Tigers and Beyond
The Land of Tigers…Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Pench; National Parks in the heart of India, as well as Tiger Reserves; representing 3 of 39 under “Project Tiger”. In 1972 a country-wide tiger census commenced resulting in less than 2,000 tigers remaining. In 1973, Project Tiger was launched as a global tiger conservation initiative to preserve critical habitat; balance human pressures and economic development from encroaching on habitat; mitigate poaching through education and awareness; and embrace the expansion of tourism to further preserve these incredible animals…The Bengal Tiger…The National Animal of India.
Beyond the tiger, many endangered and threatened species of flora and fauna benefit from these conservation efforts, including the return of the endangered hard ground barasingha in Kanha, a swamp deer totally dependent on grasses and aquatic plants found in the marshy tall grasslands.
Undulating topography, mosaic of colorful vegetation, scented flowering trees, abundant birdlife and extraordinary wildlife; the lush jungle comes alive as you enter the gates of Bandhavgarh and Kanha …embarking on an adventure-filled jungle safari. No wonder Kipling chose the Kanha area as the setting of The Jungle Book in the late 1800’s.
The sun is still beneath the horizon while the anticipation of what Mother Nature will offer warms the chilly March morning as the jeeps line up at the Tala gate of Bandhavgarh; waiting on routes to be distributed, guides to be assigned and the gates to open. The engines start, the gates open, dust permeates the road and pugmarks….pugmarks…pugmarks (tiger tracks). Your driver and guide are focused on nothing else. Being one of the first through the gates, drivers / naturalists with extensive experience in tiger behavior and tracking, along with good karma are paramount to successful tiger sightings.
Pugmarks disappear from the sandy road into the deciduous Sal and bamboo forest. The jeep comes to a stop, and we quietly listen to the jungle. Adrenaline kicks in as the forest comes alive. The loud, shrill, yelping of the Chital (spotted deer) and the harsh, grunting bark of the Hanuman Langur echo through the jungle, sounding alarm calls indicating the presence of a predator – a collaborative relationship for survival.
As if by magic, the royal stripes of the Bengal tiger emerge from the bamboo; truly the King of the Jungle, majestic, powerful and regal. Seeing a Bengal tiger in the wild is one of the most breathtaking moments I’ve experienced in nature.
Over several weeks in these national parks, I had remarkable sightings and photographic moments with Mahaman male (Great Heart), Vanvehi female (Forest Queen), Vanvehi’s cubs, Kankati female (Torn Ear), Kankati’s cubs, Bamera male (dominant male of Tala zone), Bisan Pura female.
The tiger may be the premier mammal of India, but the diversity of birdlife and wildlife in the parks greets you around every turn, from the iridescent peacock to the vibrant Indian roller to the golden eyes of the Crested Serpent Eagles to numerous species of deer. And last but not least, the entertainer of the jungle, the troops of Hanuman Langur – black-faced, with glistening amber eyes and tails longer than their bodies, exhibiting behaviors both addicting to observe and exuding with humor.
My connection with nature and the wildlife of India was so profoundly captivating that I left wanting more. I hope my images of “Tigers and Beyond” will take you on an adventure-filled jungle safari of India.