Sunday, October 15, 2017

Celebrating Wild Life Week; Where is Wild Life?

“Every creature was designed to serve a purpose. Learn from animals for they are there to teach you the way of life. There is a wealth of knowledge that is openly accessible in nature. Our ancestors knew this and embraced the natural cures found in the bosoms of the earth. Their classroom was nature. They studied the lessons to be learned from animals. Much of human behavior can be explained by watching the wild beasts around us. They are constantly teaching us things about ourselves and the way of the universe, but most people are too blind to watch and listen.” … Suzy Kassem.

Suzy Kassem is an American writer, poet, philosopher, and multi-faceted artist of Egyptian origin. The granddaughter of a well-known sage in 19th century Cairo, mysticism and wisdom run through her blood just as the water of the Nile flows through her veins. And her words about wildlife, shows her approach of learning from the nature, no wonder her words flow so easily & tells us about importance of nature in the form of wildlife! Actually come October & updates from my Facebook group’s like Sanctuary & Claw makes me aware that parks in Indian forests are open now & it’s time to visit wilds. Though one need not have to go all the time to national parks to be with wild life as where I stay i.e. Pune has ample of biodiversity around in the form of Western Ghats though no tiger sighting here as you get to see in Central India! Yet when you want to be with nature for learning even you terrace garden can teach you a lot is what I have observed. But again when something is very near to you then you often miss to see that thing, is exactly what happens with me when speaking about biodiversity around Pune. In my cabin at office I have a digital photo frame on which all my wild life captures keeps on rolling all day long, whenever I get tired of my concrete world I look at this frame & it takes me in the wilds. And it’s not just tiger sighting but some of the clicks brings back memories in wilds which made me learn not just about animals but even made me think about human behavior, here are few such…

1.    In Tadoba forest on a dusty noon as usual chasing for tiger & following alarm calls of chital, we saw a huge spider feeding on a grasshopper even bigger than it. My wild life friend Atul Dhamankar then showed us something unique, a small red spider on the back of bigger spider. No, it wasn’t spider’s cub but it was male spider which can met only when female spider is busy in feeding herself or else she will eat the male spider only! Nature is strange as this taught me how in nature, every specie finds its way out to survive!

2.  Then in one such round at kanha forest, we saw a herd of chital approaching water hole. It’s this time when the animals are most susceptible for getting hunted as their back is towards forest & nostrils submerged in water, so they can’t see the predators like tiger or leopard coming from rear. But nature has taught them what we the humans haven’t learnt; the leader of the herd watches the forest & the rest of the herd drinks & when they are finished then the leader i.e. a male chital goes for drinking water! What a leadership attitude & courage from a deer, as not that it can actually fight with tiger but at least he will see such danger & make aware his herd to run away, is what it must be thinking! This whole scene made me think about our leaders who wants to fill their pockets first & cares a hang about their followers empty stomach; well, we are real fools to accept such person as our leader in first place, is equally true!

3.  Best part in forest is when you stop at some place just to listen the forest sounds, mainly to check any alarm call for tiger & at such times the forest guide or gypsy driver which are mostly natives from surrounding of the forest, share their stories about forest & their encounters with many funny situations in forest as well their beliefs or say superstitions which are very common among the tribes around the forest. One such is sloth bear tickles the man if it caught any in the forest & then rip of its face so that the man won’t be able to identify the sloth bear! Very funny indeed not for the persons who has lost their eyes & damaged their face for ever due to slot bear attacks & which makes sloth bear most feared animal in the wilds. Fact is sloth bear has very sharp & long nails to dig in termite houses & eat termites; as well it has very poor eye sight but a strong sense of smell. So when accidently it meets any man in the forest (which mostly are forest labors), when a sloth bear stands on its hinder legs  the it stood taller than average human height & if it just swings its paw as act of defense which exactly hits at the face of unfortunate person standing right in-front of the sloth bear. And just one swing at your face is enough to tear all the flesh from your face as human skin is too soft for those sharp nails which can dig in termite home!

