Outdoors & Nature | 9 Chapters

Author: Dr. C.H. Basappanavar


Why elephant is known as, “The Lady Boss”? The Indian elephant Elephas maximus, the matriarchal society is led by the wisest and eldest female of the family/herd. Here, the matriarch is the boss. Being hub of the family, she not only performs the usual maternal tasks, but also protects the family with extreme efficiency from poten­tial enemies, apart from guiding the family to safety in times of crises. The matriarch keeps male suitors at a ....

Chapter I

Bandipur Reserve – The Temple of Elephants

The richly varied Kaleidoscope of Bandipur Reserve is complemented by magnificent elephants, while gaur, sambar, chital, barking deer and four-horned antelopes are hunted by tiger, leopard and dholes (wild dogs). With its rich tropical mixed deciduous vegetation, the biodiversity of the reserve makes it a veritable paradise on earth. In such an ecosystem, inhabits the largest terrestrial animal, the elephant. It requires much larger space to range about, apart from huge quantities of fodder and drinking water for survival than any other large ungulates. The elephant is, usually, one of the first species to suffer the consequences of habitat fragmentation or destruction. Protecting our elephant, the “National Heritage Animal” with its rich habitat is asprecious as preserving our ‘Tajmahal’, the National Cultural Heritage of India.

Once, during her visit to Bandipur reserve, I asked my seven year – old daughter, Aarti, to list out her favourite animals. The immediate response, showing a high degree of imagination and deep interest concerning the vision of the animal kingdom; she came out instant answer – “the elephant, the giraffe, the camel, the horse”. The younger the child, the larger are the animals selected as her/his favourites. Why did younger girls and boys express such a clear preference for animals, so much larger than themselves? Sub-consciously, no doubt, larger animals are the symbols of power of strength and to some extent they appear to possess human-like qualities of sociability and intelligence. The elephant, in particular, is known for its giant size, gentleness, far reaching memory and by nature, is a graceful and peace loving beast. It is eminently social, living in a kinship group, known as “matriarchal society”. The animal of fertility and good fortune, it is gracefully, termed by the nick name, “the gentle giant of the Asian jungles”.

My experience, while in the jungle is that those who respect the ‘law of nature’ always remain safe, of course, safer than our concrete jungles. In many parts of the country, adivasis, the aboriginal tribes are still living in the heart of the jungle, inhabited by wild animals, in particular, wild elephants. They have been living there, since the times of human history. But elephants and other wild animals rarely enter their hutments/ habitations. Animals will be moving around, but are rarely found raiding their haadi, the hamlet or cluster with huts. The elephants seem to have accepted local tribes as parts of denizens of the jungle and learned to coexist with them, as long as they didn’t compete for their food While tribes have learnt to live with elephants. But the same elephants take every available opportunity to raid kitchen gardens and crops, if any, grown by tribes within the range of their distribution. Why?

The answer could be that elephants, being intelligent animals, do not like their food resources are robbed by growing crops on wild land or grass to be cut and removed. There are innumerable examples of farmers/grass cutters having been attacked and killed.

My association with nature and natural history of Bandipur reserve is a long standing one. Ever since, I joined the Forestry Service in the erstwhile Mysore State (now Karnataka), bought some leisurely time and visited Bandipur reserve. I was always fascinated by grace and nobility of the elephant moving majestically, like a tiny hill in those pristine and dynastic jungles. I, rather, fell in love with elephants; must have definitely been their body language that I was drawn toward them. It is a pleasure to see them in the wild, what a graceful gait and beautiful body language speak! It is the finest form of body language, associated with the body structure and gait that make the animal alluring. It was Kalidasa, who lyrically described graceful walk of a beautiful woman, as Gajagamini, relating to the description and admiration of elephant’s graceful gait that is simply out of the world.

