Following is the account by Naren Malik, a naturalist working in Kanha Tiger Reserve since 2006. Naren chose to work in Kanha for his love of Kanha. Not for money, not for Tigers only, not for anything else, but only Kanha. His love of Kanha is evident from the fact that whoever goes on a safari with him falls in love with Kanha and also Naren. The way he showcases the beauty of Kanha to his guests is quite unparalleled.
He has been logging every experience for the last four years and out came this gem of a summary.
‘Live the season 2017-18 at Kanha Tiger Reserve with me’: Naren Malik
It has been an incredible season with plentiful Tiger sightings.
Based on my 300+ drives this season, I can easily confirm that this was a better season compared to the last few years. All four zones and even the buffer had been fantastic and full of action. Mukki was the zone in Kanha Tiger Reserve which attracted everyone this season. One can make out through the number of online safari bookings. From 1st Oct to 30th June it was always pre-booked as it was the most happening zone this season. It will be difficult to digest that there were sightings of 23 individual tigers in Mukki zone this season.
Mukki does not have a considerable area that can accommodate a lot of big cats. As a result, one of Dhawajhandi Female’s cub got killed by Jamun Tola Male. ANother such incident was the killing of all three cubs of Choti Mada. They were killed by a sub-adult male, who was from the previous litter of Mahaveer Female. MV-1 moved to the Buffer Zone and MV-2 was trans-located to Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Odisha in June 2018. Was it the right decision? The question remains unanswered.
I started my first drive of the season on October 3rd with some butterflies in my stomach. Monsoon gives a new life to the jungle, it was lush green and the fragrance of the forest was remarkable. We decided to have a look at Minkur Anicut (A place where we recall our happy memories with big cats), as we crossed Minkur Anicut we heard some chital alarm calls towards Duke Road meadow. energy sprung into our bodies. Without wasting time, we reached Duke Road where an anxious herd of spotted deer gave us the direction. “Tiger! Tiger”, everyone shouted in unison!
A big male was strolling on the road in front of us, who was marking his territory confidently. He then sat down in front of our vehicle. It took me no time to identify this winking fella, it was our own Chota Munna/T29. This was the second time I started my season with this boy, what we noticed that morning was, he had a nasty fresh scar above his pink nose; it must have met his brother (Uma Male) recently. Scars and wounds are his medals, no one expected that he would survive when there were the “Big Four” in Mukki zone of Kanha Tiger Reserve. Previously he had gone through some brutal fights with all the other males of mukki and proved himself a true Warrior.
Tours inclusive of Kanha Tiger Reserve:
- Just Tigers Tour
- Luxury Safari in Central India Tour
- Kanha and Bandhavgarh Tour
- Just Tigers and Golden Triangle Tour
- Tiger Photographic Safari Tour
Family reunion; Chota Munna with DJ family
Mahaveer Female had left her previous litter which contained two male and two female cubs, all of them were roaming in the mother’s territory. Both females Mv-3 & Mv-4 had decided to stay separately, but Mv-1 and Mv-2 were seen together till April. Mv-1 then moved to the Buffer in search of his own territory, but Mv-2 stayed back and started to explore more areas in Mukki zone in Kanha Tiger Reserve. He had become the Star of Mukki and his sightings were very frequent, a very shy cub had turned into a bold and handsome tiger. He had started intruding into other tigers’ territory, and so he had to face his fate…………..
MV3 Photo by Nikita Khamparia
Everyone was curious to know about Dhawajhandi’s cubs, how many had she given birth to? Big news came when she was sighted with four tiny cubs. She kept rocking Babathenga and Singarpur area with her tiny tots. Unlike her mother, Choti Mada, she never took the cubs away from her home territory. A young male in search of new territory was seen in her area, an intruding male is always a big danger for a breeding female. It was expected, and it happened, he killed one of the male cubs of Dhawajhandi Female and there was no news of the other two as well, even the forest department couldn’t track them. Only one female cub was sighted with the mother for a week. Everyone whispered, that Jamuntola male/T24 had killed the remaining cubs, he disturbed a happy family.
Sighted with all three cubs on a rainy day, was Dhawajhandi Female! It was such pleasant news for everyone at Kanha Tiger Reserve! She kept all three cubs in different directions until Chota Munna reached and pushed Jamuntola Male away. After this incident, CM(Chota Munna) kept guarding his family and spent most of his time with his cubs. Sighted with his cubs at Babathenga, Chota Munna was yet again the most sighted tiger of the season.
Choti Mada had also left the previous litter and was ready to mate, in November she was seen with Chota Munna. In April it was confirmed by the forest department that Choti Mada had given birth to three cubs, most probably sired by Chota Munna. She had started taking all three cubs to minkur anicut at a very young age even when they were hardly a month old and weren’t able to walk properly. It was a delight to see such small cubs with mother, I’d ever witnessed this before at Kanha.
Jr. Uma/Chota Uma was sighted in Choti Mada’s territory at intervals, he was one of the shy males who was sighted in every corner of mukki.
