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Sunday
Mar182012

Project Tiger: Ranthambhore

For the last two days we have been in Ranthambhore, one of the original Project Tiger reserves.

We have been staying in Khem villas, which I could not speak more highly of. It is a luxury tent eco-resort, owned by the family of Fateh Singh Rathore, who was single-handedly responsible for turning Ranthambhore into a Tiger Park. The family has been the driver of enormous social and environmental change in the region, building schools and hospitals to help the local people, while reducing the impact on the environment by sponsoring birth control (note: in this regard at least, rural India is more progressive than the Republican party in America), growing seedlings for tree planting for wood harvesting, improving the cattle stock by funding intercrossing with high yield breeds and creating low-tech alternatives to wood burning (harvesting the methane of cow dung for gas-powered stoves). The camp has all the allure of camping, with none of the inconveniences, and staying would have been a delight even without the safaris.

The morning safari in Ranthambhore was, quite simply, one of my top travel moments. We took a jeep through the dry forest hills of Ranthambhore in search of tigers, and even though we were unlucky not to see any tigers, we saw an abundance of wildlife. One of the oddities for me was seeing mixed herds of spotted deer and peacocks grazing the dry forest, on the alert for tigers. Surely no animal looks more out of place in its native habitat than the peacock. The peacock just looks like an artificial absurdity, bred to wander the lush green lawns in front of decadent palaces. But these are not artificially selected animals, bred to extremes like breeds of dog. On the dry arid plains they graze, their psychedelic blue feathers and enormous tail a triumph of sexual selection over natural selection (and indeed, just common sense). I wonder what evolutionary advantage peacocks have that they are able to overcome their self-induced disadvantages against competitor species? Why haven't they been rendered extinct by competition with a similar species capable of camouflage and proper flight?

Gray langur

Spotted deer buck

Scenic view over tiger habitat

Spotted deer family

Sambar on the move, the favourite prey of the tiger due to their large size and poor vision

Rufous Treepie, a very friendly bird that delighted by its investigations of jeeps and hats for any crumbs of food

Pheasant

Baby spotted deer, also known as "Tiger chocolate"

Little green bee-eaters

Juvenile crocodile basking by the lake

Indian gazelle

Hunting for Tigers

Black-faced langur with infant

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