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Wild Pench!

Wild Pench!

India’s wildlife is unparalleled. Especially in Mowgli’s land! The wilderness jewel featured on these pages lies only a couple of hours from Nagpur. Known as the Pench Tiger Reserve, it rightfully boasts of a wide diversity of flora and fauna. As you know, in March 2015, Kids for Tigers Ambassadors were taken to the Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra as part of the National Camp 2015, where they were treated to its stunning wildlife, great and small. Here is a glimpse into Pench’s wilds through the eyes of the camp participants.

Honey bees: Beehives hung large and numerous on the branches of tall and sturdy trees across the Pench forest. These mighty little insects are important pollinators of the natural world. Seeds, nuts, berries and fruits are the result of the hardwork that bees and other insects put into pollinating. These are food for various herbivores, which in turn feed carnivores such as the tigers. Protection of tigers and their habitats in turn ensures a healthy population of bees. In other words, bees need tigers, tigers need bees!

Photo: Gaurav Shirodkar.

Gaur: In stark contrast to the tiny little bees, these forests are also home to the giant herbivore, the gaur, which weighs up to a tonne! The world’s largest bovine is a sight to behold. So intimidating is its sheer size and large horns, even a tiger thinks twice before preying on this massive animal for food.

Photo: Mallika Narvekar.

Crested Hawk-eagle: The Pench safaris abounded with sightings of spectacular raptors, such as this royal Crested Hawk-eagle. It sat there perched in splendid grandeur, showing the distinct tufts of feathers on its head, and perhaps scanning the forest floor for prey with its sharp and sophisticated eyesight.

Photo: Mallika Narvekar.

Forest landscape: Why just the fauna? The magnificent flora here is just as much a showstopper. The forests of Pench Tiger Reserve are known to harbour over a thousand plant species – from grasses to shrubs to plants and trees. One minute you would be driving across a stretch of grassland, open and vast, and the next minute through the dense vegetation of tall tree canopies and plants. Therein, lies the beauty of this mixed forest.

Photo: Gaurav Shirodkar.

Deer carcass: The thrill of being in a jungle is to witness it in its every form, the pleasant and beautiful as well the merciless. Eat or be eaten is the law. This carcass of a deer, down to its bones, was found lying sprawled on the banks of the backwaters of Totladoh. Try to reconstruct in your minds the entire scene of the hunt, the chase and finally the kill. Was the hunter a tiger? A leopard?

Photo: Purva Variyar.

White-rumped Vulture: Barren branches of a tree, with a large vulture perched atop one of them seems like a spooky setting. But, seeing vultures with one’s own eyes belies the common perception. This White-rumped Vulture looked enigmatic with its large, perfect frame and a sleek bill. Seeing a healthy population of vultures – White-rumped, Indian and King, gave a pleasant hope of revival, given that the impact of pesticides and vetinerary drugs had pushed their population to an all time low.

Photo: Mallika Narvekar.

Taiga Flycatcher: This tiny migratory bird must have flown a long distance to reach Pench, all the way from North Eurasia which includes eastern Russia, Siberia and Mongolia. It lives and breeds in the taiga forests there. It is a winter visitor to south and Southeast Asia. We know this individual Taiga Flycatcher is an adult breeding male by the orange patch on its throat.

Photo: Vikas Madhav.

Golden jackal: Perhaps the most exciting of the sightings was that of the golden jackal. True to its name, this canid blended seamlessly, camouflaging well against the dry, golden hues of the grass. This helps track down its prey with stealth and cunning.

Photo: Mallika Narvekar.

Bambootail damselfly: And if you thought the jackals were masters of camouflage, this slender little damselfly takes the cake. Becoming one with the rock it is perched on, it was almost invisible! Only a careful eye can tell the animal from its backdrop. Damselflies are usually found near waterbodies and are often mistaken for dragonflies with whom they share anatomical similarities.

Photo: Gaurav Shirodkar.

First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXXV, No. 5, May 2015.

 
 
 

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