शोले के जय और वीरू को तो आप जानते होंगे, लेकिन आज हम आपको मिलवाने जा रहे हैं चीन के दो ऐसे दोस्तों से जो सालों से न केवल एक दूसरे का सहारा बने हुए हैं बल्कि तमाम मुश्किलों के बावजूद प्रकृति के प्रति अपने दायित्त्व को निभा रहे हैं. इन दोस्तों को यदि चीन के जय और वीरू कहा जाए तो कुछ गलत नहीं होगा. Jia Haixia और Jia Wenqi हर रोज़ पेड़ लगाते हैं ताकि अपने गांव को बाढ़ से बचाया जा सके. ख़ास बात यह है कि Wenqi के दोनों हाथ नहीं हैं और Haixia नेत्रहीन हैं. पिछले 13 सालों से दोनों के दूसरे की आंख और हाथ बने हुए हैं.
दोनों रोजाना हथौड़ाऔर लोहे की रॉड लेकर जंगल की ओर निकल जाते हैं. Wenqi आगे-आगे चलते हैं और Haixia उनकी शर्ट पकड़कर पीछे-पीछे. जब बात नदी पार करने की आती है, तो Haixia, Wenqi की पीठ पर चढ़ जाते हैं, ताकि तेज़ बहाव उन्हें गिरा न दे. वैसे तो दोनों बचपन के साथी हैं, लेकिन स्कूल के बाद उनके रास्ते जुदा हो गए पर शायद किस्मत में दोबारा मिलना लिखा था. Haixia को बचपन से एक आंख से दिखाई नहीं देता था और साल 2000 में हुए फैक्ट्री हादसे ने उन्हें पूरी तरह से नेत्रहीन बना दिया. Wenqi जब महज 3 साल के थे, तब हाई वोल्टेज बिजली की तार की चपेट में आने से उनके हाथ चले गए.
13 साल पहले जब दोनों फिर से मिले तो उन्होंने एक साथ रहना तय किया. दोनों को पेड़ पौधों का शौक है. इसलिए सरकारी 8 एकड़ ज़मीन पर पर वो पौधे लगाते हैं और उनकी देखरेख करते हैं. Haixia के मुताबिक, हमारे लिए ये काम मुश्किल नहीं. शुरुआत में गांव वालों ने साथ नहीं दिया, लेकिन अब सब हमारे साथ हैं. वन विभाग की तरफ से इस काम के लिए दोनों को कुछ पैसे दिए जाते हैं, जिससे उनका घर चल जाता है. Haixia और Wenqi पूर्वी चीन में दोस्ती की मिसाल बन चुके हैं.
A walk is the best way to start your day in the jungle for it takes you through so many twist and turns and spy work on the way revealing what the animals were up to last night or where they are and what they might be doing at present, for the dirt tracks and the sandy beds around pools and rivers in the jungle record those signs and evidences that usher you gently into the realm of the wild and uncovers a world so far unknown to you. Let’s go for a walk in the jungle.
Karmajhiri, December 2006, at 6.00 AM, I am up and about. The sun is peeping from the east to light up the horizon, the morning breeze is cold, crisp and piercing – I feel it on my already numb cheek – and the ground is still wet with dew. A herd of chital has just finished grazing in the meadow in front of the log huts and on seeing me emerge they move unhurriedly towards a patch of forests beyond the fire line. One of the stag suddenly stands on its hind legs and rubs his face against the leaves of a drooping branch of an Indian laburnum tree – he is marking his domain with the scent of his facial glands placed below each eye – scent is a strong means of communication in deer world.
Now, I am on to the foot path that, after a short walk, brings me to the forest road to Alikatta (an erstwhile forest village that was resettled outside the park ) and which now has developed into an impressive grassland touching the mid-east bank of the Totaladoh reservoir that submerged about 75 square kilometers of forest area that was once lush with stately teak trees. The felling of trees from such a huge area created a much needed edge habitat which was almost absent within Pench national park. This artificially developed edge helped chital to thrive more than any other species for chital is an animal of such transitional habitat. The edge also becomes a congregation ground for almost all animals of the park during the summer season when food and water become limited elsewhere. And in winter the apparently seamless reservoir attracts flocks of migratory birds, transforming it into a paradise for bird-watchers.
