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.