" Trees are Earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven." ~ Rabindranath Tagore

Young Ones At Play

Bittu Sahgal, Editor, Sanctuary and Cub magazines delights in watching young animals at play, and shares his joys of the animal world.

What fun the otters were having! As I watched in wondrous amazement one, then another and yet another would come whooshing down the slippery mud bank to land ker-splash into the river. Seconds later, the energetic scamps would poke their snouts up from under the water, shake their heads to throw a shower of droplets all round (just like wet dogs might) and then clamber up the mud bank again, only to repeat their lightning slide back down into the river. They were young otters, no more than a few months old, and I was sure that their protective mother was not far, though I couldn't see her. Suddenly, the happy squeaking sounds of the young otters turned to excited barks and yelps as they spied their mother, with a huge fish in her mouth, swimming up to the bank less than 10 feet form where I lay hidden behind some bushes. It must have taken the hungry litter less than a minute to polish off the silvery fish, bones and all. Meanwhile, the mother quickly slid away to hunt for more fish to feed her bouncy babies.

The Adventurers
Wild Magic
Last of Asiatic Lions
Batty About Bhimgad


Book Reviews
Tiger in India
The Tiger is a Gent

On another occasion, I saw three tiger cubs lying scattered around the grass half asleep. Suddenly, one of them, a male, the largest of the lot, pricked up his ears and began to crawl, his belly touching the ground, towards his two lazy sisters. When he was about four or five feet from them he pounced right on to them and I heard the most wailing cat-like screeches, mixed with hissing and snarling sounds. "My gosh," I thought, "They're fighting." Within seconds however, the male retreated without having hurt his sisters in any way. They continued to play `tag' as one of the cubs ran ahead with a small piece of meat in its mouth while the other gave chase. Within months of being born, the cubs' `play' had already taken the shape of stalking `prey' and the rough and tumble scrapping had began to train them for the toughness they would need in later years.

In all my years of observing animals in the wild, one of the most fascinating sights has been to watch them at play. Scientists and naturalists define `play' as voluntary activity without any `real' purpose such as hunting, or building a home, etc. At first no one quite knew why animals played at all. After all, play uses up energy and would make them hungry. And food is not exactly easy to come by in a jungle where danger lurks around every corner. Now, however, after years of study by naturalists who want to know why animals do what they do, we have come to the conclusion that play, in the early years of animals' lives, helps them to prepare for survival later. Play, in other words, is the animal equivalent of `going to school'. Without knowing it, the otters and tigers were learning to become master survivors.

Home | Back | Top | Feedback

Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.