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Bandhavgarh Season Round 2022-23

The 2022 -23 season was exciting, Tala surprised many with its sightings of the Chakradhara cubs and Bajrang, Khitauli got exciting with the army of tigers and Magdhi had a mixed bag with one of the dotty cubs showing up regularly, and the others taking turns to show up Buffers lit up the forest with sightings every day, both Dhamokar and Panpatta were in their prime showing off their stripes. I continue to believe that the Park is rebuilding itself and is in transition, and it will take 2-3 years to reach another high.
As always let me revisit the predictions made during the season round-up last year (2022-23) and assess what we got right and wrong.
Predictions (2022-23)
  1. Sightings – Much of the sightings are likely to Magdhi and Khitauli, no different than the last season, Magdhi thru the year, and Khitauli from Jan, will see consistency. It is well worth a try to the buffer for a one-off safari or two just to check on any new litter or new surprises.
 The Season had sightings in Khitauli & Magdhi. The buffer did throw surprises as predicted with a new litter at Panpatta and a new litter at Dhamokar at the end of the season, apart from the grown-up cubs at Dhamokar.
  1. Tara’s litter if they survive will be interesting as they move between the buffer and the core, and so will Kajari as she moves between the core and buffer with her litter. I see them stifled a bit in the narrow pathways, and the department will have to closely look at them with the pressure from tourism.
Tara litter did survive and often moved between the buffer and the core and occasionally they showed up for exciting photo opportunities. Kajari continues to keep her litter across the fence in the buffer and occasionally bought them near Pathpara nallah. The risk for her is extremely high, with something serious around the corner.
  1. Tala overall may see a weak winter and if there will be activity, expect intermittent sightings of the males, an odd chakradhara sighting. However, I do see activity post-March with a few more happenings with Banbehi Bacchi, Chakradhara Bachi and Mom as well as some surprises in June.
Tala started slowly, and soon enough Bajrang started to build momentum in siddh baba and chakradhara and the cubs followed suit to show themselves regularly. June saw news from the chakradhara old mom with three cubs in the fort area, early signs of the revival of Tala.
  1. The males 7D, Bajrang, and Chhota Bheem own prime territory and often try to create more territory and will move into newer areas.
7D started to find new areas across Magdhi, often seen in new areas driven away by the larger and younger males, Bajrang now ruled all three zones, and he continues to expand his territory, Chota Bheem established himself across Khitauli. The Males are well-established.
  1. New litters – I do hope we see a new litter with Banbehi Bacchi and could be critical for the hope in Tala.
This prediction did not come true, I so wish that had come right.
Let us look at the season highlights across the Zones:
  • Tala started slow and low on sightings, and around December it started to rain Chakradhara and Bajrang regularly, the cubs are very very bold and have taken up on their father Bajrang. The mother chakradhara jr. is still elusive and was learning from her cubs and occasionally showed up. Elsewhere Kajri continues to feed off cattle and often found herself across the park boundary and coming inside the park for rest and peace. This behaviour now made her very weary of people and her behavior has changed to be very secretive.
June saw new cubs for Chakradhara Sr.’s mother, not visited by tourists, but by mahouts. Elsewhere in Tala, we saw the Spotty sub-adult male and occasionally Banbehi bacchi. Apart from this, it remained quiet with occasional hustle from the elephants.
  • Magdhi was interesting with some amazing sightings of the individual tigers, the dotty family was together till Nov, and thereafter they started to establish their territories across Dotty’s vast and beautiful region. Jhamole started to move towards the Aria saucer and buffer and started to court the bufferwali female (rajbhera lineage). The big male Mahaman continued to guard his territory as a large male – New Jobhi (black tail) started to gain ground. Dhabhadol female remained elusive, last heard she had four new cubs, and her earlier litter was rarely seen in the season. Spotty cub two often was seen in Solo’s territory in Umrah, he looks good and strong. All in all, Magdhi was at times good, but most low on sightings.
  • Khitauli was having a dream season, action, fights, fresh faces, and overall action-packed opening and closing. Highlights of which were Chota Bheem and D1 (Dotty 1st litter) fighting for territory, Pujari starting to dominate and often seen in the Durrah Talab – a clear highlight for many a photographer. Tara, the beautiful tigress gained ground with both her litters, who showed up occasionally. Fresh faces in Katiawar female seen in prime territory. However, the most beautiful addition was the Durrah female, now grown up and looking extremely good, and poised to grow her territory in Khitauli. The Raa family continued to laze around the entrance across both zones and showed up for a few sightings in the year. Khitauli remained an evergreen zone for all, I have my favourites and hence did not visit much.
  • Panpatta and Dhamokar turned out to be the stars of the season, 7a (spotty litter) now established himself in the Panpatha region, a new Birhaouli female with three cubs and the old Gauri had established territory. Except for politics, corruption, and exploitation, this zone can be a beautiful area for wildlife. Dhamokar starred with D1, Ra and family, bufferwali, Dhamokar female with two sub-adults, Jahmole etc. This zone has again immense potential if there is stronger wildlife management. Promising forest.
  • Elephants continued to grow their herds, I suspect we have more than 150-200 elephants in Bandhavgarh, they have now established themselves and are often seen in two large herds, one of which is in Bhul bhuliya and the other in Chorbhera areas of the park. There are smaller families at the edge of the villages. The risk of elephants is rising, and I anticipate significant risks to life and family in months to come.
Bandhavgarh surely had more life and action compared to last year, however a lot of things are critical in the rebound of this park, I remain optimistic about the future both in the short term and long term for the park. But the “Transition” is on…
Now to the Top 5 predictions for the 2023-24 Season.
  1. Exciting with new litters, Dhabhadol, Chakradhara Sr, and Dhamokar female already in the news not seen but known, I suspect we will see Dotty’s new litter, expect litters from Bufferwali, Durrah female, Banbehi, one of the Dotty sub-adults, Kahtiawar female etc. Overall, before the season closes, we should see at least 10-12 new cubs.
  1. Territory wars will heat up, for once Mahaman will be challenged by black tail, Chota bheem by D1 & Pujari, Dotty & Dhabhadol by Dotty’s sub-adults. This season will decide the new hierarchy and dominant rulers. Extremely critical for the growth of the park.  
  1. Bajrang will dominate Tala, he will extend his territory beyond the current Siddhbaba, Chakradhara, Bhitri to cover the Banbehi, Rampur, Damnar and parts of Sehra this season.
  1. This year we will see the females start to establish their territories, be it Kajri, Dotty, Dotty sub-adults, Durrah or Tara, they will Before the end of the season have noticeably clear demarcated regions, a few surprises may come by for Dotty, Tara & Dhabhadol.
  1. Quiet start to both Tala and Magdhi until December, before sightings become regular, I do think Khitauli will fare better but overall, a slow start to the season. Dhamokar and Panpatta will get remarkably busy from oct and will keep the shutter running. As it gets to the busy side of the season, it will heat up with a lot of action from the reserve.
As always, I pray Tala comes into life soon, but the signs tell me it will take another 1-2 years to regain lost glory. A lot will depend upon Bajrang and how he expands his territory and the dynamics from therein. The Park management needs to seriously look at the many gaps and focus on good management, and the disappointing set of leaders lately has led to poor outcomes and glaring misses. The Park needs good strong leaders now, or else the bright opportunities may soon disappear.
Transition is “on” …keep the faith. Cheers, Best of Luck!

Shivir Chordia


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