World Wildlife Day may have come and gone, but the fact remains that there are species on the brink of extinction that need our help. So, the 48hrs Team tells you about this year’s theme and where you can catch a glimpse of these majestic animals in the wild
The jungle is home to a wonderful variety of flora and fauna, but there are several species that are endangered due to the activities of man. It provides us with natural resources and contributes to the ecological balance, but we have been abusing these resources for as long as we can remember. World Wildlife Day aims to make us aware of our natural resources and why we need to respect and conserve them. This year, the theme chosen is Big Cats: Predators Under Threat, and we’re telling you about the planet’s big cats under attack as well as how you can get closer to them.
GEMS OF THE JUNGLE
They are majestic, beautiful and above all fierce, ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey. But, life as they’ve known it no longer exists; the wild cats at the top of the food chain are threatened. Man’s industrial and agricultural activities have pushed many species to the brink of extinction and the number of big cats has gone down significantly. The tiger and lion are ‘threatened’, but there are others that are ‘endangered’ and ‘vulnerable’. Here are wildcats that have captivated people the world over.
Inhabiting the high mountains of India, Pakistan, Nepal and China, these majestic cats hunt sheep, wild goat, marmots and hares. With an estimated population of 4,080 to 6,590, which is declining, they’ve been classified as vulnerable. Since they need cold environments to thrive, a change in temperature is one of their biggest threats.
The fastest land animal on earth, this feline is generally found in the grasslands of Africa and a few parts of Asia. Unlike most big cats that hunt when light is low, the cheetah hunts during the day and relies on speed to catch its prey, which includes antelope and gazelle. They have been classified as vulnerable mainly because of loss of habitat.
The largest among the big cats, there are many subspecies of tiger — Siberian, Bengal, Malayan and Sumatran — and male Bengal tigers can weigh as much as 200kg. The tiger population is just around 3,890, and they are categorised as endangered. A decline in their numbers is mainly due to loss of habitat as forests are being taken over for farming and they are also being traded illegally for their body parts.
ALL OF WILDLIFE IS BEAUTIFUL
As the world around us is caught up in a rat race, grabbing at money and fame, take a step back and peer into the world that lies beyond, in the forests and jungles, that which houses some of the most glorious creations in our known universe. If you’re looking to explore wildlife across the country, here are a few trips worth considering.
A world of turtles
The Velas Turtle Festival is where you will witness baby turtles making their way out of their nests and dashing for the open ocean. The two-day trip will give you a glimpse of the beginnings of life of the Olive Ridley Turtle, in addition to sights such as the Harihareshwar Temple, Bankot Fort and Velas Beach. You’ll learn about the turtle conservation movement undertaken by the villagers to protect the eggs and help the hatchlings get to the sea. Besides being home to turtles, Velas also has myriad bird species including the White-bellied sea eagle, the White-backed vulture and the Indian swiftlet. So, an eventful trip is shall be.
Price: Rs. 2,999 per person
When: March 24 to 25
Where: Velas Turtle Festival, Harihareshwar, Raigad
Contact: 8692086927, 8692055777 or www.mumbaitravellers.in
The jewel of Vidharba
The Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve is one of the oldest national parks in the state of Maharashtra and is rightly called The Jewel of Vidharba for its interesting wildlife. Close by is the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary, which was opened in 2012, about 58km from Nagpur and comprising of about 180 square kilometres. You’ll spot a number of species here, including the tiger, leopard, Indian wild dog, Indian fox and jungle cat. What’s more, you’ll be lucky to spot shier species such as the gaur, blue bull, sambar, barking deer, wild boar and spotted deer. With such a diverse range of species and so close to the city, what’s stopping you from exploring this wildlife sanctuary?
