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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.         

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Perspective : Protected Areas In India

Wildlife Protection Act 1972 - Provisions Chapter IV 

Image: Dharamagiri
In order to save the vanishing tiger and other life forms Wildlife Protection Act was constituted in India. This was in the year 1972 and thenceforth hunting of all wild species became illegal and punishable.  Hunting is permitted in extraordinary circumstance especially when an animal has become threat to human lives. Another reason for allowing hunting is in case of excessive damage caused to crops in agriculture fields. This permission is mired in  controversy but instances have occurred wherein it has been granted.    

The act also outlays the concept of National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Often known as protected areas, set of rules and regulations apply to both. Many amendments have taken place since the legislation, but only the concept in brief has been described here.   

Apart from protecting wildlife, the objective through conservation of habitats is to preserve all life forms in India.   

Wildlife Sanctuary 

In case of a Wildlife Sanctuary, the State Government will notify its intent if the area under consideration is of ecological and geological importance with prevalence of diverse life forms that constitute flora and fauna. The notification also specifies the area to be brought under the Wildlife Sanctuary.  

After notification powers are vested with the collector for land acquisition or rights. Continuation of rights under some circumstances with the permission of the Wildlife Warden is possible.    

The status of most of the wildlife sanctuaries in India is anywhere from being protected. Relocation requires political and administrative will which is severely lacking in this context. One of the largest wildlife sanctuary in MP, Nauradehi has more than sixty villages within the confines but no relocation has taken place so far.

In many of the cases there is a lack of funding, or the relocation itself is an immense exercise, hence the status is far away from the protection that is required. As compensation substantial amount is given to evacuee or in lieu a suitable land is awarded.      

Cattle grazing intrusion, illegal logging, poaching and even land use in these sanctuaries is rampant causing disturbance to wildlife which perhaps will never recover until unless corrective steps are taken with urgency. Although there is no dearth of conservation practices wherever enthusiastic staff prevails, increasing population and the uncontrolled resource utilization encumbers protected areas with biotic pressures. Immunization of livestock is also vested in the act. 

National Parks

NPs are notified in the same manner as the wildlife sanctuary, most of the conditions remain the same. Both types of protected areas may also be notified by the Central Government. This type of protected areas are symbol of National pride hence greater degree of protection is accorded to them.

No livestock grazing or other such activities that may be allowed in a sanctuary are permitted in NPs. Land acquisition and translocation are executed with greater urgency in National Parks. They have been better protected as well. The areas that have substantial tiger population have been brought under the aegis of Project Tiger Conservation Programme initiated by the Central Government.      

The success of conservation programs in India is checkered with some areas doing better than before. However large number of areas are facing immense problems as mentioned above. While the tiger population has risen marginally many species of plants and animals are still under the brink of extinction.     

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Diamond Mining: Lure of the Lucre & Tigers

Eventually after much hullabaloo the diamond project in Bunder Region of Madhya Pradesh was shelved by Rio Tinto. Citing financial reasons the concern handed over the project to Government of Madhya Pradesh along with all the assets.   

Obviously the Bunder Region was not a good enough take for the company despite which they got the approval to go ahead. The project was mired in controversy right from the inception as the land contained a biodiversity rich profile. Situated near Panna Tiger Reserve and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, the area is a link between the local ecosystems and constitutes vital tiger corridor. The diverse floral habitats are home to leopards, sloth bears, chinkara and other mammals, birds and reptiles. 

Tiger experts unanimously agree upon the status as it falls under the tiger landscape. Under the stalled project more than five lakh trees were to be felled spelling an environmental disaster. Under severe opposition and administrative hiccups the project viability was deemed as poor. Eventually wiser council prevailed.    

The project envisaged reaping of rich harvest of roughs up to the extent of 27.00 million carats of rough. The open cast mining was discouraged and the company was advised to  employ alternative means to dig for diamonds.  

But the disaster still seems to be in waiting since other investors are being sought by the concerned bodies. It seems the major discouragement is the environmental bye laws in India. Nevertheless projects which are ecological disasters should in the first place never be envisaged. By the time the mining would reach end cycle we would have lost a substantial forest region for ever.    

