Forest is a place where you find God playing it’s hand in the form of natural cycle of birth life and death. What happens when humans intervene this cycle? The answer is, “Sadness & Chaos” runs supreme. I have seen this up close and this blog is story of the tragic incident.
November 2017 – Diwali. I planned to celebrate Diwali in jungle far away from maddening sound and air pollution of city. Location finalised was Bandhavgarh. What I was really looking forward to was photographing “Jr Kankatti”. She was one of the most camera friendly tigress I have seen in the wild. After becoming independent, she comforted herself in Magdhi zone of park and was frequently sighted at Tadoba water hole. I had first seen her when she had started her journey as independent tigress in June 2015.
June 2015 – It was our last safari at Bandhavgarh during my wedding anniversary trip. The moment we entered Magdhi gate, full day safari guest told us a tigress was sleeping adjacent to road in bamboo thickets at Tadoba water body. When we reached the spot, there she was… Jr Kankatti. She cared least about all gypsy lined up to see her across the road. She was comfortably resting in the bamboo thickets. Occasionally she would lash flies with her tail, twitch her ears, yawn and abruptly roll onto her back. Her act kept me mesmerised on a hot and humid day. She sat few times and looked at all vehicles as if counting if all permitted vehicle were in her attendance. This happened for almost an hour before she decided to get up walk to water body and take holy dip. The moment she started walking, monkey from top of tree started alerting every denizen of jungle about her presence. She yawned & stretched in water body while giving an eye contact with all her guests. She relaxed in water body for good 9 to 10 mins. Finally she disappeared into thickets. Her good bye glance made me yearn for her. Little did I know, this is the first and the last time I would see her.
Just over a year later, images of Jr Kankatti and cubs were doing rounds on social media. Her cubs fathered by Mr. X were a sight to die for. I knew it was time for me to hit the road to Bandhavgarh again. And so I reached Bandhavgarh in November 2017 to see her.
The day I reached Bandhavgarh, I received unofficial but confirmed news of her death. She was poached. My heart weeped with tears no one could see. Human hand had played nature cycle. Tigress from core area was poached and it is a big thing. Forest official were mum about it. However it was confirmed in following days. I was also worried about cubs. What about her cubs? Will they be raised by Mr. X or will they die at hands of other predator or die of hunger? I had too many questions in mind. Answer to which was not known.
During our last safari, we happened to play waiting game at Tadoba water hole in hope to see cubs and Mr X. Male tiger’s are known to take care of cubs when mother is dead. Will I see them? I waited there for almost 45mins. Safari vehicles kept coming and going. I was desperate to see cubs. Suddenly forest department elephant arrived at scene with forest officer riding it. He enquired if we saw anything, we answered negative. I said “Durga maa” will bless us on eve of Diwali. Officer said,”Look carefully inside bushes but not more than 5 mins and you leave from here”
I was confused. He pointed at thickets. Ohhhhh boy.. the cubs were right there! They were so well camouflaged that we couldn’t see them. As other gypsy came to know about cubs they all lined up to see cubs. It was a show that was well managed by officer. He ensured no guest goes disheartened. We moved out so that everyone gets to see cubs. We moved little ahead and waited at fire line. Only to see new story unfold. This event sealed fate of cubs.
As we were waiting at fire line, a Indian sloth bear emerged out of nowhere and went straight towards the bushes where cubs were hiding. I knew I was watching history unfold at Bandhavgarh. The cubs and bear had a face to face skirmish. Skirmish that echoed in entire forest. The action was in dense so no one could see anything. The forest officer with elephant quickly charged into bushes to protect cubs. Seconds later bear re-emerged growling at fire line. Cubs were still inside. We didn’t know what had happened to cubs. The elephant came right at fire line to keep an eye on bear. Bear ultimately disappeared only to come again at fire line and cross the road. We too left scene as our safari time was over. But destiny of cubs was sealed. After this event, area was closed for tourism and later on cubs were kept in enclosure in non-tourism area of jungle and monitored by forest department. Even today cubs are in enclosure. They are prisoners for human actions.
We, humans are the one’s who killed Jr Kankatti for our greed.
We, humans are the one’s who took away the freedom of the cubs and put them in enclosure. We, humans are the one’s who took away the little spirits of wild out of action. It is our responsibility to ensure no one kills these supreme spirits of wild because “Human hand” is no fair play in law of wild. It brings only brings sadness and chaos.