Bheema: The Peaceful Warrior of Kanha National Park passes away

Bheema the peaceful warrior of Kanha National Park
Bheema in Kanha National Park

It was in September 2016 that I wrote of the The Big Four Tigers of Mukki in Kanha. These Tigers had attracted the attention of all the Tiger lovers worldwide in the last 3 years. The most commonly sighted Tiger amongst them was Bheema, the peaceful warrior of Kanha National Park.

Bheema the peaceful warrior of Kanha Nationa Park

Almost everyone was beginning to reconcile that the Tiger behavior was changing in Kanha. Their belief stemmed from the fact that the four big male Tigers had accepted each other in a small area of under 300 sq kms. There were skirmishes on and off in the last couple of years. They all got injured, and recovered too.  But deep down few knew that Kanha Tigers are fighters and not quitters. They live and die like Tigers in territorial fights. It was a matter of time before they would show their true colors. Come October 2016, and we saw departure of Rajaram in a fatal territorial encounter with Umarpani male. You may read the same in the below link:

Rajaram (Kingfisher) Tiger dies in a territorial fight in Kanha National Park

Umarpani male is a huge and a powerful Tiger in his prime with some extra-ordinary lineage. You might like to read about him here.

People were still coming to terms with the death of Rajaram when Bheema was found in a condition bordering death. The Mahouts found him gravely injured while patrolling on their elephants. Such was his condition that the department could not even think of tranquilizing him lest he succumb to his injuries. He was lifted and placed on a stretcher by the forest department while conscious. I do not recall any incident when a Tiger has been lifted without tranquilizing in the wild or even in a zoo.

He was taken to a natural enlarged enclosure where he was put under observation and treatment. Apparently the damage to him was considerable, and he was in no condition for a surgery. A team of expert vets were summoned from across the country.

Bheema was born in July/August of 2011.

His father was Kankata and mother was Budbudi. He was one in the litter of four. One of his siblings Bajrang is still doing well in another zone of Kanha. Bheema was frequently sighted in Mukki and Kisli zones. He was one Tiger who was not shy of tourists, and gave ample photo opportunities, sighted almost twice a week if not more in his peak days, i.e. until summer of 2016. Usually his sighting was not just a glimpse. He was often seen walking on the vehicle tracks for kms. After his sighting the tourists would go back satiated and delighted always.

My personal experience with Bheema; the Peaceful Warrior

It was 11th June 2015, an afternoon safari. I had just finished an amazing sighting / session with Umarpani male which lasted about 30 minutes when we decided to go and wait at the Babathenga waterhole. We had zero expectation of any sighting. The weather was a bit humid, and suddenly we hear a sambar alarm call. For a moment I did not believe my ears, I looked at Naren on the wheels and the second alarm call.

Now, when a Sambar deer calls it is most certain that he has sighted a Tiger. And if he calls twice in succession then it means that the Tiger is active. We started our vehicle and headed just 50 meters ahead from where the call came. As we reached the area, the sambar called again. We switched off the ignition and waited.

Anxious moments…

I always advise my guide, and whoever accompanying me in the jeep never to stand up, just stay seated. Reason being, that more often than not the Tiger would see the standing eager people before the people will see him. When everyone’s eyes are eagerly searching for the big cat, there is a lot of nervous energy around. The Tigers are highly sensitive and would usually change direction when they notice anxiety. Hence everyone was seated, calmly active and actively calm in my vehicle.

Then Raju our guide pointed in one direction and murmured the most anticipated word, “Sirji Tiger”. His face was seen  from the tall grass. As everyone was seated in the car, the Tiger found a conducive atmosphere to make an appearance. We waited for him to come completely out of the grass. Once he did we started our vehicle and turned right where we expected him to follow us. Sure he did like an obedient son.

Bheema the peaceful warrior in Kanha National Park
Bheema coming out of the grassland near Babathenga

Tete-a-Tete with Bheema

Then started my vigorous clicking. We maintained a safe distance. I kept giving him mental assurance that “i love you my handsome boy”. He followed us, and did everything that a Tiger on his territorial round would do. Scratching, marking, spraying, flehmen, sit, roll, everything. In about twenty minutes that he followed me i clicked close to 400 shots. He was not leaving our trail. Finally Naren said, “Sir, it is time to go, we have only 30 minutes left for park closure time and we must move”. With a heavy heart i confirmed and we changed course.

On our way back, i started to think of various safaris i had done in my last 27 years in India. Two memorable sightings are, my very first Tiger sighting in Ranthambhore in 1990. And, second would be this sighting. Though there are many memorable ones, but getting two different male Tigers, and both head on for a considerable time in less than one hour is unusual.