Central Indian States MP and Chhattisgarh are rich in mineral wealth including diamonds. Encouragement is being accorded to major global players to explore extensively and mine the invaluable ores.   

But the lure of the lucre would fetch in loosening of laws in order to enable global players to mine with ease. India has impressive diamond polishing industry but most of the roughs are obtained from Belgium. Finding substantial deposits for large projects is enticing for Governments aiming to become of the major diamond producing regions in the World.       

Hence the sword of Damocles hangs over our valuable resources some of which are situated in the finest wildlife habitats.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tiger Conservation: Tiger Corridors in Muddle

Though a lot has been done for the survival of the tiger, it is still not enough. The growing population of tigers in some protected areas is throwing new challenges to the wildlife managers. The population of this big cat is nowhere out of the brink of extinction.  

Tigers need more space if their populations have to increase. But most of the space is taken over by human settlements including those in the buffer regions, and in vital corridors adjoining protected areas. Most of the corridors in India are mired in conflicts especially those that are hinderance to massive road projects aka development.

As per law no development activity is allowed within 10 km of mandatory buffer.    

The Pench - Kanha corridor was mired in such conflict between the Green Tribunal and Nagpur Bench of Mumbai High Court. The Court was in favor of expansion of highway that transacts through this crucial corridors meant for migration of tigers and other animals.

Tigers migrate a long distance if the prevailing conditions do not favor them in the place of residence. This is applicable to other animals as well. The migration provides additional shelter to animals and enables gene transfer which is vital activity since it prevents inbreeding which could be fatal to coming generations of the big cats.

Pench - Kanha corridor is one of the few unfragmented patch of forests which has made interbreeding possible between big cats of both the tiger reserves. Widening NH7 was proposed in spite that it would result in substantial damage to the forests as result of axing of trees. As a mitigating


solution elevation of the highway had been proposed, but that still involved axing of large number of trees.

Well to cut short development has won what with MOEF easing clearances for developmental projects that transact through niche habitats. A number of corridors vital for the survival of tigers are facing some or other kind of dilemma in India.  These connecting forests are home to wide variety of flora and fauna including the endangered species.

The muddle is formed between Green Tribunal, Courts, NHAI, WII and MOEF. The tug of war continues over large swathes of  forests that could be vital for saving the beleaguered animals that constitute the wildlife of India.

Though those in favor of saving the wildlife have proposed mitigation measure albeit at substantial increase in the cost of the projects. But this is the correct approach even if there is increase in the cost since the eventual aim is to save endangered animals for extinction and thus protect our environment and inheritance.

Conservation of our vital forests is mired hopelessly in developmental projects. These include not only highways but industrial belts, mining, settlements and other resource utilization.

Very few viable corridors remain in the country and most of these are not privileged enough to have a legal status akin to the protected areas.

Interesting News Articles

Expansion of Pench Kanha Corridor 

MOEF & Tiger Corridors

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tiger Surprise: Out of The Tunnel!


UK Guests at Courtyard House: Emma
Tiger Safari At Kanha National Park

Water Body - Uday Patel 
It was one of the difficult evening at Kanha Zone. The tigress and her four grown up cubs were not being sighted for some time and suddenly there was gloom. This is one tigress which is easily sighted and guides take easy credit whenever she is seen. 

So the first move that is made upon entering Kanha Zone is to drive straight to Link No.7 explore all the water bodies. It is most likely that the big cat family would be there and bingo your guests are all smiles. Many times it does not happen that way especially whence the family migrates to non tourism area.    

It was a bright and sunny summer evening whence we arrived at Kanha Zone. 

"What shall we do?" the guide asked. "Should we look for Neelam?"

There was little possibility of catching with the Umarpani tigress and her grown up cubs. They were not seen for some time. 

"Thats a good idea!" I exclaimed. "By the time we run through Link 7 there is no time for excursions in another area." 

