The Lost tigers Story
Imagine for an avid naturalist and a tiger lover, my first tiger sighting was a dead one. Barely aged eleven, I watched with consternation a huge male tiger being skinned right at my porch. I could see the cobbler skillfully ripping apart the fur laden skin and assiduously collecting fat that was trapped. “This is good for joint pains,” he explained to us without any expression on his countenance. Hunting with a permit was open in the sixties, and he was an expert at the job of skinning the dead.
Our hero a brown sahib from Mumbai, he stood around the porch amidst the crowd of curious onlookers. He was boasting, and devouring accolades from wonder struck audience. “I brought him down while sitting on a bullock cart – point blank at 11 pm sharp! I could see his face lit up thanks to the moonlight, and I aimed right.” He was not much excited though since killing was his blood, and it no more enthused his emotions.
“The tiger was a cattle lifter, and he deserved to be shot.” The intruders were humans, and they praised the sahibs with guns to help them usurp the forest lands. The cattle replaced the prey – shot, killed, trapped by poachers, and hunted down by permit holders sic. There were forty thousand tigers at the turn of the century, and we managed to exterminate them post-independence. Like other forests Nauradehi was subject to the rage.
His blabber was intriguing, and I stood listening to it in rapt attention. The huge animal was 9 feet 7 inches and quite massive. In his prime he could have sired many cubs, and perhaps saved the WLS from imminent extinction of the big cats there. The brown sahibs loved to do all that their masters did, and hunting was one such passion.
He was a rich man he came every year for the hunt to Jabalpur along with the entourage of brown Sahibs. On their visits they shot sloth bears, sambars and spotted deer from amongst a fast-depleting lot of wild species in India. For a paltry sum as my father most often lamented. In the sixties, one could shoot a tiger legally for a sum of Rs. 45 rupees.
Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary
The tiger was shot at a forest village called “Amapani” in what is now Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary, and perhaps soon to be a tiger reserve with the big cats already being translocated. In as late as the sixties not a day would pass by without coming across big cats in the WLS and in the interconnected forests. Jabalpur surroundings were teeming with wild animals including the big cats – all surviving in the mixed and Sal forests. Poachers, legal hunters, wood loggers, urbanization all took care of the wilderness, and no other life forms survives anymore except us humans.
Barely 100 kms from Jabalpur Airport, the sanctuary is ensconced in three districts of Madhya Pradesh.
With forest cover more than 5500 km2 it is the largest tiger landscape in India. The area of the sanctuary is 1197 km2 and it is divided into six ranges.
- Moharli Range,
- Singpur Range,
- Jhapan Range,
- Sarra Range,
- D’Gaon Range,
- Nauradehi Range[
A fragmented corridor connects the WLS to Panna and perhaps Kuno Palpur reserves. The sanctuary is well managed, and a lot of conservation work has been carried out by the department. The most talked about animal here is the wolf which became an apex predator in absence of tiger and the leopard. Now that the tiger has been reintroduced it would be interesting to witness the turnaround that may happen in the status in the food chain.
Though the prey base appears to be scant, the conservation initiatives is leading to increase in the population of spotted deer, sambar, wild boar, Indian gazelle, four horned antelope, black buck, Nilgai and the primates. The destination is also home to more than 200 muggers and smooth coated otters in its waterholes and rivulets that arise from the Narmada basin. The main rivers that impact this ecosystem are Bamner and Vyarma tributaries of Narmada. Best time to see the muggers is in winters whence they come out to bask. A number of small predators can be sighted in the night.
Birdlife needs extensive exploration, and species like tree creepers have been check listed here. Being a dry deciduous teak and mixed habitat with long stretch of grasslands the flora and fauna may hold many surprises.
The WLS was much in the news regarding Cheetah relocation from Africa. But it seems the first lot is not slated for Nauradehi. With a sizeable population of black buck, Indian gazelle, barking deer the sanctuary is capable of holding unto the Cheetah population when it arrives. The grasslands – ideal habitat for the Cheetah – are much larger than those in Kanha and Bandhavgarh National Parks.
Jabalpur Airport provides the best access at 100 km but the nearest town is Sagar at 56 km. A string of highways provide access to the WLS.
At present no private resort has been established albeit tours are being conducted from Jabalpur and Sagar. The rest house at Moharli is the best means for a stay along with few more rooms.
Tiger Tourism at Nauradehi (Noradehi)
Tourism is organized on line of tiger reserves and a fee has to be paid for open jeep safari. For booking, please contact DFO Sagar. All details can be had from DFO Sagar as the sanctuary is under its jurisdiction.
The access point is the Sagar Jabalpur Highway. The entry gate is in between, albeit the tourism is much in infancy and so make inquiry before a visit. The sanctuary is open from 1st October to June end. A day visit from Jabalpur is best way to enjoy a safari here for night stay book the rest house by contacting Sagar DFO in Madhya Pradesh. Always keep stock of food and water with you. Drive Slow!