Thursday, December 10, 2009

Night Safaris at Kanha Tiger Reserve

In early periods night safaris were not regulated in Kanha National Park. But as a right measure this was discouraged in toto. It is not a good idea to conduct night safaris in the core zones of any National Park taking into account the disturbance caused and onus of day safaris which are organized in morning and evening.

I have always encouraged night safaris among my visitors and have conducted some in the buffer zone...mainly on highways passing through. My preferred route is the road that leads right up to the Kanha NP park boundary from Van Vilas Jungle Resort at Mochha on wards. The night safari route which I prefer is the Mukki Highway and Mocha to Mukki road. The last two are public routes so there is no problem although you may have to notify forest guards or posts on the way. For the first route it is advisable to contact the first post you come across.

Night safaris are exciting and offer the best chance of sighting less seen nocturnal animals as the leopard, porcupine, ratel, Indian fox, civet cats, barking deer, the rare wolf and more. You can hear night jars and owls and see them under the light. A powerful torch should be very useful albeit care should be taken not to throw light on big cats and bison if you come across them. For large animals search lights are not essential as the head lights work fine.

Night safaris are the best way to experience the heart throbbing delights of tranquil jungle life and its pristine ambiance. Night safaris are being conducted in Rajasthan and as per TOI news it will be conducted in major NPs and Wildlife Sanctuaries in Karnataka.

Advantages

If properly organized and in the right places, Night safaris at Kanha Tiger Reserve will make tourism more fruitful. Perhaps it will reduce the traffic of day safaris in the core zone.

Night safaris may discourage illegal activities since the roving eyes of the tourists will hinder movements of poachers and timber smugglers.

It will yield more employment to the locals and add business to the hotels, jeep owners and guides. This would be the best way to provide jobs to local guides who often sit jobless due to less tourism inside the core zone.

It will increase awareness amongst the tourists as their scope of understanding this fragile ecosystem will increase.

Caution

The movement for night safaris has to be strictly restricted to non sensitive areas...away from core zone and breeding zones.

The tourist have to comply with decent behavior, perhaps supervised by the guide as he does so in the day safaris.

The night safaris should be conducted in the same manner as the day safari by the administration...and charged.

The safety of the tourist have to be taken into account.

The timings should be restricted up to 11pm.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Forest birds of Kanha and Bandhavgarh

Kanha National Park and Bandhavgarh National Park offer the best birding opportunity. The bird species checklist surpasses 250 mark about 50 species less than Bharatpur bird sanctuary in Rajasthan.

Birdwatching is catching up in these tiger reserves but then birds are not seen en mass here. Forest birding is always straining until unless you come across a mixed hunting party. Winters is the best time for birding in these parks but thick forest canopy makes bird watching strenuous.

Winter visitors or migratory birds arrive from October onwards and one can see ultramarine flycatcher, Hume's warbler, greenish warbler, sulfur bellied warbler, Tickell's warbler, black redstart, pintails, common teals, Asian brown flycatcher and wagtails. Many species of pipits that migrate in winters can also be seen.

Common birds are grey hornbill, Malabar pied hornbill, orioles, nuthatches, parakeets, drongos, cuckoos, barbets, owls, owlets, crested hawk eagle, crested serpent eagle, honey buzzards, black naped flycatcher, paradise flycatcher, verditor, Tickell's blue flycatcher, white eyed buzzard, mynas, sparrows, Greater racket tailed drongo, orange headed thrush, black necked stork, lesser adjutant stork and painted stork. There are many more....

Checklist of Bandhavgarh National Park is the same as that of Kanha National Park albeit with minor variations. In these tiger reserves the terrain varies although forest habitat is the same. Wetlands birds do not visit these tiger reserves in great numbers as large water bodies are absent, nevertheless many ducks, teals, sandpipers and wagtails can be seen during the winters.

