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Bandhavgarh Season Round Up

As I round off the Bandhavgarh season 2018, it occurred to me to revisit the Season round off of 2016/17 and the Tigerwalah prediction.

The Tigerwalah 2016/17 prediction:  (I missed a season in between)

2017 will continue to see the rise of the females in the Park, Expect much from Solo, New Kankatti, Dotty &  Sukhi females and this year we should see an addition of 10+ new cubs in the Park. Spotty needs to find the Mirchaini area and settle herself to be able to survive the interference of the cubs. Rajbhera has a very nice spot around the Sehra area and we don’t expect to see too many changes there. The key to the park is what will happen to Chakradhara and Sidh Baba, and this year I expect to see a tigress in these grasslands. A very good chance to see New Kankatti establish herself here, if there was not another tigress as people mention of an elusive tigress with 2 cubs.

 

What a season it has been in 2018. I call this a season of Highs and Lows. Let me round up my summary of the season and what lies ahead.

We started the 2018 season with some very bad news, New Kankatti the mother of 3 cubs was allegedly poached within the Tiger Reserve. Her cubs were too small to be let loose, and hence they were put into an enclosure near the Tadoba waterhole or aria saucer. The grim start to the season had an equal end further.

Spotty & cubsNevertheless, the season belonged to Spotty & its family of 3 female cubs, they ensured every visitor to the park had a great memory. They entertained like never before and bought alive the area between Mirchaini & Damnar. A particular tigress cub, I fondly call her leafy (leaf mark on her right cheek) was possibly the most photographed tiger this season. She posed on top of trees, across streams and in the waterhole all thru the season. So much so that the neighbouring state adopted her for the Satkosia Tiger reserve and aptly named her “Sundari”

I had hoped for an emergence of a tiger at Chakradhara & Sidhbaba, this story unfurled rather mysteriously. Not only was the story of Kila female with 2 cubs true, but she had a new litter with 3 cubs. She appeared out of nowhere and this season a few of us were extremely lucky to see her with her small cubs. The cubs look to be about 8-10 months old. In addition, the big male from her earlier litter was often seen at the Jamunia area trying to establish himself. Quite an interesting change of events at Chakradhara.

The other dominant females had their own story to tell this season. Solo went about acquiring more and more territory, yet she never had any offspring to bring up in her vast territory. There was hope at the end of the last season, but nobody did see the Cubs thereafter. She continues to manage the territory across Rajbhera, Sehra, Jhujura, and Nilgai Marg right up till Tadoba waterhole. She is often found with the X male or Jr. Bhamera who seems to find his mate after Kankatti.

Sukhi Patiha female has a new litter of 2 cubs, a male and a female. They are bold enough already and this year they were seen around the dam often. This is an interesting phase for the Sukhi area as there is likely to be heightened tension around this place next season.

Dotty, the tigress who was never calm across the season, has finally delivered 3 cubs. The news came in after the park closed this season and is one of the most awaited news for 2018. She is a bold mother and I expect her to raise her litter well.

The other tigress that started to show up often with her brand new litter was Mahaman female, she is often found between Magdhi and Khitauli with her 4 cubs. She is slowly making her presence felt around this area. Rather aggressive tigress and someone you need to keep a safe distance.

Nigah Nallah female did show up with her litter occasionally this season but remains elusive and shy.

The newest entrants to the Park as regards to females, were the earlier female from Sukhi’s litter and the Banbehi female from the last litter and a new female named Tara at Khitauli. The latter established her territory around Basa Khol area and Banbehi female around Bhitri, and Tara around Hawa Mahal. By the looks of these three females, I think we have three very feisty and spunky females establishing territory.

34031931_10156589834822033_3153560207871705088_oThe season saw a great high, with the return of the Mirchaini female seen after nearly 6 years. As somebody who has seen her across Mirchaini and then suddenly disappear, seeing her again was nothing short of magical. She showed herself for a few days and slowly disappeared after her altercation with the Banbehi female.

The grim start had an equally grim end of the season with the sudden loss of the “Rajbhera” female or Rajmata as all called her. She dies suspiciously as she did have 3-4 years more and possibly another litter thereby leaving behind a bunch of unanswered questions. I had many special moments with her, to me she was in true essence “Rajamata” dignified, patient, calm and classy. She will remain a cherished tigress for me in my memory.

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The males continued to dominate and establish themselves, with no threat really to them. Mahaman was happy around sukhi and the mahaman area, fathering sukhi & dotty litters. X male or Bhamera around the sehra and Magdhi area. Bheem was often seen across Khitauli and Magdhi…ever so keen to increase his territory, he has fathered the Mahaman litter. However the undisputed “king” remains Mangu. This guy very quietly has fathered many litters including Spotty, Rajbhera, and Banbehi and goes about managing his territory very quietly. We did see this guy a few times this season, but it was always a quick glimpse. The banbehi male was moved to another reserve leaving behind his sibling who was not seen for the season.

The other high is a story of a male called “Pannalal” He travelled more than 300 km from the Pench Tiger reserve to find his new home in Bandhavgarh. The Tiger experts were surprised to see this unique behaviour. This guy is a huge tiger and young and as soon as he starts to establish himself more dominantly we will see a new regime.

The Park management is facing a lot of pressure both from within the park with the growing population of tigers and the increase in Man / Animal conflict and outside with guides, gypsy owners, and lodge owners on the non-friendly stature. The management can seek more friends and help from people they are up against as this is the need of the hour. Petty squabbles and ego issues need to be put behind to save the tiger.

This is a quick round-up of the season. My two bits on what to expect and a summary of 2018 are below.

This year (2018), should be remembered for the High of Mirchaini and the Low of the deaths of Kankatti and Rajbhera. Yet the season created new characters and raised new hope with all the new females in the park.  My prediction is below:

Tigerwalah Prediction for the 2018/19 season:

Expect a new Spotty & Banbehi litter!! In addition, I think Dotty’s litter will light up the Bhul bulaiya area….these are 3 things I think will create much-needed excitement in 2018. Elsewhere the 3 new females (bhitri, Tara & sukhi earlier female) having established territories may have some good news in the second half of the season. The other 2 cubs of Spotty have to find an area to establish territory and this may create a new exciting time for us. I expect them to split during the monsoons and we may just find them in new places when the park opens. The Park with see more than 10+ cubs this season….within the tourism area.

Kila female may not be seen that often, as she has an elusive streak to her, but expect her to be seen more in the second half of the year. The males will remain as comfortable as they did in 2017/18.

Hence, we overall view is we will see a lot of tension and aggressive territory fights this year. The females will try and dominate across Bandhavgarh. I do think this year we will see a lot more territorial females establishing their rule and setting up for a stable 2018/19 and beyond.

If you do plan to visit the park plan a winter as with the rains it will be beautiful and with the abundance of tigers, you could get yourself a beautiful memory.

See you in the Park!!

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