Ambushing a Tiger - Story of a Teamwork with 2 Gypsies & what ails Bandhavgad today.

#1 Jun 24th, 2011, 04:41
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Behind the scenes story of a dream Tiger sighting and an overall report of our Bandhavgad Tiger Photography expedition including identification of problems in the reserve:

Around last week of April 2011, I posted an invitation here on IM Bandhavgad expedition - 4-8 june - invitation for members interested in joining me for my next study tour - cum pleasure trip to Bandhavgad tiger reserve.

This expedition is now done with and here is the report of the same.

Expedition dates:
4-9 June 2011

Expedition members :
7 June, 2011...
This is Bas Nala area of Magdhi zone (less explored/less commercialised zone of Banhavgad). While everyone else was concentrating their energies after the tired out mating-pair of Tigers in Tala zone, we who had enough of mating for 2 days decided to explore the other areas of Bandhavgad. 7th June (tuesday morning) we leave tala zone behind and go into the magdhi zone to track down the Sukhi-Patiah tigress with her 2 month old cubs and the Mukunda female with 2 year old cubs. While we go to Magdhi, my friend Nilanjan Ray decides to go in for another luck with Kankati. On entering Magdhi, we find that ours is the only vehicle in the area apart from a crew of National Geographic channel. We track down a 2 year old male cub and find him resting on the road and blocking our path.
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We observe him for the next 1 hour after which he gets up, crosses the road looking at my camera.........
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................and giving me exquisite shots and then proceeds to climb up a small hillock and according to our guide heads in the general direction of a cave to take shelter for the rest of the hot afternoon.

Leaving the dude, we go ahead and wait in a nala (dried rivulet) with a rocky area overlooking a pool of water and start doing some oriole and paradise flycatcher photography.
On our left over the rocks we shoot this oriole (note the branches of this tree and compare with another pic further down)
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We mentally take a note of this oasis and plan to come back in the evening and wait at the same spot. (we don't realise at this time that another tiger could be lying in the nala just beyond the rocky ledge at the very moment when we were thinking about the evening gameplan). My driver and the guide accompanying us for the drive seem very sanguine that some action is bound to happen here in the evening around 5.30pm.

The morning round ends and I meet my friends in Tala village who informl me about their encounter with a tired and sleeping Kankati. We decide that all of us - 2 Gypsies will take a chance during the evening drive in Magdhi. On purpose, I don't give my friends any further details of our observations of the morning.

We enter Magdhi on Tuesday evening, I instruct my driver to explain the gameplan to the driver of the other Gypsy (Nilanjan may remember my driver walking up to your driver at Magdhi gata and give him some precise instructions).
Yours truly
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My plan is to drive straight to the same spot of the morning sighting and wait near the rocks/cave (in the general vicinity thereof) and wait for alarm calls or movement of any kind.

Having 2 vehicles during a wait always pays off as you can position 2 vehicles in a way that a bigger part of the jungle gets covered. I call this - SETTING UP FIELDING TO CATCH THE TIGER ! So, we are waiting at the rocky area. The time is 4pm. Seeing us wait at the spot some other Gypsies (who have come to magdhi for the evening drive hearing about the morning sighting) also decide to wait and ask us why we are waiting. We tell them the truth and ask them to wait as well. We wait for 30 minutes. Then the driver of our second Gypsy (with my friend Nilanjan) gets a bit impatient and decides to check an area just beyond of where we are waiting. They leave. So do the other Gypsies waiting along with ours. We continue to wait. They come back in 15 mins and seeing us still waiting there, decide to wait out. The time is 4.45pm now.

Soon, there is a good 5-6 vehicles waiting in the narrow Nala and some of the tourists start chattering and losing patience. In our vehicle we have a small discussion and decide to modify our game plan. We surmise that since Nilanjan would be waiting at that spot till 5.30pm (as per original plan), we decide to go back a little a wait further down the road about a kilometer away. We do this with the idea of trying to score a double whammy and bag the Sukhi Patiah female with 2 month old cubs in the gamble (who is expected at the water hold to quench her thirst) and also get the Mukunda family on the move on the road on which we are standing.

