By Ravi Valluri

“Every creature was designed to serve a purpose. Learn from animals for they are there to teach you the way of life. There is a wealth of knowledge that is openly accessible in nature. Our ancestors knew this and embraced the natural cures found in the bosoms of the earth. Their classroom was nature. They studied the lessons to be learned from animals. Much of human behaviour can be explained by watching the wild beasts around us. They are constantly teaching us things about ourselves and the way of the universe, but most people are too blind to watch and listen.” Thus writes Suzy Kassem, daughter of an Egyptian mystic and a popular American author and poetess.

The deafening roar of carnivores shatters the hush and shush in verdant jungles. Humans would perhaps like to listen to the quieter creatures, rather than those species on the prowl.

The gargantuan national parks such as Ranthambore or Bandhavgarh are prodigious places, where jungle cats and other animals move with sheer majesty in the midst of strewn ruins. The Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam, houses two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhinos. National and international tourists throng the place in humongous numbers. Certainly it is an ‘Aha!’ moment when they capture images of the rhinos on their glitzy mobiles.

Globe trotters also traverse less fancied fauna hangouts, such as the Idukki Wildlife Sanctuary or Thattekad Bird Sanctuary in Kerala or the Gir National Park in Gujarat where Asiatic lions yawn at the lesser beings. These lions, in a statuesque manner cross the tracks of the Bhavnagar- Gondia line as the petrified gang man hurries for cover!

India is a Brobdingnagian hub for many variegated types of birds. Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan is of course one of the most famous ones. This is an entirely different other world of natural and cultural heritage which is to be seen to be believed. The park was a hunting ground for the maharajas of Bharatpur, a tradition dating back to the 1850s. Duck shoots were the order of the day in honour of the British potentates. The year was 1938, when over 4,273 birds such as mallards and teals were killed by Lord Linlithgow, then Viceroy of India, in one devastating shooting expedition.

A FEW NATIONAL PARKS THAT ENTHRALL

Bandhavgarh National Park

For several trippers, this is the toast among bestial beauties in India and is often included on the Delhi-Taj-Tigers circuit. Rugged, arid landscapes combined with dense forest trails, a gamut of gorgeous wild cats (including the white and Bengal tigers and leopards), sambar, nilgai, and gaur makes it an enthralling experience. Several of these animals take refuge in the rocks and ruins around the centuries old Bandhavgarh Fort. Large numbers of tourists traverse to this authentic location.

Gujarat

The Little Rann of Kutch is where wild asses, chinkara, desert foxes and striped hyenas move around the mirage of shimmering saline deserts. Another choice for a tourist is the Velavadar National Park with its blackbuck beauties and of course the Gir National Park where the suzerainty of Asiatic lion is indisputable.

Kanha National Park

The map of this Indian tiger habitat is enchanting, as if a red carpet were laid out for the lethal cat to elegantly stroll across the length of the country. In the epicentre is the Kanha National Park where tigers and leopards ingeniously stroll through the grassy plateaus, misty plains and bamboo forests. Like accomplished paparazzi, a tripper can camp to await these and other prepossessing starlets of this animal kingdom -sambar, chital, monkeys and mongoose.

Keoladeo National Park

Among the interesting dichotomies of our country, is the vast expanse of wetland in the middle of a desert state. This had been flooded purely for delectation of the Maharajas and erstwhile Viceroys who with great gusto shot birds out of the sky. It is bountiful grace of the nature that over 360 species still thrive here. These range from kingfishers to coots, from storks to birds of prey.

Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary

Kumbhalgarh is the place for concentration of leopards and their exploits. The word ‘sanctuary’ will perpetually seem infinitesimal as this wild cat races with alacrity and feasts on its prey with remarkable speed. The animal’s habitat stretches for almost 600 km across Rajasthan’s Aravalli Hills and assumes its name from the magnificent fortress that dominates the area. Further backpackers can have a visual treat looking out for hyenas, wolves, nilgai, the debonair golden chinkara and the chausingha, a four-horned antelope.

Snow Leopards In Ladakh

Ladakh, now one of the newest Union Territories of India, extends from the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram Range to the Great Himalayas to the south and is inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.

This is virtually the roof of the world; absolutely a surrealistic place to be in, where one experiences one of the finest wildlife encounters in the world - a glimpse of the grandiose snow leopard.

Pench National Park

Apparently this park fired the imagination of Rudyard Kipling and compelled him to write the much celebrated ‘The Jungle Book’. Far divested from fiction this is now a land of Bengal tigers, which enjoy the habitat around the Satpura Hills or the Pench River valleys. While it is also called the Pench Tiger Reserve, the striped beauties are extremely elusive to spot. A traveller can however see herds of gaur (Indian bison), chital, sambar and nilgai as well as sloth bear and civets.

Periyar National Park

This park is a veritable visual treat for lovers of nature. Neatly nestled in Kerala’s Western Ghat, this is not only a tiger reserve but also habitat for elephants, monkeys, wild pigs and hundreds of species of bird. Furthermore animal lovers can gaze at the Indian bison, which gather with their fellow fauna at the Periyar Lake.

Ranthambore National Park

Ranthambore is home to the Bengal tigers. There are jungle covered ruins where leopards and wild cats are easily camouflaged. Beside the Chambal and its tributaries, sloth bears and black bucks gather. There are vast open plains, claimed by the likes of chital, nilgai and chinkara.

Sariska National Park

This is a popular resort and national park in the valorous state of Rajasthan. It is a tiger reserve, although not many have survived the vicissitudes of life in the arid forests and rocky cliffs of the Aravalli Hills. Besides, the place is also home to leopard, jungle cats, hyena, chausingha and sambar. These species are found sauntering around an ancient temple complex and 16th century Kankwari fort.

These ten national parks provide an aperture to the animal kingdom which astonishes the novice enthusiast and professional wildlife watchers alike. Yes, the more ferocious is man…who has ravaged nature to fulfil his capricious demands.

“The only good cage is an empty cage,” wrote noted environmentalist and conservationist Lawrence Anthony.

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