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.