September 30, 2023
Call of the wild
Photo Essay

Call of the wild

Jun 2, 2023

Bera town in the Jawai region of Rajasthan is one of the few places on earth where leopards thrive among human settlements. The leopard getaway destination is a perfect hotspot for wildlife enthusiasts.

Passionate photographer, leopard-lover, conservationist, and founder of Bera Lodge, Shatrunjay Pratap Singh is one of the best leopard trackers in the region. Leopards are elusive and well camouflaged, and know human habits well enough to remain like a ghost in the dark. Not only does Pratap know these leopards in the area well, he is also one of the reasons why these leopards still have a home in Bera. He has spent time learning about the predators, their movement patterns and habits, and tracks them on a daily basis.

The joy of leopard spotting

One of the many efforts put in to promote eco-tourism and conserve the flora and fauna of this area is the Jawai Conservation Reserve. Bera region lying between Kumbalgarh National Park and Mount Abu Sanctuary has various granite formations. These large granite hills are scattered with Anogeissus scrub, and rocky dry river beds are dotted with religious shrines and temples. The leopards of Bera have accepted these as a part of their natural habitat.

Striped hyena is commonly found in Bera

Bera region consists of a healthy population of leopards. It is one of the few places on earth where leopards are among human settlements. It is the most incredible sight to have villagers praying at the shrine and leopards sitting quite calmly and watching the ceremonies. Traditionally, the area was maintained for grazing livestock and farming, with the creation of watering holes and feeding stations for wildlife.

Bera is inhabited by the Rabari Tribe consisting of shepherds and herdsmen, and the predators follow them when they pray. The region is also termed as ‘leopard and shepherds’ country. Pratap and his team head out early in the morning to spot the leopards based on their previous day’s movement patterns, tracks and signs to ensure the best possible leopard viewing. The Indian leopard, caracal, chinkara, desert cat, Indian wolf, sloth bear, pythons, jackal, jungle cat, striped hyena and blue bulls are a few of the animals found in this area.

It is an incredible sight to watch the leopards watching the villagers at the shrine

Sighting other species

The Jawai Dam, built by Maharaja Umaid Singh of Jodhpur, is a large reservoir and home to many species of migratory and residential birds. The construction of this dam started in May 1946 and was completed in 1957. It is the biggest dam in the western Rajasthan and a paradise for migratory birds with a rich biodiversity. It provides incredible sightings of species like the sarus crane, Indian courser, osprey, pelicans, bar-headed geese, water fowl, pipits, larks, pratincoles, and other raptors. One can
see a large variety of migratory birds like spot-billed duck, comb duck, geese, common crane, demoiselle crane, northern pintails and wagtails in winters, while crocodiles keep basking at Jawai Dam. With over a hundred species of bird and animals to see and photograph everyday, a day at Jawai is incredibly rewarding for the visitor.

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