Ranthambhore : Water Hole Animal Census, tigers, forts and more....

DKay

Super User
About Water Hole Census

On the first full moon night of May every year Water Hole Census for all animals is carried out at Ranthambhore. This year in May the full moon was falling on 06/05/2012 and the census was to start on the morning of the full moon night at 1000hrs and would continue throught out that day and night till 1000 hrs on the 07/05/2012.

Though the camera trap and the pug mark way of counting continues throughout the year, this is a way to get an approximate numbers of the other animals apart from the tiger present in the park. The theory behind this census is that on hot sunny days in May all the animals will visit the water holes atleast once during the day to quench their thirst. So those who come to or around the watering holes have to be counted.

The park invites applications from volunteers who are willing to brave the heat and sit on Machaans erected on all the watering holes (around 300) for counting purpose. Each volunteer is then assigned a machaan along with a forest guard or a guide for the counting purpose.

Our Preparation


We were a group of 12 that were supposed to go for the census. We had already submitted our names to the DFO’s office a week prior to the event. For me this was a first but a few others in our group had been for the census a few times before also. In accordance with them we sent out an email to our group with all the preparations.

I am attaching the mail sent to the group here, so that anyone who is interested in going for such an event can have all the things to take along as handy

OUTLINE OF THE PLAN
- Departure - 05/05/2012, Saturday Evening 1500hrs -We shall all collect at Starboard Guesthouse (the address is given below in the mail) at 1430hrs.
- Hope to reach Sawai Madhopur latest by 1600 hrs
- Relax in the hotel, have a good night sleep and be fresh for the next day
- Next morning have breakfast at the hotel/ freshen up and proceed to DFO’s office latest by 0730 hrs
- Have packed lunch of paranthas picked up from the hotel
- Split into groups as assigned by the officials and proceed to assigned chowkis/ machaans in forest vehicles
- spend the day & night there counting animals ( yeah we have to work too )
- Leave the park by midday on 07/05/2012 and check in a hotel
- have lunch & relax
- 07/05/2012 evening proceed to Jaipur

MONEY MATTERS

We are planning to have a pool with equal contributions from all the members and this pool will cover the expense of the accommodation (hotel) fuel and Food. We have calculated that the contribution will be around RsXXXX/- per person. One of us will handle the money and will make payments on our behalf. Ofcourse whatever money left over will be refunded.

LOGISTICS
At the moment we have not decided on who all are taking their cars. But since we are 12 we will need atleast 3 cars.

COMMON FOOD/ ITEMS
Usually the forest officials provide food for the volunteers at the chwoki’s or machaans. But some time the food packets don’t reach or also could be that the food quality is not that great. So just to be on the safe side we have already bought a few food items on behalf of the group. These items will be shared amongst us and distributed as per our postings in the jungle. The list of what we have bought is is as follows. If its not consumed by you, you can always gift it to the gaurds at the Chowki’s/ Machaans
- tea bags, dairy whitener, sugar cubes for tea
- MTR pre cooked Paneer Masala and MTR pre cooked Dal Makhani
- Cup noodles
- Assorted biscuits and assorted Namkeen packets
- disposable cups/plates/spoons/tissue
- Few large plastic bags for garbage disposal (Please do not litter, use these bags to carry your garbage back)
- we have also bought 4 odomos tubes for us

INDIVIDUAL ITEMS
Following are only suggestions from us, so you guys are free to add, remove, substract, cut anything from the list. But just make sure your individual items can be carried in a small rucksack/ bagpack that can be carried on your shoulder.
1. Torch
2. Swiss knife
3. Lighter
4. Days change, slippers & Towels (yes we plan to have a bath using the borewll water at the Chowki, should be fun)
5. Still Cameras, video cameras & Binoculars
6. Medicine’s – kindly carry general medicines like headache, tummy ache, vomiting, fever etc etc for you
7. Toiletries – As required (plss note: - do not carry perfume sprays or you will have no animals coming your way) Deo sticks are good.
8. Pen – you will have to fill forms
9. Wet wipes, hand sanitizers, soap strips
10. Cap, hats & sun glasses to protect you from the sun. Any cream upwards of SPF 15 will also help.
11. WATER: - well carry atleast 2 ltrs of water to start with; this can be replenished at the Machaan/ chowki
I hope I have not missed out on anything and my mail is more or less clear to you guys. If not then you are most welcome to either call me (number listed below) or mail me back on the same id.

We are also planning to meet on Friday so that we can fine tune the programme a bit more if required.

And if you have gone through this lengthy mail and reached till here, I thank you for reading!!