So that was it and we began moving towards Schaller hide where Neelam and her four little cubs are seen. They are seen less frequently since the cubs are small and hence the mother keeps them hidden, 

A dull evening I thought. There was not a single vehicle on this tract and we were crusing alone. In safari it is always sensible to drive at slow speed else you will miss lot of signs that would lead to a tiger or other animals. And birds as well.     

We covered a long distance with no luck. We were making halts at many places to look for birds and animals. My idea was to kill time and wait for the Sun to mellow down. Tigers dislike heat and direct sunlight whence it is at its peak.    

Eventually we were to reach the culvert near which the tigress keeps her cubs whence in the meadows. A stream flows underneath in between the grasses that is a unique feature of Kanha Meadow.

It all happened in a flash. As we reached the culvert out popped a huge tigress from the tunnel through which the stream flowed.. I could see her flying away from us. She landed on the ledge of the stream  gnarled viciously at us and then trotted down to grass patch amidst the stream. She kept looking at us as curiously as cats do.   
Tiger in Marsh - Uday Patel 

We kept looking at her as amazed as we can be upon sighting this majestic creature no less a wonder of the World.

It seems that the big cat was resting in the cool confines of the tunnel in the culvert. Tigers love water and the stream flowing underneath must have been comforting in that blistering heat of the summer Sun. The noise of the engine awoke her from the slumber and surprised here. Well anyway the Sun had mellowed down and it was time for her to reach her cubs. We could not find the cubs around her. Well never mind Ha!   

My guest were spell bound by the sudden encounter but did take pictures as good as they could. Excitement rose towering over calm and composure as it usually happens upon exciting finds. It was amazing the big cat slid down amidst the grass and it became difficult to see here. Anyway the evening had been made. A tiger sighting for out esteemed guests Emma and her husband.    

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Booking Tiger Safari - MP Online Details

The details available on MP Online Website are in form of details FAQs, letters and notifications. The most searched information is the availability of permits. There is an option to book the  safari permit then and there.  Online payment facility is available on the portal hence you finalise booking then and there. Booking for other types of entry permits are also available. 

Most of the information provided is about the various aspects of tiger safari in Kanha, Pench, Bandhavgarh, Satpura and Panna tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh or Central India.  

If you are looking for the reservation page than you have to click on citizen services and then slide down to click on reservation after which the option to enter the National Park page will be visible. The Pandora's Box will then open for you.    

In the announcement section you will see the entry and exit timings, and the fee structure which is important for the visitors. 

If you click on the save the tiger logo you will reach the page on Madhya Pradesh Tiger Foundation Society. This non profit organization works towards wildlife conservation with emphasis on tigers along with its registered members. Further reading will enlighten you more,  Other links on the page point to Project Tiger and related aspects of tiger reserves.
Tiger Photo - Dharmagiri

On the page with logo you will find FAQ's on each  of the tiger reserves mentioned. This is important if you wish to know rules and regulations and various aspects of tiger safari in the reserves.   

The Faq is all encompassing hence tourists planning a safari to the reserves should read the respective information thus provided. The FAQ also offers information on Government  accommodation at Kanha but only the one at Khatia gate is available to public. It is basic accommodation. 

Hence tourist planning a visit should search for accommodation in Kanha on the SERP. This will lead to a large number of hotel websites offering a stay. The Kanha buffer contains five star, luxury and budget accommodation hence choose your pick.       

For more information visit MPOnline Website.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tiger Conservation: The Mayhem Continues

Tiger Poaching in India

With the electrocution of tigress at Sanjay Dubri National Park in Madhya Pradesh another ghastly incidence unfolds. The electrocution of tigers in India continues unabated since more than a decade.

A pick on newspapers will reveal how frequent is this menace. Taking advantage of high voltage electric lines passing through and near the conservation units this form of poaching is a regular affair with the system having no answer to curb.
Tiger By Teerath Singh

Poachers small time or big time do not understand the National loss of an inheritance invaluable. This also sums up the fact that in spite of active and continued conservation efforts the beleaguered animal is not out of danger. This is also suggestive of ongoing man animal conflict in areas harboring the big cats. 