Many tour operators, hotels and wildlife resorts now offer birding as an option along with tiger safaris in the park. Those with in house professional naturalists and birding guides deliver the best.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grasslands of Kanha

Much talked about its tigers, Kanha National Park is an ecosystems which harbors vivid diversity of life forms. It is a true biodiversity conservation center. The topography of the park is unique with rising Maikal Hills enveloped by dense forest of Sal and Bamboo at places interspersed with grassy meadows, lakes and small rivers. Unlike Pench, Kanha and Bandhavgarh have less of mixed forest zones. Sal and Bamboo are prevalent in most of the forested zones of the park.

Kanha is famous for not only tigers but it's magnificent fauna which boasts of twenty two species. The mouse deer was recently sighted here though earlier reporting where not confirmed. The most visible elements of faunal diversity are the herbivores - the main prey base of tiger, leopard and wild dog.

Kanha National Park - Meadows

The grasslands of Kanha are extensive and many in number. They are a habitat for number of grass species like themeda triandra, Sachrum munja and Bothriocloa odrata to name a few. These grass species are crucial to the survival of herbivores especially the Hard Ground Barasinga or the Hard Ground Swamp Deer (Cervus duavcelli branderi).

Most of the grasslands are edaphic, they were in much declined state due human settlements there. The water logging of soil prevented the growth of perennial woody plants but the grasses grew well. There has been miraculous improvement in the health of these grasslands after the villages were relocated out of Kanha National Park.

The most popular grasslands or meadows in Kanha are the Kanha meadow, Saunf which is the breeding ground of Barsinghas, meawdows at Parsa Tola, Kisli, Supkhar, Bamani Dadar and many more. The grasslands bordering Saundhar Taloa and Bisanpura Talao (Wetlands) are habitats favored by the Barasingha. The Chital or spotted deer are ubiquitous, while Sambar deer are nocturnal and shy. The bisons are coarse feeders but climb down the hills to feed in the grasslands in summers.

The meadows are an integral part of Kanha landscape apart from being habitat for many life form including the herbivores - the main prey base of the tigers in India. The grassy meadows add charm and enchantment to Kanha landscape and make it picturesque - as the park is.

The health of grasslands in Kanha is vital for the survival of prey species. Though there is no danger from humans now, the intrusion of lyndia tree is a source of worry for the park managers. The ecotone harbors lots of Lyndia tree which are slowly intruding into the meadows. Should there be human intervention or should nature take it's own course???

Bandhavgarh National Park History

Bandhavgarh is a unique tiger reserve situated in Vindhya's in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. Though small as compared to Kanha National Park in size, it equals it in case of floral biodiversity. The mammal species are less in number at Bandhavgarh Park, but nevertheless the easy sightings of Bengal tigers in the wild and unparalleled beauty makes it a unique destination. The hard ground Barasingha has not been recorded here. The Bisons of Bandhavgarh became extinct few years back. Besides these animals the park has all the mammlia typical to Central India. It is most frequented by wild life lovers, naturalists and photographers in India.

The most enchanting paradise in India Bandhavgarh National Park has undulating terrain with igneous rocks, large marshy grasslands and dense forested hill slopes. It is unique that it holds ruins of ancient civilizations in its folds. Littered all over the park are man made caves, ancient temples, stables and ruins of a once magnificent fort atop the Bandhavgarh Hill at 800 m. The monuments most of them in ruins date two thousand years back. The last dynasty to rule Bandvgarh fort was the Baghel Kings Maharajas of Rewa.

Amidst the ruins and rubble roam wild tigers and other animals. The Sesh Shaiyya, on the way up to the fort is a fairy tale like pond with a reclining Vishnu carved in stone on one side. The statue is carved out of rock and is twenty feet long. It is a magnificent site - quaint and esoteric. The tigers roam in dense vegetation surrounding the place. In summers, whence water is scarce the area is usually the haunt of tigeress with cubs.

Sita the famous tigeress of Bandhavgarh preserve was often sighted at Sesh Shaiyya with her cubs. Charger the famous male tiger, who along with Sita sired many of Bandhavgarh's young tigers, and he once ruled this habitat for years.

