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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.

We started on our task of tracking at 6:15 a.m. and took the same route as yesterday morning and reached Chooha Pani at 8:25 a.m.. We were happy to see fresh pug marks on the pads which we had made. The marks were very clear and resembled that of male tiger, very large in size. The stride from toe to toe was 138 cms. When Mr. Aswal got ready to take the trace on glass, he realized that yesterday evening he had taken out the tracing glass in his cabin and had forgotten to put them back in his bag.

 In his excitement he suggested that he would alone go back and come with the glass. This suggestion was ruled out and it was decided that the party should go back to the base and return in our jeep. In case we find any other group en route then we might come back after borrowing their glass. To this we all agreed and proceeded to Dhikala via Kammarpatta-Dhikala road way. On the intersection of the two roads we came across Ajay, Avdesh, and Ramesh who were going towards Amla sot and halted them with a jungle call resembling that of a Sambhar. We narrated our part of the story and requested them to accompany us to the waterhole which was not far off.On reaching the top of the hill from where the descend starts to the Chooha Pani waterhole Mr. Aswal pointed out that a tiger was sitting at the water hole, hearing us the tiger got up and went in the deep woods. What a magnificent sight it was to see him and his awesome face shining in the light filtered by the trees, along with clean coat. It was a beautiful sight but short-lived. All six of us descended and reached the waterhole where Mr. Aswal completed the formalities of measurements of stride and taking impressions of the pug mark on glass and then on tracing paper. Since the mark was very clear we took the plaster of paris impression also. When we were ready to leave, Ramesh the assistant of Mr. Ajay's group, pointed out and shouted, "Tiger! Tiger!" We all got up and saw the tiger departing. It is very difficult to say that it was the same tiger or a new one. The tiger that had departed earlier and the one that departed later were completely in opposite direction (180 degrees to be accurate). The tiger was approaching the waterhole very cautiously as if he was stalking. It was strange that tiger having such a keen sense of hearing could not hear the six of us talking or he was a very courageous tiger trying to be inquisitive. Nevertheless it was an excellent sighting watching one or two tigers in a span of 20 minutes.

 We returned to Dhikala by a new route from Kammarpatta via Bichhoo Boji sot a very exciting return with lantern on both side of us and a very good track for elephants to cross. We made a few pad on the way back. This area was under Ajay and Avdesh.We started our evening as usual at 4:00 p.m. and went via Patarpani - Kammarpatta Marg where we had to abandon our journey and return since we were encircled by a large herd of elephants from both sides. 

We returned via Bichhoo Boji and sat down at the water hole for sometime then returned back to Dhikala. From here we picked up our vehicle and went to Kammarpatta via Dhikala Road and saw if any track could be found. With no luck we returned back to Dhikala.

It had rained all night and still the weather was cloudy. We did not take to our route in the morning. Having come to Dhikala one is never satisfied by staying in the camp. As soon as the clock touched 9:00 a.m. we picked up our jeep and started our journey to Chooha Pani waterhole where for the first time on the way we came across the Great Pied Hornbills, it is a lovely bird and one of the best I would say of these jungles. There were three Pied Hornbills the biggest of the three was annoyed by our presence and started to fly off making a whoosh whoosh sound by the wings. It was a grand sighting. We found nothing more nor any pug marks and returned back to the base. In the afternoon we had lunch at Israr Mahavat's daughters wedding. The unity in the jungles folks reminds you of the olden days. How everyone gathered within minutes from all communities and made the ceremony look so easy and affordable. The forest guard Mr. Negi along with Mr. Deb Singh prepared delicious food for over 100 people. In the evening we were delayed a little while starting as the WWF team had come from Delhi with nearly 25 people of the publicity media representing various TV and newspaper organization. I met Brig. Ranjit Talwar of WWF, in charge of tiger conservation cell and exchanged greetings since I had met him earlier and had my say in communicating my feelings regarding the non participation of NGO's in the current census and my disappointment in WWF on the whole. He tried vainly to justify their intentions but the damage had been done. The general impression is that WWF has not done its part well instead of sending their own team for assisting in the actual tiger census they had come on the scene third day of tiger census and that too for the sole purpose of publicity for themselves. It all looked quite farce. Dr. Ranjit Bhargava, (chairman of WWF India, up state committee) along with Mr. Anup Sah, a noted Floriculturist and Himalayan Photographer, accompanied us in our evening beat (route). We reached the intersection of Kammarpatta and Dhikala Road where we came across the pug marks of a tigress having a stride of 108 cms. We took the marks on the glass and tracing paper and left the plaster of paris to dry and then proceeded further to Chooha Pani waterhole were we waited and talked for a while. We explained in details the complete process of taking tiger pug marks and overall wild life scenario. Talking to Dr. Bhargav was very interesting and it became clear that he is a genuine environmentalist who was doing whatever he could do for the cause he believed in. Listed first in his priority is the pollution control. It is pure luck when you come across good people and am thankful to almighty that we met. In the evening we were informed by Mr. Hira Singh Karmiyal (DYP ranger) that as per the directors instructions we were to depart the next morning at 4:30 a.m. for Khinanauli from where we were to proceed to Taulia Chowki and surrounding areas.

