Monday, 26 March 2012

The trouble with tigers

22nd March

A few years ago I wrote an article for the Naturetrek newsletter which began like this:

The trouble with tigers is that it’s only ever the next one that counts. No matter how many tigers you have seen or how cool you pretend to be about seeing another, the moment you enter the forest and hear the throaty alarm bellow of a sambar, telling you that a tiger is near, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and your heart beats double time, just as they did for your first tiger. And your second. And your third.

These words are just as true now, many tigers later. For tigers have a power over me, over us, which is hardly equalled in the natural world and still, though I’m ashamed to admit it, every tiger that’s seen near me, but which I miss, pains me a little. This I suspect is something common to all avid tiger-watchers, even those who have seen innumerably more tigers than I have. 

One of the great personalities at Kanha Jungle Lodge is a young man called Vinod. He sits beside me as I write and over the years we’ve spent days sitting beside one another in a jeep in the park, watching the wonders of the jungle. He’s the son of the former head mahout in the Mukki zone of Kanha and is a gifted and brilliantly entertaining driver-naturalist. He grew up watching tigers and has watched tigers professionally since he was but a boy; yet still he’s hungry to see more every day.

This morning a leopard, a tigress and the same tigress’s three cubs were seen by a couple of jeeps from Jungle Lodge, but not by any of my clients. Vinod, I’m delighted to say, is driving and guiding for us and on returning from the jungle having seen no cats himself he was exuberantly excited to hear about this new tiger encounter and to see the video that was taken of the mother and her cubs. Here is a young man who has spent his whole life watching tigers and what does he want to do every day in the future? Simple: watch more tigers.

The trouble with tigers is that it’s only ever the next one that counts.

New in Kanha today


hard-ground barasingha
Cervus duvaucelii branderi


grey nightjar
Caprimulgus indicus
common hawk-cuckoo
Hieroccocyx varius
sulphur-bellied warbler
Phylloscopus griseolus
brown-cheeked fulvetta
Alcippe poioicephala
Eurasian house martin
Delichon urbicum
white-naped woodpecker
Chrysocolaptes festivus


oriental rat snake
Ptyas mucosus

2012 Totals
Mammals: 54
Birds: 429
Reptiles: 12
Amphibians: 3
Fish: 2

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