Friday, March 4, 2011

A preview of new lantana products...

It's been a while since we talked about the lantana programme, so here's a bit of background first.

Lantana is an introduced species in India, and it has become a problem in many places because it grows fast and profusely at the expense of native vegetation and grasses. In our Satpuda landscape it's seen mostly in Pench Tiger Reserve. Here's a picture below, taken in Pench on my last trip. You can see how it completely takes over an area if left to grow unchecked.

Inside the park keeping a certain amount of lantana is probably a good idea, since tigers seem to like resting in lantana thickets. Below is a tigress I saw earlier this week, sleeping inside a lantana patch with her five cubs. You can see one of them in this picture. She had hidden her kill (a chital) under the tangled branches nearby.

Below: Another tigress I clicked in 2009, sleeping inside a lantana patch. Again, she had hidden her kill nearby.

However, if it's allowed to grow without any control, lantana prevents grass and other vegetation from growing. And prey animals of the tiger - chital predominantly - need that grass. So large expanses of lantana don't help the tiger at all in the long run.

The Forest Department in Pench has been encouraging villagers on the park periphery to cut and use lantana wood instead of bamboo. A group of villagers were trained to work with this wood and make trays, furniture and other items. Click here to see some of this work.

We decided to develop some more products as well, with these criteria: they should be small and easy for tourists to pack and take home; they should be easy for us to transport in large numbers to Mumbai and other cities; and they should be relatively easy to produce, so that villagers would not get bored or disheartened while making them.

Here are two of the new products: clothes hangers and hair sticks.

The person making these at present is Shatrughan, who lives in the village Sawra. I have a picture of him somewhere which I will dig out and post separately, some time soon. He made the hangers and carved them himself. The steel-coated hook component was made in Mumbai.

After much brainstorming, experimentation with painting and innovative painting materials - all by my friend Kalpana Malani who helped a lot with this project - we decided to try some carved geometric designs. Shatrughan executed them very well we think.

The hangers will be sold in sets of three. We will soon ask some resorts in Pench to display them in their souvenir shops, and they will also be available in Mumbai. We hope tourist resorts in Pench will also buy them for their rooms.

Nagging friends into helping with projects is quite a habit with me. Next time round the victim was Seema Kalla Churamani. I loved her suggestion of lantana hair ornaments.

Seema and I got a prototype made by a Mumbai wood carver, from a lantana branch I brought back with me. But Shatrughan's hair sticks were even better! Here are some below.

There will be another hair stick design with a metal embellishment at the top, but that's not ready yet.

More products in the pipeline: earrings, pendants, necklaces. Keep visiting this blog for updates!

Photos of lantana products: Kirti Chavan

Lindsay and Su in Tadoba

Lindsay McFarlane sent us these lovely photos of his trip with Su to Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in December 2010. The trip was the prize we offered the first place winner of the Mofilm
Goa video contest. Click here to see the film.

Above: Nilgai

Above: Dhole/Indian Wild Dog

Above: Yellow-footed Green Pigeons

Above, below: Langurs from different angles!

Above: Regal footprint...

Thanks for the pictures Lindsay!