India diary: wonderful wildlife

Delhi is a city of nearly 22 million people but it sometimes feels like the are more animals roaming the streets, especially down our way were things aren’t as developed. I’ve mentioned some cow experiences but this isn’t the only creature we’ve encountered. In fact we recently travelled nine hours by bus to visit Jim Corbett National Park which east of Delhi and is a reserve especially for the elusive Bengal tiger. Admittedly we didn’t manage to spot the bugger during nearly 8 hours of amazing jungle safari but we came close, by spotting their massive tracks and a rotting carcass of half eaten deer. It was probably more likely that a tiger saw us from the safe cover of the tropical foliage than we would have seen the massive cat.

1. Monkeys. While we spotted some crazy species of these on safari these guys are not confined to the jungle alone. Most our monkey experiences have been on streets around our home. Just today we were walking home from another day at school when two sizeable monkeys hoped the wall in front of us. We pursued in hope of some cool-ass photos. This wasn’t very clever on our part as the larger male swung to a rooftop, bared it teeth and hissed until we retreat behind a metal mesh gate.

2. Bulls. It just so happened that today was a bumper day for animal action. On the other side of that gate was a long street and ploughing down that street was a herd of those free-running cows led by a giant bull. We quickly prioritised and jumped back to the other side of the gate. Monkeys > bulls.

3. Birds. The birds of the jungle were very, very impressive. We definitely saw parrots, woodpeckers, a bird of paradise and a great hornbill. Some of the descriptions we used for other birds in our uneducated western cries included ‘that looked like a flying sheet of paper’, ‘there goes a herd of parrots’ and ‘that looked like a Pokémon’.

4. Spiders. Can’t even deal with the size of the spiders.

5. Dogs. There are hundreds of dogs here and about 1% of them seem to have owners. The places they manage to get themselves are really quite impressive. On top of cars and on top of houses are standard dog locations. The lack of streetlights means that you can easily step on them as they sleep at night but just be prepared to run.

6. Squirrels are also very common in the city, and at some tourist hotspots you’ll find old guys offering you the chance to hold a squirrel that they’ll coax into your hand with some grains. These squirrels are known to carry a variety of strange foreign diseases so when we were offered this chance of course I held it. Who passes up a chance to hold a cute little squirrel? Cue hand-sanitiser.

7. White mice. There was a box of these guys in the foyer of a gym that one of our guys was joining to keep fit (I can barely keep alive here myself). I got to hold these guys too.

8. Elephants. These guys were sauntering around the grassland of the national park. Known for their tempers we were happy just to see these guys from a distance and in their natural habitat. There were also some of these beauties outside the park and available for tourist rides. They are the most amazing and calming animals to have encountered. I didn’t manage to pick this one up but we got up close and personal and that was more than enough.

9. Bears. Did you know that Baloo means Bear in Hindi? Neither did I. Now we both know. The park is also home to bears and sloth bears. This fact is something that we carried with us throughout the day trip and in true Disney fashion we continued to call every deer ‘Bambi’, every warthog ‘Pumba’ and our lovely elephants could have been ‘Dumbos’.

10. Pigs. Pigs are great here. There’s a whole family of them directly under the first floor balcony of our school. They live in the regular mounds of trash that you find on the street and they just laze about in the gathering pools of purple-black sewer water that flows freely here. They do get a hard time from the kids who dominate the streets. Every so often you hear a piercing squeal as they chase an unsuspecting little piglet down the alleyways. This had led me to my next venture. After helping all the street kids, I will help all the street pigs away from the street kids.

The views expressed in Dan's diaries are his own personal observations of life in India and not the views of the organisation he is working with or his partner school.