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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) .