Sunday, June 14, 2009

Of Dholes & a Gaur

May, in Bandipur, should have been hot. It meant dry grass and sparse undergrowth, which, in turn should mean good wildlife sighting. This May was different. It had been raining regularly all summer and my recent trips had all been under overcast skies.

As I drove into Bandipur I was having a niggling sense of disappointment. The grass was fresh and the lantana was dense. I had promised my sister a trip with a difference and I wasn't sure of it anymore. The upside of it was that forest fires would not happen. Wet weather would douse any enthusiasm a spark might have and that gave me some comfort.

Evening safari started on a dull note. The sky was overcast and stray droplets of an impending storm threatened to ruin our drive into the jungle. My only consolation was that the was that my gear was ready to take on the rain even if I was not. The only thing to do was to sit back a wait for the storm to blow over.

It was close to 6 PM. Light was failing rapidly as we crossed the highway into the eastern side of the park. Bomma braked suddenly because in front of the vehicle, on the left of the road were 8 dhole; pups & adults. Further on was a lone dog, perhaps that alpha male, being filmed from another vehicle. Not wanting to disturb the filming we halted on the track.
Suddenly the pups disappeared into the dense lantana. At first it appeared that it was our presence that disturbed the pack. Then it became apparent that the reason for the disturbance was not us but a huge male gaur.

At first as the bull advanced the dogs held their ground, even making mock attacks.

The bull wasn't deterred. It was intent on crossing over despite the snapping dogs.

He just charged through the pack scattering the dogs before him.

Once he had waded through the pack and reached the jeep track he halted as if to show that he had not run in fear.

After a minute he crossed the track towards the dense lantana bordering the road.

Just before he disappeared into the bush he halted for a moment with his rump towards us, exhibiting a wound just above his tail. Perhaps a legacy of another encounter with a pack like this some place elsewhere at another time.

Truly a majestic beast.

May his tribe increase...........

..... and may he live to fight and survive many more days in this in this paradise called Bandipur.

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