Why i called him the Peaceful Warrior;

I called him the Peaceful warrior because he peacefully carried many combat medals (injury marks) on his shoulders with pride of a warrior. If I was to compare him with Link 7 aka Chotta Munna, or Umarpani male, Bheema was the most peaceful Tiger. He never unnecessary challenged any other Tiger for territory.  Stayed mostly in his own territory, and defended it pretty well till almost the last 3-4 months of his reign. His skirmishes with Chotta Munna in 2015 were quite one sided where he chided him away comfortably.

Bheema the peaceful warrior in Kanha National Park
Bheema carrying the trophies of many battles he fought and won.
Bheema the peaceful warrior in Kanha National Park
Bheema with many injury marks on his shoulders was a warrior who fought many battles.

But Chotta Munna has genes of Munna  (a legendary Tiger of Kanha). At 15 Munna is still fighting, and surviving. Chotta Munna started to give Bheema some tough time toward middle of 2016. On 1st October 2016 when the park reopened for tourism Bheema was sighted with a limp, and it seemed he had lost considerable amount of weight. He looked a much smaller version of his former self. Subsequently his sightings reduced.

Was he unable to hunt? Was he carrying some injury? Or, was he ill? There was nothing of consequence visible on him. There is no protocol to interfere in the lives of wild Tigers in India. The department only intervenes when they feel that the injury is serious and can disable the Tiger.

The passing of the Peaceful Warrior

On 4th December he was found by the patrolling forest staff. He was frail, his forelimb badly eaten by maggots. And he was found in the territory of Umarpani male. It is possible due to the constant disturbance by Chotta Munna he left his area and ventured into Umarpani male’s territory. I have always maintained that Umarpani male is the biggest surviving Tiger of central India right now. Not only in size, but in strength, and confidence also he is unmatched. The fact that he has dominated Mukki practically since 2011 speaks volumes about his demeanor.

Bheema was also not a diminutive Tiger by any yard of imagination Afterall he was given his name Bheema for a reason. He would have been a dominating Tiger in any other landscape besides Mukki. It was unfortunate that he got stuck between the two sons of Munna (Umarpani and Chotta Munna), else he would never have gone in his prime.

His fans including me were praying that he survives. But when i heard that the chances of survival are minimal i prayed for his ordeal to end.

Having seen Tigers for some decades now, i think, Tigers are born to fight. They survive because they fight. Choice is either they fight or they die. The end is mostly they fight and they die. Such is the life of a Tiger.

Sharad Vats

 

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Thirty Three (33) different Tigers sighted in Kanha since park reopened in October 2016

Different Tigers sighted in Kanha
Tigers of Kanha

Is it true? Yes, it is true, and speaks volumes about the efforts by the forest department in conserving Tigers and wildlife in Kanha. While many talk about the number of Tigers poached this year, very few discuss the number of different Tigers being sighted. Thirty Three different Tigers, including 11 cubs, is a healthy number, and that too just in the tourism zone. Please remember that these are not the numbers given by the forest department. But these are the Tigers sighted by the tourists. There is a documental evidence of the same. Significantly, this has been recorded in just 45 days. Besides, it is also reported that there are two pregnant Tigresses in this list, hence this number of 33 Tigers is bound to go up further soon. These many different Tigers sighted in Kanha is indeed good news for Kanha.

In October 2016 we heard about two Tigers getting poached and one Tiger dying in territorial fight. While nothing can be done about saving Tigers in a territorial fight, but in poaching it was done. The poachers of one Tiger were caught within 30 hours of the Tiger being found dead. Such a prompt action by the department is commendable, suggests dedication of the team towards the cause. Four people involved in the crime were arrested. On investigation it was revealed that they were local villagers who had laid a trap to get a wild boar or some large herbivore. But the Tiger walked in the area and was trapped. Unfortunate but true. The second poaching case is being investigated still. It is a matter of concern but i would still like to compliment the department for keeping these numbers to minimum.

With 22 adults, and 11 cubs the times ahead for Kanha look good. These are only the tourism zone figures, and the tourism zone is about 20% of the total area of Kanha. The latest camera trap census estimated that Kanha has over 110 Tigers as on date.  Of the total 22 adults sighted in the tourism zones of Mukki, Kanha, Kisli and Sarhi, there are 9 male Tigers. So the male to female ratio though not ideal, but it is close to being ideal. These are positive signs for the Tigers of Kanha.

Some experts had indicated that even if the Tigers disappear from rest of the protected areas, Kanha will still be amongst the last bastions of the Tiger besides Corbett. This forecast has been true so far, and i think it will remain true until something untoward happens.

