The jungles in the heart of India are dense and deep, a stunning wilderness teeming with biodiversity. Rugged ravines, thick forests, savannah grass, sylvan meadows, streams, rivers and lakes create an ideal habitat for wild animals. This is the tiger’s playground. But the tiger is not the only predator to roam the region. Central India is also home to two other rare species – the Indian Grey Wolf and the Dhole i.e. the Indian Wild Dog.
There are many reasons why Central India is so rich in biodiversity. One is the abundance of a vast and varied prey-base. Ungulates such as deer, Nilgai (antelope), Gaur (bison) are prolific. These forests teem with species such as wild boar. There are plenty of smaller creatures such as primates, squirrels and mongoose and thousands upon thousands of avian species.
The other reason is that Central India has many different ranges and territories interconnected to one another. Each of it’s national reserves has a corridor to the next. Therefore there’s a healthy migration of DNA from one area to another and this has resulted in creating a very strong gene pool – particularly for the tiger. It’s a well documented fact that the tigers of Kanha are some of the most powerful and largest tigers in the Indian Subcontinent, primarily thanks to such robust genes that they have inherited over generations.
There are three distinct types of Wolf in India. The Himalayan and Tibetan wolf is found in the mountain regions of the subcontinent and Tibet. The Peninsular Wolf, also known as the Indian Gray Wolf, is the species we are most familiar with in the rest of the country and confined to the savannah grasslands of Central India. The Indian Gray Wolf is a lean, mean fighting machine. The wolf has a distinct place in Indian lore. After all, it was a pack of wolves that raised Mowgli, Kipling’s iconic forest child, and protected him from the tiger and the dhole.
Today there are only a few thousand of these creatures left – isolated due to habitat fragmentation. Unlike the tiger, the pack is central to the wolf’s existence and they need a vast range to roam and hunt for food. A single pack needs almost 200 square kilometres of range. The tragedy is that wolves are mercilessly hunted down by humans as they attack livestock and there is an ancient belief that they are “child lifters” ie they steal young children. Folklore has only perpetuated the “big bad wolf” legend.
Smaller than either the tiger or the wolf, but perhaps even more feared by prey, the Dhole or Indian Wild Dog, is a ferocious creature. Dhole usually hunt in packs and are opportunistic feeders. Unlike the tiger’s grunts and roars and the wolf’s howls, the Dhole has a distinct whistling sort of call that can even escalate into a banshee like scream. The minute the presence of a wild dogs is sensed by prey like Sambhar or Spotted Deer, they run for their lives. Wild dogs, however, have never been known to attack humans. A tiger or a wolf will wait for the kill to die before feeding on it, but wild dogs will often bring down the hunted animal and start to feed on it with a ravenous fervour, even before it’s completely dead. Wild dogs have tremendous staying power and can run for hours.
A tiger usually waits to ambush it’s prey striking at a strategic moment. Wild dogs will often pursue their prey for a long time until the hunted animal literally drops dead to the ground with exhaustion. Then they pounce on it. While Sambhar is usually preferred, a wild dog is not opposed to even attacking an elephant calf if it’s hungry enough. In the western ghats, it’s not uncommon to hear of run-ins between a pack of wild dogs and a mother elephant defending her babies.
Pench, Kanha and Satpura are three parks where all three predators coexist with one another. A broad range, a variety of flora and fauna, adequate prey, an abundance of water, and several corridors provide adequate habitat, food and cover for the regions tigers, wolves and wild dogs. Watch these predators in action in their natural habitat. Book your safari today at www.tigersafariindia.com
Born and brought up in New Delhi, it was Sharad’s childhood passion to play cricket for India. While on a holiday in 1990, he saw his first tiger. Little did he know that this one sighting would immerse him into a realm where forests and tigers were all that mattered.
Sharad’s experiences as a wildlife photographer have inspired him to observe the tiger’s behavior for over 30 years and motivated him on his own journey as an entrepreneur. He started Nature Safari India Pvt Ltd, with a focus on “Conservation through Tourism.” to align himself to the mission of saving the regal species and repopulating them in India’s forests. In 2006, he set up one of India’s premier jungle lodges in Kanha National Park.
Sharad believes that there are many lessons to be learned from a tiger that can be applied successfully to leadership—both in business and in life. Here’s a new book by Sharad Vats on management and leadership skills to learn from a Tiger.