Monday, May 24, 2010

Big Cats - Downslide continues

In spite of strong conservation measures the big cats in Central India continue to loose ground. The tragic death of Jhurjura tigress at Bandhavgarh and poaching of leopards at Sijhora and at Satpura Tiger Reserve is heart breaking.

For many these are mere statistics and news items but for wildlife lovers this is in distressing. What is frightening is the manner and number in which leopards are being killed. The animals is bold and dares venture near human habitation with easy albeit at times under duress. The primary targets are live stock, tame dogs and often poultry.

The leopard is the first to face the scourge of locals who cannot bear to loose livestock. I have witnessed at Kanha National Park one such incident of cattle killing by a leopard. Luckily the carcass as moved to human precincts in order to avoid poison killing of the cat. So many such incidents occur all over India and are a regular feature at periphery of National Parks like Kanha Kisli near Mandla, Bandhavgarh and Pench Tiger Reserve.

At times ire of locals is understandable but it man who is the trespasser in areas reserved for other life forms. In order to manage over board human population we are putting lot of stress on our natural resources and the future is bleak.

Continued intrusion in left over ecosystems and destruction of habit is an ongoing feature and there is little hope for the beleaguered animals. Due to lack of proper planning, implementation and innovative approach the problems in and around protected areas are taking demonic form.

The lack of political will is most unsurprisingly due to fear of loosing popularity and hence vote bank. This quite evident in case of relocation programs in tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries all over India. It is clearly man before animals and disregard for other life forms. The wild animals in India are third grade citizens or may be lower down.

The big cats are loosing ground but the main reason at present seems to be man animal conflict, demand for tiger parts and skins especially in Tibet and China. And our inability to provide physical protection to the endangered species closeted in smalls pockets augurs the death knell. We are clearly helpless guarding our forests and precious wildlife.

Since last to decades solutions from all sources have been sought but there is none. Why not take the bull by horn and catch the poacher red handed followed by stringent punitive measures.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tourism at Bandhavgarh

Well known for its tigers and wildlife safaris Bandhavgarh is the most picturesque resort in the World. Not as large as Kanha or Pench it is quintessentially a tiger reserve. The density of tiger is the highest here. It is the topography that supports tigers the best. The topography comprises of steep hills and hillocks with table land at the top. The diversity of life forms is worth observing.

In between are deep glens with forested slopes, rivers and grasslands. The terrain does not permit human movement at many places. There are many inaccessible areas some of which are motor able but the tourists rarely go there. The inaccessibility has prevented human encroachment. This has been one of the reason for eventual survival of the tigers at Bandhavgarh. The prey base is excellent and the marshy grasslands are ideal hunting grounds of dominant tigers.

Like Kanha the park offers the best chance to see the tiger in the wild on jeep safari. The tourism zone comprises of marshy grasslands where in tiger abound. They can be seen in broad daylight by chance. The dense canopy of forested region offers little chance to see the tiger since there is plenty of cover.

The tigers are every where even near the resorts in Bandhavgarh National Park. They can be seen with luck on road to Tala and near some villages. There are incidences of man animal conflict and the animal is the sufferer. There are many villages yet to be relocated from within the park.

Tiger Safari

Tiger safari is conducted in the core zone of the park. There are two safaris in the jungle early morning and late evenings. There are now two entrance gates but the Tala Gate is very popular. The road runs parallel to Charanganga River offering a good chance to sight the big cat especially in summers. There is a split at some juncture one jungle road leads to Chur Bohera meadow. This is again a good spot to see the tigers in the wild. Wildlife safaris in Bandhavgarh Jungle would now be route based for individual vehicles. This is good an prevents concentration of vehicles at one spot.

One can score Mahaman and Raj Bohera for some exciting moments. Waiting patiently at Gopal Talao and other water bodies could fetch some exciting mammal sightings including tiger. On jeep safari silence is the rule and keen eyes are a necessity. This is essential to catch sight of wild animals or hear tell tale signs of their presence. Pug mark trekking is also good but by the time you have come across the mark the tiger has already slithered away.

Having a holistic experience is essential way of holidaying at tiger reserves and National Parks in India. The jungle has so much to offer in terms of wildlife sightings, birding and a soothing calm in pristine environment.

Wildlife & Tourism

Other animals to be seen at Bandhavgarh are Leopard, Sambar Deer, Spotted Deer, Wild Dog, Barking Deer, Sloth Bear, Four Horned Deer, Langurs, Wild Boar, Jungle Cat, Jackal, Fox and Rhesus Macaque. A night safari outside the park could yield small mammals, civet cats, ratel and porcupine. Night safaris are not allowed inside the preserve. Pythons and other reptiles are seen with luck.

Nilgai is often seen at Bathan but Hyena and Indian Wolf are scare .... I have never seen them at the scrub outside the park. The nature preserve offers the finest birding opportunity for forest birds and often some wetland birds.

Places of interest are the ancient Bandhavgarh Fort, temples, stables, Sesh Shaiyya, man made caves with ancient Brahmi script and zoomorphic avatars of Lord Vishnu.

The tourism infrastructure is well set in the reserve. The safaris are regulated by the forest department. It is a must to hire park guide on safaris. At the gates, fee is charged on per vehicle basis and separate fee has to be paid for filming equipment - cameras, videos and movie cameras. There is a wildlife interpretation center at Tala Gate. Tala village is a small shopping center and eatables are available.

The jeeps are available for hire most of the hotels of Bandhavgarh arrange jeep safaris. Hence those on jungle plan benefit a lot. There are many hotels, wildlife resorts and lodges outside the preserve. The rates are for all budgets - super luxury to budget accommodation.

Season

The park opens in October and closes in June end. All time is good time to holiday at this reserve but avoid holiday season especially major festivals.

The winters are very cold hence warm clothing, hand gloves and head gear is must. Summer are hot...not for those who cannot bear heat.

How to Reach

The park can be reached by 5 hrs drive from Jabalpur by road and rail (Umaria). Jabalur is connected by air with New Delhi. Overnight train from New Delhi - Utkal Express reaches Umaria in the morning. This rail head is about 32 km from the park gate.

Plan your safaris well and enjoy the most exciting heart throbbing wildlife holiday ever.