The Kabini forest, which forms a sliver of the world-famous Nagarhole National Park, hosts one of the most diverse distributions of flora and fauna are seen in the country. The star attractions of Kabini include the regal Bengal Tiger, the bashful and elusive leopards, and the massive herds of elephants. Every trip we have made into the depths of these myriad forests, have left us spellbound, and this blog is a humble attempt to portray the denizens of this magnificent jungle, in all their glory.
Located a mere 224 kilometres from the metropolitan hub of Bengaluru, the Kabini forest beckons to the passing traveller, with the promise of peace, serenity and opportunities to sight the Tiger Reserve’s thriving species of wildlife. This splendid ecosystem is hardly a 5-hour drive from Bengaluru!
Read our blog How to reach Kabini River Lodge to know more. This forest never ceases to amaze wildlife lovers and photographers, by exhibiting its rich biodiversity. So let us guide you through the diverse wildlife of Kabini.
Mammals of Kabini
Although the big cats and elephants are the main attractions when it comes to the wildlife of Kabini, the dense jungles are also home to a wide range of species that include Gaurs, wild boars, barking deer, dholes, deer, sloth bears, monkeys, mongoose, pangolins and many other mammals. Read on, to know more about these beautiful creatures of the natural world!
Tigers of Kabini
Tigers are apex predators and have been thriving in numbers in the forests of Kabini. Staying at the top of the food chain, they ensure that the predator-prey ratio in the forest is healthy.
Tigers are territorial animals. Aggressive territorial fights in the wildlands of Kabini have been witnessed due to the high tiger density. They require large contiguous areas of a habitat that support its requirements of prey and rearing of its offspring. Tiger cubs stay with their mother for around two years before they become independent and form their own territory.
The athleticism of these fierce animals can be observed when they leap and stride in the dense thickets of Kabini. Tiger’s leaps of up to 10m have been recorded. They are also excellent swimmers and during summer, they can usually be found bathing in and drinking out of waterholes in the Kabini forest. Sighting these big cats in Kabini, royally walking around or just sitting majestically, has sent shivers down people’s spines since time immemorial!
Nagarahole National Park has shown spectacular results as the fruit of its efforts towards conservation. Needless to say, Kabini has seen a significant rise in the tiger population in recent years. Tiger sightings in Kabini have become more common in recent years than in the past. Read our blog on the Tigers of Kabini to know more.
Leopards of Kabini
Leopards are opportunistic hunters that can adapt to a wide range of habitats, from rainforests to arid areas. They can also be found in mountainous areas and grasslands. Leopards’ fur helps in perfectly camouflaging them.
Kabini is a popular haven for leopards. A safari in Kabini is said to be special with the sighting of a leopard on a tree. They are excellent tree climbers and can be seen perched atop tall trees many times.
The most famous sighting in Kabini in recent years is that of a melanistic leopard, the Black Panther. He’s famously known as Blackie or the BP. Blackie is known for his exceptional courage. Unlike the other leopards, his melanistic fur coat makes it hard for him to camouflage himself in the woods, which severely affected his hunting in his initial days at the forest. But Blackie braved it all and went on to conquer a part of the forest that initially belonged to another fierce leopard. He’s not shy of safari vehicles and he’s often been seen looking at the safari vehicles the way a king looks at his subjects!
Read our blog Why is Kabini the best place to photograph Leopards? to know more about the leopards of Kabini.
Elephants around Kabini
Elephants are herbivores and are the largest mammals on land. These gentle giants are known for their excellent memory and they have a huge impact on their environment. Elephants are excellent seed dispersers. They ingest and defecate seeds, some of which germinate. Their dung also provides food to other animals such as monkeys and dung beetles. They create water holes that are used by other animals when they dig for water during a drought. Three prominently recognised elephant species are African bush elephant, African forest elephant and the Asian elephant.
Beware! Elephants’ famous title “The gentle giants” can easily be misinterpreted as them being mild and calm. When they feel that their calves are threatened or their territories are being breached, they are one of the most dangerous animals in the wild!
Kabini has one of the highest concentrations of Asiatic elephants in the world. It is one of the few places in the world where large tuskers roam around freely in the wild. During summer, herds of elephants can be sighted drinking water from the backwater and grazing fresh pasture on its banks.
Gaurs in Kabini and Nagarahole
Kabini is home to one more herculean species that is strong enough to ward off the apex predator- the muscular Gaurs! They are the largest known wild cattle on the planet. Their habitats are evergreen or semi-evergreen forests and moist deciduous forest.
Kabini has a healthy population of gaurs. Extremely muscular, the males weigh anywhere between 1000- 1500kgs and the females 700-1000Kgs. Gaurs are the heaviest and the most powerful species of wild cattle. They are sometimes preyed upon by tigers.
There are many cases of tigers being chased away by gaurs. Such is the power of this wild beast!
Wild Dogs (Dholes) in Kabini, Nagarahole
The dholes, also known as Asiatic wild dogs or the Indian wild dogs, are highly social animals. Their small and endearing appearance must not be mistaken for them being amicable. They are great hunters capable of taking down prey much larger than them as they live and hunt in teams. They live in large clans of around 12 individuals.
Their strategies and team effort during a hunt are noteworthy. One or more dholes take over the chasing of the prey while the rest of the pack keeps up at a slower pace behind, taking over once the group tires. To hinder the targeted animal’s movement, dholes often chase their prey into water bodies.
Here is an image of dholes attacking their prey taken by Jayanth Sharma in Kabini.
