Sabyasachi Patra

Sariska Tiger Reserve

No Tigers in Sariska Tiger Reserve

It was our first trip to Sariska Tiger Reserve. I was getting impatient. The speedometer indicated it would not be safe to drive faster, given the numerous villages and the speedbrakers on the road. We started late in the morning due to heavy fog. And now I was getting worried because I thought I will miss the evening light.

Route from Delhi to Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan –

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I was taking my friend to give a feel of the jungle, so that the regular city folk can slowly imbibe the pleasures associated with the jungle. We quickly drove into the jungle directly without checking into the Tiger Den resort run by RTDC. That would have meant lunch and effectively blocking our entry into the Sariska National Park.

It was a Saturday, and we learnt that on Saturdays and Tuesdays the entry to the park is free as people visit the temple inside the park. We drove straight into the jungle, slowly watching both the sides for any visible sign of animals. I had told my friends from my past experience in other jungles, that he should not expect to see the tiger in Sariska, because the topography of the place makes it quite impossible to know even if the apex predator is close by. However, we never came across a single pugmark nor did we hear an alarm call. However, the gypsy driver pointed at the top of the hill and told us that there is a tiger. None of us could see anything. I then clicked a photo and blew it up 100% to check. There was no tiger. When I showed the image, the gypsy driver’s kept quiet. He never thought that someone could click and immediately show it. Digital photography was in its infacncy in December 2004 and the gypsy driver was not aware that someone can photograph and immediately play it back to see it. The gypsy driver knew that and just wanted to lift our spirits by saying that we sighted a tiger.Later the priest at pandupole put paid to all our hopes when he said edhar koi share bare nahin hai.So much for tiger conservation and to the figures provided thrown up in the census by the Park authorities.

An interesting feature of this place is the speed breakers in the road inside the National Park. We came to know that this is to deter the tourists from driving fast and crashing into animals when they were crossing the road. From a distance you can see a pile of white coloured stones on the sides of road, indicating the presence of speed breakers. They can effectively help you in sighting a speedbreaker and slowing down. I could see lot of tourist driving fast because people are not interested in watching a deer or sambar. All of us are guilty of persuing a tiger. If we can educate the tourists about interpreting animal behaviour, only then they would stop to watch even the herbivores. Other wise it is back at counting the number of species then saw in their trip.

This fanatic following for the tiger has led to people being very impatient and wanting to drive through the jungle all day as if they are on a hunting trip. Our Gypsy driver also tried to cash into this craze by claiming to site a tiger atop a cliff. A close focussed shot through my digital camera and blowing it into a bigger size finally revealed that there was no tiger. Obviously our driver was not amused at the prospect of losing a good tip.

The animals near the tarmac are slightly accustomed to the vehicles as opposed to the chital and sambar near the kaccha roads. We could guess that the number of gypsies and jeeps plying in the katcha road is far less than the vehicles moving in the tarmac connecting pandupole.

Probably I could instill some amount of discipline and understanding in my friends when I pointed towards a group of sambar deer with their fawn and asked my friends to watch out for a show of affection by the sambar towards its offspring. Soon it happened and my friend was very happy when he could capture it in his handycam. I now strongly believe that if all the lovers of wildlife start taking their friends to the jungle at least once or twice a year then it would be easier to spread the message of conservation.

New Delhi to Sariska Route:

Sariska is about 194 kilometers from New Delhi. One can drive down at a decent pace. Baba Kharag Singh Marg –>Gurgaon Road –>Swarna Jayanti Marg/NH8 –>Dharuhera->State Highway 25–>State Highway 14 –>alwar–>Sariska

PS: We found later that all the tigers in Sariska Tiger Reserve were poached with the help of villagers staying inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve. Later tigers were relocated into the Sariska tiger reserve, but the conservation challenges remains.

(12th December 2004)

Sabyasachi Patra
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