Friday, December 31, 2010

Year End 2010

So the year is again over and many changes have occurred in the park since it opened in mid October.

First, the young male tiger known as Kallu has disappeared. No one knows his fate, perhaps he will reappear one day? Second B2 has reaffirmed his presence in the Ghorademon and Banbehi area now the young pretender is no more. Third, Chakradhara's 14 year old tigress Pyari and her three cubs are gone from the Tala Zone for good. No one knows where the four are and no one in authority seems that concerned. Fourth, Rajbehra has been taken over after Durga's death by one of her daughters we now call Jaya(D5). Fifth, the second daughter now called Vijaya (D4) has taken Chakradhara and also pushed Lakshmi to the very edge of her territory in Chorbehra and Dobhiakhol.

This is by far the most serious news as poor Laksmi is now spending alot of time outside in Khitauli Range over the main road and last week even entered Tala Village. She had killed a cow and by 11am the Forest Department were on her tracks. They attempted by elephant to move her away from civilization and in doing so annoyed her so much that she attacked and killed a man while fleeing the nallah area in which she felt safe. The man was bringing wood to the village by his usual hidden route unaware of the drama being played out nearby. Poor Lakshmi and her cubs then spent a night behind old Jungle Camp after which they entered Taj properties before being forced back into the Tala Range on 29th Dec. Resting up at Chorbehra they were "tiger showed" to VIP's yesterday and also to unexpectant C route vehicled tourists before being moved on by Vijaya in the night. Today Vijaya was seen feeding on Lakshmi's smelly cow kill remains. For Lakshmi times are hard. Her limp is very bad now and she has little means to protect her cubs. It will not be long before she is again outside the Tala range and feeding on cows by the roadside or at the back of Tala village. Her problems have yet to be resolved and it will be interesting what action the Forest Department now take to continue her and her cubs survival.

As to the other tigers in Bandhavgarh all seems well. Indrani and her four cubs are regularly seen both in Magdhi and Tala Zones and so too Tulsi and her three very active youngsters in Milchaini. Shaki/Bhoka is seen and so too Shashi/Bamera though not too often. And finally, the Banbehi young tigress we now call Wakeeta (R17)probably the most difficult tigress to see is also doing well. All in all though changes have occurred Bandhavgarh still continues its magic and drama so let us see what follows in 2011?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A New Season Ahead

Gosh how time flies. Its already nearing November end and I have not written in months. Things are very different in the park this season. With the loss of the tigress Durga and the fact that Pyari and her cubs are gone from the Tala Range mean there are many changes taking place amongst the tigers in Bandhavgarh. However thankfully B2 Sundar is hanging on to some territory even though he is being pushed hard by P10 Shashi. We thought perhaps T1 Kallu would push him out of Ghorademon during the monsoon but this seems not to have happened and good old B2 is still walking Banbehi, Ghorademon and Milchaini. He had a few cut injuries recently whether from a fight or an encounter with a few cows no one is quite sure but he seems fine and no tranquilizing or stitches has stopped him going about his business.

I have little news of either Bohka/Shaki or the other young males T2 Kallu's brother or D3 son of Durga. No sightings or so few to be sure what is happening. We will have to wait a while longer to see if any are still roaming the park at ease?

As too the tigresses. Lakshmi our limping Lady is still managing to bring up her family. She is quite amazing but her limp is no longer a limp but a hop on three legs. However with the help of the Forest Department the cubs look pretty good. Both Indrani in Mahaman and Tulsi in Milchaini are fine too. Still raising full families and seen fairly regularly. In fact Tulsi's three are the main stars of the park right now. Great sightings at the pool playing and in the meadow carrying a dead monkey. I am afraid however that 14 year old Pyari seems to have left the park for good and allowed the young tigress D4 daughter of Durga to take control. This little tigress is pushing Lakshmi in both Sidh Baba and Barua Nallah so I hope Lakshmi can hold her own under her injury? D4's sister D5 has taken her mothers territory in Rajbehra and though seldom seen as yet seems content to stay. I have named Durgas daughters with a name related to Durga and the meaning of Victory. D4 being called Vijaya and D5 Jaya. A third young tigress R17 daughter of Reshma is in the hills around Banbehi. She was said to have eaten a poisoned goat recently but survived due to the intervention of Forest staff. I have called her Wakeeta meaning beautiful flower. Its a Sanksit name. You may think I should not name these tigers so but I use the mothers intitial to keep track of their cubs and what happens to them. Hence I have to search for names starting with unused letters of the alphabet when new tigress settle. You might have recognized however that all the male names begin with S! And finally Chameli in Magdhi range is fine too and seen with four cubs not three!

