Monday, December 28, 2009

Our wildlife e-cards!

This year we decided to greet people with e-cards made from our own photographs. Click here to select and send one.

All the pictures were taken by us - SF/NCSA officers and volunteers - in the reserves we work in: Tadoba, Pench, Melghat, Kanha, Bori-Satpuda. The messages and design were done by Kiran Khalap and Sachin Pawar of chlorophyll brand & communications consultancy. Our volunteer Kirti Chavan created the page and is hosting it.

Do send our e-cards this year to spread the wildlife message around!

November '09 Activity Report

As always, our Conservation Officers have been busy trying to reduce the human footprint in the tiger habitat we work in, in varied and innovative ways. Some snapshots of a few of our November '09 community conservation activities - from the monthly reports compiled by our VP Giri Venkatesan.

Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve

School kids set off on a bird-watching trail at Adegaon

Public hygiene and cleanliness campaign at Kutwanda

Kondegaon school kids water saplings they had planted earlier

Chorgaon - school kids are given the conservation message through a nature game

Chorgaon kids pose next to a check dam they've built

Kanha National Park

Film show at Kutwahi

Restarted bio-gas unit at Kutwahi

Self-help group (SHG) training programme at Batwar

Pench National Park

Plantation drive at Jamuntola

Nature game at Satosha school

Hawking lantana products, and custard apples!

Environment education programme at Jinheriya

Discussing modalities of teaching IT to village kids and youth - Sawra

Discussing the functioning of the eco-development committee, Sillari

Celebrating Children's Day at Sawra

Building a soak pit at Ghoti

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snapshots from the stall

These were taken at our awareness stall at the Indus Festival of Charities, Mumbai, 5 December 2009. The response was encouraging, with quite a few people showing interest in the cause and ten people giving their contact details for our mailing list. One person took posters to distribute and three others were interested in volunteering.

Several people even asked the price of the wildlife photos we had mounted and put on the table! They were very impressed when we told them that the pictures were all taken by our own officers and volunteers, and not by professional photographers. Vishal Bansod's wonderful photo of a python killing a bird was admired the most, and his photo of the Blue Pansy butterfly got lots of oohs and aahs as well.

It was great to meet Abhishek Surana, who had volunteered with SF this summer. He lives in Delhi but is in Mumbai this month doing a course, so he dropped in to meet us and help. Read his posts about his volunteering experience here and here.

This was a good beginning for our Mumbai chapter. We are planning to create much more awareness and let's hope we'll generate much more support through similar activities here. So wish us luck!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our stall at the Indus Festival of Charities

We have taken a table for SF and NCSA at the Indus Festival of Charities this Saturday. There is no merchandise, it will be an information and awareness outlet. We will give general information about the tiger conservation cause and about our work in the tiger habitat of Central India. Interested people can enlist as volunteers. We will be making Powerpoint presentations about SF and NCSA on our laptops to anyone interested.

Date: Saturday, December 5, 2009
Time: 10.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m.
Venue: YMCA Colaba
12, Nathalal Parekh Marg (old name Wodehouse Road)
Colaba, Mumbai 400 039
It's near Sahakari Bhandar and Regal Circle.

Please spread the word among Mumbai wildlife-lovers!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tigress in Tadoba

Most tiger fans think it sacrilege to use adjectives like "cute" to describe tigers. I am not one of them. The tigress in these stunning photos taken by Giri Venkatesan (SF's Vice-President) is both magnificent AND cute!

I am highly envious of him for getting this wonderful sighting. But at least we can enjoy the experience through this beautiful set of images. I just can't get enough of them.

Photos: Giri Venkatesan

October '09 activity report

SF's policy has always been to involve forest-dwelling communities and win their support for conservation. Typical activities are water conservation programmes, education and awareness and capacity-building workshops to empower young people to get good jobs that don't harm the forest.

Here are some photos from last month's activity reports compiled by SF Vice-President Giri Venkatesan. They were taken in Kanha National Park, Pench, Satpuda and Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserves. SF's team of Conservation Officers is highly motivated and they have worked hard to win the trust of the villagers in their area.

If you would like to read the complete reports, please contact me on rajashree DOT khalap AT gmail DOT com giving your email id. I will send them to you.

Above: Satpuda Tiger Reserve - On October 21, we organized a "shramdhaan" at Mongra village to build a tank for vermi-compost. Residents were throwing their organic waste all over the village. Our team explained to them that they could generate fertilizer from this waste by dumping this organic waste in a tank and adding cattle droppings and worms to it. The villagers agreed and undertook to build the tank.

