpredictable. One can only assume his ways after years of experience and close in.

The naturalist job is to disseminate basic information about the animals and birds on animal morphology, breeding behavior, habits etc. An amateur naturalist can deliver well. The park guides take a potluck at the prime tiger habitats and the jeeps are driven at reckless speed very often. This in turn results in extreme pressure on ideal tiger habitats like the grassy meadows and water holes. The tigress with cubs bears the brunt the most, since the female tigers are limited to a smaller area by the constraints of upbringing the tiger cubs.

In undisturbed tiger habitats the frequency of wild animal sightings increases and hence delivers a more holistic picture of the amazing wilderness that these preserves harbor. Controlling the vehicle excursion in the parks is going long way in preserving wildlife and ecosystem there in. The tourist will have a satisfying and fulfilling trip and some may turn into conservationist, which is the prime purpose of the whole exercise.

Tiger tourism in India helps in fetching employment to the locals generates crucial finance for the upkeep of the parks. Tourism increases awareness on the importance of nature conservation among the Eco-tourists.