Of days gone by...this January during my solo all India motorcycle journey…
The Little Rann of Kutch sanctuary was established in 1973, at a time when the wild ass was in danger.
Conservation efforts led to an immediate recovery and today wild asses roam the Little Rann in large numbers. This growth had much to do with the strict rules in place: chasing, leaving alone hunting, them is illegal. This is today the topic of some debate, for the rules are so stringent that some villagers settled on the periphery on the sanctuary committed suicide, feeling powerless to curb the animal’s appetite for their crop. Official deny the occurrence of any poaching, but knowledgeable guides will tell you that this is not always the case.
The Asiatic Wild Ass is part of the equidae family and is closely related to the kiang in Ladakh and the Zebra in Africa. Light brown in colour with muscular hind legs, the wild asses travel in small herds with one lookout. They are said to touch speeds of 70 kilometres an hour.
In my earlier post I mentioned about how flamingos love this place. In addition to the lesser flamingos, the Wild Asses also call Little Rann of Kutch as their home. From Devjibhai Dhamecha’s eco tour camp, I went to different parts of the sanctuary to see these members of the horse family. Apart from the wild asses, I was lucky enough to spot the nilgai (bluebull) and the jungle cat. I also sighted many migratory birds.
Though this entire area is part of a wildlife sanctuary, the local tribes too depend on this land for their livelihood. A livelihood through salt, fish and prawns. Little Rann of Kutch and the neighbouring area is India’s largest salt pan. With water that has close to 20% salinity and an extremely high rate of evaporation, salt is the main business during the dry season. During the wet season, locals switch to fish and prawns. Little Rann of Kutch is the breeding ground of baby king prawns during the monsoons and is considered a delicacy here. There have been certain instances when over-fishing of these prawns have taken place as they sell at a premium in the market. The forest department is working towards ensuring that fishing is limited only to local livelihood.
In real ancient times, this entire region (Little Rann) used to be the delta of all rivers flowing west and that included the mighty Indus. And the Great Rann used to be the Arabian sea. But due, to various shift in the earth’s tectonic plates, the rivers shifted course to either drain in Pakistan (like the Indus and its tributaries) or shifted their course to east. And different forms of desert ensued in Gujarat (salt desert), Rajasthan (sand desert), Punjab (arid desert), Ladakh, Western Himalayas and Afghanistan (cold desert). The key thing to note here is that 40 feet below the Little Rann of Kutch, the Arabian sea still flows! Truly, one of the rarest, yet beautiful sights on planet earth!!
To see India through the eyes of a motorcyclist’s lens, visit the album below.
|my solo all-india motorcycle journey|