We wait at Sukhi Patiah dam positioning our gypsy (keeping the nose of the vehicle) in the general direction of where our other gypsy is waiting (so that if we get hint of any movement, we should not lose time in reversing the vehicle, etc......) . Time progress and its 5.30pm now. I exchange a glance with my driver and guide reminding them about the time and about their prophecy. They seem nonchalant about it. (I get a feeling that they are more interested to track down the Sukhi Patiah female with the 2 cubs). With time running out on the Sukhi Patiah family, we are informed by an incoming gypsy that there has been a tiger movement at the rocks where our other gypsy was waiting (and that they have had a sighting). The following shots taken by Nilanjan.
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Tigeress emerging from the pool of water over the rocks(compare the branches on the left with the oriole tree above)
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I take a mental note of the time in my chronograph. Its 5.32pm !!

We share high-fives in our vehicle at this news (instead of lamenting on a missed sighting opportunity) and decide the next course of action. I vote for waiting and staying put at the Sukhi Patiah dam waiting for the 2 month old cubs. All my friends in my vehicle uphold my decision and we stay put (benefits of travelling with a like minded group of friends). The time is now 5.35pm. By this time, Nilanjan's Tigress is already on the move and after coming out of the water and over the rocks, she immediately took the road by taking a left over the rocks. She is now walking on the road (and gradually coming towards us where we were waiting at the Sukhi Patiah dam) with a procession of 3-4 Gypsies behind her. At this point of time we are still waiting at Sukhi Patiah dam about a kilometer away from your action site. Nilanjan is shooting away to glory from her rear.

He gets a couple of usable shots
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but since the tigress is in front of him, he goes back on his zoom and frames her walking in her habitat.
Last edited by abheekg; Jun 24th, 2011 at 05:52..
#2 Jun 24th, 2011, 04:49
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He goes back to shoot habitat shots.

As we are waiting at the Sukhi Patiah dam, something inside me tells me that we need to go back. Time is 5.40pm now. I discuss with my driver, get a nod of appreciation and dash off towards the incoming tigress. At this time , Nilanjan's Tigress at this point of time must be walking on the road in between bamboo clumps and 3-4 vehicles behind her with Nilanjan getting shots like this:
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With some spirited driving, we reach and find the Tigress side skirting a tree and coming out at a point where a fireline meets a main road (at exactly the same point where her cub was resting under the tree in the morning-see the first and second pic in this narrative).Nilanjan and the other gypsies are still behind the Tigress.

We get a fantastic head on shot of the tigress coming out on the road and for the umpteenth time in this trip establish an eye contact. I get this shot......
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As the Tigress moves ahead through the fireline, she looks back...
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Here we realise that her cub is also walking parallel to her through the bushes. As a bonus, my friend Adwait gets this through the bushes....
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Thats the best part of working in a group with a proper plan of action during tiger sightings.

With 2 tigers around you it can get confusing. My formula is to concentrate on the Tiger in the open and in this process get my umpteenth+1 eye contact shot...
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She side skirts our Gypsy and goes into the bushes. By this time we signal Nilanjan's Gypsy to come parallel with us.
The Tigress emerges out again of the bushes, this time with a partially eaten kill in her mouth.
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...........and 1 casual(me) and 3 budding(Adwait,Safique and Rajan) photographers in our Gypsy shoot her away to glory and in process surprising tourists in the adjoining gypsies with the shutter sounds of 4 pro and semi pro DSLR cameras.
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The rest is history and now gone into Bandhavgad folklore.

A Jubiliant team after the wonderful team exercise:
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#3 Jun 24th, 2011, 04:52
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#3
What an experience, thank you for sharing. I'm soooo envious!
#4 Jun 24th, 2011, 05:06
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A few other notable images from this expedition:

Bison (Nilanjan's Fortuner) under a fiery sky enroute to Bandhavgad. Thanks buddy for the lift.
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Bamera banging Kankati - Photograph by Safique Hazarika (Team-bhp and IM member)
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Our trip coincided at a time when 2 tigers were in mating in Tala zone and we were very fortunate to witness Tiger mating right in front of our eyes.

Post mating fury - Photograph by Adwait Mahajan
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We got to witness the mating sequence of these 2 tigers in 4 out of our 9 drives. The timing of the expedition and the alignment of stars of our fortune was perfect.

Explanation of these 2 photographs: Males of all members of the cat family have backward-facing spines on the penis, which cause pain to the female when he withdraws from her. This helps to stimulate ovulation in the female - female cats are induced ovulators, which means they require the stimulus of mating before their bodies release eggs. Female felids often turn on their mates when they withdraw, snarling and clawing, because of the pain the spines cause them. If you observe felids mating, you will often see the female turn on the male as he dismounts, snarling and clawing at him - this is because his withdrawal hurts her.

