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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Ganges Dolphin census in state of Uttar Pradesh.

A survey is underway since October 2016 in the river Ganges in Uttar Pradesh to ascertain the number of Ganges Dolphin. It is being carried our in two phases. One from Bijnor barrage to Narora, approx 225kms. And the second from Kanpur to Fatehpur about 175kms in length. So a total length of 400kms along the river Ganges is being surveyed.

Apparently the numbers of Ganges Dolphin have reduced over the decades due to lack of habitat. They are mostly affected by the barrages, dams, pollution, and irrigation projects. A typical story of importance being given to economy over ecology. Ganges Dolphin live in the most densely human populated area of the world (Uttar Pradesh). Hence the immense pressure for survival and development is reason enough for Dolphins to be threatened.

Their total population is between 1200-1800 individuals, which is less than the wild Tigers in India. But the Tigers happen to get all the attention in the world to themselves. While millions is spent on their conservation, not even a fraction goes for conservation of the Ganges Dolphins. Their was a time when the Ganges Dolphins were found in large schools. Not any longer.

Just about 15 years back i was on a visit to a small town called Garh Mukteshwar on the banks of Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. This is located about 100kms from New Delhi. It is considered auspicious to take a dip in the holy waters at Garh Mukteshwar. While i was crossing the river to go to the other side which was more peaceful, i saw something just come up in the river and go down. Not knowing that one can expect Dolphins here, i curiously stayed focussed in the region, and their in a span of 15 seconds she comes up again. My delight knew no bounds on having sighted the Ganges Dolphins.

On my next visit to this town which was about 5 years later, i again expected to see this beautiful sight, but no luck. I asked the locals, and they said that for last 3 years even they had stopped seeing the Ganges Dolphins.

New threat to the Ganges Dolphin

A new initiative just might be a death knell for the Ganges Dolphin. Our Government has come out with a unique plan to use the rivers waterways to transport goods. This will threaten the Ganges Dolphins. Unfortunately not many rivers in India are big enough to transport goods. But Ganges surely is, and hence it must pay the price for it’s grandness.

Even if the census shows marginal increase in the Ganges Dolphin numbers it will be no reason to be happy as the waterways to transport goods will not be good news for the Ganges Dolphins. Why is it that man forgets that he inherited this planet with so many species to live with, but we don’t seem to be leaving a better planet for our next generation. Sad, but true.

Hope the Ganges Dolphin survives.

Sharad Vats

http://www.naturesafariindia.com

 

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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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Tiger cell for Tiger conservation

Tiger cell for Tiger conservation
Sharmili Tigress in Corbett National Park

NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority) and WII (Wildlife Institute of India) have decided to set up a Tiger cell for Tiger conservation in the campus of WII in Dehradun.

What is the need for a Tiger cell for Tiger conservation?

Last 5 years has seen an unprecedented growth in the Tiger population. While this is good news for the country, it is good news for the poachers too. How? Simple, they have more possibilities for poaching now. So, this increase in Tiger population brings in more responsibility to protect the Tigers. Hence a need for Tiger cell for Tiger conservation was felt by the Government.

Poachers have done their bit this year. In the first 6 months of this year, 74 Tigers have died, out of which 14 were poached or electrocuted. Some Tigers also died in the territorial flights as the habitat is limited and the population is increasing. While some died due to old age, or other reasons.

Tiger cell for Tiger conservation
Tigress in Corbett National Park

What will the “Tiger cell for Tiger conservation” do?

  1. They will keep track of population of Tigers in the 50 Tiger reserves. Every Tiger will be documented.
  2. Tiger cell will keep a record of the DNA and stripes of all individual Tigers. This will be challenging, but progressive.
  3. Also, they will keep database of the photos of all the Tigers. How these images will be collated is yet to be ascertained. Will it be from the camera traps only? Or, will they also take images from tourists and photographers? Whatever be the source of the same, but the idea is good, and will bear fruit. The photos help identify the Tigers instantly in case of poaching.

But is one Tiger cell for Tiger conservation enough? No, infact far from it. Ideal situation will be to have one cell in each region if not each state. Hopefully they will get there too.

