Sunday, March 8, 2009

ENTHRALLING CORBETT


Last week all of sudden I had to visit the Deharadun on an official duty, the Garhwal region is the most picturesque place on earth, which is closely associated with the legendry heroes of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Though beautiful place but is full of hard working poor, the daily struggle of these hill people is some thing remarkable. Once the famous author of children books Mr. Ruskin Bond had asked a local that they got beautiful scenery to live in, the local retorted back saying “true but we can not eat scenery”. The money order economy by the soldiers of the region is most prevalent in many villages.
I found some time during my official work to visit the much talked about conservation area of the country, the Corbett tiger reserve, the lower shivalik region of the Himalayas, interspersed with the parallel ridges, deep valleys and open flat-bottomed river beds locally known as “Raos.” After a arduous journey and a overnight stay at cozy Glycol India rest house of Kashipur . I reached the starting point of Corbett reserve i.e. Ramnagar . At the reception point of the reserve I had to negotiate the vulture like middle men who are all around the park to cheat the casual tourists and serious nature lovers .
The person at the reception desk was far from friendly. I tried to tell him that I also belonged to the community of the foresters ...looking for some discount in the charges ,which went to deaf ears and he told me that my reservation at Dikala chour is confirmed and I had to pay around rupees 3500 for my vehicle and stay, I was baffled as the guest house charges at my state are nominal like Rs 20 to 50 nevertheless ,I called up the deputy director of the park and explained my plight in the hands of this human vulture ( not to disrespect this beautiful scavenger !) the point here is not about the money , what I am trying to tell is the so called conservation areas of the country like Corbett,Periyar and our own Nagar hole are all catering to the needs of the white skinned foreigners and affluent class of the society by keeping the charges very high which are not affordable to the lower middle class people which is some thing not desirable as it not a commercial venture by the state .




After all this initial hiccups I proceeded to the Dhangadi gate, after check up I went inside the park this was my second visit after ten years nothing changed much. This is the first tiger reserve and national park of the country. The siwalik sandstone boulders ,conglomerates and other deposits forms the ridges while the softer shale are eroded to form gullies and rivulets creating natural Terrai and Bhabar habitat for the wild animals .




The river Ramaganga flows through the park in wider ramification which is beneficial to the variety of flora and fauna. the much of the vegetation is Sal forests and its associates( 70%), the grass lands have been reduced to greater extent now a days due to the construction of the dam . the river Ramganga is home to the endangered golden Mahsheer , great fish of snow fed rivers of higher Himalayas ,despite the dams, pollution and other harmful practices mahsheer still lives in this river . the pebbles ,stones and fine sand of the Ramaganga river is the ideal spawning ground for the Mahsheer and other fish like Goonch,chila etc .The park authorities are running a project called Ramaganga Mahasheer conservation project with the help of the local communities and private angling agencies in buffer zone of the Corbett. this project is taking up activities in conservation of Mahsheer ,issue permits for angling etc




This tiger reserve is comprises of Corbett national park (520.82 sq km) Sonanadi wild life sanctuary ( 301.18 sq km) and adjacent reserve forest of Ramnagar ( 496 sq km ) making it nearly 1400 sq km . As per the camera trap studies of the wild life institute if India this tiger reserve supports around 145 tigers, making this as highest tiger density area of the country.

But the sad thing which I witnessed while I was there was, killing these beasts by declaring them as man eaters. They trapped one tiger and sent him to Nainital Zoo as it was supposed to be man eater. One tiger skin was recovered in Ramnagar , and one more tiger was shot at in Philibhit . The point here is it had happened in a week’s time ,though the three incidents were unconnected but a sad thing for the conservation efforts of the country .the Heads of the project tiger should put a break to all these mindless interventions of the local authorities.


The road to Dhikala chour was refreshing found many birds and photographed few of them near Gairali guest house .The fig tree near the guest house was full of berries and was swarmed by many Himalayan beauties, While on move after this photo session,heard shrill voice of Khaleej Pheasant near jirna jari point. As I was waiting for the bird to come out, families of 4 pheasants were on the road unperturbed by my presence and stood within the minimum focusing distance of my lens. Phew ..I made many futile efforts in Khaziranga to photo graph this beauty, here they are near my butt. Each PA is unique the best place for khaleej is Corbett!!




Few lazy Gharials were basking at crocodile point, corrected a Mom who was telling her kid as they are Alligators, of which we do not have a single soul in India,in alligator the tooth is within the mouth,not exposed out side. she was quite annoyed by my questioning of her knowledge in wild life matters. we some time teach wrong things to our kids because of our poor knowledge of nature similar incident I witnessed While I was in Dandeli, one person was identifying horn bill as toucan , the problem here is our education system , I always find the exotic birds and animals in our kids book ,the china made education tools!!! . One gentle man came with few ladies, peeped down to sight the crocs and yelled “they are very dirty yaar...” dirty mind set of a very dirty Homo sepian!! These things are not to complain.But there is an urgent need to make our country men to be better educated in natural world, I went once with a European family who had complete Salim ali book to tick off, their aim was to see as many birds in their visa period. These things though may not be possible in India but we can try to do better in coming days .as we are aping many unwanted things of the west why not these good things?


I took left turn from the main road and hit a small bridle path which was named after the great forester Mr. Champion, the man who classified the forest types of India on scientific lines. This path led to small rivulet. King vulture was hovering; suddenly some thing appeared in the stream. Closer look through the glass revealed a group of smooth coated otters. There were 12 in all. And found to be in great mood, they were quite unaware of my presence. They came out of the river and moved in a pack on the river bank all along the river after few yards again went down to waters, and floated through the current. they saw a mugger napping on the bank , some thing was communicated to the members of the troop, all went up to the bank where mugger was sleeping and all them started attacking the croc .two otters were piercing their sharp canine in to the tail, and few were attacking from the front . The croc caught off guard and was irritated by these creatures. This attack on a major predator of the water by this small otters with out any provocation was quite intriguing. After much drama these little beasts went again in to the water and moved down-stream .After few strokes they found one more croc on the river bank and the same drama was unveiled here too.
I wrapped up my equipments and reached back to main road towards Dhikala, after little drive in the thick woods heard a pooking sound of the sambar deer, told my driver to switch off the vehicle and remain still. Few vehicles passed by but the alarm call of the sambar was still there. Some time the tiger also imitate the sambar sound which is called as “titting” to confuse the sambar . I was expecting the tiger to come out of the thickets, but the time was ticking and the alarm sound kept increasing but no sign of the big cat



Tiger photo credit ; Rajiv Bhartari IFS


Tango of the 3 sambar deer was increased, their tail up and frontal left leg tapping the ground hard. Some thing moved in the fig tree left of the road just few meters away from my jeep. Alas!! It was this spotted beauty instead of striped diva of the jungle that was sitting right above my head this entire time .the leopard bolted off in a jiffy. All the way I was looking at the thickets instead of looking up that cost me dearly; the long cherished dream of photographing the leopard in wild went unfulfilled but a very important lesson of jungle craft learnt.

After break fast I thought of exploring the back waters of the Ramaganga reservoir as it is good place for elephants and full of tall grass mainly Eragrostis, Eleusine, Panicum,Chloris, Dicanthium, Hetropogon,Themeda etc.while driving I found a mother chital and a fawn of about 2-3 months old were standing on a road fork. My gypsy sound made them separated and fawn ran towards the near by woods while the mother vanished in to the grass thinking that the fawn would follow, but the fawn ran very fast and reached nullah . In few seconds I heard the frantic calls of the mother and returning call from the fawn. I heard a raptor dashing towards the tree on the nullah .it was changeable hawk eagle which sat on the tree and was looking down towards the separated fawn ,it just went down and closed down on the fawn , I heard the shrill cry of the fawn from the distance mother came rushing towards the fawn I slowly went up to the place where all these action was taking place.. on nullah bed . The bird loosened its grip and flew back to the tree. I cursed my self for disturbing the natural process. The mother and the cub were united, the fawn has got a bleeding eye probably the eagle tried to blind him before started feeding on him. This was an amazing moments of my wild days.







Rishad Naoroji records that the changeable hawk eagle can prey on larger mammals up to the size of hares and one recorded incidence of carrying monitor Lizard in Corbett .and an attempted predation on giant squirrel was also reported, it was also found to predate on not so dead jungle cat in Melghat sanctuary, but this attempt on chital fawn,I believe is the first ever recorded incidence, the field experts can through light on this

The invader Lanatana camara is chocking the greater part of the park. The park authorities have taken up an innovative technique under the guidance of professor Babu of Delhi. The technique here is to cut the lantana bush just few centimeters below the ground level, and thus cutting off the entire meristamatic region of growth. Then the cut bush should be turned upside down in order to reverse the polarity if the stem. As the lantana does not produce the root suckers the remaining root inside the soil gets decayed thus saving lots of cost from its unnecessary up rooting! This worked out to be great success and they have retrieved back a considerable extent of the area in Laldhang village to create a mosaic of grass lands and forest communities in order to enhance rich wild life.

The heavy influx of tourists in Corbett during last few years is a cause of concern in 2003-04 the total members visited was 97,000 while the same increased to 177399, almost double during 2007-08. Efforts were made to renovate the old rest houses and upgrade the house keeping. the other innovative efforts that is in place is running staff mess to cater to the food needs of the anti poaching camps, here ration and other cooking accessories were given to the staff from the park side, in order to ensure the better food supplies to the people working in the interiors .many of the places it is doing well but in some places it failed owing to the caste differences as told by the Rajiv Bhartari , then park director who made all these efforts. in order to ensure the better protection long term foot patrolling parties are in place which covers nook and corners of the park under the direction of the park directors and RO.

My time in park was exhilarating; I had to come back for the grilling teaching classes at Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy Dehra Dun. The few very rare moments of Corbett will remain etched in my memory for days to come

2 comments:

Aditya said...

Its a pleasant surprise to find an IFS officer who is also a wildlifer- unfortunately it isn't true for most of the department. It is officers like you who can actually make a difference for conservation. Lovely write up and great images. Hope to meet you when I'm touring Karnataka someday :)

jayanth said...

ur corbett experiences especially ur leapord experience have a thing or two to teach to a naturalist, i undestand when in a forest expect the unexpected all ur three unique examples are mindblowing, the leapord one, the changeable hawk eagle one and the otters, good ur travelogue has a record of such wonderful experiences and what a observation, it was also sad to know the sad plight of the so called "man eaters" the influx of tourists to see the big cat, only, the tiger fixation of our tourists finds a mention in your blog, hope we have tourists who understand and love nature and natural areas more than the mega fauna, keep the good work going, it does not matter where you are what matters is what little can you do, u might not be remebered for what u did, but u will have the satisfaction of doing a thing the right way