One of the things I love most about the Periyar Tiger Reserve is the knowledge that it’s a vibrant ecosystem whose 900+ square kilometers supports a small but healthy population of tigers. For many people actually seeing a tiger is their primary goal when trekking in PTR. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t care to see one, but it would be just as much a lie to say that’s all I care about. The forests and grasslands that form the habitat for the many animals that the tigers prey on astounds me each time I’m there, and tigers aren’t the only predators who make PTR their home. Leopards, sloth bear, wild cats and Indian dhole (wild dog) hunt sambar deer, Indian gaur, wild boar, porcupine, and even the majestic elephant — all part of the natural food chain and the drama of the hunt is played out daily in the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
Yet even with the knowledge that Nature is “red in tooth and claw” my heart ached yesterday when during the final moments of a phenomenal trek we watched, spellbound, as a pack of Indian Dhole attacked and killed a female sambar deer. The instinctive teamwork of the pack was amazing, and my emotional side begged that they would be a little less efficient. But the pack couldn’t be anything less than it was, just as this particular deer couldn’t be anything more.
I thank Nature once again for reminding me of these lessons.
(I also thank Srinivasa Addepalli, a member of a master bird photography class, for the photo. When he sent it he said that he was certain others in the group with more powerful lenses captured the scene more sharpely, but for my emotions this was certainly powerful enough.)