With the usage of technology by the Government the Tiger is getting more protection. Drones are set to make their entry in 5 Tiger reserves by the end of this year. Subsequently the installation of theTiger cell for Tiger conservation will be icing on the cake.

Best Wishes to the Tigers

Sharad Vats

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Indian Wildlife

nature safari india
Indian Wildlife

Indian Wildlife pleasantly surprises many.  We have 16% of world population living in less than 1% land mass of this planet. The bio-mass pressure of the human and cattle population creates a huge pressure on our forests. A worldwide trend where development, and GDP growth is an enemy of the environment.

While traveling in rural India you still find people worshipping trees, animals, rivers and practically everything that is in nature.

This is the reason India has still managed to hold on to some endangered species. The so called #TigerExperts had given a apocalypse that Tiger shall not survive to see the turn of the 21st century. Tiger survives well into 16 years of the century. Did these experts underestimate their subjects of study, or overestimate their own expertise? Perhaps they were quite right at the time of this prediction, maybe this prognosis served as an alarm bell in the right ears.

For every forest being disrobed, there are many Krishna’s prohibiting the same. There are poachers and there are protectors. In summary the experts saw only one side and predicted. They did not see the human side. But I would still like to thank them for the prediction, cause that woke up lot of sleeping souls of the society.

An Indian Wildlife savior in Bandhavgarh National Park

 I would like to share a true incident I witnessed in #Bandhavgarh National Park in Feb 2016. Do see the image of the same below the text.

While doing an evening safari in #Bandhavgarh from a distance I noticed a forest guard sitting near the #Rajbhera waterhole. On looking closely we see a cheetal (spotted deer) by his side. The guard was feeding him with water and leaves. Later we asked what happened, he said while patrolling this morning he noticed the old and weak deer almost dying next to the water hole. He fed him with some leaves and water. Thereafter, the deer was able to lift his head in a couple of hours. When he came back in the evening to feed the cheetal, he saw more improvement. I was touched by his gesture, as no one had told him to do that.

We appreciated his work, and what he said after that amazed me, and made me laugh simultaneously. He said, “Sirji hum to tiger ko bhi aise kar dein agar woh karne de”. (Sir, we would treat / handle the #tiger similarly if he allows us to). His voice and eyes had genuine concern and love for animals. Whether the deer survived the night or not, whether he became food of some predator or not, is not important. But what is important is, that we do have a lot of people in our forests doing their job sincerely and silently, away from recognition. In my eyes, he did not only save the cheetal, he saved the tiger, and the forest simultaneously.  This is why I say, that there are Krishna’s working silently saving Indian Wildlife in their own ways.

Indian Wildlife
Indian Wilds Savior. A ranger at work in Bandhavgarh

I have not lost any hope despite a lot of adversity towards Indian Wildlife. Nature will regenerate, it is powerful enough to take care of itself, it has done so for eons, and will continue to do so eternally.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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10 important points for Wildlife photography in India.

Doing a safari is not economical any longer. One spends substantial resources in doing the same. They say, that taking good photographs add value to your safari. The below points will help you prepare for Wildlife photography in India.

