The Little Rann Desert is home to some of the most representative animal species of India. Black antelopes, wild donkeys and nilghais have found here a last refuge in their fight against extinction.
This area of the western plains of the river Indus lies within the most westerly region of India, the state of Gujarat. Vast salt pans alternate with savannahs of grass, thorny scrub and solitary trees. Here we will find some of the most characteristic animals of India. Protected by the religious beliefs of the local peoples, blackbuck antelopes, wild asses and nilgais have here found their last refuge in the fight against extinction. And so this area, almost 5,000 square kilometres in size, the heart of which is a salt desert, has paradoxically become a paradise for wildlife: the sanctuary of Little Rann of Kutch.
At the edge of the desert, the lower saline levels of the soil make it possible for grasses and bushes to grow. These provide food for the nilgai, the largest antelope in India. The plants also contain water, and every morning are covered in dew, so the nilgais can go for some time without having to drink.
From June to September, the humid monsoon winds from the southwest bring heavy rains to the desert, flooding the grasslands. But now, the land is dry, fewer and fewer of the rivers and lakes still contain water, and the scorching desert winds make it almost impossible to breathe. The geographic location of Little Rann means that these arid lands are of strategic importance for many species of birds in Asia.More birds arrive every day, and will do so until the migration season is over.
The heat has evaporated the water and once more there is drought and desolation. The dried-up lake is now dead, until next season. Looking at it now, you would hardly think that, just a few months ago, this lake was bustling with life. All that remains are a few hardy reeds, whose deep roots reach right down to the water beneath the soil, and so, with a little luck, they will manage to survive until the next monsoon arrives.
Nonetheless, this arid region is also home to the gaura khara, the wild Indian ass. This powerful animal has adapted perfectly to the harsh conditions of the Rann desert. In the middle of October, the sanctuary of Little Rann receives new visitors: the Rabari Indians. This semi-nomadic tribe has about 250,000 members.
India is a country of contrasts, of myths and legends. Since time immemorial, she has fed the imagination of dreamers, and enchanted all those who know her. And once more, she has surprised us. These lands, of little value to men, are a treasure of nature, and drought and scorching heat have, here in Little Rann, become a synonym of life.