Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr
Nature Beckons you....Listen to her whispers.....

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pachyderms Pass.....

It was a cool December afternoon and we were cruising at around 40km/h in our car with me taking charge of the driving.All three of us were looking intently on both sides for any movement or  squeezing of wild twigs or swaying trees.Of course we were looking for elephants.

The Herd of Elephants little inside from the road

If you are still wondering where we were,don't brood too much,as we were about to cross to the Kerala border from Karnataka.We were coming back after 3 days from a trip to Bandipur and Mudumalai.The large mammals were elusive and we were disappointed in that we couldnt spot one.Whether it was the elephant,tiger,leopard or any other wild one.

It was about 1pm in the afternoon and we were about to reach the Mule Hole check post(Karnataka) close to the Kerala border place of Muthanga in Wayanad.We crossed the Mule Hole check post and slowly moved forward.After about 2-3 kms I could see 2 vehicles parked on either side of the road.We approached them and looked to the side with expectation.There they were!

A Baby Elephant.....curious

A herd of elphants at last!They were a little deep inside and we could initially see 3 of them.All adults, munching on the grass.In about 3 minutes or so a large number of cars and two wheelers have gathered on the main road observing the pachyderms with enthusiasm.Surprisigly the elephants also were looking back at us intently.Nobody underrstood why?

I started clicking a few pictures and suddently I saw a young one popping out from behind an adult elephant,probably its mother.It was nice watching the young one munching on the grass and rubbing its body against its mother at the same time.

Preparing for the pass....

We were in for more surprise as we spotted 2 more baby elephants amongst the herd.All of them were playful and enjoyed their time out with the entire family.There was one sub-adult tusker and he was not that happy with the herd of humans gathred by the side of the main road,as he was looking strainght at us and with one of its legs scratching the ground;the classic "charging" posture.But the youngster didn't charge as he was quite far off for such an encounter.

Right in the middle....

I thought the pacheyderms would disappear into the jungle any time soon,but to the wonderment of all those watching the show,the animals slowly started marching towards us!We immediately realised that we were on their path!The pachyderms just wanted to cross the road and get to the other side.

With mom with confidence

Fortunately all gathered there realised this and made way for the animals for a safe passage.Slowly all of the pachyderms came close to the side of the road and started crossing.First it was the turn of the mother along with its young one to cross.The mother was very careful and stood by the side for few seconds and ensured that nobody is blocking their way.It also ensured that no vehicle is passing at that time.

Then another elephant along with another young one crossed,ever so carefrul with the baby enjoying its encounter with the outside world.One by one all of them crossed and excitement was in store when the young sub-adult tusker crossed!

In Tandem.....

It looked as if he would cross without making any fuss but suddently he charged a two wheeler.Fortunately the man at the handle was only idling his vehicle and quickly drove off to safe distance.The tusker in turn was only "mocking" the charge and he too thudded to the other side.

After crossing they stood there grazing for some time and disappeared deep inside the forest.Thats the time we dicided to move as well,  satisfied with our encounter with the pachyderms.

"Mock Charge"-1

"Mock Charge"-2

"Mock Charge"-3


Thudding back to the jungle after the "Show"

A few tips while driving along Wildlife sancuaries.....

1.Always remember that the "Right of passage" is for the wild animals.

2.Stop; let them pass and then you pass

3.Never stop the vehicle in such a manner that it blocks the animal's passage

4.Never turn the engine off;let it be idling

5.Never get out of your vehicles as this may turn out to be dangerous

6.Childen may get over enthusiastic and always be cautious and have a watch on them

Young tusker getting a little agitated

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Eravikulam National Park,The Backyard of Nilgiri Tahrs

Freinds for Ever......Male Nilgiri Tahrs

As we got down from the Kerala Forest Department mini bus at Eravikulam NP,the cool breeze engulfed the lungs and it gave us a feeling of freshness and new energy.It being a Friday the tourist inflow into the park was on a manageable level.Many uninitiated tourists who visit Eravikulam NP,out of compulsion rather than desire,exclaims "Ayye Aadu"(Oh its just a goat!) on getting the first glimpse of the inhabitants of the park.

The Nilgiri Tahrs inhabit an area ranging from 800m to 2700 m above sea level.The highest peak south of Himalayas,Anaimudi,is situated insdie the park.So its obvious that the Tahrs cannot climb more than that!During the turn of the 20th Century,the area surrounding the Eravikulam NP was used as a game reseve.The "Muduvans",the tribes,were the original inhabitants of the area.Then later in 1971,the Nilgiri Tahrs were included in the endangerd list and in 1978 Eravikulam was declared as a Nationanl Park.

