Small contours of Rali Forest could be seen from quite a distance as we drove past the fields. Kadem canal’s extension work was in progress, soon we parked jeep and crossed the canal to venture into the forest.
The Forest on other side of canal is good enough with occasional felling.
The climb was rocky and difficult. Wild dogs scats were seen. Also a Leopard scat was found soon.
Once we reached the top of the plateau the forest was better and thicker.
Human presence was absent, although weeds show that cattle do come here, parthenium had occupied the vast plateau.
We walked on a significant game trail and soon we hit a small rocky hill.
Our forest floor was only rock now and we found deep holes filled with water.
(similar ones are seen in Deepam banda, Birsaipet)
Few signs of blood were seen near water hole, some slaughter and feast had taken place earlier (some ritual maybe).
But the forest was good around, and some larger termenalia were also seen around here.
Sambar Doe and Fawn droppings.
The deer are predominantly Sambar here, all sambar hoof marks were around us.
Rutting was quite obvious on trees.
Sambar Rutting on trees.
We spend an hour on the plateau, but the team was tired and restless now.
We started to descend, on the descend we found some villagers were around the hills edge.
We climbed down soon and found three men felling with axes.
staff confiscated the axes and we returned to the Jeep.
Tiger can find good Sambar here, but due to rocky nature of floor (with sharp stones) their longer presence can be doubtful. Although further deep in the forest we need to visit and asses it further.
Note: Rali Block forms one of the critical corridor for Kawal Tiger Reserve.
WORKSHOP ON LAW ENFORCEMENT
Date:18, 19 & 20 October ’2012
Place: Kawal Tiger Reserve, Andhra Pradesh
Venue: Training Hall, Forest Nursery, Jannaram
Details: The Chief Conservator of Adilabad Mr. Nalini Mohan and the D.F.O Jannaram Mr. RamaKrishna Rao with 35 staff members (Range Officers, DRO’s, FSO’s, & FBO’s) have attended the workshop on Law Enforcement that was funded by Panthera.
Resource Person: Mr. Saurab Sharma, Advocate, Hon’ble Supreme Courts
KTR Staff attending the sessions.
Objective: To educate the forest staff about the Wildlife Protection Act and the methods to implement it. To build up the confidence level of the staff so that they can accomplish their task and contribute their services in protecting the wildlife and their habitat.
The Chief Conservator of Adilabad Mr. Nalini Mohan and the D.F.O Jannaram Mr. RamaKrishna Rao with 35 staff members (Range Officers, DRO’s, FSO’s, & FBO’s) have attended the workshop on Law Enforcement. The workshop began at 10:30 A.M with an introduction speech delivered by the D.F.O. A questionnaire was given to all the participants for the pre-session analysis. A resource book containing the Wildlife Protection Act, investigation related drafts were also distributed to the staff. Sandy did the telugu translation simultaneously.
After completing the first session the staff was divided into six different teams wherein each team was given a case scenario to be solved. The participants were asked to write the investigation steps, sections to be invoked and a draft of the seizure memo.
After the lunch three Crime Scenes were arranged in different areas at the venue. Two teams were sent for investigation in each area of crime. The staff participated and did their mock investigation. Later they shared their experience with the DFO and had given a positive feedback.
The D.F.O and Mr. Sharma has inaugurated the “Toll Free” poster which would be displayed in all the villages within the Tiger Reserve. (The poster was designed and published by Asif and Imran).
On the 15th of August, 6 a.m we entered Nehru Zoological Gardens for Birdwatching.
Imran discussed basics of Birding while the Birds kept distracting his audience – Birds were active early!
We were 6 members and a Naturalist named Sandeep working at zoo who also guided us.
“Black swans were moved inside for breeding”, Sandeep told us and he also gave lots of insights and updates….
We moved at a very slow pace and observed keenly all along the walk.
