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

 

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us:

The Biggest Tiger of Central India; the Umarpani Male of Kanha National Park

Tigers of Kanha are known to be big in size. And, i am putting my neck on the block by making such a statement. But having observed Tigers for close to 28 years in many nationals parks (specially in the Central India highlands) i think this guy has it all going for him as far as size, strength, and stealth is concerned. Umarpani male, slightly premature to crown him as the future King of Kanha as there is some serious competition on the cards from Chotta Munna who is taking his father’s legacy very seriously.

A lot of this has to be dedicated to his genes. His forefathers have been dominating Tigers in Kanha for past generations. Let us see which lineage does he come from.

The lineage of Umarpani male:

Father is Munna, the legendary Tiger who has CAT spelt on his forehead. At 15 years of age, Munna is still controlling the main tourism zone of Kanha. The world knows him, and he needs o further introduction. Munna’s father also known as the Limping male was one of the dominating and a huge Tiger before Munna.

Tigers of Kanha
Limping male, father of Munna, and grand father of Umarpani male
Tigers of Kanha
Munna, father of Umarpani male, photo by Naren

Mother is Umarpani female, the daughter of Banda, the dominant male Tiger of Kanha before Munna, and Sonapani female, who in turn is the sister of legendary Laxmi (not same litter). This is the reason for her size. Her size confused people with a male Tiger quote often. So her genes come from dominating male and popular Tigresses of Kanha.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpnai female, daughter of Banda and mother of Umarpani male,. Photo by a past guest of ours.

Umarpani male:

He was born around Nov 2009, they were two brothers and sister in the litter. The other male cub was even bigger than him. He was shaping up well until about 2 years old when tragedy struck. When and where he disappeared alongwith his sister none know. Umarpani male is the smaller of the two brothers. At times i wonder if his brother was around what would have been his size.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpani male in 2014 (5 years old)

My first sighting of Umarpani male was in December 2014. I mostly followed him from behind, and only for few seconds i was able to take some of his side flanks. He was about 5 years at that age. His muscular build was very obvious.

Tiges of Kanha
Umarpani male in June 2015, 6 years old

Then i saw him in June 2015. Behold, I was in a state of shock when he turned to look at me. I skipped a heartbeat or two. Never before any Tiger seemed so big to me. From close quarters lot of Tigers look big. But this fellow’s largeness was evident even from a distance. It was not only his size that stole my heart, but his looks, and presence are of a killing machine. I am not sure how many people have had the opportunity of photographing Umarpani male for 30 minutes or more. But after that sighting i thought if i do not see Tigers for next 2 years i am fine, as i thought i had seen the best.

Who is bigger Munna or Umarpani male?

Today when i sit back and compare both these big Tigers, Umarpani male outshines Munna very comfortably in size, and semblance. And this i am comparing Munna in his prime. The skull of Munna is big, but Umarpani male’s skull is bigger, wider, and with a larger circumference. Though the height and length of both would be similar, but sheer compactness and crassitude of Umarpani puts him in a class of his own. His overall bone structure, bigger limb bones, and wider skeleton puts him on a pedestal where his huge father starts to look minor in size compared to him.

After all Umarpani male has the advantage of his mother’s genes as well. She was one of the largest Tigress of Kanha ever.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpani male; the sheer size of his skull is matchless

Umarpani vs Bheema

Bheema is thinner, infact much thinner compared to Umarpani male. They might seem to be of same height and length but girth wise Umarpani male outclasses him. Bheema’s bone structure is lean, smaller frame compared to Umarpani. And his skull lacks the monstrosity of Umarpani. Bheema weighed 225kgs when he was just 2.5yrs old  (vs Jai 220kgs full grown). Bheema with his winter coat would be 280kgs plus, and yet Umarpani male outmatches him in summer. Now again for a moment think about Umarpani’s brother who was even bigger than him. What a loss to Kanha by his mystifying disappearance.

