Returning to the park after monsoons is very refreshing and this time particularly as we had very good rainfall in the region, the otherwise very arid park was looking absolutely brilliant with lush green landscapes! Throughout the monsoon Tadoba maintained its dramatic sightings. Maya topped the list with the many dominant male tigers invading into her territory and her many attempts of safeguarding her cubs showcased unique aspects of tiger behaviour. Will write about that separately……
Today’s blog is about wild dogs….On 1st October 2016, the evening safari was over cast with rainy clouds, we hence, had a short safari but were still lucky to spend some time with a pair of Indian Wild Dogs (Dholes), one of the Big 5 animals to spot when in Tadoba.
Fifteen minutes into the reserve, at the location called the Jamni Chowk, as soon as we took the turn to go towards the waterhole Pandharpauni we saw a pair of wild dogs walking on the road in our direction. This seemed as a pair who have left their group and now were looking for settling down on their own. They were looking here and there and carried on making merry, hugging each other frequently. Observing them for some time, we moved ahead on the track to find butterflies on a fresh scat of the tiger (source of nutrition for them). As it started getting even darker as the cloud cover increased, we decided to slowly move back in the direction of the lodge. We heard a few alarm calls (warning calls that herbivores use to warn each other of presence of a predator nearby). When we reached back near the Jamni village, we saw the same dhole pair again, they had by this time grabbed a sambar baby and the mother sambar was trying to save the fawn from them. Eventually she had to give up and the two dholes started feasting on it.
While watching this vicious moment several thoughts occurred in my mind, foremost being, nature has its own survival rules and ethos, it is a chance opportunity to get to observe such incidents but best to keep the observation free from human emotions!
Coming back to the dholes, they are considered to be the one of most skilled hunters of the Indian Jungle. There was a time when even the tiger used to be scared of them owing to their large pack sizes in the range 30 to 50 per pack. There are in fact, old records that mention that a pack of dhole killed tigers. Over the years however, their number are diminishing. Mainly due to habitat loss and because of the human proximity they often get the canis distemper virus. Now they are hence, usually found only in smaller packs. Most of the pack has numbers like four to eight dholes. Only during the time the pack has got new pups the pack size goes upto 15-16.
As tigers instinctively kill dholes, the increase in tiger population in Tadoba perhaps has also been an additional reason contributing to the decline of Dhole population here. It is important to note here that tigers kill dholes not out of any “personal grudges” but because of their instincts (to protect their territory, cubs, kill (food) etc.).