The Birds List (recorded by us):
a. Rose ringed Parakeets
b. Spotted Dove
c. Common Myna
d. Tickells Blue Flycatcher
e. Night Heron
f. Purple Heron
g. Grey Heron
h. Silver Bill
i. Ashy Prinia
j. Tailor Bird
j. White Breasted KingFisher
l. White headed babbler (also called Yellow Billed Babbler)
n. Painted Stork
o. Red Wattled Lapwing
p. Purple Sunbird
q. Pied Wagtail
s. Indian Robin
Note: This list is from my notes, please add/report the birds I missed out.
The night herons looked amazing! they were at least a hundred or so near the beautiful pond next to Elephant enclosure. The deer enclosures as well looked fabulous for Birding .
After the Birding at sharp 8 a.m flag hoisting function was attended by the team.
Mr. Mallikarjun the zoo Director hoisted the flag. We later had a small discussion with him.
Some members of our team had breakfast with the staff.
It was a wonderful Independence day outing for team hyticos.
Kawal: In the Rain.
“Forests have forever fascinated me and wilderness has intrigued my curiosity. But experiencing Kawal transform in rains has always been a special experience”.
In this trip we witnessed the nature’s transformation in full rage. Green shades were all around, with insects buzzing, frogs croaking and also birds feasting on grubs. Larvae were seen transform into butterflies and lot’s more.
We loaded our Jeep with minimum rations of rice and dal and went to Gangapur in Kadem Range. As we drove on the road from Jannaram towards utnoor, butterflies in hundreds were seen migrating towards south.
A Langur’s Skull.
Our stay was planned in an old antique building which is now used as base camp of 8 forest guards. After cooking and eating dal, boiled eggs and rice we started to explore forest around Gangapur. Gaurs had come very close to us we heard them yet thickness of bush in hills made sighting impossible.
Giridhar, Vasal Ramesh, Gangaram, Shakar and Chendu were my accomplice. Next morning we drove to Morripeta and had trekked along Cheekman River to Palaragodi. We eat bread and jam near Cheekman River which has some flow going thanks to recent rains.
Grey Headed Fishing Eagle took wing overhead and we trekked all along the river. The fruit bearing Jamun trees were found,the water plants were multiplying in pools along with plankton. Small fishes and tadpoles swelled in these water pools.
On the rivers left was Wasepalli Forest of Pembi. The villagers at Palaragodi were pleasant and welcomed us, the Patel offered black tea. Later our dal and rice was cooked there. They asked us why they were not getting rains? to which I replied because you have lost all Tigers! They didn’t understand then we explained how destructing forest and wildlife can induce climate changes affecting rains.
They lost faith for any compensations from Forest Department for Cattle Killed by carnivores. They have been doing and are bound to poison carcasses! It is shameful that we continue to lose carnivores to this evil practice.
On our way back we trekked through forest which was easier compare to walking in River bed.
Bronze backed Snake.
On reaching jannaram we got information of a cow killed by a Leopard. Next morning we found it difficult to trace exact point but with help of GPS we reached the exact point. Nothing much was left a skull lay there with few shreds of torn body lie around.
I spoke to local beat officer and asked him to complete the report and panchnama, Later DFO assured me payment will be made soon. DFO also agrees that compensation cannot be delayed, he wants to put more posters for awareness in Kawal and around neighboring hamlets where cattle might get killed by carnivores.
On one evening of my trip Shankar and I took the newly appointed trackers to forests beyond canal near malial. We did little birding, Pied Cuckoos, Falmeback Woodpeckers, Mynas were commonly seen.
Importantly we discussed in length about how to go about wildlife tracking, anti poaching, forming informers inside villages for curbing local hunts and vigilance, their queries were answered too. We got to see Barking deer and Peafowls on our drive back.
Eggs and Mating Frogs.
Also I happen to spend some time in Kalpakunta on my last day, it was mystical in the morning mist.
The hills were covered in mist, the frogs made so much croaking that we couldn’t talk.
