Thursday, April 2, 2015

Elephant sighting in Kabini, April 2015

We had a wonderful trip to Kabini this week, with sightings of several animals and birds by the river. 

Summer is usually the perfect time to see the gathering of elephants by the river bank. Usually as the river dries up, the green grass emerges from dormant seeds, providing nourishment to elephants.  Apart from this, there are dense clumps of Giant Bamboo grass along the river bank, which also the elephants love to eat.

But right now, the bamboo is dead. This type of bamboo flowers once in three decades or so, and yields bamboo rice (very expensive, nearly Rs 2000 per kg). After the flowering, the bamboo dies. You can see the dead thickets of Giant Bamboo in the photo below (on the left). With the bamboo gone, the Kabini riverbank cannot support big herds of elephants. So the matriarchs have taken their herds to other parts of the forest. Only some individuals remain, especially solitary tuskers. We had some excellent individual sightings. 
Here is a closer look at the two elephants in the photo above. The older one is definitely female, but I cannot tell whether the young one is male or female. It is possibly a mother and child. The mother has decided to remain by the Kabini riverbank for the moment. Perhaps she will migrate elsewhere later in summer.
Here is another tusker that we saw. He is also busy eating the green grass. He is surrounded by groups of jungle mynahs. When he feeds, he disturbs little insects in the grass, which the mynahs love to eat.
We drove into another part of the park and were rewarded by a unique encounter with a tusker in musth. He is the Ganesha of Kabini, with one tusk :) Check out his ears, and compare them with the tusker in the previous photo. These pink edged ears are a sign of age. This is a much older elephant, compared to the one in the previous photo. He was in musth (you can see the secretion from the glands on his temples). He probably lost one tusk in a fight with another elephant. He was moving quite rapidly, and when we left him we saw him reaching up with his trunk to break branches of a tree. 
We also saw a very young male elephant, whose tusks were just beginning to emerge. He was grazing by the side of the road, but vanished into the forest when he spotted us. He must have been kicked out of the bigger herd and was now beginning his life as a solitary male.
On our safari, we also stopped at the forest department's elephant camp, where we saw Arjuna, the impressive elephant who heads the Dussera procession of the Maharajah of Mysore. I felt rather sorry for him, frankly.
Apart from elephants we saw many other creatures big and small. We had a magnificent but short sighting of a leopard, which was the highlight of the trip. I enjoyed seeing the Giant Malabar Squirrel, which I had not spotted before. The langur-chital groupings were fun to see. The birding was also good. In fact, I enjoyed everything about Kabini, and think it is a wonderful place to visit in summer.

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