Narayani River

Entering Chitwan, we crossed a large river which our taxi driver told us was part of the Ganga river. We later learned that this is the Narayani, or Gandaki River, which is one of the major tributaries of the Ganga river. I spent 7 months in Varanasi, Indiat living and teaching on the banks of the Ganga (way back when this blog was first conceived). It was pretty incredible to see the same waters much further upstream.

During our stay in Chitwan, we took a boat ride along the river. We saw all kinds of animals in the water and on the shores, including the endangered gharial, or fish-eating crocodile. We also saw a group of men using two canoes to bring a Jeep across the river! And we took a morning walk with the elephants and mahouts that work at the lodge to cut food for the elephants. The elephants passed a bundle at a time up to their mahouts (stealing bites along the way) and carried the stack back–the whole elephant-load is only about half of their food for the day.

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Nepali Pachyderms

We went on multiple jungle walks in Chitwan, including a visit to a watering hole. On each of these adventures, the highlight was pairs of rhinos, each a mother with a calf. Young rhinos stay with their mothers for about four years, until her next child is born. One of the calves was pretty small. It was fun to see them wander around, with the mothers always watching nearby. We also had a great time watching the tame elephants, who provide security and continuously munch on their favorite forest plants.

*Pachyderm is a term often used to describe elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses, all large vegetarian mammals with thick skin. Despite their similarities, these animals are not closely related, and are all taxonomically grouped into different orders.

Chitwan Courtyard

One of my favorite things about my time in Kenya was the wildlife and birds I saw from my porch. Chitwan National Park in Nepal is similarly rich in diversity. We were fortunate to see tame elephants and wild rhinos (more pictures of both to come) on our short trip there. But we also had a lot of fun birdwatching at the resort, and seeing all the animals in the trees and vines around our tent. Some of my favorites were the fantail bird and the eyelashes on the hornbill.

Chitwan Jungle Walk

We spent our second week in Nepal at Chitwan National Park, at the Tiger Tops lodge. The lodge is situated near the edge of the park, and hosts guided walks through the jungle to see the wildlife. In addition to the naturalists walking along with us, mahouts rode elephants at the front and back of the group. The elephants acted as security detail. If wild animals were to charge, the mahouts would move the elephants in front of the group as a very hefty protective wall. This provides security for the hikers and employment for the mahouts without overburdening or harming the elephants. Just a few minutes into our hike, we saw three rhinos (a mother and baby, and another female) and got to watch them interact. Later on the hike, we came across the mother and baby again wallowing in a waterhole.

More Mpala Mammals

On my first few game drives at Mpala, I saw more wild mammal species than I can remember seeing in the rest of my life combined. The later weeks did not disappoint, with a longer drive to the northern, drier areas of the reserve, different antelope species, the elusive straw-tailed whydah bird, charismatic reptiles, broad-shouldered raptors, and multiple elephants with young babies, including one that we watched nurse!

OMG SLOTHS!

Yesterday, I stayed late in the forest finishing up fieldwork with three other students and our professor. While the last student, was finishing her project, a group of people came by. They were releasing rescued sloths!

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One of the two-toed sloths had a baby with her.

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We got to watch them climb up the trees, one at a time. Between us we took hundreds of pictures. And then we got to hold one of the sloths! It was such an amazing experience.

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I felt so unbelievably lucky to get this experience–and we were all so glad her work took that long!