Post mating fury - Photograph by Adwait Mahajan
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The above two shots, although chance shots by Adwait (nobody in the group apart from him had these shots) are perfectly natural Tiger behaviour and shots like this can be photographed if one anticipates and waits for the moment.

The lull after the storm - Photograph by Rajan Kinkhede
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Wildboar goring on Langur monkey kill - Photograph by Rajan Kinkhede
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All's well with the health of the family of about 300 Egyptian vultures that I am monitoring over the last 3 years on Jabalpur highway.
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My best catch on this expedition - 2 wolves in Bandhavgad core.
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The wolf sighting was a lifer for me and I believe many Bandhavgad regulars may not have seen a wolf there yet. This sighting was most significant for me and along with the tigress with kill sequence made my trip.
#5 Jun 24th, 2011, 05:38
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#5

What ails Bandhavgad today ?

What ails Bandhavgad today ? (written with inputs from Rajan, Adwait, Safique and Kausikda):

Bandhavgarh National park is famous for its high tiger sightings. We experienced this bliss in this trip spanning 4 drives in the park. In our expedition, we managed to get multiple sightings of 11 different tigers in 5 days! It is said to be due to a very high density of tigers. Great for tourists, but not so great for the tigers. We were highly impressed by the discipline, order and management of the forest department. The government and forest department of Madhya Pradesh are certainly very serious about preserving the wildlife in the state. A couple of things, however, irked us. The villages adjacent to the park and inside the park are well inside territories of tigers. High fences are being built to keep the cattle inside and the tigers outside. Often, we could see villagers (read, cattle herding children) walk inside the forest. Forest guides told us stories of how a famous wildlife photographer just missed the shot of a tiger killing a man. We are all barbarians and still want to see that, don’t we? And stories of how the old B2 jumps over the 8 feet tall fence, kills a cow, and throws it back over the fence. “They are at their own risk. If the cattle or them are killed or hurt inside the forest area, they get no compensation” was the justification from the guides. Aren’t we forgetting about irate and semi-educated villagers who would probably poison the tiger?

Catle in Bandhavgad (photo courtesy: Shubham Dubey & Akash Nagar)
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Cattle in Bandhavgad on B route just before fireline (photo courtesy: Shubham Dubey & Akash Nagar)
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During all 5 days of our visit, we saw cattles loitering everywhere in the jungle. Many times there would be deer or langur alarm calls going on for a Tiger and the cattle with their herders would be standing mute spectators to the drama. Bandhavgad tigers are killing more cattle than deer of late and thus a very big problem has arisen in the park which has grown out of proportions. See the discussion below this note http://www.facebook.com/notes/abheek...26892460671958 on facebook for more insight into this issue.

B2, now old, but remained a most flamboyant celebrity tiger for a long time is now surviving only on cattle’s. All our guides (local villagers) agreed that trend is increasing towards killing more and more cattles even if there is no dearth of preys (we saw lot of herbivores). No wonder why cattle are favorite not for old but for many big-cats in the park. Because the cattle - easy target is abundant everywhere. Compensation per cattle (irrespective of size etc) is Rs. 2000-3000, whereas the prevailing market price is upto Rs.20000. This alone is sufficient to carry on the looming risk of poisoning cattle very high even today.

‘Save the tiger’ movement is gaining strength. Everyone, from film stars to facebook addicts are preaching it. And it appears to be working. The official count has gone up and there are plenty of reports of ‘cute little cubs’. The question is how is this growth to be sustained? The tiger is a solitary animal. The tourist friendly ‘high tiger density’ concept doesn’t appeal to a tiger. As both the human and tiger population increases, the land over which they rule still remains the same.

The fence around the park is also a big issue for both the Tigers and the authorities. See why and how (file photos off google)
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Lets tackle a real time case:

This is a subadult tiger cub whom we saw during the morning round on 7 June as reported in my first post. We saw him crossing the road right in front of our gypsy.
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This guy is fast growing into a confident Tiger. But a week after our visit we came to know that the female sibling of this Tiger was killed in a territorial fight (As the news came in last week I had reported the same in my Pench thread Documenting the growth of 5 Tiger cubs in Pench Tiger Reserve : 2011-2013 but later investigations revealed that it was not the male cub but a female cub which had died).

