Pedda Cheruvu Landscape
Among the infinite wonders of a forest trail, sighting a Tiger is most enthralling for me, the Tiger continues to incite curiosity in unimaginably different ways. What I gather from city folks is awe and the fear of Tiger’s might, mostly it evolves around derivatives of the rarest supposed man-eater or the british saheb’s adventure with his gun as written in vivid essays.
But from the very first pugmark we saw in Eturnagaram, to the direct Tiger sightings and the most recent in NSTR on May 11 2014, my sympathy for the Tiger multiples further. It is a striped charmer just longing for its realm, the realm which we wrongly destruct and vociferously conferred as ours as if an ancestral right.
I have had wonderful experience spending long hours in forest, just checking insects, watching fishes, birds and bees. With all my love for forests I never simply blame an animal for frantic alarm calls or charging at me, I attribute it to their innocent behavior involving serious attempts to avoid a human conflict. I have been charged by an angry sub-adult Gaur, luckily some huge rocks and boulders separated the angered bull and us, only to follow it against all advise to find it rejoining the herd. It simply thought that we stood in its way, it decided to give a fight then followed it with a flight.
Lovely Giant Squirrel Pair
On another occasion in 2002, we also encountered a pair of full grown Sloth bears, the male charged at us, I was trying a shot with a hotshot camera as we allowed it to come closer, then furious shouts from Imran, me and Linganna sent it back inside deep woods with its mate. We realized it were private moments for bears and our disturbance irritated them.
The Tiger that we encountered in Atmakur forests was typically guarding the Sambar kill, as written by many observers it guards its kill with lot of verve and caution. Sampath and I were walking along with two chenchu trackers in evening, the sun shone bright that day. The clarity was good, blue sky with light winds as we paved our way on wild trail.
Pugmarks of Tiger.
The Bamboo bordered in clusters as tall grasses made it a difficult walk. It was our first day in annual estimates of wildlife and it was our first trek, we saw a Peacock and after that it was lull. No sightings whatsoever, we sweated and snaked through heavy jungle counting the pug marks and Sambar signs.
A secluded roar brushed my ears as we passed a heavy patch, but it was while returning back we heard clear roars of the Tiger, Aaah aahhooh ahhhrr aaaaahooh… it dimmed to again bound back clear. We were in business, the Tiger lay near our track, if not the chenchus we wouldn’t have darted towards the Tiger. We just traced our trail then finally left our trail and ventured towards the calls of the Tiger!
Tiger sighting team
Checnhu tracker climbed couple of trees like a monkey and searched for the Tiger sighting ahead. He was fancying an early sighting to help us with a direct sighting. His voice was lost, he was now compelled by the Tiger and he searched for the beast like a possessed soul. Our caution was suppressed by excitement and our fear had far left behind the moment we heard the first roars.
Searching a Tiger from tree
From the third tree which he climbed he saw the Tiger, angry and restless, and we also saw the tall dry grass vigorously moving, but yet Tiger couldn’t be seen, we had 3 Cameras, I had a Nikon with 300 mm lens mounted. But the roars that had gone louder and louder, we never thought a second of the cameras.
Suddenly the Tiger showed great courage to come out of the grass in leaps and shouted loud AAAohhhhhhhhhh Aaaahhhhhohhhh in a flash we saw it in front of us, just twenty five meters separated us.. The moment didn’t last very long, though we were all awe stuck..we had our Tiger in front of us, staring direct and roaring at us…it was great feeling and will continue to be till our last breath. My accomplice Sampath and I were out of words! we thoroughly got captivated by the Tiger.
Well again it was just an animal fearing for the kill it earned with great effort, it just wanted us to leave it alone, that’s it and nothing else. The magnificent Tiger wants seclusion, and I was disappointed too that our curiosity had caused it great anger!
We had our beautiful moments in this trip, like watching Sailors, Limes and others migrating roughly north and settling down on watered holes. Or the elegant Shama that greeted us as we waited at Rollapenta entrance. Even the stories of Chenchus and Guards..Or the wild lazy wind that brushed my hair and that beautiful morning and endless night at Pangidi Camp.
For me its the Jungle I love, I admire most and I wish remains as it is in lasting peace, for ever and ever and ever… Text and photos by Asif Siddiqui