Tigers of Kanha
Bheema, June 2015

Umarpani vs Rajaram (Kingfisher)

I have been a fan of Kingfisher too as he was a peaceful Tiger who in terms of size looked similar from a distance. He like Chotta Munna gave ample opportunities to tourists to see him from close quarters. But as one would look at him closely he seemed like a Tiger on steroids. He was shorter in height compared to Uma male. Maybe hence he lacked the core muscles and his belly literally touched the ground. Length-wise also he was smaller than Bheema and Uma male. When someone saw him with a full belly he looked like a big Tiger, while he was actually a big belly Tiger. Also from the Tiger point of view he did not have the cuts and contour of a competitive cat. He seemed to be lot of fat, and lacked muscular manifest.

The fatal fight, October 2016: Umarpani male vs Rajaram

Umarpani had a close skirmish with Rajaram in January 2015, wherein he got Rajaram to retreat. Though both seemed to have some injuries, but Rajaram left his area, and stayed away. So Uma male had a measure of him from the past fights while Chotta Munna did not. So had it been Chotta Munna in the territorial fight even he would have sustained injuries. But Uma male had the knowledge of the mass and might of Rajaram so it was most likely him, and only him who could have given the fateful bite.

Another point that would point towards this direction is that the fight most likely did not last long. Uma male nailed him fast and furious, cause had it lasted long even Umarpani male would have sustained injuries, which he did not. He was sighted a couple of days later moving quite briskly by the forest department.

Tigers of Kanha
Rajaram aka Kingfisher male
Tigers of Kanha
Rajaram and Umarpani male in a territorial fight. Photo by Naren Malik

Above fight between the two was in January 2015.

No one has any evidence of the fight of October 2016, as it was seen by none. But the past records, and strength of Umarpani male tilt indication towards him. He usually avoids limelight, and prefers giving the tourist vehicles a skip. Uma male is mostly sighted crossing the tracks, even if he follows a vehicle it is not for a great distance. But this behavior might undergo some change now and people might start seeing him more. As killing Rajaram has given him extra expanse in territory, and confidence for sure.

Umarpani vs Chotta Munna (Link 7)

This will be the comparison for the future, or fight for the No 1 slot. Chotta Munna has the attitude of his father. He has gained in size over last 4-5 months. But being younger to Umarpani male would most likely be a tad deficient in strength as on date. But Chotta Munna seems to be catching the eye balls of everyone as he is one tourist friendly Tiger. On the contrary Umarpani male is shy.

Tigers of Kanha
Link 7 Tiger Photo by Naren Malik

With Rajaram out of the equation, it is but natural that Umarpani and Chotta Munna will expand their territory. It cannot now be ruled out that Kanha might witness another superiority sparring between these two males in the near future. It is unlikely that anyone will lose easily without giving the other some serious agony. I would pray that they both survive in case such a situation arises, as both are very strong contenders to be the next Legend of Kanha after Munna. May the strong genes of Tigers of Kanha prosper far and wide.

Tigers of Kanha
Umarpani male

I would like to thank Minh Ha and Naren Malik for providing some crucial information on lineage, and Naren for some images as well. A special mention here for Minh Ha whose knowledge on Tigers of India is nothing short than encyclopedic. He is an inspiration to many.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

 

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us:

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

 

Please follow and like us:

Safaris in the national parks of India

Safaris in the National Parks of India opened after the monsoon break with some amazing Tiger sightings. As we all know that the Tiger reserves in India close during the monsoons, which is from 1st July till 30th Sept. Hence during this time it is not possible to do safaris in the national parks of India. So, all the animal and nature lovers wait eagerly for the parks to reopen on 1st October to enter the parks. And out of the 50 Tiger reserves in India, the eye of all the Tiger lovers are mostly on, Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Ranthambhore, Pench, and Tadoba. Such is the eagerness of some safari lovers that they book themselves for the first safari on first day.

Kanha National Park

The news of first phenomenal Tiger sighting came from Kanha this year. On October 1 in the morning safari, Chotta Munna was seen walking from district line. He is the son of legendary Munna. What surprised everyone was his sheer size when he stood against a tree to mark his territory.  While he continued to walk, the vehicles continued to reverse. After quite a while he changed course and went towards Chotta chatapatra. Some of the experienced guides knew exactly from where he would come out, and reached that spot.

