Morning Safari At Bandipur – An Unscripted Encounter With The Dholes

A trip to Bandipur is incomplete if you don’t enjoy the captivating beauty of the woods in the morning. The crepuscular rays stream through the hollow woods, illuminating the forest floor. Pearls of dew drops glisten over the epidermis of leaves, highlighting them for a perfect landscape shot.

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Morning 6:30 AM: The safari begins. After an eventful afternoon safari the previous day, it was time to see what the day trip/ morning expedition had in store for us. We took a different route this time. The route is famous for cub sightings from past ventures. We ventured out on the jungle track, hoping that Lady Luck was still on our side.

A rough road through the jungle took us along a path imprinted with a trail of pug marks. Having sound knowledge of pug marks is essential to understand the reclusive tiger. The outline and structure of the pug marks help in:

  1. Identifying the gender of the tiger
  2. height/size of the tiger
  3. Aids in monitoring their movement through/in the jungle.

The Peacock Sighting

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As we moved ahead on our safari, a herd of spotted deer greeted us. A friend on board spotted a peacock at a distance from the jeep. It was resting on a rock, with its iridescent plumage gleaming under sunlight.

A peacock gets its plumage for a vital reason: mating. The colour and lustre of a peacocks’ feathers help a peahen decide if the male is healthy enough for copulation.

 

The Prodigious Gaur

Our next stop was close to a herd of gaur. Indian Gaur belongs to a variety of Asian wild cattle (bovine). However, they are often mistaken for bison. While the male gaurs lead a hermit-like existence, the female gaurs live in groups caring for their calves. I will be covering more about their behaviour, habitat and ecology in future posts.

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Male Gaur

The herd in sight comprised of 6 -7 adults and 3 calves. The herd was grazing on a turf of wild grass when we bore witness to a sighting, reminiscent of maternal love. As all young mammals do, a hungry calf in his infancy was feeding on his mother’s milk. The natural lighting of the scene was brilliant for the capture. The cocoa coloured calf was drinking milk and simultaneously looking at us. The mother kept a vigilant eye/ watchful eye on us. It was a quintessential indication of her protective instincts.

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Female with calf

Alas we meet!

watermark_2017-07-02-02-18-53-671.jpgAnother half an hour into the safari, we were at a crossroad. At a distance of around 100 metres from the junction, we saw a tawny head emerge on the jungle track. A sly and muddled Indian dhole was approaching our vehicle.  It intermittently stopped and looked back at the bushes once in a while. It was peculiar behaviour chiefly because dholes are known to live in packs and this one was alone. Within a few seconds, we saw its partner emerge from behind the bushes. The largest pack of dholes known to date comprised of 40 wild dogs. Sometimes a male and female in a pack separate out to start their own family. It is a must for them to procreate, owing to the fact that it’s not easy to hunt for food in the wild without a helping hand. Since dholes hunt in packs, teamwork is essential to hunt down the prey. In a jungle saturated with scavengers, their survival instincts demand it.

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Recently, this young couple had a successful litter of pups.They had stashed away their pups to safety. They were protecting their pups from the clutch of ruthless predators. As they walked on the jungle track, one tailing the other, they disappeared into the bushes. After a short pause, they re-emerged from an opening in the lantana. They were back on the track. They dawdled down the track and stood still every now and then. Occasional glances at our jeep were ideal for a portrait click. Thereafter we spotted them thrice around the bushes and track.The unscripted encounters with the dholes subsequently satisfied the hunger for unforgettable experiences in me. Wild dogs are obscure creatures and I was delighted to see them. The wildlife enthusiast in me was elated.

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As our safari came to an end, we traced back our path to the starting point. The herd of Gaurs were still grazing, the grass sparkling under the bright noon sun. Further ahead, we spotted a sambhar deer sprinting on fresh grass, dewdrops glistening over its epidermis. The air was filled with the scent of moisture soaked, refreshingly green grass. Alongside a troop of langurs were having a jolly good time jumping from branch to branch and playing among themselves. I was enthralled by the peaceful vibes of coexistence and the serendipitous view that unfolded before my eyes.

The forests are laden with many similar encounters spreading joys that tranquillize the mind. It makes you fall in love with it and leaves you wanting more. 

A grave realisation on how important it is to conserve the purest form of natural treasure- our forests with its vibrant wildlife in this world.

 

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