When forest guard Bhera Ram Bishnoi began dabbling in camera trap photography in 2016, little did the 34-year-old know that his amateur interest in creating images would develop into an all-consuming passion a year later. Today, a Nikon DSLR camera is an essential part of his gear as he patrols the Desuri range of Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan.
“I improved my camera trap photography skills through trial and error,” reveals the self-taught photographer over a phone conversation in August. Though the sanctuary was closed to tourists from July to September during the monsoon, and earlier due to the national lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was business as usual for Bishnoi and his colleagues.
Preventing cutting and illegal collection of firewood inside the sanctuary by livestock grazers is their main concern while patrolling the forest. Bishnoi carries his camera and manages to pursue his passion for wildlife photography during his patrols. Bishnoi’s encounters with wildlife are numerous.
“Once a young leopard (Panthera pardus) sitting on a tree sprang right in front of me,” he tells me. “It must have been less than five metres away from me, when I scared it away with the lathi in my hand.” Another time, “a sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) appeared out of nowhere as a colleague and I were inspecting a camera trap. It turned away after noticing that there were two of us there.”
Bishnoi happily shares a ringside view of the lives of the wild animals he is privileged to observe in Kumbalgarh in the course of his regular workday. My WhatsApp is constantly buzzing with photographs he sends. Here is an intimate glimpse of the rich and varied wildlife this 578-sq-km wildlife sanctuary harbours, from a forest guard’s point of view.
Kumbhalgarh’s dry, deciduous brown forests transform into a magical green oasis during the monsoon and one can sight various birds. During the monsoon of 2020, Bishnoi photographed birds such as the Indian paradise flycatcher, Indian pitta (above right), and common hawk cuckoo (above left).
Anirudh Nair is a feature writer with RoundGlass Sustain. He enjoys walking through the wilderness and is constantly in awe of wild nature.
Bhera Ram Bishnoi is a forest guard with the Rajasthan Forest Department posted at the Desuri range of Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary. You can follow Bishnoi on Instagram where he posts as bheru bishnoi.
First published in RoundGlass Sustain, a treasure trove of stories on India’s wildlife, habitats and their conservation.