Saturday, November 26, 2016

"How Panna got its Stripes Back"

Greetings Everyone,

From Ranthambore we were to take the night train to Katni and drive to Panna National Park, the third and final destination on our inaugural Vana Safaris Tour.  However, our plans were to take an unexpected twist.  We had found that our dear friend Saeedeh from Iran was coming to India on Nov. 1st.  We had not seen her in 16 years!  It didn't look like our paths would cross but Saeedeh would be arriving in Jaipur tonight, a mere 3-hour drive away.  I told Avi that it was too bad that we wouldn't get to see Saeedeh.  He said "Why not"?  We discussed various options and came up with a plan to drive back to Jaipur to meet her, spend the night there, drive to Agra the following morning, take the direct flight to Khajuraho and drive to Panna.  It meant a lot of changes and Avi set about to make it happen.  I had already sent Saeedeh a message that we wouldn't be able to meet her.  We sent multiple messages that our plans had changed and we were heading to Jaipur.  Now all that was needed was for Saeedeh to get our message!

We arrived in Jaipur and still had not heard back from Saeedeh.  Would she get our message in time?  Finally, around 6:00 we got a response from Saeedeh.  She would take a taxi to our hotel and join us for dinner.  Yippee!  While waiting for Saeedeh to arrive we watched a puppet show, sadly a dying art form in India.  

Puppet Show in Jaipur

Then there she was...  Even after 16 years I recognized her immediately!  We embraced for a long time and cried tears of joy.  Even though we only spent a mere 10 days together back in 2000 it created a bond that has lasted all these years.  We chatted for a bit and I showed Saeedeh photos from our 2000 trip.  They brought back many happy memories.  We had a traditional Rajistani meal and all too quickly Saeedeh had to return to her hotel.  Oh what a magical evening it was!

Peggy, Saeedeh and Marc

The following morning we drove to Agra where we caught a direct flight to the new airport in Khajuraho.  It was a short drive to Panna National Park and we didn't waste any time before going on our first game drive.  The Park is much like Gir with teak forest and tall grass and undergrowth - it was difficult to see animals here.  We did see Spotted Deer, Sambar, Blue Blue, Wild Boar and Southern Plains Gray Langur but no new mammals.  We had to be out of the park by 5:45 and went to nearby sanctuary called Jhinna.  We were able to do a night safari in the sanctuary and saw Asiatic Jackals, Blue Bull, Indian Gazelle, Small Indian Civet, Common Palm Civet and Wild Boar.  

Asiatic Jackal

We were up early the next morning for our full-day safari inside the park.  We saw a lanky Jungle Cat in the road but it disappeared in the grass before Marc could get a photo.  We didn't see much except for the usual cast of characters: Blue Bull, Sambar, a large herd of Spotted Deer, Southern Plains Gray Langur and Peafowl, so we returned to the lodge around noon for a little break.  

Herd of Spotted Deer

We returned to the park around 2:30 and I spotted a Common Cobra crossing the road.  We learned that a jeep had seen a leopard kill a sambar in the morning and drag it up a steep bank but there was no sign of the leopard now.

The following morning we returned to the Park and got a call that a tigress designated as P142 or Rani had been sighted on top of the plateau.  We raced off to see her.  When we arrived there were about 8 jeeps already there.  She was lying in the road and the jeeps were far from her.  

Rani in the Road

We drove to the head of the line but I wanted to go closer.  The other jeeps seemed afraid that she would charge.  We did go closer and she got up and scent-marked a tree. We got to within 100 feet of her but she did not charge, instead she moved off into the tall grass.  

Rani Scent-marking a Tree

Just 7 years ago there were no tigers in Panna National Park.  They had all been poached out!   In March of 2009, a tigress designated T1 was brought from Kanha National Park.  Since then T1 has given birth to 5 litters of cubs!  Rani is one of T1's daughters from her 4th litter.  She is 26 months old and her designation P142 means:

P - born in Panna
1 - to T1
4 - in T1's 4th litter
2 - 2nd cub

Her father is T112, her half brother from T1's first litter.  There are now 35 tigers in Panna so in 7 years, Panna went from 0 to 35 tigers!  To read more about this incredible success story go to:

We left Rani and went off in search of more wildlife.  Our forest guard spotted a leopard crossing the road.  I completely missed it until he was in the tall grass on the side of the road.  Marc got some photos.  

Leopard in the Grass

We returned to the lodge for brunch and one of the staff showed us some Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bats roosting in a nearby clump of bamboo.  Very cute!

Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bats

The park was closed on Wednesday afternoon so we left at 4:00 for Jhinna Sanctuary to spend the night.  On the drive we saw 5-striped Palm Squirrels, Southern Plains Gray Langurs, Blue Bull, Indian Gazelle and a Sloth Bear sow with a cub!  They were in the forest so we didn't get a clear view.  We stopped at the camp for a nice dinner.

Camp Dinner

After dinner we went on a night drive and saw Common Palm Civet, Asiatic Jackal and Indian Fox.

Common Palm Civet

We were up early the following morning in order to leave at 4:30.  As we were getting into the jeep we heard Blue Bull alarm calls close by.  Not far from camp I spotted a leopard on the side of the road.  He crouched, startled by the spotlight, but slinked off into the forest before Marc could get a photo.  As we were looking for him we spotted another smaller leopard not far away.  This must be a female, the mate of the male we had surprised.  We were amazed at how close they were to camp, less than a quarter-mile away!

We left the Sanctuary and drove to Panna National Park for the morning safari.  We saw all the usual characters: Wild Boar, Sambar, Blue Bull, Spotted Deer, Southern Plains Gray Langur and a magnificent Crested Hawk Eagle.

