Jagnath Wildlife Safari: Land of a hunter turned conservator

Source: Jagnath Wildlife Safari: Land of a hunter turned conservator


Jagnath Wildlife Safari: Land of a hunter turned conservator

I got the opportunity to meet a man who was once a hunter but now dedicated to conserve the wilderness in a small piece of land owned my his family. Although he is running a safari as tourism business but never deviates from his real objective not to hurt the plants and animals in anyway. Jagnath Wildlife Safari is the tourism destination I am talking about. It is a remote private Jungle land of the Songara family of Kaniwara in Jalore district of Rajasthan. The safari is being run by Ravindra Singh Chauhan who is the person I am referring to in the subheading.

It is one of the best locations one can visit to learn tools and techniques for flora and fauna study. I reached there to attend a field training organised by Ecology and Rural Development Society of Jodhpur on ‘Wildlife Biology-tools and techniques. It was a lifetime opportunity for me to visit such place and meet wonderful people from different streams with like mind. While wondering in big nature reserves we never even hear about such small conservation reserves which is being maintained with personal interest in conservation rather than tourism enterprise far beyond policy and polity.

History of Jagnath 

These jungle lands were gift of the Royal Family of Marwar region seven generations ago to Songara family. They have naturally preserved a large amount of these lands (around 400 hectares). The total wildlife habitat is 180 square kilometre in area.

The wilderness campsite

Jagnath will remain a memorable stay and experience with its granite hills and variety of flora although sparse due to arid terrain but shows variety. The campsite is peaceful although interrupted by the blasts in nearby mines. But most noticeable thing is even the blast sound echoes among the hills surrounding the conserved area. Beautiful landscape filled with raves formed by sand dunes and hills which are extensions of the Aravalli. Some of the plants in the region belong to rare category and animal sighting is easy which shows how free the animals are wandering feeling safe.

Science lovers catch

For science lovers it is an opportunity to visit the ecotone-the junction of Thar Desert and Aravalli Hills. The effect of this junction can be witnessed by flora as well as fauna, as components of both the ecosystems are visible in the conservation area. This is the reason the small area harbours diversity of flora and fauna. In the Aravalli you will find mainly Anogeissus pendula and Bauhinia retusa. The sand dunes are nature library to study the diverse species of Acacia. For fauna experts you will find beautifully patterned praying mantis, camouflaged stick mantis and insect to the giant predator Leopard. Most sighted are Chinkaras and Bluebulls, but definitely sighting a Zerd is going to be tough here. Some other wild animals who have found shelter in this small land are Desert Fox, Porcupine, Desert and Jungle Cat, Hyena. In my experience I found favourite food of all kinds of animals in the area was Wild Plums (Zizyphus nummularia).

Nothing less for adventure lovers

It is must for every visitor to climb the Aravalli extensions to have a panoramic view of the area. Even nearby villagers and far off Jalore city is visible as bird’s eye view. Without climbing these rocks you will miss the real beauty of this place and views too. Enjoying a sunrise as well as a sunset cannot be possible without sitting on one of the hill tops.

First night in Jagnath must be a ‘lie down and watch up night’ to sooth your eyes with the clear sky embellished with constellations and if you are really lucky then you can sight meteors too. The night safari is also available which earns you sighting of nocturnal animals, must say all the animals here are nocturnal. Definitely don’t need to mention not to forget good cameras, good amount of batteries as well as memory cards and lots of concern for nature. Cameras to capture the moments, batteries will not let you down and miss any moment you wish to frame to kindle others and concern so that you can help in conservation by playing role of a true nature lover. Ravindra Singh Chouhan and his staff are conserving an important landscape and do take care that the visitors should also follow the dos and don’ts tourists must follow in nature reserve. Jagnath is in true sense an ecotourism destination in the must list of all nature travelers. I am thankful to Dr Sumit Dookia, Dr Amit Kotia, Ravindra Singh Chouhan and Dr Mamta Rawat from Ecology and Rural Development Society, Jodhpur for giving us such an opportunity. Thanks to all Mohit Verma, Azaad Ojha, Atul Gupta, Anurag Kushwaha, Mayank Bohra and Vigil Wilson for sharing pictures for this article.

