Monday, May 10, 2010

Dholes - Portraits of a Master Predator

Dholes, the indian wild dogs (cuon alpinus) are one of the three main predators found in Indian jungles. Reportedly rare, due to having been almost driven to extinction they have made a very strong recovery in parts of India. Bandipur & Nagarhole are two national parks where they have made an excellent come back. If they were rare, those days are certainly gone because I've never returned from Bandipur without seeing a pack every time.

They are social animals and always found in packs. Each pack has a lead couple the alpha male  & alpha female, with a group of non breeding adults, sub-adults and pups. If God created "team animals", surely the dholes should be numero uno on the list. Not many of their prey come in small sizes and even if they do the dhole may down a small animal only if a sequence of hunts end in failure. Packs may have anything from 6-30 members and feeding everybody will require a subsatntial "hunt"; perhaps a sambar, a large chital or even a gaur.

The largest pack I encountered was a group of some 14 dogs, in February 2009. They were generally lazing around. 

They looked like they had fed well. One of them was regurgitating some bone and chewing it again.

Others were content with just dozing, or  stretching or just lying around. Unmoved by the vehicle parked a few meters away.

Suddenly ears stood up, hackles were raised and the attention of the pack was drawn by something  coming up from further up the track. 

Reluctantly they picked themselves up, still staring at the source of their disturbance. And, when finally it arrived we were too shocked to speak!
An woman, alone and on foot, deep inside the national park. The dogs too appeared confused, whether to stand ground or flee.

Then, deciding that the creature marching nonchalantly in their direction was too confusing to gauge, they turned as a group and loped off unhurriedly, up the track. The woman, unmindful of a pack of dangerous predators running ahead continued in their wake.
 There was not much we could do but watch her retreating back. Praying that she would not end up as a predator's meal we informed the range office before moving on. Mercifully no report of a human death came out of Bandipur for more than a year. She must have survived her trek in the jungle. 

1 comment:

GizmoAddict said...

Very well narrated.. i jus hope th woman survived.