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Dogging the dhole

Dogging the dhole

I had witnessed nature in the raw and I quietly withdrew from the scene.

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Last Updated : 14 June 2024, 19:29 IST
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Living as I do on the forested outskirts of Munnar, encounters with wildlife are fairly common. Indeed, I have time and again witnessed the saga of ‘survival of the fittest’ unfold in the wilds around our home.

Around 5 am the other day, the pounding of a fleeing sambar’s hooves and the excited yapping of dholes (wild dogs) in hot pursuit broke the pre-dawn stillness outside my bedroom. Soon the commotion died down, and I went back to sleep. Proceeding on my morning walk an hour later, I heard a scuffle interspersed with muffled growls in the dense lantana bushes below our gate. Presently, as many as five dholes emerged, faces smeared with blood, jointly and laboriously dragging out the carcass of a hind.

I crouched behind a bush to spy on the canines as they ravenously gorged on the ‘kill’ hardly 15 metres away. From first-hand experience, I could well imagine the predator’s modus operandi: the relentless chase over hill and dale till the prey collapses out of sheer exhaustion, and then its adroit hamstringing with a crippling bite. And, of course, dholes are notorious for feeding on their prey while it’s still alive.

Suddenly, one of the dholes raised a bloodied snout, sniffed the air suspiciously, and spotted me. Immediately, the quintet slunk into the shrubbery, reluctantly abandoning their meal, only to re-emerge a little later, when I had moved out of sight. This little ‘game’ was played out no less than four times, with the predators melting into the bushes each time they espied me and warily returning to their meal when I withdrew. Hunger just could not keep them away. And, for my part, neither could my all-consuming curiosity.

Finally, the canines’ patience apparently ran out. Breaking away from the pack, the leader trotted up the grassy path, business-like, towards where I was crouched. When it was about 10 metres from me, it let out a low, menacing snarl followed by a series of staccato yaps, as if to say, “Get lost; you’re hindering our meal!”

I knew that dholes could be quite vicious when provoked. However, armed as I was with a walking stick, I stood my ground resolutely and stared unwaveringly at the approaching canine. About 5 metres short of me, it stopped, snarled threateningly once again, and, turning, loped back to its companions and its meal, having made its intentions clear.

I did not want to tax the predators’ patience anymore. Once again, I had witnessed nature in the raw, I reflected as I quietly retraced my steps, my curiosity satisfied. 

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