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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.