Straddling the south-west part of the Deccan plateau, the Bandipur Reserve is described as the “Temple of elephants”. For me, it is a romance with the nature and an adventure to move in the company of elephants, but rarely with tigers. Tigers in Bandipur tiger reserve mostly eluded me. It is even today it’s rarely I meet a tiger eye-ball to eye-ball. During my morning trekking in the jungle, I followed herds of elephants and found myself excited in watching their tender movements and playful activities. They tolerated my presence at reasonably safe distance, but never crossing line of critical (LoC) danger, may be due to the relationship having been intertwined between man and the beasts, since the dawn of human history. The Bandipur reserve, I describe as a paradise on earth for elephants, as much as, the hunters and the hunted. The reserve is also described as the level hunting ground for powerful predators, such as tiger, leopard and wild dogs and lesser known carnivores that prey on herbivores like gaur, sambar, chital and four horned antelopes. I soon realised, the specific role of the elephants in the reserve, as top order users of the habitat, but not included in the menu of big cats, like tiger and leopards. The presence of elephants in the reserve is described in ecological terms, as “Keystone species” that plays a critical role in maintaining the ‘balance of nature’, by way of regeneration and an indicator of health of the habitat.

1.1 Tropical Paradise

The Bandipur Reserve was constituted as the ‘National Park’ in the year 1974 by an act of legislation. In the meantime, ‘Project Tiger’ that was launched in the year 1973.

The Project Tiger envisages preserving wildlife right from autotrophs to heterotrophs, in fact, the whole of biotope/biome with the tiger placed at the top. Concurrently, the reserve also boasted of its large elephant population, in addition to large herds of gaur among the big herbivores. In fact, Bandipur is known for elephants, though it is managed under Project Tiger. One can’t miss an elephant at any point of time.

1.2 Operation Elephant

The geographical area of the reserve was, subsequently, increased to 880 sq km after a decade of success story. The achievement of success came to be known as the “crowning glory” of the dying species, the elephant. The Project Elephant was undertaken by the government of Karnataka with the financial support of Indian Government. The eco-restoration was the topmost objective in the priority list of the planning process under the Operation Elephant.

The Bandipur reserve has since, been managed both under ‘Operation Elephant’ and ‘Operation Tiger’ on sound principles scientific wildlife management techniques and demonstrated to the world, the important achievements – bio-ecological recovery, environment educational recognition, technological realisation and cultural values. Improved biodiversity, assured water supply for a longer period of summer season and afforded security, were mainly responsible in the increased elephant population along with other herbivores.

The gradual recovery in elephant population, evidently, helped in providing safe habitat for elephants, as much as to the potential prey population of tigers. The unique feature of the management of Bandipur reserve, under the ‘Project Elephant’, is that the tigers are managed in association with the elephants, since neither of them could be managed in isolation.

1.3 My Maiden Visit to the Reserve

On that wintry morning, I set out into the elephants’ own country of Bandipur, at the first call of the koel, in order to introduce myself to “Forest Gods” – the wild animals and birds. I was also keen in visiting some of the landscapes and features, such as distribution of ponds, tanks, streams, grasslands and salt-licks. I was accompanied by Kala, an experienced tribal tracker. A Jungle fowl started calling intermittently with its guttural notes somewhere from the nearby bush, perhaps, to express its happiness over the dawning of yet another new day. I was, as a matter of fact, a hunter without a gun; a hunter of peace and harmony in that pristine jungle. A camera with tele-lens and a pair of binoculars were my weaponry.. These were my usual armoury, when I was amidst the denizens of the jungle. While, I gazed and learnt about wonders of nature, I zoomed in my camera to shoot and express my feelings. I was fascinated indeed to spend much of my time with the nature than the natural history.

The first rays of the morning sun, as I kept watching, kissed the dew covered tree canopy. Oh! Yet another day had just begun in the jungle, I called out!! Eventually, every moment in the jungle surprises with many wonders to tell their stories. It was a misty morning though, the pencil beam of the young sun pierced through the thick green foliage. The warmth of the sun fuelled in me and spelled hopes of good luck for the day.

