August 30, 2007

Bengaluru Tigers

Waking up to see the sun shining through our curtains on a Sunday afternoon, two of my flatmates and I decided to go on a road trip to Bannerghata National Park. After heading to the Ulsoor Lake swimming pool and picking up a bald headed Belgian, we set off on the one hour drive to our destination. On Bannerghata Road we passed by two prominent local institutions - the Indian Institute of Management (IIM-B) and the Forum Shopping Mall - one for study and one for play. After taking a wrong turn we consulted the locals and were given directions to our destination. When we arrived at the 25,000 acre zoological park the crowds at the entrance were already large. Most were waiting to board the buses that would take them inside the popular lion and tiger enclosures.

Busy trying to identify potential ARNABombshells in the crowd, time flew by for the four of us and before we knew it our foray into the wild had begun. We boarded the bus and sat in any available seats we could find as the safari began. The Bengaluru Tiger came face to face with his counterpart in the animal kingdom. A Bengal tiger blocked the path in front, pausing momentarily to allow everyone to take a few snapshots, before slowly circling around us. The bus had metal grates across the windows for protection from the magnificent creature, so fear could give way to admiration. The same could be said for the tiger outside, with its muscular orange and black form and regal carriage. Several other tigers also appeared as our journey progressed. The lions we encountered were not as forthcoming, preferring to laze in water holes and not approach the bus as closely as the tigers had. They were also very thin and appeared to be chronically undernourished. There had been reports in the media of misappropriation of funds earmarked towards the welfare of the animals in Bannerghata. Rumour had it that some of the park staff had been taking home the tender and juicy strips of meat meant to feed the lions and having a nice feast at home with the family instead.

The park also contained a zoo within it complete with reptile park and aviary. Soon after we entered though closing time was upon us. Friendly park officials encouraged us to get out. We complied, but not before catching a glimpse of feeding time. Large snakes were given live rabbits for dinner while the smaller ones were busy swallowing rodents. It was an engrossing experience where the line between man and nature was as thin as it could be in a controlled environment.