Summer arrives but tragedy and change continues – By Kay Tiwari

Mahua Flowers - the flowers used for making central India's finest alcoholic nectar - Mahua (c) 2014
Mahua Flowers – the flowers used for making central India’s finest alcoholic nectar – Mahua (c) 2014

It’s now summer in Bandhavgarh. The Mahua is falling and the jungle in flower as the bamboo looses its green shroud and drying leaves litter the forest floor. Though the days remain hot and the night only just a little cooler it is unusually cloudy right now as the unseasonal threat of rain continues to hit central India.

It’s been a tough year so far with Tala unrecognizably quiet regarding its big cats and especially the tigers. Though it still offers all the history of this magical place and the beauty of it’s scenery few are interested in the animal treasures hidden deep away and pure chance to see. The prey base is certainly more settled than last season with little in the way of alarm calls ringing in the hills and the gaur too have calved again but for the visitor the tiger has become an elusive ghost.

Trya takes a long drink (c) Kay Tiwari
Trya takes a long drink (c) Kay Tiwari

It is said both Tulsi the Milchaini female and Jaya the Rajbehra female are about to litter, perhaps they already have. Sightings of these two tigresses have been few this season as they move alone their families either grown and moved out or sadly vanished. Jaya has been the lucky one with all her four surviving to separate and challenge for territory. Trya is seen frequently these days on the edge of her mother’s territory seemingly settling in between the Sukki Pattia tigress and her mother with Ondrila nestled close by too. She’s been seen in the company of several different males including O1 and her brother Johnno but these boys are wandering alone now avoiding conflict with older stronger males that search her out!

For Johnno, Murphy and Crumbie it’s a tough time as little is seen of these three now and it will be interesting where they might pop up next? We are all wondering which tigress has or will take Chakradhara, could it be one of these two sisters or perhaps Nalini has already claimed it? Some have seen a secretive tiger in Chakradhara claimed to be a tigress but Somanshu is also still around and being as elusive as any cat might be. He’s seen in Magdhi too but thought to make his way back to Chakradhara for a bit of peace and safety. Who ever this tiger is it will be a mystery revealed one day, the phantom of Chakradhara will one day be recognized!

As to the new male in Tala, Bamera’s nemesis, he’s hardly ever around let alone seen. It seems he’s done his business and gone home to Kalwah Range or has he? With Tulsi and Jaya pregnant and Wakeeta with cub in Banbehi there seems little reason to remain in Tala these days. Better to follow the young females in Magdhi! Certainly males are seen in Magdhi but neither this new boy known to some as Mangu or Chinkoo here or Jobhi  have been spotted in weeks if not months. At present it’s the two Mahaman brothers now three years old that have taken up the cause and are disturbing life in zone two. Both these boys are seen right up to Sukki Pattia and O2 has even been spotted disturbing the tigress Yoshila though she made short work of throwing him out. O2 is quite a character and has even thought to have tried his luck at mating with Y6 daughter of Yoshila, while O1 spends more time tracking Trya or following his mother Ondrila about around Mahaman.

Ondrila seen recently alone - Sighted evening after 5pm at Sukki Dam in Magdhi zone. Ondrila I9. (c) 2014
Ondrila seen recently alone – Sighted evening after 5pm at Sukki Dam in Magdhi zone. Ondrila I9. (c) 2014

As to Ondrila she’s been spending time with Bamera male, Shashi hidden away in the closed area. She seems content with his company though he still steals her kills and scraps take place. For poor Shashi times are tough but he’s still hanging on in there as seen on a video recently posted on TN facebook! Perhaps Ondrila is carrying his last ditched attempt at fathering cubs though the Khitauli male Tarun or Bheem is also seen crossing to Tala these days and may perhaps father her next litter? For sure Jobhi is not in the area recently and FD workers say the young male O1 was the last to be seen sharing a meal with Shashi, not literally but in the same area and in the knowledge of each other. Shashi is hardly old at approaching eleven so he’s in for more troubles no doubt if he can’t get rid of that terrible limp.