Rays of tender sun piercing through the jungle canopy, kissing the forest floor to rejuvenate activities of all life forms)

“Look here, Saar”, Kala who accompanied me invited my attention, as he bumped over a heaps of defecation, accompanied by urination at a tri-junction point of jungle roads. The place overlooked vast expanse of grass land with the backdrop of bamboo brakes. The scat marks were freshly dropped, as I could see them still steaming. Obviously they were dropped by a pack of wild dogs, just few moments prior to our arrival. Such heaps of defecation at a common place by wild dogs are called, “community lavatory”. Wild dogs select such vantage spots to defecate, so that the scat marks stand out as their territory markings. I asked Kala to count them. He could count nine droppings that gave me the clue of their total number in the pack. On examination of a shit, it was revealed that their previous kill was of sambar doe. Wild dogs may have been waiting there for their next quarry. Our approach seemed to have disturbed their strategy of potential hunt, forcing them to move away. Asking Kala to collect sample of faeces for laboratory examination, I treaded fast along freshly beaten elephant path, meandering through the bush jungle. I waited for a while at the edge of the bush jungle for Kala to join me.

“Which of those wild animals, men and women of tribal communities fear the most”? I asked Kala on his joining me.

Kala politely and resolutely declared, “It is Kadaane”, the wild elephant.

“Why do you say only the wild elephant?” I questioned him inquisitively, “While there are, in the forests, other beasts such as tiger, leopard and sloth bear which are believed to be fearsome?”

Kala, an old forest guard of Betta Kuruba tribe quipped, “It is the fear created in the minds of forest dwelling tribes and its nature of steadfastness against threat and so also impending danger from man”. He added, “The elephant, has been able to hold on to its grounds, since the dawn of human history”. He went on to add, “Even forest guards, who are on a routine forest protection job, including lumbering men, bamboo-cutters in the forests are very much scared of elephants;but encounters and proximity of tiger and leopard, Kala asserted, “did not pose much of an anxiety and danger, as those of pachyderms”.

His statement, as a forest guard, was based on his long association with elephants and experiences in the jungle craft.

1.4 Architectural Genius

As I was recovering from the awe-inspiring sight of the morning sun that brightly illuminated the forest canopy, Kala escorted me through a thick bush. He slowed down and pointed at a cob-web, architecturally woven across our path. The spider was sitting pretty, ready in its colourful dress at its breakfast table, as if to announce, “don’t be afraid of my charm! Don’t get alarmed of my colours!! Crawl into my beauty parlour!!!”. The web was an unique architectural marvel, the strategy of its survival.

I explained to Kala, “Copulation in spider is a complicated politics of her own. The male does not have any special anatomical apparatus for introducing his sperm directly into the female. Instead, he spins a small silken napkin. On this he deposits a drop of sperms from the genital pore on the underside of his abdomen and sucks it up with his palps, feeler-like organs on either side of his head. He must then thrust one of these into the female’s genital pore and squirt out the sperm, like liquid being expelled from a pipette. His main problem, however, is not how to transfer the sperm, but how to get close enough to do so without losing his life. His mate, after all, is armed with murderous poison-laden fangs, how can he let her know that he wishes to be a mate and not a meal? One must watch the entire drama of hide and seek of female and male spiders in most complicated system of copulation”.

My explanation seemed to have no impact on Kala; it was like Greek and Latin to him, as he simply nodded his head in utter confusion attempted to distance from me. “Since how long are you working in these forests?” I asked Kala, to confide him.

“Since my boyhood Saar”, came the quick answer. “I was born and grew up in these forests. My father worked here as mahout in charge of an elephant. I used to assist him in the upkeep of the elephant and its feeding. He died during widespread plague, while still in service. I was given a job of grass-cutter/kawadies. on compassion grounds. I know nook and corner of these forests. Later, I was given a job as forest guard”, Kala narrated his brief resume.

For me he became moving book of jungle crafts, since then.

