Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ranthambhore Tiger Diary 2013 before park closing ...

2013 Ranthambhore Tigress chronicles -




This season has come with a new challenges for the park. Of the human related ones there is a threat which may potentially take the lives of the precious tigers by themselves. The park now has a sex ratio of one to one ideally, this should be 3:1 females to male. We have 13 adult females living alongside 12 males in the park. Even in the cubs we have almost 14 male cubs and 9 female cubs and recently spotted cub from tigress T41 which we are not sure of whether its male or female. 

This has already started the trouble in the small piece of tiger haven with the sub adult males trying to push their siblings to fabricate their own territories. Tigers being territorial, each one wants the a piece of land. T26 a shy tigress in a rather non-tourist part of Ranthambhore has raised with care and concern her 3 male cubs in this litter, she was aware the challenge will be at home with all three males, there would be a bloody fight. The dominant brothers have now pushed one of her cubs firmly out of the park. He has walked into the Madhya Pradesh's Datiya forest range...

It’s interesting to note - at this point, of the 13 adult females, 10 females have cubs that they are still nurturing and 2 are single, and one is unknown she has some relation with T26 may be daughter or sister of T26. Grandmother Machali – the most celebrated tigress of Ranthambhore, is now 17 – lives in the mainstay area of the park in Lakarda. It is concerning that most of the females on the other hand are raising their cubs in the periphery of the park and when the dispersal would happen there is bound to be cubs walking out into the unknown.
Six females can be seen by visitors, as their territories lie in the tourism zones of the park while seven live in the non-tourism zones.

These most admired ladies of the landscape are the Chidi Kho female or Ladli (T8) with her two cubs. Machali (T16), her daughter from the last litter Unnis, now called Krishna too (T19) who has just left 3 sub adult cubs – Unnis has taken the dynasty forward by having her control over the lake area after sister Satara (T17) left (later went missing). Mala (or Noor) T39, is often seen with her mischievous cub Sultan. Laila (T41) has recently been sighted with a really young cub, and Gayatri (T22) does not have any cubs at this time. Lastly, there was the tiger queen Satra or T17, who had three cubs. She was pushed by male tiger T28 after a fight and had settled at the fringe of the park near  some unfriendly villagesshe went missing a month ago, leaving her 11-month-old cubs behind. The cubs are now being raised by the forest department.

A very unfortunate death was that of T37 in March 2013, the last blood of the Guda lineage, the Forest department raised T37 & her brother after their mother had died. The brother was radio collared and had started to live on his own but without being trained by the mother, he met his fate when a male tiger T42 killed him in a territorial fight. Later, his sister T37 settled in Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary and was often seen with the same tiger T42. We were hoping to see cubs in this new tiger home, which has become a triumph of conservation since 10 cattle herders were made into wildlife guides here and this area was opened to tourists recently.  With his mate gone, we are hoping that T42 finds himself a new mate soon.

We at Ranthambhore are happy and proud that this is probably the only place in the country, which has at any given point each tiger known and identified. This attainment been further elevated with the Rajasthan Forest Ministry taking a unique initiative of publishing a booklet-giving flank marking of all the tigers which is available to the public.
The extraordinary cooperation between the park staff, NGO’s like Tiger Watch, and the private sectors has ensured the present health of the park. More on Ranthambhore tigers coming soon... adios ! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Welcoming the Summer Birds - Divya and Dharm






Indian Courser with chick




Indian Roller



Great Thickknee 


Small Indian Praticole



Indian Courser



Collared Pratincole 




Indian Pitta



Paradise Flycatcher Male (Juv.) 



Paradise Flycatcher




Yellow Wattled Lapwing



Pied coockoo



Hoopoe




Crested Bunting 




Indian Golden Oriole  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Crater comparison

Crater comparison






Lonar Lake is a saline soda lake located at Lonar in Buldana districtMaharashtra, India, which was created by a meteorimpact during the Pleistocene Epoch.

Dhala crater (N25°17'59.7" and E78°8'3.1") is situated in Shivpuri districtMadhya Pradesh State, India. Currently, the diameter of the structure is estimated at 11 km based on field observations. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhala_crater)




A visit to the largest crater of India: Ramgarh astrobleme’



We were not aware about the Ramgarh crater till last year; we were just surfing on the Google map and found this amazing geographical feature.  Ramgarh crater is a 3 km wide potential meteor crater located in Rajasthan, India. If confirmed, this would be the largest crater in India making Lonar crater in Maharashtra second largest (Source - Wikipedia).
It was a year back, when we were searching the path of tiger T-35 to Sultanpur (kota), who dispersed from Ranthambhore and I found this crater which is hardly 60 km (crow flies distance from qualji area) from the Ranthambhore tiger reserve area.  we think we should share some picture of this crater with you.  We do not know how this was created and what is the geographical and geological significance of this crater but it is surely a worthwhile experience seeing it ! Look up on the Google map for this site just type the 
GPS 25°19'44.01"N
          v76°37'13.42"E.
 Also many sites open once we type Ramgarh crater on Google... 



