By Rani Saggere
On the 25th of April 2017, the memory of the toughest tuskers in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary was etched in my heart forever. It was my first ever experience in the wild. Owing to the little background research of Cauvery region, I was aware of the wild animals dwelling around in the area before I packed to go to the field.
The Cauvery River, which is the lifeline of southern Karnataka, forms the boundary of major part of the sanctuary and also gives it its name. The Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary forms a part of Eastern Ghats and was constituted under Section 18 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1973 for the purpose of protecting, propagating or developing wildlife and its environment. There are a number of low hills, rocky knobs and out crops and, several waterfalls along the length of the Cauvery. The place thus enables the lovers of nature, school and college students to go out on educational excursions.
The sanctuary is known to harbour a wide range of floral and faunal diversity. The floral diversity includes Albizzia amara, Acacia leucophloea, Choroxylon swietenia, Azadirachta indica, Tamarindus indica etc and the faunal representatives comprising Deer, Crocodiles, Wild boar, Elephants etc. My motive to the journey and field was in the search and collection of samples of a few nontimber forest products (NTFP) species viz, Phyllanthus emblica, Phyllanthus indofisheri (Amla species) and Terminalia sp for further use in laboratory studies on plant genetics.
We were a group of five with two local field assistants who helped us throughout our sample collection work. As our Bolero filled with biologists commenced the journey into the wild, I started feeling the whirlpools of joy. Those tickles were filled with utmost thrill and eagerness to meet the giants of the forest. As the journey progressed, I heard from our field assistant Shivamadu that we were now entering into a place called Chilladamarada betta, which is known to encompass the huge creatures of the range- The Monster Elephants. I took long breaths and began my imaginary phase. All I could envision a big woody coloured mammalian maximus standing in front of my eyes.
Soon, I was jolted out of this trance, as Madu, a cautious observer, was pointing towards a heap of fresh elephant dung. I was astounded and anticipating to have their sight at any. I kept muttering to myself the age old saying “If you want something bad enough, you’ll get it”. Thankfully my strongest desire did not take much time to turn into a reality. As we passed a few metres away from the dung, I spotted a herd of tuskers moving up ahead in a line. They were 7 in number consisting of 3 baby elephants and 4 giants that lead the troop. For the next few minutes we were all glued to elephants, our feet refusing to move any further. I almost dropped dead at the vision. I was ‘wonderstruck’, No! No! I call it ‘giantstruck’. It indeed was a breathlessly breath-taking moment. So far it was all a scripted fantasy! And now, it’s not anymore but a vision of ecstasy.
I wanted to capture them to cherish those memories forever. I tried clicking a couple of pictures with my shaky hands I wasn’t able to get a good shot though. The leader of the pack stopped and stared at me as I froze and stopped clicking pictures. I felt it was enraged at me for my action. I experienced a variety of emotions in the instant – The monster seemed boundless yet brilliant, dangerous yet dynamic, frightening yet fantabulous, gigantic yet gorgeous, impeding yet impressive, massive yet memorable, powerful yet passionate, uninvited yet unforgettable. A fearless joy – a fightless fear. It was all at once!
Within no time the tusker head had hit the roof! He began his actions of mock attack and gave us warning calls thrice. But we were stuck as the road did not progress any further and were close to a pond bank. The giant ran towards us, throwing mud all over the place to begin the chase. It was a powerless moment in all our lives. Fortunately, we were able to accelerate the speed of the Bolero and hide ourselves under a tree to escape ourselves from the gut-wrenching Elephas maximus.
And, we survived!
For the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to freeze time. I could feel the vibrations ride through my nerves. My facial expressions were changing every second while I continued to enjoy watching them. I was squealing in joy and squeezing in fear. I took a mental image of it. It’s weird that I know how all my senses reacted that day. I love that whenever I hear the name of the place or about elephants, I close my eyes and I can immediately transport myself to that day, those few minutes and I can experience it all just the same way.
They’re irreplaceable and immortal.
MONSTERS MADE IT MEMORABLE!
About the Author:
Rani holds a Masters degree in Biological Sciences. To be a conservationist was never a dream, but to be a biologist was always one. It was at ATREE, her puerile passion towards biology diversified. She currently works on pepper – king of spices. Previously, she worked on an endemic Rhododendron species and tested the ‘Central Indian Disjunction Hypothesis’. She broadly looked at the distribution, diversity, divergence and disjunction of a species. In future, She plans to unravel many underlying mysteries in the same research area. To her, it has always been a fascinating journey till date to be doing some good science.