1.5 Elephants’ Own Country

The landscape of Bandipur national park, the paradise on earth, serves as haven for herds of elephants and forms part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The NBR is spread over an area of 5,520 sq km and is one of the largest conservation expanses of India. Bandipur reserve also forms a corridor link amidst adjoining protected areas(PAs), such as, Madumalai national park and Tiger Reserve of Tamilnadu state, Wayanad (north & south) Wildlife sanctuaries of Kerala state and Nagarahole national park and Tiger Reserve and Biligirirangan Hills Tiger Reserve of Karnataka. The rugged and beautiful landscape of Bandipur reserve is an eco-biological refuge and the most conducive home for elephants. This biodiversity retreat provides them, undoubtedly, the best habitat with its tropical mixed deciduous forest types interspersed by grasslands and bamboo glades. The quality of vegetation and its regeneration potential is marvellous and provides boundless opportunities in the reproduction of various ungulate spp. Elephants and tigers, though almost equal in strength and born adversaries, are able to share the common landscape of Bandipur. There is no conflict between them, concerning niche, food and water. While the tigers hunt on their potential prey base, the elephants feed on vegetation, such as grass, browse, bamboo and tree bark of selected species*.

Though elephants are not a potential prey species in the menu of tiger, occasionally, attempts are made to kill elephant babies, just to exhibit his/ her brutal superiority. Elephants have, as their survival strategy, developed a fighting spirit against tigers and tend to keep them at bay. Similarly, tigers’ survival strategy is that in order to keep their cubs safe from possible attack by elephants have developed a power of counter attack.

While, wild animals enjoyed their share of earth planet at Bandipur reserve, I did observing them closely, during inspections and zoomed in my camera to capture every movement of their activities in their natural set up.

1.6 Pristine Nature’s Bounty

Bandipur National Park, being dynamic in its floral and faunal composition, lies between North latitudes 12O3’30” and 12O54’17” and East longitudes 76O7’ and 76O 52’ 40”. The terrain is undulating and broken by chains of rolling hills with vast stretches of valleys that are sprinkled with tiny meadows and seasonal water courses. The highest point, the “Gopalswamy Hills”, also described as Kamaladri is at a height of 1,454.5 m. It is aptly, called mountain of clouds (also called Venugopala or Govardhanagiri of the South), always sucking biting winds from the funnel like the sun kissed valley below. The place commands panoramic bird’s eye view of vast stretch of green valley. One can also have from the same point a contrasting picturesque overview of the grey valley of cultivated fields of the civilised world in the opposite direction. Nearby the temple is the Forest Guest House built during the time of Maharajahs. The hill is shrouded by thick fog for most part of the year and hence, the name ‘Himavat Gopalswamy Hills’.

The place is regularly haunted by herds of elephants, which some times enter temple premises for some tit-bits left behind by devotees. The hill had fortifications all round and was called Bettada Kote, but alas, only traces of ruins are seen now. Bettada Kote was ascribed to one “Somana Dandanayaka” Palegar, the chieftain of the region. The Bettada Kote Palegars were said to be related to Mysore Royal dynasty and Katti Gopalraje Urs was the father-in-law of “Krishnaraja Wadiyar II”. Atop the hill, another tall rocky hillock to the west of the temple, at a distance are the holy ponds, like Gopala tirtha, Shankha tirtha, Chakra tirtha, and Gadha tirtha; while in the lower valley of the reserve, Hamsa tirtha, Tottilu tirtha, Panakada kola, Saranga tirtha and Padma tirtha are reported to have been located. Nearby Hamsa tirtha is a small cave called Sadhu gavi – the cave, where this author had once seen a tiger resting during a trekking expedition.

An aerial view from Chamnahalla Forest Lodge, atop the hill, a few km away from Gopalswamy hills, commands a breath taking scenic beauty of vast expanse of green canopy, as far as one can see. It is nothing but the “Green Ocean” spread over from horizon to horizon.

The river Moyar, at the eastern edge of the reserve, cuts into a grand picturesque gorge with vertical fall of 260 m presenting the second deepest and the most beautiful landscape in the whole of India with the famous Nilgiris – the blue Mountains as the back drop. The rain water from Nilgiris cascades down the Moyar River. The seasonal Kekknahalla forming the frontier line between Bandipur reserve and Madumalai reserve flows down the Rolling-rock falls before joining the slow flowing Moyar River, down below.

While in the western edge of the reserve, a view across the Kabini reservoir, at the site of erstwhile Mastigudi, the Goddess that was worshipped in invoking the blessings, before the commencement of erstwhile Khedda operations, presents the most beautiful, pristine and an unique scenic spot in the whole of the country!

An ancient type anicut – the stone barrage, locally known as Sulekatte, said to have been constructed across the river Nugu, near Lakshmanapura during the time of Heggadadeva, Palegar, the chieftain. The river Nugu, the tributary of Kabini River, flows down from South to North and divides the Bandipur reserve into almost equal halves. The anicut is located inside the Reserve, providing perennial supply of drinking water for elephants and other wildlife.

There are good number of tanks and ponds, some of them perennial provide drinking water for the resident animals and birds. There are also seasonal water bodies that go dry in the height of summer. The elephants in the reserve keep drifting from place to place within their home range in order to introduce these water bodies to their toddlers. Being a rain-shadow area, the Bandipur reserve gets scanty rains from both the monsoons; the south-west monsoon from June to September with fairly heavy precipitation in July and the north-east monsoon, comparatively, with light rains in October-November that help the park to remain green for a longer time. The clouds suck dry, as they move towards the eastern parts of the reserve reducing the quantum of rain fall during south-west monsoon. The rain-fall varies from 1200 mm in the western parts to 900 mm in the eastern parts of the reserve.

The climate is equable, with mean temperature of about 24OC (75.2OF) and even during the cold weather the days are sunny, except when they are windy and rainy; the nights are cool. The maximum temperature is around 29.5OC (85OF) and the minimum of about 18.5OC (65.5OF). The sun is strong in the height of summer and the forests dry up, turning dusty from February to April. If the reserve receives some stray heavy showers during December-January, the reserve remains green, preventing possible mishaps from wild fires in hot season. The relative humidity drops down to 42% from that of 70% during November-February. With two to three good pre-monsoon showers during April-May, the park would come alive again. Gathering monsoon clouds during June would eventually end the desiccation.

Yes, continuing the day’s trekking, accompanied by Kala, I realised the tender morning sun had brought hopes of next meal for all the diurnal creatures – the small and the mighty. The continuous wild piercing shrieks, “brain-fever, brain-fever” raising from low to high pitch of the Brain fever bird from a distant tree attracted my attention; continuous and reverberating harsh calls kept pestering me. Meanwhile, there emerged a herd of gaur from their morning siesta at the distant meadow. Experiencing ebony beauty of those beasts, we waited for a while, enjoying the warmth of the rising sun.

“A perfect harmony between the beasts and the green meadow was well established”, I announced, while clicking my camera.

“Of late, an arrogant assumption of human superiority has led to destruction of biodiversity – both plant and animals from their habitats. It is really shocking to see people sneaking into the reserve and carry out unlawful activities like smuggling timber, bamboos, fire wood and poaching elephants for ivory and other herbivores for meat. We better rescue these natural wealth for the future; rescue from threshold of extinction. While attempting to rescue natural resources, we must understand that extinction is not an event, but a process; we can’t stop it. We can, however, slow down the process by effective protection and scientific management. They are within our reach; not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves?” I declared.

Kala simply nodded his head in affirmative.

1.7 Forest Fantasy

The gaur herd on seeing us waiting, they entered thicket, as if to make way for us. Thanking them to have obliged us we crossed their way silently. As the day unwound itself and wintry mist started melting fast, the bright hues of the Glory lily Gloriosa superba, came alive on our way. My eyes could not be trusted for the splash of vivid colours in that golden light, spreading fast the forest valley. The most beautiful flowers of the Indian jungles were bracing the sun to outdo him in the rich interplay of colours. It was truly, a “Forest fantasy” – a feast for the eyes and a treat for the soul.