The spotted deer, also known as chital, is a herbivorous species native to the Indian subcontinent. Their glossy eyes and sharp ears are always on a lookout for imminent threats! In Kabini, they are preyed upon by tigers, leopards, dholes and crocodiles (near the backwaters). Males have antlers and are larger than females.
The spotted deer are found in abundance in Kabini. Many a time, they are even sighted at the entrance of the national park.
Native to the Indian subcontinent and other parts of Asia, Sambar deer are light brown or dark with a greyish or yellowish tinge. They feed on grass, foliage, fruits, shrubs and trees. Their weight ranges in 100-350 Kgs. These robust creatures make for sumptuous meals to tigers, leopards and dholes. A blood-red spot, halfway down their throats, can be found in adult male and lactating female sambars.
Bonnet macaques and Grey langurs are the two monkey species that are abundant in Kabini. Bonnet macaques, the species of monkeys also found in urban regions of Southern India, are also commonly found in the jungles of Kabini. They feed on fruits, nuts, seeds, flowers and some invertebrates.
Grey langurs in Kabini are known for the notorious alarm calls they give out to other animals like deer, sambars etc when they sight a predator. Many predators have had to go home hungry because of this! Primarily herbivorous, leaves, leaf buds, fruits, shoots, roots, grass, mosses and lichens. They also consume non-plant material like spider webs, insect larvae and termite mounds. In Kabini, they are preyed upon by tigers, leopards and dholes.
Malabar Giant Squirrel
Large, fluffy and colourful, the Malabar giant squirrel is a tree squirrel species, with a head and body length of 25-50cm, a tail of about the same or a little longer length. It weighs around 1.5-2 Kgs. It is found in tropical deciduous, semi-deciduous, and moist evergreen forests and woodlands.
Malabar giant squirrels dwell on tall trees and travel from tree to tree with jumps of up to 6 metres. They rarely leave trees and require tall trees with ample branches for the construction of their nests. Their main predators are birds of prey like owls and leopards.
Birds of Kabini
Kabini hosts a large variety of Birds. Peafowls, Indian paradise flycatchers, Ospreys, Oriental darters and eagles are some of the most commonly sighted birds in Kabini forest.
Peafowls are known for the male’s charismatic display of feathers. They feed on snakes, small rodents and lizards. When attacked by a predator, adult peafowls usually escape by flying into trees, though animals like dholes, leopards and tigers can sometimes ambush them. Peacocks displaying their trains to attract peahens are frequently sighted in the forests of Kabini.
With an appearance that makes us wonder if they have come straight out of a fairy tale book, the Indian paradise flycatchers charm us with their spectacular flight. They are native to the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia and Myanmar. They feed on insects which they capture in the air, with their astounding manoeuvres. Indian Paradise flycatchers are known for their males having elongated central tail feathers, giving us a dreamy spectacle when they are on flight!
The Osprey is a large bird of prey that feeds on fish. Their length ranges from 20 to 26inches and their wingspan 50 to 71inches. Ospreys have a vision that enables them to detect underwater objects from the air. They plunge feet first into the water after sighting the prey from a height that ranges from 10 to 40metres. Our modern camera bodies are not the only ones capable of locking their targets!
The oriental darter is a water bird with a long and slender neck and a straight, pointed bill. With its body underwater, it hunts for fish by spearing it. It later brings the fish out of water, tosses and juggles the fish before swallowing it headfirst. The oriental darters have wettable feathers and are often found perched on a rock or branch with their wings held open to dry.
Crested serpent eagle and Changeable hawk-eagle (Crested Hawk Eagle) are two of the most commonly sighted species of eagles in Kabini. Crested serpent eagles are named after their preferred choice of food, snakes. They also feed on lizards. They are dark brown in colour, with rounded wings and a short tail.
Changeable hawk-eagle is a large but slender eagle. It preys on birds, reptiles and some vertebrates. It can be found perched atop secluded trees in the Kabini forest. White-bellied Woodpeckers, White-throated Kingfishers, Pied Kingfishers, Oriental Honey Buzzards, Forest-eagle Owls, Owlets, Indian and King Vultures, Osprey, Darters, Shanks, Racket-tailed Drongos, variety of Flamebacks, Malabar Pied Hornbills and the Grey Hornbills, visitors like the Grey-headed fish eagle, Indian Pitta, Forest Wagtails are some of the birds that can also be spotted in Kabini.
Read our blog on Birds that you can usually spot in Kabini to learn more about birds of Kabini.
Wildlife of Kabini – Summary
With wildlife as diverse as this, Kabini is easily one of the best National Parks in the country to go on a safari. It is known for good sightings throughout the year, regardless of the season. Unlike national parks like Bandhavgarh or Ranthambore which are seasonally operational, Kabini is open to safari throughout the year. To learn more about the best time to visit Kabini, read our blog When is the best time to visit Kabini.
Sighting animals in the wild, in their natural habitat, either roaming around freely or being extremely alert, gives us a feeling that’s hard to describe. It is a combination of two diametrically opposite states of mind. A sense of calm that eternally pervades the forest is sure to engulf us in its stillness. It is blended with an adrenaline rush, caused by the mystery of not knowing what comes next. This is what makes going on Safaris very memorable. Our current lifestyles, filled with lots of stress and worries, have made us lookout for all available options to relieve stress. What better alternative to relieve stress than going into the jungle and feel rejuvenated?
Disclaimer: While we highlight some of the Mammals and Birds of Kabini, we must admit, Kabini and the Nagarahole National Park is home to abundant wildlife which are insects, wildflowers, plants, ferns and other species. As safari is the main style of exploring the Wildlife of Kabini, we have limited this blog to mammals and birds which can be sighted during a safari.