Jim Corbett_Elephant_Wildlife_Jungle_Safari

“She owned the road
as an elephant owns the veldt
and like a big blue elephant
moved with massive grace
and dignity.”

― David Drake

The largest land mammal in India, The Indian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian elephant and native to mainland Asia. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as status ‘Endangered’ by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50%

Project Elephant was launched in 1992 by the Government of India- Ministry of Environment and Forests to provide financial and technical support of wildlife management efforts by states for their free ranging populations of wild Asian Elephants.

 

About the Species

The Asiatic elephant’s grey wrinkled skin, long trunk and sail-like ears make it one of the most easily recognized animals. It has a convex back with a ridge along the spine, a highly pronounced double domed forehead and a smooth trunk ending in one tip or ‘finger’. Only the male has large tusks, females have very small dental protuberances called ‘tushes’. Some males called makhanas are tuskless and seen to be more aggressive. Aging in elephants is done by the number of ear folds (since ears start folding inwards from twenty years of age), sinking of forehead and depigmentation.

Indian elephants reach a shoulder height of between 2 and 3.5 m, weigh between 2,000 and 5,000 kg (4,400 and 11,000 lb), and have 19 pairs of ribs. Three species of the Asiatic Elephant are recognized:

Sub Species Range Status
E. m. indicus India Endangered
E. m. maximus Sri Lanka Endangered
E. m. sumatranus Sumatra Endangered

 

Origins and habitat

Asian elephants formerly ranged from West Asia along the Iranian coast into the Indian subcontinent, eastwards into South-east Asia including Sumatra, Java, and Borneo, and into China at least as far as the Yangtze-Kiang. Asian elephants are now extinct in West Asia, Java, and most of China The western populations (Elephas maximus asurus) were probably extinct by 100 BC, and the main Chinese populations (sometimes referred to as E. m. rubridens) disappeared sometime after the 14th century BC. Now restricted to four general areas: north-eastern India, central India, north-western India, and southern India.In north-eastern India, the elephant range extends from the eastern border of Nepal in northern West Bengal through western Assam along the Himalaya foothills as far as the Mishmi Hills. In north-western India, the species occurs in six fragmented populations at the foot of the Himalayas in Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh. In southern India, elephants occur in the hilly terrain of the Western Ghats and in parts of the Eastern Ghats in the states of Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and, relatively recently, Andhra Pradesh. In central India, highly fragmented elephant populations are found in the States of Orissa, Jharkhand, and the southern part of West Bengal and Chhattisgarh.

A generalist, the elephant uses mixed deciduous and evergreen forests, scrub, floodplains and grasslands to sustain large herds.

 

Behaviour

The Indian Elephant is known to travel long distances in search of food, security and have established forest corridors which they use across generations. Feeding mainly on grasses, a large amounts of tree bark, roots, leaves and small stems is also eaten. The gigantic beast is a mega-herbivore requiring huge amount of food, it may spend up to 19 hours a day feeding and they can produce about 220 pounds of dung per day while wandering over an area that can cover up to 125 square miles. This is an instinct to ensure that existing forests are not defunct due to over-grazing by a herd of elephants, allowing the forest time to re-grow. Though it avoids human settlement, they are known to stray into adjoining human settlements or once-corridors or in search of agricultural crops. Often, the elephant has been considered a pest to farmer crop such as sugarcane, rice and banana. It is an excellent swimmer.

Highly intelligent and social animals, known to exhibit cognitive social behaviour and emotions such as greeting new members, bereavement and group cohesion. They form herds of related females that are led by the oldest female, the ‘matriarch’.Communication happens through tummy rumbles and touching. Males usually stay separate and join and leave the group for mating. Gestation lasts for about 22 months post which generally one calf is born.

