Parambikulam tiger safari - Wild Dogs, alcohol and a 25,000 rupee fine!
What happens when you mix wild dogs, hard liquour, well off Indian businessmen and a Park Director with zero tolerance? We found out for ourselves at Parambikulam tiger sanctuary this year!
I added in a visit to Parambikulam at the last minute due to the advice from my wife and I am so glad that I did. What a magnificent forest they have there; free of invasive weeds like Lantana, which are choking the life out of some more famous tiger reserves in South India and full of life! Within minutes of our canter departing from the tented camp where we were staying we had seen all 3 deer species; Spotted (Chital), Sambar and Barking deer (Muntjac). Grey Hornbills, White-Cheeked barbets and Black-Naped Orioles called from the top of ancient trees and endemic Nilgiri Monkeys were hanging off branches like Christmas decorations. However it was something inside our canter that caught my attention. The harsh smell of liquor and cheap aftershave from a group of 'businessmen' that were here to party; viewing wildlife being of secondary importance. I don't mind a drink myself but 'loading' up prior to a safari seems a bad idea; which was shown to be the case when one of the more inebriated men fell off his seat as we rounded a fairly gentle corner – 30 minutes later and he was fast asleep on the bus. I re-focused on the wildlife and suddenly heard the call for wild dogs and scanned both sides of the bus in the hope of 'clicking' an image. We only saw two of them but thanks to the help of a more sober group of friends, I was able to exchange seats and snap a couple of good shots of one of the wild dogs looking straight at us from his forest cover.
So on returning to camp the full story of the 'liquor fiends' came out in the open. The assistant DFO has searched their car and found 5 bottles of hard liquor, which he had promptly poured onto the ground in front of them – sorry I should have mentioned much earlier that no booze is allowed in Parambikulam! The following day the DFO himself arrived and as well as voicing his displeasure, issued the group with a 25,000 rupee fine. This little story is not so much about whether drinking should be allowed in national parks; everything in moderation is what I was taught as a kid. It is more the fact that the management of this national park are not intimidated by anyone and run it in a way that I both admire and respect. I wish them all the best for 2015 and beyond.