Kanha National Park & its Tigers
Kanha National Park, located in the heart of India, is renowned for its rich biodiversity and, in particular, its majestic tigers. As one of the largest and most well-preserved tiger habitats in the country, Kanha provides a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures to thrive.
One of the most famous tigers of Kanha National Park was the UMARPANI male, also known as T30. UMARPANI male’s legend was built on his incredible strength, dominance, and regal demeanor. His story captivated wildlife enthusiasts, Guides and Naturalists and he became a symbol of the park’s conservation efforts.
Alongside the Umarpani male tiger, Kanha boasts an array of other notable tigers. Choti Mada, or CM, the matriarch of the park, has left her mark as one of the oldest and most respected female tigers. Her presence and maternal instincts have been vital in shaping the tiger population within the park.
DJ, also known as Dhawajhandi female, has earned her place as a star of the Mukki zone. Her elusive nature and ability to mark her territory with confidence have intrigued park visitors and naturalists for years. DJ’s multiple litters have ensured the continuation of her lineage and strengthened the tiger population of Kanha.
These iconic tigers are not the only ones that grace the vast expanse of Kanha National Park. The park is also home to numerous other individuals, each with their own unique characteristics and stories. Sharmili, Bijali, and Naina are just a few of the other tigers that have left their paw prints on the history of the park.
In the 2022-23 season at Kanha Tiger Reserve, things were finally returning to normal after the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The park reopened on October 1st following a three-month monsoon period. Mukki, a renowned zone within the reserve, had become famous for its impressive male tigers and notable female residents like Matriach CM (Choti mada), DJ (Dhawajhandi female), MV-3, and Tedhi Pooch.
The season began with heartwarming sightings. MV-3 was seen with her two cubs, already 16-18 months old. CM, the oldest female in the park, was spotted with a female cub, a delightful sight considering it might be CM’s final litter. Sharmili had one cub from the start of the season, while the shy Bijali had settled comfortably in the Chital Fireline area. Another female, T-101, was frequently sighted near the Mukki gate. She was believed to be the daughter of Algi Dadar female and was seen with pugmarks indicating a new litter. The joyful news arrived on June 12th when she was sighted with four cubs. However, her territory primarily covered non-tourism areas, making it challenging for visitors to witness her.
The absence of DJ, the star female of the Mukki zone, caused worry among guides, naturalists, and drivers for the first two weeks of the season. Thankfully, she reappeared on October 14th, marking her territory and suggesting she had recently given birth. This was DJ’s fourth litter, but no cubs were seen yet.
December 12th brought a beautiful morning surprise when Dhawajhandi was sighted with five tiny cubs, only two months old, near Babathenga. The news spread like wildfire on social media, as having five cubs is quite rare in Kanha where the average litter size is two to four. Raising five cubs is challenging, especially in an area known for its dominant males. Sadly, by the end of the season on June 30th, Dhawajhandi had lost two cubs and was left with three. Rumors circulated that she had deliberately hidden the remaining cubs, but the truth revealed the heartbreaking loss she had experienced. Choti Mada and her cub provided wonderful sightings, along with MV3 and her cubs. However, Choti Mada disappeared in March, and her daughter was found deceased.
The Mukki zone saw significant male activity, with Nela Nala male, DB3, Baishanghat female, DB1, and Pattewala male roaming the area. Nela Nala male covered both Mukki and Kanha zones, while Pattewala, though not a resident male, moved between the core and buffer areas. Two unidentified males were also spotted in Mukki. Baishanghat male expanded his territory, surprising everyone by appearing near Naktighati. An injured old male received medical assistance from the forest department. Kanha and Kisli zones also thrived, and the season held a surprise with the sighting of Naina, absent for almost a year. Neelam, the queen of the meadow, continued to thrive with a litter of four cubs. However, Mohini, Naina’s daughter from her previous litter, challenged Neelam’s dominance. Their clashes required intervention and medical assistance, as Mohini was believed to have killed one of Neelam’s cubs. Neelam was left with only three cubs.