A Seprent Eagle was indolently moving on a distant branch of a high tree. A pair of Wolly necked storks sat on huge tree next to us. I drove little further spend some time beyond Rampur to call it a day!
In this trip it was heartening to see Chendu and Giridhar collecting data and monitoring the activities of trackers. They will need more support, volunteering and help from us in coming months. It was a very pleasing trip and I am inclined for spending more time in Kawal pretty soon!
Text & Photos by Asif Siddiqui
Notes from my Diary.
For the first time I am writing about Nagarjuna-Sagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve.It was the yearly estimations of Tigers, Leopards and carnivores that APFD was carrying out. Although the Nallamalla landscape is a very vast with 3500 Sq kms of Forest, we had selected to volunteer for the huge Mannanur Range.
It was 3rd of May 2012 and was already dark in the night by the time we drove to Mannanur. To my surprise Mr. Ramakishen the in charge ACF, had served in Kawal as a Range Officer. He not only knew me, but offered best in class air conditioned accommodation and was prompt to discuss next morning’s activity. It was also possible for us to go to Farhabad camp he told. Vardhman and Bharat had traveled with me in Jeep, although we were ready to venture in forest that night itself, but tired trackers and guards were not present for our night adventure.
Our First Morning in Forest
Next morning were delegated with 2 staff members (FSO and an FBO) . We went straight to see the Tiger Pug marks which were reported couple of days ago in farhabad.
It was a good feeling to see huge tracks carved in the soil, the rain helped the paws deep into soil. Plaster casts were already taken but we still got GPS recordings.
Wild Flowers at Gudem
We also examined another natural lake and followed it up with drive to Gudem which holds water in deep arches cut out in granite. APFD has supplemented these natural water bodies with cement saucer pits, that are filled using a water tanker.
Grey Hornbill on fruits laden Ficus tree.
Sightings were common across the forest drive, Chital, Four Horned Antelope and Nilgai were abundant. Our Jeep needed stops in quick intervals for viewing deers. We also spent some afternoon time at farhabad view point, that overlooks the great valley and its forests below.
Trek, discussions and plan:
Another two volunteers Raj and Jyoti joined us in Mannanur. As staff had been posted in a chinchu hamlet for checking pugmarks, we planned to go there in evening. After parking the Jeep in a village inside forest we trekked 6 kms along with FSO to reach another Chinchu village, earlier rocky terrain made the jeep drive impossible and eventually we had to walk.
Team Hyticos Trekking Across Forest.
Prominently an old temple ruin with lake in backdrop looked classic. Our stay was planned in a chinchu hut on the farther side of lake bund. The FSO who accompanied us was disappointed that most of water holes had already dried. Maps which I had carried were out, in torch light at the chinchu hut we discussed the plan next. Our officer was clueless how to reach to effectively carry our estimations in far off sections bordering Krishna river. I advised him as thr Krishna runs parallel to this range and all points will be accessible if a boat is tried for survey.
A Chichu Hut
We decided and broke in 2 teams, first team trekked 20 kms to find Tiger Pugmarks near the next water hole. Bharat, Raj and Jyoti went ahead under this plan, and also as the FSO was concerned that nothing had been reported in the northern and southern parts of his section, he hinted me to go back and visit it next day.
A Reddy King’s temple ruin.
Tiger PugMarks and many deers
We slept on the floor outside the hut, it was windy all night, early morning me and Vardhaman trekked back to Jeep, we found a Leopard trail all along our way. That day evening we checked another team stationed at remote chinchu hamlet, They had found 2 Tiger pugmarks. but looked wearied down and tired.
Staff with Tiger pugmark plaster casts.
We had great sighting on the drive back to mannanur. Once I saw at least 8 Sambar alerted by my Jeep! It was an awesome sighting.
In the night I had discussion with DFO and Ranger, they quickly agreed to provide a Boat for me with Beat Officer, driver and got 100 litres of Kerosene for our trip to Vemuna Vaya.