So things look pretty good for the park in the future with three young tigress settling inside Tala range. However there is a huge worry about the actual prey base right now as more and more cows get taken from around the perifery of the park and the tigers continue to hop over the fencing to visit the villages by night. Difficult to say what the future holds and as we all know so few of the youngsters ever survive if they go out beyond the Tala area.

More again soon but meantime a couple of pictures from my recent siughtings. Not great photos but great to see. Hopefully the artwork will be better?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

March Sighting and Bandhavgarh News

I recently spent twenty days in the park assisting a Wildlife Photographer Kim Sullivan. She has over the years become a friend and during her three week stay with us at Skay's Camp we thoroughly enjoy the jungle together. Times have changed alot over the years and now the cost of hiring elephant for photography is per individual rather than for the elephant. Therefore I had no chance to go on elephant during this whole time. However, this was no worry as the road sightings were incredible and many of them witnessed by the usual small crowd of tourist vehicles.

Much of our time was spent tracking the cubs of the Milchaini female Tulsi or the Chorbehra female Lakshmi. It was interesting to watch the interaction between mother and cubs and also times when males called by. Earlier I posted pictures of the male tigers T2 known locally as Kallu being intimidated by his mother but we also saw him alone enjoying the damp meadow grasses and frolicking on his back like a young domestic cat! The new Bamera male as he is called locally also called by on the Chorbehra cubs. He is their father and it was quite telling to see him simply stroll past the two as they sat in cover and then follow him a few yards up the river bed as he disappeared into Sidh Baba. This big male tiger is seen more and more in Tala Range because he is pushing B2 Sundar from his territory. B2 has already been forced out of Chakradhara meadow by P10 Shashi (Moon as we call him because he usually walks under the moon) and is now making inroads into Bhitri and Barua Nallah. He is also pushing Shaki/Bhoka too and has obviously taken Chorbehra and Dhobiakhol from this older male too. Though we did not see Shaki he was seen by others mainly resting in Rajbehra or on the move at the edges of his territory in Susiyari and Mahaman.

Most of the sightings however were of the cubs. Sightings of the Chorbehra cubs up on the Jumunia rocks or at play on Julwani pool or simply just sleepily waiting for Mom. In Milchaini the sightings were the more regular road crosses but for two occassions. One when the family came down late from the hills and played in the grassland and another very early one afternoon on the back road pool when all were playing in the cooling water before crossing and disappearing onto the hillside.

The last day sightings however were quite rewarding for different reasons. No cubs but two tigers stalking and chasing prey. Neither were successful but the events that led up to the chase were exciting. Firstly the male P10 Shashi appeared in Sidh Baba and began his walk up to Chakradhara to his A/C sleeping area. There is a wet patch of meadow cooled by water under tall grasses were this tiger has found the ideal daytime rest place. He is invisible to the eye and rarely moves before dark! On this day he walked to the meadow and saw chital happily grazing on the other side of the road. Several vehicles had followed this tiger on his way including two VIP vehicles and the tourism in charge ranger. This tiger literally came to the edge of the road and sat yards from a vehicle as he stalked the chital on the road edge. Much to the annoyance of the Forest Department staff this tiger sat for at least 15 minutes eyeing his meal. In the present park rules one is not supposed to watch a tiger for more than five minutes but move on. In this instance the tiger taught the ranger a real lesson because it was the tiger that ruled the timings and not the the Forest Department. Finally the tiger slunk across the road and made a dash scattering chital everywhere. After his failed attempt he crossed the road to his A/C apartment and was gone for the rest of the day.

Interestingly that same afternoon Lakshmi decided to try a hunt early when only our vehicle was present. In wonderful golden light and in full view she stalked a group of chital down to the Sidh Baba dam. Unfortunately she missed catching one and crossed towards Chorbehra. During all this drama her two cubs lay hidden in the grass. I never saw them that last day but hope I might get another chance in April. Of course Kim saw much more than this from elephant but I enjoyed my time and certainly it will make for a few memorable diary pages and a few more photo posts here.