Dotting the skyline of Eravikulam NP are Tahrs

Eravikulam National Park is the only reserved forest area for the only mountain goats of South India.About 800-900 tahrs live here.The park is typical Western Ghats region with pristine grasslands interspersed with shola forests.


During the process of writing this blog came the happy news,that UNESCO has decalred the Westeern Ghats as one of the "hottest hotspots" of the world.In other words they have included Western Ghats in the "Heritage List".Thats something,every Indian shoud rejoice.

Coming back to the Tahrs,the only mountain goats of South India,were numbering in the thousands by the turn of the 20th century.But their numbers dwindled drastically because of hunting and on habitat loss.Good sense prevailed and the Eravikulam National Park came into being in 1978.To be fair on our part,it should be accept that the conservation effforts have paid dividents.

Close up view of an eye of a male Tahr

The Nilgiri Tahrs(Nilgiritragus Hylocrius,formerly Hermitragus Hylocrius) belongs to the family, Bovidae.It was first named by Ogilvy in 1838.The Tamil name is 'Varaiyadu"(varai=precipice or cliff,aadu=goat) and the same name in Malayalam.A simple English traslation of Varaiyadu is "Cliff goat".Thats an apt name for them,as they spend most of their time loitering atop prcarious mountain cliffs of EravikulamNP.

Licking and glancing...female Tahr

The grasslands of Eravikulam are known as "Climax Grasslands" because they have reached their ultimate splendour.The Neelakurinji(Strobilanthus Kunthiana) is a rare flower which blooms only once in 12 years.The last time we saw them was in 2006.So the next season arrives only by 2018!

Coming back to our visit,after getting down from the mini forest department vehicle we started climbing the 2-3 hair-pin bends to reach the other end of the park.On the way we saw the first Nilgiri Tahr,a young one,with its mother sitting and relaxing.The view was thru a Neelakrinji plant and it was refreshing.I could take quite a few pictures using my Canon DSLR,and I used a tripod for sharper pictures.

Unbreakable freindship......

One forest guard(they are present thru out the park to check on the visitors)told me to go further up the road as more Tahrs are munching on the grass there.As soon as he said that,the little Tahr and its mother along with another Tahr started to walk towards the point where the other Tahrs are supposed to be grazing.Even these Tahrs wants us to meet the other members of their clan,or so it seemed.

Always hungry.....
As soon as we reached the higher point, our excitement over flowed.For the first time in my life I saw two male Nilgiri Tahrs grazing side by side as if they were thick friends!The male Nilgiri Tahrs are very less in number and spotting them at Eravikulam is very difficult.Even if on gets to see the female Tahrs and the young ones,the male gives the slip most of the time.But now we have two of them together.That was a wonderful moment.Our trip,this time to the park,I can say with admiration,has been fulfilling.

Calm and confident.......
The male tahrs grazed on despite our close presence(We never disturbed them).They would munch enough grass from one side of the road and then thud across to the other side for more.I didn't miss the opportunity to click as many pics as possible of the two males.At one point both of them walked out of sight from the far end of the park(beyond that you are not allowed to go)much to the disappointmet of us.But,after a few moments they came marching back, just to the side of us!It was amazing to watch them criss crossing the Eravikulam NP.

Up Close with this Guy.......

We spend about 3 hours watching the Tahrs and photographing them.I was carring 2 memory cards which can store 8mb of images.I took around 580 photos of the tahrs!Still I wasn't happy.I wanted more.But no more memorycards!I decided at that time,the first thing I must do once we are back home.I think you have guessed it correct!

Looking for mates?

It was time to have some tea and some snacks at the restaurant at the entrance of the Eravikulam NP.After that it was time to board the forest vehicle to reach the Munnar-Udumalaipettai raod to get into our car and drive back to the hotel.

Stare of a Nilgiri Tahr

Cliff dwellers.....Nilgiri Tahrs

This trip to Munnar have been very satisfying.The sight of two male Nilgiri Tahrs was unforgettable.Most of us may not accept that to be a great achievement.But for me and my family that was a good experience.We are not sure if that would happen again.............

For a short film of the trip,please click on the following link.......

Sunday, March 4, 2012

'A Great Drive - entry for Michelin Pilot Experience by V S Sankar'

Driving to Tholpetty Wildlife Range from Trivandrum......494KMs

Where is Tholpetty?Well,many may stop on their tracks and wonder where exactly is this place!

This Tusker was very cool with himself.....