We were woken up at 4:00 a.m. and left for Khinanauli by 4:30 a.m.. The morning elephant ride was superb. It was extremely cold and mysterious with not even the birds awake. On the way via Sambhar Road we saw otters playing in the Ramganga. This was the first time that I saw otters in the water. We reached Khinanauli at 5:15 a.m. and after a quick breakfast (parathas) and tea prepared by Thakurji we left for Taulia Chowki. 

We were accompanied by three students (Santosh, Angshuman and Meher) who were also volunteers from Delhi. While departing we spotted a Grey Hornbill in the trees. Mr. H. S. Karmiyal was in the lead. We followed him reaching Ramganga in short time, now the problem was to cross the same as the bridge had broken. As suggested by the students who had done the beat earlier we did two things; one we took off our pants and the other was to cross the river with the boots on. There was some difficulty in balancing in the beginning but the same became easy after some steps. Ajay, trying his level best to keep his camera and jeans away from water was successful half the way when he stepped on a steep rock and lost balance and had a dip in the Ramganga along with his camera and jeans. After crossing the river we all wore our jeans whereas Ajay continued the trek grumbling and mumbling in his underpants carrying his wet jeans on his shoulder. It was a comic scene to watch.

The track had just begun and already it had become interesting and exciting. We were going towards the core area, a place where no one apart from the forest staff is allowed to go and the picturesque beauty of the area is hard to describe. We went into a sot and above in the mountains at the first corner we came across a fishing owl and what more with a fish in its claws. 

We proceeded slowly since Mr. Karmiyal had cautioned us that it was a bear territory and there might be a bear lying at any spot. We reached the top of the mountain and rested for a while when we heard a Sambhar call made by a human coming from somewhere down below to which Mr. Karmiyal answered Then we realized it was Thakurji, our cook of the day with provisions of tea and lunch. We descended on the other side of the mountain and came to a valley with large boulders. There was a big stream in which water flows during rainy season. The scenic beauty was captivating and unique and it looked straight from the great novels of Jim Corbett. I was already absorbed in my fantasy imagining I was going through the same tracks and experiences of Jim Corbett and Kenneth Anderson. In the heart of tiger territory and was experiencing the beauty untouched by humans. This was a dream come true. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine to go through what I was going at that time.

We proceeded further up the valley and came across many small waterholes with clear water and fish swimming in it. We came to rest near a small waterfall under the shade of rock where Thakurji collected firewood and prepared soothing tea in no time. The tastiest of tea we drank which was prepared from natural water of the hills. We went further up the valley and at an intersection our leader disappeared for a while. He came back later with some maldan (mallu) some leaves to which would serve at plates during our lunch break.

  We continued further up and came across the pug mark of a male tiger which this group recorded the previous day. Mr. Karmiyal took the plaster of paris impression and after that we proceeded further up the valley and then at 12:30 halted to rest in the jungles. Thakurji worked in his efficient way and in a short time he prepared/served tea and after that lunch. The water source was the small pools of water nearby. Lunch never tasted so good before the rice and tomato stew was incredibly tasty. It was fun eating with your hands from the plates made of leaves. After the break we started the toughest part of our journey. That was climbing uphill at 80 degrees with the footpaths covered by dry leaves making the path very slippery. In a span of 1.5 hours we had covered nearly 2.5-3 km. uphill and as soon as we reached the top the breeze took away the tiredness. The view from the top overlooking the valley was just magnificent and we could hardly see Dhikala from there. It was interesting to note that even at such heights and the toughest of climbs there were elephant droppings. The elephants do come to such areas for bamboo that grows. We even came across Ghoral (wild goat) droppings at the top (we have never sighted Ghoral in the forests till date).We rested for while and then descended on the other side of the peak towards Hathipani. Mr. Karmiyal in the lead was going downhill like a mountain goat, Thakurji keeping pace with him in his slippers. We followed Thakurji and asked him to guide the way. The downhill journey took us nearly an hour when we reached the main road of Hathi Pani to Dhikala. We reached the river bed and saw that a group of elephants were about to cross the way. A lone Makhna (male without tuskers) was to cross our path. We quickened our pace and reached the Ramganga where we again had to take off our pants. We crossed the first stream without any casualty. The water was very dirty and the flow was very fast since it had rained the previous night and it takes a day for the water of the mountains to reach the base. On crossing the second stream we all managed to cross easily where again Ajay did the action replay of the morning event. It was a funny sight he kept on abusing the rock on which he had slipped and was exclaiming that it took him all day to dry and again he was all wet.

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