The Call Of The Wild
Aditya Singh – 'Mother's Fury'
This incredible confrontation between a sloth bear Melursus ursinus and a tiger Panthera tigris took place in the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve on April 9, 2011. The mother bear with two cubs on her back, literally stumbled upon a pair of courting tigers. Usually both animals would give each other a wide berth, but for some reason the bear chose to stand her ground. The young tiger in the frame had probably never experienced anything like this and after a period of angry vocalisations by both animals, lasting around two minutes, the tigress and her mate retreated. The mother bear, cubs holding on for dear life, won the day.
GOBIND SAGAR BHARADWAJ – 'Lethal Ballet'
A long body, short legs and incredible speed combine to give this mountain weasel Mustela altaica the ability to launch deadly attacks on prey larger than itself. This mid-air shot of the predator with its prey, a pika Ochotona sp., was shot in Ladakh's Khardung pass. The existence of both predator and prey is threatened in their high altitude, Himalayan wonderland by habitat changes being wrought by climate change. THIRD PRIZE:
LALITH EKANAYAKE – 'Good Tern'
This Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii mother decided to bodily lift her young one to keep it safe from predation by larger shore birds. The action took place at a breeding site on a Sri Lankan island off the northern peninsula. Chick predation is a major survival threat for mass-nesting species such as gulls and terns. This particular tern chick was carried back to safety by its mother. SPECIAL MENTIONS:
1. LALITH EKANAYAKE – 'Tables Turned'
This leopard Panthera pardus barely made it to the tree when a wild pig Sus scrofa in Sri Lanka's Yala National Park charged at it. Though it is the largest predator on the island it knows better than to risk injury from the razor-sharp tusks of a full-grown, angry wild pig. Forests are filled with such dramatic moments and keeping such biodiversity-rich areas free of human disturbance is vital to any successful conservation effort. 2. NIRAV BHATT – 'Cat and Mouse Game'
In the blazing heat of the arid Rann of Kutchh, an Indian desert cat kitten Felis silvestris ornate plays with its food, an almost-dead bandicoot. These cats live in burrows to escape the heat and in all likelihood its mother handed the rodent over to train the future predator to hunt. Extreme habitats such as deserts are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts and this puts charismatic species such as desert cats at great risk.
3. HARSHA J. – 'Holding On for Dear Life'
The photographer shot this dramatic scene at Kupalli near the famous Western Ghats rainforest, Agumbe. A green vine snake Ahaetulla nasuta caught a Malabar gliding frog Rhacophorus malabaricus, which not only bloated its body to avoid being swallowed, but also held on to the snake with its rear legs. The photographer has no idea how this ended as both vanished into the thick foliage.
4. BAIJU PATIL – 'Sands of Time'
Referred to as the toad-headed agama, this agamid lizard leaves delicate footprints behind in its sandy home in Rajasthan's Thar Desert. It hunts by burying itself in the sand and then launches attacks on unsuspecting prey that it follows with just its eyes above the ground. This lizard has always been targeted by the illegal trade for the supposed medicinal value of the oil extracted from its body, but today an even greater challenge is posed by climate change, which will wreak havoc on its austere habitat by radically affecting the ecology of prey species.
5. SAURABH DESAI – 'Skipping Mudskipper'
This intriguing image of a mudskipper was shot off the Suwali coast in Surat, Gujarat. What we see here is typical behaviour, which unfolds in microseconds, but was frozen in time by the photographer. These fish are capable of 'walking on land' and breathe through their skins by tanking up water in their cheeks from which oxygen is extracted. Tidal pools thus offer them both food and shelter until the next tide comes in.
6. PRASENJEET YADAV – 'The Fragile Web'
This ethereal image was shot in the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bengaluru campus on a full moon night. The web was constructed at a height of around three metres and was anchored between a tree and the building wall. The wind blew the gossamer web upwards to present the photographer with this unique flash-aided view of wild nature alive and well in the heart of the city.
7. SHIVANG MEHTA – 'Cicada Rain'
Holding on to its tree perch, from where cicadas emit their typical, loud, buzzing sounds, this individual has been captured excreting waste water forcefully after imbibing tree sap, the principal food that provides nourishment for these insects. This image, was taken in Bandhavgarh after considerable experimentation with a remote-controlled trigger, while most others in the photographer's group had vanished to look for tigers!
8. RAGHUNATH BELUR – 'Battle of Bandipur'
A gaur Bos gaurus, would normally be too large and powerful for even wild dogs to take on, but here in the Bandipur National Park, a large pack of 18 dholes Cuon alpinus, chose to target her young calf. The assault continued for 30 minutes, testimony to the alacrity and determination of the mother to protect her young one. But all was in vain, in the end the dogs had their day. This image captures a poignant moment when the mother's horn gored and flung her own calf overhead.
9. SRIRAM JANAK – 'Bodyguards'
Humans could learn a thing or two about looking after their next generation from elephants. This herd was photographed in the Corbett Tiger Reserve where the danger of a large predator attack on tiny calves is ever-present. The outskirts of Corbett are being deforested steadily thus reducing the ability of elephant populations to sustain themselves. Poaching for ivory adds to these ecological pressures and experts feel that a major injection of funds and developmental priorities that respect the need for elephants to move, for instance between Corbett and Rajaji, are vital to the well-being of critical elephant habitats.
Published in Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXXI No. 6, December 2011