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In Forests of Dooars, North Bengal

India Rishi Offline
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( This post was last modified: 01-19-2019, 12:44 PM by Rishi )

Happy New Year!

In a few hours, i'm leaving for the forests of Dooars for a week. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, a brief introduction...

Map of Dooars.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Dooars is a moderately forested region situated in North Bengal (actually northern Bengal), a narrow corridor that joins rest of India with the Northeast since partition in '47. This is where the Ganga-Brahmaputra plain ends & Himalayan foothills begin. The name comes from the word "duar", meaning door in classical Bengali, the doorway to Bhutan. 
The stretch from Neora Valley National Park to Buxa Tiger Reserve, covering the three districts of Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri & Alipurduar is technically Western Dooars, with the eastern one beyond the Sankosh river made up of the Manas TR of Assam, but that term is not as popular.

In the past most of the region was a wilderness of monsoon forest & grasslands that joined the Terai with Brahmaputra floodplains. For much of its history the region formed is frontier between the Kingdoms of Bhutan & Coochbehar (Koch Bihar).
After the Duar War, saw deforestation during the British era as large swathes of land came under tea plantations, that still sit on elephant corridors, causing considerable conflict & death on both sides. 

Some communities that they kicked out from ancestral lands were settled here to work as semi-bonded labourers. Many of those plantations lie closed from time to time because paying reasonable wage simply isn't profitable!

I'll provide detailed info as i write along. In the meantime, if you want to know more on wildlife of Bengal, then this treasure trove has all data:
http://www.wildbengal.com
"Everything not saved will be lost."

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Venezuela epaiva Offline
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(01-01-2019, 04:18 PM)Rishi Wrote: Happy New Year!

In a few hours, i'm leaving for the forests of Dooars for a week. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, a brief introduction...

*This image is copyright of its original author

Dooars is a moderately forested region situated in North Bengal (actually northern Bengal), a narrow corridor that joins rest of India with the Northeast since partition in '47. This is where the Ganga-Brahmaputra plain ends & Himalayan foothills begin. The name comes from the word "duar", meaning door in classical Bengali, the doorway to Bhutan. 
The stretch from Neora Valley National Park to Buxa Tiger Reserve, covering the three districts of Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri & Alipurduar is technically Western Dooars, with the eastern one beyond the Sankosh river made up of the Manas TR of Assam, but that term is not as popular.

In the past most of the region was a wilderness of monsoon forest & grasslands that joined the Terai with Brahmaputra floodplains. For much of its history the region formed is frontier between the Kingdoms of Bhutan & Coochbehar (Koch Bihar).
After the Duar War, saw deforestation during the British era as large swathes of land came under tea plantations, that still sit on elephant corridors, causing considerable conflict & death on both sides. 

Some communities that they kicked out from ancestral lands were settled here to work as semi-bonded labourers. Many of those plantations lie closed from time to time because paying reasonable wage simply isn't profitable!

I'll provide detailed info as i write along. In the meantime, if you want to know more on wildlife of Bengal, then this treasure trove has all data:
http://www.wildbengal.com
@Rishi good luck my Friend hope you can see a lot of wild animals and take good pictures and share a few with us in the Forum
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India Rishi Offline
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( This post was last modified: 01-19-2019, 12:47 PM by Rishi )

Took me a few days to sort & edit the pictures,but i'm finally done. Once as popular a destination as Corbett, Kaziranga etc. Dooars had lost is shine due to decades of misgovernance & terrible "development" projects that still plague the regions wildlife & elephant corridor. The pristine forests were already fragmented, but now has railway lines & national highways passing right through them!

This is a the western part of the previous map of Dooars (Map Courtesy: bhuvan.nrsc.gov.in).

*This image is copyright of its original author


Date: 02/01/2019
After crossing Siliguri the train stopped beside a tiny place called Gulma, on the edge of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, from where the it enters the forest to cross it (Hills of Darjeeling in the background).


*This image is copyright of its original author

We had to wait there for a good 30 minutes as the tracks merge to form a single line & the train coming to us from the opposite direction had to maintain a 30 km/hr speed limit within the "Elephant Zone".

*This image is copyright of its original author

The other train finally appearing beyond the bridge on Mahanadi river that flows beside the jungle.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Once it passes, our train starts moving through the dense forest.



