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Shielding her cub behind her, she raises herself up on hind legs, adopting a threatening posture.
Though she’s equipped with long front claws and a reputedly short temper, she’s no match for our elephant, who responds by stamping her feet and attempting a mock charge.
Travellers normally come to Tiger Tops Lodge, a unique privately owned and operated safari business situated wholly within the park’s borders, to see endangered Bengal tigers but I also fall in love with an adorable elephant.
In the local language, Chitwan means ‘the heart of the jungle.’ Established in 1973, the Royal Chitwan National Park also attained UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1984. kilometres make it one of Nepal’s largest wilderness areas.
I’m on an old fashioned shikari minus the trophy hunting.
My goal is to see as many live animals as possible, to try to understand them and gain a better sense of this remote region. ‘Yes, but not the biggest, I’ve seen one swallowing a whole chital.’ [caption id="attachment_2151" align="alignnone" width="259"] Indian Rock pythons can grow to eight metres.[/caption] Sambar and chital deer roam these grasslands between the riverine jungles in huge herds. ‘Sure, but the tigers, the gaur, the rhinos and the marsh mugger crocodiles are more dangerous.’ He mentions four large indigenous animals casually.
Each morning I purloin a few apples and bananas from the breakfast buffet to share with my favourite elephant at Tiger Tops.
[caption id="attachment_2194" align="alignnone" width="448"] Asian One-horned rhino in elephant grass.[/caption] Fewer than 3,000 are left in the wild, most of them here and in India’s Assam Province.
The traveller who captured the footage was lucky not to have been ripped apart.
Dhani taps me on my shoulder and whispers, ‘Sloth bear and her cub at 3 o’clock.’ The sloth bear is rarer than a tiger. [caption id="attachment_2150" align="alignnone" width="259"] Sloth bear in a more relaxed pose.[/caption] A shaggy black coat emerges from behind a tree.
Perched high on my Chitwan mount, Chan Chun Kali Jacks, I envisage going completely native. It’s either cool and dry in winter or wet and hot in summer. Dhani, my eagle-eyed guide on these excellent adventures, interrupts my reverie by pointing out a python’s sinuous track. An adult chital deer weighs at least 80 kilos, more than me. Maybe I’m not Mowgli material after all because now I don’t feel so safe on Chan Chun Kali Jacks.
It looks like a log has been dragged in soft earth. I saw a clip on You Tube of a tiger attack in an Indian national park.
[caption id="attachment_2149" align="alignnone" width="371"] Elephant safari leaves from outside Tiger Tops' main building.[/caption] I count forty-eight rhinos in a week. Tim informs me proudly that Tiger Tops and the government’s conservation efforts have been effective.