Their experience paid dividends when Chotta Munna appeared from the said trail at the time they anticipated him to come out. Sightings during a safari is not purely luck. When you have experienced guides, and drivers accompanying you in your vehicle then it is a lot of science, mathematics, and the jungle knowledge.

The Duel; Bheema and Chotta Munna

While some tourists were happy with Chotta Munna’s sightings less did they know that another big surprise was about to unfold in front of their eyes. Bheema, the peaceful warrior, emerged in the Junglescape. He seemed to be following a scent mark. Was he following Chotta Munna? The naturalists around did not take long to guess that indeed he was on Chotta Munna’s prowl.

Their fights over last two years has still not ended. Chotta Munna at a budding, youthful, but an inexperienced age of 4, had challenged the mighty Bheema at a competent and seasoned age of 6. Bheema’s efficiency overshadowed the over-confidence of Chotta Munna, and he has repeatedly got Chotta Munna to retreat. But the dominating genes of Chotta Munna remind him not to let go, and he comes back to challenge Bheema quite repeatedly. So far, he has retreated regularly, but he has lately learnt now to avoid injuries in such skirmishes, and simultaneously inject injuries on his opponent. Chotta Munna is surely more richer now having learnt that what does not kill you, makes your stronger.

Safaris in the national parks of India
The mighty Bheema of Kanha National Park

It seemed that this territorial tug to establish one’s supremacy left some marks around the neck of Bheema. The claws and canine mark around his neck would have also left an indelible scar on Bheema’s mind to either start relinquishing his domain, or be prepared for an inevitable duel in not so distant future. Happy were those who saw this scene on 1st October.

Other Tigers of Kanha

Apart from Chotta Munna, and Bheema, other Tigers that have showed up in Kanha are the mighty and legendary Munna, Dhawajahandi female, and Chotti mada. But there is one Tiger, i am earnestly waiting for, the big Umarpani male. He hasn’t showed up till the writing of this note on 11th October. I pray to almighty on this Dussera day that he is save, fighting his ordeals vigorously, and will show up soon. Son of Munna, and Umarpani female, he is bulky, and a dominating Tiger of Mukki for last 3 years.

Safaris in the national parks of India
Umarpani male in Kanha National Park

Safaris in Bandhavgarh National Park

Bandhavgarh of yore beckons many a Tiger lovers to witness the land of Sita, Charger, B2, Bhamera and some more legendary Tigers. This year once again, the Tiger sightings opened with a prediction that months to follow will be magnificent, and will reinforce the Champion status to Bandhavgarh National Park.

Once the area of a handsome young male (Challenger) whose life was cut short by an unfortunate incident, Mahammen is now home to T24 and her cubs. Relax, this is not T24 (Ustad of Ranthambhore). This is T24 of Bandhavgarh. The Tigers in Bandhavgarh are numbered like in most of the parks. So T stands for Tiger, and 24 is her number. She was sighted next to the Mahammen water hole with her cubs.

The last two years in Bandhavgarh have belonged to Rajbhera female (T34) and her cubs. This year again she made a public appearance on Bairahani road which was a feast to the eyes of the tourists. Chotti female (T40) was seen with her cubs too. Spotti (T41) was sighted in Tala near Piparadandi. The mighty Bheem male Tiger (T22) was sighted in the evening on 6th October at Patparha in the Khitauli zone. So the good news is that all the zones have had a decent sighting. But my gut feel is that the future months will belong to the Tala zone.

Safaris in National Parks of India
Spotti (PD2) in Bandhavgarh National Park

Safaris in Ranthambhore National Park

The land of the Tiger; Ranthambhore is one Tiger reserve which satisfies the Tiger appetite of maximum tourists every year. It is the location of Ranthambhore which makes it the fastest selling Tiger reserve. So if you have less time on hand, then spend 3 nights in this park and take back home some real memorable Tiger sightings.

Due to excellent monsoon this year, all the national parks are full to the capacity as far as water is concerned. This is indeed good news for the flora and fauna of the parks. Ranthambhore as well has it’s share of good monsoon thereby a lot of water in some zones. Currently (while writing of this note on 11th October), it is only zone 2 which is fully open and accessible. Thus the Tiger sighting in this zone specially during the evening safari has been very good. Noor (T39) is sighted often, though her young cubs are not seen yet. But it is a matter of time before the tourists jubilate with the cubs sightings.