In all its glory, the nature often gets a chance to show off her grandeur with marvels of beauty and intelligent activities that go on every moment of which we have no knowledge. A melodious song, “One more bottle-one more bottle”, of Racket-tailed drongo from a tall rosewood tree standing in the valley attracted my attention. By the time I raised my binoculars to focus on that incredible bird, it glided away like waves, this time uttering different musical notes.

Mid-morning turned the golden light in to light warm when the mist over the forest valley had thinned out. “A perfect day indeed”, I admired. There it was, the ‘Coffee locust grasshopper’, in his brilliant coat of many hues, collecting his thoughts for the day, as if to say, “be quick with your click!” And before I could say, “thank you”, off he was.

As we kept ambling towards a nearby water body, sweet fragrance of the forest caught my olfactory sense and led me to a blazing tree, called ‘Flame of the forest’. At the edge of the water hole, a carpet of flowers splashed the floor and the tree with bright orange colour, impregnated with nectar attracted my attention. The ground underneath that short tree was also sticky, as nectar droplets from the flowers still continued. Amidst flowers that carpeted the forest floor, to our utter surprise, fresh foot-prints of a sloth bear drew our attention. Obviously, it was the business of a sloth bear that had climbed up the tree of Flame of the Forest Butea monosperma and shaken the branches to feed on flowers. The hairy unpredictable omnivore, perhaps, took to heel on seeing our approach.

You will never miss a Flame of the Forest tree in full bloom, brightly-lit orange coloured flowers of tiger-claw shaped, clinging to the bare tree was a feast to the eye. The tree provided a dramatic relief to the lush green canopy of the forest. I plucked a flower and chewed it. Yes, it tasted like “kissing the first woman I loved!”

Super elephant that acts as the ‘Keystone Species’ of the Indian jungles.

By then, the enchanted world unfolded the most elegant of all land creatures. A master of fascinating world of web artist – the Cat-leg spider was almost missed from my sight. Kala called out pointing at banded pattern of creature on a tree-trunk. The tiny creature was found clung and perfectly camouflaged against the tree-bark. I identified it, ‘Cat-leg spider’, dressed in his formal black and white and perfect in table manners, he was all set for his brunch.

“It is a delightful and an exciting world of flora and fauna, one could experience in the jungle-trails of good and bad overnight events. The drama of ever changing life on earth in that complex forest ecosystem revealed every action and reaction that goes on every moment” I declared.

Talking about the biological classification of vegetation types of Bandipur reserve, it has been designated as “Southern Tropical Mixed Deciduous Forest Type”, featuring a varied ground flora, including glades of short grass and belts of bamboos. Satellite imagery analysis has revealed occurrence of accurate extents of vegetation ranging from Moist deciduous, Dry deciduous, Semi-evergreen sholas with grassy blanks, scrub jungle, grasslands and Bamboo brakes including riverine gallery forests.

Elephant Habitat –managed by elephants themselves by seed dispersal.

While we continued our brisk walk, Kala came to a jerking halt and called out, pointed at a trail of fresh pug marks of a leopard that were left behind the previous night. The trail of leopard pug marks had served Kala as a visiting card. He identified them belonging to the territorial male. As I started making notes, as to their size, shape and stride of pug marks, I had a strange feeling of being watched by some third eye! I looked around. There he was on the tree top, the ‘queen of the swingers’ – the Bonnet monkey. He blushed, for he was caught spying on us, while other members of the troupe were busy in feeding on wild fruits, as part of menu in their breakfast.

“Wild animals are the best teachers of the natural law. They simply obey the natural law, lest their death is imminent. We, humans have to learn the law of jungle from wild animals, before venturing into the jungle. Drama of biological survival is staged in nature every minute; in the process, fights and deaths are inevitable; butSurvival is not guaranteed in the wild. It is guaranteed only by tactful living”, Kala advocated.

As I was about to endorsing his wisdom backed by experience, the calm of the mid-morning was shattered by an alarm call of a peacock. The flamboyant and self-appointed sentry of the forest had warned against the lurking danger around to the denizens of the jungle. I paused...! The atmosphere was charged!! I had one sweeping glance of the horizon. Then I spotted the peacock sitting over an ant-hill. It got panic and disturbed. The law of the jungle prevailed. For me, it meant, perform or face a comprehensive wipe out. I prepared myself mentally and physically to expect the unexpected. I could raise my body temperature through a process of meditation while standing still. One would never know what was in store in that lonely jungle. Kala also stood firm, tensed up, listening to jungle language.

1.8 The Signal

Catching the signal in the direction of excited peacock’s gaze, slowly and deliberately, I fixed my sight on catchy glimpses, silhouetted against the horizon. Yes, confirmed as it was, the predator on its morning prowl. I stood transfixed as I spotted, rosette ‘sphinx’ – the leopard! “Oh, there he was, queen of cats”, I exclaimed! Kala reconfirmed my identification of that big cat.

It was, as though, I had an appointment with the leopard on that wintry morning. Asking Kala to keep an eye on the movements of the big cat, I crawled and hid myself behind a bamboo bush. The leopard snarled at me staring in my direction, as if to say, “You are an uninvited guest at my breakfast table”. Unmindful of his disliking of my presence, I stayed put and looked through the binoculars. There laid a kill, proudly guarded by the owner beneath the leafless Teak tree; the victim seemed to be Sambar doe. Broken evidences around scene were corroborated and led me to arrive at a conclusion that the kill was made just before dawn. The scene had justified the jungle law, “beauty and cruelty are part of the nature”. After all predation is a way of life and a survival strategy for these carnivores. I soon realized that he was oblivious of my presence. I relaxed and gazed in wonder at the rich rosette coat of the magnificent feline. Though it was not possible for me to shoot with my camera, I felt satisfied that I had undertaken a stunning journey in the world of hunters and the hunted.

Forest pool under total control of elephant herd; until elaborate of rituals, like drinking, dip-shower, mudsling followed by body dusting are complete.

The very sight reminded me of slogan, “the wildlife reserves may hold no gold, but they are loaded with riches just the same, if they are left alone”. This was literally true in respect of Bandipur National Park, which lived on its own songs and sounds.

It was a perfect sunny day indeed. “Eerie-hoo; Eerie-hoo”, shrill cry of the avian predator, the Crested hawk eagle, broke the stillness of the jungle air. The eagle was attracted by the unexpected bounty of the remains of the leopard’s kill. But the carnivore lifted the kill, almost his body weight and climbed up the tree to protect its hard earned meal. Among the eyes in wait was the pair of jackals to arrive for “scrap business” with ‘swift fox leap’. Leftover fortunes of the kill served as next meal for them. It is said, in nature, those who eat survive, but not necessarily who kill. As the air borne vultures started descending one by one, it was time for me to leave the scene.

Raised trunk in elephants is said to shower fortune and wisdom.

Makhana-tuskless male elephant with large head and powerful trunk to compensate absence of tusks in combat. Compare it with tusked males the Bachelor group.

1.9 Bandipur Sanctuary with Glorious Past

A journey back in time, as revealed by historical records is that the need to conserve wildlife was realized in the princely state of Mysore, right at the commencement of the 20th century. The Mysore Game and Forest Preservation Regulations were enacted in the year 1931, when 90 sq km of game sanctuary was set up. Subsequently, Venugopala wildlife park was constituted in the year 1941, extending the area over 800 sq km. The park was named after the deity of the shrine, atop the hill, Venugopala, worshipped by the former Maharajahs of Mysore. The ‘sanctum sanctorum’ over 60 sq km of the wildlife park had long been famed for its faunal richness and in it, no commercial forestry was permitted. Despite its dominantly deciduous complexion the park still holds many magnificent tree species. Sculptured relics and idols, existence of domesticated trees like Ficus, Tamarind and abandoned paddy fields seen all over the park, indicated that the aboriginal clans lived in these forests hundreds of years ago. They prayed fire-god, rain-god and earth-god to keep them safe from harmful creatures and epidemics that haunted them periodically. But still, there existed a powerful partnership between the aboriginal races and the nature.

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Outdoors & Nature | 9 Chapters

Author: Dr. C.H. Basappanavar

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