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I was just reading @@Atdahl's trip blog about driving through Yellowstone and wondered who has gone and how it's been arranged? Self-driving? Through a safari company? Hubs has a week off in July and this is doable if we can find accommodation. Help!
The Eternal Game of Wilderness: Predator vs Prey A visit to any wildlife sanctuary or a national park is always a fascinating experience, and if the destination is a Tiger Reserve, the magnitude of this fascination knows no boundaries. Mother Nature, the lord of surprises, ensures that every time we are surprised with a unique experience that is remarkably different yet, equally enjoyable. Our visit to Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in the March of 2015, once again proved to be no less. The journey to the wilderness was an exotic experience in itself as we drove literally across Maharahstra from Pune to Umred, already making the trip a memorable one. The journey was long(over 900kms) but worthwhile and we arrived in Umred with bountiful of expectations riding high on this super start to the trip. The lone safari in Umred was not the best of safaris I have had maybe due to the long journey and the lack of animal activity,however since it was my first visit to Umred, enjoyed this lesser known,gem of a forest and the close association of the locals with the wildlife as the Umred Karhandla forest is still just a sanctuary and not a Tiger Reserve yet. The plan was simple;Pune-Umred-Tadoba-Nagzira, and all this in mere 5 days only to arrive back in Pune on the 6th morning. Sticking to the schedule we left Umred after the morning safari getting some lunch on our way to Tadoba. We were put up at the Kolara gate FDCM dormitory in Tadoba and just like all the FDCM guest houses, this one too was about a km away from the reserve gate. Tadoba is regarded as one of the best places to setup a meeting with our National Animal and we knew that unlike Umred, Tadoba would surely not disappoint. As expected, this dry deciduous forest, dominated by Bamboo(one of Tiger's preferred habitats in this part of the country) showed us why nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts regard this wilderness so highly as we spotted a male leopard and s tigress in the same safari.Cloud nine was the only destination for each individual in the vehicle that day. After all one does not spot 2 of the 3 largest cats in a single day that too in the matter of a few minutes. Still hung over the previous day's heroics(although all we did was hop into the vehicle and soak in the nature's marvel), the next day in Tadoba was spent way too expectant as both the safaris next day were without any significant activity except for those 10 minutes where we waited for a tigress who was in her dreamland deep into the bushes, hoping that she would show up. Too many expectations!!!! With great amount of efforts and some luck we were permitted to enter the reserve from Pangdi gate. Kolsa region was what we wanted to get into as this region boasted of at least 3 tigresses with about 3-4 cubs each at that time in Tadoba and Pangdi gate was the nearest access point to this region. The travel time from Kolara to Pangdi was about 90 minutes and in order to make it in time for the morning safari we started from Kolara literally in the middle of the night at 3.30 am through the nearby villages. Fortunately we made it in time and started the coveted safari. A female tigresses with cubs was all that we had in our mind. So obsessed with this expectant moment, the group almost failed to notice a large herd of Gaurs, the largest wild cattle in the world, that was having a morning graze. An hour into the safari and there was no sign of any predator activity around, let alone a Tiger. We waited at a large lake in the Kolsa region for more than 45 minutes only to hear the melodious chirps and calls of a lot of avifauna. Safaris at such times can get on your nerves. Neither can you enjoy the rest of the fauna as your minds are so preoccupied with the sighting you so dearly want, nor can you dump the thought from your mind. With this mindset and a wait that was getting agonisingly long we decided to move on. We crossed tracks with another safari vehicle and the group in this vehicle broke the news that a tigress was spotted with 4 cubs some 500 yards along the track we were heading on to and that the family entered the thicket some 10 minutes ago. Cursing ourselves for having waited that long at the lake we were gutted to have missed this golden opportunity. Not wanting to accept that the chance was lost we headed in the direction the group had mentioned. With half hearted approach to the above mentioned part of the forest, we saw a lone gypsy stranded close to the left side of the track. Judging by the gestures of the vehicle`s occupants we inferred that it was probably a deer or a bison that they were watching on the left. When reached closer, we were proven right about our inference as in the bushes on the left there stood a lone Gaur possibly a bull, judging by its size, as I have already mentioned about the strength and the muscle of these huge herbivores. The ridge on its back told us he was indeed a bull. The interesting part though was that, he was not in his usual calm demeanour like Gaurs are normally. Swivelling his body from one side to another with volatile movements, his body language seemed odd. "TIGER", came a whisper from the adjacent vehicle and suddenly all the pupils started surveying the bushes around the Gaur. Then suddenly we saw a tail wag and judging the head position of this animal looked intently to get a glimpse only to see of the beast's face partially. It was indeed a Tiger. Adding up all the events witnessed in the last 5 minutes; a lone Gaur being approached by his marauder, explained his nervous body language. The