About Me

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Mumbai, India
I'm a landrace dog fancier, birder and amateur arachnologist. Founder of the INDog Project (www.indog.co.in) and the INDog Club. Before that, worked with urban free-ranging dogs of Mumbai from 1993-2007. Also a wildlife conservationist working in the tiger reserves of central India with Satpuda Foundation.

This blog is for aboriginal breed enthusiasts. It is part of the INDog Project www.indog.co.in. Only INDogs (Indian Pariah) and INDog-mix mongrels are featured here. The two are NOT the same, do please read the text on the right to understand the difference. Our aim: to create awareness about the primitive natural breed called the Indian Pariah Dog/INDog. I sometimes feature other landrace breeds too.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bandu, my forest friend

I like the somewhat restless life I lead and my frequent travels here and there...but somehow it's also nice to revisit familiar places and friends I've made along the way.

Here's Bandu, a dear friend and a very special dog.

He lives at a government-run tourist lodge in the village of Moharli, right next to one of my favourite places: Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve.

The name Bandu is pretty common in that region, and I know three men with the same name.

Not everyone finds Bandu as handsome and endearing as I do, perhaps because his cropped ears and tail and brindled coat give him a slightly menacing appearance. But he is actually a very well-mannered and sweet-natured dog and I look forward to meeting him on trips to Tadoba, as much as I look forward to seeing wildlife.

When I first saw him, I asked the resort staff where they had got him from and why his ears and tail had been cropped. They were a bit evasive, and told me his former owner had cropped them.

On later trips around the country I found out that villagers who use dogs for hunting often crop their ears in the belief that they will "hear better," and their tails for some reason I haven't figured out.

Hunting is absolutely illegal in India under our wildlife laws, and in well-managed areas the villagers have largely given it up. My guess is that Bandu's former owner intended him to be a hunting dog, and later when he abandoned the pursuit he abandoned the dog as well. So Bandu, like the clever creature he is, must have found his way to the lodge and scrounged around there until the staff decided to keep him as a pet.

I have seen crop-eared dogs here and there, including in a village near Pench Tiger Reserve - definitely a sign that some villagers are poaching. I wish these poor dogs were not embroiled in illegal activities, but Pariah Dogs were after all the original hounds in this country, and their hunting skills would make them indispensable to these law-breakers. This is what seems to be happening in the forests of Similipal (Orissa) and nearby areas, where rampant poaching by the tribals is common knowledge and has been mentioned in Sanctuary Magazine and elsewhere.

I have no patience with people who mindlessly cling to traditions even when these become irrelevant and damaging. Of course, let's not forget that hunting is not just a tradition but also has a strong profit motive. The wildlife trade seems to be flourishing everywhere.

Above: garbage in Jamni village and Moharli

The impact of dogs on wildlife is a serious problem, but I won't go into that in detail here. To sum it up, apart from the village pet dogs, there are many ownerless scavenging dogs in forest villages thanks to the filthy garbage disposal methods so common all over India. (The term "garbage disposal method" is perhaps too grand a term to describe the careless flinging around of waste).

These scavenging dogs often hunt on the side, and there is also the danger of their transmitting fatal infections like Canine Distemper Virus to wild canids.

Worst of all, there are reports of municipal corporations and village governing bodies taking dogs from their filthy streets and releasing them in wildlife areas. It seems no act is too low or stupid for humans to stoop to, when it comes to the treatment of animals.

And the cause of it all is our famous Indian lack of civic sense. Many Indians will hotly deny that we lack civic sense ("Slumdog Millionnaire shows India in a bad light!"). But there is really no need to discuss this charming national trait, as you can see it clearly demonstrated at practically every street corner.

Well, coming back to my friend Bandu - he leads a blameless life today, and he doesn't have to eat garbage or wild animals (see him slurping over his chapatis in the photo).

This intelligent beast has obviously learned not to trust the "naked ape," which is why he doesn't go bounding up to greet people, even me, but sits some distance away thumping his tail stump on the ground and waiting for me to go and pat him.

He is rather picky about biscuits and if you ever meet him don't bother offering him those salty ones, I forget the name.

One night I tried coaxing him to accompany me on a walk outside the lodge gate, but in his usual polite manner he refused to budge, and with good reason. The lodge is in forest area and sloth bears, wild boar and even tigers have been spotted there. Which is why I gave up my idea of strolling down the lane and decided to remain in the lodge grounds with Bandu and his little pack. Here's one of his girlfriends, below.

I always feel a pang of regret about not being able to adopt him. But I also know it simply wouldn't work. I've seen this type of dog before, and I know that they are stubbornly outdoorsy and will do anything to get out and wander as they please, even if they have to scratch down the front door or leap out of a window.

So Bandu dear - live free, live long, stay out of trouble - and please forgive the stupid humans who treat your tribe so badly.

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve


Lakshmi said...

Great story Rajashree! You know, when I am done feeding the strays and turn back to go, I always say "stay out of harm's way, be safe dakku (YT, blackie, brownie, chholu etc)". I'm superstitious about this and feel they will not survive until the next day unless I utter those words. Of course, I've been sadlyproven wrong on a couple of occasions

Rajashree Khalap said...

I just met him on last week's trip to Tadoba :-) With girlfriend and a young dog, possibly offspring. Didn't take a pic which I am now regretting. But he's looking just the same and in fact Aarti asked "Who is this fatty?"

Smita said...

I just love the photo of Bandu " slurping over his chapatis"!
He has remarkable eyes and even without having met him I can feel that there is is something special about him.Truly a beautiful dog!
Would love to see more photos of him.
Thanks for sharing,Rajashree.