Watching animals in their natural habitat is one of the most fascinating experiences. And, if you get to spot fauna that generally eludes the eye, the sense of adventure definitely increases. So, instead of a usual wildlife safari, this year, explore areas where endangered animals dwell. We list a few places that should be on your wish list if you are an adventure junkie.
Black panthers don’t sport the usual black spots on a yellow coat — that a leopard would have — mainly because of melanism. They are usually spotted in densely forested areas in the north and the east of India. The population of black panthers in India has dwindled in the past decade, so it comes as no surprise that they are listed as a threatened species by the IUCN.
* Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim
Having thick fur with a smoky grey base colour, snow leopards are among the most strikingly beautiful animals one can ever see. However, it’s unfortunate that the big cat, native of the mountainous regions of northern India, is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
* The Great Himalayan National Park, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh
This panda, which is typically the size of a house cat, has reddish-brown fur and a long tail that it often uses to wrap around its body to save itself from the mountain chill. The animal is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Its population has been on a steady decline because of deforestation and poaching.
* Singalila National Park, Darjeeling, West Bengal
Tiger safaris have always been popular, and with the recent news of an increase in the tiger population (the numbers increased by 30% to 2,226 in 2014 from 2010 according to the All India Tiger Estimation 2014), there is a better chance that you will witness the big cats in their natural habitat. Here are a few options if you wish to go on a tiger trail.
*Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra
*Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
*Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
*Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, Karnataka
*Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
Namdapha flying squirrel
The Namdapha flying squirrel is known to inhabit jungles and hill slopes in the north-eastern part of India. This nocturnal flying squirrel, also due to habitat loss and poaching of animals, has found its way to the IUCN list as an
* Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh
Widely spotted in different regions of India earlier, the Himalayan serow now stands in the near threatened category of the IUCN list. The goat-antelope, like many other animals in the nation, has been witnessing a sharp decline in number because of hunting and habitat loss. It is mainly characterised by short limbs and long ears.
* Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, Chamoli, Uttarakhand
Other famous wildlife trips
* Gir National Park, Gujarat
What you can spot: Asiatic lion, leopard, sloth bear, striped hyena, golden jackal, four-horned antelope and wild boar.
* Kaziranga National Park, Assam
What you can spot: Indian one-horned rhinoceros, wild Asiatic water buffalo, eastern swamp deer, elephant, gaur, sambar and Indian muntjac.
* Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary, Jammu & Kashmir
What you can spot: Musk deer, Himalayan grey langur, jackal, hill fox and yellow-throated marten.
* Bandipur National Park, Karnataka
What you can spot: Indian elephant, gaur, Indian rock python, four-horned antelope and dholes.
* Periyar National Park, Kerala
What you can spot: Indian elephant, sloth bear, Nilgiri tahr, lion-tailed macaque, Nilgiri langur, stripe-necked mongoose, and Nilgiri marten.
Do's and don'ts
*Book your safari in advance. Limited trips in most parks have made it difficult for travellers to book a last-minute spot.
*Try to catch at least one morning and one evening safari. More trips mean better chances of spotting big animals.
* If you own an SLR camera, try to carry lenses with high zoom to capture the animals better.
*Try to book a hotel close to the park. You'll be delighted to see a lot of wildlife and exotic birds meandering in and around the property.
*Ask for a night safari option, if available.
* Don’t use flash while taking pictures.
* Respect the environment; don’t litter or make noise while on a safari.
* Don’t be upset that you didn’t get to spot the animals you wanted to. Appreciate being amidst nature and enjoy the experience.
— With inputs from Life Away From Life and SomePlaceElse