Train halts before a turn.

*This image is copyright of its original author

In the hillier areas, one side is raised to discourage animals from crossing there. In those regions the train simply enters several tunnels where they can avoid the tracks altogeether.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Then the forest suddenly ends to give way to tea gardens. Not on hill slopes, but tea-shrubs planted plain fields instead of something like paddy.

*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author

We got down at Malbazar & headed northwards towards the hill town of Lava by car. As you pass you can see the vegetation changing, within minutes,as the himalayan foothills start abruptly. One moment you arecrusing through flat land, maybe slightly undulated at places & suddenly you are climbing along winding roads at 20-30° angle!

*This image is copyright of its original author


Looking down for one last peep at the plainland...
*This image is copyright of its original author
...& the change in vegetation from tropical deciduous to the wet alpine trees of fir, pine, birch etc. above.
*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

...& upland bamboo.

*This image is copyright of its original author

The forest floor became covered with ferns.

*This image is copyright of its original author

No idea what these birds are. (Edit: They're called Rufous Winged Fulvetta.)

*This image is copyright of its original author

Reached Lava by midday. Right before the road enters the city a trekking route towards the Neora Valley National Park diverges out.
It was on roads around here somewhere that the tiger was photographed two years ago, following which camera-traps were laid there & two more individuals were clicked.

After spending some time at Lava & checking out the monastery, we moved on for our final destination, Lolegaon.

Lava town from the Monastery. Beyond that hill lies the ancient & pristine Lava Reserve Forest, through which the "road" to Lolegaon passes.
*This image is copyright of its original author

Now, this forest was the most mindbogglingly majestic in all of the tour.

Inside the forest, it was almost completely dark & below the trees' shadows there were huge, prehistoric-looking ones too, almost 7 feet tall! I in my awe... well, didn't remember to take photos. So, i'm outsourcing an image of it from this travel forum. (Not taken by me.)

*This image is copyright of its original author

We travelled 26km through virtually nonexistent road, met only one car coming from the opposite side in the whole journey. Govt. has kinda abandoned this one as better roads to Lolegaon exist from the other side.

Finally, reached the Heritage forest of Lolegaon (our vehicle in the background).

*This image is copyright of its original author

Canopy walk & path...

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


Checked in at Lolegaon forest lodge for the day.
"Everything not saved will be lost."

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Nepal Jimmy Offline
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( This post was last modified: 01-19-2019, 06:46 AM by Jimmy )

(01-18-2019, 04:23 PM)Rishi Wrote: Took me a few days to sort & edit the pictures,but i'm finally done. Once as popular a destination as Corbett, Kaziranga etc. Dooars had lost is shine due to decades of misgovernance & terrible "development" projects that still plague the regions wildlife & elephant corridor. The pristine forests were already fragmented, but now has railway lines & national highways passing right through them!

This is a the western part of the previous map of Dooars (Map Courtesy: bhuvan.nrsc.gov.in).

*This image is copyright of its original author


Date: 02/01/2019
After crossing Siliguri the train stopped beside a tiny place called Gulma, on the edge of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, from where the it enters the forest to cross it (Hills of Darjeeling in the background).


*This image is copyright of its original author

We had to wait there for a good 30 minutes as the tracks merge to form a single line & the train coming to us from the opposite direction had to maintain a 30 km/hr speed limit within the "Elephant Zone".

*This image is copyright of its original author

The other train finally appearing beyond the bridge on Mahanadi river that flows beside the jungle.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Once it passes, our train starts moving through the dense forest.



Train halts before a turn.

*This image is copyright of its original author

In the hillier areas, one side is raised to discourage animals from crossing there. In those regions the train simply enters several tunnels where they can avoid the tracks altogeether.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Then the forest suddenly ends to give way to tea gardens. Not on hill slopes, but tea-shrubs planted plain fields instead of something like paddy.

*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author

*This image is copyright of its original author

We got down at Malbazar & headed northwards towards the hill town of Lava by car. As you pass you can see the vegetation changing, within minutes,as the himalayan foothills start abruptly. One moment you arecrusing through flat land, maybe slightly undulated at places & suddenly you are climbing along winding roads at 20-30° angle!