Shashi is not the only aging tiger being challenged for space right now either. Recently Indrani was spotted in Khitauli without cubs sadly (what has happened to them is a mystery?). She had made a cow kill, fully compensated thank goodness, but she is carrying a swollen fore paw which looks quite painful. I have a feeling this is a recurring old injury just as Shashi carries but she seems in control and at 13 years old it will be doubtful she will mother again so can feel content she just has herself to look after. Poor girl she has had a tough time since her partner Shaki/Bhoka’s departure I hope she can live out her old age safely somewhere. As a secretive tigress seeing her is a real treat one of the few old faces left, Tulsi being the next oldest tigress at 11 years of age. It’s sad to see the old faces disappear now this park changes its characters so often due to the sheer pressure for space!

While these old characters struggle it’s been heart warming to see both Yoshila in Magdhi and Haimi in Khitauli doing so well. For Haimi all her three cubs have survived the monsoon of last year and at around 16 months or more are doing really well. This tigress is a wonderful mother considering she has a territory greatly disturbed by villagers, a dream to spot though her cubs are really very shy even at this older age. This must be a product of living around human habitation no doubt. Yoshila has a new litter seen quite often now and growing fast. She has become Indian’s favourite tigress in Bandhavgarh for now as she in fact has the only litter of small cubs around in at present.

The reason for this is the sad news that Wakeeta in Banbehi lost one of her cubs in a snare set for meat poaching and a second has seemingly vanished! So Wakeeta has suffered losses yet again and is moving with just one small cub and though they are sometimes seen she is certainly keeping her diminished family close by her side and well hidden much of the time. If Tala and Bandhavgarh do have the patter of tiny feet echoing in the hills we all may have to wait till next season to glimpse new faces born to Tulsi and Jaya. Let’s hope Bandhavgarh is more settled now and that the continuing deaths are ended. Life goes on but in these beautiful hills it’s been too quiet for comfort and regeneration is greatly needed. It will come we just need to wait and keep our fingers crossed the wars of this big cat world are over, for a few years at least?

Credits: Tiger Nation 

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A tiger cub lost – a male tiger found by Julian Matthews

Hosnara (T30) the residential tigress of the Jail kho area of the park and T71's mother - is one of the lesser known and photographed ones. (c) sriskandh
Hosnara (T30) the residential tigress of the Jail kho area of the park and T71’s mother – is one of the lesser known and photographed ones. (c) sriskandh

Keladevi Sanctuary, the northern portion of the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve is not known for its ideal wildlife habitat, because although it makes up almost half of the reserve’s official borders it is infact home to numerous villages and thousands of cattle, making it less than ideal for an elusive predator. In fact in 2012, it was officially credited with only one tigress living within its boundaries.

T71 as a youngster with mother and his siblings. (c) 2012
T71 as a youngster with mother and his siblings. (c) 2012

The fact that T71, the three year old male tiger, a cub from Hosnara’s (T30) third litter who lived in the little visited area of Lahpur in the eastern Khandar region of the park, has been photographed by camera trap proves the male squeeze that is happening in this part of the park, now full to bursting point with tigers, though the new census out this month will provide the real evidence.

Male tigers generally do have to move away from their original home ranges once they mature, and often spend years as nomads, trying to find suitable territory to oversee and live within. These male’s chances of survival are small, given that often they have to exist in and around human settlements and heavily cultivated farmlands, stealing they livestock because little natural prey now exists in these fragmented forest patches, carved up by roads and denuded of wood, and are very likely to be poisoned by angry or scared villagers or targeted by poaching gangs, who so often work in these unguarded landscapes, away from prying eyes.

T71’s existence mirrors the life of so many of India’s tigers today – with fewer and fewer forests capable of supporting the big cats.