Most of the hotels in Bandhavgarh National Park arrange a visit to Sesh Shaiyya. A big respite to hotel guests tired from many a frantic tiger chase. The ambiance is soothing and calm and a tiger passing by adds to the thrill.

For those on tiger safari in Bandhavgarh a visit to this enchanting place will add much to wildlife watching. The hotels and wildlife resorts do arrange for a visit to Sesh Shaiyya and the Fort on prior intimation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wildlife Photographic Expeditions & Workshops

Nature PhotographyWorkshops & Tiger Safari
Kanha & Bandhavgarh


Once again Hotel Celebration Group is organizing photographic expedition cum workshop to photograph tigers and other wildlife at:

Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve …………………date 17th to 20th November 2009

Kanha Tiger Reserve……………………………date 14th to 17th November 2009


These are the best tiger habitats in Central India in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The tiger reserves are most popular all over the world for wildlife conservation. Kanha and Bandhavgarh are the best places to see and photograph tigers in the wild.

The two safaris aim to give you maximum exposure in wildlife photography alongside noted wildlife photographer Mr. Kalyan Verma.

This is your best chance to see and photograph Tigers in the wild. These safaris are designed for you to have the maximum wildlife experience at Bandhavgarh and Kanha National Parks. You will return home with breathtaking images of wild Bengal tigers, host of the parks enthralling wilderness - deer, leopard, wild boar, sloth bear, wild dog, bison and wonderful birds and butterflies.

The safaris are accompanied by workshops on photography every evening. The topics range from information on equipment – lens and cameras. Learn various techniques involved in wildlife photography from expert. Find information on different aspects of photography like macro and bird photography, composition, post-processing to natural history and field techniques and much more.

Features:
• Four days/Three night stay at Celebration Van Vilas Resort in Kanha / Bandhavgarh National Park or both.
• Five tiger safaris at each park with 4 persons on jeep for ideal photographic experience.
• Get opportunity for amazing habitat and landscape photography opportunity.
• Safari includes elephant back tiger watching and photography.
• Learn nature photography technique, tips and processing
• Review images each day post safari.
• Lecture on Tiger Conservation by the WWF Regional Director.
• Informal and fun photography sessions – no grind.
• Mr. Kalyan Verma will shoot along side you and deliver valuable information.
• Work side by side in groups with expert guidance all along.
• Share knowledge and vision - gain perspective.
• Mr. Kalyan Verma is a professional nature photographer and experienced naturalist in India.

Accommodation
Stay at finest three star resort The Celebration Van Vilas in Kanha and Bandhavgarh parks. The luxury lodges are situated at a walk able distance from the park gates. The wildlife lodge provides state of art service, luxurious comforts and modern amenities. Relish traditional Indian and continental cuisine created professional chef.

Who partakes in the safari?

1. Photographers beginners, amateur and professional.

2. For seasoned photographers venturing into nature photography to further their skills.

3. Just anybody wishing to join these heart throbbing wildlife safaris and gain knowledge.

What is there all in the package?

* Five jeep safaris at both the parks each.
* All gate fees.
* Stay as mentioned above on double occupancy basis.
* All meals including morning and evening tea.
* Services of naturalist guides and professional jungle drivers.

What is not included?

* Your traveling costs to and fro from the parks.
* Elephant rides.
* Fee - passport, visa, immunization, insurance and airport taxes.
* Beverages alcoholic/non alcoholic.
* Laundry, phone, personal expenses.

Package Cost.

The package... either at Kanha or Bandhavgarh is Rs 14,800 per person.
For participation in both safaris the package is Rs 27,800 per person. (Incl. transfer between parks).

Accommodation is on twin sharing basis. For private single occupancy there will be an additional charge of 3000 Rs.

Wish to be part of this wonderful offer?
Then register now:

Send email: kalian@rtns.org

Provide following information……

Name:

Email:

Phone:


More Info. Visit Website of Mr Kalyan Verma...



Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tiger Tourism

The conservation of Bengal tiger is in chaos in India. With the apparent failure of Project Tiger, NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority) has been setup. NTCA is in all a twisted form of the earlier project with involvement of some NGOs, headed unfortunately by one with no background in wildlife management.

