Sunday, August 09, 2020

Farm Diary: Nightlife in the farm

The area around our farm has a few protected state forests, but each of them is so small and fragmented that I always assumed none could shelter any megafauna within them. Many of the designated forest areas are only protected on paper, while on the ground much of that is encroached upon by the neighbouring land owners. Yet, the villagers are always talking about bears or leopards prowling around their settlements. For years I dismissed them as old wives’ tales. As I spent more time at the farm, however, the evidence of wildlife started to become clear. You’d see banana plants uprooted by unknown trespasses, termite mounds upended by what clearly look like bear claws, and the occasional exotic-looking faeces on the paths that lead to the forests.

When the monsoons set in this year, and as we were spending more time at the farm, the evidence started stacking up. These prints below left in the soft mud by a leopard mother and cub walking right outside our gate convinced me that the night-life here is more exciting than I had led myself to believe.

I got myself a camera trap to find out what happens around here at night time. The very first morning this peacock sashayed across the camera’s path.

There was a surprise visitor the next night. I had no idea that jungle cats lived around here.

A few nights later, this magnificent tusker walked on the path. Even while I was engrossed in reviewing the footage our caretaker pointed my attention to our broken fence. The elephant had walked right into our property. We reconstructed the events of the night based on the footsteps that our visitor had left behind. He had uprooted a few banana shoots, broken some branches of mango trees, but mostly had found our farm uninteresting. Then, as if to tell us who’s boss around these parts he made a new hole in the fence to get out.

Some days later it rained pretty heavily. Responding to some strange ancient instinct winged termites started pouring out of holes in the ground. That night the camera caught another exquisite visitor, a sloth bear. This one had come inside the farm too, and judging by the number of termite mounds it had opened up, had spent quite a bit of time at the property.

Meanwhile, the leopard continues to leave its pugmark around here but it seems to have this knack of evading the camera. We keep waiting.

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