Credits: Tiger Nation

Pench – The Jungle Book is alive and well again by Akash Panchbudhe

Collarwali cubs - Recently sighted at in an evening drive near alikatta main road. Though we have not seen the mother around there, but others have. (c) 2014
Collarwali cubs – Recently sighted at in an evening drive near alikatta main road. Though we have not seen the mother around there, but others have. (c) 2014

With the rains gone away, it’s time to look out for all time favourite She rkhan and Baloo in the mystical jungle of central India, Memories freshens up with getting up early in the mornings and all geared up to find them in the jungle of Pench Tiger Reserve

Winter in central has arrived with opening of our much awaited national parks. Misty and foggy mornings are soon going to cover up the grasslands, your eyes looking for stripes and rosettes and some of the most colorful birds, will be on a constant look out.

Pench National Park in October 2014 is all decorated with big leaves of teak trees, lush green carpet of grasses and some of the best river banks sightings on the Pench River

This year after the late arrival of monsoon and not enough water to fill up the park rivulets and the waterholes shows it’s going to be tough this summer for the wildlife here.

The much awaited 16th October 2014 morning – As soon as the park opened, we all can see the enthusiasm in all the park guides, forest guards, ticket booking officers, & all the dedicated staff of the Pench tiger reserve to welcome their guest after three and a half months of monsoon.

Park Guides in a new look: Pench has one of the most enthusiastic & youngest set of park guides. The guides cum friends here waited eagerly to take the guest inside the tiger reserve.

This year the guides have showed interest in designing & tailoring their own choice of uniform & got approved also as the color combination of their uniforms is as per the wildlife recommended clothing.

Monsoon gone with less rain: In all the parks in central India, we can see the difference in the water level in ponds, rivulets & nallahs. This year is quite challenging to provide water to the animals in some the man made ponds & water holes as the water is not enough to be available till March – April? I think Pench Forest Authorities should take it seriously to make their plan of action looking at temperature rise in this dry deciduous forest

Life line of Pench tiger reserve is the Pench river which supports the water requirement of the animals in the reserve, this year it’s a drastic amount of drop in water level of the river, some of the places for safaris which are on other side of the Pench river opens by late march – April, but this year it may get open by February as the river water will be left in pockets.

As an initiative for accommodating more tourist and less vehicle,  Madhya Pradesh Tourism has introduced a single canter vehicle for 12 persons which at the time of weekends and specially during the peak festival occasion can be a great help.

Mammal Sightings: Big herds of spotted deer, troops of langur, can be seen around alikatta fire line, malkundam, bijamatta & chindhimata, almost in every of the park

Sambar population is quite healthy as we can see some of them in different areas of the park almost in every safari drive

Nilgai (Males and  female) also gets regularly sighted here, Jackals almost plenty in numbers, even it’s good to see gaurs roaming around in different corners of the park. As per the expectation of finding top predators, Dholes are moving in 2-3 different packs, also gets a good sighting in the park often in packs of 10 and 12 dogs.

Leopard sightings are more happening here in the rocky terrain of Piyorthadi, Gadh sekia & Jamun Nala, in these 15 days of park being opened; almost 5-8 different leopard sightings have been recorded.

Tiger Sightings: This year many guides and naturalist around the various camps are anticipating good tiger sighting as most of the female tigers are having cubs or sub adults. Collarwali’s and Bagh nallah’s are just some with cubs.

In the past few days visitors have seen 3 different tigresses with cubs and older sub adults.

Winter visitor birds are not back yet, may be because the winter just arriving now, but osprey and grey herons are amongst the birds to look out for near the Pench River.

Being as a naturalist for the last few years, it feels good and peaceful to works here. After my two years working in one of my favorite national park “Bandhogad” (Bandhavgarh) I am now in mowgli’s land Baghwan Pench National Park

I will soon share the difference in the pictures taken in last winter & this year winter of the Pench Forest.

Credits: Tiger Nation

Mala (Noor)

AS_000002080

Age:5 years old (adult)
Name Meaning:Beaded Beauty
Code:T39
First seen:March 2009
Gender:Female
Notable marks:She has bead-like markings on her side flanks

2

 

Mala (also known as the Sultanpur female) is a beautiful tigress who heralds from the sister of the great matriarch Machali, Grand Dame of Ranthmbhore. She is well known to visitors in the park – an extrovert just like her aunt. Her brother is a famous adventurer, having moved from Rajasthan to Madhya Pradesh of his own accord. She now has one cub called Sultan born in the summer 2012.