As a result skewered policies are bound to emerge. Instead of finding ways and means of saving tigers from poaching and revitalizing the forest management, the committee has forsaken all its load on tourism it seems. There is a proposal in offing of banning tourism in the core area of the parks or at some places completely closing tourism????

If this is true it further exposes the incapacity of the NTCA to find answer to stop the rapid decline of the tiger in India. The animal is on the last leg of its journey to India and may become extinct sooner then we expect. The assumption is bolstered by the fact that tigers have been poached easily and completely at reserves like Panna and Sariska - bastions of tiger conservation.

Tourism is positive aspect of tiger conservation. For all those who think it to be a menace and think it should banned in core areas.....here are some points to consider.

1) Tigers have the highest breeding and cub survival rates in core areas with tourist movements. (Meaning adverse effect is negligible & tourism thwarts poachers.)

2) Prey base is the highest in core areas.

3) Acclimatization to humans is limited and harmless as tigers in periphery come in regular contacts with humans too. Anyway since tigers of all areas where poached in Sariska and Panna this holds litle weight.

4) Tourist act as watch dog, without tourism there would still be tigers reported in two failed reserves albeit on papers.

5) Tiger reserves with no/little tourism have suspected tiger statistics - Sanjay National Park in Siddhi.

6) Responsible tourism benefits local communities. Any policy changes unfavorable to responsible tourism will result in drop in tourism and hence affect livelihood of the endemic tribal and others.

7) Poachers will have a field day in absence of tourists which will also limit movement of staff in these areas for sure.

The best is to limit vehicle entry and diverge routes in the park as has been done in Central Indian Reserves like Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh in India. All the hotels in National Parks wildlife lodges should follow responsible tourism guide lines.

Wildlife tourism is a by product of nature conservation everywhere. Africa is the prime example, whereas wildlife tourism is economic mainstay of some countries. All developed nations have centers of conservation with regular tourist movements.

The policy reflects total bias and incoherence due to complete lack of understanding. The real problem is that poachers sneak in and kill tigers with impunity. The system is unable to protect the wildlife there in. Although the problems are quite complexe taking into consideration the size of our forests and complexities in the surroundings. Nevertheless highly focused and bold approach is the order of the day. Along with all irregularities vis a vis the systems in place should be paid heed to.

Instead of closed door elite conferences a direct hard hitting approach is required so that poachers and mafia involved in this heinous trade are brought to the book. The poachers in India are at rampage due to leverage given by law authorities, policy makers and lack of intelligence gathering.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mouse Deer at Kanha

There were lot of speculation about mouse deer or Indian chevrotain at Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh Central India. The taxonomic classification is tragulus meminna....... family Tragulidae. Mouse deer is a ruminent and prefers forest habitat or grassy areas surrounded with rocky hillsides. Such habitat is wide spread in this tiger reserve, the discovery suggests a healthy or rather a well preserved habitat for niche dwelling species.

The deer was spotted and photographed at Kanha by a guest staying at a hotel in Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. The news was published in local daily. Though I had heard from jeep drivers and guides about the presence of this animal but in face of concrete evidence and reliable identification it was difficult to establish the presence of this animal. But the recent findings are an eye opener. In spite of such large number of visitors and forest staff a species can go unnoticed or unidentified.

This could apply to other animals especially bird at Kanha since trained eyes roving in large number is a must for correct listing of life forms in our National parks and sanctuaries.

This speaks of how little we know of wildlife - flora and fauna - of our tiger heavens and so much is still to be done apart from saving the endangered tiger which rightly is the first priority.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tiger News

In perhaps what could be termed as unprecedented? Mr. Chouhan the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh the tiger state of India has transferred the Field Directors of three tiger reserves on account of negligence and dereliction of duty.
As per news published in Indian express and local Jabalpur daily they are the field directors of Kanha National Park, Panna and Bandhavgarh tiger reserve in MP. Of late there had been lots of reports of questionable deaths of tigers and mismanagement of the parks.

