Its summer again, its May again, its Buddha Purnima again, its waterhole machan census time at Pench Maharashtra again…..
Like the previous years, this year again Pench Tiger Reserve Maharashtra is organising Waterhole Machan Census on Buddha Purnima from morning of 21st May 2016 till the morning of 22nd May 2016. Machan Census 2016 shall be conducted in the jungles of Pench Tiger Reserve Maharashtra (East and West), Bor Tiger Reserve, Umred-Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, Tippeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary and Painganga Wildlife Sanctuary.
For wildlife lovers, this is one of the best opportunities to get a thorough and rugged experience of the jungle, not only during the day but also at the pitch of the dark night. One can spend full 24 hours inside the core areas of the protected jungles (most of which are closed for tourists) and observe the wildlife from a makeshift machan top, temporarily constructed near a waterhole especially for the machan census. Each participant escorted with a forest guard, after a brief training session, is allotted and dropped at a machan and is required to make a note and keep a count of animals visiting the nearby waterhole – including both the predators and the prey.
Just the remembrance of previous years’ participation pumps up the adrenalin rush in my blood veins. The green grass, blue sky, strong winds, shaking machan and the various faces of the jungle during different times of the day can never be forgotten. My last year’s participation reminds of how the weather in the jungle which was calm and peaceful during the afternoon, in no time by the evening turned windy and stormy with strong winds appearing to be blowing from all directions. The peace of the afternoon made the atmosphere lull but the sounds of the animals including the herds of Cheetals, Sambars, a few Blue Bulls and a large number of black faced Langoors visiting the waterhole to quench their thirst by the evening more than made up for it. The icing on the cake was when little before the sunset, out of nowhere 2 Tiger cubs were sighted in the playful mood just around 200 metres from our machan.
Then came out the moon with the setting of the sun. Being a Buddh Purnima night with full moon, it was expected to be a well-lit night, but the dark clouds, strong winds, thunderstorm and occasional raindrops never allowed the moon to be out in the open except for the first 2 hours after sunset. It was sheer darkness after that when we could just assume the movement of a few animals on the jungleroads leading to the waterhole near our machan. The silence of the night in the jungle was often disturbed by the sound of the nocturnal animals and aquatic birds, one of which still echoes in my ears, when I get up at night even in the concrete jungle far away from the greens. Warning alarm calls of Sambars and Cheetals from far and near were heard in regular intervals for the whole night, indicating the presence of a predator – some Big Cat probably a Tiger which moves across its territory for the whole night.
The clear sky of the morning was greeted with the chirping of birds of various species which made the jungle so full of life. It was as if the beautiful creatures with wings were singing their heart out to thank the almighty for another beautiful day. With the first ray of light, our eyes started searching the Tiger cubs at the place where they were sighted the previous evening. The movement in the bushes confirmed their presence but they were in no mood to come out in the open. Presence of the Tiger cubs nearby, built our hopes for sighting the Tigress which though remained a hope for the next year’s census. The forest guard’s walkie-talkie beeped and a message for pack-up was received. It was time for us to walk up to the road where the canter had dropped us the previous morning and as we got down of our machan and started walking towards the road, just a few metres from the machan, we were surprised to see the pugmarks of a fully grown sloth bear who must have visited the waterhole early in the morning before sunrise. The jungle has a lot in store, anytime and every time and this was proved again when we had to take a detour with an extra walk of over 10 minutes just to avoid a group of over 20 Indian Gaurs on our way, who were out for their morning breakfast. Whether its day or night – the jungle never sleeps.
Click here to download the form for participation in Waterhole Machan Census 2016 at Pench.
# aloke sharma | forester | JungleRoads