wilderness digest cover

Volume 19 - June 2021

The pretender to the throne of Yala

With battle scars galore, this loner patrols his territory with terrifying authority!

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 The King of Yala, Sando, has faced many threats from many pretenders and none have been successful in unseating him. One such would-be-usurper to the throne, who came very close, is the Tusker Parakum. This 40-year-old bull elephant is built like a tank and has a legendary temper to go with it. His temper is, perhaps, his downfall, as he has tried many times to challenge Sando and has been worse off for it. In fact, he lost one of his prized tusks in an epic fight, which is still talked about to this day by the rangers of the Park. Nevertheless, his ambition shows no sign of abating and perhaps one day, we will see him finally dethrone his sworn enemy.


Fun Facts

Not all elephants in Sri Lanka are referred to as “Tuskers”. That is a special title reserved for those rare bull elephants with elongated tusks, such as those sported by Parakum. Many elephants, male and female, have little tusks or “Tushes” which measure only about 6 inches in length and many others don’t have any tusks at all. Although Tuskers tend to be loners, small elephant herds often wander close to the peaceful boundaries of the Mahoora Tented Safari Camp in Yala whilst foraging and are a common sight for guests.


Story of the photo

Out on a safari in Yala National Park, our photographer Shiraz was fortunate to get up close and personal with this infamous giant. But he had to beat a hasty retreat soon after getting this shot as the bull was in “heat”, which made Parakum even more unpredictable and doubly dangerous to be around.


Grasshoppers, frogs and a smokey BBQ

A quick field interview conducted with Garry - the Wooly Necked Stork.

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Reporter: Hi Ga…


Reporter: rry… (whispering) why are you shushing me?

Gary: I’m trying to catch some grasshoppers for my lunch and you’re scaring them away!

Reporter: Oh sorry. So, I see you are out here by yourself, still living the exciting bachelor life I presume?

Gary: No, no, I’m happily mated and my wife is in the tree behind me, in our beautiful nest, looking after our babies. They’re just about to hatch!

Reporter: What? Where? All I see is a large pile of untidy sticks up there….(receives a glaring look from Garry) Oh, yes, right a gorgeous beautiful nest. I was looking at it from the wrong angle. Silly me.

Gary: Hmmm, looks like your silliness has scared away ALL the grasshoppers. Now I’ll have to wade for some frogs in that shallow lake by the big tree.

Reporter: But don’t you do that anyway?

Gary: Wading is not the problem. It’s the small talk with all the other birds that turn up there. I just wanted a quiet meal by myself for once and then of course YOU turned up.

Fun Facts

Reporter: Sorry, sorry. One last question then. You’re often seen near bushfires, what is it about them that fascinates you? Is it the fire, the smoke, fascination with destruction?

Gary: Err...no. Look, the other bird species haven’t figured it out yet, but when a bushfire happens, the insects panic and flee from the fire. All we have to do is just stand there and feed. They literally jump into our mouths! Zero effort feeding. Also, the slight smokey taste is just mmm mmm mmm.

Story of the photo

Shiraz encountered this gorgeous specimen in the grassland right outside the entrance to the Mahoora Tented Safari Camp in Yala. This adult was uncharacteristically alone and was having a quiet feed on some grasshoppers.


Final instructions for the Tufted Gray Langur Graduating Class of 2021

The ultimate mantra and the way of the Spotted Deer

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“Pay attention class! This is your final lesson before you go out into the wild on your own. Hakuna Matata is the worst advice ever. Whoever came up with that is no longer alive, trust me. Forget those words. This is the true mantra to live by: Trees are life, the floor is lava. It’s a simple mantra, but this is all you need to know and it will keep you alive! Trees will keep you safe from predators, provide shelter and supply you with more fruits and seeds than you can eat. Stay in the trees! Be true to the arboreal life! The floor is where the bad things live. Yes there are good guys like Spotted Deer too, but I will get to that later. Only under exceptional circumstances are you to go down to the ground - like when you are parched and need a good, long drink. But, before you go down, observe the area for a long time to ensure that no predator is lurking nearby. Now apart from that, keep an eye out for any humans too. They love to take photos of us and you must be presentable and not let down the Tufted Gray Langur race! Make sure your beard and sideburns are combed well and that the tuft on your head, our hallmark, stands up straight. Occasionally, give them a funny pose, they’ll love it!”


Fun Facts

“Now about the Spotted Deer; lovable, but extremely gullible. Drop some fruit whenever you can and they will worship the tree you hang out in and think you are their best friend. Always keep them waiting for a hand out and voila! You have a budget friendly early warning system for predators when you are on the ground. Those Spotted Deer have sensitive noses and can smell a Leopard a mile off. What can I say? It’s a ‘fruitful’ relationship that’s a win-win for all. Well, except for the Leopards!”


Story of the photo

Shiraz encountered this Langur inside the Mahoora Tented Safari Camp in Yala, a safe zone for all sorts of peaceful creatures, while it was having a drink from a rainwater puddle. This monkey chose to pointedly present its posterior to the camera, no doubt making its teacher proud! 


Living the good life with Dr. Phil Hoopoe

Discover how to recharge and rejuvenate, jungle bird style.

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“Why hello there! Have you come to learn about the benefits of the Hoopoe Spa Therapy? What a joyous day! I’m Dr. Phil and I will be your guide to a glorious life changing experience! Now this might be a little difficult for you, but let’s dive right into it and start off with some glorious sunbathing. Lie down on the ground and spread your wings wide. What’s that? Oh you don’t have wings, well spread your arms then. Now tilt your head back as far as you can and feel the energy of the Sun recharging you! After you feel recharged, keep the same body position, bring your head forward and it’s now time for a refreshing dust bath. Wriggle your body over all that sand and dust. Kick up as much dust as possible. Ooooh isn’t that nice? Keeps all the parasites away. We Hoopoes do this every day and it helps us live to a ripe old age of 10 years and sometimes more!”


Fun Facts

“Now before we move on to a nutritious lunch - we’ve got all sorts of delicious and healthy insects, reptiles and fruit on the menu, and yes lunch is included in the spa day -  I’d like to interest you in joining the advanced class. Here you will learn how to produce stinky secretions from your glands to coat yourself and protect against bacteria. You can also use this on your offspring to make them unpalatable to predators. What’s that? Humans can’t produce this secretion and nobody tries to eat your children? Well then! If you change your mind let me know, because if you sign up today or if you are a guest from the Mahoora Tented Safari Camp in Yala, you get 25% off!”


Story of the photo

This proponent of a healthy way of life was photographed by Shiraz inside Yala National Park, in an open grassy plain which, incidentally, is a Hoopoe’s favourite hunting ground and general hangout area.


With battle scars galore, this loner patrols his territory with terrifying authority!