Posts tagged "India"

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Tigers, tigers burning bright! By Pete Oxford


With having led well over 30 trips to India over the years we maintained our impressive record of 100% of our clients all seeing tigers! Many have left the subcontinent after repeated tiger safaris without ever having set eyes on the world’s largest and arguably the most beautiful cat.

This year we creamed it and got to see an impressive 8 individuals, over 9 sightings, from a single park. Not only that but we were often able to spend extended quality time with them. Half of the sightings we found the tiger and luxuriated in being alone with it way before others arrived. Perhaps the cherry on the top was a lovely female who we accompanied a long distance with her two adolescent cubs in tow!

Indian wildlife is, however, about so much more than just tigers. We heard leopards mating, saw sambar and spotted deer, chinkara gazelle, blackbuck, wild boar, a sloth bear, nilgai, striped hyena, Hanuman langurs, rhesus macaques, flying foxes, crocodiles, jungle cats and a plethora of exotic birds including thousands of demoiselle cranes, painted storks, woolly necked storks, kingfishers, thick knees, parakeets and the omnipresent ‘trash’ birds the unlikely peacock!

Our trip included a large dose of Rajasthani culture, ancient forts, markets and the amazing people living close to the ground in the countryside. We could not have been better received or more welcome and posed with locals for selfies too numerous to mention. I just love full immersion into a culture of strangers, always remembering that when we travel to far flung destinations we are the foreigners not they. We laughed hard, gelled as a group and maintained a high level of ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling as we breezed through each day marvelling at daily life and the cows that were everywhere.

The timing of the trip was centered around the amazing Pushkar camel fair, said to be the largest camel fair in the world. A true exhuberence of India condensed into a single venue. An assault on every sense from a riot of color, blaring music, Holy men, pilgrims, a longest moustache competition, Yogis, exotic flavors and pungent odors to the rough texture of a camel herders handshake. There is something about camels. They are always taller than you think and can be somewhat imposing. Yet, despite many kilos of decorations adorning necks, heads, backs and feet or the intricate patterns that cover their bodies or intricate shaved designs in their pelage they always seem to remain aloof. They crave no affection and stoically perform their duties where the reward of a full bag of fodder at the end of the day justifies their effort.

City smog was bad, terrible actually and an industrial agricultural revolution seems to be advancing fiercely. Of course, it’s always good to be home but no sooner had we landed back in South Africa than we were ready to go back. Incredible India – we miss you already!

*Keep checking our website for our next India itinerary.

All images ©PeteOxford.

King of the Jungle? Maybe not for long!


Lion numbers are now down to a tenth of where they were 35 years ago. With only 20,000 left in the wild, are we going to sit back and watch them go down the same path as the tigers? From 100,000 in the1900′s, to less than 4,000 in the 1970′s. Today the move in the U.S.A to Protect African Lions Under Endangered Species Act is a step forward but not nearly enough to save them in the long term. Lions in Central and West Africa will be listed as endangered, but in southern and East Africa they will be classified as threatened. Trophies could still be imported from nations where lions are listed as threatened — as long as they meet the standards set under the special rule and the animals were killed legally.

Cecil was not the first male lion to suffer the fate when straying outside of a protected area and falling prey to a hunter. Thanks to social media it finally got the world’s attention. Two years running when we visited Hwangi NP in Zimbabwe, we learned that the dominant male we had photographed the previous year had since been hunted. This has been an ongoing problem in South Africa too.

While I was sitting in the departure lounge in OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg a few months ago, I was sick to my stomach listening to hunters recall their exciting adventures while visiting my country. “And while we were waiting (probably at a baited site or waterhole) a hyena came in so we shot that too…”

Man is living outside the laws of nature with trophy hunting and always going for the prime individuals, but hunting is only a small part of the equation in the demise of the lions.

It takes years for a fragmented lion population – either from hunting, contraception or miss management to establish themselves as a functioning pride. Lions living in small, fenced reserves, who regularly come in contact with other lions do not always behave the same as those that have more space to roam. They change between groups frequently. They don’t always kill the cubs belonging to other lionesses. Many of these reserves don’t have hyenas or nearly enough of them to help maintain lion numbers either. Lions eat a lot! Small reserves don’t always have the numbers of plains game to feed them. Some of these excess old males land up on canned hunting farms.

