December 17, 2011 § Leave a comment
A huge herd, at least 55 strong. Looked like they wanted to cross the road and migrate to the forests of Andhra like their forefathers used to do.
Just that the old small road is now a national highway connecting Bangalore to the cities further south. And that there is no forest whatsoever on the other side for many kilometers. They stay in the nearby forests and instincts bring them closer to the road in the night. Villages are petrified, crops damaged. People are on watch-towers (read tall trees), posted up there to give alarms to the villages if the herd moves in their direction. Crackers are burst, and they all shout in a crescendo trying to send them back to the jungle. Forest Department is torn among the man, the animal and their fatigue as most of them haven’t slept properly for weeks. Experts and research papers give various solutions. But no one is sure what to do.
With forest cover dwindling and we guys using the last remaining patches for over-grazing/over-fishing/over-mining/over-partying, there is no surprise we have such huge elephant herds literally waiting at zebra crossings. We need to do something; do something fast. The ball is in our court, but then, when was it in the elephant’s court ever?
May 4, 2011 § 5 Comments
Back in school days, I used to completely look down upon one Mr. Wordsworth for writing utter non-sense like ’emotions recollected in tranquillity’, and that too about some stupid daffodils! Today, I was stuck at Silk Board Junction and I couldn’t make it across, even though the lights had gone from red to green four times (situations like these kind of reminds me about CAT, which clearly doesn’t help when one is stuck at a signal). Now I have no idea what made me think about Mukurthi amidst all that chaos, but within seconds, blue-green mountains and grey mist and wild flowers of every colour from a trip I did months ago ‘flashed upon that inward eye’!
Thillai had invited us to spend a couple of days in Mukurthi National Park, a place he calls, in his own words, “My Breath, My Soul”. After a week, which felt more like an year, we finally met the big guys with the big jeeps at Ooty town. It was a rude shock when we found out that none of the TASMACs in Ooty have even heard of Old Monk! Finally settling for something called Bolt (or, was it Bullet?), we loaded the jeeps with the rest of the stuff from chicken and mutton to salt and pepper and started the long jeep-trek away from civilization.
Tarred road gave way to mud track and soon, there was no path to be seen. Curious Sambhar Deers and Nilgiri Langurs stopped and stared with curiosity at us strange intruders. Birding too was awesome and for a novice like me, it was raining lifers!
It had been quite sometime anyone had threaded this stairway to heaven and doc’s beast had a tough time ‘making’ the way. Someone posed a hypothetical situation of encountering a tusker in the midst of all this and there was pin drop silence for a minute as everyone pictured the hopelessness of the situation in their minds.
We finally reached Fishing Hut by evening and by then, we were 5 full hours and 35 kms away from any other human being, mobile connectivity or electricity.
Day 2 6 AM, amidst a light drizzle, we set out to trek the 14 kms to Mukurthi Peak. It was nature at its best, the raindrops and dew on leaves, the wild flowers, the big trees which made sure we had to crawl and creep and climb to keep going, the big yellow ferns which looked like Mr. Stripey from distance, the streams with ice-cold water…
A good 5 hours later, we were at the base of the final stretch, looking at the fire-line. Now, at Fishing Hut, there is a very big framed photo of a tigeress walking this very fire-line. None of us were speaking one word. Now, I don’t know if it was the fire-line, or the usual thing that happens to me in the last steep stretch in treks, I lost steam, decided to call it quits, and settled on a comfortable rock soaking up the view of Nilgiri Thars grazing at a distance in the grasslands, with the majestic mountains in the background.
Thillai joined us soon and I got my earful for quitting! So, off I went again, carefully climbing up the stretch they call “nenjum-medu” (heart-meadow), with Ananth and had I not done that, I would have regretted the whole of my life. Surprisingly, there was no mist at all, and the view of the Nilambur forests from top is something I will never forget. Just makes one wish if he could spend all his life, here in mother nature’s lap…
We started back soon, as we had to get to the hut before night fall. Trekking on foot in a tiger reserve at dusk is a feeling in its own. Every little leaf in yellow-orange, every strange smell, every scrape on the ground sends a thousand alarm bells ringing inside of you. Tired, but full of awe and inspiration, we finally got back by 6 PM, to a wonderful night by the fireside, with James’ trademark mutton pepper fry, rum, old songs, jungle lore and conservation debates.
