We asked the Conservation Optimism community to share with us their most memorable encounters with wildlife. Here are some of the stories we received!

The Stalkers by Arkajyoti Shome

The alarm buzzed; it was five o’clock on a December morning. We planned to start early that day to see the hornbills before they leave from their roost.  So we went up to a watchtower inside the forest, which was just adjacent to the roost site. When we arrived there, it was still dark and the sunrise was expected to be around six o’clock, as per the weather reports. There was an artificial waterhole built by the forest department authorities in front of the watchtower so sightings of wild boars, leopards and elephants were quite common there in the early morning. But that day there wasn’t any kind of movement. Me and my assistant, Sitaram went up to the watchtower and sat there, waiting patiently for the sunlight to peek out of the dark sky.

Just as there was a tinge of sunlight, we felt of being amidst a grand orchestral performance. From the majestic call of great hornbill to the cries of the great barbet. Even the sound of dewdrops drenching down from the leaves of the nearby fig tree added to the symphony. As the things in front of us were going on like a poem on a misty morning, we saw something coming out from the undergrowths nearby. We were extremely impatient to see what it could be and so we were incredibly excited when we saw that it was a pack of wild dogs!

Credit: Arkajyoti Shome

Five of them came down to the waterhole but interestingly they didn’t notice us. In the meantime, a wild boar also tried to come down to the waterhole from the opposite side, but was chased away by these amazingly cute canids! The pack went out for a round of the undergrowths bordering the waterhole, checking what else was there to play with. They came back down again by the waterhole but now the light was sufficient to help them get a proper sight of us!

Credit: Arkajyoti Shome

While I tried to take pictures of them taking a bath on this cold winter morning, they kept on observing me and my field assistant. It went on for some time. All of them took a bath and drank some water. Just like how you expect to start your day fresh, isn’t it? As they finished, all five of them sat consecutively one after the other by the undergrowths, adjacent to the waterhole.

This was an incredible experience! Then suddenly one of the canids got up first and went inside the dense vegetation, then the second, later the third and then the fourth all sequentially within two minutes but the first-row individual was still there looking at us. Then we got to hear this shrill whistling call coming from the directions where the others had just disappeared in, which was the signal for the sentinel who was keeping an eye on us to join them and leave us, humans, behind!

As the sentinel left, I felt both extremely happy and a bit sad because I had missed the hornbills in the meantime. And just at that moment, a pair of great hornbills came soaring and perched down on the branch of a sal tree in front of us!

Thanks everyone for sharing your stories with us!

We are a global community dedicated to sharing stories and resources to empower people from all backgrounds to make a positive impact for wildlife and nature.