Friday, 27 March 2015

Reni Pani

26th March

On arrival in Reni Pani, the beautiful lodge which Naturetrek uses in Satpura Tiger Reserve, I told our guide Amith and lodge-owner Ali that at all costs I wanted to see a rusty-spotted cat. I went further: with my tongue firmly in my cheek I told them that should they fail to find me a rusty-spotted cat I would destroy the lodge's reputation with one stroke of my blogging finger.

We failed to find a rusty-spotted cat, despite heroic efforts on Amith's part. Our attempts to see them, with my Naturetrek Satpura extension group, were hampered by recent cold, wet weather (gone now, but its effects on wildlife are apparently still being felt) and by the park's edict, the very day we arrived, that lamping for wildlife by night is forbidden. We have made every effort to see one, without flouting the park's new regulation, but the world's smallest cat has eluded me. It is in fact the first feline which I had a reasonable chance of seeing in 2015 which I have failed to see.

It does not matter. It would have been wonderful to have seen one on my Big Cat Quest but it has been more than wonderful to stay at Reni Pani and to learn from wise, kindly Amith about the lovely forests of Satpura. This is a place where the strange songs of Indian and savannah nightjars puncture the hot air of the night. This is a place where blackbuck bound over golden cereals, ripe for harvest, in the fields of local villages. This is a place where handsome, smiling guides paddle even more broadly smiling Naturetrek clients in canoes: to see river terns and Indian skimmers building their nests on an island, as north-bound Temminck's and little stints display on the mud around them. This is a place where glossy gaur chomp the forest undergrowth and sloth bear mothers sway their shaggy heads as they walk, their scrap-like infants clinging to their humped black backs. This is a place of wild wonder.

I did not see a rusty-spotted cat but I do not care. I am grateful to Amith, to Ali and his friendly, efficient staff, and to everyone at Reni Pani for a serenely beautiful stay in Satpura. I leave central India with the jungle, its peerless wildlife and its gracious people, in my heart.

Naturalist and conservationist Amith

Butea monosperma in flower in Satpura

Naturetrek clients photographing birds at Butea flowers

Cats seen in 2015
cheetah Acinonyx jubatus fearonii            3
serval Leptailurus serval serval                3
leopard Panthera pardus suahelicus        2
lion Panthera leo nubica                          78
snow leopard Panthera uncia                   3
jungle cat Felis chaus                               1
tiger Panthera tigris tigris                          13
leopard Panthera pardus fusca                4
rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus 0, zilch, not a single one

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