Price: Rs. 18,550 per person
When: March 29 to April 1
Where: Tadoba and Umred Karhandla
Contact: 7718980081/82 or www.mymeraindia.com
How about celebrating the long weekend lost in the world of the big cats? Join the Owlet Outdoors to explore the pristine jungle and watch wildlife from an open safari vehicle at the Pench Tiger Reserve, which straddles Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and which is famous for its tiger population. The reserve and its neighbourhood served as inspiration for Mowglee and Sherkhan from Rudyard Kipling’s most famous work, The Jungle Book. Defined by hills and valleys, the reserve is an extravagance of trees, shrubs, grasses, climbers and herbs and comprises of 33 species of mammals, 164 species of birds, 50 species of fish, 10 species of amphibians, 30 species of reptiles and a variety of insects.
Price: Rs. 14,000
When: March 30 to April 1
Where: Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
Contact: 9987577684, 8600762186 or www.owletoutdoors.in
Kanha wildlife jungle safari
Kanha National Park is also believed to be the inspiration behind Rudyard Kipling’s classic forest tale. Here is your chance to explore the jungle through which Mowgli strode and see with your own eyes what you’ve only imagined. The park is one of the most sought-after destinations for wildlife enthusiasts worldwide. With dense forests, meadows and rich water bodies that create a favourable environment for rich biodiversity, Kanha is the perfect setting if you want to surround yourself with nature. The trip will take you on jungle safaris in a jeep as you look for tigers and a host of other animals. Kanha is also a paradise for bird-watchers and offers a host of opportunities for wildlife photographers. And while here, don’t miss the chance to click selfies with Bhoorsingh the Barasingha, the park’s mascot.
Price: Rs. 14,500
When: April 13 onwards (4 nights, 5 days)
Where: Kanha Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
Contact: 9819021806 or www.traveltrikon.com
Great Himalayan National Park
The Great Himalayan National Park is located in the Kullu region in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Carved out of the splendid mountain terrain, it is the largest protected area in the state. The secluded Tirthan valley harbours a variety of wildlife. Wild mountain goat like the bharal, goral and serow, the Himalayan brown bear, as well as predators including the leopard and the very rare snow leopard all are found here. Bird-watchers will be delighted about spotting the Himalayan pied kingfisher, the Brown dipper, the Bearded vulture and the Himalayan parakeet. A moderate level three-day hike from the eco-zone into the park, your journey will take you through the hill forest.
Price: Rs. 26,900 (members) and Rs. 28,100 (others)
When: April 21 to 27
Where: Great Himalayan National Park, Himachal Pradesh
Contact: 22821811 or www.bnhs.org
The world’s forests do more than just support us. Apart from providing us with all the natural resources we need, they also have other functions and benefits. Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is a healing technique developed in Japan during the 1980s. South Korean and Japanese researchers have looked into the health benefits of spending time taking in the atmosphere of the living forest. This type of therapy allows you to be one with nature and its elements, to simply walk in the woods and reconnect with our natural surroundings and the species of the forest.
We’ve often admired the vast landscapes and forests of the African and Amazonian regions, and sighed in wonder at the beautiful sights of the Indonesian and Hawaiian volcanoes, but the truth is that you have to look no further than India for mesmerising sights of nature. Here are a few national parks within our country that you can visit.
Sunderbans National Park
Part of the vast Sunderbans forest that extends all the way up to Bangladesh, this national park is one of the largest Bengal tiger reserves. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sunderbans are also famous for their mangroves, which dominate the Ganges delta for which the national park is known.
Bandhavgarh National Park
One of the more popular destinations for jungle safaris in India, the beauty of the forest has not diminished despite heavy tourism. In fact, not only is the density of the tiger population the highest in Bandhavgarh, the region is also home to different species of mammals from which the Indian bison, wolf and leopard are mesmerising visions to be spotted.
Namdapha National Park
The third largest national park in India, Namdapha is defined by the beauty of its extensive dipterocarp forests, and is regarded as one of the richest areas in terms of biodiversity in the country. Apart from big cats and black bears, the national park also houses some of the rarest species of birds and butterflies.
Hemis National Park
Located in the eastern Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, this high altitude national park is known for more than just its snow-capped mountains. Considered to have the highest density of snow leopards, the park is popular internationally for the enigmatic white cat.