With a new generation being inspired by the magic of The Jungle Book stories, we look at a few our favourite characters and their real-life counterparts.
In late December 1865, Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay (modern day Mumbai) and would spend the first six years of his life as well as much of his twenties in the majestic land of India. Enraptured with the wildlife of this striking country, he would later go on to create the stories of Mowgli and his friends that captivate us to this day...
“The sleepy bear who teaches the wolf cubs the law of the jungle.”
Species – Sloth Bear
Where to find him – Pench National Park
The fun and cuddly Baloo we recall from the 1967 movie differs somewhat from the serious teacher he was portrayed as in the original book. But either way, he’s still the protective pal of Mowgli who has the ‘bare necessities’ to keep his friend safe from harm. In the wild, the sloth bear, whilst it shares Baloo’s love of honey and ants, is an altogether different creature; shy, nocturnal and not all that friendly. Although they can be sighted in various parts of South Asia, a night safari from Pench Jungle Camp offers an ideal oppurtunity to see these cautious creatures up-close as the heavily forested Satpura Hills are a perfect habitat for them.
"As bold as the wild buffalo… he had a voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree.”
Species – Black Leopard
Where to find him – Kanha National Park (If you’re very lucky)
A voice of reason and source of wisdom for Mowgli as he grows up in the dangerous jungle, Bagheera is perhaps the conscience of the Jungle Book stories. He is equally protective of the boy as Baloo is but does not share the jovial bear’s patience. Seeing a real life panther in the wild is a special occurrence as they are as rare as they are elusive. As they are not actually a species (but Indian Leopards with excess black pigment in their skin) you are more likely to ‘spot’ their spotted relatives on safari in the lush National Park of Kanha.
“Very old and very cunning. Above all, he is always hungry.”
Species – Indian Rock Python
Where to find him – Bandhavgarh
Although a helpful ally of Mowgli in the books, Kaa became a more villainous and creepy character in the animated movie. His psychedelic hypnosis of the young man-cub and the spooky lullaby ‘Trust in me’ were the stuff of many childhood nightmares. In its natural environment throughout India, the python keeps this chilling reputation as it constricts and devours its prey – often mammals even bigger than itself. Although often growing to over 3 metres long and weighing 40kg, they’re masters of camouflage so keep your eyes on the riverbanks where they often dwell when on one of Samode Safari Lodge’s award winning safaris.
“No matter how fast you run, no matter where you hide, I will catch you.”
Species – Bengal Tiger
Where to find him – Ranthambore National Park
The dreaded antagonist of The Jungle Book holds such an aura of fear around him that it’s his initial interest in young Mowgli that propels the whole story as the man-cub is sent away to the safety of the human village. Whether it’s the damaged outcast of the book or the apex predator of the film, Khan is the epitome of villainy. However, recently the fear is more ‘for’ the Bengal Tiger than ‘of’ it as it has become an endangered species and the focus of many conservation initiatives. India’s ‘Project Tiger’ programme works closely with Tiger reserves like Ranthambore to increase Tiger population through education and ethical tourism.
“Oo-bee-doo, I wanna be like you-hoo-hoo.”
Species – Orang-utan
Where to find him – Not in India, I’m afraid
As the King of the swingers that envied Mowgli’s human qualities, King Louie was perhaps the most memorable character of the Disney movie. Yet we’d be surprised if you actually saw this jungle VIP on an Indian safari as he is unfortunately only native to Indonesia and Malaysia. The orang-utan ruler was actually a Disney invention and in fact, in Kipling’s original stories, the monkeys did not have a king at all and were portrayed as an unruly, leaderless mob. If you would like to see the real-life Louie, you should head to the unique island of Borneo where you can visit this majestic ape in his rainforest kingdom.
So what bare necessities do you need on safari? To forget about your worries and your strife?
Magical India has the culture, wildlife and wonder to make your Jungle story special.