It has been a fantastic season for me and all the tourists who have visited Kanha. After around 350 drives in this seeason, I would say this was a season full of cats ! All four zones have been full of excitement and action, Mukki zone being in the limelight throughout the season. From what I have experienced in the past 8 years, this one has been the best season by far in terms of tiger sightings in Mukki. Kanha zone had some ups and downs, but it picked up towards the end. Munna (the dominant male of the park) rocked Kisli heavily, so you just can't ask for more when it comes to an individual tiger sighting. Sarhi zone has its own charm and sighting of big cats at the sangam (confluence) were also very good. Overall this was a season full of tiger sightings.
The season started and ended with a bang when the Babathenga female was sighted on the first day, October 16th , and the Mahaveer female and Kingfisher male on the last, June 30th. I have never seen Mukki zone like this ever before. This zone has been ruled by some females in the past and we used to die wanting to see a male tiger in Mukki. But during this season there were 5 males altogether in Mukki. The Umarpani male was the dominant male of the zone who had a tough rival namely 'the Kingfisher male'. In the last few years Mukki has been dominated by 'the Thin Stripes male' who was probably the father of the last litter of the Babathenga female, but was thrown out by the combined effort of the Umarpani male, Kingfisher and Bheema. He ruled over the Mukki zone for almost four years, starting from 2010. Once the Thin Stripes male left Mukki, the charge was taken over by the remaining four males, i.e. the Umarpani male, Kingfisher, Bheema and the Link 7 male. Link 7 male was the main attraction of this season, a true show stopper ! I would say that he was the most photographed tiger in Kanha this season after Munna.
The Umarpani male and the Kingfisher male engaged in a very serious fight on Jan 3rd 2015 in the Singarpur meadow, which was documented by some tourists. It wouldn't be wrong to say that this was a sighting of a lifetime for those who witnessed it. They kept on fighting for three more months and both sides sustained heavy damages, but kudos to the forest department who kept their eyes on them and gave medical assistance from time to time. Nature has its own ways of balancing things in the jungle, but I would thank the forest department who saved the lives of both these males. When the Umaarpani male and Kingfisher were busy chasing one another, how could Bheema and Link 7 miss the opportunity to show off ? They also had a fight on Jan 7thon Cchota Cchata Pathra road. After this fight, Bheema had to leave the area and the Link 7 male also suffered some injuries. After two months of disappearance though, Bheema made a comeback to Mukki. Meanwhile, Link 7 male who came from Kanha started covering more areas in Mukki after defeating Bheema consequently. He fought with Umarpani male and went into hibernation for a few days. The Kingfisher on the other hand, had settled down on the main gate area of Mukki. Bheema got stationed at Babathenga while the Umarpani male and the Link 7 male captured the centre area of Mukki. There are also four females in Mukki. Chottimada aka BT female, who mated with the Umarpani male in dec 2014, is hopefully nursing small cubs now and will flourish Mukki next season. The Mahaveer female already had four cubs around one year old. Unfortunately two were killed by the Kingfisher who tried to mate her. Chotimada's daughter (The Dhawajhandi female) who is now sharing territory with her mother, also mated with Link 7 in May. Mahaveer's daughter is also a beautiful tigress and was frequently sighted near the Umarjhola talao and Kukripani area during the season.
Every zone has its highs and lows. The Kanha zone started off a little low this season. It has faced its toughest times over the years. But the beauty of the meadow, still without a doubt, takes your breath away, as always ! The Kanha meadow is the most photogenic place in this reserve, especially when it's foggy. Your finger will never tire of pressing the shutter button to capture the mesmerizing beauty of this place. The Umarpani female and The Collared tigress (Neelam) were the main attractions of the zone. The Red-eye male was also sighted in the Kanha zone from time to time, and the new Nak-katta showed up occasionally as well. The Collared female had been sighted with two tiny cubs near the Kanha meadows just before the park closed, which was great news for Kanha.
The Kisli zone was as good as Mukki. Though good old Munna was still the hero of the zone for the entire length of the season, Kan-katta stole every heart by his all-too-sudden-appearing nature. It feels totally out of this world whenever he came on the road, so it's you who has to give it up, not him. Jamun talao aka Budbudi female has three cubs who are around 14 months old, and the family was sighted regularly near Jamun talao, Sandukkhol road and near 4th KM. On some occasions, Munna was also sighted with Digdola female and three cubs, which was a real joy for the visitors. People who visit Kanha planning to see only Munna, never went back without loads of his pictures ! Hence, Munna, proving again that 'Munna never disappoints'. Towards the end of season he was sighted almost every day in Kisli and Sarhi zone. Munna is the undisputed legend of Kanha and is among the 10 top tigers of India. Thanks to his bold, fearless behaviour and regal and royal attitude, he has a strong fan base that visits to Kanha every year. "Munna toh Munna hai" words truly justify this magnificent tiger!
Next season, I am sure, every zone of the park is going to rock. Mukki will remain to be the most rocking zone as Chottimada and her daughter both mated this season, so we are expecting that both females will astound Mukki with cubs. The Mahaveer female already has 2 cubs and we would most likely get to see three big tigers (Mahaveer with two cubs) all together. It's going to be very interesting to see who among the 4 current males, is going to win the battle of survival and dominance. The Collared female has two cubs and The Umarpani female has also delivered. The Sokanha zone will be an attraction for tourists as well. Kan-katta has got himself a new rival in the Chimta Camp area who might try to take over. So all in all, I'm sure, the approaching season will be even more thrilling and full of action !