Asia's Top Wildlife

TIGER ASIDE HERE'S WHEN, WHERE AND HOW TO SEE SOME OF ASIA'S OTHER TOP WILDLIFE ON SAFARI

While the tiger may steal the limelight and be at the top of many a wildlife bucket list there are plenty of other rare and threatened species to discover in Asia

The world's largest continent, Asia is home to a rich diversity of wildlife as varied and fascinating as its many cultures and landscapes.

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Compared to safaris in Africa, spotting Asian wildlife presents more of a challenge, in terms of patience and tracking skills, but the extra effort simply doubles the rewards; there’s an abundance of animals and birds in many places if you know when to go and where to look. Avoid chasing the star attraction and with a knowledgeable guide more meaningful encounters you least expected will come to you.  

Aside from tiger, other big cats include leopard and snow leopard in habitats that stretch from ancient granite rocks among scrub parched crisp by the sun to awesome mountain ranges perennially covered in snow. 

LEOPARD

Extremely stealthy and exceptionally agile the Indian leopard often shares its territory with tiger but is more widely spread perhaps because of its ability to adapt in a variety of habitats from tropical rainforests to dry scrub.

The Indian Leopard has larger rosettes than the other subspecies, with a paler coat in desert habitats, greyer in colder climes and more ochre in rainforest habitats. Their pattern of rosettes is unique to each individual and can be used to tell them apart.

Melanism is a common occurrence in leopards, the entire skin being black so that the spots become indistinguishable. Commonly called Black Panthers, this was Rudyard Kipling’s most stunning Jungle Book character, Bagheera.

In Satpura and Rajasthan leopards make their home among giant rocky outcrops, much resembling the kopjes of the Serengeti, and while they can run at over 50km per hour, leap over 6m and jump up to 3m feet high, you’re more likely to see one stretched out on sun warmed rocks or perhaps even a mother playing with cubs in the golden light of late afternoon.

Champions of camouflage and painfully shy, when tracking by jeep or on foot, a knowledgeable guide becomes indispensable. At the break of dawn when the overnight dew dampens the soil, or late afternoons when the sun is low, casting longer shadows on the prints, tracks on the soft ground beneath the rocks can most easily be spotted. Pugmarks can reveal the sex, age and condition of a leopard – as well as evidence of their position on which hill they’ve chosen to reside for the day.

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Sloth bear

With heavy shaggy hair, large ears and a long muzzle with a protruding lip the sloth bear is the most unkempt looking of India’s three species of bear.

It is partial to fruits, berries, grasses, flowers, honey, and termites which it voraciously sucks up from mounds while the upper lip folds up to close the nostrils stopping any insects or dust to enter nose.

A particular favourite in spring are leaves and flowers of Mahua trees and intoxicated by overeating the fermenting blooms the unpredictable bears are more cautiously respected by park guards and naturalist guides than tigers; the bears’ 3 inch long sharp claws used for climbing trees and breaking open honey combs are lethal. Wild dogs, leopards and tigers themselves also keep their distance

Sloth bears are primarily nocturnal, but in the jungle they can sometimes be seen searching for food during the day. They may be spotted on safari by open jeep in Kanha National Park, but in Satpura, in the company of an expert guide and a park ranger with a very intimate knowledge of the jungle there’s the opportunity to track sloth bear on a walking safari.

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Asia's Top Wildlife Safaris

Tigers and Leopard in Rajasthan

Highlights:

Track leopards over rolling hills and rock kopjes guided by pioneering conservationists.

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Asia's Top Wildlife Safaris

TRACKING RHINO FROM ELEPHANT BACK IN KAZIRANGA

Highlights:

TAKE TO THE GRASSLANDS BORDERING THE BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER TO SEE THIS ENDANGERED ONE-HORNED RHINO

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Asia's Top Wildlife Safaris

Snow leopards in Ladakh

Highlights:

SPEND TIME TRACKING THIS ENIGMATIC CREATURE IN ITS NATURAL HABITAT OF THE HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINS

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Rhinoceros

The Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, also known as the Indian Rhinoceros, once roamed across the breadth of the Subcontinent, perhaps even into China but today small scattered populations are confined to the floodplains in the foothills of the Himalayas in India and Nepal

Its habitat is tropical and subtropical grasslands or savannahs, swamps and forests – similar to that of Africa’s White Rhino. The armour plated appearance is created by large skin folds, while the wart-like bumps and large single black horn found in both males and females, add to the prehistoric look.

Generally solitary, with the exception of mothers with their young, these rhinos are great swimmers and on land can run up to 35 mph for a short time. Though their eyesight is poor, they have excellent hearing and a strong sense of smell.

Located on the banks of the Brahmaputra River, Kaziranga National Park is home to more than two thirds of the world population of Greater One Horned Rhino. Using a jeep you can get deep into each of the parks four zones but you are almost guaranteed to get within just a few meters of rhino on an early morning elephant back safari. There’s also a high density of tiger, well concealed in the tall elephant grass, Asian elephant, jackal, fishing cats, a wide variety of reptiles from tortoise to crocodile and hundreds of species of birds, including Pallas’s Fish Eagle, Black-Necked Stork and Dalmatian Pelican.

In Nepal the rhino finds refuge in Chitwan and Bardia, the largest and least disturbed sanctuary in Nepal’s southern Terai lowlands. The park can be explored by jeep and on foot, walking in the company of elephants. Bardia is also a habitat for a range of endangered birds, including the Bengal Florican and Sarus Crane.

TRACK RHINO FROM ELEPHANT BACK IN KAZIRANGA

SNOW LEOPARD

Of all the world’s wild cats, the Snow Leopard must be the most enigmatic.

Known as the Ghost of the Himalaya for good reason it is solitary by nature, as shy as it is rare and impeccably camouflaged.

It is surely the most beautiful too; remarkable pale green eyes stare out from a luxuriously thick coat dappled with dark rosettes and the near meter long tail doubles as a scarf when it’s not being used for balance in its rugged habitat.

Found only in the remote mountainous areas of Central Asia the snow leopard is among the most endangered species on earth. The nature of its territory makes studying them a challenge, labouring in blizzards and thin mountain air and numbers are based on educated guesses; less than 5% of the snow leopards range in India has been surveyed.

Tracking them on safari can be equally tricky - most signs of snow leopard activity, especially pug marks, are ephemeral. But, high in the Himalayas just an hour’s flight north of Delhi, beyond the Indus River and craggy ancient monasteries, the mountains in the former Buddhist kingdom of Ladakh are one of the best places in the world to see them.

And then there was the small matter of the snow leopard, whose terrible beauty is the very stuff of human longing. Its uncompromising yellow eyes, wired into the depths of its unfathomable spirit, gaze out from the cover of innumerable editions. It is, I think, the animal I would most like to be eaten by.”

- Peter Matthiessen

 

Blog

Searching for sloth bear in Satpura

Think beyond the tiger and head to one of India’s quieter sanctuaries to find the snorting, grunting and rather dishevelled looking sloth bear....
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Blog

When is the best time to see snow leopard?

The mid-winter months from January to March are the best time to see snow leopard. High in the mountains of Ladakh in the Indian Himalayas the cat’s...
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