day in Corbett
Yatra / Trek
Tiger Census 1997:
Diary maintained by Mr. Parth Sharma.
A wildlife enthusiast/volunteer who was invited by the director , Corbett Tiger
Reserve, Ramnagar, India for the tiger census from 5-12 May 97.
My trusted friend Ajay and I departed from Delhi at our regular time of 3:30
a.m. in order to reach Ramnagar by 9:00 a.m. We reached Ramnagar as scheduled
and were informed that our assigned duties were at Dhikala and we should
proceed for our duties immediately. At Dhangarhi when we entered we were
informed that it had rained heavily the previous night and on our way we felt
cold soothing breeze which immediately removed all the tiredness of our
journey. The park was lush green whereas the ground was yellow covered by the
falling dry leaves and we started doubting a smooth and successful tiger
census operations since everywhere the ground was covered by dry leaves, there
was little ground left for tigers to leave their marks. We halted for a while
on the way to see a peacock dancing and trying to impress his lady.
We reached Dhikala at 10:30
a.m. and were delighted as always to meet the staff of Dhikala. Mr. Pant
welcomed us with warm greetings and informed us that the duty timings were from
6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. My duty was assigned with Mr.
Harak Singh Aswal, which is an honor in itself. Mr. Aswal is a forester who has
been in the service for over 35 years and is very much respected in the CTR, he
is also known as "the pelican" and is a genius with his knowledge of
birds. We have even heard some foreign tourists saying that the bird watching
groups are sold in the U.K. by just taking his name. My friend Ajay was assigned
the duty with Mr. Avdesh, forest guard.
At 4:00 p.m. we
were all ready when we met Mr. Aswal. He informed me that our area was
Kammarpatta Marg, Chooha Pani till Amla Sot, and surrounding areas as
per CTR it was area 9, 12, and 13. My friend Ajay was to proceed with
Mr. Avdesh, who had the area Bichhoo Boji and the Chokor water holes,
Amla Sot downward till Dhikala main road or as per CTR area 8 and 11.We
started together on the Patarpani Marg and Mr. Puran who had the area of
no.3 water hole also joined us. Ajay, Avdesh and Ramesh separated us at
Thandi Road towards Bichhoo Boji whereas Mr. Puran and group separated a
little later at Kammarpatta turning right towards Mota Sal whereas we
turned left towards Chooha Pani.
We were three people
in our group. Mr. Aswal, myself and Mr. Farooq who is an assistant /
Charakut by profession (i.e. cutting food for elephant and looking after
them). Further on the way we saw a group of elephants crossing the main
way where we halted and let them pass first. Since I had the opportunity
of the company Mr. Aswal the traveling was utilized for learning the
names of different birds that came our way and recognizing the birds
whenever I heard a bird calling. By now I know when a Barbet calls or
the Indian Cuckoo. I can recognize the paradise Flycatcher, Hornbill
Pied or Grey, the Robin and other Flycatchers, Emerald Dove, the
Minibits and many more apart from the common birds which I already know.
At intersections of
sots (natural waterways) we made pads, i.e. first cleared the area of
the dry leaves then loosened the sand so that if the tiger walks on it
good impressions could be made on the pad. The tiger normally walks in
sots, bathias, and intersections. At the intersection of Kammarpatta and
Chooha Pani we rested for a while after making a big pad. We must have
covered around 6 km. Mr. Aswal informed me that he did not cover Chooha
Pani in the evenings since it would be quite late by the time we
returned back to the base Dhikala. We proceeded further towards Dhikala
Road when further down the road we came across a big herd of elephants
blocking the road and leisurely having a bath at the small water hole
that had been made by yesterday's rain. We waited for nearly 45 minutes
and when they cleared the road we were able to proceed. We had covered
nearly 10-11 km. by foot before saying bye to Mr. Aswal; he inform me
that today it was just a warm-up and the next day would be tough.
Hearing this I headed straight for my room to be ready for the next day.
