Have you ever wondered how do they go about tracking a tiger? We were sitting in a jeep deep inside the zone 5 of Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan. This was the zone where in the morning two tiger cubs had been spotted. Above the noise of the the Gypsy I couldn’t hear a thing. Suddenly the driver and Anish said, there was an alarm call of a langoor going on. The driver sprang into action and within no time we are close to the langoor which was giving the call. We could still see nothing. There was no tiger close by. As for scanning the area in front of us, it was vast, it included a nala and a hill as well. There was nothing even remotely resembling a tiger that I could see. All this excitement was happening on the Aircel’s #saveourtigers trip.
The driver, Vinod suddely said, “Woh kya hai?” He followed the gaze of the langoor and located the tiger. Leave me on my own and I would have not heard a thing, much less sight a tiger! All I managed was to botch up the shot when the tiger looked back for a fleeting second.
You have seen the side profile of the same tiger before. When I looked at the pictures I was quite heartbroken, but then I learn another lesson. Earlier, before 2013 when I had not seen a tiger ever, I would often wonder if the signs the guide and the driver look for were of any use. The guide would always get excited about the pug marks. I had seen pug marks on almost every trip,it would just not lead to the tiger. So, after a while I completely stopped getting excited about the pug marks. Remember my first real safari was in 2009 and I saw a tiger in 2013. Now that was a long wait.
Then there was this business of alarm calls. I clearly remember my trip to Kanha. Deer were giving alarm calls like their life depended on it, well hold a minute their life actually depended on it. It was late in the evening, the tiger was taking its own sweet time in coming out in the open and it was the park’s closing time. So alarm calls or no alarm class, we were forced to head back.
When Chhavi and I were at Sariska, the alarm call business was going on again. After a while it stopped. they told me the predatory decided to sit down somewhere in hiding. After all it had no obligation to anyone to come on the road and reveal itself! In Sariska the tigers are collared and yet nothing stops them from sitting deep in the woods rather than close to the tourist jeeps.
But then whenever I have spotted a tiger (a grand total of 4 tigers, managed pictures of two only) alarm calls have played a role. Even pug marks revealed the tiger moment at Pench.
So the next time your jungle experts talk about alarm calls and pug marks, don’t think of them as folklore just because you have not sighted a tiger yet. I have been in both situations where the experts tried to locate it via pug marks, calls etc and when they are collared. In the collared case, all the guide did was to make phone calls to various people who had tracking devices. I think the alarm call, pug mark way is much more fun. And remember as Anish says “a guaranteed tiger sighting is only possible in a zoo.” Now tracking a tiger is altogether a different game!
PS. Bhagte Tiger Ke Punch Hi Sahi means just managed to catch the vanishing tail of the tiger.