Of all the animals of jungle India, the one I most long to see on every visit is the wild dog. There is a taut energy about the dogs which defies description in words. Where the tiger is laconic and the leopard disdainful, the wild dogs are wired.
This morning we came across a pack of five dogs, a pair and their three well-grown pups, on a sandy road through the sal forest of the Mukki zone in Kanha. They move, the dogs, in the manner of mercury, bright drops flowing along the road, parting and recombining as they go. These molten mammals slipped by our jeep and into the scented forest understorey, now seen as bewitching shadows behind a blind, as they trotted purposefully towards a stream. We pulled to the bridge and one by one the dogs dropped down the dusty bank, across the stream bed on neat feet, and up to the forest on the far side. At their head went a confident pup, followed by its parents, with two less bold pups in the rear.
As the rust-red dogs rippled over the stream's bank, the long white tails of chital rose in the brush and the deer bounded away. The dogs appeared on the road, one rolling like a wild wave towards the fleeing deer as if in hunting. A single chital fled the wrong way, back towards the stream, and for a moment one dog gave half-hearted chase; but the pack was in no mood to hunt, or judged the chase fruitless. The chital's time had not come. It will meet the dogs again one day, or a leopard, or a tiger, and pass its life back to the flickering magic of the Indian jungle.
Years ago, a tiger-expert friend Raghu was leading a tour here in Kanha. His English is self-taught and, being of great intelligence, he appropriates new expressions from conversation all around him. On this occasion, one of his jeeps returned to the lodge and he asked his clients how their morning had been and what they had seen. They replied that they had seen no mammals of note but that they had spent a pleasant morning birding. Raghu was unfamiliar with the expression. To date he had heard only of people birdwatching. Now he knew to take an animal's name and make it into a verb.
That afternoon he had an excellent sighting of the wild dogs.
|A wild dog painted for me by a Naturetrek tour client|
at the end of a marvellous tour