Sunday, May 18, 2014

Every Forest has it's own Story!!

When I look in to the eyes of an animal I do not see the animal. I see a living being, I see a friend, I feel a soul...A.D Williams.

Well, no wild life lover will argue with the words of the great author! Each time there may be the same jungle but a different story to tell, such is the power of wilds! And it’s these stories which make my feet get pulled towards the jungle whenever I get a chance to do so. And opportunities always come without announcing in our life, all one has to be ready to act up on when one such comes our way! One such trip in Pench & then Tadoba, accompanied by Mr. Atul Kirloskar, boss of a giant corporate & with wild life specialists like Kiran purandare, anuj khare, rajendra kadam, who himself is a forest officer & vikram podar, one of the best wild life photographer of the country! Kirloskar group is well known for its sensitiveness towards environment & Pench forest & anuj who runs nature walk has arranged their MD's visit at pench mp, for any assistance to the forest dept. To manage any tiger project is a huge task as many a thinks it’s like a zoo, which isn’t true at all.  A tiger project is protected forest but the protection is without any physical boundaries which are on paper in the form of maps. The animals don’t know any such boundaries & man animal conflicts are the biggest threat for the park. We have been sort of guests of pench national park & were staying right inside the park in forest department rest houses, all cut from the mobile network or news paper or TV channels, a real jungle exposure! Mr. Alok Kumar, the field Director of the park himself took great interest in making us see the administrative side of park management. There was very good interaction with forest team including Mr. Joshi, Park Sp , Mr.Taiwade, game ranger &   Mr. Tiwari dy ranger which were there at  MP Pench. They gave us a detailed presentation about the expand of the park, park’s flora & fauna in & around, the problems & their efforts to tackle the same! Major issue is over 50,000 numbers of dears which is one of the best prey bases for animal like tiger but at the same time you need lots of grass to feed them. And to create the grass land is a huge task.
An interesting story we come to know about shifting of a tigress from pench to panna national park. The villagers around were so used to the tigress & she was like a lucky charm to vilage karmazirir , attracting many tourists, that there was huge resistance to shift her from the pench. The the director Mr. Alok Kumar took villagers in confidence & told them that " Ye to aapki beti hai aur betiko to ek din ghar chodke janahi hai, to aap pyarse use bida kijiye" means tigress is your daughter & one day the daughter has to go to her husbands home, so please send her with smile! And the logic worked! Such stories can happen only in forests!

Another major concern is the ever existing danger of illegal fishing in the pench river, which divides the park in MP & Maharashtra. The economics is astonishing as first we laughed as how illegal fishing can be a problem for such a big forest! When Mr. Joshi explained, we went numb; he explained there are nearly 200 illegal vessels involved in illegal fishing & average one boat catches 1000kg fish in a day. The fish catch includes rohu, katla, etc. This is being sold in local market at Rs40-5-/kg & then by numbers of dispatchers this catch is transported out of the forest to nearby villages & from there to cities like Jabalpur, Seoni & Nagpur. Here it’s being sold at Rs 150-200/kg , so the even if we consider net profit per day per kg as Rs 100, then with 200 boats catching 1000kg per day each, the entire turnover goes to over Rs 2 crore per day & that makes nearly Rs 700 crore per year! Now you can imagine why it’s been a big game! Thousands of people living around the park & many politicians as well govt officials are involved in the racket or else it’s impossible. Forest dept has a mammoth task to fight these people as they have their own informants which spread the news of raid in advance & then the fisherman sank their boat & ran away. Next day they know exactly where they have sunk the boats, they come back & retrieve them & again the fishing starts. The fishing disturbs balance of biodiversity in the water body as its prey for thousands of birds visiting the park & entire life cycle gets disturbed. Also the moment on ground for carrying the kill out of forest disturbs the entire wild life. We came up with the idea of making the forest guard trained in scuba diving & think on arranging scuba divers suit for the forest team, so they can locate the sunken boats by the fisherman & destroy the same. As destroying a boat will really damage the entire illegal fishing operation. & so many things to do along with great time in jungle!!

We visited villages around & saw the care taken by the forest department to minimize the conflicts between man & animal as visiting the forest for fun & sight a tiger is one thing & day & night to live in surrounding where tiger roams freely is another thing. Imagine how many of us can really do that even for a day & here we are talking about people who has to spend their entire life like that! Park staff has a huge task at their hands for making people living on the fringes of the park to be friend & not enemy with the animals. Things like building a bund wall which will avoid dears & wild boars to enter in to the fields & damage the crops are being done.

We tried to get as much exposure we can even visiting chowkis i.e. where the forest guards reside in deep jungle & se their life style. So we can work out in what best way we can try to take some load of the fight which park team is fighting to make the jungle a better place for the animals as well their team!
During entire duration whenever there was spare time we were moving through the forests & I was trying to see the things which we usually miss in the safari as we were having good time at hand & it was not usual tiger chasing safaris! Here are some moments...

