The reserve has no predators like tigers and lions – leaving the animals largely free from danger. Romance blooms, and the population increases. Good for them!
Velavadar is also mostly off the tourist circuit. All this means animals and birds lead undisturbed lives – and visitors generally have terrific sightings. I did.
After Blackbucks, the highest population in Velavadar is of Indian Antelopes, known as Nilgai or Blue Bull. Herds roam the park, and make a graceful sight when they trot away when they sense people close by.
Like the Blackbucks, familiarity breeds contempt amongst them too – saw a few sparring head-to-head. I really wonder what animals think when they fight. Any clues? Here go some portraits of these animals:
Surprisingly I also saw many Wild Boars up close. They are to be easily found in Indian forests – but not easy to click. They really know how to disappear fast at the slightest hint of danger.
Wild Boars paint a ferocious image, so why do they run away? Maybe they know what happens to their domesticated cousins, the pigs, in the human food chain.
Another elusive species is the Jungle Cat. Camera shy, I was not just lucky to spot one, but it also stayed put. Why? It was out hunting for food. Rats specifically.
As I watched, the Jungle Cat stood still in a crouching, alert position for a long time. And then it jumped. Literally. High up in the air to grab its prey. But missed. And walked away – pride hurt, stomach empty. It did look in my direction, embarrassed with the miss.
Here goes the series of shots I took of the cat:
I was keen to see a Hyena too – and I convinced my guide to take me to their home. It was a hole in the ground – with bones of consumed animals lying around. The species found here is called Striped Hyena.
We waited – and waited. And then, out of the blue, someone darted out of the hole into the grasses. It was a Hyena cub – quite big for a kid – who was home alone. Mom was out to pick dinner.
The cub would run a few yards, stop, look back, and then be off again. Did not quite know how to react to intruders in the neighbourhood. Mom, hurry up will you!
Hyenas are not really hunters. They wait for animals to pop off, and scavenge them. There are enough animals in Velavadar for one to die naturally every few days. Hyenas even eat the remains of those hunted by others. They hunt small animals at best. Lazy guys.
As scavengers, hyenas do play an important role in sanitizing the eco-system. A bit like what vultures do. Everyone has their role chalked out by Mother Nature.
Hyenas have powerful jaws and large teeth – great for bone crushing. They chew up large bones from carcasses, thus enriching themselves calcium and phosphorus from these.
Despite more than a fair share of sightings, I egged my guide to show me wolves, the Indian Grey Wolf to be specific. Especially since he had been boasting there are good numbers around. His professional credibility was at stake. And he delivered.
Three wolves, that’s what I saw. At a great distance. But yes, I could see them well through binoculars. And they noticed me too, without any aids. And then the chase began.
For literally miles, I drove towards them and they sprinted away from me. I through caution to the winds, kicking dust as I accelerated. And they ran faster. Eventually they won – they reached the cover of forests before I could get close enough to take any pictures.
Unlike Hyenas, wolves make a greater effort to feed themselves. They hunt in pack, blackbucks being their staple diet. For variety, they pick on rodents, hare and feral dogs.
Ajay Jain is currently on the Great Arabian Sea Drive, starting from Delhi and following the coastline all the way from Gujarat down to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Follow all updates on:
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