( Contd. from previous Ezine)
By - Saraswati Kavula
The next day we went to bird watch in the forest surrounding the Maisampet area. It was about a five kilometer route all together. We managed to see some typical plant species of the region and some rare birds. As usual the river
inside the forest was dried up. And even siltation has occurred. “See they have made the huge check dam higher up and this whole place is silted now”. Imran pointed out.
On one of the trees we found bear marks, he must have tried very hard to get on the tree and reach the honey comb that was right on the edge of the thin branch. Every one was delighted. There was a double bonanza. We found pug marks
of the wild boar, and also the scats of tiger. “How can you make out it was done by the tiger?” one of the participants inquired. “Can you see there is fur of the Sambhar inside this stool? Only a tiger can eat a Sambhar and digest its fur. The tiger has a
rough tongue so it first licks out the fur and then eats the animal. We normally use the pug marks and collect the scats when we do the Census of the tiger”, Imran replied. The boys from the conservation group were very thrilled. It has been a bonanza this
is proof enough that the tiger is alive here and it means an entire eco-system is surviving.
We had our breakfast of fruit bread and biscuits inside the forest. But everyone took care not to throw around any trash inside the forest. We sat down and our talk turned to conservation. Each one had their own ideas. Imran asked
people to join his voluntary group, “Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society”. But there weren't many takers. “We cannot be as dedicated as you are and give so much time. More over everyone need not do the same thing you know.” “Well you don't do anything for
the tiger conservation; just at least do something for the birds that you come to watch!” Imran asked again.
“Well it all depends on the inner motivation, how can everyone be like you? We all are doing different things!” One of the girls tried to reason out. What she meant was that she was happy to bird watch and come to the forest for the
thrill of it, but not bother to do
anything about conservation work. That was the saddest part, to see the apathy of people to come forward and do something about the destruction that is happening around us.
One of them was a freelance writer. Imran asked her, ‘Can you write about this trip to publish it somewhere, so we can generate interest in the public on these matters?” “Well, who can write so much, two-three pages is a little too
much, to write about it don't you think?” she replied. That is the basis for my writing this story.
By noon , we reached the village. The DFO* of Jannaram, Mr.Vinod Babu had come to the village. We all sat on the ‘charpais' to have tea and talk while the lunch was being made. Imran and Vinod Babu started to exchange information about
the situation in the forest. Vinod Babu told us about the problems of resettling people. After promising to take our entire luggage back to Jannaram in his jeep and also one of the injured participants, he left saying that he shall send the jeep in an hour
back to us. Seetabai made an absolutely fabulous lunch. It was surely one of the best meals I have ever had. I asked Seetabai, “How is life here for you?” “Well it has been tough, there are no rains and no water, this year the crops failed miserably. We are
living only on the rations provided by the ITDA**” she replied. “You go on cutting down the forest, where will you have water?” I asked her, she nodded her head in agreement. By the time the lunch was over, the jeep had arrived and we lugged in all the baggage
into the jeep and also sent away the invalids in the jeep to Jannaram. But we had a long walk. At first it was supposed to be five kilometres, and then we came to know it was going to be eight kms. The prospect was a bit daunting.
We moved through the forest towards Udhampur to reach the machaan. On our way we came across a dried forest stream. There were some people sitting on the riverbed. We wondered who they were. On closer examination we found them
to be taking sand in tractors. Imran and Asif went to inquire from them. The people said they worked for a contractor from Utnoor and took the sand in the tractors which will then be sold in Hyderabad for construction work. We asked them, ‘isn't sand mining
illegal?' they said, ‘yes'. Then don't you get caught by the forest department?' they said, ‘we pay Rs.200 for each trip to whosoever is on duty'. We took some photographs of the mining activity. Then we went up on our way. There was a lake just before we
reached the village border. It had some good bird life. It was getting dark. There was a discussion, whether we should go to the machaan, or if we should head back to Jannaram. Then one of the members of the team said, ‘let us go and see if the jeep has come
to Udhampur, if it is there, then we can still make it to the machaan in time'. So we went towards the village in search of Linganna and to find out if our jeep has arrived from Jannaram to pick us up.
( To be continued)
Photo credits: Pugmarks by Asif Siddiqui, Sand mining by Saraswati Kavula
* District Forest Officer
**Integrated Tribal Development Agency