Myself and Mr. S.Shivaram, (a versatile Actor, Director, Producer in the film industry since 5 decades, who has acted in more than 300 films, took up wild life photography at the age of 73) left for Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary from Bangalore by train and reached next day Hospet at 7.30am. We headed straight to Sloth Bear Heritage Resort which is located in Kamalapur at a distance of 365 Km from Bangalore and Goa (Madgaon) and 415 Km from Hyderabad.
From Bangalore you can reach Kamalapur via Nelamangala, Tumkur, Chitradurga and Hospet. Take NH4 from Bangalore to Chitradurga (199 Km) and NH13 from Chitradurga to Hospet (135 Km). 12 Km from Hospet is Kalamapur. Once at Kamalapur, turn right at Ambedkar Circle towards Kannada University Road leading to P.K. Halli.
on reaching the resorts, we were welcomed by Mr.Ravindaranth I, Co-ordinator, (retired Range Forest Officer who served almost 15years at Hospet) & Mr. Vikranth, Manager. we were offered Lime Juice and taken across the 33 acre property where 20 air conditioned twin-bed spacious cottages, with attached bath and modern ammienities with each cottage having sitout. A beatifull restaurant and a jogging and cycling track running along the periphery admist the Shrubs and Rocky outcrops. All the cottages have a thatched roofs which helps in keeping the interior cool. Mr. Mahesh a naturalist who took us around the resorts has tremendous knowledge of the flora and fauna, he can identify around 100 species of birds and butterflies.
JLR Sloth Bear Heritage Resort is the best option for a stay to explore Daroji Bear Sanctuary besides visiting the world heritage site of Hampi.
About the Sanctuary
The unique Sloth Bear sanctuary is situated very close to this heritage site. Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary is the first sloth bear sanctuary in Asia and the only sanctuary in North Karnataka. The rock-strewn hillocks that stretch between Daroji of Sandur taluk and Ramasagar of Hospet Taluk in Bellary district have been the abode of Indian Sloth Bears since ages. In October 1994, the Government of Karnataka declared 5,587.30 hectares of Bilikallu reserve forest as Daroji Bear Sanctuary. It is estimated that about 150 Sloth Bears are living in this sanctuary, apart from Leopards, Hyena, Jackals, Wild Boars, Porcupine, Pangolins, Star Tortoise, Monitor Lizard, Mongoose, Pea Fowls, Partridges, Painted Spurfowl, Quails etc. About 90 species of birds, and 27 species of butterflies have also been identified in this sanctuary in a preliminary survey.
Geographically, it is located between 15o 14' to 15o 17' N latitude and 76o 31' to 76o 40' E longitude. However, at the time of declaration, the forest had nothing but barren stony hillocks and thorny trees. Owing to the arduous efforts of the staff and support of the surrounding villagers, the sanctuary has transformed into a lush green area boasting of a verdant forest with exuberant local species of flora and fauna.
According to RFO Mr. Nagaraj, the sanctuary has innumerable wild fruit-bearing trees and bushes like kavale (carissa carandas), jane (grewia teliafolia), ulupi (Grewia salvitidia), nerale (Eugenea jambolana), bore (zyziphus jujuba), etc in its premises. These trees and bushes yield fruits one after the other. Also, the authorities have started raising orchards of custard apple (seetaphal), Singapore cherry, mango, banana, maize, etc within the ranges of the sanctuary. Bears are fond of termites and honey, which are also available in plenty here. There are waterholes too, for quenching the thirst of the wildlife.
We highly appreciate the efforts of the famous wildlife photographer & ex MLA Mr.MY.Ghorpade who played a major role in declaring this place as a sanctuary.
Sloth bears probably arose during the mid-Pliocene and evolved in the Indian subcontinent. The sloth bear bears evidence of having undergone a convergent evolution similar to that of other ant-eating mammals.
Sloth bears are distinguished from Asian black bears by their lankier builds, longer, shaggier coat, pale muzzle and white claws. They have long lower lips which can be stretched over the outer edge of the nose, and lack upper incisors, thus allowing them to suck up large numbers of insects. The premolars and molars are smaller than in other bears, as they do not chew as much vegetation. In adults, the teeth are usually in poor condition, due to the amount of dirt they suck up and chew when feeding on insects. The back of the palate is long and broad, as is typical in other ant-eating mammals. The paws are disproportionately large, and have highly developed, sickle shaped blunt claws which measure 4 inches in length. Their toe pads are connected by a hairless web. They have the longest tail in the bear family, which can grow to 6–7 inches. Their back legs are not very strong, though they are knee-jointed, and allow the sloth bear to assume almost any position. The ears are very large and floppy. Though the head is comparatively large, the Sloth Bears have relatively small ears and eyes. Hence their sense of hearing and vision is poor. But they have outstanding sense of smell. Sloth bear fur is completely black (rusty for some specimens), save for a whitish Y or V shaped mark on the chest. This feature, which is also present in Asian black bears and sun bears, is thought to serve as a threat display, as all three species are sympatric with tigers. The coat is long, shaggy and unkempt, and is particularly heavy behind the neck and between the shoulders, forming a mane which can be 30 cm long. The belly and underlegs are almost bare. Adult sloth bears weigh 100 kg (220 lbs) on average, though weight can range variously from 55 kg (121 lbs) to 190 kg (400 lbs). They are 60–90 cm (2–3 ft) high at the shoulder, and have a body length of 1.4–1.9 m (4.6–6.3 ft). Females are smaller than males, and have more fur between the shoulders.
