It isn’t unusual to see tourists heading abroad in search of the wilderness or visiting famous wildlife sanctuaries across India in search of the elusive tiger. However, not many know that our home state too is the habitat for several iconic, endangered and exotic species. As the World Wildlife Week draws to a close, we pick five in-house must sees.
The Nannaj Sanctuary is home to Great Indian Bustards (GIB), the largest birds in their native range, with long necks and legs.
Countless rare species, including this Indian pangolin, form the natural heritage of the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve. It is in the grassland thickets that the pangolin burrows for its meals. This solitary, scaly ant-eater digs into mounds using its three central claws on its fore-feet. With its plated armour, insectivorous diet and secretive lifestyle, the pangolin is relatively safe from most predators, but often falls prey to the illegal wildlife trade that caters to China’s demand for its meat and body parts.
Where: Sahyadri Tiger Reserve, near Sangli
When: Very rare, no fixed time
Photographer: Vedant Thite
The highest canopies of Bhimashankar are famously occupied by Maharashtra’s state animal, the Indian giant squirrel, known locally as shekru. This rust-coloured squirrel is capable of leaping five or six metres across the branches of its canopied forests, using its tail as a balancing rudder. The squirrel rarely descends to the ground and is therefore dependant on closed forests for its survival.
Where: Bhimashankar, near Pune
When: All year round
Photographer: Vivek Kale
An apex predator, the tiger is fully dependant on the health of its habitat for survival. It has evolved to take the fullest advantage of both tall grass and dappled forests. Such landscapes are perfect breeding grounds for the herbivores on which the tiger preys. It is of little wonder, then, that habitat destruction spells certain doom for these striped predators.
Where: Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, Chandrapur district
When: Summer months (March to May)
Photographer: Anand Nambiar
Great Indian bustard
The Nannaj Sanctuary is home to Great Indian Bustards (GIB), the largest birds in their native range, with long necks and legs. Females are smaller than males and lack the gular pouch that is inflated when males put out their calls. Today, the GIB population in the state is the lowest and has been the most unstable in the last three decades.
Where: Nannaj Sanctuary, Solapur
When: During the monsoon (June to September)
Photographer: Ashok Chaudhary
This critically-endangered bird, once considered extinct, is seen here with a yellow-crowned woodpecker, a bird found only in the Indian subcontinent. The potential of birds to attract sensitive visitors is immense and by some estimates, birdwatchers outnumber tiger watchers many times over.
Where: Melghat Tiger Reserve, Amravati
When: All year round
Photographer: Jayesh Joshi
The images can be found in the coffee-table book, Wild Maharashtra that was launched on October 4. Price: Rs. 2,950.
Available for sale on www.sanctuaryasia.com