Article by Bapu Reddy
Running into tigers isn’t an everyday thing in Nalamalla, there are few of them, and traversing through this rugged landscape is no cakewalk. The Nallamala forests, rough with hilly terrain, spread across the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. I believe that luck is the only thing that can explain how my first ever sighting of a tiger was here, beating all the odds!
After completing my work surveying the areas that come under Andhra Pradesh, I found myself in Telangana. Since 2015, I have been working in the Amrabad Tiger Sanctuary, conducting research in the field to understand the presence of tigers, their population and how these big cats lead their lives in this challenging environment. Here, I was put up in Mannanur’s CBET (Community Based Eco-Tourism) Cottages, along with my teammates.
One day, after breakfast, we reached the Royaleti Penta area in the Amrabad range, hoping to survey 8 to 10 kilometres of the area. Satish, my teammate, and another volunteer were walking behind me. At this point, I had not the slightest hint of how my day was going to give me the experience of a lifetime! It was winter, and although it was relatively cold, the forest was pleasant and green. In the beginning, there was a clear electric line trail, we completed one kilometre of the survey and found no signs of any animals. Towards the next kilometre, the trail disappeared into a thick bushy area. The way was no longer visible; however, we kept moving, wading through the lantana-laden path.
And that’s when it happened! I couldn’t believe what I had just come face-to-face with, my heart seemingly stood still. Two orange and striped cats, in all their magnificence, were lying down facing each other. They were not even a stone’s throw away. I came back to my senses and silently signalled to Satish and the volunteer, and we took two gentle steps back. That little bit of noiseless commotion as we stepped back was enough to alert the tigers and send them sprinting by us on either side. At that moment, I remembered that some time ago that year, two tigers, a little over a year old, were caught in camera traps. Perhaps, I had just come up close with those very cats.
I am not going to keep this from you - seeing them at such a short distance was a little scary! Although the moment felt frozen in time, all of it happened in the blink of an eye. After a while, we thought of picking up the survey again from where we had left it. We had informed another team to pick us up at the end site - Dhara Vagu, and if we wanted to drop the survey, we had no way of reaching out to the team. Our mobiles picked up no signal at this depth. However, the volunteer brought to our attention that it might be risky if the mother tiger was around. So we decided to make our way outside, and we reached our cottages by bus.
I came back home with a wonderful feeling that day; I had not yet seen a tiger in my life - not even in a zoo! Being able to see two of them in the wild was exhilarating yet chilling - a day I will never forget!