“The Ghost of Mukki”
Umarpani was never an easy catch this season. He played hide and seek till summer. His sightings were on fingertips till April, his first appearance was in mid-November and then he kept coming and going in Mukki zone in Kanha Tiger Reserve. Seemed like he had extended his territory, now he owned a large territory and was seen in mating with a female in an unknown area. He is considered to be the biggest male in Kanha with a huge head. Though he was not the father of Mahaveer Female’s last litter, he still never harmed the cubs. He did the same with Choti Mada, he had been sighted with Choti Mada’s tiny cubs who were fathered by Chota Munna, I believe.
At one occasion, we observed different behaviour of tigers when Umarpani, the dominant male was sighted with Choti Mada and cubs. MV-2 was sharing the same waterhole without showing any aggression. Later, when MV-2 intruded a little more than he should have, Umarpani took charge and pushed him away.
‘No wildlife lover would like to live these moments – A heart-wrenching moment’
Choti Mada with her dead cub in Kanha Tiger Reserve
On 18th April morning drive as we reached near minkur anicut we heard a tiger growling very close by. Soon we realized that there were two tigers sitting in the bush and showing aggression toward each other. I grabbed my binoculars and checked, it was Choti Mada and MV-2. Choti Mada did not look happy at all, she was charging at him and wanting him to leave the place. We thought this aggression was maybe over a kill. Once MV-2 swayed away a little, she started circling around a particular spot.
OMG!!! there was a dead cub lying down on the ground between Choti Mada and MV-2. She held the dead cub, came out and started walking on the road. We left her in peace. This was such a heartbreaking scene for me and my guests. We immediately rushed to the camp and informed the forest officials about this incident. Later we got to know that MV-2 had killed two of her cubs that day. Nature plays its role whether you like it or not, I realized it that day.
A silver lining
Good news came in the last month of the season. Mahaveer female was being sighted with three small cubs. T-50 Male was probably the father, as he was seen mating with Mahaveer Female a couple of times. Mahaveer Female had left most of her area for her daughter MV-3 and moved toward the non-tourism area.
Umarjhola female/T32 was also sighted sharing Mahaveer Females’ territory. We saw her in the last week of June. It looked like she was nursing cubs. Hopefully we will see the cubs in the coming season.
T-46 was sighted in T-50’s territory, which meant that the Mukki zone got its big four back.
Kanha Zone in Kanha Tiger Reserve also had been very fruitful with three breeding females this season. Neelam/T65 kept rocking Kanha meadow with her four cubs. One of the male cubs I assume didn’t like tourists, he was the aggressive one and was mostly sighted charging at the vehicles! Aptly called Chota charger, his mother’s behaviour was just like him when she was young, so the aggression seemed inherited.
Link 8 female/Naina also had four cubs. There had always been a clash between Neelam and Naina over Kanha meadows. Neelam’s cubs might disperse this monsoon. Bajrang seemed in full command of Kanha zone, though he is not a bold male but his sightings were very frequent. He was sighted mating with Nillah Nalla female towards the end of the season near Shravan Talao.
Another old female of meadow, link 7 /Mundidadar female also was sighted with three young cubs after successfully raising a litter of four male cubs . There was a news that she lost all cubs in a territory fight but later she was sighted with all three cubs.
Munna, the legend of Kanha Tiger Reserve
11th April AM Drive – There was so much happening in all the zones. However, there was one particular sighting that made this year even more amazing. MUNNA, appeared in the Kanha meadows after 5 years. When he traced all the roads which he had once ruled. I still wonder what he must be thinking, it was a dangerous game he was playing. He ruled the meadow almost for a decade. Seemed like he wanted to visit every corner of his kingdom. A few days later he was sighted near nakti ghati and then on chimta camp road near mukki. He was in his last stage or that’s what people think of his life but still wandering in the main tourist zone of Kanha Tiger Reserve. The world knows him, he doesn’t need further introduction. The legendary tiger, MUNNA ‘A tiger who lived the longest in Kanha’.
News from around the park
Kisli zone in Kanha Tiger Reserve had been good. However, things weren’t the same. A big make tiger called Sangam male killed a tigress called Budbudi. Their could be fighting over a kill or mating; a rare case of cannibalism in tigers.
Dhamangaon male who was the main attraction of Kisli zone, was not seen this season. He was only sighted on very few occasions in the Sarhi Zone. Looked like Sangam Male pushed him further away towards Sarhi Zone.
Sighted with some injuries, Karai Ghati/T2 was under the forest departments’ supervision.
A new male, called Ganeri Dadar, had occupied Dhamangaon Males territory and showed up very well towards the end of the season.
Sarhi is a beautiful zone but still needs the attention of tourists, one needs to explore this zone then you realize the beauty of pristine forest. It is difficult to catch elusive tigers of sarhi as they are not used to vehicles & tourists but still there were good sightings of Matigahan Male/T-20 & a female. I would like to say if you really want to explore Sarhi Zone, you must do 4-5 drives entering from Sarhi Gate. Dhamangaon male had also moved to this zone from Kisli. Ronda male is also there.
Khapa Buffer in Kanha Tiger Reserve
This zone opened just two years ago and attracted everyone. I have done 20-25 drives here this season. It’sless crowded compared to other prime zones. Balaghat T/72 is the resident male of this zone and now Ma-1 has also moved into this zone in search of territory. We also sighted a breeding female with three cubs, fathered by Balaghat Male. It will be interesting to watch, how MV-1 copes up with this big guy.
Hoping for a great season in months to come.
– Naren Malik