Bandhavgarh is known for it’s Tiger sightings. Arguably, it is the best park to not only see Tigers, but even to photograph them. The tourism season that ended in June 2018 lived up to it’s reputation yet again. With inputs from Jagat Narain Chaturvedi I bring to you the Bandhavgarh National Park Tiger sightings summary for season 2017-2018. Everyone was keenly awaiting the opening of the park this year so that they could see the three young cubs of Kankati Jr in Magdhi zone. They would be about 7 months old and will be the star attraction of everyone.
My first safari of the season in Bandhavgarh Oct 2017
The park opened and the cubs showed up on the waterhole where they were used to. I was there on 5th October. Entered the park for the afternoon safari and reached the said waterhole. It started to rain heavy. The first outlook was to look if the cubs were out. Yes they were, playing, jumping and mock fighting in the rain. Two of them in the water hole, jumping helter, skelter, and the 3rd one watching from the edge of the waterhole. If I had to shoot I had to take cover, and protect my equipment. I did that in a jiffy, aimed and started shooting the playing cubs.
There is no bigger joy in wildlife than seeing two cubs playfight in the rain and in the waterhole. My joy knew no bounds. It continued to rain, the cubs continued to play, and I continued to shoot. It started to get a bit dark, and it was now time to leave the park. Sadness engulfed me despite the wonderful sighting as none want to leave such a joyful world of playing Tiger cubs. I noticed that the cubs also became a bit sombre. They huddled together in a bush nearby and close to the vehicle. One of them was bold, and was inspecting the vehicles in the area closely. Waiting for their mother i guessed as it was getting dark.
We moved on with a heavy heart and left the park as if was sunset and time for the park to close for the day.
Death of Junior Kankati
Two days later the sad news came in, Kankati Jr was found dead. This news shook the world. Cubs? What will happen of them, was the first question in my mind. They are too young survive on their own, and what happened to the mother? It was confirmed later that she died due to a territorial fight. The post mortem confirmed her death had happened almost 15 days back.
Now, this was another shocker. If she died two weeks back, how were such young cubs surviving for so long, without food, and safe cover of the mother. It was noticed couple of days later that T-37 (the father of the cubs, aka Bamera’s son) was seen close to them. He was feeding them. The whole shock and depression of Kankati Jr’s death evaporated out of thin air with this news.
The world of wildlife is strange, it crushes all theories. Where else have you read of a male looking after the cubs. A similar incident did occur few years back in Ranthambhore too. That seemed like one off incident, but with this repeat in Bandhavgarh one thing that stood out was male Tigers do have a heart. They just don’t kill unnecessarily. The popular belief is that a male Tiger never accepts cubs. But here he was looking after them. Unbelievable. For how long could this continue was the next question? Would it be okay to leave them with the father? If yes, for how long will he tolerate the male cub atleast.
Relocation of Cubs
A good decision was taken by the forest department to put the cubs in an enlarged enclosure in the area they were familiar with. And gradually they were given food to eat, jungle fowl, the Chital etc, and of course one doesn’t need to train a Tiger cub on the killer instincts. They have shaped up well, and are about 18 months old now. Hopefully in another 6-8 months the forest department will find a home for them in one of the ranges nearby or in another sanctuary.
Other Tiger sightings in Bandhavgarh
Apart from these cubs the Mahaman Tigress with her four cubs was seen often in Magdhi or Khitauli often. Solo (T-42), and Dotty (T-17) were seen single, hopefully they should bring in some good news when the park reopens in October. Sukhi female with her two cubs was seen almost regularly in the winters, and her sightings became almost daily as the mercury soared. Mahaman male, aka as Mamu and Bheem also held on to their territory in Magdhi and Khitauli. Both of them have become really handsome blokes, and are a photographers delight specially when they happen to give you some head-on shots.
Death of Rajbehra Tigress
Rajbehra Tigress was seen with her three grown up male cubs till mid of the season, and then two brothers decided to leave the mother, and find their own territory. She had aged and was finding it tough to hold on to her territory which she had dominated for years and given successful litters to Bandhavgarh. Towards the end of the season in June she lost out to another Tiger in a territorial fight and thus ended a glorious chapter of a legendary Tigress. Even if it was a natural way to die, but to see or hear of a Tiger you have seen over the years is always unnerving, makes the heart heavy. It feels like losing a member of your own family.
