Bondla.

This is what you need to know about My Cousin, The Vet.

In our younger days, my cousin and I would oft discuss what we wanted to be when we grew up. I recall her wanting to be a doctor; she never truly wavered in this (admittedly her charges are not the homo sapient kind), and has become one of the most respected vets in Goa. Veterinarians and conservationists get along famously and, thusly, I cannot emphasise enough how happy (and proud) I am of this turn of events. One of Dr. Loveleen Vaz’s responsibilities is the Bondla Zoo and its denizens, many of whom have been rescued from horrible fates and cannot survive in the wild. Recently, I imposed on her good nature and spent 3 glorious days in the Zoo and adjoining Sanctuary.

Lady Doctor in her office © Nisha D’Souza

Lady Doctor in her office © Nisha Maria DSouza

 Travelling the 52 kms to and from Mapusa (North Goa) to Bondla (middle of nowhere) involved a ride with the Zoos’ Vegetable provider (supplier of essential minerals, vitamins and roughage for the past 26 years), and Butcher (Savior of carnivores for the past 20 years), the official Zoo driver (who picked up several live chickens as a treat for the leopards, along the way; fowl company), local buses (rattlers of bones since the dawn of public transportation), a rickshaw ride (questionable drivers since the invention of three wheelers), and some routine bi-pedalism AT 4:30 IN THE MORNING. A time that should not rightly exist.

As ‘Lady Doctor’ and I traipsed around the Zoo, the animals, with their distinctive personalities and odd quirks, responded endearingly to her voice (I say endearingly rather liberally here, more than one has been poked in the bottom by her; there was a definite air of apprehension). We spent a couple of hours at the leopard enclosure with Julie, a year old orphan cub rescued from a nearby sanctuary (had she been human she would have been diagnosed with ADD), and Jenny, a juvenile rescue leopard (with some weight issues).

Jenny, the juvenile rescued orphan leopard is quite the heart breaker © Nisha D’Souza

Jenny, a rescued, orphan leopard, is quite the heart breaker © Nisha Maria DSouza

Jenny, the juvenile rescued orphan leopard is quite the heart breaker © Nisha D’Souza

Jenny was my favourite © Nisha Maria DSouza

At a year old Julie is an energy ball, rarely sitting still for even a minute. She has the most unique and expressive eyes on any animals I've met © Nisha D’Souza

At a year old, Julie is an energy ball, rarely sitting still for even a minute. She has the most unique and expressive eyes of any animal I’ve met © Nisha Maria DSouza

Rana, the Royal Bengal Tiger, surveys his domain © Nisha D’Souza

Rana, the Royal Bengal Tiger, surveys his domain © Nisha Maria DSouza

Sandhya, the female tiger of the zoo, is a gentle soul © Nisha D’Souza

Sandhya, the female tiger of the zoo, is a gentle soul © Nisha Maria DSouza

We kept Raju the Sloth Bear company; he sat proudly in his hibernation hole, we sat nearby watching him, and some wild Malabar Flying Squirrels watched us from the trees above (there was an universally accepted awkwardness in this arrangement). As the sun set and the creatures of darkness went about their business, we prowled around with no great stealth or grace to observe what the animal folk were up to. The Palm Civets were up and about, padding around their enclosure, occasionally stopping to nose each other affectionately. Rana, the Tiger was gently snoring, looking for all the world like Hobbes. The snakes were alertly following all sounds, heard and unheard by human ears. And, the ungulates were giant slumbering piles, an assortment of limbs poking out here and there.