Interesting Facts

  • Asian elephants are more closely related to the extinct mammoth than the African elephants
  • An elephant´s trunk, a union of the nose and upper lip, is a highly sensitive organ with over 100,000 muscle units!
  • The largest Indian elephant ever recorded was at 3.43 meters (11.3 feet) in shoulder height.
  • The travelling territory of a herd of elephants is large, home ranges in excess of 600 km² have been recorded for females in south India.
  • An elephant can smell water 3 miles away.
  • An elephant could carry up to 2 gallons of water in its trunk.
  • Due to their highly tamable and docile nature in captivity, elephants are an important part of forest operations, Indian festivals and heritage sights, bringing a royal touch to the ceremonies and historic places. *
Mongoose_Wildlife_jungle_safari

The motto of all the mongoose family is, “run and find out,” and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose

― Rudyard KiplingRikki-Tikki-Tavi

The common Indian mongoose is the famed animal traditionally used in snake and mongoose shows and immortalized as Rikki-Tiki-Tavi in Rudyard Kipling’s story. Mongoose is the popular English name for 29 of 34 species in the 14 genera of the family Herpestidae.Commonly spotted sub-species of the mongoose that are found in India – The Grey Mongoose, the Ruddy mongoose, the Small Indian Mongoose. The mongoose enjoys a status of ‘ Least Concern’ by IUCN.

About the Species

Mongooses have long faces and bodies, small, rounded ears, short legs, and long, tapering tails. Most are brindled or grizzly; a few have strongly marked coats. They have non retractable claws which are used for digging. A common feature across mongooses is that they possess receptors for acetylcholine that, like the receptors in snakes, are shaped so that it is impossible for snake neurotoxin venom to attach to them. This makes them formidable enemies of snakes. Following three species are commonly spotted in India:

Sub Species Common Name Range Status
H.e. edwardsii Grey Mongoose Throughout India except high Himalayas Least Concern – Locally Common
H.s. smithii Ruddy Mongoose Forests of central, western and peninsular India Least Concern – Uncommon
H.a. auropunctatous Small Indian Mongoose Northern Plains Least Concern – Locally Common

 

Grey Mongoose:The Grey Mongoose has a tawny coat which is much more grizzled with individual hairs having ten alternate dark and light bands. A long bushy tail with a pale yellow tip gives it a distinct appearance from the other two species mentioned above.

Ruddy Mongoose: Similar in structure to the Grey Mongoose, its differentiating feature is the varying reddish brown infusions on its underparts and the fact that its tail has a black tip that is carried pointedly upwards. Legs are tending to black in colour.

Small Indian Mongoose: Relative smaller in size that its two counterparts, an olive brown or dark brown fur with golden speckles and a silkier appearance distinguishes it. The individual hair shows three dark rings & two pale ones. The Marsh Mongoose may be a sub-species of this, found in marshy land.

Origins and habitat

The grey mongoose is found throughout India except the high Himalayas, up till an altitude of 2100 metres. Sub species differ slightly as per geographies from south-east to south west and north east to north-west. Habitat preference of the grey mongoose is open scrub, cultivated land and rocky patches in dry forests and edges.

The ruddy mongoose occupies the forests of central, western and peninsular India. A shy animal as compared to the grey mongoose, it prefers undisturbed and secluded areas and occupies terrain up till 2200 metres.

The small Indian mongoose is found in the northern plains. Open scrub, farms and places closer to human habitation are preferred by this small species. It shows a wide preference ranging from deserts to marshy areas, making it a wide-habitat generalist.

In the 1800s mongooses were introduced to several islands in Hawaii and the West Indies in order to control the rodent populations on sugarcane plantations. Today this effort has come back to haunt these islands as mongooses threaten the survival of various native species, particularly birds

 

Behaviour

Omnivores by diet, mongooses mostly feed on insects, crabs, earthworms, lizards, birds, and rodents. However, they also eat eggs and carrion. The Grey Mongoose is well known for their ability to fight and kill venomous snakes, particularly cobras. This special quality is thanks to their agility, thick coats, and specialized acetylcholine receptors that render them resistant or immune to snake venom. Mostly terrestrial, the small Indian Mongoose has a consistent habit of marking territory with their anal pad All mongoose have excellent colour vision. The mongoose is typically found digging burrows for shelter and protecting their young. Highly intelligent species and creative hunters, some of them have been observed cracking open bird eggs by throwing them against solid objects!

