Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bandipur Roadkills Campaign - 21/22 March 2009

As usual, the 6th Road Awareness Campaign a Bandipur was kick-started from Bangalore on Friday 20th March 2009. As per plan, all of us met near the Deve Gowda Petrol Station in Banashankari at 10pm. This 6th campaign had 3 new volunteers and the volunteers were as follows – Rakesh, Laxmeesha, Soumyajit, Satish, Vasanth, Ananth, Guru, Harish, Mani (first-time), Praveen (first-time) and Mohit (Praveen’s 7year old son). As compared to the previous campaigns, we had 5 bikes and 1 car (it is usually 1 or 2 cars).

We headed for the Mysore Road by 10:45pm and had a first tea-break soon. The next pit stop was at Kitty’s Punjabi Dhaba if I’m not wrong, close to Maddur. At the Dhaba, couple of the guys had a late dinner! After a long break, we started again and the next important pit-stop was Café Coffee Day Gundulpet.

Saturday morning started off with breakfast at Jungle Lodges Bandipur. Breakfast was confined to bread toast as other items had finished (we were actually late). Before heading for breakfast, we had our first sighting – a pack of 6 wild dogs, crossing the road not together but in different time intervals. After the wild dog sighting, we were in high spirits and hoped that we could meet “The King” soon!

Soon we started our work – pamphlet distribution and educating the drivers passing through the Kekanahalla check post. As always there were a few guys who thought these rules don’t apply to them, good listeners and a few appreciated the initiative taken by KANS. Lunch at Jungle Lodges soon followed (3 pm) and we were back at the check post by 4pm. At around 5pm a truck driver gave us a ray of hope – “Sir I have been driving on these roads for nearly 10 years but this is the first time I have seen a tiger and it crossed the road majestically”. His words really rejuvenated us as the location was less than half a km ahead from the check post.

Our brief period of joy was about to end. At around 5:40pm, there was a slight drizzle but the pamphlet distribution was going on. All of a sudden, a Maruti Omni (taxi) was speeding towards the check post and even as we lowered it to stop him, he hit the post and halted abruptly. Vasanth and Rakesh had a narrow miss as they were in his path. On closer inspection, the vehicle was already damaged before hitting the post and the driver was in real high spirits!! The impact caused the door to jam and we literally had to pull him out as he didn’t want to come out. The passengers told us “Sir we are going for a relatives death, please leave us”, but we firmly said no and told them that we would be handing over the driver and the van to the police. Meanwhile the forest guard Mr. Madhavappa took the driver to his room and give him a few slaps. The negotiations went on for some time and finally we decided to hand over the van and the driver to the police outpost at Bandipur Reception Center. As the Maruti VAN occupants were totally drunk, I drove the van accompanied by Guru, Vasanth and Mr. Madhavappa to the police outpost. Rakesh and other followed us in the car and bikes. After handing him over, we went to our room at MC Resorts and had our dinner.

At around 10pm we decided to go on a ride on the Ooty highway. Our first encounter was a female elephant and a calf just after crossing the check-post. Rakesh, Soumyajit, I, Ananth and Mani were in the car. Guru and Praveen were following us on a bike. Except for Rakesh and Mani, the others in the car were really sleepy and dozed off even before reaching Kekanahalla check-post. After Rakesh took a u-turn at the check-post, we woke up and were happy to head back to the resort as we were really tired. Just after some 5 minutes, we saw the first tiger crossing the highway at a distance – the feeling was just amazing. Immediately after stopping the car, we saw a second tiger cross and then a third one. Four tigers within a matter of 10 minutes (2 Males and 2 Females including one Alpha Male Tiger) – just sheer luck I guess! Finally our patience paid off with 6 sightings and two very close sightings. As they say sighting a tiger in a South Indian jungle is always special – it sure is!!

Sunday morning there was the usual safari from MC Resorts but a couple of us including me skipped it. After checking out, we had breakfast at Jungle Lodges and then proceeded towards Nugu Wildlife Sanctuary. We climbed a small hill and the bikers it was like off-roading as it was full of stones and loose sand. We could see Kabini far away and had to leave early as we had to be in Bangalore by 9pm. Our very late lunch was at Country Club Mysore (5pm) and after a good lunch, we hit the road back to Bangalore. Overall it was a very eventful trip – wild dogs, drunk driving and of course 4 tigers!!

Group picture taken at Jungle Lodges. Starting from left to right the members are
* Praveen
* Rakesh
* Harish
* Mani (first-timer)
* Guru with Mohit (praveen's son)
* Vasanth
* Ananth
* Satish (me)
* Laxmeesha
* Soumyajit

Satish Pari
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Gutherayan visit

Arvind and I went to a short notice trip to Gutherayan. CCF Mr.Sreenivas Murthy, (working plan) from chennai, Mr.conservator (Vellore cirlce working plan), Dr.Ravikumar (Foundation for restoration of local health systems) were coming to survey the area along with our DFO Mr.Ganeshan.

Dr.Ravikumar is a leading taxonomists in the country with knowledge as vast as an encyclopedia. Our DFO Mr.Ganeshan is not far behind him either.

We drove up to Kodekerai and then trekked up the hills to Gutheri lake and finally to Gutherayan summit. Poojaries from Kodekerai accompanied us and it was an amazing trek.

We had to stop every few feet and Dr.Ravikumar would point out plants and trees and quiz the poojaries about its habits, exudation, fruits flowers etc, and I cannot recall a single instance when the poojaries faltered. An old poojari called Kullan was especially impressive.

I believe we recorded nearly 20 redlisted plant species upto Gutheri lake which is half way up to the summit. The vegetation is typical of evergreen shola forests. I have never seen forests such as these in this district.

Some notable sights were huge wild mango trees (Mangifera Indica) with girth of 6 meters and easily over 50 meters in height. There were wild jack, some species of wild citrus, many members of the cinnamon family, Garcenia Gummi gatta etc. Dr.Ravikumar's celebrations on finding Garcenia gummi gatta was a sight to behold!! I have never seen Mr.Ganeshan so excited. We were also treated to Shorea Roxbhurgii in full bloom.

Many specied considered endemic to Western Ghats are also found here.

I could observe some bird activity though the time of the day was not suitable for birding. Malabar Parakeets rool the roost here, and there seems to be an absence of rose ringed parakeets.

There were signs of Bear, muntjak, sambhar etc and a more detailed study is essential to fully understand this fantastic place.

Arvind went up to the summit of Gutherayan and I stayed behind. I dont know what I missed there. But I stayed back on a rock hoping to do some birding. Not much to report on that front. However, the shola needs to be explored for birds.

Sanjeev Kumar S. R.
Vice President
Kenneth Anderson Nature Society