Friday, 11 May 2012

Little Rann of Kutch

The Lesser  & Greater Rann of Kutch, with their unique geology & vast, barren landscape make for a very different ‘forest’; how do you see an animal or a bird without disturbing it if you have neither trees for cover nor rocks to hide behind? The Little Rann is a seasonal salt-marsh & the dried-up deposits lend a white coating to parts of the desert. LRK, as it is popularly known, is the last remaining home of the Asiatic wild ass, Khur

This is the second in a three-part blog about my Gujarat trip. Read part one, about the Velavadar grasslands, here. Read part three, about the Greater Rann of Kutch, here.

Once again, I bring you stories straight from the horses’ mouths.


Ha! There’s my morning dose of laughter. I always enjoy people-watching; oh, the eccentricities I see! Two morons are walking towards me at a slow pace, almost bent-over double. Do they really think that walking like this is going to make them un-noticeable to me? I don’t move; not because I can’t see them approaching me but because their ‘tactic’ is too hilarious to miss. In the Rann, with not even a twig for cover, they could try all they liked to be ‘invisible’; we’re always going to see them. I’m surprised that the hilarity of the situation is lost on them.

When my friend rolls in the mud to cleanse & groom himself, the humans are amused. “Crazy-ass”, they say. Little do they know how amusing they look when they pour water & rub a strange stone over themselves each morning, by the water-pump. The humans, hitherto standing, suddenly plop down prostrate. Even ‘Crazy-ass’ pauses for a dekko.

Crawling on their bellies, they come a little closer & stop. They watch us & shoot photos: ‘crazy-ass’, the mother & fawn and my friend who’s mounted a lovely lass. A few of us huddle, discussing if we should move ahead.

In the evening, they come looking for us once more. We’ve been walking & playfully trotting in the distance. These humans love it when we run; once again, they lie down on the ground and go ga-ga over us. Their excitement also has something to do with the setting sun, the big orange orb that is slowly dropping towards the ground. I pause to look at these poor people; it must be so sad to never be able to enjoy the sun set, while in their own cities. Only when they travel do they have the time to appreciate sunsets. I feel so bad for them that I decide to spread some cheer. As the sun drops low, I gallop. The humans click away. I can feel their happiness. There; my good deed for the day is done.


Like every year, I’ve arrived this year too, with the rest of my flock. I like it here; there’s enough water & food for us. But, of late, I’ve been losing a few of my friends during the journey. Bare electric wires above the ground are our nemeses.  We can’t see them at night & some of us have unfortunately died, flying into them. I wonder if I’ll be able to leave from here unharmed. Even if I do, I wonder if I can return unharmed, next year. All these thoughts have been stressing me out this morning; I decide to focus on the food & dip my beak into the shallow water.

We do make for a beautiful sight & we choose our backdrop well; an in-born sense of aesthetics, you know. Our pink bodies, against the blue water & blue skies; how’s that for contrast? Little wonder that we attract so much attention. This morning, a group has arrived. We retract back into the waters, unsure if they’ve come to catch us. They approach the shore & lie down at a distance. We realise it’s the photographers. We eat away, unworried. My leg aches from standing since morning. I take a break from eating & lift one leg up to give it some rest.  The photographers love it and click some more photos. A few Black-winged Stilts walk past, some ducks float by; I enjoy having these little ones for company. And, you should watch the Stilts do their acrobatics on one leg; they’re comical.

I’ve eaten to my heart’s content now. I think I’ll fly off; maybe join the group that’s flying overhead. I take my head out of the water to see that the photographers are still lying motionless on the shore. Gosh, it’s been more than an hour! Are they asleep? The sand is so comfortable to lie on; it does that to you, sometimes. Well, good night to you humans…here I go!


I run as fast as I can. I’d been standing in the open & looking at their jeep. I thought I was safe as I hadn’t been spotted; they were busy admiring the McQueen’s Bustard, who was at a distance. As the group admired the Bustard, the jeep driver looked around, bored. Our eyes met. He said something rapidly & urgently to the others. All four heads turned in my direction. Their faces lit up. That’s when I knew I had to run.

So coming back to where I started off, I run as fast as I can. The jeep is right behind me. It’s unfortunate that the rann’s landscape is such that I have no cover. I see some scrub in the distance & dash for it. Once safely inside, I stand to watch. The jeep is on the other side of the scrub. They furiously click my photographs. I hide behind a bush. When I peer out a few minutes later, they’ve left.  

I needn’t have run; it’s just my instinct, though. I don’t blame them for wanting to see me. I’m quite cute and can only be found in dry, desert regions, quite unlike where they come from. When I was a baby, I was even cuter & you should’ve seen even the most hardened humans melt, looking at me. When I do have my own cubs, I’ll have to ensure that my den is secluded & secure. Earlier, I just had to worry about other predators turning up at my den for my cubs; now I have to worry about the barrage of photographers too.


I travelled to Gujarat:
With naturalists & wildlife photographers Harsha J & Dilan Mandanna