An interesting feature is that they can be semi-domesticated. Social creatures, though not gregarious, they are found solitary, in pairs or in groups i.e. female with young.

Typical breeding period is from July to September, though they are found to breed throughout the year. Mating begins by courtship where the male woos the female through high-pitched giggling voices. Gestation lasts for about 90 days and generally two offspring are born per litter.The young are called “pups”.

Interesting Facts

  • They are one of the four species known to have become immune to snake toxins and they can survive more than one snake bite in their lifetime.
  • When the babies come out, all the mongooses help care for them. It’s like a big mongoose day-care!
  • The mongoose is closely associated with Lord Kubera, the God of Wealth in Indian mythology. Kubera is often seen carrying a mongoose and it is considered a symbol of Kubera’s victory over Nāgas—the guardians of treasures

“The motto of all the mongoose family is, “Run and find out,” and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose.”


― 
Rudyard KiplingRikki-Tikki-Tavi

The common Indian mongoose is the famed animal traditionally used in snake and mongoose shows and immortalised as Rikki-Tiki-Tavi in Rudyard Kipling’s story. Mongoose is the popular English name for 29 of 34 species in the 14 genera of the familyHerpestidae.Commonly spotted sub-species of the mongoose that are found in India – The Grey Mongoose, the Ruddy mongoose, the Small Indian Mongoose. The mongoose enjoys a status of ‘ Least Concern’ by IUCN.

About the Species

Mongooses have long faces and bodies, small, rounded ears, short legs, and long, tapering tails. Most are brindled or grizzly; a few have strongly marked coats. They have non retractable claws which are used for digging. A common feature across mongooses is that they possess receptors for acetylcholine that, like the receptors in snakes, are shaped so that it is impossible for snake neurotoxin venom to attach to them. This makes them formidable enemies of snakes. Following three species are commonly spotted in India:

Sub Species Common Name Range Status
H.e. edwardsii Grey Mongoose Throughout India except high Himalayas Least Concern – Locally Common
H.s. smithii Ruddy Mongoose Forests of central, western and peninsular India Least Concern – Uncommon
H.a. auropunctatous Small Indian Mongoose Northern Plains Least Concern – Locally Common

 

Grey Mongoose:The Grey Mongoose has a tawny coat which is much more grizzled with individual hairs having ten alternate dark and light bands. A long bushy tail with a pale yellow tip gives it a distinct appearance from the other two species mentioned above.

Ruddy Mongoose: Similar in structure to the Grey Mongoose, its differentiating feature is the varying reddish brown infusions on its underparts and the fact that its tail has a black tip that is carried pointedly upwards. Legs are tending to black in colour.

Small Indian Mongoose: Relative smaller in size that its two counterparts, an olive brown or dark brown fur with golden speckles and a silkier appearance distinguishes it. The individual hair shows three dark rings & two pale ones. The Marsh Mongoose may be a sub-species of this, found in marshy land.

Origins and habitat

The grey mongoose is found throughout India except the high Himalayas, up till an altitude of 2100 metres. Sub species differ slightly as per geographies from south-east to south west and north east to north-west. Habitat preference of the grey mongoose is open scrub, cultivated land and rocky patches in dry forests and edges.

The ruddy mongoose occupies the forests of central, western and peninsular India. A shy animal as compared to the grey mongoose, it prefers undisturbed and secluded areas and occupies terrain up till 2200 metres.

The small Indian mongoose is found in the northern plains. Open scrub, farms and places closer to human habitation are preferred by this small species. It shows a wide preference ranging from deserts to marshy areas, making it a wide-habitat generalist.

In the 1800s mongooses were introduced to several islands in Hawaii and the West Indies in order to control the rodent populations on sugarcane plantations. Today this effort has come back to haunt these islands as mongooses threaten the survival of various native species, particularly birds

 

Behaviour

Omnivores by diet, mongooses mostly feed on insectscrabsearthwormslizardsbirds, and rodents. However, they also eat eggs and carrion. The Grey Mongoose is well known for their ability to fight and kill venomous snakes, particularly cobras. This special quality is thanks to their agility, thick coats, and specialized acetylcholine receptors that render them resistant or immune to snake venom. Mostly terrestrial, the small Indian Mongoose has a consistent habit of marking territory with their anal pad All mongoose have excellent colour vision. The mongoose is typically found digging burrows for shelter and protecting their young. Highly intelligent species and creative hunters, some of them have been observed cracking open bird eggs by throwing them against solid objects!