There are no answers even after decades of existing of this method of killing tigers and other wild animals. Taking into account the critical status of the predator one would have expected a quick reprisal or prevention exercise such that the menace is stopped for ever. On the contrary it seems that such incidents are considered as isolated and hence have no effect on the conservation fraternity in India.      

Compounded by other threats like poisoning and snaring facing the tiger, this is going to result in reduction of its population on long lasting basis or even extinction. 

In spite of all International hullabulloo we have not woken up from slumber. The animal requires proactive concerted and compounded efforts to brink it back from the brink of extinction.

For the political fronts at various level this issue lacks imperative as compared with more inviting actions that fetch votes. This has weakened the administrative impetus required to save wild animals in this country.

The legal system too is to blame as many culprits go scot free due to lacunae in the framework. The required punitive measures harsh enough to discourage the marauders never take place. The lethargy entwined in our legal framework further vitiates the atmosphere.

For example the recent electrocution case in Kanha buffer has not resulted in punitive action thanks to myriad of legal loopholes in our system and administrative lethargy.  

If a methodology to curb this menace is not found soon, we are going to lose large number of tigers. A nation bent upon cow protection needs to pay heed to this majestic animal in dire need of attention. Least we lose this valuable inheritance forever and lose our pride as well not forgetting the inimitable part it plays in the ecosystems across the country.  

The sad end to the recent case of electrocution at Sanjay Dubri was the subsequent death of her cubs. Taken into intensive care at Bandhavgarh Reserve they were unable to cope with infection in absence of the immunity accorded by the mother's milk.. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tiger in The Brook

Mr. Sivaraman & Family USA + TN 
Guests Courtyard House Kanha

The move belied all logic. The stream was full of deer and langur. There was no sign of the magnificent tiger all was magical, serene and fairy tale like. After taking the morning round of safari at Sarhi Zone of Kanha National Park we were returning disappointed that the big cat had eluded us. 

I looked at my watch there was more than hour to go. Nobody was expecting a tiger now since the sun had risen the animal does not like heat as we all know. It arrived in India from somewhere in Siberia or China about ten thousand years ago. The animal could not reach Sri Lanka as the Island had distanced itself from the mainland and was too far for the tiger to swim.  

We where returning via Karai Ghati Road famous haunt of magnificent male tigers, Munna, Dabang, Dhamangaon male, Saunder male and new arrivals. The Budbudi female has been irrevocable etched in our minds by its presence at Budbudi Nala or the stream where we had come to a halt. 

We stood there admiring our surroundings, the enchanting stream full of life and the beautiful birds hidden in the shadowy crevices of dense leaves and twigs. That was all. 

Some jeeps arrived looked at us with a question mark. They did not bother to stop. Why should they with a bunch of deer and troops of langur all around the tranquil stream?

At Kanha the mornings are chilly even in summers but the heat of the noon makes all run to cosy comfort of climate controlled environs of the wildlife resorts.  

There was an air of complete despondency with no expectation. But we waited. Since the time was with us the guide did not force us to move.  We spent time watching the antics of langur babies and the deer enjoying blissful cool environs of life sustaining water in the stream.   

We at Courtyard House utilise full time in the park during the safari. This is an unwritten rule. Hence we waited. I was expecting some thirsty tiger, leopard or a sloth bear to arrive and quench.  Well if wishes where tigers I would jump with joy!

Well nothing happened for a long time till the silence was disrupted by two alarm cries of the spotted deer. In my mind hell broke loose. "Where exactly? I asked the guide. We drove right to the spot few yards ahead to the spot from where the cries had erupted.  Frantically I began peering into the bush containing bamboo, shrubs interspersed with rock and yes puddle of water. Still there was no expectancy. This could be call of the deer spooked.     

Well it was not to be. I was searching for a predator in the shades with puddle. Tiger! Tiger! I whispered with confidence which usually belies my circumspect nature.  For right in front of us I could see the yellow and black stripes. Heart thumbing with excitement, I pointed to the guest who were amazed as well as bewildered. Of Yes! The guide said.  