As I approach the causeway that leads to the old rest house, towards the left, I see a pair of Malabar pied hornbill busy devouring juicy fruits on the fig tree. These birds love fig fruits and make so much noise with their rattling piercing gibberish. Here, near the newly built machan house (a house built on high pillars) – from here you can watch animals, birds and butterflies without alarming them – here, I wait for Soni. We have planned a morning trek into the nooks and corners of Pench.
Soni is a fine forester, deeply interested in wildlife and loves his job. I recall how some 24 years ago he had applied to the post of wildlife guard and missed it by a few marks, but as he was young and smart the ranger hired him as a barrier help at Turia –the gateway to the Pench National Park. I, then the director of this park often met this boy at the barrier and every time he impressed me by displaying a rare understanding of the ways of the wild and his eagerness to learn – he deserved better. And soon came an opportunity to give him his due, and I appointed him as a regular wildlife guard, when a vacancy arose.
My walk down the memory lane is interrupted for I hear whirring of a motorcycle – Soni has arrived from Alikatta. Alighting from the bike, he gives me a customary salute and smartly unpacks his haver sack, takes out two pairs of binoculars and a bird book; we begin our walk towards Gurshal ghat. Grasses under the trees are yellow and coarse and the seeds all shed by this time; the deer like chital and barking deer that mainly eat grass go through a tough time in winter as forage gets scarce, but in the park they have some respite as there is a felt of soft green grass along both side of the forest road. The green grass has come up as the staff has burned the roadside strips of dry grass recently – this is a strategy to control forest fires and as a bonus the deer get green grass – for the night dew has caressed the growing tissues and aided production of fresh sprouts on this burned strip that now acts as a fire break and a favourite grazing ground for deer.
We leave the main road and take a right turn into thick lantana bush, as Soni finds an animal track, we plunge into it, my tall frame is not suitable for such dashes into a tangle of thorny bushes but this is a jungle walk and Soni is a hard task master, I bend and bow, turn and twist and wriggle my way through this thorny jungle and while doing so see the footprints of chital and sambar on the dirt track and two bulbul’s nests in the bushes- bulbul loves to eat lantana berries for lantana -an alien from central and south America – is now naturalised in our country and many indigenous birds and animals love its juicy berries and the shelter it offers to them for resting, ambush and breeding.
Out of the bush we are now on the fire-line which runs from north to south and ends up on Bodanala road, where we shall be going soon after climbing up the Khairvan matta – matta is the local name for a plateau – for we hope to see bears or their signs here. Trudging up the murram – road to the plateau we find fresh tracks of a leopard and then a day old droppings of a hyena, – you may ask how we know for sure that the pug of the leopard is fresh and the droppings of hyena a day old – good question, for questioning is a precursor to learning. The pug is clear on the fine gravel its edges intact and the hollow made by its pad and toes have no litter ( twigs, dry leaves) in it, and the lines which are impressed on the pad is intact, if the print were old you would have found worn out edges, no lines within the pad and some litter inside the trough of the pad, one more thing that these lines or their absence within the hollow tell you is that whether the animal is young or old- a young animal will have a smooth pad which would leave a smooth impression on the soil, the lines are seen if the animal is old – as the animal grows old its pad wears out over time due to friction with the ground and then the pad leaves these marks on soil; as for hyena’s droppings – a fresh dropping is moist and some times in winter you may see vapours rising from it and a very old dropping would be brittle or already disintegrated, the one we see today is intact and still slightly moist which tells me clearly that the dropping is a day old and it is of a hyena for the whiteness comes from its ability to crush and eat bones of its prey.
On the flats of Khairvan matta we finally come across the foot prints of a bear and this bear has feasted on the bel fruits is obvious for we see bear droppings at several places, quite slushy and full of bel seeds. We begin to go down at the other side of plateau towards the natural spring which the locals have named Pandri aier (white water) for its water is turbid with some dissolved mineral that makes it look like diluted milk. This spring was embanked to store water for earlier water from this spring tricked down the slope without being availed by the wild animals except bees – after containing the water with a mud wall a pipeline was installed to siphon water down to the meadow in the valley below. This improvisation worked well – the sambar and wild pig got their wallows and other animals and birds a watering hole.