Raju the Sloth Bear built himself a hole © Nisha D’Souza

Raju the Sloth Bear built himself a hole © Nisha Maria DSouza

The Palm Civet was doing his best impression of Angry Bird © Nisha Maria DSouza

Four-horned antelope are expert leaf eaters (in whatever state the leaves might be) © Nisha D’Souza

Four-horned antelope are expert leaf eaters (in whatever state the leaves might be) © Nisha Maria DSouza

A gorgeous Lady Amherst Pheasant © Nisha D’Souza

A gorgeous Lady Amherst Pheasant was recovering at the clinic © Nisha Maria DSouza

We got down to the serious business of investigating the killing of a juvenile sambar by a wild leopard, and the mysterious sudden death of a pea hen, pondering over the bizarre violent dislike for women harbored by a (now caged) lemur and considering his fate, and ensuring that Krishna the elephant received his medication. In addition to playing Sherlock, we indulged in some avifaunal stalking. Bondla, being in the Western Ghats (a recognized biodiversity hotspot), hosts an extraordinary bird life, and during our dawn treks we identified over 20 species, and saw several more (to our consternation most of them were bemusedly staring at us before we ever spotted them)!

As the last day drew close, it was more than a little difficult leaving Bondla behind (and not just because I had no idea how to get back). Despite its remoteness, this is one job that is in no danger of ever getting boring! With Lady Doctor in charge there remains a safe and happy sanctuary for Goan wildlife. 

Examining the carcass of the juvenile Sambar that fell prey to a wild leopard © Nisha D’Souza

Examining the carcass of the juvenile Sambar that fell prey to a wild leopard © Nisha Maria DSouza

A Pompador Green Pigeon © Nisha D’Souza

A Pompador Green Pigeon © Nisha D’Souza

A Paradise Fly-catcher © Nisha D’Souza

A Paradise Fly-catcher © Nisha Maria DSouza

Chestnut headed bee eaters © Nisha D’Souza

Chestnut headed bee eaters © Nisha Maria DSouza

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo © Nisha D’Souza

Greater Racket-tailed Drongo © Nisha Maria DSouza

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35 thoughts on “Bondla.

  1. I just had to revisit this wonderful piece after the privilege of visiting Bondla and meeting Loveleen and all her adorable charges (possible exception being Psycho aka Krishna…we didn’t get enough time together with him! :)). The forests and creatures of Bondla are so very much more peaceful and joyful than the grey jungles of Delhi and their wild inhabitants…

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  2. Think I’ve fallen in love…. with Julie!!! And love the wonderful work being done by the ‘social chameleons’ ; ) Loved reading the article, just makes me want to run away from this jungle of wild, crazy, inconsiderate (and I can go on and on) humans in Delhi.

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  3. A delight to read, Nisha! And the photos too are simply wonderful. Raju the Sloth Bear bears startling resemblance to a certain State Bank General Manager I knew (please don’t tell Raju, poor soul) :D

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  4. Nice to see some bonding going on with the cuzns. So proud of you guys. Lovely write up and fantastic remembrance. Wish I was there. Awaiting Kennys write up now. Great work keep it up Nish and Dr Luvs. 😘😘😘😘

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  5. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww :)
    Thanks Nish….. for the wonderful gift you gave me with this article! Very well written, and I love my glorious lot at Bondla. I had intented to do a similar blog or write biographies for my “fellas” who can’t speak, but do have feelings (Sandhya,the tigress, literally complained and groaned to my sister), but unfortunately, I am bound with no internet facilities. That’s the price one has to pay living in the jungle :(
    But Nish, keep up the good work!!! Thanks again Cuz :*

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  6. i loved it nish …staying with you both at the jungle really changed my views of animals :) though at night i got bit scared as my sis the vet says “Krishna the elephant plods here and there in search of food ” lovely pics and i know how much patience one needs to click the animals at their best .

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  7. Absolutely enjoyed your pictures n article on our lady doc in her domain!! Shane n I just love yr superb clicks!!
    Both you cousins..rock!!

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  8. Envy Luv’s workplace and the furry friends that keep her company. Superbly written Nish, I can tell you enjoyed every bit of your trip there.

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  9. Oh wow! What a great piece of writing and such super pictures! So exciting (and now proud) to be related to this amazing “Lady Doctor” :) Also, what a looker that Julie is!!

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  10. Absolutely loved reading about my sister! :P
    Very well written and as usual the photos are awesome! :)
    Waiting for your next piece!!!

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