I am a wildlife researcher but when I headed to Sariska National Park, it was for a vacation. A friend, Subhadeep Bhattacharjee, was part of the team from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun which was tracking the tigers at Sariska. They had their hands full, what with tigers wandering away from the periphery of the park and people wandering in. I and another friend had decided to join in their efforts as part of the vacation.
In the days we spent exploring the park, we saw plenty of signs of a healthy wildlife habitat – a good sambhar deer population, cheetal that were still wary of humans unlike in other parks, lower numbers of nilgai. Everything indicated that the decision to transfer tigers from Ranthambore to Sariska was a good idea. The forest officials too seemed to be keen to not repeat 2005 when it came to light that all the tigers in Sariska had been poached and the forest department was left answering a lot of embarrassing questions.
This time around, the tigers are being treated with the respect they deserve. They are on the radar 24×7, waterholes are marked and monitored, camera traps are in place and for good measure, WII has a team stationed in Sariska to ensure the tigers settle down well.
We did not see any tigers in the time we were there but the forest and its people had reasserted their place as tiger country and we came away knowing that Sariska was a happy place for tigers again.
Photographs by: Vidya Iyer