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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 reached Dhikala by 6:30 p.m. and must have covered nearly 40 km. in the whole day. It was a thrilling experience and just thinking and discussing about the events took our tiredness away. In our jeep we dropped the boys back to Khinanauli. From where I got another passenger for Dhikala who was injured while crossing the Ramganga in his slippers. 

It is amazing that the people insist on wearing slippers on all occasions even while tracking. I thought that I would be suggesting to the director to make it compulsory for the staff to wear boots/shoes on their daily rounds and avoid injury.

We woke up at our usual time and joined Mr. Aswal on our daily round of Chooha Pani. At the Kammarpatta Marg we came across the pug marks of a tigress whose stride measured 131, 132, 136 cms. She had walked the main road for a good distance and the marks were all around. 

I had a hunch that this was the tigress from Bichhoo Boji, i.e. Ajay's area since he had mentioned to me the stride being 133 cms and further down the road we saw the pug marks being encircled, which proved my hunch being correct. We reached Chooha Pani and found no further pug marks but while we were resting an Emerald Dove or Green Pigeon had come to the waterhole for a drink. This was also a new discovery for me. With nothing more to find we returned to Dhikala via the Bichhoo Boji sot. On today's beat we were accompanied by Mr. Tariq Hasan of press trust of India, who also seemed a genuine wildlife lover. In the evening me and Ajay were put in the group with Puran covering the area in and around no.3 water hole and the Motasal area since his assistants had been called for a fire fighting errand at Gairal. On the Thandi Road we came across the pug marks which Puran had sighted in the morning round. He mounted the plaster and we proceeded further for our rounds. We reached the no.3. water hole and were nearly startled to see a elephant watching us from bushes, on seeing us three he quickly vanished in the deep jungles, after covering our area and around dusk we sat for a couple of minutes at the watchtower. This watchtower is the best located towers of that I have seen. The tiger if within that area is sure to visit it once a day if not more. I made a resolve that next time I would definitely sit at this tower for a whole day. On a suggestion from Mr. Pant, the DYP ranger, I gave a slide show in the evening and also displayed the slides takes by Mr. H. S. Karmiyal. The clapping at the end of the show was the reward enough for me and Mr. Karmiyal, his work of taking slides of a tiger from a tree was much appreciated by the viewers.

We got up a little late maybe the tiredness of the days was getting the better of us. After a quick breakfast went on the Sambhar Road where we were informed by the returning party that fresh pug marks of a tiger and tigress had been seen. We patrolled the area and sat for sometime at the watchtower without success and planned our return journey to Delhi since our assigned job was finished.

While returning back to base we were curious to observe an eagle flying haywire, like a airplane that has lost its control, on closer observation we saw that a group of bees were chasing it, and it was trying its best to avoid confrontation. The eagle might have chosen wrong breakfast this morning. We picked up our jeep and went for a final round of the park, where we came across Mr. Puran with his group along with Dr. Das who is also a keen wildlife lover who became a very dear friend of ours and with whose help we organized the medical camps. We helped them to refill their water supply and returned back to base after stopping for a very short time at Chooha Pani, thinking that we might sight a tiger before going back. Before leaving we had the honor of meeting Mr. Brijendra Singh, the Hon. Warden of CTR. After meeting him we realized that he is a real wildlife lover. Most of the time he is in jungle, even in monsoons he is patrolling the areas so as to motivate the people and to ensure that his presence can dissuade the poachers who are at present eyeing the prized white cheetal (a breed of deer found in India). He is a raja of famous place and has enough of wealth for the rest of his life to enjoy the comforts and to spend his summers in the comforts of an air conditioner but has opted for the tough life. If only a few more like him could exist then I could believe that the tigers and forest of India are not doomed to extinction. There is still hope. We departed Dhikala at 12:00 p.m. and reached Delhi at 7:30 p.m.

