Posts Tagged ‘Wildlife


Tendua, Baghera, Guldār aur Dipdo!

‘…the real facts are that the leopard is a very important unit in the general scheme of animal life in India…. May the day be far distant – as it undoubtedly will be – when the name of the leopard will have to be added to the long list of wild animals that have been exterminated by the hand of man.’– The Jungle in Sunlight and Shadow (1934) by F. W. Champion

Contrary to what people presuppose, I reflect about leopards, what with F. W. Champion’s words ringing true. In the vein of other wild species this creature too is now being hounded out of its haven.  I haven’t been fortunate enough to sight many. Tigers, yes…………a fair number – with my best being 5 within a span of four hours. A tigress with 3 grown cubs and later (different location within CTR), a solitary adult male.

Leopards? I have heard their rasping cough; noticed their pug-marks but seen only 2 in the wild. It is not that there aren’t any leopards in CTR and surrounding environs. I know reliable people, like my trackers, who have seen them on tree tops. I have heard them in the North Zone area of CTR and photographed their kills in Rathuadhab. Again evidence of their presence in Binsar – courtesy kills and warning coughs. I may even erroneously convince myself that I fleetingly saw one in Pithoragarh.


Continue reading ‘Tendua, Baghera, Guldār aur Dipdo!’


The singular case of Kalyani’s profundity

It has taken many years for Kalyani Warner to finally expend a few days of her 18th year visiting the Corbett Tiger Reserve with her Arun Chacha. These are her observations with my comments at the end of the photo feature.

What I anticipated:

Aware of the reducing tiger population I came to the Jim Corbett Park with very few hopes of sighting one. However, secretly, there was a small part of my heart that knew that not seeing a tiger would be most disappointing and not just for me but humanity in the larger sense.

When I saw the tiger:

When we saw the tiger, it was all very sudden. Ours was the only jeep there and we were separated by a small stream of water. It was just lying there… that’s when it hit me; it was one of the most beautiful sight ever… the most beautiful animal I had ever seen.

Continue reading ‘The singular case of Kalyani’s profundity’


The Tera Tigress

“Do not blame God for having created the tiger, but thank him for not having given it wings” – Indian Proverb

There was a backlog of pending ‘kill reports’ that day. I had already logged-in three calls on Sunday, bringing our total to five from different areas – one, as far as Azamgarh. For the uninitiated, a ‘kill report’ here, stands for any incident of cattle being attacked and/or killed by the big cats (tiger and leopard). Based on the inspection and confirmation of a kill case by the team, an interim relief amount is made to the owner.

It would be a tough day for the staff and I wasn’t sure if we would be able to cover all locales.

Adding to my problems was the managements desire to turn serious conservation work into some kind of ‘tamasha’ for doddering, cowboy hat wielding, hung-over trustees – who wanted to be part of a team responding to any such report. We had unwarrantable instructions not to move out till the ‘venerated’ individuals dawdled down to our office.

So, there we were, on a Monday morning waiting for ‘six shooter’ and ‘jungle drums’ to arrive!

Continue reading ‘The Tera Tigress’


The TCF Debacle!

People have been asking me as to why I resigned from The Corbett Foundation (TCF)?

Some queries have been genuine; a small number laced with affectation; several embedded with the usual gloating maliciousness and more than a few comments validating my decision. Then, there have been requests for information and explanation from foreign nationals on the Cc list. Sadly, not one note of enquiry, till date, from those Indian men and women I had looked upon as worthy torch-bearers for the cause. Odd! Considering there are quite a few who on occasions have personally expressed their concerns about the very grounds that eventually prompted me to hand in my notice.

So, is a pack silently baying for my blood?

Anyway, it is not necessary to furnish all the reports that I submitted, except the following – excerpts from my last email to the Vice-Chairman (!) of The Corbett Foundation:

Continue reading ‘The TCF Debacle!’


Once Upon a Time on Elephant-back


like dripping light sprinkled my body.

and a Khalij startlingly drew a

black line with its flight.

the lantana used its thorns to

protest against the invasion;

the shrike balanced on the tip of the

overloaded sarkanda…

somewhere the king moved and the langur

hacked its warning in tune

with the barking dear.

the jungle froze and with bated breath

i wait.

the moment passes.

It was getting a bit annoying – not being able to do our work because of the hordes of tourists that seemed to take over the place! No elephants were available for us to cross the river. The garbage around the riverbanks had to be cleaned soon.

Looking at the human animals, I wondered about the Homo Sapiens’s selfish and unreasonable fight for space with the world’s wildlife, which has to contend with hunting, poaching, pollution, pesticides – and most important, the loss of habitat. Very often, determination of dedicated people is all that stands between an endangered species and extinction. But why do they bother? Why should we bother about the tiger? Does it really matter if the tiger becomes an extinct species in India? Yes it does. Every animal and plant is an integral part of the environment… with a major role to play in maintaining the ecological stability of his or her delicate environment. Conservation is very much in tune with our own survival… the world would be a lonelier, poorer place without them.