Safaris in National Parks of India
T39 (Noor) in Ranthambhore National Park

In zone 8, which is not so commonly done zone by most of the tourists, the Tiger sightings have taken off very well. T61 is being seen regularly with her cubs. In the celebrity zone 3, Arrowhead, Pacman, and Lighting all showed up on the opening day of the park.

Safaris in Satpura National Park

In Satpura National Park also, the Tiger sighting happened to some guests on first day, first show. This park might not be a favored park as far as Tiger sightings are concerned. But this park is simply amazing because of it’s bio-diversity. It is a matter of time before this parks also gets branded for good Tiger sighting. An orphaned Tigress from Bandhavgarh which was relocated in the Churna areas has given cubs, and is sighted often in the region. This particular Tigress lost her mother when she was just 4 months old. The park authorities reared her in a large enclosure till she learnt to kill on her own. Then they relocated her in an area which had lesser density of Tigers in Satpura’s Churna range. She made this new home her permanent home, and has given a litter of cubs in Satpura.

Lately, a Tigress has been moved from Panna national park to Satpura. She had started to wonder out of the core areas, and started to pick on the cattle. Fearing some resentment from the locals, and to avoid any catastrophe they shifted her to Satpura. Whether this reason is good or bad, only time will tell. But there seems to be more than what meets the eye for this shifting. Is the Ken-Betwa river link project also a major reason behind this shift? Most likely yes, as another Tigress was also moved from the area which they feared will be drowned once the river linking project is completed.

Hope that you can make it soon to see some Tigers in the wild. Remember to book yourself atleast 120 days before as the safari permits are now very limited.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

Please follow and like us:

Bandhavgarh of bygone times.

There is a lot of history hidden in the forests of Bandhavgarh. The Bandhavgarh Fort inside the national park is considered over 2000 years old. There is a mention of the Bandhavgarh Fort in Narad Panch Ratra, and Valmiki’s Ramayana. It is said that after killing the demon King Ravana, Lord Rama stopped here. He asked Nal and Neel, the two monkey architects to make this fort. It was these two who had also made the bridge to go to Lanka in the Indian ocean. The idea to make this fort was basically to keep an eye on Lanka from here, as this is one of the highest hills of central India. He made his younger brother Lakshman as resident deity of the fort. So the fort gifted to a brother (Bandhu in Hindi), came to be known as Bandhavgarh. Lakshman is also called as Bandhavdeesh after this.

Bandhavgarh Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort entrance
Bandhavgarh Fort
Inside the Bandhavgarh Fort

History of Bandhavgarh

Around the fort there are caves dug in sandstone which are over 2000 years old. One can see the Brahmi inscriptions on the walls of these caves. It is said that many saints and sages meditated in these caves. The Maghas, the Vakatakas, the Chandels inherited the seat of this fort. Finally in the 12th century the Baghels laid their claim on this fort, and until 1969 the Royal family of Rewa ruled this fort. The Royal family played a big role in conservation of Bandhavgarh. Though they did some hunting in this area, but they overall protected it as well. Once it was declared as a national park in 1969, they vacated the fort. Inside the fort one can still see the remains of the court, the treasury, the temple, the horse stable, and the school etc.

You can also see the statues of the Dashavatar (the ten incarnations) of Lord Vishnu here. There are two big lakes in the fort. The story goes that the water from these lakes seeps in, and then emerges from the foot of a 32 feet reclining Vishnu statue at Shesh Shaiya. Thereon this stream is known as Charan Ganga which flows through the Chakradhara meadow, alongside Siddbaba, and out of the park).

Bandhavgarh Fort
Brahmi inscriptions considered over 1000 years old
Bandhavgarh Fort
Caves where the saints meditated few centuries back
Bandhavgarah Fort
The Statues in the Fort

Kabir in Bandhavgarh

The famous mystic poet saint of 14th century, Kabir also spend quite a few years in the fort meditating, and writing his famous Dohas (the couplets famously known as the Kabir Vaani). There is a Kabir hermitage in the fort. On my visit here i was shown a secret escape from a room in this hermitage which apparently Kabir used often to move out from the fort. This escape used to take him to Kashi (Varanasi) to meet his Guru (Master). The Kabir panthis (followers of Kabir) gather here in the month of August every year for a two day celebration. This is the largest gathering of Kabir followers worldwide. They walk on foot till the Fort, stay put there, and come back after two days.