Adult sloth bears may travel in pairs, with the males being gentle with cubs. They may fight for food. They walk in a slow, shambling motion, with their feet being set down in a noisy, flapping motion. They are capable of galloping faster than running humans. Although they appear slow and clumsy, sloth bears are excellent climbers. They climb to feed and rest, though not to escape enemies, as they prefer to stand their ground. They are capable of climbing on smooth surfaces and hang upside down like sloths. They are good swimmers, and primarily enter water to play. To mark their territory, sloth bears will scrape trees with their forepaws, and rub against them with their flanks. Sloth bears have a great vocal range. Gary Brown, in his Great Bear Almanac lists over 25 different sounds in 16 different contexts. Sounds such as barks, screams, grunts, roars, snarls, wickers, woofs and yelps are made when angered, threatening or when fighting. When hurt or afraid, they shriek, yowl or whimper. When feeding, sloth bears make loud huffing and sucking noises, which can be heard over 100 metres away. Sounds such as gurgling or humming are made by bears resting or sucking their paws. Sows will emit crooning sounds to their cubs. The species is the most vociferous when mating, and make loud, melodious calls when doing so. Sloth bears do not hibernate. They make their day beds out of broken branches in trees, and will rest in caves during the wet season. Sloth bears are the most nocturnal of bears, though sows become more active in daytime when with cubs.
The breeding season for sloth bears varies according to location: in India, they mate in April, May and June, and give birth in December and early January, while in Sri Lanka, it can be done all year. Sows gestate for 210 days near about 7 months, and typically give birth in caves or in shelters under boulders. Litters usually consist of 1–2 cubs, rarely 3. Cubs are born blind, and open their eyes after four weeks. Sloth bear cubs develop quickly compared to most other bear species: they will start walking a month after birth, become independent at 24–36 months, and become sexually mature at the age of 3 years. Young cubs will ride on their mother's back when she walks, runs or climbs trees until they reach a third of her size. Individual riding positions are maintained by cubs through fighting. Intervals between litters can last 2–3 years.
Sloth bears are expert hunters of termites, which they locate by smell. On arriving at an ant-hill, they scrape at the structure with their claws till they reach the large combs at the bottom of the galleries, and will disperse the dirt with violent puffs. The termites are then sucked up through the muzzle, producing a hovering sound which can be heard 180 meters away. Their olfactory senses are strong enough to detect grubs three feet below ground. Unlike other bears, they do not congregate in feeding groups. They rarely prey on other mammals. Sloth bears are extremely fond of honey. When feeding their cubs, sows are reported to regurgitate a mixture of half digested jack fruit, wood apples and pieces of honey comb. This sticky substance hardens into a dark yellow circular bread-like mass which is fed to the cubs. This "bear's bread" is considered a delicacy by some of India's natives.
Relationships with other animals
Bengal tigers will occasionally prey on sloth bears. Tigers usually give sloth bears a wide berth, though some specimens may become habitual bear killers and it is not uncommon to find sloth bear fur in tiger scats. Tigers typically hunt sloth bears by waiting for them near termite mounds, then creep behind them and seize them by the back of their necks and force them to the ground with their weight. One tiger was reported to simply break its victim's back with its paw, then wait for the paralysed bear to exhaust itself trying to escape before going in for the kill. When confronted by tigers face to face, sloth bears will charge at them, crying loudly. A young, or already satiated tiger will usually retreat from an assertive sloth bear, as the bear's claws can inflict serious wounds, and most tigers end the hunt if the bears become aware of the tiger's presence before the pounce. Indian leopards can also be a threat, as they are able to follow sloth bears up trees. Sloth bears will occasionally chase leopards from their kills.
Visiting hours of the sanctuary is between 3 PM and 6 PM on all days. To watch the Bears one must be in the watch-tower on a hillock and sit quietly to look at the Bears descending from the opposite Karadikallu Gudda. This hillock has hundreds of caves where the Bears take shelter.
For the travel enthusiasts, who nurture plans to visit this sanctuary, it is advisable to wear natural dark colored clothes. Avoid white and light colored garments. Arm yourself with binoculars and cameras. The best time to visit the sanctuary is between August and April.
The next morning we got up early and went around the forest rest house. We went along the
Before we left the sanctuary we were able to photograph the Indian Star Tortoise, thanks to the forest department staff.
I would be failing in my duty if i do not thank Mr.Pampayya Malemath, ex Municipal President, Hospet, wild life enthusiast, social worker, guide, friend and a good photographer who helps all photographers in identifying birds to make pictures. He also provided his vehicle and equipment for us. you can contact him on 9449136252.