Tala however remained in limelight right through the season and the primary reason was a very beautiful Tigress Spotty and her cubs regularly showing up either at Damnar or in other close by areas. Road crossing became regular in every safari and in the summer months play-fights getting a bit serious tone were also seen in Damnar area.
Tigress translocated to Satkosia Tiger reserve in Orissa
Towards the end one of the daughters was relocated to Satkosia Tiger reserve. Seemingly a good decision to repopulate another Tiger reserve which has lost some Tigers in the past, and the current Tigers there are too old to increase the numbers in Satkosia.
This is a beautiful Tiger reserve in the state of Orissa. Mahanadi river flows through this Sal forest. It has a good prey base, water and a perfect habitat. But my concern is the villagers around in the area. They are no longer used to Tigers in the vicinity. So, will they accept the Tigers? Will it be a friendly neighborhood for them and Tigers both?
Vanbei area which used to be vacant for some years showed signs of revival this gone season. The two sons and the Tigress were often seen in the area as the summers progressed. But what made a lot of people happy was Chakradhara coming back to life after years.
Chakradhara springs to life
Chakradhara family with the mother and her three new cubs were seen in the meadow. This areas was the heart and soul of not only Tala but entire Bandhavgarh. Right from the 90s this was one area where you could go and stand for 15 minutes, there will be some alarm call and Tigress with cubs will give you a good show. Alas, after passing of B2 things started to go a bit slow in this area. Absence of a dominant male was one reason, and cutting of the grass in the Chakradhara meadow another.
I sincerely hope that these cubs take a liking for this area and reignite Chakradhara to it’s former glory. Tiger Safaris in Chakradhara meadows with backdrop of the Bandhavgarh hill, Sheshshiayya, and Badi Gufa is nostalgic to me and many.
Tala and Magdhi took the brunt of show casing the Tigers of Bandhavgarh during safaris. It was Khitauli which showed the variety of the fauna. Good sightings of Sloth Bears, Leoprds, Blue Bull became more frequent. Panna Lal the dominant male of the area and Tara the female followed up by Darha Tigress with her three new cubs made Khitauli also a happening zone this season. Mahaman family, Bheem (T-22) and Darha families were often sighted in summers. Towards May and June another male showed up in the area, popularly known as Bhagoda. All in all it was a season to remember as far as Tiger Safaris in Bandhavgarh was concerned.
Bandhavgarh completes 50 years of being a National Park
A significant mile stone was achieved by Bandhavgarh in March 2018. It completed 50 years of it’s being made a national park. A wonderful and an unprecedented celebration was organised by the forest department. All the senior officers, retired and currently in seat were invited. So was the entire forest guard team of Bandhavgarh, and other stake holders as well. It was an honor for me to be present on this occasion. While Bandhavgarh was completing 50 years I had completed about 25 years of visiting Bandhavgarh. An era gone by, but memories forever. Meeting the likes of Kuttapan was a delight, having done umpteen number of safaris with him on Siddhnath which was sent to Pachmurhi and then later with him on Gautam.
Shri M K Ranjitsinhji
A beautiful 8 minute film was released as well by the forest department. I was fortunate to contribute in this film by providing some old images of 90s of Bandhavgarh. Last but not the least, the biggest moment of joy was sitting with the Doyen of Indian Wildlife, Shri M K Ranjit Sinhji and having lunch with him. The architect of the Wildlife Protection Act of India, and maker of several national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries. No thanks will be enough for his contribution to Indian Wildlife.
Listening to his years of wisdom is an eye opener if you love nature and wildlife. I highly recommend everyone reading his book “A Life with Wildlife”. His energy at this age is contagious. I saw him active since 5am till midnight, back to back safaris, and exploring some areas of the national park for some specific species, and flora.
I would like to thank Jagat Chaturvedi, a very senior and a knowledgeable naturalist from Bandhavgarh in providing information pertaining to the Tiger sightings in Bandhavgarh. His love for Bandhavgarh is immense and it shows in his regular updates on the same. The safari permits are being booked for the next season already, so please plan your dates at the earliest.
Wishing you all a wonderful Tiger Safari season in Oct 18-June 19.
Sharad Kumar Vats
Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered.
Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park.
Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here’s a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger.