Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh Where! Oh Where Are the Wild Bengal Tigers?

Headed to Thekaddy in the Western Ghats and plonked myself right inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the hope to better my chances of seeing just a wild Bengal Tiger. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed almost immediately by the officials within the Tiger Reserve. They told me that tigers are very rare, and my chances of seeing a tiger is next to none. They think that there are only 28 within the 777 Sq km reserve. Sigh! Will the WWF prediction that wild tigers will be extinct by the next year of the tiger come true. Grim indeed no tigers left in the wild.
I did however see many other wildlife within the reserve. It took me a day to get my bearings but access to where the wildlife were was tightly managed and one has to either join a group of five with a guide to walk within the reserve or hire a personal guide. On the second day, I booked a boat trip down the man-made lake in the morning and a trek into the reserve in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I had to share the personal guide I had booked with four other people due to a shortage of guides as the rangers were out helping to conduct a tiger census by taking pug marks. It was truly disappointing as I saw the birds I wanted but I couldn't hang around to wait or the rest of the group scared the birds away.
On the morning boat ride, the excitement started right from the moment I got on to the boat. Elephants had come to the edge of the lake to drink and the small herd was loitering around the edge of the thick forest - Mommies and aunts with babies.While we were gawking at the elephants, one of the rangers quietly pointed out a Sambar deer with calf in the water and then the pack of four Dholes (Indian wild dogs) that had pursued the mother and calf into the water.When we finally set off it was all about spotting wildlife on the edges of the man-made lake within the reserve.There were water birds such as Cormorants, Snake Birds (Darters) and the Pied Kingfishers. We also saw Smooth Otters, Wild Boars and the Gaur (Indian bison).

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