scene was set for what we believed would be a classical show down between the predator and the prey. Every time the bull turned his back on the cat, in came the charge. Then turning towards the Tiger the bull would fend off the charge. This went on for about 10 minutes and suddenly a second head appeared on the other side of the bull, another Tiger! This was mind boggling for the occupants of the 3-4 vehicles witnessing this. The bull in the centre trying to stand up against a two side attack now. Shutters started to clamp even more rapidly as this superlative game started getting intense. The bull now started moving away from us but still in the same parallel line. The attack was still on. Gradually and foot after foot the bull came into the open. Let me reiterate the situation. The vehicles, there were about 8 of them now on the track. The bull directly in front of the vehicles but moving to the opposite direction and the submerged Tigers in the thicket in the same line of the bull and diagonally in front of the vehicles. With the bull moving away the first cat's head started peeping out of the bushes on to the track. Things drastically changed and the bull, with no real logical explanation, started walking towards the vehicle, facing the tiger from time to time as he walked. Still walking towards us and approximately 30 yards from the vehicles, supposedly unaware or rather ignorant of our presence, the gentle giant paused in his tracks only to continue in our direction. The tiger by now was in full view and all three of us were in the same line on the track. The vehicles the bull in front and the tiger following up on his heels. The Gaur, still moving towards us, had by now sensed our presence and stopping once, he gave us a stare. He was probably a tad bit disappointed by our presence and barged into the bushes on the right. Seeing the prey get away the tiger started chasing it and that is when we realised that it was actually a cub, may be 8-10 months old. Our hair stood on its end, as all of us started realising the magnitude of the whole situation. The cub followed the Gaur on the right. The second tiger, which by now we knew was another cub followed its sibling also followed suit. Then another and another. We were flabbergasted with the turn of events. 4 tiger cubs in their most important phase of their lives had just crossed us and the suspicion had come true. It was lesson time for the cubs as the mother, watched intently, still in the thicket to our left, where this battle had begun initially. She must have been the one to instigate the cubs, probably leading from the front when the attack began and on luring the cubs into the attack had stepped off to let the kids get a hang of such situations. The cubs were being trained, a skill was being developed. A skill that would allow each of them to survive when they get older, stronger and most importantly when mum would not be around. We were witness to one Nature's most amazing spectacles. There was no sound, absolutely no sound from the mob of 60 odd people that had this visual treat. However, dreams are very rarely completed in your sleep and as if to testify this we had to back trace our vehicles as time was up for our safari and the cubs had to continue their lessons, maybe without our distraction. With throats dried up and minds filled with this euphoria we returned back to the gates. Later that evening we got the news that the ritual was completed, the Gaur had fallen prey to his predator. Not exactly to the family of Tigers, but to the Nature's sternest rule, " Survival of the fittest". With every prey that falls to the predator in the wilderness, the predator gets to live another day. A spectacle of a lifetime was still being attempted to settle down in our minds and we left Tadoba, thanking the almighty and mother nature for giving us this experience which I am sure would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to re-visualise in the wild.
To cull or not to cull? It is a subject that causes heated debate and one that has been discussed to some length in the thread "Hwange's Dilemma" Yet, whereas the issue of culling elephant in one of Africa's National Parks brings howls of protest from all corners of the globe, the regular cull of other species, in the very countries where the loudest voices are raised on all subjects to do with Africa, seem to attract far less attention. Yes there is some local outcry, but it does not seem to be of interest to anyone outside the countries where it is taking place. I read an article today about the proposed cull of over 1,000 bison in Yellowstone Park A few weeks ago a friend mentioned to me that Brumbies, Australia's wild horses (more accurately feral), are culled on a regular basis. Link to just one article Here in the UK, celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon of protest against a national badger cull. badgers are believed by farmers to be a serious pest and spreader of disease. All these proposed culls are seen as a last resort. All are being proposed by the authorities charged with the responsibility of maintaining a particular habitat. Yet whilst all these culls do provoke some domestic protest, that protest very rarely spreads beyond national boundaries. Why is Africa different? Why does the suggestion of a cull in Africa stimulate howls of protest from all corners of the globe? How would Australians feel if Kenyans started a campaign to protest against the Brumby cull? How would Americans feel if Tanzanians swamped the Twittersphere with protests against the proposed bison cull? I am not a proponent of culls. I do not have the expertise to say whether they are right or wrong. But why do people all over the world feel that their views on the management of wildlife in Africa must be taken into consideration?
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