Monday, March 19, 2018

Exciting Leopard Sightings at Kanha

Guests From UK 
Andrew & Rebecca
Courtyard House Kanha

We had missed the tigress having seen the cubs along with the mother we were seeking other wilderness experience. As it was bound to be the guide was bit overzealous and took wrong turn in spite of my instructions. We did not venture into the road of last days sightings. But then as always happens a tiger sighting missed is not a good experience.
But I did not insist instead I decided to venture into a less travelled path, and rewarded we were. One benefit of a slow drive in the forests is that you come across more, you would otherwise miss if you shoot through. Anyway rules and regulations do not allow speed beyond 20km/hour, and I am a stickler.  

I could make out that the route we had taken was devoid of safari vehicles as most of them had already scoured the area and were on the way for breakfast. Silence, no traffic and slow speed besides alert senses fetch the unthinkable in the Indian forests. 

The leopard was actually turning back for as we realised later, the cub hearing the jeep sound was not willing to cross the road. We were at a distance from the predator as he crossed over and from an angle we could see her sitting peacefully well lit by strands of morning sun sneaking through the canopy.

Some times it is difficult to decide which animal is striking the tiger or the leopard. Well that's an individual judgement. I was awe struck as the light fell on the graceful creature looking inquisitively at us from between the thickets. 

"There is a cub with her!" I whispered upon seeing the young one in the thickets. We stayed put at a distance. The mother came out once again picked a fallen log and stood looking at us expecting the cub to cross the road and be on the way.  For a long time the female stood content looking at us surprised but not complete in that serene ambience. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Vanishing Leopard in India

One Starry Night in The Forest

The female must have been waiting to cross over the road whence my jeep intruded the serene ambience of the starry night. Thwarted by the strong headlights the disturbed leopard stood still peering into the ghostly darkness at the bizarre animal in the metal contraption. 

My staff had whispered as we were negotiating the bend on the highway near Jabalpur my home town. 

"Shining Eyes Sir!"  

It was eleven pm, and I was returning after a busy day purchasing tendu leaf from Government godown  at Kundam about forty km from Jabalpur in the hinterland. There are few places in urban India endowed with forest as good as Jabalpur...albeit losing ground fast due to intruding urbanisation.

The reserve forests are losing crown cover here and hold a scarce prey base which support few remaining leopards desperately surviving. I was also able to come across tigers mating here in the denuded confines of Baghraji Forests perhaps trying to revive their population coming to a definite end in this vanishing wilderness.       

Upon notice by the staff I brought my jeep to a halt and then reversed. "Point out where exactly did you see the eyes reflecting." I switched out the headlights and waited for some time before moving towards the bush where the reflecting eyes were noticed. Pointing my jeep towards the bush I switched on my torch.    

Not one but four pairs of eyes shone as I threw my torch around the bush. It was a female with three cubs about seven feet from us staring at the spectacle of humans in an open jeep. A few decades back this would have a normal sighting but in these beleaguered times this was a rare instance. 

"She will get us!"

I was too engrossed in the spectacle to be cautious about the proximity. I could hear her warning coughs as I put the jeep in the forward motion. The story had a sad ending, one of the cubs was poisoned a year after and another ended at a police station platform in broad daylight. The fate of the animals was not known thereafter.   

Leopard Cub

Leopard Female

The Status

The status of leopard in India is on a steep decline. The drastic loss of habitat  and the ensuing man animal conflict is resulting in endangerment of this beleaguered feline species.  As per the recent news more than hundred leopards have been found dead in a spate of two months all over India. This is an alarming figure and the rot does not in any manner seems to stem.  

The rapid decline of feline species speaks of our callous attitude towards wildlife and their habitats in general. The situation is further compounded by the colonial  legacy which labelled wild animals as vermin especially the predators in India. Unfortunately wildlife conservation finds only lip service in the country and no major policy decision takes into consideration the preservation of our heritage wilderness wealth. 