Know as Mala (Hindi for ‘necklace’) due to the decorative bead-like stripes on her flanks, she was born to the Sultanpur female T13. Growing up in Guda/Sultanpur, the southernmost part of the park, she was popular among tourists who enjoyed seeing her as a cub.

Soon after separating from her mother at the age of 2, her mother had another litter of two cubs with T12 who was soon after relocated to Sariska in 2010. As a result, Mala’s father’s territory fell vacant and Sultanpur (T24) took over. Now, her mother’s new litter was in danger, threatened by the new male who would try to kill her cubs. The new family left the area, allowing Mala to take over her mother’s territory under the domain of the Sultanpur male.

About the same time, Mala’s brother had vanished without a trace and it was not until sometime later that acamera trap in Kuno Palpur Sanctuary picked up an unknown male tiger. Through comparison of tiger stripe patterns, experts discovered that this mystery tiger was none other than her brother. He had made the dangerous journey over 100 miles, swimming the mighty Chambal river in the process. This discovery was great news for conservationists and the Forest Department – proof that this area still has a functioning wildlife corridor.

Mala has now given birth a single cub in her range and he has been named Sultan.

Do you have any further information or images on this tiger? Get in contact here.

Credits: Tiger Nation 

 

Too Many Tigers?! Whose to blame? by Julian Matthews

Excited visitors follow one of India wild tigers in Ranthambhore, now completely habituated to the daily comings and goings of jeeps across their territory. (c) Aditya Singh
Excited visitors follow one of India wild tigers in Ranthambhore, now completely habituated to the daily comings and goings of jeeps across their territory. (c) Aditya Singh

NOW TOO MANY TIGERS ! 

by Julian Matthews

Too many tigers. Sorry did I hear that correctly? Once more ‘Toomany tigers in many tiger reserves now.’ says tiger expert, Dr Qamar Qureshi. This is the conclusion of the esteemed research scientists at the Wildlife Institute of India in late August.

Fantastic. Massive result; a beacon of light burns in the ashes of India’s dwindling jungles. Well done to all those involved and a massive pat on the back.

It was exactly two years ago that tourism was being accused of killing tigers and banned from operating by the high court for three months.  Yet here we are with burgeoning tiger numbers, and booming visitor number going to more and more parks than ever before, and it would seem that tigers are not suffering at all from the hordes of visitors to tiger reserves. Strange? Surely there is a correlation between the two?!

Let’s now look at why it has happened and what I believe are the underlying reasons for this. More government money is being thrown at the problem yes, and figures suggest its costing between US$900 and US$2000 per year, per square km, to support it. There is some excellent park management undoubtedly, better tracking and relocation; and the increasing numbers of villagers being removed from core areas, along with their livestock, which is allowing greater areas of the parks to become tiger friendly territory.

But it’s not only this, for I believe one major and hugely unappreciated, and a still institutionally unloved industry – nature tourism –  is also responsible and can take a lot of credit too and this is why.

Nature tourism creates the economic value that today’s forests need to survive the ravages of agriculture, the depletion of overgrazing, the exploiting of extractive industries and the chicanery of political machinations.

Nature tourism raises the voices of a few protagonists to a great crescendo of concerned stakeholders, turns the media spotlight and a visitors’ eyeballs onto once unloved forests, gets their guardians out of bed every morning, and makes civil servants accountable like no other force can. Importantly it is a massive behavioural change mechanism, turning many rural communities from wildlife antagonists to conservation advocates, creates jobs and enterprises where few were available and where no other prospect exists for these marginal farming communities, buffeted by wildlife conflict, to join the brave new modern India.

India’s nature tourism industry is already providing the very ‘glue’ that makes all the other critical parts of wilderness conservation sustainable in a modern world. It’s by no means perfect and it still needs minimum standard guarantees of sustainability from owners and operators, better land use planning, and a better understanding and partnership with many Forest officers, but it is providing the much needed bonding – the very sticky glue that makes long term forest conservation possible and viable, against a crescendo of calls for its destruction and development.

