In­dia - a love af­fair

Na­ture Note's Nick Hodges wres­tles with the chal­lenges and joys of this com­plex coun­try

Monthly Chronicle - - Front Page - NICK HODGES

There wasn't much wildlife in Delhi - un­less you count the cows dic­ing with death in the traf­fic­choked streets. Or the do­mes­tic pigs root­ing in the gut­ter. There might have been birds but there were so many peo­ple I could see no room for any­thing else. And even if birds were present, they wouldn't have been no­ticed be­cause the pol­lu­tion was so thick I could hardly see across the road.

I was on my way to two na­ture re­serves in or­der to sam­ple In­dian wildlife and took a flight to Nag­pur where the air was cleaner and I could lit­er­ally breathe a sigh of re­lief. I'd been try­ing not to breathe at all for the last 48 hours.

Nag­pur was also crowded but the coun­try­side with peace and space was even­tu­ally reached, and the birds and squir­rels be­gan to ap­pear.

I had a pri­or­ity list and, hav­ing driven to Kanha more or less in the mid­dle of In­dia, I got started with ex­cel­lent views of spot­ted deer. Sam­bar deer and gaur (In­dian bi­son) were also seen.

Com­mon lan­gur mon­keys were, not sur­pris­ingly, com­mon, and two golden jack­als were ob­served in the grass­lands. Ele­phants were tear­ing at the vege­ta­tion.

In the sec­ond re­serve I did much the same: a pre-dawn ris­ing for a jun­gle drive then back for a short mid­day rest be­fore an­other out­ing in late af­ter­noon.

How­ever, I missed the sight­ing of a sloth bear when I tired of the con­stant early morn­ing de­par­tures and the chok­ing dust of yet an­other jeep ride: I needed a lie in. Luck­ily I ral­lied for the af­ter­noon trip when a rarely seen jun­gle cat put in an ap­pear­ance.

My bird list in­creased: herons, par­rots, vul­tures were all spot­ted through my binoc­u­lars but sick­ness was claim­ing me.

The re­turn jour­ney to Delhi was made by train. Un­for­tu­nately all of In­dia was at the rail­way sta­tion, or at least that’s how it felt. The sights, the smells, the crush were all un­nerv­ing. I'd be glad to leave In­dia. I'd had enough.

Or had I? In­dia gets into your soul (as well as your stom­ach).

I think I'll go again next year...

Com­mon lan­gur Golden jackal

Taj Ma­hal Photo credit: Ju­dith Ra­m­age

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