Regards
Dhiraj
With all the preparation done, as decided, on Saturday 05/05/12 we moved towards Ranthambhore. The route that we took was Jaipur – Chaksu – Kothun (left from here) – Lalsot – Sawai Madhopur – Ranthambhore.

It took us about 3.5 hrs to reach our hotel. Well the road is generally good except a few kms of really bad road 2 kms before reaching lalsot. Usually it takes about 2.5 hrs but since we were 3 cars everyone wanted to take breaks at different times, have tea etc etc en route.

Once settled at the hotel, a few of us went to the DFO’s office to see if they had already made the list and also to see where all we were allotted. We were surprised to find out that none of our names appeared at any machaans or chowki’s even though we had submitted them a week back and re confirmed a few days back.

Anyway, the officer confirmed that its still not late and he will ensure that our names will appear in the list. But what he told us was that each one of us will be separated and all of us will get only machaans and not chowki’s. We were anyways prepared for that.

He told us to report at sharp 0630 hrs in the morning tomorrow.

Back at the hotel we distributed the common stuff to everyone and the rest of the evening was spent chilling and relaxing in anticipation for tomorrow.
 

DKay

Super User
Sunday - 06/05/2012

Next morning everyone was up and most of us were ready by 0630 hrs to proceed to the DFO’s office. At that time the office wore a deserted look. But to the credit of the officers, they were present but just a hand full of volunteers was to be seen. The list was not put up yet, so all of us were quite excited to know where each one of us was posted. Slowly and steadily as the time passed people started to gather. By 0830 hrs it was total chaos at the DFO’s office as around 500 men, women, boys, girls, guides, guards, officers and all other wanted to know where they were supposed to be, with who and what will be their mode of transport to the assigned place.

By 0900 hrs it was already getting way to hot, must be around 38 degrees already. This was an indication to what we had in-store for the rest of the day. What was nice to see that the Forest dept had ordered 100’s of cool water campers that were to be distributed to each volunteer. Seeing cold water supply was already a big relief. We could also see food and snack packets that were to be distributed as well.

Finally the list was out. But to our disappointment our names did not feature anywhere on the list. We got this to the notice of the official who calmly told us that we will be adjusted at vacant machaans as there will be loads of volunteers who do not turn up. In the mean while we had to fill an indemnity form stating that we as volunteers are solely responsible for any unfortunate event that might happen during our stay in the jungle. We were also given printed sheets with the list of animals we were supposed to count. The sheets were separate for carnivores and herbivores and the counting was supposed to be done of the animals as per different time slots.

Finally at 1000hrs the Field Director took everyone’s briefing and explained the do’s and dont’s and the importance of the census. Various animals present in the park were explained and their photos shown so that it would be easy for us to identify them.

Finally after the briefing we were allotted a canter that will take us into the park. None of us yet was assigned a machaan and we were suppose to go to Indala Chowki and from there we were to be distributed to various machaans in Indala area. There were lots of other folks from every walk of life in our canter. Young boys and girls, elderly people, the rich and the not so rich, all shared the same canter. Everybody was braving the heat and that was only because that everyone felt for the wild life and had a special place for the jungle in their heart.

Now for some pics so far

Ready with our bag packs in the morning
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Filling up the indemnity bond
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Vishwas (he has done census 5 times) briefing us
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The chaos outside DFO's office
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Food packets
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Water containers
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Checking names in the list
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Forest officials taking our briefing
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Sitting in the canter to be transported in the jungle.
A small trivia: Can you identify the man in the circle, he is a very famous personality in the pop industry
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To be contd......
 
C

cheguevara

Guest
So here it begins.... :)

BRING IT ON DKay....

Got it :)

Amit Kilam from Indian Ocean...was he also a part of the Census?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

DKay

Super User
Got it :)

Amit Kilam from Indian Ocean...was he also a part of the Census?
You bet he was Che!! As I said in my previous post, the love for the wild is much bigger than the stature of the person. I was hinting at him. This dude, with his friends, spent the day in sweltering heat, must be 43 (felt like 45), so you can imagine.

I happened to strike a conversation with him and did not realise who he was till I asked him what he did!! Was kinda embarrassing, but he was great to talk too!!
 
C

cheguevara

Guest
You bet he was Che!! As I said in my previous post, the love for the wild is much bigger than the stature of the person. I was hinting at him. This dude, with his friends, spent the day in sweltering heat, must be 43 (felt like 45), so you can imagine.