Yes, tigers cannot survive without their guardians, good management and large enough natural landscapes, but they will not thrive and expand without nature tourism’s invaluable economics, its visitors ‘hearts on their sleeve’ conscience, and its many stakeholders interest and activities.

Credits: Tiger Nation 

Death of a youngster – Another Challenger? by Kay Tiwari

T8 on right with his mother Tulsi (c) 2014
T8 on right with his mother Tulsi (c) 2014

After the untimely death of Vijaya there are many who love Bandhavgarh, now spending hours mulling over concerns as to which tigress might take her space and the future of her one remaining cub. With little news forthcoming from the Forest Department these days it is very difficult to say anything concrete. It’s a game of wait and see as usual.

Tulsi with her three cubs in June 2013. One now missing and one dead. (c) Kay Tiwari
Tulsi with her three cubs in June 2013. One now missing and one dead. (c) Kay Tiwari

Also many are wondering which male tiger actually died back in July after a nasty fight. It was reported as a male cub of the Milchaini tigress, called Tulsi, but of the remaining two which is actually dead?  Is it T7 or T8?  T6 had already vanished earlier in the season, fate unknown, presumed killed in the continued male struggle that has hit Bandhavgarh.

Two brothers of the original three. Tulsi's sub adults in June 2014 (c) Kay Tiwari
Two brothers of the original three. Tulsi’s sub adults in June 2014 (c) Kay Tiwari

Neither male had been seen regularly during the season due to Tulsi’s continued cleverness in keeping her tribe well concealed. However when sightings were made a little of their individual characters were becoming apparent. T7, being less shy than his brother T8, was more curious and interested in the tourism attention of which T8 basically tried to ignore – as his mother so often does. For T7 the attention seemed fascinating. Both boys clung to their mother often walking close by her side rubbing up against her enjoying the security she offered. Never before with a litter had Tulsi kept her growing cubs so close. Even at 18 months of age she was reluctant in leaving them alone for long, feeling it necessary to keep the two remaining boys within her sights and high in the hills away from marauding young males travelling long distances from kill sights and moving her family regularly to secret places away from danger.

 Of course as the cubs grew older demands on their mother would have grown. Food would have been for ever on her agenda and therefore the constant fear of an unknown and unwelcome intruder at the table. Not only was Tulsi dealing with her own family struggles supplying food for the father of the cubs, presumed to be Shashi, she was also dealing with several youngsters. Pushpraj and his brother Kanvar who had caused her stress the previous season were continually following her in the hope of food. Somanshu, Vijaya’s son from Chakradhara on occasions made an entrance and the very fiery visitor from Magdhi, an complete unknown has recently turned up to add to the trauma.

T7's right flank. May 2014 (c) Kay Tiwari
T7’s right flank. May 2014 (c) Kay Tiwari

In fact it was this unpredictable male that by the end of the summer was regularly seen in Milchaini and many believe that it is this male that is now causing the chaos while Pushpraj has vanished from sight having been accused of decimating his mother Wakeeta’s second litter, his own step brothers and sister. At the same time Somanshu has holed up in the slightly more peaceful area of Chakradhara/Barua Nallah and Banbehi/Ghorademon. It is therefore being presumed the aggressive Magdhi male killed the cub in July or at least injured it during a fierce fight. Another story however reports that actually the elephant Astam killed the injured cub after it attacked from behind by applying pressure to its trachea when forcing it down by his trunk? The truth is we at TN will probably never know the true facts or the reality of which tigers were involved.

The jungles keep their secrets from prying eyes.

 Anyone have any other news?

Credits: Tiger Nation 

 

Vijaya – what happens now? by Akash Panchbudhe

Last Click of Vijaya - I got lucky to see this beautiful tigress just a day before the park was about to get closed for the monsoon, (c) 2014
Last Click of Vijaya – I got lucky to see this beautiful tigress just a day before the park was about to get closed for the monsoon, (c) 2014

By Akash Panchbudhe

We all are getting updates about the recent happening in the park, It is disappointing to know about the Tiger Attacks and Tiger’s death in central India.