*This image is copyright of its original author


Looking down for one last peep at the plainland...
*This image is copyright of its original author
...& the change in vegetation from tropical deciduous to the wet alpine trees of fir, pine, birch etc. above.
*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

...& upland bamboo.

*This image is copyright of its original author

The forest floor became covered with ferns.

*This image is copyright of its original author

No idea what these birds are.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Reached Lava by midday. Right before the road enters the city a trekking route towards the Neora Valley National Park diverges out.
It was on roads around here somewhere that the tiger was photographed two years ago, following which camera-traps were laid there & two more individuals were clicked.

After spending some time at Lava & checking out the monastery, we moved on for our final destination, Lolegaon.

Lava town from the Monastery. Beyond that hill lies the ancient & pristine Lava Reserve Forest, through which the "road" to Lolegaon passes.
*This image is copyright of its original author

Now, this forest was the most mindbogglingly majestic in all of the tour.

Inside the forest, it was almost completely dark & below the trees' shadows there were huge, prehistoric-looking ones too, alomost 7 feet tall! I in my awe... well, didn't remember to take photos. So, i'm outsourcing an image of it from this travel forum. (Not taken by me.)

*This image is copyright of its original author

We travelled 26km through virtually nonexistent road, met only one car coming from the opposite side in the whole journey. Govt. has virtually abandoned this one as better roads to Lolegaon exists from the other side.

Finally, reached the Heritage forest of Lolegaon (our vehicle in the background).

*This image is copyright of its original author

Canopy walk & path...

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


Checked in at Lolegaon forest lodge for the day.

As much for it's historic importance for wildlife, I really don't know how it is holding up at present. I know migration route of elephants passes all the way to Eastern Nepal- Koshi reserve (reserve for Nepalese wild buffaloes)from this exact place but really don't know what other mega faunas are still present, looking at the map, it looks to be on quite a strategic and crucial point for wildlife exchange between Terai and Assam. Reading your post I felt this region has been altered quite drastically with road and tracks maybe for the link between main part of India and Assam, probably government already has development projects and other infrastructures program in place rather than demarking ecological areas here. Also contrary to being on supposedly such an impressive location for wildlife (one of the best biodiversity hotspots place in my view currently if it was to develop that way-what could be more impressive than a point of linkage between Terai -Assam and Himalaya) i haven't heard of any truly famous parks here, what could be the reason?
Edit: so there are some famous ones -Buxa, Jaldapara is the popular names I can recall but still thiese place could reintroduce animals from both Terai and Assam and Mahananda you mentioned looks like a huge chunk of forest in the map
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Netherlands peter Offline
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RISHI

Many thanks for a great tour on behalf of all! Fascinating journey, it was.
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India Rishi Offline
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( This post was last modified: 01-19-2019, 12:25 PM by Rishi )

(01-18-2019, 11:41 PM)peter Wrote: RISHI

Many thanks for a great tour on behalf of all! Fascinating journey, it was.

Just the first day...  I stopped as net speed fell & i couldn't upload pics anymore. Will continue tomorrow! Like

@Jimmy That part was the foothills region. You'd find similar places in Nepal & tigers in Bhutan. The area was much less populated i expected, with little degradation or fragmentation or livestock. Maybe tigers to have a chance in the area if they can work on the preybase. No elephants that high though, they live near the plains.

I'll go into details shortly, letme just finish up.
"Everything not saved will be lost."

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India Rishi Offline
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( This post was last modified: 01-19-2019, 10:27 PM by Rishi )

Day 2. Date: 03/01/2019
We drove from Lolegaon (not shown in map) back to the plain for Murti lodge, beside the river flowing through Gorumara NP & west of Chapramari, named after it.

*This image is copyright of its original author


Before we left, sunrays falling on Kanchenzonga (world's 3rd highest peak) at India-Nepal border in the background. 

*This image is copyright of its original author

On the way down.

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

Train passing through tea-plantation. Ours passed through this exact same spot on our way to Malbazar the day before.

*This image is copyright of its original author

On the way to Murti by NH-31C, Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary to the left (north) side of the road.

*This image is copyright of its original author

From the national highway diverges a single lane through headed for Murti. Thankfully it now remains closed at night.