The phenomenal diversity is fast disappearing now limited to protected areas and that too the one's receiving dedicated inputs. In vast country a minuscule portion of land is subject to preservation, the rest is being exploited without any concern.

We live in an era that takes into account the well being of one species only...that is us. Other life forms are shamefully neglected. Our news and politic speak is only concerned with economic growth figures, welfare schemes and rabid industrialisation at cost of crucial natural resources and of course our health. The society has become so human centred that we consider other life forms as unimportant and often a big nuisance.  

The attitude will certainly result in warming, water scarcity, pollution, lack of productivity that sustains us and chaos. Name it and you have it. Beware!              
The image of predators as blood thirsty rogues is permanently etched in our minds and that shapes our attitude. Albeit hunting is banned by the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, mass scale lynching by humans on intruding leopards is a frequently occurring event. Poaching by electrification finds no solution and rising prices of wild life products is an ever looming threat the country faces.  

The Vedas preached conservation in an ecosystem known as Hinduism where in many thoughts originated and survive till today irrespective of extreme divergence. Why are we not following the sound principles preached by our ancestors as regards to nature?      

In bygone era wild animals including tigers and leopards lived in close proximity to human populations. The conflict was limited to one odd instance of man killing in urban scapes... not anymore. Man eating was due to advancing settlements and reducing prey base. All this good was due to ample forests/habitats prevailing before the denudation took place. Our greed for rabid urbanisation, uncontrolled agriculture and illicit wealth generation has taken a heavy toll of natural places all over and the disastrous practices continue. Human beings in any shape, size and type have repeatedly shown extreme neglect of their surroundings affecting health of habitats and ecosystems prevailing their in. There is hardly any inviolate space left for other life forms in our country.

The decline of wild animal populations started with bounty hunters and elite sport during the Raj, and large scale conversion of forests into agriculture fields not forgetting the ever increasing settlements. Another age old activity that has had far reaching consequences was and is commercial forestry and wood logging.     

Poaching has a substantial role in the large number of leopard deaths that take place every year. This sounds a death knell for the feline species as the population is estimated below ten thousand all over the country. 

Poaching and denudation is the major threat to our wilderness and strong protective mechanism and conservation practices are the need of the hour. The onus is on the Indian administration and politicians who shape our policies. But this does not keep general population out of the loop. People participation and awareness will go a long way to preserve or we will certainly lose our heritage.

Images By Suttons UK.        

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tiger Videos

These are series of mobile video uploads of tigers seen in Kanha National Park in Central India. The videos have been taken during numerous safaris in the park with the guests at Courtyard House Situated in the buffer region of the park. The poor quality is due to mobile limitations and local conditions however I have tried my best to improve. The effort is to display aspects of tiger behaviour and characteristics for amateurs.    

Here is the link!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Wild Odyssey in India

Kanha National Park

Guests at Courtyard House

Mark & Karin Anger ; France
Denise Anfrui : France 

The drive was high in expectation a wild odyssey was in making as we boarded the taxi at Jabalpur Station and drove towards Kanha National Park. The enthusiasm of the visitors was palpable from their looks and they expected me to deliver which I did.

The guests were expecting to see some Central Indian wildlife after a visit to Gir National Park in Gujarat to see the Asiatic Lion.  

The next part of the journey was few days at Bera the popular leopard habitat in Rajasthan in Western India. 

The Kanha trip was a great success with excellent tiger sightings, bird watching and other enchanting mammals. 

Here are some of the images sent by Denise Anfrui.  

Monday, June 5, 2017

Tiger Safari Videos - India

Tiger safari video - Tigress at Link 8 Kanha National Park

Massive Male Tiger at Waterhole - Kanha National Park - Kisli Zone

 Legendary Munna Male Tiger at Kanha National Park in India

Early Morning Encounter Tigeress at Kanha National Park

Friday, May 19, 2017

Conservation Ethos in India - Impact of Vedas

With the passing away of Mr. Anil Dave a seasoned politician and river conservation enthusiast a great loss has occurred. The loss is not of a political party alone, it is a serious setback for the conservation in India.     

