The surreal feel of Tiger prowling around especially while walking on trails is remarkable. Nothing else instils the kind of respect and fear as a Tiger does, it takes the game to next level.

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Came in the confirmed news of a Tiger in Kawal Tiger reserve, this was in second week of September 2015, Sambar and Gaur were killed in forest in the preceding weeks itself hinting the Tiger.

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It may be one of the many that embark and prowl in corridor.

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This particular Tiger that I tried tracking in past three days restricted itself to heavy cover near hills of Kawal Tiger Reserve. Walking the trails reminds me of the former years and the treks in Tiger census along with Imran, once during annual estimations of the year 2001, twelve Tigers were recorded at Kawal.

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In my first morning trip with DFO to the Tiger trail, the four wheel drive Jeep got stuck in the wet sand of the flowing stream. The water makes the sand loose and more the driver raced – further the Jeep dug itself. We had to get down and put large stones under the both front tyres that gave us luck.

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The forest looks beautiful amidst the rain filled streams, the unremitting sound of water flowing and battering the small turns and drops make consistent soothing sound. We took off shoes for a stream and rambled deeper winding paths through the forest – but that day we had no luck. Wild Dogs seem to rule here as they rejoice in packs, their tracks in sand unfolds their story.

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On the way back we requested the DFO and he obliged to speak to villagers, they were told to claim cattle kill compensations and avoid harming the Tiger, Yellam also spoke along with the DFO and I yearn that the twenty odd that gathered heed and won’t eliminate this Tiger.

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In subsequent days we tried using motorcycles to crisscross the streams and venture as much as possible; we put lot of camera traps all along the way. At my count we did cross six streams before we could walk. At one point half of the bike sunk in sand, the wheel spinning but to no avail, we were stuck!!

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One fine morning we trekked to lorry bata, which literally means ‘truck’s way’. This way is on top of the hills at 500 meter height like a highway on a plateau, it was used earlier to bring the bamboo from interior forest by the sirpur mills.

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On the plateau a familiar lone Hyena’s trail were seen. Gaur signs show they are in good number here. We lay another two infra-red cameras here. On our teams descend back into the valley, we found lot of flower bloom, yellow & orange hues dominating among them.

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While I write this piece I am hopeful Tiger walks into one of our Camera traps, this will be first Tiger photo in core of Kawal, although many have been captured by our hyticos team lead by Amar in corridor already.

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The Tiger’s appearance in not a great amusement, but it is a sign that habitat is still clinging to its last strings, the corridors have the last remaining connectivity, hence their protection and restoration is very vital, the future of this Tiger and many more that wait to inhabit Kawal lies in relocation of few villages and establishing a safe human free zones for them – there is lot of ground work being done in this direction and we hope that it materializes.

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My hoary feeling again pricks my mind – what tussle we as individuals and our forest staff are ready to put in to surely save these Tigers?

“Yet, amid the rain filled streams of the misty Kawal forests a Tiger is making its moves”, what can be better than this? For us the Tiger is right now burning bright!

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(Special mention of my team during the trip includes Yellam, Shankar, Vamshi, Shankariah and other supporting trackers).

by Asif Siddiqui