Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Field Staff Training - Mudumalai and Nagarhole

KANS and Hosur Forest Division conducted a ‘Staff Training program’ at Mudumalai and Nagarhole Tiger Reserves from 24-28 August 2013. This was attended by the DFO Mr.Ulaganathan, ACF Mr. Soundarrajan, 2 Foresters, 5 Forest Guards, 6 Forest Watchers and 7 Anti-poaching Watchers.

Day 1: Arrived at Mudumalai by evening after some sight-seeing at Srirangapatna.

Day 2: Started with an early morning safari and reached a watch tower at Game hut. The staff were taken around and explained about the functioning of the watch tower.

Later, we visited  Imbrella Anti-poaching camp. Forester Rajendran from MTR explained about the functioning of the APC. This covered:
  • Staffing
  • Patrolling methods (what time they leave in the morning, beats covered etc. )
  • Recording of patrols (use of GPS, transfer data weekly with the DD, log books etc.)
  • Dealing with incidents like forest fires, human intrusions, hunting etc.
  • Life in APC (rations, solar lights, weekly shifts etc.)
This was followed by a Q&A by HFD staff with the Forester and interaction with the APC staff.

We then returned to the Theppakadu Log House where we were residing and after finishing breakfast, went on another another round into MTR where the Forester showed salt licks and some water holes. He explained how the water holes were prepared using natural materials, so as to blend with the environment.

Post lunch, we were taken to couple of other places around MTR and to see the fabulous Moyar falls.
Upon returning, we headed to the Theppakadu camp where the Deputy Director of MTR had organised a theory class. This talk was given by Mr. Kannan,Wildlife Biologist. A presentation was given on how protection and monitoring of Tigers and other species are done in MTR. The discussion was summarised by our DFO, who stressed that these systems should be introduced in Melagiris asap and protection should be taken up to the maximum extent possible.

Next, we visited Asarumattam APC in Segur Range. Its at a very remote place, almost 15 kms from the nearest road. The participants got to observe and interact with the anti-poaching watchers.

Day 3: Left for Nagarhole. The Nagarhole CF Mr. Gokul, had arranged for a safari, and we went on that and to the luck of all  of us, expecially the staff, we were able to sight a Tiger. Evening was spent in relaxing in the quiet environs of the forest.

Day 4: Mr. Chinnappa arrived early morning by 7.30 am and he gave a brief talk about his experiences from the time he joined Nagarhole in 1967 and till date. Subsequently, after breakfast, we all headed out into the forest. There was a bus and jeep that took us in and at various places we had to get down and walk and at each place Mr.Chinnappa explained various aspects of forests and field craft. 

These covered:
  • Identification of scat, dung and pellets and how to read them
  • Behaviour of animals, which live in groups and as individuals
  • Role of animals in keeping forests clean
  • Role of forests in water conservation
  • Jungle survival skills
  • Role of animals in soil conservation
  • Parasitical behaviour of some trees

As we drove around the forest, he also showed us ‘hadlus’ (swamps) where people used to earlier graze cattle and cultivate paddy. He explained how the people were tactfully relocated and today there are wildlife in these swamps at all times of the day. He also showed areas where forest fires had destroyed over 30 sq.kms. in the core area which had lead to eupatorium and lantana colonizing the burnt areas.

Overall, the stress was on impressing upon the staff not to take their work casually. There is a wealth of knowledge around them and since they are in the field all the while, they ought to observe and learn and not rely on outsiders for information of their forests. The stress was also on understanding the importance of forests for the securing the future of our children and the huge responsibility that is there on the staff in protecting these forests.

Back at the base, Mr.Chinnappa thanked the staff for visiting Nagarhole and expressed his wish to come to Melagiris again and see more wildlife than what he had seen during his last visit.

The staff too were motivated with what they had witnessed over the last 3 days in Mudumalai and Nagarhole. The challenge is to translate this motivation into action on ground.