Wildlife Photography in India
Machli the Legendary Tigress in Ranthambhore National Park
  1. To hone your Wildlife Photography skills it helps to know the national park you are visiting. Read about it to know what animals you can expect to see, the type of terrain, temperatures, type of vehicles being used. Wildlife Photography in India is unique as the terrain and animals to shoot are different. Hence you must do enough research to know the same.
  2. Patience and perseverance is extremely important while doing safaris. Please see the above for the same.
  3. If you plan to shoot Tigers, then it helps to understand the Tiger behavior a bit.
  4. Listen to the guide and the driver of the vehicle you are traveling in, and follow the rules and regulations during the safari.
  5. Be as silent as possible. Murmurs are best when you sight something. Your talking, or excitement can push the wildlife back into the bushes.
  6. Avoid sudden movements when you sight anything. Sudden jerky movements of hands, standing up, disturbs the animal, and they can go away before you realize it.
  7. You must know your camera equipment well. Read your camera manuals once again before the tour. Avoid changing lens and memory cards when in front of animals. They should be done before sighting. You must know how many images your cards can store, and store surplus cards, and batteries.
  8. If you are sitting with other tourists in the Jeep, then it helps to coordinate with them in advance and ensure everyone is be able to take images. Avoid getting into any alterations with fellow tourists while the Tiger sighting is happening for want of better angles and a look. Everyone sitting has paid for the safari. (this point is usually for youngsters who get very excited during the sightings)
  9. Personal physical fitness is very important as well. You should be light on your feet, i.e. adjust the angles fast without being noisy. In a hurry to take images, do not move when others in the vehicle are taking images.
  10. Eat light. Avoid having heavy Indian meals before a safari, as the same can bring in a bit of laziness, and can induce sleep, resulting in you missing some possible opportunities.

For more personal guidance on how to shoot please feel free to write to me.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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Off days in some National Parks of India

When are the national parks closed
T64 in Ranthambhore National Park

While you are planning a safari in the National Parks of India it is important to know when the parks are closed? Which day of the week? Or any festivals when the national parks are closed?

First and foremost one must know that the core zones of all the Tiger reserves are closed for the monsoons in India. There are couple of reasons why this is done. One, due to rain the mud trails become slushy. Hence there is a possibility of the safari vehicles getting stuck in the slush. So the forest department prefers to close the national parks. Also the monsoon break provides an opportunity to the forest to rejuvenate itself.

when are the national parks closed
A Tiger in pre-monsoon shower

Closure of some popular national parks

All Madhya Pradesh National Parks i.e. Panna, Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench, Satpura, Sanjay are closed every Wednesday afternoon for safaris.  These parks are also closed on Holi and Diwali festival days. No safaris on these two days. The monsoon break for the Madhya Pradesh parks is from 1st July till 30th Sept. But the buffer zones are open for safari in these parks.

In Maharashtra, Tadoba remains closed full day on Tuesday. But there are buffer zones in Tadoba which are open for safaris. So a guest need not feel that there is no Jungle safari or activity happening on this day.

Ranthamhore National Parks zones from 1 till 5 are closed from 1st July till 30th Sept for monsoon. But zones 6 to 10 are open for tourism during this time.

Jim Corbett National Park and Dudhwa National Park are also closed for monsoon from 16th June till 15th November. But the Jhirna range is open for tourism in the monsoons also.

Keoladeo Bird Sanctuary is open round the year for tourism. But, birding is at it’s peak during Dec till mid Feb as the the migratory birds make Bharatpur their home during these months.

Is it worth doing a safari in buffer zones during monsoon time?

Yes, by all means. If you are a nature lover then yes, the forest is at it’s beautiful best during monsoon. If you just wish to see the Tigers during this time, then this is not the ideal time. It is simple, because when it rains do you step out of your house for a stroll, not really, or rarely. Same is the case with Tigers. They prefer not to get wet. But it is not that the Tigers stop walking, and patrolling their territory, they do it, but slightly less. Hence the chances of Tiger sightings are less. But nature offers so much of love soaked in beauty that you don’t miss the Tigers.

Also, if it starts to rain during the safari it is tough to take images, as you rather protect your expensive camera equipment than risk it in the rains.

when are the national parks closed
Some Wild Flowers during monsoons

There is so much of growth all around, wild flowers, butterflies, birds nesting, bird songs, vibrant colors, cloudy skies, and a lot more. The whole landscape is decorated just for you. Complete eco-system is thriving.

So, if you are a nature lover, then you must visit during the monsoons. Find out in advance which resorts are open. Most of the resorts are closed during this time. But there are some resorts open, which take bookings. Find out, go, explore, and upgrade yourself to a nature lover from just a Tiger lover. It is like, you must love the home of the Tiger, because only if you do, will you understand the value of it’s home, and that is the only way to save the Tiger.

Honestly, the forest is not only about the Tigers. Let us see the big picture together rather than just one important element of nature.

Sharad Vats

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