The tigers of Mukki Range in Kanha have suffered and have been wiped out. The current evidence of tigers there suggests movement from Kanha Range of the park. Subsequently the pressure came from the Central Government.
An investigative report conducted by NTCA or National Tiger Conservation Authority states absence of tigers from key habitats in the parks. This is by all means alarming and more tiger reserves would go the Sariska and Panna way.

The action of the Chief Minister of MP is coupled by investigation into the performance of past Field directors for evidence of apathy and negligence and specially investigation at Panna for complete decimation of tigers that has taken place there. An independent committee will conduct a probe as well as at other places where tiger deaths have occurred.

This is a heartening step for tiger conservationists in India and all over the World. Such action would at least reduce negligence and irresponsible governance by the staff at these tiger reserves.

Rarely have I seen any concerted action from a political big wig in India. But what remains to be seen is what action will be taken against those found guilty?

It must be noted that on many instances the staff and administration have shown neglect and apathy whence protection is concerned. What is required is to place these reserves in a special category and induct highly trained, dedicated and committed staff who is capable of policing as well managing tiger reserves. All these qualities are prerequisite in top brass as well as those at grassroots.

I have come across some officers who fit the bill, they should be permanently placed in sensitive bio diversity rich ecosystems.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tiger: Upsy Daisy


This tiger photograph is and example of creative photography at its best.

Mr. Kamaljeet Singh Hora is an amateur wildlife photographer with professional zeal.

His tiger image published here explores a Bold creative angle and the result is stunning!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Leopard Sightings at Kanha

leopard photographleopard imagesThough famous for tigers and Hard Ground Barasingha Kanha is full of surprises. The leopard beleaguered cousin of the tiger is an elusive and nocturnal species at Kanha National Park in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

In my many many visits to this tiger reserve I have been fortunate enough to the see the leopard only two times. As a result I had given up trekking this shy cat. The leopards are strictly nocturnal and shy by habit in Kanha as a result of stiff competition with the tiger.

The confrontation between the tiger and the leopard is fatal with the latter being at the receiving end. Hence the animal is forced to space its movement carefully in order to avoid the big cousin. But the leopard does move in the day at times and is seen by the lucky ones on tiger safari in the park.
panther photos
Recent sightings of leopard at Kanha have been surprisingly frequent thanks to effective conservation measures.

The leopard population in Kanha is on upward swing which has resulted in greater sightings. This has come as a boon to wildlife photographers as the leopard photos in this blog show. These images are the work of wildlife enthusiast and photographer Mr. Kamaljeet Singh Hora. He is well known to me and often sends his wonderful wildlife photos for my blogs.

The leopard has been frequently seen and photographed at Link No. 9 in the core area of the park. Many delightful sightings have taken place recently.

If the future augurs well Kanha tiger reserve will be popular not only for tiger safari but for leopard safari as well. A lot to cheer about.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Birding at Bandhavgarh National Park

Bandhavgarh National Park is famous for tiger safaris. But little is known about the birding potential that the park offers. The tiger has been the focus of attention here, but many interested tourists and wild lifers have had a keen eye for the birds in the past.

Bandhavgarh has many interesting species such as Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Eurasian Golden Oriole and Black Hooded Oriole, Racket Tailed Drongo, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Lesser Adjutant Stork, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Hawk Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Bonelli's Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Verditor Flycatcher, Black-rumped Flameback, Streaked Woodpecker, Rufous> Woodpecker, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Sirkeer Malkoha Alexanderine Parakeet, Brown Fish Owl, Brown Hawk Owl, Sarus Crane, Hen Harrier and Pied Harrier. The now rare White-rumped Vulture and Indian Vulture can be seen at Bandhavhgarh. The steep cliffs accord perfect nesting site for Indian Vulture. The wetlands inside the park are not extensive and I have barely seen some Northern Pintails, Comb Duck, Lesser Whistling Teal, Painted Stork, Cotton Pygmy Goose and Ruddy Shelduck. A recce at Bamera Dam and other such places should result in good species of migratory ducks and waders.