An interesting feature is that they can be semi-domesticated. Social creatures, though not gregarious, they are found solitary, in pairs or in groups i.e. female with young.

Typical breeding period is from July to September, though they are found to breed throughout the year. Mating begins by courtship where the male woos the female through high-pitched giggling voices. Gestation lasts for about 90 days and generally two offspring are born per litter.The young are called “pups”.

Interesting Facts

  • They are one of the four species known to have become immune to snake toxins and they can survive more than one snake bite in their lifetime.
  • When the babies come out, all the mongooses help care for them. It’s like a big mongoose day-care!
  • The mongoose is closely associated with Lord Kubera, the God of Wealth in Indian mythology. Kubera is often seen carrying a mongoose and it is considered a symbol of Kubera’s victory over Nāgas—the guardians of treasures
Sloth Bear_Wildlife_jungle_safari

“The rule about bears is their unpredictability”
― 
Anonymous

 

Also known as the Stickney Bear or the Labiated bear is indigenous to the Indian sub-continent. A species that evolved from ancestral brown bears during the Pleistocene age, today it is declared as status ‘Vulnerable’ as per IUCN. This is familiar to Indians as the performing bear on the streets.

About the Species

A forest bear with long muzzle, body covered with dense hair, well developed sense of smell and poor eyesight and hearing are characteristic to the Sloth Bear. It is named so due to its lumbering gait. The hair is long, black and matter, extending in length on the neck, giving it a mane-like appearance. The all-black appearance interspersed only at four places- cream coloured muzzle, V shaped white chest-mark, off-white limb ends and ivory coloured claws. A long snout, specially adapted palate and lower lip, accompanied by absence of front two incisors enables it to thrive on an insectivorous diet. The claws are extremely long (up to 10 cm) and sickle shaped, at the extremities of the padded limbs.

Adult sloth bears are medium-sized bears, weighing around 130 kg, 140-170 cm in length and shoulder height ranging from 65 – 85 cm. Females are smaller than males, and have more fur between the shoulders

Two major sub species of the Sloth bear are recognized:

Sub Species Common Name Range Status
Melursus ursinus ursinus Common Sloth Bear India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh Vulnerable
Melursus ursinus inornatus Sri Lankan Sloth Bear Sri Lanka Vulnerable

 

Origins and habitat

Sloth bears are present in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan. Until recently they were also known to occur in Bangladesh, but their continued existence there is uncertain: the last documented records are from the late 1990s. In India they are found throughout peninsular India, south of the Himalayas up to Assam in North East in patches. They are present up to the Terai, though no occurrences have been recorded in the higher Himalayas. In the peninsula they are not found in the western desert, semi-arid and non-forested areas of southern and central India.

 

Habitat preference of the sloth bear ranges from dry deciduous and moist deciduous forest to scrublands and grasslands. It often forays into agricultural fields, especially during the season when the mahua (Mahua indica) is in bloom. They are thus found near human habitation as well.

 

Behaviour

By food preference, the sloth bear is an insectivore. It feeds on termites, honeybee colonies, and fruits, especially adept at tearing apart termite mounds with its long claws and sucking out termites. Sloth bears are extremely fond of honey (Remember Winnie the Pooh with the honey jar!) When feeding their cubs, sows are reported to regurgitate a mixture of half-digested jack fruit, wood apples, and pieces of honeycomb.

Though not overtly territorial with other animals, the bear is highly unpredictable and is known to attack human if unexpected confrontations happen. It rears up on its hind legs and bites or claws when alarms, making it a lethal threat. Otherwise, they are seen walking in a slow, shambling motion, with their feet being set down in a noisy, flapping motion- a clumsy appearance at the least. Though not social, they may travel in pairs, many times the males are found to be sociable with offspring. Unlike other bears, they do not congregate in feeding groups. Excellent gallopers, climbers and known to stand their ground in face of enemies, these animals are courageous and outspoken about their dislike of trespassers!