Bhuindabra, the dominant male in Kanha, expanded his exploration into the Kisli area and likely fathered Neelam’s current litter. Jr. Bajarang shifted towards Kisli and Sarhi zones, rarely seen in the Kanha meadow. In Kisli, DB-2 established himself as the king after defeating Yuvraj in a previous season. He explored areas towards Sarhi and the Kanha zone, encountering Jr. Bajarang and Balwan. However, claiming dominance in Kisli would not be easy with the presence of Z-1 and M-3. Yuvraj surprised everyone by appearing in the same area during the final month. Notable females in the area included District Line female (T-58) and Sandukhol female (T66).
Kanha’s tigers are famous for fighting with other tigers, these are their medal and rewards. This season also there were a few tigers sighted with some injuries, but these injuries to a few tigers were very specific and peculiar. DB-3 in Mukki zone and Neelam in Kanha had very similar injuries on their face. It could be some territorial fight though but the pattern of injury was very unusual, the skin of the face came off in the size of a 2-inch strip. On the other hand few other tigers were also sighted with some injuries on their neck and bodies. Andhkua male sighted with a bad puncture near his nose, he was indulged in a fight with Neela Nala male.
The Most sensational news of the safari-season
On May 15, 2023, I returned from my evening safari and checked my phone, only to find a few messages from a fellow naturalist. Intrigued, I called him immediately, and he shared with me the most astonishing news that I could hardly believe. He informed me that they had spotted UMARPANI male on foot in the Bahmani nature trail. Initially, I questioned if it could be a case of mistaken identity and requested a photo for confirmation. Restless and with a fluttering feeling in my stomach, I anxiously awaited the image. When I finally saw it, I was utterly stunned. At first glance, there was no doubt—it was him! I couldn’t believe my eyes!
Many questions flooded my mind. Where had he been all this time? How had he managed to survive with such severe injuries? What had he been feeding on? These mysteries of the tiger world often remain unanswered.
The news of UMARPANI male’s reappearance spread like wildfire, captivating the entire wildlife community. It was undoubtedly the most sensational event of the season, stirring excitement and awe among all who heard it.
As the saying goes, “Legends never die,” and this adage held true in this extraordinary case. After a year of disappearance, the Umarpani male tiger returned like a true warrior. Many had assumed he was no longer alive, left to his fate with numerous injuries inflicted during a fight with another tiger back in January 2022. Throughout the previous monsoon season and the current one, there had been no news of his whereabouts, leading us to believe he was gone for good. However, his sighting near the core area rekindled hopes of his return. In anticipation, we dedicated our next drive to him, diligently searching the core where he used to frequent. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side. It appeared that he had thoroughly covered all his familiar territory before retreating to the buffer zone.
Then, on June 4th, while traveling, I received news of a tiger sitting by a water puddle in a forest area near a town and neighboring villages. Curiosity piqued, I was eager to see the accompanying photographs. As soon as I laid eyes on them, I realized it was him once again—’The Umarpani’! However, after a few hours of being at the waterhole, he stood up and took shelter under the shade of the sal trees. By evening, he had departed this world. I couldn’t help but feel a pang of regret, wishing I had been there to witness him one last time. When the forest department retrieved his body, it was covered with sal seeds, a fitting tribute to the king of the sal forest. Though he may have physically left us, his memory will forever live on in our hearts.
In the end, UMARPANI male’s remarkable story remains etched in the annals of Kanha National Park. His reappearance after such adversity serves as a testament to his indomitable spirit. While we mourn his passing, his presence will continue to inspire us and remind us of the enduring legacy of these magnificent creatures.
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Highlights of the safari season 2022 – 23
- Rise & Demise of the King “UMARPANI”.
- DJ with 5 cubs, unfortunately, lost 2 cubs but still flourished with 3 cubs till the season ended.
- Expansion of Baishanghat Male’s territory above Mukki zone.
- Demise of Choti mada’s cub and no news of her since March 23.
- Algi dadar female (T101) sighted with 4 cubs towards the end of the season.
- NN conflict with Andhkuan Male over a female, not a territory.
- Naina (Kanha zone) reported having a new litter.