Tiger Census 1997:
Diary maintained by Mr. Parth Sharma.
A wildlife enthusiast/volunteer who was invited by director Mr. R. C. Gautam, Corbett Tiger Reserve, Ramnagar for the tiger census from 5-12 May 97.
I was sitting in my office and was repeatedly trying to get across to the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) office in Ramnagar to inquire about our participation in the tiger census. The call was not getting through and I thought that this year I was not lucky enough to get the opportunity and maybe the opportunity will come the next time. I was still in my dreams in Dhikala when suddenly the fax ring woke me up and bought me back to the office. I saw the incoming fax was in Hindi and the fax was in from the office of the director of CTR informing us that we have been invited to participate in tiger counting which was starting form the 5th of May till 12th of May 1997.
I was overjoyed to receive the fax. It was an honor for me to be invited for the census. The government for the first time had invited participation of NGO's and other voluntary people who were concerned with the protection of wildlife and my name was among the selected few. I shared the moment of joy with all friends and dear ones who are connected with wildlife.
I called up that night Mr. R. C. Gautam, the director of CTR and thanked him for giving us this opportunity and inquired about our program to which he clarified that we were to report at Dhikala on the 5th morning and I was assigned some tough duties which I was to know when I reached Dhikala.
My trusted friend Ajay and I departed from Delhi at our regular time of 3:30 a.m. in order to reach Ramnagar by 9:00 a.m. We reached Ramnagar as scheduled and were informed that we should proceed directly to Dhikala.
At Dhangarhi when we entered we were informed that it had rained heavily the previous night and on our way we felt cold soothing breeze which immediately removed all the tiredness of our journey. The park was lush green whereas the ground was yellow covered by the falling dry leaves and we started doubting a smooth and successful tiger census operations since everywhere the ground was covered by dry leaves, there was little ground left for tigers to leave their marks. We halted for a while on the way to see a peacock dancing and trying to impress his lady.
We reached Dhikala at 10:30 a.m. and were delighted as always to meet the staff of Dhikala. Mr. Pant welcomed us with warm greetings and informed us that the duty timings were from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. My duty was assigned with Mr. Harak Singh Aswal, which is an honor in itself. Mr. Aswal is a forester who has been in the service for over 35 years and is very much respected in the CTR, he is also known as "the pelican" and is a genius with his knowledge of birds. We have even heard some foreign tourists saying that the bird watching groups are sold in the U.K. by just taking his name. My friend Ajay was assigned the duty with Mr. Avdesh, forest guard.
At 4:00 p.m. we were all ready when we met Mr. Aswal. He informed me that our area was Kammarpatta Marg, Chooha Pani till Amla Sot, and surrounding areas as per CTR it was area 9, 12, and 13. My friend Ajay was to proceed with Mr. Avdesh, who had the area Bichhoo Boji and the Chokor water holes, Amla Sot downward till Dhikala main road or as per CTR area 8 and 11.
We started together on the Patarpani Marg and Mr. Puran who had the area of no.3 water hole also joined us. Ajay, Avdesh and Ramesh separated us at Thandi Road towards Bichhoo Boji whereas Mr. Puran and group separated a little later at Kammarpatta turning right towards Mota Sal whereas we turned left towards Chooha Pani.
We were three people in our group. Mr. Aswal, myself and Mr. Farooq who is an assistant / Charakut by profession (i.e. cutting food for elephant and looking after them). Further on the way we saw a group of elephants crossing the main way where we halted and let them pass first. Since I had the opportunity of the company Mr. Aswal the travelling was utilized for learning the names of different birds that came our way and recognizing the birds whenever I heard a bird calling. By now I know when a Barbit calls or the Indian Cuckoo. I can recognize the paradise Flycatcher, Hornbill Pied or Grey, the Robin and other Flycatchers, Emerald Dove, the Minibits and many more apart from the common birds which I already know.
At intersections of sots (natural waterways) we made pads, i.e. first cleared the area of the dry leaves then loosened the sand so that if the tiger walks on it good impressions could be made on the pad. The tiger normally walks in sots, bathias, and intersections.
At the intersection of Kammarpatta and Chooha Pani we rested for a while after making a big pad. We must have covered around 6 km. Mr. Aswal informed me that he did not cover Chooha Pani in the evenings since it would be quite late by the time we returned back to the base Dhikala. We proceeded further towards Dhikala Road when further down the road we came across a big herd of elephants blocking the road and leisurely having a bath at the small water hole that had been made by yesterday's rain. We waited for nearly 45 minutes and when they cleared the road we were able to proceed. We had covered nearly 10-11 km. by foot before saying bye to Mr. Aswal; he inform me that today it was just a warm-up and the next day would be tough. Hearing this I headed straight for my room to be ready for the next day.
This day no pug marks were found either by us or Mr. Ajay's group.