We read the following in agency reports in the newspapers : A female cub was killed by some other tiger in the night of 10-11 june. Forest Guards at Machkheta says they heard some tiger fighting in middle of night. Tourists saw some pugmarks of Tiger and drag mark on road. They found the tiger by following those drag marks. She was bitten on her chest and right armpit. A portion of her body was eaten. Her intestines were out and all over her body.

Question is who killed her?
A female Tiger killed her or the male or its the dispute over a tiny kill with her brothers? The incidence has already been forgotten and we don't have any answers yet.

Footnote by Kausik Saha
All the while I had been hearing about tiger-tiger conflicts in Bhandavgarh. Interesting stories no doubt, but the question is why did I not hear such stories in Pench or Kanha or Tadoba? Do they not happen there? Or the tiger density in other parks do not trigger territorial fights between them? Or is it that I did not hear about these incidents elsewhere. This is a question that has been bugging me. If it is something that is more frequent in Bgarh, then definitely its a cause of concern.
The issue of the survival of the cubs is also related to the above - in my opinion. More tigers in an area - and the cubs are seen as potential danger by some young budding tiger. So the easiest option is to clear the obstacles while they are young.
Another issue about Bgarh is the proximity of the boundaries to the villages. While in the safari, suddenly you look up and you see habitation on the other side of a fence which even a child can cross!! This rings an alarm bell. Is there any necessity of the people co-existing with the tigers? Project Tiger has been started for a few decades now and definitely these issues should have been handled by now.

Here's enlisting the problem with Bandhavgad tigers as I (Dr. Abheek Ghosh) understand it:

Right after the park opened for tourists this season last october 2011, problems seem to be compounding and growing exponentially in Bandhavgad. First, the young male tiger known as Kallu disappeared. No one knows his fate, perhaps he will reappear one day? Second B2 has reaffirmed his presence in the Ghorademon and Banbehi area now the young pretender is no more. Third, Chakradhara's 14 year old tigress Pyari and her three cubs are gone from the Tala Zone for good. No one knows where the four are and no one in authority seems that concerned. Fourth, Rajbehra has been taken over after Durga's death by one of her daughters we now call Jaya(D5). Fifth, the second daughter now called Vijaya (D4) has taken Chakradhara and had pushed Lakshmi to the very edge of her territory in Chorbehra and Dobhiakhol.

A poor Laksmi / Chorbehera tigress (langdi) kept on spending alot of time outside in Khitauli Range over the main road killing cattle and was finally killed by Kankati in a territorial fight as she encroached on her area leaving her subadult cubs orphaned who have resorted to killing cattle. Then Bamera started roaming all over Bandhavgad and is on the verge of wiping out B2 (B2 days are numbered for sure). And then this tigress being killed by somebody or something in Magdhi. Mirchiani male cubs, Mukunda male cub - on the verge of adulthood have to look out for a marauding Bamera.

Man-animal-cattle coflict along with shrinking forests and depletion of corridors for natural movement of animals is rearing its head in a big way.


Is there no solution in sight ?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I hope you have all enjoyed reading this trip report.
For the ease of forum members who are not aware of Tiger families in Bandhavgad I am compiling a Tiger id chart which I will subsequently upload on this thread.

I will be going back to Bandhavgad in November and December 2011 (2 expeditions)after the park opens after rains .
Let me know if anyone wants to join me.

Dr. A Ghosh
Last edited by aarosh; May 2nd, 2012 at 15:56.. Reason: to add text
#6 Jun 25th, 2011, 14:38
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Loved the report Abheek. Really interesting read about your analysis of the Bandhavgarh problem and also the wolves.

Cheers,
Kartik
#7 Jun 25th, 2011, 15:19
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Comprehensive trip report with excellent pictures. Also you have highlighted the problems faced in Bandhavgarh in a detailed manner.

Man Animal conflict needs to be tackled. Some of the solutions are to offer the villagers alternate livelihood, increase cattle compensation, better wild life awareness & some genuine concern for Wildlife by politicians.