The next morning, while returning, I saw my first ever tiger pug mark. It was fresh, huge and unmistakeable, even for a first-timer like me.
But like all good things, this trip too, had to end, and while returning, even Ooty was an eye-sore! One of the awesomest trips I’ve had; a big thanks to Thillai and Shanmugam and a big sorry to Wordsworth 🙂
(Pictures flicked from Thillai, Ananth and CK)
January 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Dabguli festival takes place around Shivrathri time in an old temple located along Kaveri, in Urigam Range of the Melagiris. This year, the festival is marked to fall on the 5th and 6th of February, 2011. The festival is a grand event, and during it, this otherwise pristine and untouched land sees participation of villagers in numbers as high as 10,000. With plastic becoming such a big part of our lives, the impact of such a gathering for 2 days along Kaveri poses a serious threat to the subtle ecological balance of Dabguli and all the forest ranges down-stream.
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society (KANS) has taken up the task to contain the effect of such a huge social gathering . We have already made arrangements with the organising committee for the festival to replace plastic plates with areca plates and promised them that we will bear the extra costs incurred. We would also like to remind the attendees not to litter the forest and river bank and deposit the used plates in the pits arranged for that purpose. Also, at the end of the event, we are planning to pick up any plastic that is littered around the area. A screening of the Kannada Version of the Nagarhole Video is also being planned.
We are looking at around 20-30 volunteers during this period. The initial plan is to assemble at Anchetty Guest House on Friday night, go to Dabguli on Saturday, stay over-night and come back on Sunday evening.
The villagers and the organising committee are sincere about the damages caused by pollution. Our presence and the efforts we take along with them to clean-up the place, will further drive home these points in their mind. If you are interested to be a part of this initiative, do let me know / mail firstname.lastname@example.org
September 19, 2010 § 2 Comments
September 1, 2010 § 8 Comments
“Perhaps, you would like to come with me on one of my night prowls into the jungle. I am taking you to a place called Kundukottai, where there is a nice forest. Two ranges of hills converge there; and two streams coming from different directions join to form a large stream called the Doddahalla, but I have called it the Secret River…”
From A Night by the Camp Fire by Kenneth Anderson
Anderson goes on, takes his reader through Hosur, Denkanikottai and Anchetty into his favourite forests of Melagiris. He lights the camp fire and lies listening to the language of the jungle, sharing with his reader, all the gyan he had acquired over years. As much as 20 of the 57 Kenneth Anderson stories are based here in the Melagiri hills, nestled between the Cauvery and Chinar rivers. It is elephant country and contains two traditional elephant corridors. But today, poaching, cattle over-grazing and lantana have driven out most of the wildlife including the tiger from Melagiris.
A group of readers of Kenneth Anderson met at Aiyur, Tamil Nadu in June 2008 and formed Kenneth Anderson Nature Society (KANS) to explore the various ways in which they could contribute towards conservation in his favourite forests. KANS decided to take on the task of restoring the erstwhile glorious Melagiri through a mix of passive and active conservation activities like community interaction programmes, equipping the ground forest staff, field work to control man-elephant conflict, removal of invasive species etc. Also, in order to regulate cattle-grazing and poaching, KANS has been working hard along with the Forest Department and ANCF to get this region declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary. Scientific biodiversity surveys are conducted to gather solid proof to substantiate this sanctuary proposal. Lying in the vicinity of Bannerghatta National Park, Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanctuaries of BR Hills and Sathyamangala and forest patches that join the tiger reserves of Nilgiri Biosphere, Melagiri holds a very good potential for becoming a tiger habitat yet again.
To learn more about KANS, see the short video (in 2 parts) below. If you would like to join us, see our website. And I can lend my Kenneth Anderson omnibus if you want to read some awesome jungle-lore 🙂