It was a lovely November evening in Bandipur Tiger Reserve. The crickets had not begun their chorus yet. On hearing the unmistakable whistling cries of Dholes or Asiatic Wild Dog (Cuon alpinus), our safari jeep came to a slow stop. It was a huge pack, nearly 18 – 19 dholes, getting ready to attack two elephant calves. But even this large pack was no match for the elephants, as the adults drove the dholes away in the blink of an eye.
Everything was over and all of us sat back to soak in the high-energy action we had just witnessed. That’s when we heard the call of a gaur and our jeep moved forward. In an open area, we saw the pack surrounding a gaur calf and its mother. They were attacking a gaur calf while its mother tried to protect it. A lone bull offered some help, but before long, he gave up and joined the rest of the gaur herd, standing behind the bushes and watching.
As the cries of the calf and the calls of the dholes filled the air, the attack gained momentum. The female gaur head-butted the dholes and tried to keep them away from the calf. As a dhole tried to bite the calf, it moved forward and suddenly, the female gaur had flung her own calf into the air. As the calf fell, even the mother’s eyes were wide open when she appeared to “realize” what she had done. Was that the final blow, we wondered, looking at the motionless body on the ground. After a while, the calf stood up, but the wild dogs were relentless. Eventually the calf collapsed and the female gaur finally decided to move away.
This image was taken when the mother had thrown her calf up in the air. It won a special mention in Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Photography Awards 2011.
We captured the entire sequence on video as well, which can be viewed here on YouTube.