I should also mention for those thinking to visit or revisit Bandhavgarh that Lakshmi the Chorbehra tigress has a substantial limp after almost two years of an injury to her right hind leg/hip. Her hunting ability is some what reduced because her balance is difficult. She usually takes only small prey and is often looking thin. All credit to her is that she usually appears to feeds her cubs before herself. Still a stunnily beautiful tigress it is upsetting to see her walking but a complete surprize to see her action on three legs when she pounces for the kill. I just hope she can raise these cubs to maturity and keep herself fit and as well as possible.

Finally to even more worrying news. Though I can say that the park is indeed full of tigers with Lakshmi with two cubs in Sidh Baba, Tulsi with three cubs in Milchaini, Durga with three small cubs in Badhaini, Chameli with new cubs in Sukki, Indrani with three or four cubs in Badrashila and Mahaman, three males in B2, Shaki and Shashi walking the park, the young male T2 Kallu on Milchaini and Ghorademon/Banbehi, Reshma's daughter taking over in Banbehi and the youngsters of Durga's last litter still seen around Badhaini, Susiyari and Rajbehra there is disturbing news concerning Chakradhara female Pyari.

Since early March she has not been seen in the park or on the Fort hill. In mid March a tigress with three cubs was seen on a sambar kill in the Ranchcha forest near the fenced roadside. The cubs were thought to be around nine or ten months old so how could it be Pyari as her cubs would be 18 months old at least by this time? And if it were Pyari why had she gone out? The mahavat Darram said this tigress had a cut ear which is indeed descriptive of Pyari and from photographs I hurridly sketched off a policeman's camera I thought it might be Pyari. However the Forest Department seemed happy to think there was yet another tigress in Bandhavgarh so everyone left them to their work. Till March end no sightings or pugmarks of Pyari or her family seen anywhere in Tala and Chakradhara. Then bad news on 30th March. A young girl of 17 had been killed by a tiger in Kuchwahi village only 3km from here on the eastern side of a fenced Tala Range. The tiger had killed a bullock and was feeding when the girl, out to collect Mahua from a nearby tree surprized the tiger. Anjana Tiwari did not stand a chance she would have been dead from one bite to the head in an instance.

First thoughts turned to the tigress being Lakshmi but she thankfully had been seen that morning in the park. So which tiger was this? Both Satyendra and I did not imagine it might be Pyari but thought first of the young males of Reshma now fending for themselves somewhere outside of the now almost completely fenced Tala Zone. However sightings by varoius people and the mahavats sent out on elephants said that the tigers ear was cut. The suggestion was it was Pyari! Certainly one of the most unpredictable of tigers and one known to charge the possibility of it being her is high. Tracked all day the tiger slipped off back to her cubs in the evening and todays news is that she is probably returned but only with two cubs to the village of the tragedy. What happens next is anyones guess and the Forest Departments choice!

I as many are am deeply worried about this situation. I believe the Forest Department want to try and put the tigress and her cubs back inside Chakradhara. But why did she leave in the first place. She is known to try and take her cubs from her home territory when mature in an attempt to dump them outside her prime range but as yet this task is not completed so will she go out again if returned. And is this the reason she went in the first place or is there another reason for this now 14 year old tigress to take to feeding on cows outside the park?? Pyari is the one tiger in Bandhavgarh I would certainly not like to meet out there while walking in the forest or wheat fields during this mahua season. She has always been the wildest of Bandhavgarhs tigers and a true wild tiger indeed, not one to be underestimated but one to be respected and wary of at all times. I have not seen this tigress in almost two years and would hate to think I may never see her again but if indeed this tiger is Pyari for sure her fate is somewhat in the balance if she kills again. Let us hope she will not and that Bandhavgarh is not heading towards the similar newsof the demise of a tigress as of May last year when Reshma, Pyari's sister was found dead probably poisoned!!!!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hello again all. Its been ages since I wrotwe on my blog and now I have decided that I will post pictures here and text. Here are a couple of rather exciting pictures recently taken of the tigress Tulsi seeing off her now last litter male cub. He is a transient male now with no real territory and when he heard his mother coming and calling he called back to here like a small cub. She did not want him around at all because her new litter of three were there too. This poor boy was really shown his place. A few days later he was seen being intimidated by B2 which though I missed I heard about and it sounded amazing as a sighting. Certainly things are interesting right now. Even we have heard that sightings have been made of the new litter of Durga. She has three very small cubs hidden away in Badhaini. Her older litter daughter is still in Rajbehra. It will be interesting when the watehole Durga is presently using dries up and she has to take her new litter into Rajbehra. B2 is still about but his son P10 is now in Chakradhara and extending his range. For sure Bandhavgarh is in a time of change.