Sitting in the cubicle I call my office, the staff all suddenly get up and rush outside. Now I heard nobody say come and see this so the famous osmotic process of the Asian communication method still eludes me. Not being one to miss a party I nonchalantly follow them trying to look as if I know what is going on. All crowded round the top steps they are pointing and shouting to each other at something in the distance. All I can see are the hills that have been there for a few thousand years. If it takes this long for them to notice a hill or two it is not surprising they need me to show them how to use computers. But, I figure it must be more than hill or two to wake them from their office duties so continue to peer into the distance. About 200 metres away are a couple that have dismounted from their motor scooter. They seem to be gesticulating at the hill. Yes, a hill I agree silently. A more shouty Indian shouts back to them. Probably saying, yes, isn’t it exciting, a hill. By now I’m getting bored with this hill business and wander off back to my cubicle.
At the end of the day those of us heading to town climb into the jeep. 200 metres up the road we stop with the driver pointing excitedly at the hill. This b******y hill business is as you will have guessed by now is really getting boring . I’m bored just writing about it so you have my sympathy if you have managed this far. I still cannot see what the fuss is about. Mobile phones come out and photos are taken. This cannot be the first time that you have seen grass, it’s that green stuff all around us. The driver is growing agitated and wants to move off. The passengers dissent and want to continue watching the grass grow. And then I see it!!! Describing it later to another volunteer I say I’ve seen one. How big he says. Well, bigger than a large dog but smaller than a calf I reply. Bush size he suggests. Depends on the bush I answer. Much smaller than a 50 year old rhododendron but bigger than a year old azalea I proffer. I’m really dragging this out but I’ the one having fun so up yours. For the more observant of you the clue (and there is one) is in the title. How the Indians had seen this curiosity at such a distance suggests they have Hubble telescopes for eyes. At 50 feet (I just love mixing my units up) it is difficult enough to see particularly when you don’t know what you are looking for but there it was. A small bush sized brown furry animal with all the appearance of a brown bear. And now I’ve gone and given the game away.
They used to be common in these parts but since the forests were destroyed in the quest for many mighty dollars the ground cover has all but disappeared so are rarely sighted now. They are not keen on being in close quarters with us, any more than you would want to meet a fully grown teddy without some serious backup device like a tank or other large gun shaped object. In other words they tend to hide away under whatever cover there is. So I feel privileged to have seen one in the wild and David Attenborough had better watch his back.
Bengal tigers on the other hand are a much more demanding animal and have suffered even more drastically from de-forestation. If you ever find yourself near Canterbury, Kent, England visit Howletts Wild Animal Park in the village of Beakesborne, a 10 minute ride away to see them in all their glory. They are in my very limited wild life expert’s opinion the most magnificent beast you are likely to see, Bengal tigers I’m referring to of course. Whatever, according to a recent report in the Indian Sunday Times, some 20 years ago there were around a million of them. At the last tiger census 2 years ago there were thought to be around 1100. If you belong in that revered group of occupations related to logging, shame on you. You have spent your dollars and the tigers have gone.
But hey, I’ve seen a wild brown bear in the wild. Have you?