Arun Prasad is one of the finest of wildlife photographer today and whose works have been showcased in several national&international publishers including the NGC. Life&Trendz had the privilege of meeting up with him. A brief about the Photographer,though basically a Mechanical Engineer by Profession, his Passion for confining the wild into his magic box started in 2004, after his initial visit to the Mudhumalai during 1996-2000.Since his interest in photography enlarged,he was a regular visit to Mudhumalai,but at the cost of his job. This amazing Professional answers some of L&T’s curious questionnaire with equal enthusiasm:-
What to do when confronted by a tiger or a leopard?
Basically, cats here at Masinagudi are not Man-eaters.To be precise, there has been no record of a tiger or a leopard killing human beings. Once it gets the taste of human blood, then it preys upon humans. Thereafter,you don’t need to go in search of the animal, it will come in search of you! One should avoid eye contact with tiger or leopard when confronted.
Tell us how you invite animals?
There is something called salt-mud in the forest that every animal likes to eat. Salt helps in digestion. The staff of the forest department, sprinkle some salt-mud around the water bodies, to attract wildlife .
Do Bears Hunt?
Bears generally don’t hunt. They prey upon Termites, insects,Fruits and Honey. Worst death one can have is only from a Bear, as it will tear the victim apart.
What variety of reptiles are there in Masinagudi?
Asian Pit-wipers, Indian Rock Python, spectacle Cobra among which,the Asian Pit-wipers dominate the Singara estate.
According to Wikipedia , there is one tiger for every 8.66 sq km in Mudumalai. And the tiger population is more here because of availability of abundance of prey.
Mudumalai, Wayanadu and Nagerhole, make the single largest population of tigers in India. Eventhough the Official census of the animal says 136, it is 44 to 80 tigers, according to Wikipedia.
What is your pastime?
Bird Watching! In Singara, we have about 30 to 35 species of birds, including shrike, wood pecker, king fisher, Paradise fly catcher, Thrush, Rollers, Drongos.
Most Dangerous Experience
This happened when I took 4 girls from Coimbatore on a safari in a jeep, into the deep forest of the Lee Wood Estates. Around 4:30 in the evening,in a meadow we happened to confront a group of elephants at just about 300 meters away. One female elephant charged ferociously and we went blank for a moment. It came so close to us that we thought it was going to flip the vehicle. Fortunately, it just passed off the vehicle without harming anyone. It did take me a while to come back to normal.
Most Amazing Experience
When I stood before a tiger, just 15 meters away for about 45 mins and clicked 257 shots.
What was the tiger’s reactions?
It was just posing for me. Thank God! (laughs)
How should one defend oneself from animal attack?
Well, there is nothing that one can do about Animal attacks. You are at their territory and no escaping. All animals choose to stay away from humans and their intentions are not to attack you.
How to identify a charging elephant?
Elephants may first present a threatening display by trumpeting, kicking dust or lifting its tail. However, a head shake and a flap of the ears may indicate that the elephant is preparing to actually charge.
On our way to the resort – “Whistling Wood Estates”, we happened to bump into an elephant. The driver was inexperienced and could not spot the elephant. But there was an other person who happened to spot it. What kind of a situation we could have got ourselves into, if we had just bumped into the elephant, unknowingly?
Maximum force an elephant can generate is 3000 kilograms, so the weight that falls on your body is about 3 tones. Knowingly or unknowingly when you bump into an elephant, it is threatened and so it attacks. The elephant was gracious enough to leave you. Mostly, all elephants in Mudumalai have got used to the vehicles because the National highway runs through their Habitat.
If you are trapped and can’t escape from an elephant charge, you should show your aggression by moving towards the elephant and drive him away. According to the elephants, your vehicle is another specie. But it is always better to keep a distance.
Do animals have colour sense?
Animals don’t have colour sense. We try to camouflage ourselves in these dresses because it helps us spot an animal even before it could spot us.
Alarm calls! Tell us about it.
Deers, Elephants, Peacocks and Monkeys react in the presence of a Predator and communicate with each other. Common Langoors have a bird-eye view of the forest and they emit calls when there is an audience . It’s quite common in the forests and also around habitation.
One moment that you would really cherish after coming to the forest!
When I documented wild dogs (Dholes) hunting a sambar deer. That experience is just inexplicable.
Have you petted any wild animal?
We can’t. Policies don’t allow us to have any wild animal as a pet. There was a gentlemen here named Mark Davidar, who fed a wild elephant everyday. Feeding is wrong as it destroys the natural instinct of any animal. For example, if you feed a big cat, it loses its instinct to hunt gradually!
We also caught up with a wild life enthusiast, who shared with us his experience trekking in the dense forest of Masinagudi.
The kind of experience one gets in trekking in these dense forests is just amazing. I have seen an elephant snoring, which is very hard to spot when you go on a jeep safari. I have seen an elephant’s foot print over a tiger’s and we went blank and didn’t know which way to go. Everyone should experience the thrill of trekking through these dense forests.
During the interview, we spotted a wild boar!
Wild boars, are also dangerous. It is carnivorous.
Do animals fear Humans?
They fear you more than you fear them. That’s the reason they stay away from humans!
One incident that you would like to share with us?
4 Electricity Board engineers, who was working at the Pykara power station, were returning to Masinagudi from Singara. They bumped into a tusker on their way, just near the audit 4 bend. The elephant got threatened and stabbed it’s tusk in the radiator, lifted the jeep, dropped it and ran away.
All the four engineers later took a transfer to another place!
Animals don’t intend to harm human beings. If that is their intention then people wouldn’t survive in Singara. Let’s take Sunder Bans for instance, one of the largest single population of tigers, where 90% of the tigers were man-eaters and they had to evacuate the residents of 50 villages from that region.
Tell us about the kind of people who live here:
There are 3 kinds of people who live here. Some,by birth – (Tribals), by job- (Rangers, forest officers), others by passion- (wildlife photographers/Enthusiasts).
Do you pray?
Yes I do. I believe that nature is God and He controls all the living beings. I only intend to enjoy the beauty of nature and not to harm any animals. It’s by choice that I am living in this dense forest.
How do you find our association?
Photography is my passion. It is a good break,though.
What do you have to say to those wildlife enthusiasts who are looking to take this up as a career?
For me it is basically aspiration, I want to live and die in the forest. For all those wildlife photographers, who would like to turn their passion to profession,at a safe distance, they can shoot anything.
When these “wildlife enthusiasts” get encountered by animals, they instantly change their aspiration from wildlife photography to modern photography. People hardly take up wildlife photography as a profession. It really requires tremendous patience and one has to solely dedicate their lives to the forest.Making money, though,turns out to be very challenging in this profession.
Capturing animals in a safari is no rocket science. It is by chance that you spot them. It’s when an animal is tracked and captured in it’s place, that the content value is more.
Talking about the content value, tell us how social media has had an impact?
In a Bandipur safari, there were a group of people, who happened to capture a tiger hunting down a Bison. The shots were documented as pre-hunt and post-hunt shots of the predator. This video lost it’s value because it got uploaded on social network.
How does your family react to your profession?
Very obvious.They aren’t happy about it. I lost a job because of my passion. I went into debt the moment I captured a tiger. But I will proudly say that the forest that i believed in has given me a life.
When did you buy your first camera?
I bought my first camera, Nikon D-80 in the year 2008 for a whopping Rs.80,000/-.
Tell us about the black magic? We got to know it is widely prevalent in Mudumalai.
Tribals here believe in black magic. The belief that it doesn’t exist would prevent it. It will not have any effect on you, as long as you don’t believe in it.