Visual aids for conservation awareness – Documentary Movies

Awareness among public including all age groups and gender are need of today. from primary to graduation including the professional courses have a compulsory subject and examination on environmental awareness. The subject specifically carries general explanation and understanding for students of all subject streams not just science. The reason is to create understanding about their role in making and sustaining the Earth as living place for long time. Understanding the consequences of their activities they can be self motivated to save nature and natural resources. Including awareness and understanding of environment and biodiversity in course is just one medium of knowledge and awareness dissemination, however it involves several medium for teaching the same.
For adult and children who are not much exposed to learning through books thematic audios and videos are playing important role. Nowadays numerous videos in the form of small movies and documentaries are available in shown in television channels like National Geography, Discovery, History, Doordarshan. But what percentage of viewers are watching these movies and even out of them what percentage of the viewers who watch them are able to assimilate the learning or message in action. It will be really difficult to provide definite statistics in this regard. Everyone likes to listen the visual narration (whether live or animated or visual effects) of natural and human activities bringing change in nearby locality. But how many of them start searching the activities affecting their locality negatively and initiate movement to reverse it. If this is not happening then definitely the message delivered through best documentary movie will be in vain.
It’s not the responsibility of just the movie makers but people also to make any movie successful. In my words it is almost similar to any successful leader. A leader who is capable of bringing change in society is considered powerful and successful, here role of his followers is also important who help to disseminate leader’s message among masses. Similarly like minded people who understand the importance and message delivered through a movie try to disseminate the message through movie among masses.
In schools and colleges as well as public libraries routine shows and discussion sessions should be organised. Instead of merely watching the movie at the end of the session opinion and discussion session should be organised. The topic of discussion should be the message and its relevance and implementation to the locality of movie watchers and how they are connected with the story instead of the discussion on making and editing of the movie. The movie makers of such documentaries are people with sound knowledge of these issues and they want to share their knowledge with common people. This is the reason these movies are available in You Tube and other open communication media rather than theatres where you have to pay to get entertained.
Watch and enjoy science and related documentaries but do try to assimilate the message if you really like them.

Hello ! Is anybody in?

Yes I am knocking at the burrows in grounds to just check if we have someone there to help us in helping ourselves. We all know that these burrows are occupied by microorganisms to insects as well as large reptiles which may be fearful for us but definitely important part of the ecosystem we live. They dig holes and survive under our feet helping in soil conditioning, improving water percolation, nutrient retention in soil and controlling the counts of several insects through prey and predation link of food webs. But how we are offering our regards and thanks to these creatures? Do we even realise what consequences we may have to face if they are not there?

By concreting the floor around our houses we turn many lives homeless. The same way human settlements are removed for urbanisation. But the difference here is in that case human encroachments are removed and in this case human encroach on land of our helper creatures. It not only reduces surface area to allow water infiltration but also reduce burrowing area for our helper reptiles and insects like mouse, snakes, ants, crickets, termites. Although these names appear harmful but their role in maintaining our surrounding is irreplaceable.

We must therefore leave some ground open and without adding any insecticides or pesticides so that we can share the land with other animals also which is their right. Definitely keeping concrete walkways, decorated houses and ensuring safety from the mini-fauna is important but an ant won’t bite unless you disturb it. Similarly follow the right for personal space for the insects too and enjoy yours being friendly with nature.

Forests and Energy

Another year and we are observing International Forest Day.  But what is surprising this year – world is promoting fuelwood as renewable source of energy. The title of this article is the theme of International Forest Day 2017. We are teaching children that burning wood as fuel reduces forest and increases pollution,  and what the scientists and laurates are telling that forests have 40 % of the renewable energy capacity of the total energy obtained from the renewable energy sources solar,  wind and hydel power.  One will easily make a joke of this theme saying that scientists also change their perception and analysis according to need of human beings,  but this one person is definitely the one who is seeing the world with just one eye.  Yes it is proven truth that burning wood for fuel increases pressure on forest and adds up pollution in air we breathe.  But another truth is anything used sustainably pays off in the long run.  Similarly the heat energy obtained by burning wood if used efficiently then it can serve multiple purpose reducing the wood load on wood klins and ovens.
With the help of modern engineering and technology in Europe and other cold countries such ovens have been developed which can heat huge quantities of water, keep house warm through insulation at the same time while the food is being cooked.  This method and technique has reduced the wood lot needed for each family to survive the winters which extend for even more than six months. In such countries fuelwood is need without any alternative. There is nothing less for residents of tropical countries too.  It has been suggested to plant more and more trees strategically in cities and towns to reduce daily temperature cooling the cities and serve as oxygen houses. Of course it needs not to mention that along with strategic plantation by selection of right species of trees we can reduce air pollution as some trees like Willows,  Oak,  Mulberry,  Casurina, Poplars absorb pollutants from air,  water and soil.  Additional benefit is supply of feed and shelter for all kinds of organisms belonging to Kingdom-Animalia.
Although fuelwood has been suggested and is being promoted as renewable energy source it has to be taken care that the source of the fuelwood is following the rules and guidelines of Sustainable Forest Management. In this way the path of fuelwood as renewable energy source becomes tough, specially for our country and state. The reason why I opine this is when we are unable to control illegal felling of trees how we can ensure that the source of fuelwood is following the norms of sustainability. We must consider this theme as an opportunity to take some firm steps towards control of such crimes and make strong and positive result oriented moves towards sustainable forest management.
Do remember that when you are going to hug a tree to save it please don’t step on seedlings and saplings of trees which are raising heads under canopies.