While coming down wespend some time at the spring, Soni cleans up the debris (pebbles and leaf litter) heaped at the mouth of the pipe to restore smooth flow of water, and then we walk down into the valley – a herd of five sambar (one stag and four does), two tree pies and a troop of langur are around the water hole. The stag is in the wallow for in this part this is the time of the year when sambar stag become raffish and to impress the does with its scent, and to gain doe’s favor it wallows in the mud leaving its strong scent (pheromones) that its glands under the eyes and between the hooves produce in ample amount. Coming back to the scene at the water hole -one female langur is busy disciplining a young one whose puerile antics have become intolerable and another one is busy suckling its newborn. One boss male struts through its realm supervising the troop members.
From the valley we return to the Karmajhiri road. As we move along, our eyes scan the gravely road for footprints, the trees for birds and the woodlands for animals. Though it is difficult to find clear footprints on a road strewn with pebbles but a regular flow of vehicles on this one has created spots on the road where the soil has become fine grained and perfect to record the movement of the forest denizens, besides the staff have laid impression pads (a 2mx2m strip of fine soil) at several places on the road to record the foot prints of animals. While going uphill to Gurshal ghat, in the fine dirt we see tiny footprints which is overlaid by a trail of parallel furrows – a porcupine had used the road in the night – and a few yards ahead on the flat portion of the ghat we see a deep brown beaded string, its droppings.
As we descend from the ghat a sambar bells and then a doe and two young sambar in velvety winter coats dart across the road and clear a ditch on the other side in graceful bounds; sambar of Pench are so handsome. At this place the jungle reverberates with all kinds of sounds – continuous clamour from the seven sisters ( jungle babblers), distant and monotonous kutroo-kutroo of the brown headed barbet, a piercing ascending pea-kahaan – pea kahaan of the brain fever bird and occasional wake up calls from the jungle fowl and high pitched meow-meow of the peacock – that reminds us we are not alone -and then suddenly from our right, about 200 yards away, a langur sitting in the tendu tree begins to holler, – this is no ordinary call – it is a typical signal to all denizens of the forest that a predator is on the move. But soon afterwards we hear the sawing sound and know that it is a leopard going back to rest after night’s work and he doesn’t mind if his fellow beings know of his
presence – for last night he had a hearty meal.
The sawing goes feeble and fades, as we move on and reach the Sajajhori pond. We tip-toe up the embankment and we are lucky for seven gaur are drinking on the south most tip of the pond bordering the forests and a sounder of twenty pigs are raking over the mud not far from us. This group includes some newborn piglets – adorned in shiny pale yellow coats covered with dark brown stripes- they look adorable and nothing like their abominable seniors in their black mud smeared coats. A common kingfisher is perched on a snag in the middle of the pond, he takes off like a rocket and plunges into water and next second he is on the snag again – a small fish neatly wedged in its tiny bill. A racket tailed drongo dashes above flashing his beautiful shiny black feathers and two stout wires projecting from its tail, each wire ends up in a club like feather. Racket tailed drongos are master mimics, they copy the calls of a variety of birds and sometimes animals also, this one we see here keeps to himself.
We leave the pond and are back on the road, after about a kilometre we turn into Mannu talab road; here, on the left is a teak plantation – a favourite spot for gaur. We see several young teak trees debarked; this is handiwork of a herd of starving gaur. Soni stops and examines the road, he has noticed something interesting – he has found a colony consisting of numerous inverted funnels in the dirt – the homes of ant-lion larvae. The tiny ant lion is a great schemer – the inverted funnel it makes in the sand acts as trap to catch unsuspecting insects – as ants or other small insects move on to the rim the sand shifts downwards toppling the insect into the funnel. Once the poor prey slips into the funnel, ant lion sitting hidden at the bottom of the funnel flicks more sand on to it burying the prey completely and then grabs it in one swift dash and pulls it deep inside the den. Another amusing fact about the ant lion lies in its habit as an adult –the insect that emerges after pupation of ant lion larva is an all and all vegetarian, it looks like a dragon fly or damsel fly and feeds on pollen and nectar. In America, people call it ‘doodle bug’ – what an inept name for an intelligent predator. In my childhood, I enjoyed playing games with this bug – the ant lion bug keeps its home clear of all rubbish by flicking trash up and away from the funnel – I would gather my friends, find some ant lion dens and then we all took turn to put grass seeds or small pieces of twigs into their funnels and watch them flick these items, one after the other, out of its hearth and we would thoroughly enjoy ant lion’s gimmick.