Bandhavgarh Fort
Kabir Ashram (hermitage) inside the Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort
Matsaya (Fish) Avatar Statue in the Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort
Varaha (Wild Boar) Avtar statue in the Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort
The Kurma (Tortoise) Avatar Statue in the Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort
The Buddha Avatar Statue in the Fort
Bandhavgarh Fort
The workmanship

It is indeed sad that after the Supreme Court decision in 2012 visit to this fort has been prohibited.  The reason is that this fort is right in the heart of the core zone of Bandhavgarh, and to go up to the fort one has to trek about 25 minutes from Shesh Shaiyya. Needless to mention that there are Tigers and other wildlife in and around the fort, hence it is not considered safe to walk up. Besides it does disturb the wildlife too. I have personally seen Sita with her cubs close to Shesh Shaiyya way back in 1996-97.

Meeting B2 enroute to Bandhavgarh Fort

For me a visit to Bandhavgarh was incomplete if i had not visited the Fort. Way back in 2004, once while trekking up, i encountered B2 in his early days on this route. There were four of us on foot, and at a bend, we see B2 come up from the valley on to the track of the fort. We froze right there, and so did B2. He paused for a moment, gave us a glimpse, and without bother left the track to go down the valley. What seemed like eternity was actually just 5 seconds.

This was my first encounter on foot with the Tiger in his own backyard. I breathed a sigh of relief. The trek is steep so the camera was around my neck. With B2 looking into my eyes from about 10 meters in front of me, i forgot that i had a camera, so clicking a picture was totally out of question. But the image imprinted on my mind of that moment is still fresh like it happened yesterday, thought it was almost 12 years ago.

The Temple priest

From 1997 till 2008 i trekked upto the fort atleast 4-5 times every season. Not only I loved the hike to the fort, but the view from the fort, the feel of the fort, and more than anything else it was meeting and talking with the resident priest of the fort that i always looked forward to. A very old man, tall, with a broad frame, deep voice, and an intense look in his eyes. How he stayed in this temple all alone in this national park always surprised me. No company, no radio, television i doubt if he ever knew it existed. He would give Charnamrit (tulsi water) pronouncing the sacred Sanskrit shloka:

अकालमृत्युहरणं सर्वव्याधिविनाशनम्।
विष्णुपदोदकं पीत्वा पुनर्जन्म न विद्यते।।

Meaning, “whosoever takes this sacred water is protected from any accidental death, deadly diseases, and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death”. This chant in his deep voice in the corridors of the temple would resonate in my ears for a long long time.

His story

He would walk down to the Tala village to secure his provisions and by late evening he would get back to Bandhavgarh. Once while going back he had an encounter with a Sloth bear. It is said that a Tiger emerged from the nearby grass, and fought the Sloth Bear away. Then the Tiger walked with the priest for some distance to ensure that he reached the temple.

Bandhavgarh Fort
Bandhavgarh Temple in the Fort

He once told me, “the Tigers are my family, and I know all the Tigers of the area around the fort”. We would sit in the corridors of the temple, and he would make tea for us. Then we would share our lunch with him. There were times we just slept off in the corridor of the temple. As he grew quite old, he became unwell, and was brought down from the Fort much against his wishes as there was no one to take care of him inside the Jungle.

What all is bygone, and will those days return?

Though Charger, Sita, B2, have all gone, and they have been replaced by many beautiful Tigers of today. But the enigma of the priest, the temple, and the fort cannot be replaced by any. For people who have seen the Bandhavgarh Fort miss it still. And those who have visited Bandhavgarh after 2012, know not what they have missed.

Bandhavgarh Fort
Yes, this is true. Just two Jeeps entering the Tala zone for a safari

The above photo is not photoshopped, yes there was a time when Bandhavgarh hardly had tourists. I recall sighting 10 different Tigers in 2005 in one morning safari of 4 hours. But the popularity of the Tigers and wildlife photography through social media has made wildlife tourism a big business everywhere.