As we all know about the great flora and fauna of Bandhvagarh National Park, we also know how much tigers are important to all the tiger reserve. With the news of tiger’s death,the question arises that how we are gonna reach our goal of saving them.

Apart from the wildlife and mythological importance of Bandhavgarh, it has got lot of attention because of its famous & interesting folklore of the Tigers like CHARGER, SITA AND B2.

One more tigress at present was gaining much attention. She was named KANKATI (Vijaya) , She got so much famed and got this name when she was being uniquely identified by the cut on her ear, but her ferocious act fighting with another tigress and killing her and eating her body parts, gave her a prominent personality status among st all the bandhavgarh wildlife loving fans. The folklore for this tigress has reached its conclusion with her reported death. After matching the strip pattern, dead body was identified as Kankati Tigress.

It was all almost for sure that the any local guide or any naturalist will tell about the life of Kankati to their guests,after listening about her everyone became curious to see her and gets curious to know more about her. Unfortunately we have now stories only to talk.

She left her 3 small cubs of around 5 month old, and in a search operation of finding the cubs, the forest guards found two cubs lying dead near to Chital Kill. One cub is still missing, Its a critical time for the cub to survive, as per the last practice in such kind of incidence, the forest department started the practice of raising the cubs in an enclosure, but to raise such a small cubs in an enclosure is a challenging task.

Death of Tigress Called Kankati

A Tiger body was discovered on the morning of 6th August lying behind the MPT Resort Compound, The body was decomposed and teared out from the left flank, It seemed from the initial investigation that the dead body was around 2-3 day old, postmortem team also reported that there were some injury marks on her body.

As we all know she was a bold and ferocious tigress in the reserve, the cause for the death is still uncertain, as its difficult to reach to a conclusion that which tiger would have done this?

Well the big thing is not the question that which tiger would have done this, the question is there anything which can be done to save the tigers from such incidence?

It has also happened in the past that the tigers inside the reserve died during the heavy monsoon period inside the reserve. Last year, (2013) close to the arrival of monsoon, the last litter of kankati (chakradhara female) lost her all the 3 cubs, one of the reason for the loss was the new male roaming in her territory, and might have killed the cubs as the cubs doesn’t belongs to the new male.

After this incident, Banvehi tigress (Wakeeta) of another region inside the park lost all her 4 cubs. 3 male cubs of another tigress are also facing a tough competition to establish their territories inside the park, Out of 4 lactating female in the Tala Rage, only Rajbahera tigress has successfully raised her litter of 4, which are now at the age of dispersal.

Overall the tiger activity in the Tala Range of the Reserve will be limited and we might miss the great sightings happened in the past.

So, now the most prime area of the park is not being used by the dominant tigers. Areas having most of tiger sighting in the past is now vacant..which ultimately gives opportunities for the transient tigers roaming inside the reserve to establish their new territories.

Hopes for improving the scenario is the female in different zones of bandhavgarh,

1. Sukhi Patiha Female (Yoshila) : 2 Female Cubs, now around 25 month old, These sub adults are now successfully hunting by themselves, and making their territory close to the mother’s territory in Magdhi Range.

2. Two Tigress in Khitauli Range : These 2 females with their 3-3 small cubs have been sighted on and off this summer. But the habitat in Khitauli range needs less of human disturbance and a healthier prey base to accommodate these two female to raise their litter.

3. 2 Tigress :Vanvehi Tigress (Wakeeta) & Rajbahera Tigress (Jaya) can bring up the joy of tiger cubs now in the Tala Range, as both females are now almost going by themselves, will be looking for the mates and may give birth to young ones in the upcoming winters or may be later.

But as the season starts, We may find our majestic meadow ” Chakradhara ” bit silent…

Its disappointing to know that such incidence are not good for the conservation, but will be interesting to see how the park authorities will make their plan of action to minimize the loss from such incidence in future.

Credits: Tiger Nation