Albeit the scope of river conservation (NCRD) under the ministry of Environment and Forests is greater with inclusion of lakes and other water bodies. It nevertheless points out to the value system we uphold in this country. 

Most rivers in India have always had a holy status with the usual connotation of "mother." The connotation does not point out towards the belief as being illogical it should be seen in wider perspective. This is a shrewd way of according importance to an element of ecological importance. The credit goes to the Vedic system which originated about five thousand years back during the peak of Indus Valley Civilization in India.

As Indians we should believe in the system as Vedas have had an indelible impact on our lives since time immemorial. Likewise the connotation specifying things as motherly or holy are used in many instances especially elements which are of ecological importance like, trees, animals, reptiles, birds and others. 

Hence the status Mother or Holy is applicable to Ganges or Narmada since they played a significant role in upbringing ancient civilizations in the country...they still do. Such connotations just act as a subtle means of adding value. The Vedic civilization has been instrumental in creating such a value system during it's prevalence all over India. The value system is logical address to creation of cultural values rather than being religious in nature.          

Whatever may be the causes of degradation of environment in India. An impressive shred of environmental degradation is history of imperialism, the impact has also been brought about by our greed, ill planned land use and rabid industrialization. 

The negative impact has been mitigated by this value system to a good extent. By this I mean there is still hope for saving the tiger and other species, cleaning the polluted rivers, regenerating niche ecosystems, and bringing about responsible change how we govern the country and our society.  

The ethos of Vedic System is ingrained in our psyche consciously or otherwise, It is perpetually instrumental in auguring us towards a more conservation oriented approach vis a vis nature. The results of impact are obvious whence we take into consideration the efforts being made towards conservation of animals, birds, rivers, habitats and environment as whole in the country.      

The ancient Vedic civilizations in India were fully cognizant of impact of environmental degradation on our lives. It was well known since ages that human activities could cause disruptions in weather patterns, temperature, rainfall and agriculture. The ancient scriptures contain references to aspects of ecological importance and how to prevent damage and augur forth a positive impact.

With all the knowledge stored in ancient treatise we should be at the forefront of conservation and hence climate change in the World. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Searching For Tigers

My First Tiger Sighting

With trepidation, my heart thumping madly I got on to the hawdah tied on the back of the elephant. The contraption made of thin steel rods and a wooden plank was nowhere near to the assurance I needed on my first jungle adventure.   

I was at Kanha National Park sometime back in the early seventies. We were on the way to see a tiger. The ride on the pachyderm was anything but comfortable as it trudged past bushes and grass in the rugged terrain. I had a tough time tackling bamboo clumps that brushed past us like sharp edged swords. The elephant, huge as they come was in intense conversation with the mahaut oblivious of us on its torturous back. 

Tigress - Uday Patel

As a young lad I had been introduced to forests quiet early. My family was in bidi business and every year there was a visit to Central Indian Jungles in order to purchase tendu leaves.   

This was my first ride on an elephant and quiet an unnerving experience it was. The mahuat pointed out to a big cat painted yellow black and white sitting beside a shallow water body in bright sunlight.   “Tigress,” he called out and then went silent. I could feel the fear rising higher within me. The cat sat listlessly and did not even bother to look at us. 

So this was the much touted tiger, the King of the jungle. A terrible roar and a charge was what I was expecting from huge animal. They did not arrive. Man killer, blood thirsty, ferocious all deadly notions started to flood my mind. But the nonchalance and the ease with which the tigress sat amidst the humans grouped around her changed by views. She was at peace with herself and the surroundings. This set to ease trepidation within me and my notions about this magnificent predator changed dramatically. Over the years I came to understand the tiger as part of an ecosystem which was connected to the environment upon which we all depend. That day I had become a tiger lover.   

My brother clicked from his simple black and white camera. The photo was a pride possession and it decorated the walls for a number of years.