Many resorts have sprung up in the area, Tala a small village now is a place where you will get everything you need, including a broadband, wi-fi, and a spa treatment. Do not expect the standard of the Spa to be anywhere close to a city hotel. To an extent if handled well, tourism can be a big conservation tool, but if gone awry, it can be a very disturbing factor for wildlife. So yes, those silent, peaceful days of less tourism are also bygone.

The rush of tourism has been regulated to quite an extent by opening of some more zones, and also buffer zones. Yet, one thing that has not reduced is the kind of Tiger sightings that are still taking place in Bandhavgarh. There was a lull year when there was a marginal drop in the Tala zone, but it seems the golden years of Bandhavgarh are almost back as far as Tiger sightings are concerned. The Tiger sightings of Bandhavgarh will never be bygone.

Sharad Vats

 

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:

Kanha in Indian Mythology and folklore

Whenever you go to a National Park, apart from safaris, keep aside a day to know the ecology, the economy, and the electorate of the area. This will make your tour far more enriching, and memorable. As they say no trip is complete if there isn’t any adventure and learning. So, while Safaris take care of the adventure, you need to explore the area for self learning and self development. Here are some interesting stories about Kanha.

Mukki Kanha
Saundhar Talab Mukki Kanha

Kanha in Dwapara Yuga

All our national parks have some history, and some mythology attached. Kanha National Park is also one such park. Some people say Kanha got it’s name from the type of soil in the area, the black clayey soil. While some say there was a holy sage named Kanva who lived here. He was the father of Shakuntala. One can read more about Shakuntala in “Abhigyanshakuntalam” by Kalidas. Story goes that King Dushyant came, saw and was captivated by the beauty of Shakuntala. They had a son through their wedlock named Bharata, who became the founder of Bharata dynasty. Kauravas and Pandavas were descendants of this dynasty. All this happened in the Dwapara Yuga. Lord Krishna an Avatar of Vishnu had incarnated in this Yuga. The sage Kanva lived in this region, and his hermitage was called Kanha.

Kanha
Beauty of Kanha National Park

Kanha in Treta Yuga

Prior to Dwapara was Treta Yuga. The Yuga in which Lord Ram came as an Avatar. This Yuga saw the story of Ramayan. It is said, that King Dashrath, the father of Ram used to frequent Kanha for hunting. He was an accomplished archer who could hit the target just by listening to the sound from the area.

One fine day he killed Shravan Kumar who was filling water from a water hole for his thirsty parents. The sound made by the empty vessel in water made King Dashrath think that there was some deer in water. He shot an arrow following the sound, and it hit Shravan Kumar, who died instantly. On realizing his folly he apologized to his parents. They lit his pyre and cursed the King that he will also die longing for his son in his old age. And so it happened. The area where his pyre was lit is known as Shravan Chita, and the water hole where Shravan Kumar died is known as Shravan Taal. Today this Shravan Taal is often frequented by Tigers. 

Lapsi Hunter in Kanha

Then there is this wonderful story of Lapsi the Hunter. He was a proficient hunter who used bow and arrow to kill the man-eating Tigers in the area. Britishers were controlling the forests via the Imperial Forest Services which was set up by them India in 1865. They basically conserved forests, and managed timber. Lot of felling of sal trees was done in setting up of Indian Railways. Kanha in particular saw a lot of felling of trees in the early 20th century. The boom years for Indian Railways were from 1920 till 1929. This was the time when services of Lapsi hunter were utilized by the Britishers in killing of Tigers for hunting, sport, or even the man eating Tigers. Lapsi was a professional hunter who hailed from a family of hunters.

Kanha
View from Lapsi Kabar of Kanha National Park

Once lot of complaints came of a Tiger killing cattle unabatedly and even some villagers. Lapsi heard of the news. He reached the spot, tried lot of tricks to fool the Tiger, but Tiger was much smarter. His wife was very concerned as his reputation as a hunter was going down. So she asked him to tie her as a bait in the area. He refused, but she argued. Finally she was tied to the tree, while Lapsi waited on the nearby machan (watch tower). The Tiger arrived, and Lapsi shot the arrow, which injured the Tiger. But the Tiger in a fit of rage attached his wife. Seeing this Lapsi panicked, and he rushed towards the Tiger with his dagger. Fought ferociously and killed the Tiger. Later Lapsi also succumbed to his injuries.

