The time is passing by as we are driving around in the forests of Barnawapara in Chhattisgarh. Soon the Sun is setting. I am getting anxious by every passing moment. We do see a bison. It is inside the forest and shows only its bum and heads deeper inside the forest! There are few spotted deer here and there. No prize sighting as such.
Another reason of anxiety is fading light – I will not be able to shoot an animal, though of course, I may enjoy watching, if encountered.
It is 6.15 pm. Already twilight. I notice a large black bundle like stuff on my left about 100 metre inside the forest. I think I have made it. It is not difficult to decide it is a sloth bear.
As a first reflex action, I fish out my SLR camera with a telephoto zoom. It shows terrible poor light. I increase the film speed from 200 ASA to 1250 ASA but still no chance of a shot. I soon remember that I still carry a Sony Camcorder in my bag. It captures light somehow in late evening also. It is an old baby gifted by my daughter, Chandni, about 8 years ago and I continue to carry it along out of habit, though using very little.
Luckily, the bear is in no great rush. It is still in sight. When I focus my video camera on the animal, it has started moving in the forest from left to right. Soon it decides to increase pace into run and hop along. It soon crossed the road. We can still see it now and again for about 200 metres inside the forest until it is hidden behind the bushes.
It is a good sighting. I am very happy. We congratulate ourselves for the luck. I thank the driver from managing it i.e. the selection of route and timing. I am relaxed for being able to make it, though I did nothing much except asking the driver to stop for listening to animals calls, if any.
I am sure, wildlife watchers would agree, sloth bear is difficult to come across. It comes out of its lair much later in the evening, virtually when it is night and retires before dawn!
In my life long experience of wildlife watching, I recollect seeing sloth bears in Sariska and Ranthambhore and Himalayan black bear in Corbett, but always in night and generally at long distance – few glimpses here and there – No chance of photos.
I am, thus, happy to share with you this quarter minute crude video which will give the real feel of wilderness though you may have seen many good photos of sloth bear done by professional photographers in controlled conditions or spending ages with some semi-wild animal.
Barnawapara story does not end here. It is raining luck today. The forest guard sitting behind me says ‘sir ek or bhaloo, ulte hath per’. Even before, I look to left, the driver says ‘sir ek or bhaloo, right may’. So there I am confused – to look at a sloth bear on left or the other one at right! The one on the right is relaxed and sitting comfortably across us and easily eyeing us straight. No chance of any photo now – still or video – because of low light. One on the left is full of action. It is jumping around and soon makes a dash to cross the road to be on the side of one on right. It appears to be a pair, though frankly it is difficult to say. Soon we see both are together and exploring for the food around.
And do you know where we find these bears? The first one has been about a 800 metres and the pair about 300 metres from a water pool called Bhallu Pani (Bear Pond)!
In fact, this forest or jungle is no different, and falls in the same Central Indian landscape as that of ‘The Jungle Book’ of Rudyard Kipling where the Baloo, a sloth bear, is among the important characters, and who is mentor and friend of the main character, Mowgli.
Well, expecting to see Mowgli as well, will be asking for too much.