After spending sometime with the ant lions we walk further and enter Bans nala – a damp, moist place overgrown with bamboo, here on the wet ground we see the spoor of a tiger – we examine it closely, the tiger came from the direction from which we are coming, in the depressions of the pugs there are no leaf litter or twigs- means pug impressions are fresh – and then we see the shape and size – it is almost a square, to be precise Soni pulls out a tape measure from his sack and we measure the size of the hind pug, it is – Length 15.4 x Breadth 15.6 cms; we, then measure the stride from the tip of the left hind pug to the tip of the left front pug – it measures 207.26 cms (6.8 feet). We conclude it is a grown up male tiger (about 9.8 feet), and perhaps not very far from us. And then we hear a low growl coming from a dark bower – about 20 yards away – created by drooping bamboo culms . We have been duly warned and so, remembering a good advice from childhood, ‘there is only a thin line that separates adventure from foolishness’, we retreat to the main road taking care not to disturb his highness, and decide to walk back to Karmajhiri. As we reach gursal ghat, we see my jeep coming towards us, Bhaiyalal has a message to deliver – I am needed at Bhopal – the wildlife HQ – urgently.
Saying thanks to Soni, I hop into the jeep and drive towards NH7. Good bye my dear Pench.
Such forays into the jungle are great teachers and I learn something new every time I tread on the dirt roads, schlep up the ridges and jostle through bush. Though, reading this jungle book demands keeping my eyes sharp as a scanner, ears tuned to slightest sound, and nostrils clear to discern different aromas that the jungle emanates at various places and more importantly my brain alert to act smartly in the face of danger lest an aberrant tiger catches me unaware and decides to send me to Arcadia. I will end this story with the beautiful thought by Foss that captures the essence of jungle and its seekers.
The woods were made for the hunters of dreams,
The brooks for the fishers of song;
To the hunters who hunt for the gunless game
The streams and the woods belong. ~Sam Walter Foss
थाईलैंड में वन विभाग ने बौद्ध मंदिर से बाघों को छुड़ाने का अभियान शुरू कर दिया है। मंदिर पर Tigers को सताने और वन्य जीवों की तस्करी के आरोप लगे हैं। वन विभाग काफी समय से कार्रवाई करने की कोशिश कर रहा था, लेकिन हर बार मंदिर प्रशासन के रुतबे के चलते उसे अपने कदम वापस खींचने पड़ते थे। लेकिन इस बार अदालत ने खुद आदेश दिया है, इसलिए मंदिर प्रशासन और उसके हिमायती खामोश हैं।
कंचनाबुरी प्रान्त में स्थित मंदिर से अब तक 137 बाघों में से कुछ को निकाल लिया गया है। बाकी को धीरे धीरे सुरक्षित स्थानों पर पहुंचाया जाएगा। बाघों को यहां से हटाने के लिए एक हजार कर्मचारियों का दल काम में लगा हुआ है। बौद्ध भिक्षुओं ने पहले वन विभाग की कार्रवाई पर आपत्ति जताई, लेकिन अदालत के कड़े रुख के बाद वे सहयोग को तैयार हो गए। पर्यटन स्थल
थाईलैंड में वॉट फा लुआंग बुआ बाघ मंदिर लोकप्रिय पर्यटन स्थल बन चुका है। यहां पर्यटक फीस चुकाकर बाघों को खाना खिला सकते हैं, उनके साथ फोटो ले सकते हैं। आरोप है कि यहां बाघों का गैरकानूनी प्रजनन भी कराया जाता था। पिछले साल पड़े छापे में पता चला था कि मंदिर में जरूरी अनुमति के बिना सियार और एशियाई भालुओं को रखा गया था।