Sabyasachi Patra

Learnings from Wild Animals

Learnings from Wild Animals

As a filmmaker and photographer, I observe the wild animals for a long time often waiting to capture some unique behaviour. Spending time with them  also leads me into analysing them. Many of my subjects, both non-human as well as humans leave some lasting impressions in me. There are many character traits of these wild animals which I find is worth emulating.

 

Stretch before you get up:

I don’t remember many people stretching themselves after waking up. Most of the athletes and sportsmen are taught to stretch and warm up before their events. However, we have seen fast bowlers in cricket bowling without adequate warm up and tearing their muscles. I know of colleagues who have pulled their muscle by just showing up near the swimming pool without warming up and then diving into it for a fast lap. As opposed to use I have seen many species in the wild, stretch themselves after waking up. Every time I see a tiger or leopard, they yawn, stretch and then move on in search of prey.

A wild Tigress stretches herself near a water hole in Bandhavgarh National Park, India

A wild Tigress stretches herself near a water hole in Bandhavgarh National Park, India

I have even photographed vulture stretching.

vulture

You can see your pet dog and cat stretching as well. Our yoga gurus have picked up asanas after watching wildlife. Wild animals do that instinctively. Perhaps we humans have lost our instinct for well being and have to be taught these via yoga teachers.  The basic tenets of well being never change.

You can also see the video of leopard stretching at 1m:40 seconds in this film https://youtu.be/n-Yc5VNUN-o

 

Know your strength:

Many years ago just after dawn, I was on an elephant back tracking a tiger. The tiger suddenly found a pangolin and rushed to catch it. The pangolin rolled itself into a knot and hid its head in its belly. The tiger despite trying its best couldn’t reach the head. The scales of the pangolin are hard and even the tiger can’t break it. The tiger can kill a pangolin only if it can catch its head. After 15 minutes or so the tiger gave up and moved ahead.

The pangolin knew its strength and its weakness. The pangolin can’t outrun a tiger. Its strength is its tough armour plate like scales. It also knows that the weakest point is the head. So the pangolin hides its head by tying itself into a knot. Lesson: Hide your Achilles heel within your strong points.

 

Don’t Follow other’s footsteps: Chart out your own path

I was standing behind a tree for five hours without moving and had merged with my surroundings. So the birds in the wetland didn’t take notice of me. They were engaged in their own activities.

There were some Indian moore hens who were territorial and were prone to fighting. Every now and then one of them starts chasing the other. When they chase, they run on the water surface. Their light weight, speed and surface tension of the water all combined to ensure that these birds can run on water surface.

Moorhen running on the water surface

Moorhen running on the water surface

When they run, they create ripples on the water surface where they land their feet. I found invariably the Indian Moorehen which is chasing failed to keep up to the chase. The reason is the one who chases follows the exact path taken by the one who is ahead.

Second Moorhen following the first

Second Moorhen following the first

After chasing for some distance the follower places its feet on the exact same spot where the other one had placed its feet before. And then it immediately sinks. The one running ahead has broken the surface tension at the points where it places its feet. So when the follower puts its feet at the same spot, it sinks and the chase is over.

Indian Moorhen chasing each other. When the attacker places its feet on the spot earlier disturbed by the fleeing moorhen, it falls down due to the lack of surface tension. Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh

Indian Moorhen chasing each other. When the attacker places its feet on the spot earlier disturbed by the fleeing moorhen, it falls down due to the lack of surface tension. Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary, Andhra Pradesh

Every day in life, competitors be it business or individuals, try to outrun their competition. They think they can just be faster and outrun the leader. The leader has the advantage of reaching the place first. A soldier may say that the leader (or retreating enemy) may have mined the path. So don’t follow the exact path. The leader would have created a positioning in the minds of its customers and it is not always easy to just remove the leader from that position. So take another route. It may be a steeper but shorter route.



Chart your own path. You may stumble, but ultimately you can like intrepid explorers discover and get glory.

 

Think before you Act:

Often adulation goes to our head. At times a stage comes in the life of every successful person when he/she thinks that he/she can do anything. Overconfidence has become the downfall of many a hero. After a few days in the gym, people call themselves tiger and start thinking they can defeat anyone. Whereas the actual tiger doesn’t just run in and slaughter deers. The tiger knows its power. It moves in stealthily placing the hind feet exactly at the place where its fore feet was so as to avoid rustling of leaves and making any sound.

A wild tiger stalking its prey in Bandhavgarh

A wild tiger stalking its prey in Bandhavgarh National Park, india. The hind leg falls exactly at the same spot where its foreleg is, to minimise noise due to rustling of leaves.

While stalking it often raises its head to estimate the distance from the prey and often takes detour for a better approach.

A wild Indian Tiger watching a deer in a grassland

A wild Indian Tiger watching a deer in a grassland in Bandhavgarh National Park, India

Only when the tiger is very close to the prey, it launches the final assault to catch the prey. Contrast this with the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean war. On 25th October, 1854 in the Battle of Balaclava Lord Cardigan ordered the Light Brigade to make a frontal assault on Russians armed with heavy artillery. The result was a massive casualties of the Light Brigade. So always think carefully before you act. Even when you have taken a very strong position and find that the result may go against you, then think like a tiger and slowly retreat and take a different route for success.

(painting by Richard Caton Woodville Jr.)

 

Patience

Watching wildlife teaches us to be calm. Crocodiles are perhaps the greatest survivors, as they have remained virtually unchanged, except for size, for several million years. One can find mugger crocodiles patiently waiting for hours below a tree with lots of bird nests.

Crocodile resting below nesting birds

Crocodile resting below nesting birds

Sooner rather than later, one of the fledglings while trying to fly or fight with another one falls from the perch and becomes the prey of the crocodile. For this, the crocodile has to endure bird crap falling on its face. Infact that helps in its camouflage as well. Researcher Vladimir Dinets found that crocodiles also use twigs to camouflage themselves and when nest building birds approach to pick up a twig, the crocodile catches it.

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Sabyasachi Patra

Sabyasachi is an award winning Cinematographer and shoots for international broadcasters, feature films and corporates to make a living. He is a passionate wildlife filmmaker and photographer and has won awards and accolades for his documentary 'A Call in the Rainforest'. He has been striving to make his films and photographs full of life and emotion and write articles to educate and evangelise the need for conserving the last tracts of vanishing wilderness and wildlife in our country. He hopes that his wildlife films, photographs and writings force people to pause, look, ponder and ultimately take action.
Sabyasachi Patra
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