Monday, 12 March 2012


You might think that the greatest highlights of this job would be the blue whales, the tigers, the macaw licks and the sobbing indris, and it’s true that these are highlights beyond price; but for me the biggest highlight of this job is working with my in-country colleagues. Be it Dhammi in Sri Lanka, Claude in Madagascar, Leo in Bolivia, Sujan and Imran in northeast India or, as this coming week, Harish in northern and central India, it is always a profound privilege to work with and learn from these fine naturalists and charming ambassadors for their welcoming countries. Today I have said farewell to my Blue Whales and Leopards group and with them Dhammi: a quiet man but underneath his self-effacing efficiency is a heart which beats with love for Sri Lankan wildlife, respect for his fellow Sri Lankans and a great desire for everyone who visits to see what a wonderful country this is. Thank you Dhammi; I'm looking forward to working with you next year.

To India again today. I’ll lurk for a few hours in the lobby of my Sri Lankan airport hotel (thank goodness for wifi and for Alan Bennett), then I’ll fly to Mumbai airport and lurk there through the night. Finally, at dawn, I’ll fly to Nagpur to sit out the couple of days before Harish and my Tiger Direct Tadoba extension group arrive. Nagpur, in my experience, has little to recommend it, though it is the orange-growing capital of India, the geographical centre of the peninsula, and the site of a mass conversion of dalits to Buddhism in 1956, to escape the bonds of the Hindu caste system. This was promoted by the celebrated political activist Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and in his honour the airport in Nagpur is named.

Daffodils are in flower in my sister’s garden in Norwich and here, outside my hotel room, blooms a pink-silk Samanea tree, a close relative of the gnarled penoco in our barrio in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, under which during my ten years there I waited thousands of times for my bus to town.

                                     Dwarf daffodils in my sister's Norwich garden

P.S. My hunch that our last two leopards in Yala were a courting pair turned out to be right; in the evening they were seen to mate.

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