www.iwxindia.com
November 2013

It has and shall continue to be our constant endeavour to unfold this exotic and mysterious world of tigers before you, month after month. “Tiger Talks”, as you are aware, is one such initiative towards exploring the majestic world of tigers and keeping you updated on what your favourite tiger is up-to.

Together, with the large number of tourists that we operate, to the national parks in India’s jungles and those across the globe, we bring to you those playful moments between siblings, the intense battles over territories, the birth of new cubs, recent initiatives on the fight to save tigers and many more unique and memorable incidents and experiences. Through tiger talks we intend to continue to bring to your doorstep, the adrenalin rush of getting up close and personal with the magnificence of this regality. We would like you to experience the excitement that most tourists experience, on seeing this one animal that we never get tired of seeing.

This month, in continuance with our trend of familiarizing you with the behavioural patterns of tigers, we bring to you the (late) Konda, the legendary dominant male tiger from Kanha tiger reserve. Konda was the son of a female tiger from parts of Kanha. Konda, the word itself means simple, docile, calm and quiet by nature. Tigers usually follow a fixed pattern of movement in the jungle. This predictable movement pattern of disciplined & punctual animals can be tracked at a particular place and time.

They were given this name by the mahouts who used to track tigers. This tiger ruled Kanha for long, therefore it is known as a legendary tiger. On several occasions, Konda honoured the name of Kanha National Park by being sighted by tourists.

Old Kankati,the female tiger, lost two of the three cubs. One cub still survives. She remains in the same territory in the Tala Zone.

From my collection of memories
This unique incident is from my days as a naturalist in Kanha National Park. It was during a visit into the park on a winter day in December. I was guiding an elderly couple, in their seventies, visiting India for the first time with a long cherished dream of sighting a tiger on this one, and probably the only trip to India, considering age related constraints. The lady, however, was more vocal about a twofold conflict of emotions within: one of the probabilities of sighting a tiger against all odds on their last two days at the reserve, and the other, the inability to undertake any such trip to India ever again.

In their earlier limited safaris to Kanha and other national parks, they barely managed to sight langoors, peacocks, or at times a jackal chasing a cheetal (spotted deer) and nothing more. They were beginning to lose hope and the dream of sighting a tiger seemed farsighted. Deeply disappointed, we began heading back to our resort, fully aware that the next day was our only hope. That too amidst paucity of time as their trip had to be cut short due to a last minute change of travel plans.

We resumed our journey the next morning, following pugmarks that could lead us to a tiger. Having sighted nothing at all, we decided to close our search. Ours was the only jeep as we headed on our outward path from Kisli gate towards Khatia gate. This was supposedly the same stretch where a tiger was spotted having killed a gaur the previous day. As we drove ahead at the speed of 20-30 km/hour, while passing by the fire line I instinctively looked into those gaps in the hope to see some animal. As usual I checked, but saw nothing. As we passed I realized I had missed something or rather there was something there. Out of curiosity, I asked the driver to reverse the jeep and looked through my binoculars. Visually, there was nothing, but instinctively, I knew there was something.

Continuing to look that way for about two minutes, I saw what looked like two ears. I kept the probability of a tiger being there to myself. Didn’t want to raise the hopes of the couple and disappoint them later if nothing turned out. Immediately thereafter there was a swish of a tail. All of this happened within a flash of a second. By this time I was confident that it was a tiger. The challenge was to make them see the tiger and its movements. I shared this development with the couple and prompted them to stand up on the seat of the jeep and look in that particular direction. They were as excited as me and followed my instructions eagerly. Just then the tiger raised its head. My eyes were trained to spot every movement in the jungle but the couple was unable to catch a glimpse, even through the binoculars. The tiger’s presence was camaflouged in the jungle. After many futile attempts to spot it, we decided to give up and move on. Just then I once again spotted a movement. We decided to wait for a while, a little ahead of the fire line. This time I instructed the driver not to start the ignition. We rolled our jeep in reverse instead. It was interesting to watch as it sat down for a while, licked its paw, got up again, sprayed the area, looked around and walked straight towards our jeep in all its glory, in complete frontal view. We were captivated by the closeness of its presence and the way it looked at us. However, due to its calm nature, it merely glanced at us, traversed and then moved away, finally disappearing toward the fire line. After having witnessed this incident, we reached the gate in order to complete the exit formalities. Since the entire incident was so engrossing, the couple had forgotten to take pictures. Therefore, it was but natural for the gentleman to turn toward me to ask if I could recreate the mesmerising experience.

This was our tryst with the famous…legendary KONDA!

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