With luck Eurasian Hobby, Peregrine Falcon and Common Kestrel can be sighted. There have been more then two hundred fifty bird species including migrants seen in the park. Many species can be seen near Bandhavgarh Lodges that offer hotel accommodation for tiger safaris in the park.

Most of the hotels in the tiger reserve have trained naturalists with good knowledge of birds. This helps in tourists on wildlife safaris in the park. Trained bird specialists help professional birders from various regions understand the avi-fauna of the reserve.

Bandhavgarh has a great potential as a birding destination, and professional birding groups will have a successful trip. The best time for bird tours would be winters when the migrants augment the number of bird species. But as the foliage is thick birding can be difficult but nevertheless the findings could be very exciting for the bird lovers.

Forest birding is always exciting and full of surprises. Though Bandhavgarh does not have as many species as Corbett National Park, birding here is interesting especially to sight birds of Central India. Bandhavgarh and Kanha will be interesting additions to birding trips in India.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tiger Tourism in February

After the hectic December and January months, tiger tourism at Bandhavgarh and Kanha begins to ease. The exhaustive X’mas and New Year holiday rush begins to decrease as February approaches. The winter too becomes merciful, in fact the weather is pleasant. The warm sunshine quite tolerable in early hours of the morning is best way to bask in glory.

The surroundings though not lush green are near lush green. The wonderful hues and colors of flowering trees especially the Flame of the forest tree livens the forest canopy. The wintering birds are still here. Their chaotic plunder of flowering trees, full of sweet nectar and ripe fruits is a delight to experience. Not only tiger lovers’, bird lovers too flock to Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve and Kanha to witness nature’s glory at its peak.

The real animal watching begins from February onwards. The crowd thin out, and the animals like majestic gaur or bison at Kanha Tiger Reserve begin to descend from the hills. The graceful swamp deer too congregate in park meadows along with growing herds of spotted deer. The heat will rise from April onwards and stress animals and birds. For tourist this is a blessing as stress forces animals and tigers into open and need for water makes then more active during the day.

In February the parks are at the peak, full of life and hectic animal activity. The wintering birds and residents are easy to see as the foliage opens up to coming hot months. The wildlife enthusiasts, photographers, birders and naturalists wait for this season to visit the tiger reserves. Their experience makes them choose the right time to capture the right moment in camera or their memory banks. This is my favorite season too…may be soon, I will be traveling to Kanha or Bandhavgarh tiger reserves.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sloth Surprise

It is not often that you checklist an animal to see in a wildlife sanctuary or a National Park and get to see it.

But it happens!

My American friends came to Kanha on the final leg of their long safari from Corbett, Ranthambhore and Bandhavgarh. They had seen the tiger and many other animals and wanted to see wild dogs and a sloth bear.

"Sloth Bear!"
I said rather surprised. "Well lets see," I said Kanha is full of surprises so everything is a possibility.

Sloth bear are shy and nocturnal animals by habit and hence prefer to move in at night. Nevertheless some awaken in search of food and can be seen around the park meadows but with great difficulty. I have seen sloth bears around this jungle camp at Kanha on the periphery which has substantial forest cover and fruity shrubs to forage on. With luck a tourist can see a leopard around this resort as they often hunt spotted deer which make their way here after sunset. Most of the resorts at Kanha safari park are situated in the buffer zone and hence surrounded with lush green forest. The forest at places are dense and hence a habitat for lots of wild animals and birds.

Sloth bear are more often seen at Bamni Dadar hill road which they prefer due to some food factor and perhaps less disturbance. We headed on to the hill top on our morning safari but no luck as there were lot many jeeps on safari here which disturbed all animals including the sloth bears and the tigers.

It was in the evening ride as we were rolling down the hills whence we managed to spot the sloth bear which was well hidden in the jungle bush. The animal has a peculiar gait and is completely hidden in short bushes when on four legs. It was a big surprise not only for my friends but for me as well. It was there perhaps in answer to our prayers. At Kanha you can spot the tiger with greater certainty than a bear or a wild dog.