4.  The comes one more story how the tiger hunt the monkeys which are expert on climbing up high on trees & tiger due to its heavy structure cant climb on the tree like the leopards does. Monkeys as we all know are curious lot & that does make them land in danger often. Whenever a  group of monkeys sees  a tiger they starts shouting in a very different sound, it’s more like scratching than their normal hoop hoop! At the same time they start looking down & their eyes follow all the time the tiger & its movement. The tiger knows this & starts circling the tree on which the group of monkeys is looking down & instead leaving that area, which monkeys can easily do from the top of the trees, the monkeys also starts rolling their eyes & neck to cover the tiger movements around the tree & one of the monkey faints due this movement of eyes & falls down & then becomes food for the alert tiger below! Though no one has actually seen this happening but tiger’s strategy does make sense & that teaches us even if we are unable to master some skill, like the tiger doesn’t know to climb on the tree yet he can achieve the kill of a monkey which sits high up!

5. The on one such ride in Bandhawagad forest our guide took us at a lake & told us to watch around. It was quite noon in forest & clear blue sky & suddenly a flock of bats came & started hovering above the water-body. One by one the bats started diving towards the surface of water body, first I thought they are hunting fish which was new to me but the guide asked, “sir aapne kabhi socha hai bat pani kaise pita hai?” i.e. how a bat must be drinking water? I accepted I have never thought & then it hit me, how difficult it must be for a bird to drink water which can’t even stand on its leg! So the bats were not hunting fish but they were drinking water in flying mode as that’s the only way they can drink water! So many times we see some phenomenon in nature around us & don’t just bother about it! From my childhood I am fascinated by bats, which were a normal sight after sun down in the sky. But now the poor specie is getting driven away from the towns & cities as even after sun down we have flood lights & honking of millions of vehicles that keeps the bats at bay as well pollution & in addition our passion for fire crackers, all this is helping to make bats extinct & then we hardly have clean water bodies left in the city where the bats can drink from, while its flying! But then who cares if some night flying mammal bird if we don’t get to see, as who has time to look at its flight from whatsap, FB & thousands of channel on TV while its dark outside!

6. One such interesting specie, with loads of myths around is wild dogs, called as Whistling Hunters also, because of their unique way of communication. Many won’t know but wild dogs which live by packs (wild hunters like dogs, jackals in group are called as pack whether as deer in group is called as herd) are most feared animal in the Indian forests, even tiger keeps distance from them, such is respect for their hunting skills! And the wild dogs don’t bark but they communicate with each other by soft whistle, a very rare way for dogs as they are very less studied specie till recent. Wild dogs are a classic example of “size doesn’t matter but performance does”. As they take on much bigger prey like Sambhar deer just by persistent chasing it & don’t give up till the prey fall down with sheer exhaustion & then eat it alive as they can’t kill the prey in one go like tiger or leopard does! I have been lucky to witness a wild dog’s chase by myself in pench forest. A poor chital was running from pack of wild dogs & jumped in a lake for survival. The wild dog’s pack literally circled the lake & blocked chital’s way of coming out of water. Poor chital gave up swimming after one hour of effort & then the dogs entered water & killed the chital. They were with all the patience & confident that the chital will give up!  This is what we should learn from wild dogs; never give up attitude till you achieve what you are after! But this wonderful specie is under threat of getting extinct as because of their size’s limitation & the way they hunt, they need lot of forest to survive & that is something we are fast encroaching on. Loss of habitats is main cause of many animals getting extinct & each of us should do our best to keep wild animal’s homes intact!

Forest is full of such stories & like one famous paint companies tag line, “har ghar kuch kahata hai” (every home has a story to tell), on the same line we can say, “Each specie has some story to tell” in the forest. Not just that but every day brings more such stories in forest that is why a forest is ever alive! It’s not just tiger sightings but such stories of which you also can be a witness, is what makes forests interesting & our life too! But for that we should not forget our responsibility along as every day we read some or other specie has vanished forever. On the occasion of Wild Life Week which is celebrated in October, I came across an article in a news paper with a heading, “Have you seen them?” It was featuring animals which were common sight few decades back around towns but now they are not being seen even in reserved forests & the sole reason is loss of their habitat due to our greed for building more of our homes, offices, roads, factories, malls & IT parks! 

Friends, as we work for making our comfortable homes, we must work for other specie’s homes (read forests) also, or else one day all we will be left with is just stories of wild dogs & sloth bears, whereas the heroes of such stories will be long gone forever from this planet! And just by celebrating some Wild Life Week & giving advertises in new paper we won’t be able to save forests as well wild dogs like species but we need to understand what we are going to miss, if every single wild species gets extinct; as well we need to control our needs which are actually greed! Instead planning our so called Smart Cities lets first plan for Smart Forests & then plan our cities around them, that’s the only hope for wild life & as we consider ourselves Smartest Specie, we are solely responsible to make wild life survive!

Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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