Conclusion & Personal views 

Before the census I really believed that tigers were doomed to extinction and the Dhikala reserve should be closed completely since the wildlife was being disturbed very much due heavy inflow of tourist at Dhikala which was forcing the tigers to move to the buffer areas where they were likely to be poached. After the census having spent some time with the workers and staff of Corbett Tiger Reserve, I realize that the tigers are not doomed to extinction, there is still hope. Yes the tiger population has come down drastically but still preventive measures on war footings can save the tiger. The tigers and the forests are still safe due to love and affection the people of forest have for the jungles and wildlife. The staff can do a lot for the jungles provided they have some authority and equipment. The forest guards are patrolling their respective beats with only a obsolete weapons with no certainty that it would fire or not, and in case it fires at the poachers would the state protect him or not. There are cases where a forest guard has shot a poacher and had to fight a court case for the rest of his life . With true wildlife lovers like the Hon. Warden Mr. Brijendra Singh who spends all his seasons, be it summers monsoons or winter, he is inside the jungles patrolling and motivating the people leaving aside the luxuries of city life. Who can spend thousands for just saving a elephant calf without anything in return. With people like him around who can say the tigers are doomed. If we had few more like him it would make a tremendous difference. I have found the goal in my life and the answer to my question that what can I do for the cause. The answer is that if only I continue what I am doing, i.e. educating people around me and motivate the staff looking after jungle. I believe I would have achieved something. The staff needs motivation and support. I would like to organize slide shows in Dhikala and ask people like Mr. Harak Singh Aswal to educate the viewers during slide shows regarding birds and their habitat. Mr. Karmiyal can give lectures to tourists also during slide shows regarding the terrain and wildlife around the park. I would also like to include other forest officials in the slide shows so that they feel motivated and honored and give lectures in their respective fields. This would also make them grow in their stature and would have an impact on their overall personality. The tigers are the national pride of India and can be saved. The need is to focus on some basics like changes in the law, availability of finance for the park and the right people at right places. Some of the unanimous suggestions which we gathered and were requested to put forward are as under:
1. The powers to shoot an offender and the protection later on should be given.
2. Motivation and proper incentives should be given to the staff.
3. More people like Hon. Warden Mr. Brijendra Singh should be given Hon. Post. something like Hon. Forester, Hon. DYP Ranger or Ranger can be given. The wildlife lovers / NGO's given the post should cover their respective areas during the season and off season under the supervision of the director and Hon. Warden.
4. Jim Corbett rightly said that the tiger cannot be saved until and unless public opinion changes hence the Dhikala frh should not be closed since it educates the tourist bringing more awareness but the tourists should be limited in Dhikala and divided to other parks like Halduparao, Jhirna, Kanda, Sonanadi, Sitabani etc..
5. The govt./authorities should form their own NGO which should propagate the requirements of funds from world over. The existing NGO's only have collections in the name of the park but in terms of disbursements not even 5% are disbursed.
6. The requirement of elephants is a priority. All the existing elephants have reached the age of retirement and to train the new breed takes time or else they would end up like Laksmi wounded by wild elephants. The availability of elephants should be in all the other rest houses also. So that the tourist can also go there.
7. The vehicle movement within the park should be very limited. A tour of the park should be only on elephant back since the vehicle movement disturbs the animals to a very great extent and specially the diesel vehicles since it makes to much of noise which forces the animals to stray in buffer areas.
8. All the junior and senior staff should be instructed to wear shoes as a must and part of dress code. Which would result in less of foot injuries and diseases.
9. The buffer area patrolling should be strengthened and a regular checks should be conducted.
10. The villagers in and around the park should be educated and made aware of the benefits of the park and jungles. They should also be involved in something connected with the park it has been observed that no poacher can be successful without the help of some locality.

Tiger Census 1999

We were fortunate to have been invited again for the Tiger Census in 1999 , but due to massive forest fires in the Jungles , the tiger counting was disrupted and the volunteers gathered  for fighting fires in the jungles of Corbett. The experience of fire fighting in itself was great and had the opportunity to spend many nights in the jungle along with the fire fighters and senior staff.

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