"It is a young tigress!"

When the animal raised its head to look at us we were all thrilled. It went back to quench in the brook in the cool shade. I could make out that the big cat was shy. It stared at us thrice but was so thirsty, it went back to gulp loads of the life sustaining liquid. It was an enchanting moment as we witnessed through the thick canopy of bamboo, vines, shrubs and trees, we were witnessing a spectacle most astounding.     

Our guest tried to photograph the moment but could achieve little in the shady brook. "Well this is how the tigers are always hidden and well camouflaged, and we were witnessing an activity in its natural surroundings."

"Not a cardboard cut out this," I appraised the guests in absolute wonder. The wild cat took long time to quench and then it moved uphill and was seen no more.  A sighting had been made for visitors who had never seen a tiger in the wild.  
Image By Blissons - France 

Leopard Surprise

Pete & Kay Sutton UK 
Guests Courtyard House
Kanha National Park India 


It was in the previous evening round that we heard clamorous alarm cries at the cross road that leads to Sarhi Zone on left and Kanha Zone to the right. We had waited for a long time but nothing materialised. From the frequency of cries we could surmise that the sambar and chital deer had spotted a leopard in the thick canopy.  

Nothing emerged after waiting a long time. Disappointed we left so as to exit the park in time. Predators as shaped by nature are extremely unpredictable and can rarely be spotted at the same place twice. Well there are exceptions. 

Next day morning we were at Kisli Zone and were on mission to find Munna the ageing but dominant male tiger. Tracking tigers is an ultimate test of patience, split second decision and experience that one gets with due time and sincere application.

We were at Nainsingh Nala a wooden bridge that runs over a dried stream but does sustain water a few feet away in the neighbouring canopy. This canopy has become a vital point in our search for tigers and with great success. Two males have been spotted after a long long wait.     

So far there was no sign of Munna, and as usual we decided to score the neighbouring area. 

"Let us go to the crossroad where we had heard alarm cries last evening!" I instructed. This was just a surmise that something could wait so long.  Never give up easily and utilise all the time allotted for each and every search that you can make during the tiger safari. Jeeps arrived and departed and we waited. Our surmise was strengthened by the fact that a leopard had been sighted on this morning  round here.  

As the clamour of the jeeps ended a stony silence pervaded. The jungle sounds are incredible and challenge your hearing apparatus like no other situation can. In the mysterious wilderness of the Indian jungles sound waves from distance skim weakly over surface, and throw a challenge to your hearing apparatus. Long wait for big cats can be tiring and boring at times. I regaled my guests with the distant sounds that emanated from the jungle around us. "That's a barking deer! Probably sighted a tiger and going all bonkers!" 

Well in immediate surrounding it was all pin drop. If you as much make a rustle sound shifting in the vehicle you can lose valuable audible clues. But we sat absolutely still. It was a long wait but we did it.      

Then the cacophony erupted, a sambar called frantically, and the sound resounded amongst the still tall stands that were the object of our gaze.  As the calls continued we began to gaze between the stands, and it was rewarding. Our guide spotted what appeared to be a mongoose. "Pl hand me the binoculars." "Its a leopard!' The magic words all naturalists like to hear.  I peered hard and spotted the second cub emerging from the bush and heading into another.         

Excited but in full control we decided to park at a distance from where we thought the big cats will emerge. The strategy paid off. Thinking the jeep had left the leopard family continued to approach the jungle road. "Keep an eye behind," I told the guests. They did, and within a short span of time they called in unison "leopard!"  

Images by Pete & Kay Sutton 

Leopard Mother

Pensive Look 

Leopard Cub looking at us  

Panther Cub 

Cub Scurring Past like a Mongoose

First to emerge was the mother. She came out, inspected the surroundings, and made sure that we were at a safe distance. She then signalled her cubs to continue following her. The first cub to arrive was probably male judging from its size. It stopped to gaze at the strange sight of the green monster.

This wild animal's threat perception is acute and ends up saving its lives amidst the tortured terrain of the dense jungles habituated by tigers. After a good look at us it began to crawl like a mongoose in order to enter the bush across the road.   

