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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.