Salt of Faith, Trust with Dessert Foxes
The horizon never betrays the sky. I have followed their love story through various tapestries of nature and each and every fold of this fable is magical. In my journey into the wild I have realised that the meeting point of sky and land is a true unison of soul and mind. From the book of the unending horizons the Little Runn of Kutch hold some of the best theatrics of nature and this story is hinged on one of the very special inhabitants of the salt plains-The Dessert Fox.
The Rann of Kutch is a great example of geographical evolution. It is said that this habitat was once the arm of the Arabian Sea which saw a shift through geological forces. Over the years it became a vast area crusted with salt. The land gets flooded during the brief monsoon but the following months of searing heat exposes the land and the heat cracks it up to give the definition it is famous for.
The white unending land resigning to the bluest skies along with the majestic hue of the setting sun brushing the kutch with its afterglow gripped my imagination from the very first visit. During my repeated visits henceforth I was fortunate to cover a good number of species like the endemic Wild Ass, Blackbuck, Nilgai, Chinkaras and the plethora of raptors and Flamingos but, one species foxed me every time- the Dessert Fox.
Every passing twilight spent here cleared my thought that I will have to make patience my biggest virtue to have a realistic chance of spotting this animal. In the coming few months my patience paid off as I got a tip off from my local sources that pups were spotted and that there was a realistic chance of seeing them.
I rushed to Kutch from the middle of my birding trip in Sattal and decided to camp there till I get to witness these elusive creatures from the land of white dessert.
The air quivered with the heat coming off from the land. Kutch was getting baked by the sweltering sun as I lay motionless hoping to catch a glimpse of the animal I was waiting for so long. The bead of sweat slowly dripped from my forehead to the corner of my eye breaking my attention. My shirt draped with the dessert dust and elbows scratched from the harshness of the land made the wait a painful affair, and then, suddenly two ears popped out of the ground.
Mirage or oasis? My mind asked my heart as I woke up my shutter with few bursts. I checked the pictures quickly to realize that the first chapter of my wait was over as I have indeed managed to get this elusive being of Kutch after years of waiting.
What transpired next was a story of trust and faith. Unlike humans animals take time to trust and when they do,you know it is unconditional. My loyalty paid off as these creatures whom I was tracking soon became comfortable to my presence and came out of their secret burrows presenting me with an ever lasting memory.
Desert Foxes are mainly solitary in nature but they pair up during the breeding season and after a gestation for almost two months do the mother give birth. In a litter around 6 pups are born and the family prefer to share the deepest burrows to give life the best chance from the eyes of death that are abundant in the featureless expanse of Kutch.
The first 2 weeks of their life is spend in the cold darkness of the burrows which are articulated with multiple exit points for safe passage and exit. Both the parents take care of the demanding pups who are solely dependent on their parents for food during the initial months.
The main food for Dessert Foxes comprises of insects, spiders, lizards and partridges as well as berries and plant matter. A smart dweller, these Foxes are also known to scavenge food.
Since my first rendezvous I have had the good fortune to encounter these magical creatures multiple times. From seeing them under the softness of twilight to experiencing their company under the scorching heat there hasn’t been a single moment where my heart stopped racing during these encounters.
Today, mining is eating up the landscape rubbing salt to the wound of lost habitat. In Kutch every crack of soil matters, there is life in between and below the soil that is fighting a silent battle everyday. It is nothing but a spectacle that our country even in the harshest condition supports such an array of life.
Like the foxes, let’s dig a little further for answers and I am sure that in the burrows of our thoughts shall we find the secrets of coexistence.