Thursday, February 4, 2010

How to spot a tiger

All Calvin & Hobbes’ readers do well know that to attract a tiger you need a tuna sandwich. But how to spot a tiger in the absence of a tuna sandwich? We discovered it on Saturday...

On Saturday we visited the Ranthambore National Park in Southern Rajasthan, the closest place to Delhi to spot tigers (but still, eight hours by train!).

Initially a bit skeptical (at least I was), we liked the park very very much. The scenery is extremely suggestive: the park develops itself around the ruins of the Ranthambore Fort, a 10th century fortress located at the top of a rocky hill in the middle of the jungle, and it is spotted by the remains of ancient temples and mosques, now covered and half-hidden by the vegetation in a landscape that somehow evokes the Jungle Book.

But how to spot one of the 42 tigers in this 1,332 sq km park? The guides of the Forest Department that kindly accompanied us explained that each animal of the jungle (birds, monkeys, deer, etc.) that sees a tiger emits a dull sound to inform the other animals that a tiger is nearby. The set of this sounds, called ‘the call’, help identifying the location of the tigers in the park.

Well then, following the ‘calls’, we wandered in the park for hours in search of tigers. We saw plenty of monkeys, alligators, thousands of different birds, a number of different antelopes, a leopard (extremely rare!), warthogs - but, as far as tigers are concerned, alas, only their tracks (and faeces)...

But be sure we won’t desist, and we will certainly come back to continue our hunt - next time with a tuna sandwich!

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