My most prolific guest writer is back. A GUEST POST by Dr. Bindu on her trip to Pench national park.
The day has finally come after weeks of anticipation. “I will be very depressed if I do not see a tiger” says my sister Jyoti who has organized this trip to Pench National Park and Tiger Reserve north of Nagpur in southern Madhya Pradesh.
She is confident we will see one as our neighbor Niyati, who has been to Pench, had seen a tigress with 2 cubs there. Niyati assures us that as all tigers at Pench are tagged, we are bound to see a few.
However we learn, from our field naturalist Ramesh Singh Rana, that only 1 tigress was tagged for research purposes in 2008 but the tag stopped emitting signals in 2010. It has not been removed as the tigress is very fertile and attempts to remove the tag might affect the cubs badly. There are 8 tigers in the part of the park tourists are allowed to visit covering about 100 sq. kms.
On entering the lush forest at Pench National Park the afternoon of 14th February, 2014 we hope to see the famous Royal Bengal Tiger. Being an elusive and solitary animal we decided to be satisfied even if we merely got a glimpse of this splendid creature we had read so much about in our childhood. We recalled the Jim Corbett classic “Man Eaters of Kumaon”.
The forest is enchanting. Entirely devoid of plastic and trash it recalls an India of centuries ago when the Buddha preached, or even earlier when Ram was sent into exile. Sal and teak trees abound, their dried golden leaves strewn across the forest floor.
Deep in the forest we see tiger ‘pug’ marks and 2 tree trunks with scratches made on it by a tiger sharpening its claws. But the big cat keeps out of our sight.
Next morning at dawn we go again. Some jeeps have spotted a tigress walking badi aaram se (at great ease) along the road. We spot ‘tiger droppings’ in our path a few kilometres later. Ramesh tells us that “the droppings are left in a clear space to mark territory”.
The expectation of sighting a tiger makes our eyes scour the forest. As we go on Ramesh hears the faint call of a sambar. We park and wait. The sambar calls grow louder, their howls increasingly urgent even ominous. Quite a few jeeps wait in hushed silence.
Read part 2 here.