An Indian Wildlife Journey                  by Malcom Walpole 22nd Oct 2018

Malcolm showed a present­a­tion with hun­dreds of pho­to­graphs of anim­als that he saw on his jour­ney.

India’s wild­life is totally dif­fer­ent from African wild­life and although India draws tour­ists to see the cul­ture, Taj Mahal etc. the wild­life is also well worth seeing.

At the first National Park on his travels he pho­to­graphed Asiatic lions.  These are dif­fer­ent from African lions, although the females do the killing and the males turn up to eat the prey.  There are only about 250 indi­vidu­als in the park.  They hunt in dark­ness and prey on Samba deer, which are also hunted by tigers.  These deer were seen feed­ing whilst stand­ing in metre-deep water, pre­sum­ably to stay safe from pred­at­ors.

He also saw Spotted deer, which are more common.  They seem to have a sym­bi­otic rela­tion­ship with Langur mon­keys, because when the deer give warn­ing of danger the mon­keys climb trees to safety then throw down foliage for the deer to eat.

There were pho­to­graphs of many birds: Red-wattled lap­wings, Plum-headed para­keets and Kingfishers (which were identical to the ones seen in England).  There were also Blue peafowl, which are common in India, but Malcolm said they seemed much quieter than the ones we might see in zoos or stately home parks here.

On the way to the second National Park Malcolm was fas­cin­ated by the vari­ety of dif­fer­ent modes of trans­port, par­tic­u­larly the bul­lock carts, which have been used in India for cen­tur­ies.

This National Park was cre­ated to pro­tect the Black-backed ante­lope.  There are no lions, tigers or leo­pards in this park.  The main pred­at­ors are a few grey wolves but the ante­lopes are much too fast for them.  There are also jungle cats, but they prey on smal­ler anim­als as they are only the size of our domestic cats.  Here again was a healthy bird pop­u­la­tion: Montague har­ri­ers, common kestrels, Black-shouldered kites and eagles.

The next stop was at a salt desert to see the Indian wild ass.  This salt desert bor­ders Pakistan.  The asses manage to eke out a living from the salt scrub.

The local people drill down to the water table and salt water rises up to the sur­face, where it is dir­ec­ted into shal­low ponds.  Here the water evap­or­ates in the sun to leave salt.  This is a thriv­ing local industry.  There are also some fresh-water lakes which are home to many bird spe­cies: Storks, Eurasian spoon­bills, pel­ic­ans, night­jars, rock pigeons and Sarus cranes.

Next he went to a for­ti­fied town (Kishen?) where a man was spread­ing sacks and sacks of grain out on the ground.  Soon there was a huge flight of hun­dreds and hun­dreds of Demsol cranes head­ing towards the town and coming in to land.  Lots of pigeons also landed and began to eat the grain but moved away when the cranes came.  The ground became covered in cranes, so closely bunched that there was no spaces between them.  As soon as all the grain was eaten all the cranes flew away.  The grain was sup­plied by local res­id­ents and the ‘hap­pen­ing’ is a famous tour­ist attrac­tion.

Malcolm trav­elled to see the Taj Mahal, then on to the Ganges river basin where he cruised along­side the banks to look at the wild­life.  There was the Galiah? cro­codile, which is the largest in the world.  It can grow to 6 metres in length and weigh over 1 ton.

It is so heavy that it cannot raise its body off the ground so it slides along on its belly when it is on land.  It feeds on fish.  Here again Malcolm saw and pho­to­graphed other cro­codiles and turtles and many, many birds.

He moved on to tiger coun­try where he went out with park staff on elephant-back to see tigers lying in the shade of the forest.  He saw a male tiger being ‘herded’ by an ele­phant and riders.  It was fol­lowed by many tour­ists in jeeps and was obvi­ously annoyed.

However, 15 minutes later it came strolling back, having dodged the ele­phant and the crowds, and Malcolm got his pho­to­graphs.

He ended his trip in Assam where he saw water buf­falo, which can weigh up to 1200kg and have the largest horns of any bovine, and the Indian one-horned rhino­ceros, which is a pro­tec­ted spe­cies.  There are now only about 1000 rhino left and they are still tar­geted by poach­ers for their horns, which are sup­posed to be an aph­ro­dis­iac.

(He also saw lots of birds!)

It was a very well organ­ised present­a­tion, with beau­ti­ful pho­to­graphy.