The second cub visibly smaller took no chances. It crossed over from a distance and scurried through. Cameras clicked. The wait was over. We had been rewarded with a magnificent experience that would take eternity to replicate.      

"Whew! Lets move on." And we did for another escapade in the wilds of Kanha National Park in India.   

Monday, January 30, 2017

Phen Wildlife Sanctuary - A Diminished Tail Light

Phen WLS - Micro Core (KTR)

Courtyard House Guests (Kanha) - Sudhir Pawar & Family

The bright sparkling sun hits us as we emerge from the dusty Raipur Highway and enter Phen Wildlife Sanctuary a verdant paradise and heaven.  Albeit smaller than its neighbouring core Kanha Tiger Reserve, the forests are connected to some degree by buffers Motinala Supkhar Range, & Garhi Forests.  The natural corridor (Kanha Achanakmar) formation is reminiscent of era whence the Central Indian Highlands were one large tract of forests teeming with wildlife.   

We are greeted at the Gate by the forest staff who gave us a much required brief on the forests and its wildlife. A pair of gold mantled chloropsis welcome us along side. Filled with exuberance we leave for the safari after a short repast.    
Phen Ecosystem

This was my first visit to Phen, and the scope of making new discoveries was exciting. Barely one hundred and eleven square kilometres in area the conservation unit is full of promise.    

"A good place to sight leopard, sloth bear and wild dog". The staff informs us. 

"And the tiger?" I butt in needlessly. 

"We can make a presence of two from roars and pug marks."  Sure enough we come across generous lay of pug marks of a tigress on the game round.   

The guardians of the ecosystem number only two or four if you add vagrant or un-traced tigers. Any way that did not dampen our excitement as we believe in holistic experience. The tigers, like at many places in India have lost ground here, but more promising future can be accorded with right conservation efforts.  

Phen WaterBody
Hilly, packed with dense canopy, the topography is a turbulent terrain with hills, grasslands and deep valleys. The forest comprises of tropical moist deciduous mixed, Sal and bamboo. Intermittent water bodies in form of Phen River, smaller rivulets, water holes and moist grounds are the life line of the ecosystem.  

While relocation of some villages have already taken place some are yet to be trans-located. 
  
The park is vital for tiger conservation in Central India. The health of the ecosystem, minimal disturbance is suggestive of a perfect tiger landscape, albeit the prey base is poor - probably due to extensive hunting and poaching in the past.  With an improvement in the prey base, the big cats will get more space for survival. Large herds of spotted deer have already been trans-located from Kanha. 

Phen Canopy
Phen Wildlife offers excellent scope for birding besides safaris. The trip can be accommodated along with tiger safari at Kanha National Park. The distance is two and half hours of drive from KTR along the Bicchia, Motinala Raipur Highway. The micro core is at a distance for 15 km from Motinala.  
Phen Images 
Bamboo

Directors Picturesque Cabin


Forest

Jungle Road


Grassland

Rest House View

Water Body
Trip &  Accommodation

Highly recommended for leopards, sloth bear and wild dog along side great birding. There is no accommodation at Phen, but a rest house at Motinala can be availed.

Accessible from Kanha Tiger Reserve this is good way to spend a day off from hectic safari routine. Also visitors without entry pass at Kanha can make day here. Full day and half day safaris are available at less cost.  Please contact Kanha FD Office at Mandla.    

Please carry all eatable which can be consumed at the rest house and at the Gate. Jeep availability can be made from Kanha. 

More Information Phen  Micro Core

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wildlife Photos India


I have here a collection of photos of wild animals and birds. These are images belonging to my friends and acquaintances. The intention is to display hard work that goes into the imagery and yes the cost involved.



