The Magic Of Wildlife Photography
SPECIAL MENTION: DAVID RAJU – 'THE HEART OF MOTHERHOOD
Caecilians lack limbs and this makes smaller specimens look like worms, though they are actually amphibians that can grow to lengths of up to 1.5 m., when they are often mistaken for snakes. Living largely underground, they are among the least studied of all amphibians. By coiling around her eggs, this caecilian mother is able to monitor humidity, pH levels and temperature and may even choose to relocate the clutch to avoid desiccation.
KIRAN POONACHA - 'EYE SPY'
Raptors are associated with hunting and killing on a relatively grand scale, normally taking prey such as smaller birds, rodents and reptiles. But this male Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus, a winter visitor to the Indian subcontinent, shows that it is not beneath picking up even the daintiest of meals, in this case a tiny dragonfly in Karnataka's Hesargatta grasslands. Ornithologists say that grasshoppers, beetles and other such lifeforms, which proliferate in the grassland habitats favoured by this mid-sized bird, constitute a significant percentage of its diet.
H. SATISH - 'WE ARE FAMILY'
This huddle of bonnet macaques Macaca radiata was captured by the photographer on a cool winter morning in Tamil Nadu's Eastern Ghats. Apart from conserving warmth, group living is an evolutionary adaptation for primates whose survival depends on 'aunts' that look after the young when their mothers must forage for food. It is also a joint-predator alarm when many eyes are better than one particularly if a leopard or snake is about. All human societies are a product of such social security, but this looks like a dissipating trend, possibly, to our great loss.
R. JAYA PRAKASH - 'SLEEK KILLER'
This handsome Nilgiri marten Martes gwatkinsii is found only in India's Western Ghats, but is nevertheless related to its smaller cousin, the yellow-throated marten of the Himalaya. Though it prefers to hunt up in the trees where it will easily take birds, rodents and reptiles, it will readily descend in search of hares and other prey, or even larger animals that are sick or wounded. This is one of the species that has greatly benefitted from the protection offered to the tiger and the elephant whose habitats offer countless niches for other creatures great and small.
SPECIAL MENTION: BAIJU PATIL - 'PICTURE PERFECT'
Two critically-endangered gharials Gavialis gangeticus are captured on camera with the highly threatened Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis in Rajasthan's Chambal river. Both species are specialised fish-eaters and their existence is critically linked to the health of a handful of north Indian rivers. The Chambal is said to be India's least polluted river but plans in the pipeline could change this status very soon.
SANJAY PATIL - 'THE BIG TWO IN BATTLE'
Uttarakhand's Corbett Tiger Reserve is one of the few remaining wildernesses with expanses that can support large herds of elephants. At the epitome of their evolution, elephants, the largest land mammals in the world, would easily survive into the future, but humans seem unwilling to give them the space they need. While Corbett itself is well protected, the lands outside are being steadily whittled down, thus confining these jousting young tuskers to a life of 'imprisonment' where they may, in fact, ultimately contribute to the destruction of their home by overgrazing, if their migratory routes are cut off.
DEVENDRA GOGATE - 'BEETLES FOREVER'
The relationship between insects and plants is one of the most fascinating chapters of evolution. These mating tiger beetles (Genus Cicindela) were photographed in the flower meadows of Maharashtra's Kaas plateau towards the end of the monsoon. Their timing is anything but accidental because with the rain comes an abundance of food for the generation that will be born. Copulation involves multiple insertions of the aedeagus (male reproductive organ) into the ovipore of the female, possibly a strategy to remove sperm deposited by earlier mating partners.
CHRISTY WILLIAMS AND FIROZ AHMED - 'IN YOUR FACE'
A great Indian one-horned rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis comes within touching distance of the lens of a 'camera trap' laid by scientists along paths frequented by the pachyderms in the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve. Acknowledged to be one of the world's most successful conservation efforts, a shadow has begun to fall over Kaziranga thanks to a renewed surge in poaching, coupled with a slew of upstream dams that threaten to inundate and change the moist grassland habitat so vital to the rhino's future.
SPECIAL MENTION: MILIND RAUT 'TABLES TURNED'
This dramatic scene took place on the forested hill slopes near Pune, Maharashtra. A jungle cat Felis chaus has overpowered a Russell's viper, one of the deadliest of all snakes found in India. The photographer confirms that the snake was still alive when he took the image using his 400 mm. lens. One would have imagined the snake would have come out winning, but this time the tables were turned.
SHARDUL KELKAR - 'LAY IT ON'
Butterflies, like other insects, are the 'maintenance crew' of ecosystems. This tawny coster butterfly Acraea violae is seen carefully placing its eggs on a host plant where they will hatch into caterpillars, dependent on the plant for the first phase of their existence. Commonly found in India and Sri Lanka, this butterfly sequesters toxins from the host plant in the larval stage and this enables the adult to excrete an oily, unpleasant liquid that renders it unpalatable to most predators.
Sanctuary Asia Vol XXXII No. 1, February 2012.