Tigers in the Emerald Forest: Ranthambhore after the Monsoon, Valmik Thapar, Oxford University Press, Pp 126 (HB), $ 79.75
Captivated by the ‘glint of green’ of the forest, the author, a wildlife enthusiast decided to write this coffee-table book to present eye-catching pictures of egrets flying over the ocean in the early morning hour; dolphins dancing in the Arabian Sea; a Brahminy Kite flashing across the setting sun; the Indian monitor lizard scouring the land for its prey, and many more.
Valmik Thapar seems particularly taken in by Ranthambhore’s appearance during the month of September which is “the time of plenty, as grass and trees burst into so much life that animals feast, their young are born, and the snakes exit their underground homes to feed in abandon.” Not only does one find that the “amazing monitor lizard is all over, devouring all the snakes it finds,” there is water everywhere and the animals dispersed everywhere. “The forest thickens dramatically, the canopy closes and shady patches look dark and forbidding with a sense of eerie,” says the author.
Valmik vividly describes the other creatures too of Ranthambhore forest. There is the soft-shelled turtle which is a freshwater species with the ability to retreat its parts into its shell. He adds that the turtles being great scavengers figure “largely in Indian mythology and even in Muslim belief.” The other creature is the marsh crocodile which inhabits Ranthambhore’s water bodies and “fights off tigers”; the monitor lizard which is a voracious snake-eater and snakes that are in plenty in the valley of Nalghati. He talks of his favourite snake-pit, where 34 years ago, “I had my only sighting of two damans or water snakes mating in the middle of the monsoon.” As September is the time when the monsoon just gets over, Valmik sees their slithering marks on every track and “I am sure tens of thousands roam the forest, feasting on frogs, insects, eggs, chicks and so much more.” Ranthambhore also boasts of the Indian python.
(Oxford University Press, 1st Floor, YMCA Library Building, 1 Jai Singh Road, New Delhi-110001; www.oup.com)