Bheema: The Peaceful Warrior of Kanha National Park passes away

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

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

Bheema the peaceful warrior of Kanha Nationa Park

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

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

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

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

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

Bheema was born in July/August of 2011.

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

My personal experience with Bheema; the Peaceful Warrior

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

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

Anxious moments…

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

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

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

Tete-a-Tete with Bheema

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

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

Why i called him the Peaceful Warrior;

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

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

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

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

The passing of the Peaceful Warrior

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

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

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

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

Sharad Vats

 

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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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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

 

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Tatkal scheme in Ranthambhore National Park

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

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

Ranthambhore National Park
T64 in Ranthambhore National Park

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

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

New changes in the Ranthambhore National Park tourism policies

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

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

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

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

Ranthambhore National Park
Tiger in Ranthambhore National Park

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

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

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

 

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Will Panna be doomed?

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

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

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

What is being done in this project?

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

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

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

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

My personal opinion

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

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

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

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

Sharad Vats

 

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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

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The Big four Males of Mukki, Kanha National Park

An unprecedented story has been developing in the Mukki zone of Kanha National Park. Mukki was never known for male Tigers. It was mostly home to Tigresses with cubs and some odd male Tiger showing up. The limping male (father of Munna), used to spend time in Mukki. After him no one really dominated Mukki until about 3 years back, when Umarpani male started showing a liking for Mukki. He is an unusually big framed Tiger. In particular his head is massive when compared to rest of the Tigers of central India. But lately the big four males of Mukki have become a talk of the Tiger world.

Males of Mukki
Bheema

But after Umarpani male spent about 2 years dominating Mukki, there was advent of Bheema. Then Rajaram, a.k.a. Kingfisher male, and finally Link 7 since last year started to regularly show up in Mukki. These four male Tigers have developed a liking for Mukki for reasons beyond anyone’s imagination. Actually Mukki is too small a range for four adult Tigers to co-habit. It has become a favorite pass time talk of all Kanha lovers that a deciding battle for supremacy of Mukki is round the corner. Everyone anticipated the monsoon of 2015 to decide this. But when the park reopened in October 2015 these four male Tigers surprised everyone by showing up within the very first week.

In 2014 and then again in 2015 there were a few skirmishes that happened between these Tigers. Some were more than simple alterations. People were still discussing Bheema and Link 7 exchanging some blows near Babathenga waterhole when Umarpani and Kingfisher fight went viral on youtube. I have never seen such a voracious fight between two adult Tigers. Few tourists who saw it had some sleepless nights.

Males of Mukki
Umarpani male
Males of Mukki
Umarpani Male

One very interesting point worth mentioning here is how different male Tigers used Babathenga water hole. They had their favorite sides at the water hole where they would sit. And they made sure that they did not overstep their self defined boundary on the water hole.

The fight shifted from Babathenga to Umarjhola in summers of 2016. This time it was Kingfisher and Link 7. 2014 had seen emergence of Link 7 as a promising young Tiger. Also known as Chotta Munna, he was shaping up really well and was predicted to take over the legacy of his father. But his enthusiasm and aggression was no match for the girth of Kingfisher who gave him a run for his life. Kingfisher visited Umarjhola for three days to ensure that Link 7 left his territory. In the subsequent week Link 7 showed up again.

But this time everyone was surprised as Link 7 had seemingly lost a lot of weight. Was it because of the territory that he got confined to, the undulating terrain of Bada Chattapatra, or something else we don’t know, but he was visibly leaner.

Subsequent week, saw Kingfisher male mate with Mahaveer female, and she gave a litter towards the end of summers of 2016. It is predicted that Kingfisher should be able to save his cubs from Mahaveer who in the past has not been a good mother, though a great Tigress. Her past litter with Umarpani male did not survive.

Males of Mukki
Kingfisher, a.k.a. Rajaram

The best was saved towards the end of the season. This time it was the Minkur anicut which became the Tiger station. Umarpani male, Link 7 male, and Bheema chose to be present at this depleting water hole on the same day at different times of the day and at different locations in Minkur.

Reopening of park in October 2016, will all the Males of Mukki show up this year?

With park scheduled to reopen in less than 10 days, all the Tiger lovers of Kanha have their fingers crossed. Everyone has his favorite Tiger. And everyone is hoping that their favorite male Tiger is alive when the park reopens in October. I am eagerly looking forward to my favorite, the Umarpani male.

Last one year provided me some amazing sightings of Umarpani male, Bheema, and Kingfisher. But i am yet to see the Chotta Munna, a.k.a. Link 7, the son of Munna. I am very eager to capture him on my lens because firstly it will complete my collection of male Tigers of Mukki. And secondly i have been fortunate to click Link 7’s father Munna, and his grand father too, the famous limping male. So getting Link 7 male will give me 3 generations of one line of Tigers of Kanha.

See you soon, you Males of Mukki, or should i say handsome hunks of Kanha.

Sharad Vats

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Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India

Which are the Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India? Simple question with a no so simple answer. What you find below is my choice based on 27 years of doing safaris in India. The factors i considered are; the habitat, the prey base, water bodies in the park, forest management, tourism management, Tiger density, and frequency of sightings. The most important being the consistency over a span of 20 years. As the Tiger sightings can change radically like an ECG, hence time frame was given more importance over other parameters.

Ranthambhore National Park: Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India

A historical and a bit touristy park, as it is located in the heart of the  Golden triangle circuit. The fort in the background, and jungle in the fore, must be making the Tiger also happy to be a part of this beautiful canvas. How the Tigers have accepted the natural and human creation in this forest is to be seen to be believed. To handle the tourism pressures the safaris here are done in Jeeps and 20 seater open safari buses. But don’t be discouraged if you get to do a safari in the 20 seater open safari bus, as the Tigers are impartial to both types of vehicles.