Tholpetty is situated in Wayanad district of Kerala and is 25kms from Mananthavady town.This place is surrounded by the more famous Nagarhole WLS of Karnataka,which is 15kms from Tholpetty.Kabini reservoir is 35kms away.Tholpetty is part of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary,which is split into 2 parts.One is Tholpetty Range and the other  Muthanga Range.Tholpetty and Muthanga are not necessarily contiguous because of man made plantations of bamboo and eucalyptus.Wayanad WLS also falls inside the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.It is the first of the 14 Biosphere Reserves in India.

Malabar Giant Squirrel..

Spread over 345 Sq.Kms,WayanadWLS also falls under the Project Elephant scheme.One normally encounters wild elephants during their trips to Wayanad.

Very attentive Deer......
One fine morning in Dec we set out to Tholpetty.I had made reservation at a resort very close to the Tholpetty check-post.We reached Calicut around 6pm and I was hoping to reach the resort by at least 9pm.But the condition of the ghat section was very bad and it took a long time for us to even reach Vythiri.I was in constant touch with the manager of the resort and even told him to keep our food in the room allotted to us.

We reached Mananthavady by 11PM!Fortunately the road to Tholpetty doesn't fall in the restricted(9pm-6am) section.The manager of the resort advised me to be careful as wild elephants may stand right by the side of the road.And he was right.After taking a left turn towards Tholpetty-Thirunelli road we saw a young tusker standing by the left side of the road.We only had a 3sec view of him and didnt stop the car to have a more closer look,as it could turn out to be catastophic!

The sun setting behind the forest......

Then the road again split,one leading to Thirunelli and the other to Tholpetty and if you want to go to Kutta and beyond which falls under Karnataka State.We finally checked in at 11:45pm and before we entered the gates of the resort saw a few spotted deers grazing peacefully.

We decided to have a long nights sleep and planned to take the evening safari into the sanctuary.Next day after breakfast we headed to Iruppu waterfalls in Karnataka about 15kms from Tholpetty.The climate was very cool for comforts and we decice not to have a bath in the waterfalls.

The Tusks of the Tusker........
We came back for lunch to the resort and after a few hours rest started our evening safari by jeep.We were excited of the prospect of seeing some elephants.The Tiger,is always elusive and never had a remotest hope of spotting one!

We started off our evening safari into the Tholpetty sanctuary around 4:30pm and were having the company of 2 European tourists.They live in the Alps and were feeling little greenish out here in Kerala.

We saw a few deers,for a start and they were grazing peacefully.A Sambar was hiding itself inside some thick bushes and it was fun watching it.We were not lucky to spot any other wildlife and was almost resigned to the prospect of reaching the hotel without having a glance at a wild elephant.Then,there he was!

Grazing peacefully.........
A tusker,all by himself standing to our left.He looked at peace with himslef and was aware of our presence.Already my Canon 400D with the 55-250 lens was in action.I realised the light to be low for "hand held" phtography and it was not comfortable to use the tripod sitting inside the jeep.So decided to use the stepney tyre as tripod and at the end it woeked out well.

The tusker stood their for some time,with our hearts beating like drums and the adrenaline pumping exhorbitantly.The jeep driver was careful enough to park the vehicle at a safe distance and always ready to accelerate,if  the tough guy charged.That didnt happen and after standing there for about 4 minutes he quietly disappered into the deep thickets.

We came back and had a good night's sleep.The dinner was good with chappathies and veg curry.Since the road was very close to the raod we could hear the buzz of vehicles passing by.The place was reasoably crowded(most of them would staty at Tholpetty) and the night time lorry traffic is reasobable high.

Standing Tall........

The next day morning we started in right earnest with the Alpian friends again for company.The morning safari was comfortable for the climate part but was little dusty.The first sighting for the day was a few jungle fowls and then we saw a deer crossing right in front of our jeep.Saw a mountain squirrel clinging upside down on a tall tree.

A bird and a deer may not be the best of friends!

Again saw some deers and a Myna was perched on top of one deer and was pecking furiously.Whether the deer enjoyed the myna's presence,I was not quite sure.

After about 2 hours we came back and  had a good Kerala breakfast.For the Europeans,bread-butter-jam was always available.

After breakfast it was time for us to bid good bye to Tholpetty and head directly to another wildlife abode.The Nagarhole wildlife sancturay.We have never been to this place and were excited to reach there and meet our wildlife friends.

But what happend at Nagarhole is another story............

How to get to Thopetty?

480 kms from Trivandrum
275 kms from Kochi
100 kms from Calicut
25 kms from Mananthavadi
8kms from Kutta(Karnataka)
111 from Mysore

Where we stayed?

Pachyderm Palace

Kochi office for bookings:0484-2371761
The tusker retreats into the deep jungle

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