It can be difficult to spot some animals in the national parks. Wild animals, such as predators like tigers and leopards are generally very shy and elusive. They tend to hide when they see human beings. As a naturalist, I have a few tips for you to make increase your chances of seeing animals in the wild. With luck and these tips, you will enjoy your game drive even more!
Avoid all perfumes or any other strong smelling things because wild animals are very sensitive to smell.
Always wear “jungle colors” that blend with the environment such as olive green, brown, and khaki. Animals may be frightened if they see bright color since they don’t use them.
Always view animals from a distance. Never try to get too close to them. This type of attempt will disturb them.
Never ever stand up in your vehicle when you are very close to a tiger, leopard, or elephant. They may see it and take it as a threat!
During your game drive, always try to pause, hear and assess the clues that are provided by the forest, such as warning calls from monkeys, deer & antelope.
Always try to concentrate on footprints on the road. Footprints, also known as pug marks, are really important and give you specific clues. Generally, predators like tigers and leopards prefer to walk frequently on the soft dirt road because their paws are soft padded. The freshness of pugmarks indicates how recently they have been there and can help pinpoint their whereabouts. Footprints can also indicate the size, sex and sometime even the age of an animal.
Try to search out scratch marks on specific trees and bushes. Some animals make these marks regularly. Claw marks on the bark of a tree act as territorial milestone. They can indicate an animal’s range, sex, age, and give other clues.
Some animals use olfactory, auditory, and vocalization to communicate. Again, listen to the sounds of the forest.
There are lots mammals which are well equipped with specialized sweat glands that are used to stake territory. Urine and feces are used for the same purpose. Look for signs of these on the ground and on trees.
Always gives full attention to hear the voices of animals. Most animals call in order to communicate with individuals of their own species, including to attract the opposite sex and to alert others of the threat of possible predators. They have various ways of communicating with one another. Many animals have alarm calls, sharp staccato barks, whistles, etc. which they utter when suspicious and continue to repeat until reassured. So, these types of alarm and scare calls of animals like deer, antelope monkey or even peacock provide hints to the pinpoint location of any predators!
Scavenger birds also play a critical role in providing clues to predators. Crows sitting on a branch can be an indication of a kill and animal flesh nearby. Red Headed and Egyptian vultures patiently sitting on tree branches are also a good indication of a kill. They are in the queue waiting their turn to dine after a tiger or leopard has finished.
Try to observe as many of the activities in the forest as you can. One small clue can lead you to a sighting of tigers and leopards.
Watching, listening, and understanding the behaviors of animals will make your game drive more enjoyable.
Best of Luck!
Writer, Kathy Schultz, Seattle, U.S.A
Shard Sharma, Ex-President, RNGA.