A word of caution for those who visit Ranthambhore for the first time. There could be occasions when you will not sight a Tiger for 2 or 3 consecutive safaris. But trust me, once you do, you will forget the previous blank safaris.

The factors that go in favor of Ranthambhore to be considered among the Top 3 Tiger National Parks in India are; negligible undergrowth, lot of water holes, big lakes, and surplus presence of Sambar deer. Thus enough of preferred prey, and water makes Tiger sightings easier here. Summers are excellent times for Tiger sightings in this park, as lot of action is seen closer to the water holes and the lakes. Hence Ranthambhore finds a place amongst the Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India. Ghengis Khan, Noor, Bamboo Ram, Jhumroo, T17, T24, and T23 were big names. But it has been Machli the longest living Tiger in the wild, which made people fall in love with Tigers and Wildlife. She passed away on 18th August 2016 at an age of 19 years.

Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India
Ranthambhore; Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India

Bandhavgarh National Park; Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India

Bandhavgarh is one park very close to the heart of most of the Tiger photographers worldwide. It shot into prominence in mid nineties when Sita the beautiful Tigress and #Charger a dominant male created a storm worldwide with their bold sightings. The nineties belonged to this bold and beautiful couple. But the next decade belonged to the Legendary B2. He took Tiger tourism to Himalayan heights, and a completely different level of economy. In a study done, he was rated amongst the most photographed male Tiger ever in the history of wildlife photography until he lived. It was later that this title went to Machli in Ranthambhore.

As tourism bridgework increased, Bhamera, Jhurjhura, and Vanvai, took the load off handling tourists from B2 in Tala zone of Bandhavgarh National Park. Currently it is the Sukhi Patia, Rajbhera females with their cubs and the Mahamen male which are the hot favorites of everyone.

Grasslands with small rivulets flowing through them attract lot of prey, thereby predators. Bandhavgarh is one park where you can see a Tiger in the water, in the bamboo, in the grassland, on the rocks, on the trails. You can expect a Tiger to appear from anywhere and anytime in Bandhavgarh. Sighting Tigers here is not tough, and hence it is among the Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India. Good time for Tiger sightings here is round the year. In all parks they say that “you are lucky if you see one Tiger”. But for Bandhavgarh they coined an adage; “you are unlucky if you only see one Tiger here”.

Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India
Bandhavgarh; Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India

Kanha National Park; Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India

A park which needs no publicity. Kanha’s raw and ever green beauty makes it one of the most humbling forests i visit regularly. Kanha is one park where it is easy to get lost in the beauty so much that you might forget to click.

When Tigers of Kanha decide to come on the track, they then just own it. They will walk few kilometers before changing course. So if you happen to be ahead of them or on their tail, give them distance, if you wish to take loads of great images.  A Tiger head on sighting here is unmatched in India.

The habitat in Kanha is ideal for Tigers to survive here. A study by a researcher concluded that Kanha along with Corbett and Nandhaur will be the last bastions of the Tiger in India. The dense undergrowth, two rivers going through it, prey in tens of thousands, plus friendly local community are all pluses in Tiger’s favor. Kanha provides big prey to the Tigers, the Swamp Deers, the Indian Gaur, Sambar deers are in surplus here, apart from the regular deers. Perhaps it is the size of the prey here which determines the big size of Kanha Tigers.

Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India
Kanha: Top 3 Tiger National Parks of India

Now does this image give you a feel of the size of Kanha Male Tigers?

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

http://www.naturesafariindia.com/national-parks/kanha-national-parks.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 most basic things to know before you start wildlife photography in a national park.

Basic things for Wildlife photography in india
Male Barasingha giving a photo opportunity

Few years back with manual cameras, and film rolls not everyone was keen to get into Wildlife photography. It was like golf, an art or a passion for the elusive. Not everyone found it affordable even if they thought it to be glamorous. But with the advent of digital cameras and memory cards, Wildlife photography has become a fashion and a passion. Now a days one gets to see many vehicles in the national parks with tourists carrying huge lenses and camera bodies. What has also made wildlife photography tempting easy is social media. Posting an image gets one instant gratification. Also, youtube and google are good teachers, and one needs no formal classroom photography classes any longer. But there are some basic things for wildlife photography that one needs to learn.

  1. National Park knowledge: It is important for you to have some idea about the national park you would be visiting. The terrain, the tree cover, the tracks, the kind of wildlife in the park, the light to expect, the month you would be visiting, the park, the weather to expect etc.
  2. Wildlife Knowledge: The kind of wildlife you would encounter in the park. If you plan to take #Tiger images, then you will be better equipped if you know the behavior of the Tiger.
  3. Safety: Never for a second forget that you are in a national park where all animals are wild. Your safety and importantly the safety of animals you are shooting is of paramount importance. Do not underestimate the power and speed of wild animals, irrespective of the size. Hence it is important to maintain safe distance. Listen to the guide and the driver in the Jeep, do not push them to get close to the animal. Besides you will be able to take good images only if you are at a good distance wherein the animals are not disturbed by your presence. Do not make unnecessary sounds, or talk loudly, no jerky or sudden movements while you are in the vehicle. As all this can easily send the animal in cover, thus depriving you of a good memory shot.

Once the above basic things for wildlife photography are covered then what?

Then you must be sound in the technical knowledge of taking photographs. Bonus advise here is do not be overdependent on your equipment or post processing of the images, rather get them right while clicking them. Remember it is the eye behind the camera which is more important than the camera itself. Technology cannot replace the art of photography.

Best Wishes

Sharad Vats

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