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The Kabini Philharmonic


Sloth Bear, Kabini -


Imagine a full scale orchestra playing in the middle of the jungle. Imagine discovering that the composer also happens to be all the musicians and instruments rolled into one. Such aural virtuosity is the sole preserve of one of Kabini’s most recognizable citizens: the Sloth Bear. If you choose to read between the notes, you’ll be able to understand his emotional state, just by tuning in to his frequency. Barks, screams, grunts, roars, snarls, woofs and yelps are common renditions to express anger and discomfort. When hurt or fearful, he yowls or whimpers. And if you hear loud huffing and sucking sounds from even 100 meters away, it means that he is relishing his favourite snack of termites, sucking them through the gaps between his teeth. For Sloth Bears, music is the food of love, and, while mating, they let the whole world know, by belting out a melodious tune at the top of their voice. For someone with such a vast musical range, this bear is rather hard of hearing and reminds us of similarly afflicted uncles and aunts who didn’t allow tone deafness to get in the way of subjecting us to their singing prowess. To continue this similarity, the Sloth Bear even walks around with a slow shuffling gait. But don’t be fooled by this apparently slothful behavior. When aroused, he can run faster than most humans, and will charge anything without fear. They have been known, on occasion, to even charge at a disrespectful tiger. Not a very wise course of action, as most such encounters result in the tiger walking away alone, bringing the concert to a close with a resounding burp. Perhaps a case of one man’s symphony being another’s cacophony, and the tiger just couldn’t bear the music anymore!


Photograph: Giri Cavale Story: Rajesh Ramaswamy

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