Dec 17

Tiger Safari Kanha India Part 2

There was a tiger who roamed the hill top and she was a ghost. Our naturalist Partha told us that this was the tallest hill in Kanha. He said that from time to time there were paw prints that would be seen on the roads and paths that crisscross the area, the hill was rather remote, and the roads were rarely used. This tiger was talked about among the rangers and naturalists but all that was known was that she was a solitary female.

Chandra the Tiger. Kanha, India. 2017

We had been driving and tracking all morning and the day was warming up. The ranger traveling with us suggested going to the top of the hill not so much in hopes of spotting a tiger but precisely because it was remote, peaceful, had great views and maybe if we were lucky we would see something. The road was windy and steep and none of us were thinking we’d see any tigers. We were thinking about lunch and bush breaks.

We stopped for a moment and there was absolute quiet and stillness. Suddenly the ranger pointed “tiger!” and there she was, maybe 20 yards ahead. Christy and I reached for our cameras and watched as she lay down in some tall grass and began to roll around. She was about four years old and very beautiful. We followed her for a few minutes while she patrolled and marked a tree or two before retreating into the jungle.

Chandra Poses. Kanha, India. 2017

The ranger knew the area well and speculated that she was headed to a water source further down the hill so we followed the road for a while and turned right at a fork. Continuing downhill we met a busload of local children being taken for a tour of the park, the were adorable in their smiling faces and matching hats.

Continuing to track, the ranger knew exactly where to stop. there was a small break in the foliage and he said this was where she would come out. A few minutes later she did.

Chandra. Kanha, India. 2017

We had a little more time with her before she again went into the jungle. I asked Partha what her name was and he told us she was very shy, rarely seen and didn’t have a name. Apparently in Kanha many of the big cats had numbers instead of names. We decided to give her a name and looking at her markings I suggested Luna for the moon shapes on the top of her head. The Hindi word for Luna or moon was Chandra, we all agreed this was a good name. From that time forward she became Chandra.

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Dec 17

Tiger Safari Kanha India Part 1

Kanha National Park and Tiger Reserve was our next stop. We came to India to photograph tigers and so far we were having really good luck. Kanha was a larger park than Bandhavgarh, and with many more tigers. I also found the scenery at Kanha to be completely different. It was very diverse and beautiful.

Sunrise. Kanha, India. 2017

The forest was denser here with fountain like sprays of bamboo shooting out of the ground every few feet. There were broad swaths grasslands and dense forests of Sal trees. Some of the Sal trees were quite ancient and we saw one tree which may have been a thousand years old. There were also working elephants kept by families of Mahuut which are the traditional elephant owners and trainers in Indian society. They are very careful to treat their elephants humanely.

Mahaut. Kanha, India. 2017

I asked our naturalist Partha what the difference was between a forest and a jungle. He explained that it was controversial and while both seemed to be forests, jungles had denser undergrowth and thicker vegetation. I began to see the wisdom of this distinction as we traveled deeper into the older parts of the park that had been less disturbed. The sounds and the atmosphere changed and you felt as if you had entered another world.

Jungle Light. Kanha, India. 2017

Partha had two field guide sitting atop the dashboard of our jeep, one was “Birds of India” the other “Mammals”. As a biologist I was curious about the various species and habitats seen in the region so I chose “Mammals”. I saw that there were two species of bear, one being the sloth bear of Kipling’s “Jungle Book” fame. These sloth bears were extremely rare and sadly we did not see one in the wild, although we sat for quite a while at one location where we thought there was either a tiger or a leopard. Turns out, based on the tracks, it was a very shy bear.

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