Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer in Kabini - Part 3: Dholes in the drizzle

25th April, 2015

Link to Part 2 of the series is here

Kabini is famous for its leopards and tigers. They are the apex predators in Nagarahole but there is one more predator, much smaller but no less fearsome; at least for the prey species. The dhole, or Indian wild dog. What it lacks in size, it makes up in cunning and ferociousness.

After the excitement of the morning we were looking forward to something more interesting in the evening. We had planned to take a boat safari instead of going in the bus again but a thunderstorm forced a change of mind.

A few years ago, on sunny summer evening, we were caught unaware by a freak thunderstorm in the Kabini reservoir. The storm lasted a good 45 minutes and we had to beach that boat for  safety. After it blew over we made our way back in pitch darkness. It was the light of a few torches and the experience of the boatman that got us back to the resort safely.

Flashback 2011. Trying to outrun the storm

Flashback 2011. The storm hitting us from behind

The flashback is still not very memorable but that made us jump into our bus for the evening safari. After all the worst thing that could happen was that we'd get stuck in the mud and the bus had headlights!

The thunderstorm that started after lunch had settled into a steady downpour as we got off for the safari. The bus had shades on the sides but the rexine on the canopy was torn in many places and it was dripping onto the seats. There would be small breaks in the rain and when we passed under some big trees but it was drizzling all through. It was highly unlikely that we'd be seeing anything worthwhile, or so we though.

Black naped hare & stripe necked mongoose

One of the magnificent tuskers Nagarahole is famous for
We were in a different zone and the smaller jeeps had sped off quickly. We were in a bus that trundled along trying to avoid all the slush and waterlogged potholes. More than the reduced chances for  wildlife sighting we were worried about getting stuck in the mud!

Then, a flash of brown up ahead on the track in front of us! Dholes! Not one, but a family of two adults and seven pups. They were in a hurry. The parents loped off ahead quickly, with the pups following in a line behind them.

A little further up the track we found the parents standing on a fallen tree looking at something in the distance. They were in the hunting mode and we could sense the thrill of a live hunt. Dholes are pack hunters and I was wondering what two adults would bring down.

Without warning, they leapt off the tree and went racing after something which we could not see. We couldn't keep up with a bus and abandoned any thought of giving chase and parked at a junction waiting for the adults to return.

They would return because the pups were still behind us. They were not running like their parents but were following more slowly.

They all gathered around another fallen tree and were calling in their peculiar whistling way to their parents. A few minutes later we heard the parents return their call and soon enough they were came back to where the pups were waiting for them. No successful kill today.

The rain was picking up and standing at a place was making the torn canopy sag with the accumulated water and it was cascading into the bus. At least if we moved the water would flow off backward, so we left the pack to reunite and drove off.

The wet elephants look like they were made of black clay!

The rain had made the grass grow fresh and the were twisting the green shoots and feasting on it.

A little further on, pair of sambar bolted across the grass giving alarm calls. A predator was on the move but none that appeared in front of our waiting eyes.

We were on the way to a forest rest house and elephant camp inside the forest and then we encountered the second dhole pack of the morning, five adults and four pups.

The wild dogs are pack hunters. They run down their prey and attack from all around. Once selected and cornered the victim doesn't stand a chance. What is more gruesome is that they don't wait for the victim to die. They start feeding even before death overcomes their unfortunate prey.

Perhaps they don't want to take chances. A tiger or leopard in the vicinity might get interested, though it is highly unlikely the bigger predators will try to steal from these fierce creatures! I have seen a leopard run for its life, chased by two dholes, in Bandipur. That was another stormy day in the summer of 2010. If it were a full strength pack even a tiger will not stand a chance. A leopard can scramble up a tree, (see the link in pink), but a tiger will be hard pressed to escape!

The drizzle was steady, without let up and the light was fading. It was better to start our return rather than risk getting stuck so late in the evening. As we were driving back we passed a herd of sambar. They seemed unperturbed, perhaps the weather offered them protection against the predators.

Nagarahole's had put on display its two famous predators in one day, despite the inclement weather. Not only that, both encounters were within touching distance of the beautiful creatures. 

For once, an aborted boat trip was proving to be a blessing!

1 comment:

R Niranjan Das said...

It is so wet and green. Loved the Dhole frames.