The Magdhi zone of Bandhavgarh is a far more complicated range to follow, simply because many of the tigers that are spotted in the area actually drift in and out and mostly reside elsewhere. Much of the visitor area is in fact a chunk of the Tala Range given to Magdhi for the purpose of providing tigers to see when it was first opened to the public. True Magdhi tigers are elusive tigers and rarely seen and that would include a tigress that is reported by the Forest Department to have just littered four cubs, and yet her identity and life may never be known and can be classed with the known Magdhi tigers like Collar Wallah and those unidentified youngsters that have simply popped up in Magdhi this season.
Magdhi zone has always been a quiet zone too, sightings infrequent and fleeting though this winter past there were several exciting encounters with Yoshila (called Sukia Pattia female) and her two cubs before the increasing temperatures sent all undercover. These cubs must be over eighteen months old now and reaching a time there mother will desert them. Indeed the last few sightings that have produced photographs of this family show them to have possibly separated already. There still seems some uncertainty also as to whether both are female or they are brother and sister. This I cannot accurately comment on as I am yet to encounter either on my rather unsuccessful trips to Magdhi. The joy is that Yoshila still patrols her territory and looks more and more the mature and capable mother she was born to be. Her mother Chameli now the oldest tigress in the park is not seen at all and is thought to be living out her years in Kulwah Range beyond the eyes and cameras of visitors. However, it is very possible a recent young intruder male to the Magdhi area could be a cub of Chameli. Though he has not been seen for some time now he could easily pop up at any time this summer.
Jaya spent much of the winter settled in no-man’s land between Tala and Magdhi zones and was often seen around Sukki Dam and the new concrete dish towards Gohni meadows nicknamed by drivers and guides as Todaba waterhole! Jaya herself is still the sweetest of tigresses to encounter but her now independent two year old cubs very much more difficult to spot as the summer heat grows. They have drifted towards Dudra meadow and Climber Point and though there have been a few sightings recently of two or more of these cubs, mostly they move independently and at night, vanished like phantoms leaving only pugmarks by dawn. Their main joy right now seems to be annoying the Tala Gaur herd that has at least five new calves this season, one daughter even being injured by one and she is now carrying quite a limp.
Down at Mahaman there is of course another family of tigers thought to be those of the tigress Ondrila, seen on occasions during the winter months but more frequently now as the family splits up. The cubs are even older than those of Yoshila possibly even two years old now. They are hunting alone and can be spotted in both Magdhi and Khitauli. Early summer sightings have included a chital kill on Mahaman pool and a sambar kill just inside Khitauli. It is thought this family has at least two males amongst the siblings but the sex of the third is unknown and in any case this has not been confirmed due to a lack of. The mother of these cubs is more often spotted slinking across the main Umaria road than inside the park nowadays and more surprising her sister I10 was recently photo ID’d near Tadoba pool in the company of a cub!? This has led to some confusion as to whether Sundari, (as she has been named) or Ondrila is in fact the mother of the Mahaman cubs or even whether both mothers are still present in the park. If they both are then it is incredible that so many tigresses are existing within the Magdhi and Khitauli crossover. Sadly with visitors only allowed to visit 20% of the park these days , so monitoring is becoming increasingly more difficult.
Call for help from photographers
If many more of you can add to TN’s directory and join hands to conserve these magnificent cats, by keeping a well organized directory and database, then we can truly know the numbers or the individual’s fates?
Males of the Magdhi zone
Though Jobhi is hardly seen he is still thought to be the main man in Magdhi and it is believed he was filmed by the BBC in the presence of Jaya and her family this winter, something we certainly can wait to see on our screening! The most amazing news of cause is the return of Blue Eyes this winter but why he would choose to re-enter his arch enemy’s domain I do not know. When he disappeared in monsoon with pretty bad injuries from fighting it was thought he could not survive – but fantastic that he has.
Blue Eyes has certainly changed in appearance slightly and is supporting quite a limp. However he must have been able to feed himself and has survived to conquer again. However the last time he was sighted his old facial wound was weeping again and his limp no better. Has he been fighting again? If Jobhi is chasing his tail it will be hard for Blue Eyes to remain in the visitor’s area and he may have to retreat back from where he came.
We should not forget Collar Wallah – now collarless- because he’s out there somewhere too and the female from the enclosure now also collared was last spotted near Badrashila. There are so many tigers in Magdhi but where are all the photographs of these beauties, Tiger Nation needs more please.
Other wildlife in Magdhi
I find even chital hard to spot beyond the area that is truly Tala Range. Yes the gaur pass through the area and sambar are seen on occasions but certainly not in any numbers. Nilgai seem to be the most dispersed of the prey species, so it is little wonder there are so many cattle taken in the area every day. I have also not heard about any bear or leopard sightings in Magdhi this season though I believe the wild dogs clipped a corner during the winter months. Alas there has been a lot of waterhole work and new construction happening so it is very likely that this has disrupted the animal’s dispersal area. All will settle but it could take time.
Life is never as tranquil as one might hope in India’s Parks where the intense pressure of both saving species and also increasing their numbers is the driving force, against a myriad of other human related pressures and intrusions.
Credits: Tiger Nation