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My tiger family and other animals

books Updated: Sep 23, 2011 23:09 IST
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I have been completely obsessed with and mesmerised by the tiger for 35 years. But my pursuit of the tiger meant encompassing, experiencing and learning about all the wildlife that lives in the tiger’s realm. I love bird life and the diving, swooping birds of prey. I’ll never forget the sight of a serpent crested eagle as it flew off with a snake in its talons. Some of my most exciting times were spent beside the lake, watching crocodiles stalk and attack sambhar deer.

In the late 1970s, I was lucky to witness a rare encounter between a hyena and a leopard as the former fought off the latter and snatched away her kill of a spotted deer. The hyena gorged itself as the leopard, who had two cubs, watched from a tree top. More then 30 years later, both the vision and the sound of this encounter is vivid in my memory. The blood-curdling shrieks of the hyena, interspersed with the sharp coughing of the leopard, still play in my mind as if it was just yesterday. These were encounters that enriched my senses, that were unique in the annals of wildlife conservation, once-in-a-lifetime experiences difficult to come across in the secret world of nature.

Another animal rarely seen was the caracal, a medium-sized cat and totally nocturnal. I must have seen it four times in 35 years. Whenever I did, it was pure ecstasy. I remember the day I photographed the caracal against the backdrop of Ranthambhore fort — it was like a dream come true. And then there was that enormous mammal, the Indian Sloth Bear. I was on foot when I first saw it in 1976. Startled, I trotted after it till it turned around and growled. I froze and slowly turned and fled away as fast as I could.

This incredible world around the tiger and its richness is amazing and part of the incredible mosaic that I have been so privileged to imbibe.