Pete and I lived in a reserve in South Africa for 2 years and lion management was an eye-opener to us. It was horrific to me to learn how casually this is undertaken. No science behind who dies or who gets moved and basically they’ll ship them off to who ever will take them. There are reserves that are culling lions. Believe it or not – it is easier to cull a lion than to obtain a permit to relocate it. With a species now listed as endangered – how can we even consider culling healthy lions. In South Africa’s Kruger National Park (KNP) – our biggest park – tests show that both antibodies to the viruses that cause feline Aids (Feline immunodeficiency virus or FIV) and the bacterium (Mycobacterium bovis) that causes bovine tuberculosis are present in their lions. KNP is home to about 2,000 lions, basically a tenth of the lions left in the wild and potentially they are all sick! Again, I ask myself – how can it be possible that we are allowed to cull healthy lions in other areas? The alternative is contraception. But after several years on contraception the females become sterile so that is not the answer either.

The range of lions has shrunk. There is a move to repopulate lions into areas where they have been hunted out.

In 2013 we photographed the relocation of 4 lions to Malawi… One died in the airplane but the others are now doing well in their new home and have bred.

This year 7 lions were successfully trans-located to Akagera National Park in Rwanda. The cost of relocating lions is enormous but worth it. We must persist and facilitate this.

We are at a point with world lion numbers where every single one counts. We have also been fortunate to see the Asiatic lions in the Gir forest of India. Their numbers are so low they are barely a viable population but they do know every animal. With African lions we need a database of every individual in the world so they can be managed correctly. We need habitat for these animals to roam freely and severe punishments for poaching – where the end use is in Asian medicine, as well as a total ban on hunting. With today’s new protection act we are one step closer to shutting down one of the problems. With social media we all have a voice so let’s shout about it…

Anybody who is still not convinced should watch the movie Blood Lions.

“If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the Africa savannas and forests of India, it’s up to all of us — not just the people of Africa and India — to take action,” –Dan Ashe, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

With Christmas around the corner let us consider donating to a conservation organization to protect lions in place of buying presents. I would be happy to recommend some.

Reneé Bish

One more reason to travel


There are many reasons for travel but this time, for us, it was something new. Pete and I have lived in Ecuador now for 30 and 24 years respectively and we have known our best friends, Tom and Mariela, for almost that long. Much more parochial than us in their travel, they have seldom ventured to foreign shores. Recently they visited with some news. After a routine medical check up Tom was diagnosed with a leaky heart valve and needed surgery urgently for $250,000+ in the US, where he was a citizen, but with no medical insurance. It was a budget which blew that idea out of the window OR, $25,000 here in Ecuador but with a minimum of a 10% risk of dying and no fixed heart operating team (but he was told that they could cobble one together). Stuck between a rock and a hard place I made a suggestion. As a trained nurse in my previous life and having been in a hospital in India, on the point of death by all accounts, with Cholera, I recounted the tale of my unbelievable medical care and how impressed I was. I ventured an alternative. To our surprise, Tom went for the idea. Now suddenly, Pete and I felt responsible so decided to help guide them through the chaos that is the India we love so much and we booked tickets too. Having phoned a good friend in India for a reference for a cardiologist, then haggling for emergency visas, a week later we were en-route to Delhi! Mariela’s 50th was celebrated at 30,000 feet at the back of the jumbo drinking champagne with our new friend Christine, a truly benevolent flight attendant and before we knew it, Tom was in surgery! The care was fabulous and the equipment as modern as anywhere. The surgery team was a highly practiced unit, and performed a slew of such operations on a regular basis! Worse than we thought however the valve had to be replaced not fixed and Tom now is part pig! No more eating pork in that household. Recuperation time was 3 weeks, so having satisfied ourselves that all was well and it was only left for Tom to take it easy we set off in the interim to visit a remote head-hunter tribe in the far north east of India. Back in Delhi, after our sojourn, with a now perky Tom we decided he was fit enough to take him south to the Taj Mahal to sight see. Hence the classic tourist snapshot above to prove that he was there (wheelchair and all). The joys of medical tourism, Tom gets a new heart valve, a look at one of the seven wonders of the world and it only set him back $13,000 (excluding airfares)!! I guess that’s one way to see the world!

~Reneé Bish