This image was taken on June 3rd, 2014 at Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR). We were driving from Aliyar in the foothills to Valparai and a group of around 50 tourists were cheering and screaming, we got down to see what was going on. An amazing drama was unfolding in front of us — a herd of seven elephants were charging at a pack of dholes (around 20) along the banks of the Aliyar reservoir!
As this road passes through the heart of the tiger reserve, it is prohibited to get down from the vehicles. Unfortunately, this rare spectacle was being enjoyed and cheered like a movie screening! Incidents like these don’t just create disturbance for animals but also sometimes go unnoticed by forest officials. While the forest department has several check posts along this road, and their staff regularly patrol the road, it is nearly impossible to monitor the entire stretch of the road all the time. Wildlife sightings are common and it frequently leads to crowding.
On weekends and holidays, Valparai becomes a typical ‘hill station’ and we have seen people causing harm to the natural environment . When touring reserve forests like these it is advisable for us tourists to take the onus on ourselves to tour responsibly. Here are a series of pictures from the ultimate face-off between the elephants and dholes.
Chosen as Picture of the Week in Conservation India
“Roads passing through wildlife reserves sometimes offer spectacular sightings, but heavy traffic and indiscipline tourists are a huge menace. With Forest Department lacking the manpower to patrol every kilometre of such roads, it would be sensible to involve local conservation watchdog groups for volunteer patrols on weekends and holidays”
The image earned Keerthana Balaji runner-up prize at Sanctuary Wildlife Photographer of the year awards.
Here’s Sanctuary’s take on the whole series:
Mammoth Skirmish: Accompanied by rising dust and a medley of trumpets and yaps, an unbelievable face-off between a pack of dholes Cuon alpinus and a herd of elephants Elephas maximus, left visitors to the Anamalai Tiger Reserve slack-jawed. The insolent wild dogs harassed the herd for over an hour, evidently trying to separate the young calf in the pachyderm group. But, elephants being elephants, the family formed an impenetrable circle around their precious young one, while two individuals repeatedly charged the canids. Eventually, with no casualties on either side, elephants, dholes (and observing humans) went their separate ways. The photographer captured an image that is not just technically sound but also displays an incredible natural history moment. The only thing that soured the experience was the unruly behaviour of some onlookers who flouted rules and added an additional element of undesirable human chaos to this rare and unique natural history scene.
LOCATION: Aliyar, Anamalai Tiger Reseve, Tamil Nadu
DETAILS: Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T2i, Lens: Canon 75-300 mm. f/4-5.6, Aperture: f/8, Shutter speed: 1/200 sec., ISO: 800, Focal length: 300 mm.