Striped Hyena - Ghanshyam
Langur Monkey - Dag Larsson


Desert Fox - Ghanshyam Singh
Leopard - Marie & Andrew
Indian Wolf - Monu Dubey

Tiger Teerath Singh 
Bison - Money Dube

Tiger Teerath Singh 
Wild Dog - Nandita Amin

Kanha Tiger  Teerath Singh 
Cinnamon Bittern - Prayut Mandal 

Marsh Crocodile Teerath Singh 
Swamp Deer - Ruchi Patel

Sambar Deer Teerath Singh
Shreyas D - Common Pochard

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Food Chain - Biotic/Abiotic Components & Tigers

Understanding Ecosystem in Tiger Landscapes 

The article's emphasis is on tiger surviving outside the protected areas in India. This is more of a simplification of the biotic components that prevail in an area highly stressed by human and livestock use.    

To understand this phenomenon we have to first under stand food chain in its simplest form. The food chain is best explained using a pyramid. 

How the creation and transfer of energy takes place.  

1) At the lowest level are the autotrophs the living beings that use abiotic elements like sunlight, soil, water, Co2 in order to produce energy. These are also called producers. Examples are plants, grass, herbs, shrubs, some micro-organisms and trees.   

2) Consumers or primary consumers subsist on the autotrophs so as to enable transfer of energy. Herbivores are the example . Deer, Wild Ox, Bison, Elephants, Primates and so on.    

3) Secondary Consumers are small predators and omnivorous creatures who subsist on primary consumers. Examples are fox, jackal, wild dog, raptors etc. 

4) Tertiary Consumers are large predators which subsist on primary consumers and to some extant on secondary consumers.   Like Tigers, Lions, Cheetahs & Leopards, some bears etc. These are also known as Apex predators, Normally these are designated as indicator species since their presence is a sign of a healthy ecosystem.    

5) Decomposers  or scavengers feed on dead organism they are small predators, hyena, vultures, eagles, corvids, bacteria and so on. 

Each layer from 2nd stage acts as population control mechanism, in order to maintain an equilibrium in the environment. All components are instrumental in maintaining humidity/moisture and composition of gases. Hence tigers are major control elements, and as top predators they are indicators of healthy ecosystem. I think this should justify conservation to all minds, Further understanding should arise by reading literature from acclaimed field biologists, conservationists etc.    

When the tiger habitats contain a perfect ecosystem, the animal's survival is assured...in presence of protection from nefarious human activities like poaching. Land grab is another major threat to ecosystems all over. Niche habitats are destroyed by expanding human settlements, industrialisation and agriculture. We have lost large tracts of grasslands, marshlands, estuaries, river, marine ecosystems and forests...all on massive scale.    

In areas outside the critical tiger habitats, multiple pressure arise from agricultural practices, human habitation, livestock and waste including toxic chemicals. The latter are as a result of widespread use of toiletries, fertilisers and pesticides. Fumes emanating from vehicles, cooking, noise pollution also contribute to damage to some extent. 

Livestock compete with natural inhabitants for vegetable matters and are instrumental in damaging the fragile ecosystem. They have been seen to easily outnumber the natural consumers reducing prey base for predators including the tigers. In most of the buffer areas of our NPs the big cats are dependent on cattle and other live stock.  Besides conflict with man they are susceptible to contagious disease.

Tree felling in order to feed livestock is another practice that reduces the canopy. Denuded land is easily subject to loss of top soil, proliferation by weeds like parthenium or carrot grass and  lantana.  As a result altered weather can inhibit breeding of tigers along with reduced prey base. 

Another reason for denudation is our dependency on wood for energy, furniture and construction.  In the past clear felling was resorted for commercial logging resulting in wide scale denudation as done by agricultural practices. Mining has the same impact as the latter besides contributing to hazardous environmental pollution.  

Hence we depend on tigers as well as all life forms for our survival plus not forgetting the purity of abiotic elements.  

Lack of planning has resulted in indiscriminate use of our land and not leaving the niche habitats inviolate. As we aim for high economic growth further pressure is created. PA's are good example of wise land use but we need this on larger scale to preserve all that we can.   

Humans should minimise land use and let the Earth flourish. 

This article is in order to create an impressive group of thinkers, nature lovers and environmentalist. A large voice/pressure group would mean the implementation of better policies which would save critically endangered species like the tiger in India and elsewhere.