The morning heat started dissipating the night-time cool, in the deepest of dense part of Tadoba tiger sanctuary. Almost in the center of the Indian sub-continent, the reserve had steadily gained in popularity in recent years with the stable growth in tiger numbers. The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, as it was officially called, has mainly teak and bamboo family dry deciduous trees and in conjunction with shrubbery and grass, the green cover occupied almost ninety percent of the forest. With the advent of April, both the month and the UN Wildlife specialist April Smith, things had started heating up. Tadoba reserve is known for exceedingly hot summers and yesterday the mercury had shown forty-two on the Celsius scale. Ms. April Smith was also nearing those temperatures, seething after her meeting with one of the forest officers who had refused her access to a protected section this morning. But more about that later, today was the day of the father & son
Having woken up fresh after their long and tiring travel yesterday, both seemed to be in a sprightly good-humored mood. There were some leftovers from last nights meal that they could probably make do with breakfast before they begin exploring sections of such an interesting reserve called Tadoba. ‘What’s the plan today, dad ?’ asked junior as they started on the day’s tour. ‘Well, you shall see. There is a lot this Forest has to offer us. The deer families spotted and barking ones and antelopes are a treat. The sambar deer which is huge, you might recollect from yesterdays outing. I remember a couple of years back, how we ran into the sloth bears which are small yet very agile when they want to. The bisons are aplenty too, hugely built, mostly you see them ruminating near low trees with not a worry in the world about where their next meal will come from. Such is the plentiful nature of this Forest my son.’ After a few minutes of travel, the father repeated, ‘You shall see’ as if reassuring himself of the pleasures that the wild will offer.
As they progressed into some denser part of the reserve, junior beckoned to his dad to stop as he had seen some movement. Through his gaze, he pointed in the direction between a Hirda and a bright flowering Tendu tree, where the tall grass was moving, but not as per the rhythm of the wind. ‘There, see those’ said junior. They managed to spot the wild dogs who dashed away at the sound their sharp ears had picked up. ‘Son, the ground rule is to never ever make any sound if you want to catch sight of the reclusive creatures. Next time, just point but try not to speak’.
Soon the leafy shrubs and tall grass gave way to short dense bamboo trees that had some crocodile bark trees for company. Pausing among the bamboos with an uneasy eery quietness as if the jungle was whispering something to the father and son, their bond slowly strengthening with each encounter in the woods. ‘Dad’ junior whispered as they heard a piercing sound from above. ‘It’s an Oriental honey buzzard; they perch on high trees. Son, there are hundreds of birds that call Tadoba their home. There are the pipers and eagles and kingfisher and hornbills, types of thrush, parakeets, cuckoos and quails and owls too. There are people you would see, who have their eyes and cameras trained on trees and skies instead of the jungle land. They call it birding and their sole ecstasy is to capture a pic of a rare bird.’
As they approached the famous Telia lake, they could discern the sound of so many people and Jeeps ahead of them. ‘Dad, why are these people not following the rule and keeping quiet?’ ‘you know how it is with the world. Let me explain to you how there are people who would blatantly disregard the jungle because they live in a wilder jungle of greed, hate, corruption, and selfishness. They are here only to click and post pictures and show how they traveled and enjoyed India’s wild forests. There is no curiosity to know the habitat, the weather, and the factors that affect animals and fauna, leave alone any effort to protect them. It’s best to steer clear of such mankind because they might be worse than animals’.
Like all kids, junior had missed the big picture talk as his attention was taken up by the lake and the tempting cool water. The attention was mesmerizingly captured by the act of father-son duo walking towards the lake. The rules of the reserve strictly forbid anyone to enter the lake.
Junior jumped into the water and turned around with a question that his mind had suddenly sprung on him, ‘Dad – isn’t this the land of the tiger; when are we going to spot one?’ The father scowled at the constant sound of camera shutters while softly roaring back to his son ‘You can spot them in the reflection in the water, my son’
——The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is a beautiful National Park that offers an opportunity to sight the rare tigers in conjunction with a picturesque jungle ecosystem. Located near Nagpur in central India, it’s a must visit for any wildlife and forest enthusiast.