     Just search the above mentioned GPS location to find this wonderful site. 


    pic 2: close up of the crater

another view of the crater 


                 
Picture from outside the crater by the author 


The crater has two small lakes 


     view of the lake 

                         Dhonk forest on the hills 






                                                             An age old temple in the centre of crater





                                                                     Jogi of the crater 

As per GSI site:

THE CURIOUS RING STRUCTURE OF RAMGARH IN VINDHYANS 0F RAJASTHAN http://www.portal.gsi.gov.in/portal/page?_pageid=127,787831&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL


Within the vast stretch of almost horizontally-bedded Neoproterozoic Vindhyan sediments an elevated circular physiographic structure (25° 20” 00’: 76° 37” 30”) occurs near Ramgarh village located about 12 km east of Mangrol in Baran district, Rajasthan. For its discrete elevation it can be spotted from a distance of 40 to 50 km. This unusual rocky structure attracted the attention of geologists since its discovery. It is called by different names by different workers viz. ‘Ramgarh structure’, ‘Ramgarh meteoritic structure’, ‘Ramgarh ring structure’, ‘Ramgarh dome’, ‘Ramgarh dome structure’, ‘Ramgarh astrobleme’, etc. It falls in Survey of India toposheet 54 C/ 11 and is situated about 110 km ENE of Kota. It can be approached via Jaipur-Tonk-Indergarh-Mangrol, Alwar-Gangapur-Sawai Madhopur-Sheopur-Mangrol and Kota-Baran-Mangrol road routes.


Physiography:

On regional scale the area forms part of Kota plateau. The Ramgarh ring structure forms a pronounced 150 to 200 m geomorphic high in the form of circular hill with an elevation of 440 m above MSL. It has raised rim and a circular depression in its centre forming a plain with average elevation of 260 m above MSL. The surrounding plain is 240 m above MSL. The diameter of the ring structure is 3.2 km. A small river, located in the southwestern opening of the hill, forms part of the drainage of south to north flowing Paarvati River located 4 km in the west. A number of small rills and gulleys with radial/ centripetal drainage towards the centre are developed in the area.

What we found:
1.   A beautiful temple at least 1000 years old with very interesting sculptures.
2.   A beautiful lake with so many birds
3.   The area is having an amazing floral composition.
4.   Some old hunter told me that area is having many honey badgers (heard first time that some place is famous for honey baders no idea it is true or not).

There are so many people who did wonderful work on this. The site should be promoted a tourists destination………

Friday, April 5, 2013

Search for lion existence in Bundi and Bhilwara rock arts...



Report by Dharmendra Khandal, Tiger Watch (dharmkhandal@gmail.com)

Last week, a very interesting book named Exotic aliens was released in Delhi. Written by a trio of authors — the legendary wildlife writer Valmik Thapar, acknowledged historian Romila Thapar and Moghul history scholar Yusuf Ansari — it is a debate about whether lions and cheetahs existed in India or were they introduced by man. While many agree that the cheetah seems to be exotic species, the authors have spawned a new debate that the lion too, is. They have created serious doubts through a historical enquiry that questions the indigenous nature of these animals, suggesting that lions and cheetahs were possibly introduced by the hunters or rulers of old times who brought them from faraway lands due to their fascination with exotic species. The presence of lions in our ancient sculptures and paintings are not enough as proof of their natural presence in our country. There is an argument that these may be influenced by the globally powerful image of the animal and may not have been inspired by the actual, physical presence of them.


