Recently a judge in the Rajasthan High Court passed a ruling that Ranthambhore should be closed for 2 days in a week so that the animals can get “rest” from tourists.
The Park is shut for tourists during the monsoons from July to end September. The people living around the park have a free run during this time. They go in for grazing their cattle, stocking up firewood for the winters, collecting forest produce like antlers etc, poaching etc etc. There is zero patrolling and I really mean zero. We joke that the rarest sight in Indian parks is a “Forest Guard patrolling his beat”. But believe me this is not a joke.
On a conservative estimate the amount of people who go into Ranthambhore on monsoons (when the park is shut for tourists) is ten times more than the amount of tourists who visit the park throughout the year. However, the authority just chooses to ignore people who go to the park in the monsoons and since there is no official record of such offenders, they officially do not exist.
Every year a few tigers disappear in the monsoon months and are never seen again. The official version (when there is one) is that the tigers have migrated. Migrated to where? This story is probably true for all parks in India, with the exception of Kaziranga – where they shoot first and ask later.
When I moved to Ranthambhore, about 10 years ago, there were over 30 tigers. How am I so sure? Well there was a family in the lake area – a tigress with 3 full grown cubs. There were four other families with three to four cubs each in Kachida, Chiroli, Lahpur and Thumka. There were 4 big males and a few sub adult males and at least 5 tigresses without cubs.
Since then I have seen over 60 cubs grow up to maturity and separate from their mother and then disappear to be never seen again. They just disappear , sorry “migrate” and are never seen again. A noted poacher had told me once that sub adult tigers are the best ones to “milk” – they are nearly full grown (perfect skin size) and no one notices their disappearance. Believe me, when I say that professional poachers actually “milk” tigers for their skin and bones. They never wipe out the entire lot. They really messed up in Sariska – where they ate the chicken instead of the eggs every day.