List of Tigers sighted since October 2016 in Kanha include:

  1. Rajaram aka Kingfisher (died in a territorial fight in October 2016)
  2. Chotta Munna, aka Link 7
  3. Umarpani male
  4. Bheema
  5. Bajrang
  6. Jamun tola male
  7. Karai ghati male aka Dabang
  8. Junior Kankatta
  9. Supkhar male
  10. Munna
  11. Choti mada with two cubs
  12. Mahaveer feamle with 3 cubs
  13. Dhawajhandi female
  14. Umarjhola female
  15. Distt line female
  16. Neelam (pregnant)
  17. Link 8 female (pregnant)
  18. Link 7 female with 4 cubs aka Mundi Dadar female
  19. Unknown female with two cubs near Indri camp
  20. Female near Chimta camp
  21. Budbudi female, and
  22. Jamun Talab female

Conserving Tigers is not an easy task by any yard of imagination. Tigers roam free in large areas without boundaries, and with no technological surveillance yet. It is heard that soon there will be Drones to monitor them. With many villages around the parks, highways, inadequate forest guards, bio mass dependancy, forests and wildife are a soft target. But the forest department works relentlessly. They risk their lives from dangerous predators, stay away from families so that the forests can be preserved. Their sacrifice is hardly seen forget being appreciated.

I pray that you are able to sight many Tigers on your visits to Kanha. But a humble request to you all that please enjoy the park in it’s entirety. Yearning for Tigers alone can be a tad disappointing, hence appreciate the smell, sight, and sounds of Kanha. Trust me, it will leave you enthralled.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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Precautions to take while staying in a resort near a national park

First and foremost never go towards the forest on foot or in a vehicle if it is prohibited. There are gates from where all tourists vehicles enter. Use only the authorised gates to enter at the given time with a valid permit to enter the park. Do not even try entering from any other area in the protected areas. There are many precautions to take while staying near a national park. Some are listed below.

Caught in a national park without a valid permit will attract a jail term for you besides impounding of your vehicle. So please do not even think on these lines even if any local or a resort person tells you to.

Never leave the vicinity of the resort by yourself after sunset. Not even if you plan to just take a stroll around after your dinner. After sunset Leopards often tend to come close to the villages and resorts in search of food or the livestock. Tigers also move around in the night outside the protected areas. It is not worth the risk or adventure that you might want to experience.

If you must go out for some emergency work, and you must cross the buffer area of the forest, please do not go on a two wheeler. Ensure you are in a car and take someone along from the resort who knows the area, and do not forget to carry a torch for sure. Driving a two wheeler in a forested area is a huge risk more so in the night. If it breaks down, or a flat tyre, you can be in for a tough time. Four wheeler will at-least ensure your safety from the predators.

But if you happen to be in the Elephant country, then even a four wheeler is not a good idea to travel in the night. It is best that you postpone all your work for next day morning. Wild Elephants can treat your vehicle like a football. Hence it is in your best interest to stay in safe vicinity of your rooms.

Please do not even consider carrying any weapon even if you have one.  Caught with a firearm is a non bailable offense and attracts a term of up to 7 years in prison. But yes, it is a good idea to carry a wooden stick while on foot. No weapons whatsoever even in a safari vehicle.

While moving out of your room to go to the dining hall please carry a torch. Normally the electricity supply in the remote areas is erratic. Though most of the resorts have power back-up but it can take few seconds for the power supply to resume, hence carrying a torch is a good idea. These days there are wonderful caps which have a solar light, it is convenient to carry the same to as well. While doing the safari if the cap is on it keeps getting automatically charged, and in the night you can use it wherever you are going within the resort. Please click on this link below to see a good quality cap which i have been using for last 4 years.

Also be extremely careful not to go into bush, as there are many varieties of venomous snakes in the national parks.

http://www.ebay.in/itm/252642163895?aff_source=Sok-Goog

Precautions to take while staying near a national park
Solar cap, comfortable, and convenient

Stay safe and enjoy your safaris

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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What to do when you encounter a Tiger on foot in the Tiger country?

At the onset let me warn everyone that a Tiger is a perfect killing machine. So the best way to fight him is, not to fight him. This is a note from some personal past experiences, and wisdom of locals who occasionally meet the Tiger on foot in their own backyard.  It is quite possible that on your safari holiday you might also encounter a Tiger on foot inadvertently and unintentionally.

Please do not be anxious on how this might happen. Quite simply, the national parks of India do not have any fence, or walls. The Tigers move in and around the national parks to mark their territory, and in search of food. So often they come out of the forest and visit the outskirts of the resorts and the villages.

What to do when you encounter a Tiger on foot?

It is important to know that generally a Tiger is not interested in human beings. It is often noticed that he will leave the trail if he hears or sees you on the same trail. Having said this, it does not mean that you throw the caution to the winds. Also there are times that a Tiger would do a mock charge, i.e. come half way fully charging, then stop, turn around, and run away. These are serious and life threatening situations, so you cannot take any charge lightly, hence it is best to be prepared, and remember the below points if you happen to remember, when you encounter a Tiger on foot.

Stay calm

If you happen to sight a Tiger first then stay mum. Be breathless if possible. It is not easy not to get nervous, but your stillness before he notices you is your major chance of escape. If he has not noticed you, then stay quiet, wait for him to move on, and you later move in the opposite direction. Escaping should be the only motive, and avoid being foolishly heroic. Your anxiety can force a Tiger to take a step which he is not inclined to, i.e. attack you.

Pray

Whether you are a believer or a atheist there is no better time than this to start praying.

Stand up tall when you encounter a Tiger on foot

If you happen to be sitting on the trail, please stand up gradually, and stand tall. The Tiger must see you as a human being and not any unsuspecting prey animal. Tigers usually attack their prey from behind, specially when they happen to be sitting. He will mistake you for a small prey animal and charge. Hence stand up. By doing so, you have cleared to him that you are a human, and not his natural prey.

Signs that a Tiger is upset with you

If the Tiger is upset with you, he will show it by a growl, or he might take a stalking position. Now, what is a stalking position? Basically before a Tiger attacks, he crouches, his ears roll back, he freezes, focus on his prey, snarls, and charge. If he is taking that position, then you need to start backing up. Do not show your back to him, rather slowly and steadily just back up. When you love a dog his ears roll back, but not so with a Tiger. So please do not mistake Tiger’s rolled back ears that he needs to be loved. It is a clearcut warning to you, that he does not like your presence. Hence keep backing off slowly until the Tiger is well out of sight.

encounter a tiger on foot
Ears rolled back of a Tiger.

Never run

When you encounter a Tiger on foot, never run. Tigers are trained to chase anything running, and kill.

Encounter a Tiger on foot
This image was taken in Dudhwa National Park, when i was in a Jeep, and the Tiger decided to mock charge.

You will need to excuse me for the shake in the above image. This was the best i could get when i had a Tiger growling and flying towards me. I somehow feel it could have been lot sharper had other people in my Jeep not got hassled, and decided to shout and jump at the same time. Perhaps that did the trick and he abandoned his pursuit and turned back, but i lost a sharp image. This image perhaps needs another blog post altogether, so i would restrain myself from digressing further.

Climb a Tree

If there is a tree nearby, and the Tiger is a bit far, and you know how to climb a tree quickly, then go ahead. But be sure to reach at-least 15 feet high before stopping, as Tigers can jump upto 15 feet comfortably to get you down. Imagine how much is 15 feet, close to one and a half floor. So do it quickly if you can, else do not attempt.

If you encounter a Sloth Bear or a Leopard then the option of climbing the tree is out as they are both expert climbers, more so the Leopard.

Encounter a Tiger on foot
Forest guard who fought a Sloth Bear while patrolling.

I met the above forest guard in Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary, have forgotten his name, but will never forget my encounter with him. He had a bare hand fight with a Sloth Bear while on his patrolling rounds. The Sloth Bear stood on his hind legs, and fought with him for good 10 minutes. He did not loose hope and kept fighting. The Sloth Bear inserted his claws in the skull of the guard, but he kept on fighting. Perseverance, self belief, and not giving in saved him, but left him badly injured.

Make noise

If you have some metal, or something in your hand which you can make noise with, do it now. But do this only if you see that the Tiger has made up his mind to charge. If you have nothing on your hand, and Tiger is charging, then shout as hard and as long as you can.

Fight if you must and have no choice

When push comes to shove and you are not left with any choice then it is best to use presence of mind, and when a Tiger charges and jumps at you do the following:

Get as close as possible to him when he attacks you.

Hug him tight. Do not give him any breathing space. Hugging a Tiger can surprise him. All carnivores prefer distance, the fact that even while mating Tigers growl at each other, and avoid any physical closeness suggests that they avoid physical contact. Even Tigers fighting with each other keep distance. Initially they would slap each other, and wait to take a bite at the jugular vein on the neck of the opponent. Hence keep your neck away.

It is your weapon vs his claws and canines

Pick whatever you can, stick, branch, rock, and use it to protect yourself by hitting him.

Remember his weapons are his claws and canines, so stay away from them. Your weapon is whatever you get or have in hand. With his canines and claws he can hurt fatally. Tigers avoid fights. But if they get into the fight they will go for the kill, until and unless they are surprised by you, and just want to escape.

Continue to shout, and be as close as possible to him. Avoid his fatal bite, as not only it can kill, but it can give you some serious infection as his canines have lot of bacteria.

His weak spots could be his eyes, and nose, so strike hard there if you can.

If there is a water body close by, or a river, do not get into it until you have won a gold in the Olympics. Tigers are great swimmers, and will outpace you much sooner that you suspect.

Last but not the least continue to pray, and give in your best. Your best chance of survival will be the swiftness and shrewdness.

Let me end by saying what i started with, that the best way to fight a Tiger is not to fight a Tiger.

With prayers from me that you never encounter a Tiger on foot in the Tiger country.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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How to choose good accommodation in National Parks of India?

Once you have finalized the national park you wish to visit, the next big question is how to find good accommodation in national parks of India. Where to stay? The average length of stay in a national park can be 2-7 nights depending on various factors. If you are on a specific mission, i.e. following a story, or a specific Tiger, then the length of stay can be even higher than 7 nights.

You might ask who am i to give guidance on this. Well, having worked with the Asia’s largest Hotel chain for 11 years. And subsequently setting up Wildlife Lodges in few national parks, i think i have gained some experience in talking about this subject.

Important points to keep in mind before you choose your accommodation in national parks of India:

Budget

This is entirely your call. There are Jungle lodges of all kind of budgets near the national park. There are branded Lodges, value for money lodges, boutique, and basic lodges.

Location

It is important to know the location of the Jungle Lodge that you are choosing. Is it close to the national park? If not, then is there any other attraction nearby, like a waterbody, hill view, river, farms etc.

Nearby zone

This is the most important point. You must find out near which tourism zone is the resort located? Whether you have access to other zones from this location or not? If yes, how far are they. For example, in Kanha if your resort is near Mukki zone then the other gate is 50kms away, and reaching that gate can take well over an over. Similarly in Tadoba, Pench, Bandhavgarh, find out the nearby zone and accessability.

Month of travel

Staying in a tented camp is a great idea. But not so if you are traveling in peak summers or peak winters. However good the insulation of the tent might be but the moment the mercury touches 40 degrees it becomes a furnace. Likewise in winters, when the mercury plummets to 5 degrees you will feel like you are sleeping in a deep freeze. So it helps to find out the type of construction of the resort.

Recommendations

You must find out the ratings of the resort on forums like Trip Advisor. Read about the quality of food, cleanliness, safety, safari experience etc. Yes one can manipulate the feedback on such forum, but not considerably nor consistently. If the reviews are fake, someone will figure it out, and mention on the same forum again. But such short cuts are practiced by some Lodges which don’t take them far. Do not take the feedback lightly or for granted while choosing your accommodation in the national parks of India.

Ownership

It helps to know who are the owners and promoters of the Lodge. Is this Lodge their primary business, secondary, or is it promoted by a wildlife lover? Depending on this one can gauge the quality of the resort.

Reservation process

The reservation process of the resort will provide you an indication of the quality of the resort you are choosing. If the process is smooth, seamless, prompt, precise, be rest assured you are getting into a good place. This will give you an insight on how professional and personalised the processes are. It is a very important aspect while checking on good accommodation in national parks of India. Afterall this is the first link to the resort. The professionalism will reflect in the very first reply to your query.

Social Media presence

Social media presence is the norm of the day. If the resort is serious about it’s quality, then the same will reflect on it’s website, facebook page, twitter, instagram etc. The images on these platforms though can be manipulated but a discerning traveller can make out what is fake and what is factual.

My recommendation is to do a thorough research on the above for couple of reasons. Firstly it can make or mar your experience of the destination. Secondly, it can have a important dent on your purse.

Does it sound like too much of research? Oh yes, it is. But you are spending your hard earned money, so i suggest do sufficient research. If you have less time then leave it to your trusted tour operator to handle it for you. Give him your suggestions, and wait for his confirmations to check on the accommodation in the national parks of India. But how do you choose the trusted tour operator? Another blog for that i guess.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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Rajaram (Kingfisher) Tiger dies in a territorial fight in Kanha National Park

Rajaram in Kanha
Rajaram, not sleeping but territory marking.

Rajaram (Kingfisher) 2010-2016

The inevitable has happened, the unprecedented has ended. It was building up for a little over last 2 years. Rajaram, a.k.a Kingfisher’s body was found in Mukki zone on October 28th morning. Apparently, there were injury signs on his neck and shoulders. So it is concluded that it was a territorial fight. Well, there couldn’t have been anything else in this case. The area where his body was found is right in the heart of the tourism zone, which is monitored well by the forest guards and the tourists too. So, no untoward incident or accident could have happened here.

Since almost 30 months Mukki zone was prowled by 4 big male Tigers. Umarpani male, Bheema, Link 7 (Chotta Munna) and Rajaram aka Kingfisher. There were territorial tussles, devilish roaring, blood drops, naked claws, wounds and some scared to death tourists.

Rajaram in Kanha
Rajaram and Umarpani male in a territorial fight. Photo by Naren Malik

It was expected in 2014 itself that a fatal fight is round the corner. But all the male Tigers despite the differences had begun to give space to each other. Their intensity and frequency of fights had reduced over last one year. Many thought that these males had accepted each other. But how wrong was everyone in defining the behavior of these Tigers.

A very handsome male Tiger in his peak, Rajaram was 6 years old. He belonged to the Neela Nallah litter.

Sighting Rajaram during a Safari in Kanha

I can never forget the morning of December 13th 2015. We had just about crossed Andh Kuan, when we see this male Tiger walking briskly towards us. We started to retreat. His walk had a purpose. Naren said, this is Rajaram. I threw away (within the vehicle of course) all the winter layers, and was on the starting blocks like Usain Bolt. He walked behind us for over 2kms, and gave me plenty of opportunities to shoot him.

Rajaram in Kanha
Rajaram walked 2kms with us, and made eye contact several times

This particular sighting was possible due to my dear Naren Malik, and Preetam the forest guide. A brilliant team effort which saw us cross the line, and gave me immense pleasure.

Rajaram a family member to many

Sad part was that the news of his death was broken to me by Naren Malik, who sounded shattered on phone. He was unconsolable. For Naren, this is just not a loss of a Tiger. It is loss of a family member. People like Naren are bonded with their Tigers, as they track and see them often, and for years. Day in, and day out, weeks, months, and seasons go by, seeing, appreciating, and photographing these Tigers. It is a personal loss for Naren and other naturalists who love Kanha and it’s Tigers like family. And also for all those whom he showed Rajaram, me included.

I feel your pain Naren because of this loss. But my friend, it is a actually a gain. Tigers like Rajaram have left such an indelible mark on people’s mind that those people are today Kanha lovers.

Rajaram Tiger in Kanha
Rajaram aka Kingfisher in Kanha

Please don’t be distraught, the journey is far from over. Banat Banat Banjaye (keep on keeping on).

Who fought and overpowered Rajaram?

I am writing this when there is incomplete information on, with whom was the fight? Which Tiger? Hopefully in next few days the Tiger who killed Rajaram will show up with some injuries. For sure Rajaram would have gone down fighting till his last breath. Hence he would have wreaked some serious damage to his opponent. Is that opponent Chotta Munna (Link 7), unlikely, as he was sighted just today morning, absolutely fit. Was it Bheema? Maybe, but again unlikely as he was a bit frail over last 10-15 days, and also injured. Though Bheema had the power going for him, but in current situation it seems tough.

So was it Umarpani in that case? Most likely, as in the past they have both fought, and mostly Umarpani male has come out triumphant in all past fights. Besides, Umarpani male out-matches Rajaram in size, strength, and stealth.

Rajaram in Kanha
Hulk of a Tiger; Rajaram

While writing this piece I can see Rajaram’s eyes looking at me. Rajaram was one Tiger who looked you in the eye peacefully, plainly and assuredly. There were moments during my last sighting that we (me and him) were on same eye level, and not once i felt threatened.

Rajaram you will remain in my heart till it beats. You were not beaten my friend, you are liberated.

Have a peaceful onward journey.

Sharad Vats

P.S. He was aka Kingfisher for the sign of a flying Kingfisher just above his right eye.

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Man eater Tigress of Corbett shot dead

It pains me to write this note. A man eater Tigress of Corbett who apparently killed two men in Ramnagar near Corbett National Park was finally tracked and shot by the forest department. Why shot? Was there no other alternative? Let me try and give both sides thought process to you, and you decide if it is right or wrong to have shot a man eater Tigress of Corbett.

There is a debate raging across the social media on this. Some feel that it is right that she is shot. These are people who are from the village of those killed. They live in constant fear specially when they know that a man eater Tiger is on the prowl. So it is a huge relief for them after 44 days of search that the Tigress is no more. It is not an easy task for the Forest department to convince the local community when something like this happens. More so, if it is in a densely populated area.

What would happen if the forest department decides not to shoot? The villagers could perhaps burn part of the forest, go on some kind of civil disobedience which can create law and order problem. So the forest department is forced to take an action to let go of one Tiger to protect the larger picture.

Also, there are people who feel it was wrong to shoot the Tigress. These are the people who are wildlife lovers. They love their Tigers, and want them do be protected in the wild at any cost. After all it is humans who have encroached on their land and due to this the Tigers tend to do what they are not meant to do.

Was it possible to avoid this situation? Yes, definitely, it was possible. I have always spoken earlier as well, that we need to use technology in monitoring Tigers. Our parks are not fenced, and there is plenty of population around every national park. So, if we use the Drones, or perhaps a mini satellite for each national park, and monitor the straying Tigers such situations could be best avoided. A bigger question now comes in mind, is the forest department equipped with such equipment? Not yet. But it is in the process of implementation. It is said that by December 2016 6 national parks will be monitored by Drones.

So what to do after the Tiger has been found to stray out of the park? I am not from the forest department, but i am sure they have a protocol for this. Things like informing the villagers nearby about the stayed Tiger. Increase patrolling in the area. If the Tiger is old, or hurt, then chances are that he will pick on cattle for food. But if it is a young Tiger then there must be a reason for it to stray. Was it lack of habitat? Being pushed out in a territorial battle by another upcoming Tiger, lack of prey, lack of water, or something else. For a young Tiger it becomes very important to monitor regularly round the clock. Does the forest department have so much of manpower? Not sure, in fact unlikely.

Once the strayed Tiger has been identified, located, and reason found on what could be the reason for straying, it is best to rehabilitate him. Either back into the same forest, or perhaps in another range of the forest, or in some other forest of the state.

In this case i think there was an option of sending her to another forest nearby. Corbett is a part of Terai Arc Landscape, and the total area of the Terai belt is around 30000 sqkms. This area is sparsely populated as far as Tigers are concerned. Hence relocating this Tigress was an option that could have been considered.

Why is it that a state like Madhya Pradesh is so proactive in taking such decisions

Not once, twice, but many a times Madhya Pradesh forest department has successfully relocated Tigers. In one of the most recent cases, a Tigress was relocated from Bandhavgarh to Sanjay Dubri National Par. Few years back Tigers from Badhavgarh, Kanha and Pench were sent to Panna (totally devoid of Tigers due to poaching), to rehabilitate Panna. Today there are close to 34 Tigers in Panna. I do not remember last when was it that a man eater Tigress was shot in Madhya Pradesh.

A very heart warming translocation happened of an orphaned Tigress from Bandhavgarh to Satpura. In 2010 a Tigress died in Bandhavgarh leaving behind her very young cubs. Forest department took it upon themselves to to put these cubs in an enlarged enclosures. They very discreetly introduced some small prey initially, and when the orphaned cub was about 3 years old, she was shifted to Satpura National Park. It is a known fact that in Satpura the Tiger density is fairly low. So they introduced her in the Churna range of Satpura. Today this Tigress has a litter of 3 cubs and is often seen by the tourists. Isn’t this a simply amazing thing.

Man eater Tigress of Corbett

It is about time we treat Tigers as our national heritage, a natural treasure in practical reality and not only in books.

I hope we don’t have to hear more such cases in future.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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Tune in with Tigers of Bandhavgarh

Jeep Safari in Bandhavgarh
Tiger in Bandhavgarh

Next time you are doing a Jeep Safari in Bandhavgarh remember you can identify the Tigers yourself. In a first of it’s kind the forest department of Bandhavgarh National Park has made a booklet of 24 Tigers in the tourism zone of Bandhavgarh.

During the census done through camera traps there are images captured of all the Tigers. Which means there are photos of over 2200 Tiger roaming the wilds of India. And out of these 24 can easily be identified by the tourists while doing a Jeep Safari in Bandhavgarh. Well, not so easily on the spot. First the tourist needs to buy this book. Then he needs to compare the photos of the Tigers that he has seen with those in the book. He can either check and find out himself. Maybe ask the guide and driver to show the Tiger in the booklet to him. It is kind of a Tiger checklist. Not on the same format as the bird checklist but the purpose is same.

What is the purpose behind identifying Tigers while doing a Jeep Safari in Bandhavgarh?

What is the purpose of this? Simple,  whenever you see a Tiger, and identify the same, you tend to make an emotional connect with it. There is a longing to get back to the park to see the same Tiger. If not the same maybe see the others in the book which the guest is yet to see. So it increases attachment to Tigers and wildlife. And with attachment increases awareness. With awareness increases care to conserve.

On being asked if this was making the job of poachers easy, Mr Raman the Field Director said, not at all. First, this book covers only 24 out of over 60 Tigers of Bandhavgarh. Secondly these Tigers are only from the core zone. The core zone is highly protected, and not easy for poachers to pick from. Thirdly if the poacher at all has to poach then it does not matter to him if he has poached A Tiger or B Tiger. What he is paid for is a Tiger. The value difference of a Tiger in the Tiger trade is not different because of identification.

My personal opinion is that this is a very good thought, and implementation of the same by the Management of Bandhavgarh National Park. Compliments to them for this pioneering effort.

So, next time you are doing a Jeep safari in Bandhavgarh, please do make it a point to pick up this book either from the resort you are staying in, or from the nature book shop.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

http://www.naturesafariindia.com

 

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Tatkal scheme in Ranthambhore National Park

Ranthambhore National Park is an ideally located national park in India. Taj, Temples and Tigers is considered quintessential India experience. Ranthambhore provides the Tiger, while Taj and Temples are taken care of by Agra, Jaipur and Delhi.

Plenty of tourists plan their tours at the last moment. And with huge demand of safari permits, these last minute tourists were going disappointed. Hence to ensure that most of the last minute tourists get to visit the park the Forest management has started the Tatkal scheme in Ranthambhore National Park.

Ranthambhore National Park
T64 in Ranthambhore National Park

In this scheme there is an additional quota of 20 Jeeps kept aside for the last minute bookings. Maximum 6 guests are allowed per Jeep. The permit cost under Tatkal scheme is Rs 10000 per Jeep, over and above the usual charges of Rs 4400 per Jeep. The total cost is high, but if one is willing to pay there is a guarantee for a safari. Simultaneously this is also expected to reduce the black marketing of the safari permits.

The tatkal scheme was implemented on 1st October. And the sale in the first 10 days has generated an additional revenue of Rs 5.7 lakhs. The management plans to use this additional revenue for Tiger conservation. These are surely good signs from revenue perspective for the park.

