In January, the Banni grassland of Kutch rustles like a tinderbox. The tussocks of grass are dry, the soil is powdery and fine, and mirages turn the horizon into a kaleidoscope of illusions. You can, therefore, be forgiven for seeing things that do not exist here. It is exactly this illusion that the creatures that inhabit this arid wonderland hope you will succumb to. Rub your eyes and they’re gone. And so, while our Tata Sumo cross-countried through the fringes of the Great Rann of Kutch, we saw bustards that were actually common cranes, and wild asses that were anything but. After a while, we learned not to let our hearts stop at the sight of Indian gazelles (chinkaras) loping through the fawn-coloured landscape like motion grabs from Animal Planet. And while we peeled our eyes for the endemic Desert Fox, another creature crossed our path. Felis silvestris ornatus – the Indian Desert Cat. It melted out of the stippled earth and slunk away towards its burrow, apparently borrowed from an Indian fox. We gasped. And clicked away.
Photograph © Sandeep Somasekharan. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Meet a shy and secretive felid of the Indian deserts