Ranthambore National Park
My family visited the Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur district last year. Known for its majestic tigers, it was declared one of the Project Tiger reserves in 1973. The National park is divided into several zones and only 20% of the land (275 km²) is accessible to the tourists. We started at 6:00 AM in the morning as the visiting hours were from (6:00-9:30AM in the morning). The family accompanying us told us that they saw tigers only on one out of four days they had been here. So, we were not very optimistic from the beginning. The ride on the jeep (or gypsy in Hindi) was so wobbly that it felt like my internal organs were getting muddled up. As we entered through the gates of zone 6, we saw a large expanse of rocky terrain amidst the dry deciduous forests.
A few Sambar deer and Nilgais welcomed us near the entrance, but they were not the celebrities that most tourists intended to take photos of. As we explored the interiors of the forest, I couldn't help but notice different species of birds living on the lush green trees. Peafowls, Roofus Treepies, Babblers, Drongos, Sparrows, Pipits, Finches, and Doves made the list (I was taught to observe and identify birds as a part of an ecology course at IISER Mohali).
As we were approaching the watering hole, we saw about 15 jeeps crowding in a place suggesting that they might have spotted something. I stood up to take a glance, only to notice a huge male tiger resting near the water source. There were more than 60 tigers in the National Park. Tigers are solitary animals, extremely territorial in nature. This makes them very hard to spot. All the tourists were ecstatic and very vocal by the sight of the tiger. Disturbed by the cacophony, the tiger stood up and walked deep into the forests. We also came across three young adult tigers walking away from the watering place but they were quite far away.
The last stop of the safari was a watering hole which was frequented by several animals. It was spectacular to see Hanuman Langurs, Nilghais, peafowls and other birds drinking in harmony. Amidst the scenic beauty, I was disturbed to see plastic bags lying on the ground. Plastic articles are one of the biggest environmental hazards. Not only are they non-biodegradable, but harmful to animals when ingested. It can get lodged in the windpipe, obstructing airflow when swallowed, block the digestive tract or accumulate in the stomach, producing a false sense of fullness, causing the animal to stop eating, resulting in malnutrition as it slowly starves to death. Many zoological parks that I have visited do thorough checks and ban the use of plastic articles inside. The environment ministry had recently banned plastics in all protected areas across the country. But, we would like to see these policies in action. Visitors should be checked thoroughly before the entrance. Cleanup missions should be conducted to remove all the existing debris.