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A Wilderness's Rebirth : Umped Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary (Maharashtra, INDIA)


The Territory
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A Wilderness's Rebirth :

 

As a group of wildlife enthusiasts in India, it is truly inspiring to witness the transformation of a lesser known yet an extremely important wilderness of the country turn into a major attraction for not only nature lovers but for a layman as well. Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, now popularly known as UKWLS, is currently the most sought after wildlife destination in the country. It is a tremendous achievement for the wilderness given its location and its close proximity to some of country’s most famous National Parks and Tiger Reserves. Situated at a distance of 50 kms approx.(an hour by road) from the city of Nagpur, in the Indian State of Maharashtra, the forest was declared as a wildlife sanctuary back in June 2012. The main reason being the presence of the king of Indian Jungles, the Bengal Tiger. It was a delightful news for all the wildlife savvy individuals, mainly those , in the western part of the country. For the first 1.5 – 2 years, UKWLS had a sluggish start as it was always considered as an optional add on for majority of the wildlife lovers who visited this part of the country for the more recognized National Parks or Tiger Reserves like Tadoba, Pench or Kanha due to a couple of reasons (a.) the area was comparatively less; 189 sq kms looks way too tiny when compared to Tadoba (700 sq kms of core area) and the other National Parks around and (b.) the scarcity of good accommodations in the area. Then came the turning point in the history of UKWLS. A male tiger named Jay, touted to be Maharashtra’s largest Tiger at the moment, and some say he may well be in for the top slot as the country’s largest Tiger too, made a superstar like appearance in UKWLS. Whether or not, he is indeed the largest Tiger in the country or in Maharashtra, is something we would leave it up to the wildlife experts and big cat enthusiasts to debate on, however what was important was his huge size and his sudden presence in the sanctuary. To top it all, this enormous brute was more than happy to oblige the visitors with a glimpse of his royal behaviour more often than not. In fact he made it a point to welcome or see off the Safari vehicles by sitting bang in the middle of the Safari track. UKWLS already had 4 tigers before Jay’s arrival, with an equal male-female ratio. As expected, Jay pushed the 2 resident males out of the core territory due to his towering size and became the only dominant male in this vast wilderness. It is believed that he also lured a tigress from the Pench Tiger Reserve taking the female tally to 3. The scene was now set for Jay to stamp his dominance over his newly acquired territory that was spread across 180 odd sq kms, way larger than an average male tiger, but Jay was no ordinary Tiger. In a span on the next 6 months he spent ample amount of time with all 3 tigresses and Jay’s next generation was well on its way. Within no time, there were 13 tigers in UKWLS which included Jay, the 3 tigresses and 9 cubs. With no other male in the surrounding area there wasn’t much of a threat to these cubs. They started growing and so did UKWLS’s popularity. They quickly started following their father’s footsteps and were very bold right from a tender age to face the tourists and the safari vehicles. That was the triggering point that shot up UKWLS as a dream destination for the wildlife lovers.

Today UKWLS is a Tiger hub, with the cubs now around 15-20 months old they have acquired huge sizes, and even at this tender age almost all of them dwarf their mothers. They have now started actively participating in the hunts and it is one hell of a sight to see these large groups of Tigers take down prey as large as a Gaur or a Nilgai with ease. The prey base is now in check and with the reduction in the grazing rate, it may well improve the soil holding capacity of the forest thereby making it healthier in terms of the eco-system. Visitors throng the sanctuary to get a glimpse of these wonderful creatures and they are not disappointed at all. This is once again, a classic example of the tremendous importance a Tiger holds in the entire ecosystem and how its presence benefits the entire jungle. As the cubs will turn into adults in the next 6-8 months they will venture out in search of their own territories and thus benefitting the surrounding vegetation as well.

It may be safe to say that Jay could well be the game changer as far as UKWLS’s fortunes are concerned and who knows, Maharashtra would boast of another Tiger reserve in the State. In any which way Jay has given a re-birth to UKWLS and we wish the sanctuary continues to prosper.

 

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Welcome to Safaritalk, @@The Territory . India is a fascinating continent, one that I have still not been to, so reading aout its wildlife is always appreciated.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have recently been researching a possible trip to a few of the wildlife sanctuaries near Nagpur and UKWLS popped up on my radar. I was therefore interested in your piece. However, I was wondering whether you have ever been there or were mertely relying on third party reports. Forgive my scepticism. It arises because a tour operator in whom I have some faith looked into a possible visit for me (at my suggestion) and his "excellent local ground handlers" strongly advised against it although I was told that that locally-situated Nagzira could be worth a look. The tiger, Jay, certainly put UKWLS on the map and he may well have sired a good number of progeny there. However, I find it strange that you didn't mention that this particular animal apparently hasn't been seen in the sanctuary for 6 months.

 

I would very much like to hear further comments from you on this subject. It was my understanding, for example, that nearby, decent accommodation would shortly be available. Alternatively, might it be possible to base oneself at the Muba Resort near Nagzira and use it as a base for visiting both sanctuaries?

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@@xelas : Thank you so much for the warm welcome.

India indeed is a rich and vibrant country when it comes to both Nature & Culture.

Do visit atleast once. You would definitely Love it.

And till that time, we will keep posting the interesting stories...so that you can stay connected.

:)

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  • 2 weeks later...

@@The Territory: From what I read about Jay as well as, based on my discussion with folks who were recent visitors to UKWLS, seems like the star attraction Jay has been missing for a while now. The information I have also matches @@douglaswise's information.

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  • 2 months later...

Agreed. The search for Jai has been ongoing since July 2016. His radio collar has stopped working and there is a chance he has been pushed into unprotected areas. There are quite a few resources allocated to finding him as he's one of the biggest male Tigers in the Maharashtra reserves. Hopefully he's found alive at some point. But there is nothing to suggest he's in Karhandla at the moment. A reliable source told me that while Karhandla is certainly worth a visit, at the moment the guides and jeep situation there is rudimentary. Some operators are even bringing jeeps from Tadoba with guides to track tigers because the local scene is very disorganized. There is hope that in time if the Tiger population is sustained that more professional services will find their way to Umred. At the moment the park is a favorite for the local day trippers and the rugged adventurers who have seen all the major attractions.

Edited by SidSafari
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