Tracking a Tiger in the Jungle

19 Jul

Unlike in a zoo, a tiger sighting in a jungle safari is never assured or guaranteed, as it all depends on where the tiger is at that point in time. And the movement of the tiger is dependent on numerous factors such as – low tiger density, the area the tiger has to roam around in is vast and only specific limited areas are open for public (the tiger has to be where you are), the weather (in rains they retreat deeper into the forests), the topography (can’t see them amidst dense forests), your luck (even during the same safari some see the tiger and some people don’t), etc etc.

The walk of a 3 year old grown up cub, Kanha National Park

The walk of a 3 year old grown up cub, Kanha National Park

But there are some interesting time-tested methods of tiger tracking that the locals and the guides use to make your sighting a successful one. Though I really tried employing all of these below mentioned methods, I truly sucked at it and unless someone specifically pointed the tiger out to me, I couldn’t see anything. Still it was super fun trying and I am listing the same as a guide for your next trip –

  • Past Sightings – Before the safari itself the guides and locals speak and exchange notes on the areas in which a tiger has most recently been spotted.  Tigers are territorial creatures, usually stick to their territories and some tigers are pretty predictable in their movements. The locals and guides know the behavior of these tigers and short list the zone to visit based on this. They also keep exchanging notes with other guides they meet during the safari.
Close up of the female tiger, Kanha National Park. Photo courtesy - Amit Panariya

Close up of the female tiger, Kanha National Park. Photo courtesy – Amit Panariya

  • Think like a Tiger –  Once you reach that particular zone, the guides think like a tiger and estimate what the tiger will be up to. If its sunny and hot, then tiger will be near a water source or enjoying somewhere in the shade of trees. If its early morning then he will most probably be out on a hunt or have hunted in the night and be somewhere enjoying the kill. And based on the answers to above you need to visit the relevant areas within that zone.
Tiger Pug Marks

Tiger Pug Marks

  • Look for Signs – During the drive be on a look out for any signs of the tiger like fresh pug marks (the famous design), dung / faeces (tiger dung is quite distinct and contains undigested hair and bones), scratches on lower bark of trees (done to mark territory and sharpen claws), carcass of prey (if its unfinished the tiger will return to finish it), fleeing animals, etc. The freshness of these marks tells you when the tiger has passed by and then the guides estimate how far they would have traveled.
Tiger claw mark on trees - Pic Courtesy - Treknature at  http://www.treknature.com/gallery/Asia/India/photo153646.htm

Tiger claw mark on trees – Pic Courtesy – Treknature at http://www.treknature.com/gallery/Asia/India/photo153646.htm

  • Alarm Calls – This  is the most important and used method by all guides to find the tiger.  Listen to the sounds of the jungle and especially the loud, panicky or piercing calls of animals trying to warn other animals about the movement of the tiger. Each animal be it deer, langurs, elephants, birds etc gives its own distinguishable alarm call as soon as it senses a tiger in the vicinity.
A grown up female tiger, Kanha National Park. Photo courtesy - Amit Panariya

A grown up female tiger, Kanha National Park. Photo courtesy – Amit Panariya

  • Tracking Equipment – In some parks, there are tracking devices such as collars, GPS, cameras etc that help determine the real-time location of the tigers and all the guides need to do is make a phone call and reach that area. But I feel this kills all the fun of the jungle experience.

However be mentally prepared that despite everything being in your favor, you might still not sight a tiger. And if you don’t see the tiger then its still not end of the world or the trip is not a failure. Instead, enjoy the other wonders that the jungle has to offer – the beautiful landscape, call of the birds, behaviour of the animals, variety of insects, colors of flowers, and the delicate balance and inter dependence of this entire ecosystem.

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15 Responses to “Tracking a Tiger in the Jungle”

  1. Uncle Spike July 19, 2014 at 14:06 #

    Spent hours in the back of freezing cold open jeeps without seeing ANY tigers – I know what you mean 🙂

    Like

    • getsetandgo July 19, 2014 at 14:11 #

      Try in the summers sometime. The heat is bad but chances are higher 🙂

      Like

      • Uncle Spike July 19, 2014 at 14:35 #

        Hmm, yes we went in mid January…

        Like

  2. Geraint Isitt July 19, 2014 at 23:49 #

    I have this planned for next March, when I’ve been told by experts is a good time. I’m off to Kruger in South Africa in August to hopefully get a better photo of that elusive leopard I’ve been after. Then on to the tiger. Excellent post.

    Like

    • getsetandgo August 10, 2014 at 22:33 #

      Thanks and I wish you all the best for the sightings 🙂

      Like

      • Geraint Isitt August 17, 2014 at 09:05 #

        I’m back and saw some excellent sightings.

        Like

      • getsetandgo August 28, 2014 at 15:00 #

        Now I want to plan a trip to Africa too 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Geraint Isitt August 31, 2014 at 09:08 #

        I will gladly help plan that trip to Africa!!

        Like

      • getsetandgo August 31, 2014 at 22:04 #

        Thanks 🙂

        Like

  3. Juliana Lightle July 24, 2014 at 19:00 #

    My ten year old grandson loved this.

    Like

  4. roweeee September 8, 2014 at 16:47 #

    As a keen photographer, I can relate to the huge desire of wanting to capture the shot, especially when you’ve traveled a long way and spent a fortune to get there as well as the disappointment of missing out. Your post gives some great tips for increasing your chances and also pointing out all the other things you experience along the way. There’s a John Lennon quote something to the effect of life is what you live while making other plans. Rowena

    Like

  5. Lucy November 3, 2014 at 22:34 #

    What a wonderful experience. They are such beautiful animals!

    Like

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