So I was going through some old files and folders and stumbled upon this article i had written half a decade ago about my experience of being a part of ‘Tiger Census’. And also yesterday was International Tigers Day. What luck!! Participating in the census and starting a blog are two things am really proud of, so I just decided to include the article here 🙂 Well here you go a Blast from my Past!
Sunday the 24th of Jan 2010 was the auspicious day when me along with a couple of my friends were all set to be a part of the great treasure hunt[read census] of big cats held at Nagarahole. We reached the camp with mixed emotions, curiosity, excitement and fear being the most predominant one, for this was the first of its kind for us and not to forget that we had to sign an agreement which stated that we would be solely responsible for any catastrophic disaster (exaggeration intended, but a possibility one cannot rule out) that might befall us. Upon reaching, the RFO Mr. Jolly Pooviah briefed us about the census and divided all the 10 volunteers into 5 groups of 2 volunteers each (a simple math you can do too) , along with a gunman and a guide each. It was 4 days of pure fun, peace and hard work. We had to go trekking into the forest taking routes that were anything but quotidian.Some days it was a small trek of about 5 KM, while a couple of days seemed to be strategically planned by a foe to test our brawn alone.
Being a part of this census was a proud feeling for me, so naturally the whole world knew I was a part of it. So when I got back, a lot of people asked me “So how many tigers did you count?” It was not a Hi-tea party I went to, where all the members of the striped clan were invited and the census figures were simply proportional to the members present at that party. And if your count exceeded ours then it simply means that we conveniently excluded and dismissed those tigers that spoke about deforestation or poaching. Our census included not counting tiger heads but noting down sightings, droppings (yes that counts too!) of herbivore animals like langurs, elephants , sambars etc along with a carnivore census to note down the pug marks,droppings etc.
While sighting a tiger or any other wild animal while on foot was the hidden motive for us to enroll ourselves into this census, the inhabitants weren’t a bit cooperative towards our desires. Nonetheless there were many other experiences that every mortal we come across will hear about. One such experience was during our second day of trekking. It was just another day which found us gathered around the ranger’s office at 5 AM waiting for the guides so we could head straight into the wild, hoping the second day wont be as quiet as the first. But,in a jungle its all about luck. A common saying in the jungle is that for every big cat we see four would have seen us!
We found the pug marks of a leopard and its cub and we dutifully made note of it. We proceeded further to find tiger pug marks. Upon hearing alarm calls given out by deer, we paused for a couple of minutes. As luck would have it, we heard a tiger snarl! Slowly, we moved in its direction to realize that it was an epic struggle between a bison and a tiger. One struggling for its life and the other for its food. All excited, we went closer standing just a few feet away from the scene with just a layer of lantana standing between the two legged and the four legged. Suddenly we heard a blood chilling roar from the tiger and a painful call from the bison and then prevailed absolute silence. A couple of minutes later, the guards who were with us slowly entered inside the lantana coverings.Though we were asked to stay back and not worry, our heart pace had significantly increased. We had only seen such a battle on television, and your sibling trying to snatch the remote being the only being, to possibly cause you any harm. We were engulfed in a strange sense of fear about our safety along with anxiety about the fate of the bison.As our guards carefully walked ahead with their guns, the tiger which had sensed human presence had decided to make away from the scene.We slowly walked in to the scene of the kill. It was a sad sight of a very huge female bison just killed!. It was a neat kill by the tiger. There were deep claw marks and clear signs of bite wounds on the neck. Not wanting to disturb further, we left the spot pitying the bison and feeling extremely lucky for having witnessed a first hand kill. The rest of the transcend line was covered without any sighting. We reached our base camp with an amazing experience to narrate and a few pictures to share with others.
The ill fated Bison
I believe the tigers had decided that they’d entertained us enough, for the rest of the days passed by incident free and rather quickly. This experience has left me amused in more ways than one. The fact that the guards and guides can predict what wild animal is lurking behind the bushes by merely analyzing the pattern of the alarm calls sounded by the creatures in the lower level of the food chain and the fact that there are insensitive brutes who have managed to litter even the deepest paths inside the forest with one of mankind’s most useful item- Plastic.
This was an experience that has been deeply etched in my heart. Although recent news reports indicate that our country is now home to more than 2000 tigers and the population is slowly increasing, it is a shame that we have been successful in changing their count from what used to be in lakhs to a couple of thousands. At this rate in the next decade tigers will be a part of fairy tales. It is time we join hands in protecting our national animal and maintaining balance.
Tigers are our national pride,
We kill them for their hide,
We are needy, we are greedy,
We do not heed to their pleed,
Leave behind our creed,
Of killing tigers to feed
Statistics show that there are very few tigers left in India,
It is our duty to protect their lives,
So let them live,
Let them breed and let us stop bleeding
the country dry of tigers.
The group of volunteers and the guards