Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tiger! Tiger! Within a meter!

Dear Friends:
Here is a primer from a forest Officer R Bedi on how to spot a tiger.
I would be grateful for your comments.
What a wonderful time we all had at Sundarbans!
Ashok Kumar, R.

How to ensure conditions for spotting a tiger even in the Sundarbans.

Adapted from an extract from Corbett National Park.1987. Ramesh Bedi.Clarion Books. p 29.

About 45 meters from the kill, a machan had been set up on a tall tree, where we could spend the night. We inserted freshly cut leafy branches in its flanked walls, to make it look like an ordinary tree and removed every dry leaf from the machan. Very important. Because, in the dead of night, a dry leaf if stepped upon, makes a distinct crackling noise and defeats the entire exercise.
We sat there motionless, with legs crossed. Soon our legs became stiff and we longed at least to rearrange them, but we dared not, for the slightest sound would be instantly picked up by the tiger's ears in the eerie stillness of a jungle night; even the calls of nature had to go unanswered. A cameraman on a machan must sit as motionless as a stone statue(witness the 80 year old croc on the Sundarbans bank!), with the stable mind of a yogi in meditation; and must neither sneeze or yawn.

A tiger's eye is not capable of spotting a stationary object easily.Hence our motionless state was its own protection. Nevertheless, a lighted cigarette or the slightest movement would be a certain give-away. Tormented by mosquitoes, we sat there helpless. Because we knew that if we waved our hands, the tiger, for whom we were waiting in such a disciplined manner, on emerging for a moment, would slip back into the jungle at once.

A tiger and a leopard always follow the wind direction when stalking their shikar.
It is believed that their whiskers help them feel the wind direction. Their whiskers, though stiff and thick at the base, thin out towards the ends; they sway in the slightest breeze, the vibrations are carried to their base, from where, sensory nerves take them to the upper lips.

When dense jungle renders it impossible for a tiger to see a distant object, he is guided by sound. It can hear the faintest whispering and stifled coughs. Endowed with exceptionally acute eye-sight and extremely sharp hearing, the tiger's sense of smell is, however, very feeble. Sit absolutely motionless on the machan. make not the slightest sound, remain wholly hidden behind leaves, and a tiger is unlikely to suspect your presence. Indeed, there are instances of tigers coming within five meters of machans without being aware of the presence of humans. God's wisdom is infinite; for if the tiger's sense of smell matched its hearing and sight, no animal could have lived safely in a jungle.

The question in everybody's minds should be:
While walking into the Sudhanyakali Watch tower or the Sajanakali Tower enclosure, did we honestly create conditions to spot the tiger? Like in the way hinted above?

I feel Bombay Natural History Society would do well to give a pep talk on this to every batch visiting Sundarbans and other Cat reserves so our money we put on such costly trips was not washed down as we did not take care to create the needed conditions  because of our own mistakes.

The fault dear Brutus, lies not with the Tiger but in ourselves, the nature lovers, because we failed to satisfy scrupulously the conditions laid down by the cat to spot the beauty!

Where and under what precise conditions did one boat party in the second batch spot the Royal Bengal Tiger(ress?)?? This is a gem of a prize! Perhaps for a lifetime!
Posted by R. Ashok Kumar, after BNHS trip to Sundarbans, 17 to 20 December 2012.
23 Dec 2012

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