He and his wife’s grave is now present in the area in Mukki zone of Kanha National Park. This incident happened in late 1920’s.

Meeting Chotey Lal in Kanha–today’s Yuga

I personally had an opportunity to meet a man who fought a Tiger. Chotey Lal, a resident near a village in the Mukki zone.. Once in the evening he alongwith some friends, was picking some wood close to his forest, when he was charged by a Tigress. On seeing the charge his friends ran away, and Chotey Lal was hit by the Tigress on his head. He fell, but got up, and pushed the Tigress off him, infact he managed to hit the Tigress with his both hands on her head. Before a Tigress could further retaliate, he quickly climbed the tree nearby. His whole night was spent on the tree, and Tigress below the tree. Only in the morning when some people came looking for him, he came down, and narrated the incident.

Kanha
Jeep Safari near Khapa in Mukki Kanha

 

There are so many stories, folklore, and information on Kanha that it will be really tough to write them all here. I urge all of you to explore all the national parks you stay in beyond Tigers. Kanha is a very special park, and one can feel it the moment you enter it. So, explore it in totality.

All the best to you

Sharad Vats

http://www.naturesafariindia.com

 

Please follow and like us:

Online safari bookings open on 22nd August 2016

Online safari bookings
Spotti in Bandhavgarh National Park

This is to inform all safari lovers of central India parks that online safari bookings for season starting 1st October are opening today. Bookings are available to be done for the next 120 days. For the first time there will be a quota of tickets for last minute bookings too. The details of the same will be out in the next couple of days.

In Bandhavgarh all the three zones, i.e. Tala, Magdhi, and Khitauli will be open for online safari bookings from 1st October. But in Kanha just Mukki and Kisli will be opening from 1st October. The other two zones, i.e. Kanha and Sarhi will open for tourism from 16th October. Reason for this partial delay is the black clayey soil of Kanha. Normally the monsoon gets over by mid or end of September, occasionally there are a couple of late showers in 1st week of October as well. This late rain hinders the track repairing process, and the black clayey soil being very slippery does not help matters either.

Similarly in Pench all the three zones, i.e. Touria, Karmajhiri, and Jhamtara will be opening from 1st October. Satpura will also see the opening of Madhai gate from 1st October, and Panna will also open the Madla and Hinouta gates from 1st October. Go ahead, plan your dates, and do your online safari bookings now.

General information for post monsoon opening.

Online safari bookings
Sambar Deer in Bandhavgarh National Park

Post monsoon is a great time for wildlife photography. Nature is at it’s best. The colors are deep, and thought provoking. There is lot of water in the forest, thus plenty of undergrowth, and lot of food for all the animals. October is also a busy time for birds, thus good for birding. Migration also tends to starts by end of October.

Only word of caution is that one must be careful with falciparum malaria. Certain areas of central India, in particular Kanha has this mosquito active in post monsoon time. Hence take precaution, carry anti-mosquito sprays and cream, wear full sleeve shirts and trousers, avoid T shirts and shorts.

In the first week of October there could be an odd shower or two, hence take precaution to keep your photography equipment safe. Carry some plastic covers to protect them.

This year has seen heavy rain in the state of Madhya Pradesh, so the road conditions in October might not be very good. The time taken from the Airport and railway stations could be a tad longer than usual.

As the national parks open after 3 months of closure, hence even the regular guides and drivers will not know the whereabouts of the predators. It takes a week of two for them to assess what is happening in which area of the park. So higher degree of patience will be good for you.

The days will be warm in central India in October. but mornings and evenings will be pleasant. If it rains, it can get a bit cold and misty in Kanha.

So what are you waiting for, book yourself now. Click on the link below to book direct.

https://forest.mponline.gov.in/Index.aspx

Have a great safari season.

Sharad Vats

 

Please follow and like us:

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

Please follow and like us: