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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Tiger Population to double by 2022 in India

Tiger population to double
A Tiger confidently walking towards a bright future.

“Tiger Population to double by 2022 in India”, an awesome statement by our Environment Minister on the International Day of the Tiger. Well, only the time will tell if this statement is proven right or not by 2022. But his intention is loud, and clear. But is this just a comment by a minister? I don’t think so. It is scientifically possible to double the Tiger population. All that is required is WILL by the Government. Everyone knows that the Tiger is a fast breeding cat. All we need to provide is inviolate habitat and the Tigers will take care of the rest.

Steps being taken to double the Tiger population:

Tourism friendly policies are being initiated in the national parks of Madhya Pradesh. This signifies that Tiger Tourism is being recognized as an important conservation tool. Synergizing tourism and forest department work will have beneficial impact on the Tiger population. But it has to be responsible tourism. Besides, tourism generates extra revenue for the local community as well.

The Goverment has red flagged the Rio Tinto project in Panna. This was a big diamond mining project scheduled to come up at Bunder. The revenue involved here was to the tune of Rs 20000 crores. Reason why this project has been stalled is that it would have cut the corridor link between Panna with Nauradehi. While this corridor is not of a Kanha-Pench corridor quality, nevertheless it has presence of a Tigress with cubs. This directly implies that it is a critical Tiger habitat.

To say that future of Tiger conservation lies in the corridors will not be wrong. A corridor is a life line of a national park for healthy transfer of gene pool. With more such decision in future, Tiger Population to double by 2022 in India is a reality.

Relocating Tigers

Six Tigers to be shifted from Chandrapur district in Maharashtra to Sahyadri reserve.  This will increase the Tiger numbers in the Sahyadari which currently has a low density of Tigers. The Tigers to be shifted are the ones outside the core zones, susceptible to being poached and engage in man-animal conflict. Hence an excellent step being taken to ensure Tiger populations double by 2022.

A male Tiger has been shifted from Ranthambhore to Sariska. The male to female ratio in Ranthambhore is currently about 50-50. The ideal male to female ratio is 1:1.4. Extra males in an area leads to in-fighting, and fatal injuries. By shifting a male Tiger to Sariska it improves the ratio in Ranthambhore and Sariska both. Apparently in Sariska the male to female ratio was more in favor of females. So, twin benefits with a single stroke. Yet another wise step  to ensure Tiger Population to double by 2022 in India. Something like this has never been done in the past. The thought process and action on these lines is a good beginning.

New habitat

Wildlife Institute of India has done a research in Phen wildlife sanctuary recently. The study found Phen to be a good habitat for Tigers. 18 different Leopards were also caught in the camera traps. Tiger pug marks were also documented in the area. But they realized that the Tiger does not stop in Phen. The tiger comes here nad moves onwards to Chattisgarh or return to Kanha. Most likely this was due to lack of prey and grasslands. Thereafter 500 spotted deers were translocated to Phen. Furthermore 500 will be shifted soon. With plenty of prey, hopefully Tigers will make Phen their new home.

Recently Tigers have been camera trapped in Achanakmar in Chattisgarh. Could these Tiger have travelled from Kanha via Phen. The possibility of same cannot be ruled out. In the last few years there were no direct signs of Tiger presence here. But the recent camera trap images showed a Tigress with 4 cubs. A very positive sign in Tiger conservation.

Reclaiming old home by Tigers

Four Tigers were camera trapped in Karauli wildlife sanctuary recently.  These Tigers moved out of Ranthambhore and found home here. On finding Karauli to be perfect habitat they have decided to stay here. THis sanctuary once was home to Tigers, but for some reasons Tigers disappeared from here. They are now making a comeback on their own. With plenty of Leopards already here, Karauli will be proud to have the Tigers too. It is interesting to note that Tigers are laying claim to their erstwhile home not only here but in some more areas.

Similarly some Tigers from Ranthambhore have reached Kuno Palpur in Madhya Pradesh. This reserve has been waiting for Lions from Gujarat. But due to delay in arrival of Lions the Tigers have made Kuno their home in. Another positive development in Tiger conservation.

Technology and Tigers

Using of Drones in 5 Tiger parks to monitor Tiger population is a pioneering step. Highly sophisticated Drones will be put in use by the end of 2016. Infact these Drones have already been tested successfully in Panna National Park. With only 2200 Tigers in the wild, and huge areas to cover, using technology to patrol is a great idea. I hope even micro satellites can be used in the future to monitor the few hundred Tigers left in the wild.

All these are very good initiatives in the right direction. We all know that the Tiger is a fast breeding cat, all it needs is inviolate space, and they multiply on their own.

Tigers outside the protected areas

Study done by WII has concluded that more than 40% of India’s wild tigers are outside the core zone. This is a very high number. Not only it puts the Tigers in danger of being poached, but it also increases the man-animal conflict. Hence these Tigers need better protection. One way forward is to do more patrolling in buffer. Due to limited resources if the forest management finds it tough to do the same, the opening of buffer to tourism will only benefit Tiger conservation.

A Tigress was camera trapped at an altitude of 12000 feet in Uttrakhand. In all probability she came from either Champawat or Haldwani range after crossing the river Kali. This further emphasizes the fact that Tigers are straying outside the core zone, and need buffers to protect them. The Uttrakhand government has been working on this, and monitoring these straying Tigers.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

 

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Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary—-a hidden jewel.

Jaulasal Forest Rest House,
Jaulasal Forest Rest House, Nandhaur
Shravan Taal
Shravan Taal– a water hole in Nandhaur
Semal tree in Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary
The Mahavriksh of Uttrakhand, Semal Tree in Nandhaur
Nandhaur
River in Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary
Khanila Tree in Nandhaur
Khanila Tree..the ticklish tree
Nanak Sagar
Nanak Sagar outside Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary

Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary is a hidden jewel over shadowed by it’s elder cousin #Corbett National Park. A part of #Terai #Arc #Landscape this park is as easy to reach as Corbett. Best approached from Haldwani or even Ramnagar.

We reached the #Kadapani gate, and started inward journey into Nandhaur. T he opening feelers were not good, rather far from good. When you see extensive mining of sand and river stones in the Terai plains, it is not a pleasing sight to the eyes. But after about 5 kms into the drive my perceptions began to change. The Jungle seemed to be taking over. A typical sal forest, with serenity of a paradise. Nandhaur has some Khattas (transitory villages) on one side of the forest. So one thinks that this would be a forest disturbed by humans.

At Jaulasal Forest Rest House, in Nandhaur

About 18kms into the drive, we reached the staff quarters of #Jaulasal. We mistook the staff houses to be the Forest Rest House. We were disappointed not to find any staff in the premises. But then I heard a motorcycle rumble by to us, and the guard said, that they were waiting for us at the #Forest #Rest #House upstairs. We drove up about 200 meters and what awaited us was a breathtaking sight. A beautiful hamlet tucked away on a hilltop facing the Shivaliks, and the Nandhaur Valley below. The location, the design, and the concept of the British Raj theme it is a paradise on Earth.

This rest house was made in 1923 by the British, and has been recently renovated. The view was so heavenly that I did not enter the FRH for a long time. But once I did, even that was spellbinding. These Forest Rest houses made by Britishers over 100 years ago are mostly of 2 bedrooms, with a common living room, and attached bathrooms. The second bedroom is for your assistant, servant or a driver. We carried some food raw materials, and handed over to the guard. He briefed us that there is no electricity here, only solar lights which last few hours only. Well, who needs electricity in a paradise. The outdoor was so stunning, that we made ourselves comfortable on the chairs in the verandah overlooking the Shivaliks. For a typical city dweller this is the perfect recipe for peace.

Safari in Nandaur

Our morning began at 6 a.m. with a hot cup of tea, and we impatiently got into the vehicle for our safari into this unexplored heaven on earth. We were about to begin our safari when I heard some alarm calls of the Indian Pea Fowl. This further increased my anxiety. It seemed to me that the denizens of Nandhaur were calling out to me. Less than a kilometer and we crossed an almost dry bed of a seasonal river. What followed after that is a feeling of grudge against myself, as to why did I not visit this place before.

The forest guard who was accompanying us took us to some beautiful spots. The first one was #Shravan #Taal, a peaceful water hole waiting for animals to come and quench their thirst. But as it was only November so there was a lot of water in deeps of the Jungle and I was told that come summers this waterhole is in demand by the #herbivores.

Mahavriksh of Uttrakhand, Nandhaur

What ensued, was astonishing, for I had not seen a tree with a base circumference of over 80 feet, yes you read it right, 80 feet. A #Semal tree, over 150 years old, and if 15 people stood with hands stretched they would perhaps be able to cover it. The Guard, Mr Trilochan Bhist called this a “Mahavriksh”, aptly so, and said that this is the largest tree of Uttrakhand. I had no doubts about it.

While sitting at this spot, the guard narrated a beautiful story. Guru Nanakji had visited Nandhaur once, and he stopped inside the forest on a hill top with his group of disciples. Being on the top of the hill, there was no water for the thirsty disciples. The great sage surmised a small lake known as Siddh Taal at that height. Till today that lake stays full. The circumference of the lake is about 750 meters. Depth is unknown, and it is said that #Siddh #Taal is the source of Nanak Sagar lake about 40kms from here. I was curious to visit the Siddh Taal, but was told that currently it is not accessible by a vehicle, a road is being made which should be ready in about one months time from now, and then it will only be a 3kms trek to the Holy Siddh Taal.

Meeting the guard who fought bare hand with the Sloth bear at Senapani Rest House in Nandhaur

We commenced our safari, and reached another beautiful Forest Rest House known as #Senapani #Forest Rest House. Here I met Prakash Singh Bhatt a Forest guard who had an encounter with a Sloth bear on his patrolling rounds. He fought the Sloth Bear with his bare hands. After the fight he was hospitalized for about 40 days. His wounds still not healed, and on being asked if he would go back again patrolling, he said sure, he would, once he recovers fully. I bow down to such Forest Guards who risk their lives to save our national heritage, the silent unsung heroes.

Forest guard in Nandhaur
The forest guard who fought with the Sloth Bear bare hands

Totally inspired by his bravery, and dedication we moved back towards Jaulasal. En route the guard stopped and showed us #Khanilla tree. We were told that this tree is used extensively in the Ayurvedic medicines to cure many diseases. The unique thing about this tree was that on being very lightly scratched on its bark the tree would start shaking as if it was being tickled.

I was now getting anxious to discover more of the forest. Such wonderful information, and knowledge waiting to be gathered while we remain focused only on Tigers that too in some big parks.

Leopard in Nandhaur

Our journey back to Jaulasal began. After a brief while Lovnish braked, and said, “Spotted”. My internal reaction was it’s ok, we have seen #Spotted #Deers, he started to reverse, stopped and showed us a #Leopard sitting about 10 meters from us. The Leopard was so still that he could be noticed only when he moved. He obviously did not like being “Spotted”, and went into the bush. We moved on a bit and stopped. It was just 2 minutes when the Leopard came out on the road, looked around and crossed the road. We all had smiles on our faces. I was consumed in seeing the Leopard in those beautiful surroundings that I totally forgot to click. Camera was in my hands, but I was just mesmerized by this beauty. On our return we saw some more pug marks of the Leopard on the dry river bed.

Nanak Sagar and Nanak Mattha, excursion from Nadhaur

We had lunch at Jaulasal rest house, and I asked our tracker, what next, he said, if we are keen we can go to Nanak Sagar and #Nanak #Mattha. Keen was an understatement, we jumped and before Deepak could realize we were sitting in the car. Drove for about 45 minutes, to reach #Nanak #Sagar. What unfolded was unbelievable. Sun was setting, cool wind was hitting us, a slight shiver, total silence, only sound was from the flock of egrets landing and taking off. And in front of our eyes, was an ocean. Reminded me of #Chuka in #Pilibhit #Tiger #reserve. Not as huge perhaps but what one saw in front was only water, and no shore.

Nanak Mattha Nandhaur

We then went to Nanak Mattha, the Gurudwara, sat and listened to the Shabad for a while, before hitting the road back to Jaulasal.

Memorial of Mrs E A Smythies, near Jaulasal, Nandhaur

Next day morning it was time to check out. It was now that we were showed another milestone of Nandhaur. A spot where wife of Mr E A #Smythies had a fight with a Tiger with her bare hands in 1925, she died fighting the Tiger. This was another touching moment that became engraved in our memory. For records Mr E A Smythies was a forester and an expert on Ecology of Uttrakhand. He alongwith Jim Corbett had proposed for area around Ramnagar to be made a National Park. While we all remember Jim Corbett and have named a National Park after him, we have forgotten a renowned Forester who spend his life in the Jungles of Uttrakhand.

Mrs E A Smythies memorial in Nandhaur
Mrs E A Smythies memorial in Nandhaur

For those interested to know what does Nandhaur have, I must mention here that Nandhaur has over 25 Tigers as per last census, Elephants, and everything that a Terai forest can offer. Birdlife is very rich. What it lacked was some grasslands to attract the prey so that visitors can see them. Removal of the Khattas on the boundary will do only good to the sanctuary, and some more roads to explore Nandhuar, which apparently is already happening at a great speed. The Forest department is working hard, and I heard that a proposal has been sent to the Central Government for it to be made a Tiger Reserve.

Nandhaur you are very beautiful, and I am happy that hardly any tourists come and disturb your peace and beauty.

I will see you again and soon

Sharad Vats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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