Monday, October 18, 2010

Urigam Ground Survey - January 2010

A couple of months back I had registered with KANS(Kenneth Anderson Nature Society) as a volunteer. Never thought they'll respond but they did, two months later. Got a mail asking me to come for a ground survey of Urigam, a place in the Melagiri range of the Hosur forest division. So off I went on a friday evening (left early from office), got picked up by a couple of guys who were going there by car. Reached Ancheti forest guest house by 8 in the night.

After exchanging pleasantries with the rest of the group(14 volunteers), we were briefed on our itinerary for the next day. We were divided into teams of two and would be accompanied by a forest guard during our hike through the forest. My teammate was a girl who was working with Infosys. We were given data sheets on which we had to record the data pertaining to direct and indirect evidences (direct-sighting or hearing animals; indirect-pug/hoof marks, scat/droppings etc.), covers to collect samples(in case of scat/droppings) and GPS(Global Positioning System) to record the exact spot where we found evidences. We had to collect these data while walking along a pre-decided trail. So everything set, we guys finally crashed for the day at almost 12 in the night, on the veranda, chivalrously offering the sole room to the two ladies in the group. I did have second thoughts about giving away the room as it started getting inexorably cold a few hours into the sleep.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wildlife week celebration by KANS in Hosur Forest Division

Day 01, 09/10/2010 - Nature Camp
As part of the wildlife week festivities, KANS conducted a nature camp for the students of Sishya and Titan School, Hosur at Aiyur eco-awareness camp.
The idea behind conducting this camp was to bring into sharp focus of the students the area of Melagiri, its history, diversity and to bring into them a sense of responsibility to protect this 1480 sq km area of forest cover falling into Krishnagiri district.

The students, a total of 9 each from the 2 schools were picked up from the Sishya School. On reaching Aiyur they were immediately taken to a short walk on the road leading to the Samieri lake from the camp. During the walk the students were made to listen to the various sounds of the forest and appreciate the diversity of creature that have made these forests their home. The students were briefed about spiders, birds, trees and the various animals that are found.

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Threats to Melagiri forests

A strong odour of cattle dung hit us even before our eyes caught sight of it littered everywhere like shopping freaks in Bangalore's Mall. And here we were  in the middle of a thick scrub jungle come to do a census on the flora and fauna of the Hosur Forests also called as Melagiris. Kenneth Anderson Nature  Society together with Asian Nature Conservation Foundation have taken up several surveys in this region that spreads over an area of almost 1200 sq kms  containing a mix of several vegetation but mainly abounded by the dry scrub forest to study these forests and restore the region back to its original state.

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A night at Rasimanal Watchtower

The last of the ground survey by KANS winded up at Rasimanal. Here is an account of the most wonderful time of my life..

Rasimanal Forest Guest house is around 2 hours drive from Anchetty. The narrow roads sneak up the hills and at one point gave a awe inspiring view of the valley. Tiny villages with hardly around 100-150 families have sprung up all along the way.

I tasted the most refreshing coffee and tea at a tea shop on the way that boasted a very interesting water heater, though I would say it was simply the lower part of water filter set up on a stove! The swooshing movement of mixing up the beverage with milk and water by the owner was worth filming!

 We waited at the last hamlet for the forest guard (who incidentally never turned up) for the guest house keys. When the waiting became intolerable a few of us started walking along the jungle path for birding, a few of the locals began telling me no to go any further as elephants frequented the path beyond the farm.  I would have loved to see some. As fate could have its last laugh I was again denied the elephant encounters. The heat of the afternoon gave way to the soothing evening breeze and my troop giving up the hope of the guest house keys collected the rest of the wandering gang and started moving towards RasiManal. Rasimanal belongs to the Anchetty range and here the Cauvery and Dodhalla meet up and continue their way into Tamil Nadu. With the pre-monsoon showers Cauvery had indeed swollen and was gushing away noisily.

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A troop of five people descend down the narrow trail juggling their glances between the sky to look out for birds, the trail to look out for scat and pug marks and everywhere else to soak in the heavenly view of the towering hills all around. The call of the Common Hawk Cuckoo also called the Brain Fever Bird reverberates all around.

We are the members of a Kenneth Anderson Nature Society, named after the erstwhile legendary hunter turned conversationalist Kenneth Anderson who roamed these very forests of Melagiri. The Melagiris are a range of hills on the Eastern Ghats, bound by the river Cauvery on the west. The total reserve forest area is around 1295 sq. kms. Inspired by the stories of Anderson the first KANS members ventured into these forests to feel the wild in first person. Over the years however the forests have been infiltrated by the locals for cattle grazing and to obtain the forest produce. The reserved forests are shrinking at the rapidly encroaching agricultural lands , the fauna disappearing by the unrestrained poaching activities.

KANS decided to take on the task of securing this habitat for the Tiger, to restore the region back to its original state.This is being achieved through a mix of passive and active conservation activities like community interaction programmes (afforestation, educational programmes, alternative agricultural practices), equipping the ground forest staff (uniforms, torches), field work to control Man-Elephant conflict, removal of invasive species etc.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Synchronized Tiger Census In Hosur Forest Division - Feb 2010

I was under the impression that I was in for Tiger Census in the  Hosur FD, Although I am generally not very well informed I knew  the Tiger Census were over. However keeping my skepticism aside I  plunged in volunteering for the task.

A little about the survey, organized by KANS (Kenneth  Anderson Nature Society) jointly with the forest authorities during the weekend of 20th and21st of Feb. The  idea was to gather volunteers, break them into groups and send  them to different divisions. The group itself will be broken into  at max 2 people plus the Forest Guards to trek into the forests  through a path called the beat. Day one was for Direct sighting,  so volunteers were to keep their eyes and ear open and of course  mouth shut for direct sightings of animals and birds. Day two was  for gathering indirect evidences of the fauna through collecting  scats and  examining/photographing pug/hoof marks. All the groups would enter  the forests at the same time so that the chances of sighting  increases and counting the same animal is reduced. We were to establish credential that Tigers/Leopards are in the area.  This way the forests that are currently only under Reserve Forests status get promoted to Sanctuary status, as its counterparts in the Karnataka Forest division. Higher the status, more security, hence more chances that the forests are protected from the human interferences.

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