August 3, 2015

Best Tiger Sightings in year 2014-2015 in Kanha

It has been a fantastic season for me and for all those tourists who have visited Kanha. After 350 round trips in this season, I would say this was a season full of cats! All four zones have been full of excitement and action, Mukki zone being the limelight of the season. From what I have experienced in the past 8 years, this year has been the best season by far in terms of tiger sightings in Mukki. Kanha zone had some ups and downs, but it picked up towards the end. Munna (the dominant male of the park) rocked Kisli heavily, so you just can’t ask for more when it comes to an individual tiger sighting. Sarhi zone has its own charm and sighting of big cats at the sangam (confluence) were also very good. Overall this was a season full of tiger sightings.

The season started and ended with a bang when the Babathenga female was sighted on October 16th and the Mahaveer female and Kingfisher male on the last, June 30th. I have never seen Mukki zone like this ever before. This zone has been ruled by some females in the past and we used to wait endlessly to see a male tiger in Mukki. But during this season there were 5 males tigers in Mukki. The Umarpani male was the dominant male of the zone who had a tough rival called ‘the Kingfisher male’. In the last few years Mukki has been dominated by ‘the Thin Stripes male’ who was probably the father of the last litter of the Babathenga female, but was thrown out by the combined effort of the Umarpani, Kingfisher and Bheema. He ruled over the Mukki zone for almost four years, starting from 2010. Once the Thin Stripes male left Mukki, the charge was taken over by the remaining four males, i.e. Umarpani, Kingfisher, Bheema and Link 7. Link 7 male was the main attraction of this season, a true show stopper! I would say that he was the most photographed tiger in Kanha this season after Munna.

Umarpani and Kingfisher engaged in a very serious fight on Jan 3rd 2015 in the Singarpur meadow, which was documented by some tourists. It wouldn't be wrong to say that this was a sighting of a lifetime for those who witnessed it. They kept on fighting for three more months and both sides sustained heavy damages, but kudos to the forest department who kept their eyes on them and gave medical assistance from time to time. Nature has its own ways of balancing things in the jungle, but I would thank the forest department who saved the lives of both these males. When Umaarpani and Kingfisher were busy chasing one another, how could Bheema and Link 7 miss the opportunity to show off? They also had a fight on Jan 7th on Cchota Cchata Pathra road. After this fight, Bheema had to leave the area and Link 7 also suffered injuries. After two months of absence, Bheema returned to Mukki. Meanwhile, Link 7 had increased his area of dominance after defeating Bheema. He subsequently fought with Umarpani and went into hibernation for a few days. The Kingfisher on the other hand, had settled down on the main gate area of Mukki. Bheema got stationed at Babathenga while the Umarpani and Link 7 captured the centre area of Mukki. There are also four females in Mukki. Chottimada aka BT, who mated with the Umarpani in December of 2014 and hopefully was nursing small cubs now. The Mahaveer female already had four cubs who were all a year old. Unfortunately two were killed by Kingfisher who tried to mate her. Chotimada’s daughter (Dhawajhandi) who is now sharing territory with her mother also mated with Link 7 in May. Mahaveer’s daughter is also a beautiful tigress and was frequently sighted near the Umarjhola talao and Kukripani area during the season.

The Kanha meadow is one of the most photogenic place in this reserve, especially when it is foggy. Your finger will never tire of pressing the shutter button to capture the mesmerising beauty of this place. Umarpani female and collared tigresses (Neelam) were the main attraction of the zone. The red-eye male was also sighted in the Kanha zone from time to time, and the new Nak-katta showed up occasionally as well. The collared female had been sighted with two tiny cubs near the Kanha meadows just before the park closed, which was great news for Kanha.

The Kisli zone was as good as Mukki. Though good old Munna was still the hero of the zone for the entire length of the season, Kan-katta stole every heart by his all-too-sudden-appearing nature. It is breath taking sight when he struts out on the road. Jamun talao aka Budbudi female has three cubs who are around 14 months old, and the family was sighted regularly near Jamun talao, Sandukkhol road and near 4th km. On some occasions, Munna was also sighted with Digdola female and three cubs, which was a real joy for visitors. People, who visit Kanha only to see Munna, never went back without loads of his pictures! Towards the end of season he was sighted almost every day in Kisli and Sarhi zone. Munna is the undisputed legend of Kanha and is among the 10 top tigers of India. Thanks to his bold, fearless behaviour and regal and royal attitude, he has a strong fan base that visits to Kanha every year.

Next season, every zone of the park is going to rock. Chottimada and her daughter both mated this season, so we are expecting that both females will astound Mukki with cubs. The Mahaveer female already has two cubs and we would most likely get to see three big tigers (Mahaveer with two cubs) all together. It’s going to be very interesting to see who among the four current males, is going to win the battle of survival and dominance. The collared female has two cubs and Umarpani female has also delivered. The Sokanha zone will be an attraction for tourists as well. Kan-katta has got himself a new rival in the Chimta Camp area who might try to take over. So all in all, I'm sure, the approaching season will be even more thrilling and full of action!

Writer's Profile

Hotelier by profession, I worked with Taj Group of Hotels for 11 years, I have been doing safaris in different national parks in India for the last 25 years. Initially it was only sighting the tiger in the wild while provided a thrill, later it developed into wildlife photography, and then the forest as a whole took over. The thought that we were losing tigers at a quick pace, made me want to do something. Realisation dawned that is the dependence of humans on the forests for bio-mass that is affecting the habitat of the tiger the most. And the reason the local communities were dependent on the forest were due to absence of steady source of income. Hence the thought came that let us generate an alternate economy for the locals surroundings the forest. What best but to include the locals in the world’s largest employment generating industry, Tourism? Yes, it was this thought that got us to build wildlife lodges in some real remote parks. There was a time people had not heard of Bandhavgarh, Pench and Kanha. We came up with resorts here, thus making these destinations more popular with tourists, generating employment, and today these are well established parks as far as Tiger and tourism is concerned.

Today the focus is shifting to some new Tiger reserves which need tourism revenue, and the search has brought in some exciting results, which will see some Tiger reserves developing soon into new tourism circuit.

The journey of conservation is an ever going one, with no rest, no stop.

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