New changes in the Ranthambhore National Park tourism policies

The park management has also opened a new zone No 11 next to Keladevi sanctuary.  This zone will accommodate the last minute bookings without adding any pressures on the existing zones.

To better manage the tourists near the entrance during the personal verification process they have segregated the tourists as per the zones. The entry and exit points of zone, 1, 4, and 5 have been realigned to facilitate tourists flow, and reduce waiting time at the gates.

Full day safari permits are also being issued. There are couple of eco-shelter facilities being developed at Amli deh, Depura Bandha, and Balash chowki. The guests can wait at these spots before restarting the safari.

Half day permits are also being issued and 5 additional Jeeps are kept aside for the same. The costs for the full day and half day safaris is higher than the normal safaris. But for the devoted, and sincere lovers of nature who wish to be inside the park longer it is a good opportunity to avail if one can afford it.

Ranthambhore National Park
Tiger in Ranthambhore National Park

Lot of people might say that this is excess of tourism. Honestly speaking it is not. If well managed and regulated, tourism is a huge tool for conservation. How? Well, tourism increases awareness, and awareness increases a will to conserve. Besides, it also generates extra revenue. This additional revenue if used judicially for benefit of local community and the forest can be a wonderful thing for Ranthambhore.

I think this will be a great thing to practice for rest of the national parks also. Regulate responsible tourism, generate addition revenue and conserve the community and the forests.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

 

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Will Panna be doomed?

I am beginning to feel for the soul of Panna National Park. It has already suffered a lot. In 2008 Panna lost all it’s Tigers to poachers. Panna became a closed chapter for many. But for one man, ably supported by his team, Mr Murthy revived Panna by his ironical will, and determination. It was an uphill task for him to bring Panna from ZERO to THIRTY FOUR Tigers. And now when Tigers had started to roar again in Panna, the news comes of a large chunk of Panna being drowned due to Ken-Betwa river linking project.

What is this river linking project? Our former Prime Minister (Mr A.B. Vajpayee) decided to mitigate the drought in the hilly regions of Bundelkhand. The whole region was practically parched, and agriculture was suffering. People had begun to leave their native towns and villages in search of work. Lot of farmers from Chattarpur area now work in metro cities as labour. Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee decided to link the two rivers of the region, so that excess water in the basin of Ken river could be diverted via a canal to the Betwa river thus irrigating lakhs of hectares of land.

But to divert this water the Daudhan dam is required to be built.  This will submerge a substantial habitat of our national animal, the Tiger. Infact, the wildlife experts like Mr Ranjitsinh feel that Panna National Park will be bifurcated. If this comes about to be true, then nothing and no one will be able to save Panna. The river basin has lot of grass and food for the herbivores, when this area gets submerged due to the dam, the herbivores will move on. This will affect the quality of habitat in a big way and what happens to the Tigers then is anyone’s guess.

What is being done in this project?

A 230km canal linking the two rivers is a humongous task. This will take a few months and few thousand men working round the clock to complete. Does so much of work in the heart of the forest disturb the wildlife? Without doubt, considerably, and beyond reformation.

But a bigger question arises now, what is the solution and how we can fulfill the needs of humans and Tigers both. Is there one, if at all?

I was in the region this May (2016), and again in August (2016). As luck would have it, i saw both the rivers in May. To my surprise it was Ken which had far lesser water compared to Betwa. I spoke to some locals in the region, and they all confirmed that Betwa has more water compared to Ken year round. But it is Ken which gets more water during the monsoons. So, if the project is to divert water during monsoons only then it is perhaps a good thought. But at what cost? Tigers? Forests? Too huge a price to pay i guess.

In August 2016 when i visited, Ken was brimming with water this year. But that was also because this year the rain gods have been more generous in this area.

My personal opinion

Nature is almighty supreme. It will find a way around this man made misadventure. Nature has survived without man for eons, and if we do not change, nature is prepared to survive alone. The experts and activists have tried a lot but could not convince the Government to stop this river linking. As of now there is little that we can do, but hope and pray that good sense prevails and the Government let’s go of this project.

Let us remember the fact that the human population is only increasing, and the forests and glaciers are only shrinking. From the forests of India around 300 rivers originate. Would someone not think that if Ken has more water today, then does Panna contribute to it? Logically, scientifically, yes? So if we take away the forest will the water not reduce? Isn’t this an elementary conclusion. What if these 10000 crores are spent, and Ken just dries up? Is there any insurance that the Govt will claim, and get the river back. I doubt it.

Praying for Tigers of Panna, and i am optimistic that they will be fine, as nature when it falls sick takes an antibiotic just like us humans. It is sad that those antibiotics are floods, droughts, landslides, earthquakes and everything that harms humans than it benefits.

All, i can say at this point in time is, Lord, let thy will be done.

Sharad Vats

 

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