Above: Follow-up/maintenance work on water conservation work (a check dam) our team built along with villagers. Mudholi, Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve

Above: A soak pit constructed by our team, along with 82 school children, to recharge the water table near a hand pump. Thuyepani, Pench National Park

Above: Our team joined hands with 20 school children to dig a soak pit next to a hand pump at Turia, outside Pench National Park.

Above: Plantation programme at Dhamangaon, Kanha National Park area

Above: Field assistant Dilip Lanjewar talks to Jhinjeriya’s school children about nature and wildlife. Pench Tiger Reserve.

Above: Drawing contest to celebrate Wildlife Week - Sawra Government School, Pench

Above: Children set off for a nature trail at Kutwanda (Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve)

Above, below: On October 10, we organized a rally at Chapri (Kanha National Park area) in which around 200 school children from 7 villages and local villagers participated. The rally ended at the Satpura Centre at Chapri, a centre for local medicinal plants which has been set up by the Forest Department. The participants were addressed by Forest Department officials and SF Conservation Officer Amit Awasthi who spoke about the need for conservation as well as the value of local medicinal plants.

Above: SF's team visited 18 schools as part of our ongoing education programme. This is in the village Anjandana. Satpuda Tiger Reserve.

Above: In collaboration with NABARD, SF organized a month-long programme to teach 20 unemployed village youths to drive 4-wheelers - and when necessary, change tyres! Pench Tiger Reserve.

Above: As part of Wildlife Week celebrations (early October), local children were taken on bird-watching trails. This is in Moharli, Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve

Above: The Forest Department had installed bio-gas units in 10 villages in the Kanha area, to reduce villagers' dependence on firewood from the forest. Due to poor follow-up and maintenance many of the units failed. SF's Kanha team recently worked with the Forest Department to study the reasons for failure and restart the units. So far 6 of the failed units have been restored (in 5 villages). Here the owner of one of the units happily poses for the camera!

Above: Teaching children the use of biogas at Dhamangaon, Kanha National Park area

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gond dancers at Sawra, Pench

Villagers at Sawra (near Pench, Maharashtra) have decided to revive their traditional dances in an effort to preserve and showcase their rich culture. SF is encouraging this initiative. It is hoped that tourists going to Pench National Park will also visit local villages to understand the tribal traditions of the area.

The video shows one of the dancers' practice sessions at the village school.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Do Animals have Emotions?

This NewScientist article has some beautiful stories on ‘human’ emotions shown by animals.

If you have stories similar to these, we would love to hear about them from you.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Training on Vegetable Science and Nursery Maintenance

A one-month residential training programme on Vegetable Science and Nursery Maintenance was successfully completed in October (September 12 - October 6, 2009).

Church of North India Social Services Institute (CNI-SSI), National bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Satpuda Foundation jointly organized the training.

A total of 25 candidates were short listed out of which 10 candidates were selected, all from villages situated in and around Pench Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra.

The training focussed on teaching farmers intercropping. The participants were imparted practical training on growing various kinds of roses, flowers and vegetables and on developing lawns, all of which represent opportunities to augment their income as there is demand for these items in urban areas.

Experts who guided the trainees in the field, included
Shri. Ingole (Krushi Sahayyak Adhikari, Nagpur)
Shri Wankhede and shri Jog (Nursery department, Nagpur)
Shri. Chawre (Vayvasthapak ,Zilla Udyog Kendra, Nagpur )
Shri Sudhir Bhange, (Prasikshak) under whose guidance the training was successfully completed.

The training was conducted at Khandala village on the outskirts of Nagpur where CNI-SSI has a development centre. Training started on September 12 and ended on October 6. Besides classroom lectures, the trainees also learnt on the job by working at the development centre.

In addition, they were taken on visits to successful flower and vegetable farms in Nagpur as well as to a farm which specialised in developing lawns.

These visits helped the trainees interact with successful farmers and learn firsthand from them the potential in this line of farming.

The trainees have returned to their respective villages with plenty of new ideas and have promised to try out some of these ideas.

List of successful trainees

Sr.No Name Village
1 Vinod Ramraoji Chaple Ghoti
2 Sanjay Dhanrajji Raut Amazhari
3 Rinkesh Sureshji Borkar Pathrai
4 Pradeep Natthuji Chaple Ghoti
5 Anil Ramraoji Kumre Sillari
6 Pratap Gopichandji Kodwate Sillari
7 Omraj Madhukarji Kalekar Pathrai
8 Mahendra Urkudji Sonwane Ghoti
9 Nishant Wasudeo Choudhary Pipariya
10 Narendra Edpachi Pathrai

Update from Giri Venkatesan, Vice-President, Satpuda Foundation

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

International Course in "Education as a tool for species conservation"

Satpuda Foundation in collaboration with the Wildlife Department of Maharashtra, Sant Gadgebaba Amravati University, Environment Education and Conservation Global( EECG) and Nature Conservation Society, Amravati (NCSA) has organized an international course in ‘Education as a tool for species conservation with a focus on tiger in India.’

