September 8, 2014

The Naturalists Magical World - Article by a friend Josh

While observing mega fauna is always enjoyable, there is more to a safari than just the elephant. Birds, insects and the flora are all integral to the jungle and our naturalists specialise in showing these wonders to all. Joshua whose interest in the jungle starts after the safari is over and guests are safely ensconced in their tents writes about a few
denizens of the forest.

It’s a Jungle Down There

Each morning and evening, the guests at our JLR locations return from their jeep safaris, elephant treks, coracle and boat rides and share tales with each other of what they saw in Karnataka’s untamed wilderness. The avid nature lover, wildlife photographer, and city slicker alike huddle together to discuss which of the big five were seen - elephant, gaur, dhole, leopard, or hopefully even a tiger.

Between rides, many rest and the children play, while at night we go to bed soon after dinner to be ready for a very early rise to go back into the jungle. But, as exciting as it is to spot our incredible big mammals - and especially the mega predators - your safari need not stop when you come back to our lodges: the jungle is not only found beyond our campuses.

Metres from our rooms and tents, tiny hunters and hunted play out the same deadly game of survival as the big, hoofed animals play against claws and paws, but often with even more ingenious and incredible techniques and capabilities. But don’t hide in your room!

These creatures are safe to observe up close - if you can find them. So, get a torch and maybe a magnifying glass and look around the properties to see another dimension of our jungles - for a fascinating wilderness lurks right beneath your nose.

Praying mantises mimic flowers or leaves and wait for a grasshopper to come too close, which they will snatch and crush with spiked forelegs more powerful in relation to their size than most larger predators have at their disposal. And, while the innocent looking ladybird beetle may look pretty to us, it is a voracious predator, devouring aphids and other tiny insects - and it’s attractive wing covers that comprise its shell is not for decoration. Meanwhile, scorpions prowl the leaf litter, immobilising prey with a perfectly aimed flick over the head of their tail-shaped abdomen, which ends in a deadly stinger.

Of all the predators in the micro jungle, spiders are perhaps the most fascinating and likely the most varied and incredible in hunting techniques. Myriad spider species are to be found, all with wondrous and deadly techniques. Some, like the orb-weaving spider, decorate their webs with pieces of plants or flowers - even making little baubles of extra shiny silk - to lure insect prey to their doom.

They make their webs of silk from a protein, forming strands which are stronger than steel for their diameter. Some strands are made sticky for catching prey, others strands are non-sticky for the spiders to walk on without getting entangled themselves. Other spiders make holes in the ground and build a trap door of silk and forest debris, which they flip open to jump out of at lightning speed to seize an unsuspecting victim passing by.

Another spider has evolved to look just like the ants on which they prey, lurking among them and even tricking the ants with pheromones to make them “think” that the spider is one of them. It has no poison, and has to stab its hapless victim with its sharp mandibles. Once prey is caught, almost all spiders inject their quarry with an enzyme which dissolves their prey from the inside, allowing them to suck their meal dry. And you thought that wild dogs or tigers were the jungle’s cold killing machines.
All around in the bushes, trees, leaf litter and maybe just outside on your windowsill, thousands of species use ingenious hunting methods, camouflage and protection tactics to survive and thrive. Truly, the food chain goes down to the smallest of links, and witnessing it is a fascinating lesson in the relentless, dazzling cycle of life.