Sloth bears breed during spring and early summer and give birth near the beginning of winter. Gestation lasts up to 210 days. Litters usually consist of one or two cubs and are born blind. Sloth bear mothers carry cubs up to 9 months-old on their backs to ensure their protection.

Interesting Facts

  • These bears have been used as performing pets and ‘dancing bears’ due to their tameable nature in various part of India.
  • Sloth bears have found mention in books by Kenneth Anderson owing to some individuals making repetitive attacks on humans in South India. The wife of Kenneth Anderson kept an orphaned sloth bear cub from Mysore, which she named “Bruno”. The bear could be fed on almost anything (including motor oil) and was very affectionate toward people. It was even taught numerous tricks, such as cradling a woodblock like a baby or pointing a bamboo stick like a gun
  • Kipling’s descriptions of Baloo are consistent with the sloth bear, as brown bears and Asian black bears do not occur in the Seoni area where the novel takes place. Baloo “the sleepy old brown bear” teaches the Law of the Jungle to the wolf cubs of the Seoni wolf pack, as well as to his most challenging pupil, Mowgli.
Crocodile_Wildlife_jungle_safari

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

— Winston Churchill


Such is the voracity of this predator of the waters. The Indian Mugger or Fresh Water Crocodile is one of the three species found in India, the other two being the Estuarine crocodile and the Gharial.

The Indian Mugger is a fresh water crocodile assessed as status ‘Vulnerable’ as per IUCN.

About the Species

The adult mugger crocodile is bright olive in colour, a cold-blooded reptile. The entire body is spotted with black and scaled. Their body is designed so as to master the waters, since stealth in waters is their main mode of hunting. Hence, outer toes as well as fingers are webbed at the base. The average size of a mugger crocodile is 13 to 14 feet, they are generally smaller than estuarine crocodiles. Though suited for land, they prefer water. Mugger crocodiles can achieve speed of around 8 mph over a short distance in pursuit of prey on land. In the water their speeds are more consistent , up to 10 to 12 mph.

Origins and habitat

This species is found in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal and possibly from Bangladesh, its range extends westwards into eastern Iran. The species has become locally extinct over large parts of its range, and viable populations only occur in protected areas. This has led to severe fragmentation of the population across its range. India and Sri Lanka retain the major populations.

In India it is reported present in 15 of India’s 28 states from Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the south, in the lowlands of east and west sides of the peninsula in Karnataka, Goa, and Orissa and through much of the Ganges drainage. Significant populations occur in the middle Ganges (Bihar and Jharkand), Chambal river (Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) and in Gujarat. In Sri Lanka approximately half the known population occurs within protected areas including Wilpatu and Yala National parks and the Jaffna peninsula

 

This species is found in freshwater habitats including, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, hill streams, village ponds and man-made tanks. It may occasionally also be found in coastal saltwater lagoons.

 

Behaviour

The mugger is carnivorous and survives on fish, other reptiles and small and large mammals. In rare cases, it may attack humans. The mugger is a burrow-digger, presumabltutilized as an effective refuge from hot daytime ambient temperatures

The Mugger is a hole-nesting species, with egg-laying taking place during the annual dry season.Nests are located in a wide variety of habitats, and females have even been known to nest at the opening of, or inside, their burrow. The nest – building begins during Dec –Feb to serve as nests. The female usually lays 25 to 30 eggs and the incubation period lasts for 55 to 75 days. It is usually the female who guards the nest, opens it and transports hatchlings to the water in her mouth.

 

Interesting Facts

  • Crocodile conservation happens through crocodile farms, where they are bred and brought up in protected enclosures.
  • Then name “mugger” is derived from the Sanskrit Makara, which means mythical water monster or sign of the zodiac.
  • Mugger crocodiles have been documented using lures to hunt prey such as birds.This means they are among the first reptiles recorded to use tools. By balancing sticks and branches on their heads, Mugger crocodiles are able to lure birds looking for suitable nesting material.