Hoots of shrill laughter interrupted my musings. Looking across the chaur, I spotted Anarkali, the cow-elephant returning from the forest with a group of tourists.

“Kuch dikha?” I asked the mahout, as the elephant came towards me.

“Sirf hiran aur junglee sooar”, whined the man in the designer jungle-suit, “Hum toe tiger dhekhne aaye theh!”

Anarkali blew an agitated “paruuff” and I exchanged a private look with the mahout. His dark and angry face betrayed his thoughts. How could these people ever expect to see anything with the noise they must have made during the trip? They were lucky to spot the ‘hiran and junglee sooar’, and also fortunate that the mahout had been able to control Anarkali’s nervousness.

I feel that all those who visit National Parks, Sanctuaries and Reserves must undergo a day’s orientation programme on ‘human behaviour’, before they are allowed to enter.

Anyway, here I was with time on my hand and tigers on my mind.

Well, one particular tiger!

Rahim Chacha, Rambha’s mahout had spotted Badshah’s pugmarks across the north chaur towards the watchtower. Yes, THE Badshah! There was general excitement in the air as

Badshah was the elusive tiger – a massive beast known for its majestic size and craftiness. Few had sighted him but many had heard his roar that curdled the blood and turned firm legs into jelly! Known for his stealth, this big cat’s stories were narrated by the elderly mahouts. It was believed that Badshah was a forest spirit. Remarkably, there were no stories of Badshah ever attacking any human. The old hands of the jungle gave him the respect he deserved.

Those who were fortunate to spot Badshah spoke in hushed and awed tones of its size and power. Rahim Chacha was the only mahout who had seen the animal. According to him, the tiger had materialised out of no-where and looked at him, as if asking a question – wanting to know what Rahim was doing in his domain?

Chacha was the one to give the tiger the name Badshah. He would also whisper a prayer each time he narrated this incident and in the same breath blessed Rambha for standing firm.

That night, little Razia, Chacha’s granddaughter came over to inform me that Rambha would be free the following evening. I was overjoyed with the prospect of the tourists leaving and the elephant available. I had been rather dismayed with the authorities’ decision to deny us the elephant. More so, because the re-allocation was based on the fact that it had ‘politically more important’ trips to undertake… daughter of some high-ranking government official was on a visit with her incredibly noisy Hindu College classmates. Later, a mahout had complained of being thrust into a potentially dangerous situation during a forest trip, when the said collegians disregarded the mahout’s advice.

There was another VIP family too, with a gun-toting security guard. It was ludicrous to watch the overweight MLA and his entourage being followed everywhere by the gunman!

By 3 o’clock in the afternoon the forest seemed to settle down. I made my way to Chacha’s house. Rambha had just returned from the river after her bath and her skin was glistening. She had been given a good scrub by a stone. Her eyes were twinkling and her gait was sensuous. She kept blowing air gently and stayed as close as possible to Chacha. I have always marvelled at this wonderful relationship between the elephants and their mahouts!

“Huzoor! Nadi kal paar Karengay,” said Chacha, “Charakat bimaar hai aur jungle janaa parega.”

I was still contemplating this new eventuality, when Chacha asked, “ Aap saath chalengay?”

My blatant glee was so obvious that Chacha could not suppress his smile and tried to hide his amusement by filling his mouth with tobacco.

We set out on Rambha around 4 o’clock and crossed the slightly elevated ridged valley that has the river coursing through it, breaking into many subsidiary streams running in all directions to cut-up the sandy, shingley valley bed into innumerable little ridges and ravines. The nullahs and ravines that go deep into the tree forests are of great importance to the animals. These hold brake of bamboo along their margins and also thick shrub growth, useful both as fodder and as cover.

Chital scattered out of our way and then cautiously resumed their grazing. A wild boar snorted somewhere and a jungle fowl scuttled in the undergrowth. It felt good to be here. I shifted my position to adjust to the elephant’s gait and slowly allowed myself to listen to the forest.

Into the thick Sal forest, Rambha ambled through thick and thorny lantana, occasionally pausing to inspect an interesting tree. Her trunk would then coil around to snap-off juicy branches.

Suddenly, I realised that the forest had become very silent and Chacha’s quick hand gesture held me back from asking any question. I saw him tighten his grip on the rope and push his feet firmly behind Rambha’s ears.

The sound of the langur’s hack made my hair stand on edge. Chacha pointed to his right and I strained my eyes to see what he had seen. A sambar called out a warning adding to the langur’s agitation. Rambha was nervous and Chacha bent forward to murmur soothing sounds into her ear. The forest went deeper into a strange silence and I crept close to Chacha.

Continue reading ‘Once Upon a Time on Elephant-back’

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