Animals, reptiles, insects, birds or plants cannot live in isolation. In a forest, they need each other and directly or indirectly help one another in survival and propagation. Patient and close observation is interesting as it reveals how things work in nature and how the intricate inter-dependence marks its balance.
In a straight prey-predator relationship such as this, one would ordinarily believe only the tiger to be the beneficiary. Yet, tigers are equally important for the sustained survival of the chital. Today, there around 100 tigers in Kanha and 30,000 chital. Chital form a major proportion of the tiger's food, so one can imagine how important chital are for the survival of the tiger. At the same time, if the tigers were not around, there would be a population explosion among the chital. Within a few years their numbers would far exceed the carrying capacity of the park or any forest for that matter. Consequently, there would not be enough fodder for the herbivores, and this certainly would begin their doom. You might say that in exchange for food the tiger ensures food for the herbivores!
Chital are versatile feeders, as are the langur. Many a time you will find the two feeding in company. If you see chital feeding under a tree you can, more often than not see langur atop it. Langur are quite selective in their eating. They pluck a fruit, take a bite or two and throw it away, then pluck another one. Or, if foraging the leaves, they may eat only the stalk, throwing the rest of it down. Also, as they swing and jump from branch to branch their movements may cause leaves, flowers or fruit to drop. Chital are quite aware of this habit of langur and benefit from it by foraging under the tree, partaking of the half-eaten, dropped fruit and leaves. The relationship is not limited to feeding. Chital also benefit from langur's alarm calls as the latter, from their tree-top vantage points, are able to spot a predator much sooner. Langur, in turn, benefit from the chital's keen sense of smell and hearing, and alertness about the happenings on the ground.
When the silk cotton tree is in flower it attracts the drongo, myna, parakeet and other insect-eating birds. At the same time, many insects, too, come to this tree to feed on the pollen grains or the nectar of the flowers. This is a symbiotic relationship: while the insects feed on silk cotton tree, the birds feed on both, and the tree, in the process, gets pollinated by both. The birds also feed on a variety of fruits of trees and shrubs and drop the seeds in their excreta far away, thus helping in seed dispersal over great distances.
As you drive through the park you may see mynas and drongos perched on deer as the latter forage. Enjoying a free ride, you might think, and the deer seem not to mind either! Naturally. The birds are not on a joy ride but looking for a meal ticks on the body of the deer. The deer also help the birds. Irritated by the ticks, they lick the affected portions of their body on and off. The birds immediately see the licked patches and ruffled hair as target areas and reach out to pick the offending parasites. While the birds get food the deer get relief from the blood-sucking parasites.
In the forest or, for that matter, even in the garden at home you might have noticed cobwebs hanging like hammocks between trees. You cannot help marvelling at these fine and intricate creations and may even term them as works of art. To the spider, however, these are contraptions meticulously constructed to trap an unwary victim-a flying insect. By trapping and feeding on such flies, the spiders help control their numbers. The beneficiaries are the trees, for these flying insects are their major defoliators.