Learning a lesson!
At pench mp in a hot may summer we saw a jackal killing a red jungle fowl, with the efforts in chase & kill the jackal opted to rest near a pond & to save from crows pondering over his head he placed the kill in the pond water. To his surprise the water currents took the kill in middle of the pond & then poor jackal was in trouble as the pond was deep & muddy. In a zest to retrieve the kill the jackal circled all around the pond & finally decided to risk the life for the kill & entered in the water & in marathon efforts again got hold of the kill & ran away from the pond swearing never to do such foolishness! Sure he has learned his lesson is never to part away a kill which you have got with so much of efforts! We captured the entire scene which was on for nearly half hour. It’s things like this which makes the jungle very much alive & makes us leave with a promise to come back again!

Flying Wild!!
Wild dogs are mysterious specie as not much study or documentation on them yet has been done! Yet the most feared pack they are in forest, even tiger keeps distance from them! Sometimes you see them all day long lazying, playing at a water hole & next day they are gone & you can’t see even their glimpse for days! We got lucky with the pack of nearly 30 wild dogs feeding over the kill of chital. It’s amazing to see when they are in such a big pack, everyone was eager to have his bite yet we could identify the respect for the senior members to have their honor of first bites! So much to learn from them by us, the so called humans!

Catch me head on!
Any wild life lover’s dream is getting head on with a tiger/tigress! At tadoba which I visited after pench, the famous four telia cubs; are no more cubs now but has turn in to like four princess of the area. The great fun in tiger sighting is in seeing the pug marks, with no alarm call guess the moment, go ahead of the queen & get her head on! Wow, joy is in looking the sheer grace with which she walks but more joy is for you guessed her moment correctly by using your experience in the wilds!

Who says birds are dumb!!
When waiting at junawani water hole, it’s a small earthen dam surrounded by hills from all side & a sure tiger sighting place in pench mp, I saw a pond heron picking up a frog; it was a normal thing but what happened next was something very interesting! The heron took the kill which was alive, to the edge of water & deepen its hind leg in water & again lifted his neck upwards, this continued for at-least 5/6 times! Then I realized the frog was too big for the heron to swallow & had he opened his beak to swallow the frog would have slipped, so he was making the hind legs of frog to touch the water & let it think it’s free, so the frog pushed himself up which was in actually in the mouth of the heron!!! Now who will say brains of birds isn’t much developed!!! This is what makes every moment in forest making us to come back again!!

Box of Surprises is the Forest!
The afternoon ride was pretty dull & hot & however you are down by mood as the jungle was silent with most of the time sun behind the cloud at tadoba, yet over the years I knew the jungle never keep you depressed for much time! And so was it, my gipsy was crossing fire line & a black mass was slowly moving towards us, a huge sloth bear female!! Just to capture the moment the sun came out of light & could get one long shot & one very close one, the closest I ever had of the specie, as with that black fur it’s very difficult to focus the camera for details with this one! Once again the jungle has stood to its box of surprises! What was saddening is the way people behave at such times, fire lines are the best paths animals use to cross the roads & here most of the gipsy drivers exactly stop their vehicles bang on the fire line making the animal get disturbed & change its course. What forest dept should do is mark of No Stopping at such crossings making animals to cross the road freely!

Forest is ever giving!
They say forest never leaves you unhappy! Was searching for a good image of pied Malabar horn bill, a big yet beautiful bird & in a full ride pench mp, I came across it many times but couldn’t get a good shot of the bird & when I came back to forest rest house at karamziri, was chatting with the guard & he said " sahab yaha zaranke bajume jo bargadka ped hai waha aake baithata hai dopaharko" means sir the bird you are mentioning comes & sit on a baniyan tree every noon! Huriedly I finished my lunch & set for the banyan tree &  so there it was!! Sitting like giving me pose & saying take as much snaps you want :)
Once again my trust in forest proved right that it’s the best place to find joy!!

In jungle the beauty is there are no retakes, you only get to see the actions just once & if you lose that moment then it’s gone! So one has to be very alert provided if one has interest! And this is what we should learn from forest trip as it teaches us to look in to smallest of the things happening around. In forest there are many things which only an individual can experience & getting an opportunity to click something which happens just once is one such! This can’t be put in words; it can be only shared with the person who has experienced it by himself.

Finally few words to share about Mr. Atul Kirloskar which I eventually end up calling Atulda, I know he won’t be liking this part of the write-up but every forest trip has taught me something & it’s like bonus to be with a person who is boss of a business empire. In entire trip he never showed any sign of his wealth or position may it be sipping a cup of tea from a dirty glass at a dhaba or walking along on a forest trail in scorching hot sun. Ever curious about the smallest of the things & most controlled reaction about any topic! I am sure if more & more people like Atulda’s stature visits forest & try to understand the problems over there & offer support, then it will be the best thing that will happen to not only the forests but all wild life lovers!
With this I departed from the Pench Mp with a promise of coming back as soon as I can!!


Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

MSEDCL (Power) Committee, Credai, Pune

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  1. Very interesting and informative article Sanjay!

  2. Very interesting and informative article Sanjay!

  3. thanks kalpana & kamal, actually its forest which is wonderful, i just narrated it in words :)


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