Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nagarhole Speed-breaker painting activity - 1st Jan 2009

KANS, true to the cause of conservation, has a large and varied activity base. This time around, the members and volunteers of KANS decided to build on their Roadkill Awareness Campaign by painting about 30 speed-breakers in the 35 km. stretch of forest road inside Nagarahole (a.k.a Rajiv Gandhi National Park).

So we collected some artistically inclined people and also some with previous painting experience and bundled them into three cars and we were off to Nagarahole for a date with the bumps. En route we did manage to try and explore two new routes to Coorg, but failed miserably, one at the hands of a railway gate and the other at the hands of the new police strategy against terror movements – road blocks that drivers cannot possibly see until they go straight into them and therefore render all vehicle stopping equipment useless…

After navigating a road full of R’s, i.e. rabbits and rats, and avoiding adding them to our already bloated dinner menu, we arrived at the check post at 5 A.M, only to be greeted with the rather shady noise of 5 men in a tent. Once we approached, they moved toward the check post hand-pump and proceeded to wake up all the inhabitants of the check post and the jungle with that ghastly early-morning noise that would have driven any jungle dweller up the nearest tree.
It’s a wonder how some people really miss the din of the city and endeavour to replicate thee racket of a concrete jungles in our wooded jungles.

After their ‘family ablution’ we had the fortune of a silent jungle dawn and at 6 A.M, the guards at the check post let us through. As though quietly forbidding, and at the same time wooing us, the forest opened out in a surreal shade of pale grey and light green. To add to this, the dew methodically set about getting all over the windshield of the cars and clogging it up. However, onward we went into this majestic forest that boasts of a fantastic predator-prey relationship in the hope of catching a glimpse of the King of the Jungle, the tiger.

A short way through the forest, we encountered the first of the many road humps that we needed to paint over the course of the day. The drive through the forest was a fantastic experience and we did manage to get a moment of adrenalin in when a couple of bison careened off the road and into the surrounding thicket in front of our car. The bison were huge to say the least and exacted a fair amount of awe from us.

We were told by the two cars following us that a tusker had made himself quite friendly by chasing two cars behind us. Unfortunately, it took the inhabitants of the car much less time to realize that sometimes even opposites don’t attract than the poor tusker and he had to be left to his fate…

Next up, the actual road hump painting activity. Our able President, Laxmeesha Acharya, who had defied the giants of sleep, fatigue and conversation throughout the night, was up fresh and jovial as he began to mix the paint as a bartender would cocktails. Somewhere at this point, the front left tyre of Hari’s car decided that it wanted to make use of the ‘exchange offer’ with the spare tyre and proceeded to unceremoniously puncture itself. Talk about tyre suicide! Repaired, we rejoined the team on their ‘paint my love’ journey…

Painting the humps wasn’t the big time consuming activity we perceived it to be, but rather a quick one with a factory line operating – a broom, a stone layer, two painters and two facilitators-…and soon the bleak road was transformed into a black and white strip that must make most film cameras a joy to behold.

Must mention here that the forest guards were of immense help, directing the rather sparse traffic away from the fresh paint and the vulnerable painters by the wayside.

This particular group of volunteers was made of young and middle aged folks with a great interest in improving the visibility of forest awareness. Another point worth noting is that a young chap in the midst of his exams, made this trip with us.

Nagarahole is famous for its Dholes (Cuon alpinus) and they did not disappoint us. These deceptively docile looking creatures were spotted at the Kalhalla Range on either side of the road. At about the same time, a couple of Giant Malabar Squirrels (Ratufa indica), another flagship of Indian mammals, appeared out of seemingly nowhere and began a game of hide-and-seek with each other, all the while providing us with a fantastic view of their daily lives.

The painting activity was rather quick and by 14.00 we had worked up a huge appetite for lunch. The cook provided some much needed nourishment and soon the team was ready for the next piece of action.

At this moment two busloads of people from a college in Bangalore burst upon the scene and blasted all our eardrums. Immediately they pounced upon the safari vehicles just like a tiger would on its prey albeit without the fuss and mess.

On the safari, the folks managed to bring back most of the city noise so much so that not even a combined effort from the driver, us and an elephant unit (mother + calf) could do much to quell the racket that left us, and the elephants, with a mighty headache…

The mother and calf were very shy and disappeared into thickets immediately, but the mother being alarmed and concerned for her young one, did let out one small note of alarm. Just goes to show that all that these animals want is to be left alone.

We did see some interesting sights in the jungle, but did not come face to face with the Mighty One and left with a heavy heart, something that we wish to amend next time around.

The road hump painting activity was geared at increasing human and animal safety in the forest as well as increasing visibility for KANS. It was an effort that all of us made worthwhile and we hope to assist the people of the forest, the forest officials and the animals themselves to retain their rightful land and not perish in any way that has to do with human negligence.

Quick Facts
Number of speed breakers: 40
Distance: 35 Km
No. of participants: 12

Naren Damodran
Committee Member
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society



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