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

The forest on the east of river Murti's pebbled bed.

*This image is copyright of its original author

From Murti forest lodge we were booked for afternoon safari at Gorumara National Park.

BTW For ease of estimating size of animals by comparing to the vehicles by forum members, i took a fairly accurate assessment of the Maruti Gypsy. The front of the bonnet is roughly 105cm high & it rises to ±115cm where the windscreen starts.

*This image is copyright of its original author

In Gorumara, only car-safari is done that too only within the buffer zone, the area where NH31 passes through (see map).

*This image is copyright of its original author

And the safari itself was a really exciting but also bit disappointing at the same time! The undergrowth was super dense in most parts & we heard an elephant herd, less than 50m away.
Hanged around near the place for half an hour. From the absence of images you should be able to conclude that i did not manage to catch a glimpse of any of them.

Here's a peafowl though...

*This image is copyright of its original author

...& this pond had rhinos that morning.

*This image is copyright of its original author

The best i got was when we ran into a grazing herd of gaurs surrounding the vehicle from all sides. I could make out massive silhouettes of them inside the bushes all around us. 
There are two in this photo, a calf in the center & an adolescent, both less than 10 metres away.

*This image is copyright of its original author

The forest itself was very beautiful though. 

*This image is copyright of its original author

Tiny forest village of few hectares.
*This image is copyright of its original author

Although i had mixed feeling about that day, little did i know that next one will more than make up for it (our guide called it "better than any sighting in all 2018")!
"Everything not saved will be lost."

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India Rishi Offline
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( This post was last modified: 01-19-2019, 10:12 PM by Rishi )

Day 3. Date: 04/01/2019
We were to go for safari in the afternoon. In the morning we went to a place called Bindu at India-Bhutan border.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Although  road to Bindu was very picturesque, but IMO the forest patch has way too many roads through it.
A road (not in map) get out fro the NH-31C & heads north along the length of the forest that joins Neora with Gorumara. The area where every single of these roads pass through are designated as "Reserve Forests". Thus technically there's no roads passing through the "Protected Areas"! Clever... but not in a good way.

Anyway, the road leaves the main forest & heads towards Bhutan through the fringes. First Department maintains some small plantations of rubber, medicinal herbs etc. to generate employment for people of the forest villages.

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

Only a few quiet hamlets on the road to Bindu, where there's a hydel-barrage jointly constructed-operated by India & Bhutan on the Jaldhaka river which demarcates border between the two nations.
*This image is copyright of its original author

Yep, that's Bhutan on the other side.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Night stay at Samsing Nature Resort. These govt. lodges have been upgraded in the recent years & from some of the worst, have become some of the best I've ever seen.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Don't have many rooms or other facilities, only 2-3 staff who act as cook & waiters & cleaner & manager. If you're not looking for lavish service, then highly recommended for just staying!
Trust them to cook only local dishes & some generic Indian cuisine though.  


Day 4. Date: 05/01/2019

After some local sightseeing in the morning we returned south by the same road through the forest the as day before & back to Chapramari (right side of the road)..

*This image is copyright of its original author

The entrance to Champramari WLS core.

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

Only about 500m inwards from the road is the Chapramari Forest Lodge...

*This image is copyright of its original author

...& just to the right is a watch tower...

*This image is copyright of its original author

...overlooking a pond & salt lick, about 300m ahead. Behind it you can see the first hills of Himalayas (don't know India or Bhutan).

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

These forests are mostly woodlands & rhinos are rare here.
About 50 live in grasslands at core of Gorumara, where Murti bifurcates the forest. Them & the elephants both prefer the plant species abundant in the grasslands. The elephants on the other hand, prefer to migrate & raid crops along the way.

The pond is the only permanent success of fresh water between it & the Murti River on the edge of the forest. A salt lick is where they dump salt in the soil for the herbivores to help themselves by licking or eating the dirt.
Don't know if this was a natural one originally, but this practice has been going on since the British era.

When we arrived there was a few pigs, young deers & a single herd of elephants with some more coming out of the thickets to join them. 

(The sun was setting to the left & it was cloudy too. So the the lightings will keep fluctuating. Buckle up...)

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

The jumbos slowly left for the jungle one by one. 

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

We waited, hoping for some gaurs to show up.