The book is well researched and has systematically examined all the possible proofs in support of the lion’s presence. They start with documentations going back to the prehistoric times of 8,000-10,000 years ago, when primitive man made rock art in caves. The authors quote Erwin Neumayer’s book, Lines on Stones, on prehistoric rock art of India, revealing the absence of ‘manned’ felines on the rocks.
The book is 20 years old and in this period, many more cave or rock paintings have been discovered which we need to study in detail.
In last 18 years some very important rock sites are explored in Rajasthan state. I decide to investigate them and very interesting facts have come into light. These rock art sites are almost central point of the assumed lion distribution in India.
Since 1995, a rock art explorer Mr.Om Prakash Sharma (kuki) discovered 90 rock art sites in the three districts of Rajasthan- Bundi, Bhilwara and Tonk. Each site has average 5-7 rock shelters /caves with rock arts. Some of the sites have up to 30 rock shelters while some of them have only 1 or 2.  According to him at least 550 to 600 shelters are existing there. These caves are existing in the Vindhyan hill system, which hold large table tops. Open scrub forest and dry climate is also suitable for lions.

The rock painting sites distributed in Bhilwada, Bundi and Tonk districts of Rajasthan

This is a central area where on one side there is Gujarat, other side there is Punjab, Haryana and Pakistan. These areas were always thought to be the prime area for lion distribution, then the rock art sites should have some really clinching evidence of the lion depicted in the region.


What I found?

Out of the 90 discovered rock art sites, the explorer mentioned that only two sites have the lion like animal depicted. These 2 rock sites have 13 different rock shelters. The lion like images are found only in 3 shelters out of these 13 shelters, which means out of 550-600 shelters only 3 shelters have lion like illustrations.


When I also inquired about the tiger’s rock art in these 550-600 rock shelters, according to the explorer almost 100 rock shelters have tiger’s graphics.

Mr. O P Sharma (Kuki) the rock art explorer of this region.


Below are the two sites where the explorer mentioned that lion like animal graphics exist.  

    Keshuprura is very scenic rock art site and have good rock paintings. I found 2 lion like paintings here in two different rock shelters.





Rock Site 1 Keshupura


Shelter 1: The shelter is a small den which has 4 kinds of depictions. One is like a tiger, second is a net, third is lion like animal and fourth is an inscription. I have doubt that these paintings are from the prehistoric period, as there were inscription also which is unlike of that era. The lion like animal is not having mane and more like a dog. The explorer is unsure about the time period of the art.



The art is more like a dog than feline and also having a neck band, and without mane.  


Shelter 2: this shelter is actually a very open panel, where old paintings can’t be safe for longer period because of it is exposed to the rain and other erosion factors. The panel was also having a painting of a horse rider who is killing wild pigs with help of a dog and using bow and arrow. I felt that the panel is a historic period paining which is hardly 200-300 years old.


 Horse rider and dog killing an adult wild pig (no pattern on the skin). Three piglet (with pattern on the skin) following the mother. In the same panel we found a lion like animal art.   


Lion or dog again a big question for me, panting tongue making it a dog but has a lion like tail. Age of paining is also uncertain. More of historic period according to the explorer.

Rock Site 2: Palka  
This site has 5 rock shelters.
Sheter 1:
Out of 5 rock shelter only one is having feline like animal depicted in it. It is uncertain whether it is a tiger or a lion. This is the only predator like animal depiction.    This shelter is having 8-9 different such animals. These animals are having mane like hair on the head but nothing on their shoulders. Lion is living in a pride but these lion like animal are solo paintings.


Palka rock art site


A big question lion or tiger? Yes more like a lion. Hunting together with other similar looking partner.


A maned animal but no mane on the neck part or shoulder. 


A maned animal


Another maned animal with two cubs, the cubs are also having mane, which is unusual. Is it a tiger only or a lion family?


Two maned animals walking together

The second site is having more lion like animal but few question to be asked:
1.     Why the site is not having any tiger or the depicted animal is a tiger?
2.     Why the cubs also have mane while no mane in the cub stage?
3.     Why there is no female lion depiction?
4.     Why there are not in a pride? Only two animals walking together.
5.     Why this is the only site among 550-600 shelters to have such maned feline depictions?
6.     What is the age of the rock art? Pre historic or not?  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Man-leopard conflict at Pratapgarh (South Rajasthan)

2004 was one of the difficult year for the inhabitants of this place in the entire year 16-17 leopard attacks took place and 12 people were killed.

Whenever there is a man animal conflict in some area it leads to many fiery debates on social sites, TV channels and newspapers some suggesting humans mistake while some talking about the animals fault. Scientists and field biologists talk about their previous predictions, which they mentioned in their reports. However, on the ground, it is just the forest department and police department by themselves to handle the situation in which also exist the local villagers, local politicians and local media people pressurizing them. In these incidents, sometimes these happenings continue for many weeks, months and years. Uncertainty holds in every heart about the next attack, which may happen at any moment.

