Kanha is visited primarily for one of its denizens - the Bengal Tiger (Panthera Tigris Tigris). The royalty, taking a walk in the meadows, is truly an experience to behold!
We spotted tigers on 5 of 8 safaris. It was fantastic, especially because I hadn't seen one before. For once, I was thankful to be in the safari jeep than off it :)
Prey is aplenty here. From the tiger's fave food - sambar - to chital to barasigha, the buffet is varied too. One of the groups from the workshop actually saw a tiger attempt a hunt!
We would've, too, if it was not closing time for the park. Read the story by clicking the photograph below.
THE HUMAN EFFECT
The eagerness to see a tiger translates into extensive human interference in the visitor zone at Kanha. Each day, more than 100 safari vehicles make 2 trips into the park. This literally causes traffic jams in the forest, sometimes accidents too.
There is a code when a jeep meets another on the safari - "Kuch dikha kya?" (Did you see anything?"). Of course, the "kuch" refers to the tiger. The obsession with the tiger is really amusing. According to our safari driver, some groups turn back 10 minutes into the safari if they see one close to the park entrance.
Another unique thing here is a Tiger Show. Every morning, a group of mahouts on their elephants head out into the forest. When a tiger is spotted, the elephants surround it, subdue it and force it to stay put. Wireless messages are sent out to the park ticket counters. Tourists can buy special tickets and be "treated" to a tiger sighting on elephant-back.
I went to 2 of the Tiger shows. One of the tigers was peaceful as he had just eaten (the spotted deer remains were carefully hidden under the grass close by) and was relaxing in a water hole. The other one seemed to be forced out of its water hole to a corner and was on alert. As a photographer, both gave me terrible shots due to the angle (looking down from elephant-back). As a nature-lover, I didn't like it because it was just not natural. The agitated/scared look of the tiger was moving.
As a pragmatist, I think its good in a way. People get to see what they want, increasing the park revenue. This in turn, hopefully, boosts the maintenance of our remaining forest cover and conservation. Tormenting a tiger to ensure the remaining survive might not be a bad idea.
The tiger has been feared, revered, admired and hunted for a very long time. The last, sadly, overtook the first three over the 19th and 20th centuries. Combined with population explosion of another mammal (overselves), it has endangered this huge cat. Tomorrow, we might be left with tales to hear and photographs to see of this "king of the jungle".
We may be proud to be Indians. But, we need to translate that pride into action if our descendants are to continue the "Kuch dikha kya?" tradition and still refer to our National Animal.