Instead big stags with gorgeous antlers started coming out at this point. There was a large herd inside & they all came out to graze in the open.

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

Another elephant herd crossed that^ gap between trees at this point. These ones had multiple little calves.

*This image is copyright of its original author

More deer.

*This image is copyright of its original author

More pig.

*This image is copyright of its original author

More peafowl.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Then suddenly... a gaur matriarch peeps out!

*This image is copyright of its original author

Within minutes.

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author



Continued in following post...
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India Rishi Offline
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( This post was last modified: 01-20-2019, 09:02 AM by Rishi )

Continuation of previous post...

They kept loitering in the clearing & slowly inching outside to the pond.  

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

Then two elephants came out from behind them. One looked to be an older female & other it's daughter. There was a young male calf.

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

The gaurs hurried up a bit & soon occupied the salt-lick.

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

At full zoom, i could see a little something between the two females!

*This image is copyright of its original author

They approached warily, waiting for the gaurs to disperse by themselves, who had two little calves of their own, prancing around all over the place...
*This image is copyright of its original author

...challenging the pigs.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Finally the gaurs were moved/shoved aside & i could at last see the little one, maybe born last year only.

*This image is copyright of its original author
 

*This image is copyright of its original author

At this time a massive elephant, which looked like an old male that'd lost both his tusks, walked by briskly & vanished in the forests to the left.
The male calf kept a respectful distance...

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

At this time it started getting dark because the sun had set. We called it a day (what a day!) & headed back.

Our guide was the one especially impressed by our luck. We literally had "almost everything that could be seen" come out & pose infront of us one by one, in only 2 hours.
Leopards, whose population has exploded since loss of tigers in the '50s, eluded us though. Or maybe not... most of the times, i wouldn't even know if i were looking directly at one.

I hoped a rhino was waiting for me at Jaldapara National Park, our next destination.

*This image is copyright of its original author
"Everything not saved will be lost."

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India sanjay Offline
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Wow rishi shocked what an experience. Wish I can plan such trip with member's of WildFact.
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Venezuela epaiva Offline
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(01-19-2019, 08:57 PM)Rishi Wrote: Continuation of previous post...

They kept loitering in the clearing & slowly inching outside to the pond.  

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

Then two elephants came out from behind them. One looked to be an old female & other it's daughter. The was a young male calf.

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

The gaurs hurried up a bit & soon occupied the salt-lick.

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

At full zoom, i could see a little something between the two females!

*This image is copyright of its original author

They approached warily, waiting for the gaurs to disperse by themselves, who had two little calves of their own, prancing around all over the place...
*This image is copyright of its original author

...challenging the pigs.

*This image is copyright of its original author

Finally the gaurs were moved/shoved aside & i could finally see the little one, maybe born last year only.

*This image is copyright of its original author
 

*This image is copyright of its original author

At this time a massive elephant, which looked like an old male that'd lost both his tusks, walked by briskly & vanished in the forests to the left.
The male calf kept a respectful distance...

*This image is copyright of its original author


*This image is copyright of its original author

At this time it started getting dark because the sun had set. We called it a day (what a day!) & headed back.

Our guide was the one especially impressed by or luck. We literally had "almost everything that could be seen" come out & pose infront of us one by one, in only 2 hours.
Leopards, whose population have exploded since loss of tigers in the 60s, eluded us though. Or maybe not... most of the times, i wouldn't even know if i were looking directly at one.

I hope a rhino was waiting for me at Jaldapara National Park, our next destination.

*This image is copyright of its original author
@Rishi 
Thanks for sharing your great experience and pictures of marvelous animals
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India Rishi Offline
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(01-19-2019, 09:39 PM)sanjay Wrote: Wow rishi shocked what an experience. Wish I can plan such trip with member's of WildFact.

Sure! Someday, definitely.
"Everything not saved will be lost."

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Rishi 
I hope you see wild tigers in that area!
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That's a perfect looking Elephant Bull, he looks massive.
Good stuff @Rishi
"Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is."
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Nepal Jimmy Offline
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That was fantastic @Rishi almost all animal that could be seen was seen together, I have yet to see gaurs that clearly Wink so impressive, wish you had done video also, that was a rare great activity between  herbivores!
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