Such series of events occurred in tehsil Pratapgarh situated in southern Rajasthan on the border of Madhya Pradesh. Dharmendra Khandal, field biologist Tiger Watch was specially invited to aid in the case. He formed a team with – accomplished photographer Mr Aditya Singh and botanist Mr Amit Kotia. Do not know how much they were able to help in the situation but they did document the events that occurred in the place. I try to take you through their account in this strange situation...


Habitat of the site


The forest department team was working in this area


Every evening the police and forest department would patrol the area


The police department team was patrolling the area with guns as if looking for a wanted dacoit in the area


Local Shikari's were suddenly looked at with respect and appreciation


The crowd would turn agile at slightest discussion and show hostility towards police, forest department and wildlife


There was big activity for edible gum collection from the tree Anogesis letifolia (dhawada tree) in this area. This was the gum resin which was collected over the years by small children in the village, earlier boys would go for the collection but after the leopard attacks, parents started to send girl children. Here too evident gender discrimination can be seen, risking a boys life was not an option....



There were cages set to trap the leopard, in which live bait had to be left each night. The cheapest option were the stray dogs who would be given few bread pieces each evening with that they would happily get inside the cage... With time even these dogs were trained for this duty



Some times they would forget to open these cages and the dogs were left trapped for 48 hours without food or water... here you can see one dog is inside the cage while the other is watching outside



These dogs with time had turned wise they would not bark when they saw a leopard. Experts would suggest to get new dogs periodically but that is not an easy task in the field.



A forest officer narrating a funny story - Earlier they had tied bait of goat but a local villager came in the night to take it away and himself got trapped inside the cage



Tranquilizing expert Sardar Satpal Singh from the forest department, he has rescued many leopards from south Rajasthan when they fall off in the wells or get surrounded in villages etc. He was very annoyed in the field as in spite of many months in the field he was not able to achieve any success in this assignment and the even annoying thing was that in all these days in the field he was fed just potato sabzi for his meals even in that potato had to be searched for...



This is the tip of the dart and you can see how it has a little lock, you can imagine how this would function


The dart


The drugs used for tranquilizing and revival of the animals... Sardar Satpal would say that he was the only man in the team to have drugs which were not in expiry date


New cage was installed before this pooja was performed and incense sticks were lighted and all possible smells were left in it, which should not have happened!


Tiger Watch employee Late Mr. Ramsingh trying to cover the inside with leaves and hide the cage


The village folks would sometimes be seen plotting against the animal but the situation was so tense after the death of the nine kids that any thing to catch the leopard was looked at as help not conspiracy


The man sitting in between is the Thakur of this place, he invited our teams Banaji Aditya Singh for a feast. For this feast which would be two chicken and a bottle of whiskey the Thakur took money from Aditya. When Aditya reached the place he could not see any legs in the chicken and the bottle was there but empty... Only meal awaiting Aditya was the left over scratches in the cooking utensil and the local alcohol which the host had got for himself. The guest were awake until Aditya reached but thereafter showing the left overs they dozed off. Aditya explored two small pieces from the pot and the moment he ate them he was in tears.... He asked the host - Did you feed chilies to kill the chicken? He was wiping his eyes with his hands and thereafter his eyes had chillies in them... the other team members were smiling now that they had a person who would be awake through out the night :)


News came of another attack the Police and Forest department reached, the site was just on the border but in Madhya Pradesh state


This time around the victim was again a girl

Some relative showing the incident spot


One of the victim


The victims was removed from that site but a dead goat was placed there

The dead goat was tied on the same site where the child was killed by the animal


In the night the leopard was indeed there as the dead goat was hidden away half eaten in a bush

The goat was dragged and bought inside the Rajasthan border and they did not have permission to tranquilize or cage the animal by the MP state


If the dead bait was left on the ground some hyena would have consumed it hence it was tied on a tree, half the part was put inside the cage


The leopard did come on the site as the hanging goat was eaten further


The next night again the leopard ate the remaining kill and went inside the cage to eat the remaining goat kill but the cage was too tight and did not fall shut!

The dead stray dog carcass found on the road side were tied on trees


It was a calm and quiet place with peaceful people but big population




New cage was set


This was a wooden cage much lighter and easier to transport


The cage finally proved to be successful


Forest department was in mixed emotions not sure if it was good or bad but the general mood was relaxed and happy



One leopard was caught in Rajasthan side and another was caught in Madhya Pradesh while one leopard was found dead in a suspicious circumstance. After this no incident took place in the area...12 humans lost their lives. The caged leopard is now in Jaipur zoo and is called Gabbar Singh by the zoo keepers...