Going wild in Daroji

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Going wild in Daroji

Home to a number of bears and birds, the Daroji Sanctuary in Bellary turns out to be the perfect holiday for wildlife enthusiasts, writes B V Prakash.

It is often said that sighting a bear in the wild is a lucky experience. For this hairy shy mammal is nocturnal by habit, and spends the day dozing off in the shade of a boulder or in a cave. But there is a sanctuary earmarked exclusively for bears where you have a fair chance of looking at this denizen. The place is sloth bear sanctuary at Daroji in the Bellary district.

Suitable home

The area between Sandur and Hospet was a dry barren land, strewn with thorny bushes and boulders with numerous caves. Although inhospitable, the area was ideal for sloth bears and creatures like the hyena, jackal, porcupines and lizards. This prompted the forest department to develop the place encompassing the Bilikallu Forest Reserve into a home for bears. With the support of a few local naturalists and the villagers, the department saw to it that the efforts bore fruit in carving out a sanctuary. 

An area of 8,722 hectares was declared as the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary on October 17, 1994. Though it is an open sanctuary, the relative safety of the place without disturbance from humans encouraged the bears to stay and breed successfully. 

Today, there are about 120 bears roaming the rocky terrain of the sanctuary. Although the world famous site of monuments, Hampi, is quite close by, not many tourists make it to the bear sanctuary. But for wild life enthusiasts and photographers, it is a must visit.

Arriving at Hospet in the morning, a cool drive took me to a resort situated in the periphery of the sanctuary. Relaxing after lunch, I could hardly wait to take off to the sanctuary. Being nocturnal, the bears rest during the day. And by night, they begin their foray to search for food, which comprises wild fruits, roots and tubers apart from ants and termites. 

But here in Daroji, the forest department staff also adds to the food supply, a paste of jaggery, flour and oil, which is smeared on the rocks. The bears come out of their caves by late afternoon to lick the rocks smeared with the tasty meal. A few waterholes also enable the animals to quench their thirst. This feeding has come as a blessing in disguise for the visitors as at least seven to eight bears can be seen wandering here in the evenings.

And to enable the visitors to get a view of the animals, a watch tower has been built on a high rock, which gives an overall view of the forest and the animals that scramble around. After waiting at the watch tower for nearly an hour, we sighted some bears coming down from the Karadikallu Hill. 

The animals came to the rocks licking away the sweet paste happily for almost 10 minutes, before heading down to the nearest waterhole. A wild boar also made its presence felt, but the bear was what caught our attention. Birds like the painted spurfowls, grey francolins and babblers moved fearlessly around the bears. 

Rare sightings

Some rare birds also find a home at the sanctuary. The pleasing canal of the Tungabhadra passing through the area is literally a hub of these birds. So the following morning, I set off with Mahesh, a knowledgeable bird enthusiasts, in a jeep. As we drove slowly along the canal we were soon rewarded, as Mahesh showed me an Indian eagle owl perched on the other bank with the fresh kill of a hare.

We could also see many cormorants, egrets and kingfishers by the canal and even rare ones like rufous-tailed larks , Eurasian collared dove and sparrow larks in the bushes. A flock of red munias flew away swiftly and the sight of beautiful painted sandgrouses was just lovely.

The visit to Daroji and the sighting of bears and birds was indeed a wonderful experience.

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