This day no pug marks
were found either by us or Mr. Ajay's group.
I am writing this days events with nagging pain in my legs. In the
morning we would have covered nearly 16-17 km. and in the evening around
12 km. on foot. We started in the morning at 6:15. a.m., this time
accompanied by a different assistant. Mr. Mohammad Yar, our earlier
helper had to go to some important errand. We followed the same route as
yesterday. Dhikala-Patarpani-Kammarpatta where we took a turn towards
Chooha Pani waterhole. Here we came across our first pug marks. The sand
was hard due to rains, hence the impression was not clear enough. The
palm (gadeli in Hindi) of the tiger was not clear at all, nor the
stride. From what we could make out it seemed as a tigress's impressions
since it had pointed fingers rest nothing could be made. Mr. Aswal and I
discussed in length that tiger marks should be taken since a tiger
exists and it should be counted. If tomorrow it rains again or due to
some other reason this tiger could be left out and one tiger short could
be counted, but in subsequent days if we found similar marks in the same
area we could dismiss the earlier marks taken. We both agreed and took
the prints and then made fresh pads on the same ground.
interesting to see how the marks were taken. First a glass sheet was
placed about one inch above the left pug mark then from one angle
preferably perpendicular the marks were copied on the glass by a sketch
pen. Then keeping a tracing paper on the glass we copied the marks on
the tracing paper facing the light so that clear impression was copied
on the paper. Along with the tracing of the pug marks the following
information is also noted.
I) Identify the
beat - area details are noted
II) The stride is noted - measured from:
a. left front finger to finger
b. or in short tip to tip
c. or palm to palm
III) Surface condition is noted
a. color and texture of sand
b. hard or soft
IV) Style of walk - normal, fast or slow.
a. In a normal walk the rear pug falls on the fore pug
b. In a fast walk the rear pug falls in front of the fore pug.
c. In a slow walk the rear pug falls behind the fore pug.
VI) Any other information
VII) Counter signatures
We returned the way
Chooha Pani - Kammarpatta - Dhikala Road looking continuously for the pug
marks on the way but none were found.
In the evening while talking to
some other groups we came across a person who was quitting the job in
between, it was amusing and sad to hear him narrating the events of the
day. Amusing because he was describing the difficulties that how he had
to cross the Ramganga thrice barefoot and how he had to go inside deep
sots and ravines with twists and turns and how he fell down in water
waist high and there were ulcers on his feet. It was sad because to see
a employee (guide) of CTR quit a tough job assigned to him and
unfortunate that he was creating a bad example for others.
Tiger census is not
all the fun as it seems. One has to walk nearly 30-40 km. a day on foot
and has to be alert all the time from the risk of wild elephants,
tigers, snakes etc.. A gun bearer is with you, but the gun cannot scare
a tiger or elephant nor there is a certainty that it would fire
accurately when needed.
The guns the forest
guards have are obsolete and without maintenance for long time and the
chances of misfiring a 12 bore is very high . Tiger census is not all
the fun as it seems. One has to walk nearly 30-40 km. a day on foot and
has to be alert all the time from the risk of wild elephants, tigers,
snakes etc.. A gun bearer is with you, but the gun cannot scare a tiger
or elephant nor there is a certainty that it would fire accurately when
needed. The guns the forest guards have are obsolete and without
maintenance for long time and the chances of misfiring a 12 bore is very
high. It was also sad to observe that no one was present as yet from any
of the organizations / NGO's who are supposed to be doing so much for
betterment of wildlife yet when the time had come to contribute in
efforts they were not present. The presence of a wildlife enthusiast
gives a boost to the moral of the employees who are already doing their
jobs. An impression is taking roots in the mind of wildlife lovers /
enthusiasts that the NGO's were basically guarding their financial
interest so that they remain the sole finance controller for
disbursement of money for saving the parks and actually they are
unconcerned about safety of jungles and animals.
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