Ronak.
#8 Jun 25th, 2011, 15:22
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Duplicate post Deleted.
#9 Jul 9th, 2011, 19:01
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abheekg View Post Here's enlisting the problem with Bandhavgad tigers as I (Dr. Abheek Ghosh) understand it:

Right after the park opened for tourists this season last october 2011, problems seem to be compounding and growing exponentially in Bandhavgad. First, the young male tiger known as Kallu disappeared. No one knows his fate, perhaps he will reappear one day? Second B2 has reaffirmed his presence in the Ghorademon and Banbehi area now the young pretender is no more. Third, Chakradhara's 14 year old tigress Pyari and her three cubs are gone from the Tala Zone for good. No one knows where the four are and no one in authority seems that concerned. Fourth, Rajbehra has been taken over after Durga's death by one of her daughters we now call Jaya(D5). Fifth, the second daughter now called Vijaya (D4) has taken Chakradhara and had pushed Lakshmi to the very edge of her territory in Chorbehra and Dobhiakhol.

A poor Laksmi / Chorbehera tigress (langdi) kept on spending alot of time outside in Khitauli Range over the main road killing cattle and was finally killed by Kankati in a territorial fight as she encroached on her area leaving her subadult cubs orphaned who have resorted to killing cattle. Then Bamera started roaming all over Bandhavgad and is on the verge of wiping out B2 (B2 days are numbered for sure). And then this tigress being killed by somebody or something in Magdhi. Mirchiani male cubs, Mukunda male cub - on the verge of adulthood have to look out for a marauding Bamera.
My dear friends,
Let me be the forebearer of another bad news from bandhavgad. Future visitors to bandhavgad will not be able to see the Mirchiani cubs in their natural environment. The 2 subadult male cubs have been shifted to Bhopal zoo after being branded as man eaters.

In the last 2 weeks these 2 cubs have killed and eaten 2 human beings around bandhavgad. The last nail in the coffin was added yesterday when they killed another human and ate everything but head.

These 2 cubs were regularly lifting cattle from damna village and were getting into regular conflict with the humans around Bandhavgad.

Here are a few pics of these cubs that we shot last winter.


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regards,
Dr. A Ghosh
#10 Jul 9th, 2011, 19:11
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Just too sad for words! What to say?
#11 Jul 9th, 2011, 19:30
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That's really sad news. But if they were not shifted then the villagers would have revolted.

Ronak.
#12 Jul 12th, 2011, 20:35
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I would liek to join you for expedition in december. Is it just a tentative plan right now or you have some dates in mind?
#13 Jul 16th, 2011, 04:01
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#13
Very interesting posts Abheek; thank you.

It sounds as though the problem that has existed for some years - high productivity but little chance of dispersal - continues. Add to this increasing pressure of encroachment and it doesn't look good in the long term.

Might you have room for an English ecologist on one of your trips later this year? I'd be very interested in joining you.

Regards
Mike
#14 Aug 2nd, 2011, 05:28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by original.clone View Post I would liek to join you for expedition in december. Is it just a tentative plan right now or you have some dates in mind?
Hi
I do have some dates in mind. Why don't you call me on my number or write me a mail at dr.ghosh at gmail.com and lets discuss this out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikewill View Post Very interesting posts Abheek; thank you.

It sounds as though the problem that has existed for some years - high productivity but little chance of dispersal - continues. Add to this increasing pressure of encroachment and it doesn't look good in the long term.

Might you have room for an English ecologist on one of your trips later this year? I'd be very interested in joining you.

Regards
Mike
Dar Mike
This problem has existed from a long time. In the past this wasn't a problem and tribals used to happily co-exist along with wildlife, but now with increasing pressures of urbanization, the cities and towns around the forests are encroaching on our forests and as such our forests are becoming landlocked. In the past where animals used to have huge corridors of movement evn outside the forests, there are none today and the moment they come out of the forest, they come in conflict with man - which happened in the case above.

Loss of forest habitat now appears to be a major risk to the wild tiger's survival in India. Check this out http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/...ow/9429788.cms

A friend of ours has recently communicated with the PCCF of Madhya Pradesh regarding the two young male tigers that are now incarcerated in Bhopal zoo.

Regretfully he is NOT prepared to have them released back in to the wild and his message is as follows:- "Dear Sir,
I think we discussed this matter last time also. We feel that these animals cannot be taken to any other park as the risk to human life will be too great. We appreciate your concerns, kindly appreciate ours. Panna is growing as per our plans already, we cannot mess it up by taking problem animals there.
Thanks.
HS Pabla"


The cubs as they are now in cages :
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@mike: please feel free to drop me an email or call me with your plans as per your convenience.

regards,
Dr. A Ghosh
#15 Aug 2nd, 2011, 20:20
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#15
How different the cubs look in cages. Their right place is out in the wild.

Ronak.
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