Its dawn in Khao Yai National Park. The sun has just risen above the tree tops and is illuminating sections of the far bank of the river. Its 11 degrees. A tropical creature myself, I am cold. I am annoyed by the black ants exploring my clothing and everything else inside the hide. I settle back into my chair, intrigued by the morning bird calls, a strange orchestra yet soothing to the human mind. And then the morning peace is shattered by a reverberating cry and huge splash in the river to my right.
A Sambar stag stands in the river, nervously monitoring the bank that he entered from. Torn between flight and fear of his pursuer. He feels his way across the current, constantly turning and staring into the forest he has himself so dramatically fled.
The morning peace returns, the river returns to its meander, the birds return to their song. For 30 minutes I stare out again at a picturesque scene of the gallery forest and the river bathing in the morning light. Another sambar cry! This time from behind me.
But I do not need to turn because standing in front of me is the reason for the latest cry.
A male Asian Wild Dog, or Dhole, stands alert on the opposite bank surveying its next move. A decision is made and it launches down the river bank as a second dhole appears from the forest playing its own role in the hunt.
Behind me I can still hear the warning cry of a Sambar in panic. And repeated splashing the water. I cannot see anything because of the hide, so I prise open the corner to see the deer just 20 metres away, through the gap in the hide.
It is repeatedly lifting its front leg high and stamping the water. It sees me, and then starts to stamp at me not knowing which is the greater threat, myself or the dhole. Meanwhile one of the dhole is closing in and appears on the bank opposite. He hesitates, the water is deep. He turns and sprints up the river bank 20 meters were the water is more shallow but still seems hesitant.
Hesitant no more the dhole makes its move.
Panicked the sambar runs back downstream towards my hide and comes to sudden stop in front of me - I am blocking its intended escape route! I am struck by the thrill of the scene but also horrified that my presence may actually be one cause in this juvenile deer's demise. It is obviously wet, cold, panicked and without options, trapped by its fate.
......but it is the deer's lucky day and the dhole suddenly retreat to the opposite bank, have they sensed my presence also? From their disdainful stares I think so. But at least my conscience is still intact this day and the dholes and the sambar can can take up the ways of nature another day.