Crested Hawk Eagle

At the junction of two roads we paused to check out a Sati Stone carved in the 10th Century.  Sati is when a widow throws herself on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband, a tradition that thankfully is no longer practiced.

Sati Stone

We returned to the lodge for brunch and a bit of rest before the afternoon safari.  We had great views of Plum-headed Parakeets on the drive back to the Park.

Plum-headed Parakeets

We spotted our 36th species of mammal on this safari, a Four-horned Antelope, and some of the usual: Southern Plains Gray Langur, Spotted Deer, Blue Bull plus one of our favorites, a Yellow-footed Green Pigeon. 

Yellow-footed Green Pigeon

We stopped in the vicinity of the tracker following Rani and the few jeeps that had gathered hoping for a view.  While we were waiting we heard what sounded like a pig squeal.  Had Rani just killed a spotted deer?  Frustratingly we could see nothing in the tall grass.

We did our final safari in Panna the following morning.  We didn't see any tigers or leopards just the regulars: Spotted Deer, Sambar and Southern Plains Gray Langur.   A beautiful Indian Roller posed nicely in a nearby tree.

Indian Roller

We were driven to the airport for the flight to Delhi where we spent our final night in India.  The next morning we said a teary-eyed goodbye to Avi.  We were so happy to be the first clients of Vana Safaris, the inaugural tour was a big success.  We saw 36 species of mammal including 16 species that were new to us!  We learned about some of the challenges of protecting wildlife and their habitat in a country with a burgeoning human population and met some conservation heroes.  We were able to meet up with our Iranian friend Saeedeh after not seeing her for 16 years.  Thank-you Avi and Monika for making all this happen.  We wish you much success with Vana Safaris in the future.  We look forward to our next adventure with you!

Peggy, Avi and Marc on Safari

We hope all is well with everyone.
Peggy and Marc

Mammal List for Inaugural Vana Safaris Tour: Oct. 22 - Nov. 12, 2016 

 No.  Species Scientific Name Notes
 1Gray MongooseHerpestes edwardsiiGir, Rann of Kutch & Ranthambore
 2Southern Plains Gray LangurSemnopithecus dussumieriGir,  Ranthambore & Panna
 3Spotted Deer (Chital)Axis axisGir, Ranthambore & Panna
 4SambarRusa unicolorGir, Ranthambore & Panna
 5Blue Bull (Nilgai)Boselaphus tragocamelusGir, Rann of Kutch, LRK,  Ranthambore & Panna
 6Indian LeopardPanthera pardus fuscaGir, Ranthambore & Panna
 7Wild BoarSus scrofaGir, LRK, Blackbuck, Ranthambore & Panna
 8Five-striped Palm SquirrelFunambulus pennantiiAt Gir, Rann of Kutch, LRK, Ranthambore & Panna
 9Indian Hare (Black-naped)Lepus nigricollisAt Gir, Rann of Kutch, LRK, Ranthambore & Panna
 10Greater Indian Fruit BatPteropus giganteusAt Gir, Rann of Kutch, LRK & Ranthambore
 11Asiatic JackalCanis aureusGir, Rann of Kutch, Ranthambore & Panna
 12Indian Desert JirdMeriones 
Rann of Kutch
 13Jungle CatFelis chausRann of Kutch, Ranthambore & Panna
 14Little Indian Field MouseMus boodugaRann of Kutch
 15Grey (Asian) Musk ShrewSuncus murinusRann of Kutch
 16Bengal (Indian) FoxVulpes 
Rann of Kutch, LRK, Ranthambore & Panna
 17Indian Desert CatFelis silvestris ornataRann of Kutch & Ranthambore
 18Pale HedgehogHemiechinis micropusRann of Kutch
 19Greater Mouse-tailed BatRhinopoma microphyllumRann of Kutch and Little Rann of Kutch
 20House MouseMus musculusRann of Kutch
 21Rat ?Rann of Kutch
 22Indian Wild AssEquus hemionus khurLittle Rann of Kutch
 23Desert (White-footed) FoxVulpes vulpes pusillaLittle Rann of Kutch
 24 Small Indian MongooseHerpestes auropunctatusLittle Rann of Kutch
 25BlackbuckAntilope cervicapraBlackbuck/Velavadar
 26Indian Grey WolfCanis lupus pallipesBlackbuck/Velavadar
 27Ruddy MongooseHerpestes smithiiRanthambore 
 28 Bengal TigerPanthera tigris tigrisRanthambore & Panna
 29Chinkara (Indian Gazelle)Gazella 
Ranthambore & Panna
 30Common Palm CivetParadoxurus hermaphroditusRanthambore & Panna
 31Striped HyenaHyaena hyaenaRanthambore
 32Rhesus MacaqueMacaca mulattaRanthambore
 33Small Indian CivetViverricula indicaRanthambore & Panna
 34Sloth BearMelursus ursinusRanthambore & Panna
 35Lesser Short-nosed Fruit BatCynopterus 
Ken River Lodge
 36Four-horned AntelopeTetracerus 


LRK - Little Rann of Kutch

Our route map:


Anonymous said...

Dear cousins,
So fortuitous that all works out to meet up with your dearest friend from 2000! It is a crafty tour guide that can make things happen! Very interesting reading of safari in India! Sad too, just as the rhino story, that poaching still takes place and removes such fascinating and beautiful animals from our world.
Hats off to you, AGAIN, on following your passion and experiencing the world as not many people do! Still can't believe we were in SA!

James Brown said...

This one is good. keep up the good work!..