This will be the first such course of international importance to be organized in India. 15 selected delegates from several countries including India will participate in it, Vice-Chancellor of SGAU Dr Kamal Singh and Environmentalist Kishor Rithe told reporters on Monday.

The course will be conducted at SGAU as well as in Melghat and Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserves from November 2 to 20.

The course has been organized to prepare emerging environmentalists so that they can create awareness in people about climate change, environment conservation and other environment-related issues.

Different complex problems about environment will be taught and discussed during this course and measures to solve them will also be tackled.

Participants include six delegates from Bangladesh, Nepal and Thailand and nine members from Jammu Kashmir, Assam, Andman and Nicobar and Maharastra.

Click here to read more about the Course.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Red Peril

Above, below: The Indian Wild Dog, or Dhole

Below: A scarred male marks territory

Above: Hunt of Sambar, interrupted (unintentionally) by our arrival

Below: Dhole dragging killed Chital fawn away

Below: Dhole pup swimming, Pandarpaoni meadow

My regular driver in Tadoba (Bandu) can't quite understand my obsession with the Dhole.

He finds it odd that I can sit for an hour or more staring at Dholes instead of rushing around the reserve trying to get a tiger "sighting."

To me, and many others too, this animal is a stellar attraction in the jungles, as magnetic as the tiger or leopard. I am, after all, as much of a dog person as a cat person. And the Dhole or Indian Wild Dog is one of the most fascinating members of the canid family.

I've been very lucky: these beautiful little dogs have honoured me with quite a lot of their time, on my visits to Tadoba-Andhari, Pench and Nagarhole. Sometimes they've sat in the grass just 40 feet away from our vehicle, playing and rolling in the grass like village pups, casting a glance at us from time to time but not particularly bothered by our presence. Sometimes they've marked territory. Once we drove some distance behind three Dhole bitches as they bounded along a path.

I can't agree with Kipling's unflattering depiction of them in the Second Jungle Book, in which they feature as villains. Here's how he describes their peculiar hunting screams: "...a hideous kind of shriek that the jackal gives when he is hunting behind a tiger, or when there is a big killing afoot. If you can imagine a mixture of hate, triumph, fear and despair, with a kind of leer running through it, you will get some notion of the pheeal that rose and sank and wavered and quavered far away across the Waingunga..."

It is a strange sound actually, like a whistle. Last year I watched a pack of fourteen Dholes hunting (in Tadoba) and the air was full of these high-pitched shrieks. It took me a few minutes to realize who was making the sounds - they are so un-doglike!

That hunt was an unforgettable event in my life, a miracle of co-ordination and teamwork. We were right inside it, surrounded by it! I have this memory of the panicking Chital herd running like lightning, handsome stags and does and fawns, and Dholes streaking all around us with their bushy tails flying: both predator and prey at the absolute height of their power and skill. Because their lives, quite literally, depended upon their performance in this deadly arena. When a young Chital was finally brought down, I could only feel relieved that after all their effort, the dogs would not go hungry. A kill is not a pretty sight, but there is nothing "cruel" about wild predators hunting. It is simply the way they eat and make it to the next day. It's a rare privilege to get such a glimpse into the real life of the jungle.

These dogs have an electrifying effect on herbivores. Everything runs when Dholes appear on the scene, even huge boar and sambar many times their size. A hunting dhole pack seems to inspire more fear than the big cats even. Having witnessed the focused ferocity of such a pack, I'm not surprised by the herbivores' reaction. I've seen these pretty little dogs clear the huge Pandarpaoni meadow in Tadoba in just a few seconds. I was once told of a pack that even "treed" a tiger.

Unlike many big cats, these animals don't seem uneasy in the presence of humans, at least that has been my experience. They give you a measuring look, as if trying to figure out whether you are likely to bother them or not, but they don't look nervous or scared. I would almost imagine that they are curious about us, and not unfriendly, but I don't want to jump to such conclusions. It is well known that we humans view domestic dogs through a cloud of delusion, and this may extend to wild canids as well.

If you've never seen a Dhole, my advice is to head to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve and spend a few days there.

If you're lucky, Kipling's "Red Killer" will cross your path.

Note: Due to technological incompetence, I am unable to upload my photos in a way that retains their true colours. Dholes in real life and in my original images are much redder than they look here.