Between March and August of 2020, the civil society across the country became expert in at least one subject, and that was “the outbreak of pandemic”.
A pandemic about which nobody knows anything! But everybody knows “everything”.
They know everything to get panic; know everything to create new norms; know everything to coin a term called “new normal” and at the end know everything to follow nothing, because they know nothing to remain calm; know nothing to discard existing social practices; know nothing, so fill the vacuum by coining a term called “new normal” and at the end know nothing, so follow everything.
Few hilarious examples of this conundrum of knowing “everything” and “nothing” was – pay cut by companies to tackle bad economy – which was declared as voluntary but implemented as mandatory; practicing “social distancing” in public places – which was directed as mandatory but enacted as voluntary; and using of “arogya setu app” developed by Government of India to track virus infected cases – which was intended to cover a population of 1.4 billion out of which 35% use smart phones but targeted a virus which nobody could isolate.
And last but not the least, the whole world decided to remain locked till the invention of a “vaccine” for a virus which nobody knows how does work.
Confused ?… so does the whole World !
But who created such confusion and why? That is probably the most controversial debate of this century and not the subject of this story.
However, this confusion had kept eco tourists and wildlife photographers away from forests and national parks of this country for a longest period of time. Even when officially the parks were permitted to operate for eco-tourism, wildlife enthusiasts were still sceptical about taking any chance with this “virus” over their “enthusiasm” to display passion for wild lives in social media.
But there are two categories of desperate people in society – the first category – desperate to get into adventure, because that’s the only thing available for them to break monotony; and the second category – desperate to get back into business, because they have few mouths to feed.
These two categories can meet each other’s need and for that they must come together.
That’s what exactly happened when twelve of first category people, including me, gathered together at Kabini River Lodge of Jungle Lodges and Resorts, in the afternoon of 4th September, 2020, under the leadership of Harsha Narasimhamurthy, wildlife photographer and naturalist from Toehold Travel and Photography Private Limited, the representative of second category.
That was my “second return to highland”, amidst a “pandemic”.
My “pandemic time” exploration started from Kabini with a very new theme. The theme of “Big Five” which I am going to narrate as I experienced in those three days. – The Big Five of Western Ghats. That includes tiger, leopard, Indian elephant, gaur and Asiatic wild dog.
In this group of course tiger is the supreme most species. Although till couple of years back, the part of Nagarhole, which we were exploring, was more popular for leopard sighting. From eco-tourism and wildlife photography point of view it was always the leopard which was considered as flagship species of Kabini. But now the story is different.
Whenever I have seen Bengal Tigers in forest, I was always astonished by some or the other display of their characteristic behaviour.
The mature female, I spotted in my first “pandemic” exploration, was found sniffing vigorously the tree trunk, grasses and even soil. She was making “stinky face” and rolling her tongue out, which Harsha explained later as flehmen response. According to German Wildlife Keeper in the mammal department of Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, Dr. Erin Mowatt, “in German the word flehmen means lip curl or curl of the upper lip”.
All animals have five senses – sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. The cats have an extra sense – with the help of their vomeronasal organ, or the Jacobson organ – they process information somewhere between smell and taste. The tiger open wide to allow the scent to reach the roof of its mouth where the Jacobson organ is located.
One more exploration to tiger range forest of this subcontinent, one more lesson of tiger behavior…. The shadow is not darker in pandemic!
I am one step closure to finish my ambitious project of “In the Shadow of Bengal Tiger”.