I happened to strike a conversation with him and did not realise who he was till I asked him what he did!! Was kinda embarrassing, but he was great to talk too!!
I can imagine your embarrassment... :)

And I am sure he is as pure and simple just like IO's music !!!
 

DKay

Super User
Sunday Contd....

Finally our canter moved towards the Jungle. Instead of using the regular Gaumukh gate we were to enter the jungle from Guda Ghati Gate. The canter kept on dropping volunteers as and when we passed by their assigned machaans . The volunteers were either to be joined by a forest guard later or if they had friends they could ask them to join.

Basically what they called machaans were just a few logs kept on tree branches. These logs were tied together but were never secured properly. These machaans were at a distance of about 5 to 20 feet from the watering hole. The machaans were about 10 feet up from the ground and as we all know, 10 feet is hardly a jump for a spirited carnivore. Well, this was not the time to think about all this, it was time for the volunteers to make them as comfortable as they can up there and hope for the best.

After wishing them best, one by one, we dropped people off at machaans and carried on. At a junction our group going to Indala Plateau was asked to stay on the same canter and the rest that were suppose to go to another area were asked to change to a different canter.

Indala is basically a plateau that used to have farm land and villages till the year 2005. It had to be reclaimed and the villages had to be relocated once the tiger population started to increase. Over the period of 7 years the plateau has developed into a thick jungle and has lots of prey and also boasts of about 3/4 tigers/ess. It also has a big population of sloth bears and since it’s the closest to civilization there are a few leopards also there. This area is not yet open to tourists hence the animals there are not used to vehicles on the tracks, so they just run away hearing any engine noise

This is a google map image of our way to Indala Chowki
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Once we were up on the plateau hot air really started to hit us. It was simmering and whatever little life we saw was all below resting under whatever shade they could find.

Soon we reached Indala Chowki. At the chowki 6 of us were assigned machaans immediately so the canter went off to drop them. The rest of us were hoping that they would allow us to stay there as the flat floor of a chowki was much more comfortable a place to stay than the logs of a machaan. We quickly had our paranthas that we had got packed from the hotel and got down to our work of counting the animals that we could spot from there.

At about 150 mtrs from the chowki was a small water hole that was visible. Few herbivores dared the sweltering summer sun and were heading towards it cautiously. I was amazed that from 150 mtrs also they could hear us whisper to each other. They were really really cautious.

But our stay at chowki was short lived. 2 of us had to move out from there as there were 2 other machaans that were still unmanned. The gaurds were sweet and gave us an option of choosing between the 2 machaans. Since the canter had left we had the option of going to the machaan on foot or on a water tanker that fills water in the watering holes. Well we chose the later.

The water tanker dropped us close to the first machaan and went to fill up water. We still had to walk to the machaan. On our way we say fresh Sloth Bear scat. We got on guard but the forest guy who was walking with us was as unperturbed as if it’s a walk in the park. The thick throny undergrowth and beating sun was all adding to the agony. Soon we saw the machaan and were very disappointed. The machaan was overlooking a small watering hole in a ravine. There were lot of trees blocking the view and spotting anything would not have been possible. So after some deliberation we decided to go to the other machaan that was suggested to us.

We had to walk back to the place where the tanker had dropped us and had to wait while it returned. Passing time was not a big deal as the forest guard had lots of interesting escapades to tell us. Once the tanker returned we boarded it and moved to the next chowki. Actually moving around in a tractor in the jungle was an event on its own.

The next machaan was actually not a machaan. It was a 1 meter wide and 5 feet high wall erected on the edge of the plateau. One one side of the wall on the plateu was the jungle and the other side of the wall was a straight drop of 1000 meters. We were on the edge of the jungle.

Anyway, this wall seemed better as atleast we had a clear view of the jungle, and since it was on a cliff we would have some nice breese blowing. Also its much easier to rest the bum on a wall than on logs. So it was decided that this would be our home for tonight, now only the animals had to come and we had to count them

Some pics so far

Canter dropping volunteers at their machaans. Notice the logs kept on branches!!!
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Groups getting divided to go to various areas
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It was very hot, any shaded place was well utilized
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Rest of our group leaving Indala Chowki for their machaans
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Watering hole visible from Indala Chowki. The animals approached it cautiously
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Having a drink
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It was time to check out our machaan
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Had to walk to reach the machaan
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Fresh Bear Scat that gave us the jitters
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The machaan was on the only green tree in that area
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Our guard showing us that it had a proper Charpai instead of logs
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But we decided against that machaan and waited for the tractor to pick us up to take to the other machaan
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Ride on the tractor
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Our home for tonight
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Google earth view of where we were placed
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to be contd…….
 
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