Wildlife in Focus… part 3: India
Wildlife is often an important element in holidays to India, and with our guide you can find out more about the kinds of creatures you can see here – as well as where to see them.
On the prowl, fiercely guarding their territory – tigers are the most iconic of India’s diverse wildlife. While undoubtedly the highlight of any nature-spotting trip in the country, these resplendent big cats offer just a small glimpse of the wonderful creatures you can discover here.
In this, the next instalment of our Wildlife in Focus series, we will introduce you to some of India’s most remarkable animals. The tiger is always the focal point for any wildlife-spotting trips in this colourful corner of the world, but you’ll find you can discover a host of other gems along the way – all you need to do is look.
Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
One of the largest national parks in Rajasthan, Ranthambore National Park is famous for its tiger population. Once upon a time, this prestigious wildlife reserve was the hunting grounds of the Maharajas of Jaipur – so today the safety of its animals could hardly be more different from the past.
The Bengal tiger
With fewer than 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the wild, it may seem natural to assume that this is the rarest of all the tiger species. Yet, while endangered, the Bengal tiger is in fact the most populous subspecies in the wild today, totalling approximately half of all wild tigers.
Also known as Indian tigers, these big cats each have unique stripe patterns, which act as camouflage to help them stalk their prey. Fiercely territorial, tigers are the largest of the big cats and, while being feared, typically do their best to avoid humans.
The marsh crocodile
Tigers may certainly occupy the spotlight in Ranthambore National Park, but there is much else to see here. Also known as the mugger crocodile, the marsh crocodile is an olive colour, spotted with black. Living primarily in marshes, lakes and rivers, this reptile typically has a much brighter colour in adulthood and is paler when younger, so if you spot one it is fun to try to discern its approximate stage of life by its hue.
Sasan Gir National Park, Gujarat
Home to a rare subspecies of lion, Gujarat is a wonderful place for wildlife spotting. Sasan Gir National Park is a particular highlight, thanks to its population of this big cat – the Asiatic lion – and its variety of other amazing creatures. This is also another example of a wildlife reserve that was once a royal hunting ground.
The Asiatic lion
Like the Bengal tiger, the Asiatic lion is an endangered species – but its numbers are even fewer than that of its striped relative. In fact, fewer than 300 Asiatic lions live in wild today, and this is one of the sole places in India you can see them.
Living for up to 18 years, the lion is the only member of the cat family that lives in groups (known as prides). The females of the pride are its key hunters, and will often work together to secure a kill, while the males guard the group’s territory.
Closely related to both the lion and the tiger is the leopard, which is easily distinguished by its characteristic spots – though there are also black leopards that, at a glance, look to be solid in colour because their spots are so hard to see.
As well as differing in appearance, the leopard stands out thanks to its fondness for trees, which it can even hunt from – its spots help to camouflage it among the foliage. Interestingly, the leopard will also often haul its kill into trees to devour it – a trick that helps keep the carcass away from the hungry jaws of other animals.
Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh
Over in Madhya Pradesh is the wonderful Bandhavgarh National Park, which, like Ranthambore, is celebrated for its tiger population. This park is also known for its birdlife, making it an ever-exciting place for keen twitchers.
The white-backed vulture
Boasting an impressive wingspan of more than 2 metres, the white-backed vulture has dark brown plumage, though its lower back is white – a contrast for which it is named. This scavenger can spend hours in the air circling for carrion which, thanks to its incredible eyesight, it can spot from some distance.
The sloth bear
As they move very little, sloth bears can prove particularly hard to spot – but they do dwell in Bandhavgarh National Park, so you might be lucky enough to see one. Sleeping for between 15 and 20 hours each day, they are solitary creatures and for the most part feed on termites and ants, though they are also known to eat flowers and fruits as well.
View Cox & Kings’ wildlife holidays to India.
Read the other articles in this series – Part 1: Africa, Part 2: The Far East and Part 4: Latin America.