Boat drive to Vemuna Vaya:
It was a very sunny morning, Sampath and Praveen had joined the previous night. We drove to Sunnipenta and waited couple of hours for driver and kerosene to arrive.
Around 11:00 a.m we sailed our boat in Krishna, soon near a hill slope a pack of Wilddogs were seen, the pack leader made strange noises and the pack retreated.
Wild dog on rocky slope.
On driving further we met our counterpart team, they had trekked and hit Krishna, they had to walk 35-40 kms they told and they were looking totally tired. Soon we zoom passed them in our boat, we checked accessible base of valleys and forest openings by our boat, basically we wished for some luck for signs of carnivores. We found a carcass of huge Sambar, it was killed and eaten by Tiger the beat officer told. In another sandy patch bordering river I found some Cat’s pugmarks. Those looked huge for a Jungle Cat, but not like a Leopards in size. The cat had moved to water and back all across this sandy 20 X 6 mts patch. Beat officer was sure that it was a Fishing Cat!
Our counterpart team.
Probable fishing Cat Pugmark.
Illegal fishing all along the river was seen, drag nets, gill nets and all kinds of nets were around us. There were atleast 50 settlements bordering the river, every 2 kms we found huts on the rocky slopes and these people were from Vizag. They had makeshift huts some looked even puccca constructions. We took lunch break in near one such settlement on the slope, it also had a temple consutructed in cement.
Illegal fishing across Krishna River.
Krishna river with hills on both sides is magnificent, they just look gorgeous in bright hues of brown, gray and tanned orange. The valleys open sometimes into the river and here we found wild grasses and flowers. The soil is hard and was difficult to get pugmarks our beat officer complained, while our boat driver did a great job making possible for the boat reach such critical points. We finally stopped near Vemuna Vaya in late evening, it was a muddy bank which lead into the forest and it was here we settled for the night.
Flower from flower Valley.
That night also it was windy and no stars were seen due to clouds, as we lay in awe in natures lap enjoying every moment of it. In night we heard low squeals of Otters which were seen dotting 5o mt from our Boat, the activity continued in dark as we got bored and slept. Next morning one team went inside towards forest and met chinchus from the local area, they told a Tiger had killed a horse last week. We had breakfast in the boat itself, we had prepared puli hara out of the rice that was leftover last night.
Our Motor Boat and driver.
We reach back Sunnipenta by lunch, after finishing the formalities I headed back to Hyderabad. Our team had lots of fun, while I was very content to get some idea about Mannanur Range.
“Nallamala landscape is last stronghold of Tigers in Andhra Pradesh. If it were to be protected then we need to understand the landscape, wildlife and its tribes, also scientific studies by our team members will help our strategies. Now is the moment to try unravel all mysteries and ensure Tigers find save haven here forever.”
Text and Photos by Asif Siddiqui
Rampant encroachment of forest land
S. HARPAL SINGH
Villagers clear trees even as officials delay notification and development of KWS
If thick forests are essential for the survival of tigers, development of Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary (KWS) as a tiger reserve is also imperative for protecting the fast vanishing jungles in this district. Any further delay in notifying KWS as the 41st tiger reserve in the country spells doom for whatever is left of the pristine forests here, opine experts.
The fresh encroachment by villagers from Kothurpalli, Kothurpalli Naikpod hamlet, Laxmipur Thanda, Manneguda, Alinagar and Dongapalli in an over 60-acre piece of reserve forest in Jannaram mandal is a case in point. Around 400 villagers cleared trees in compartment numbers 306, 307 and 308, located in the core area of the KWS, on February 11 apparently on the assumption that they will not be allowed to do so once KWS is declared as a tiger reserve.
The Union government, through the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), had issued a notification (on September 14, 2011) to transform the KWS as a tiger reserve because of its inherent potential in this regard. The State government, however, seems to be reluctant to issue the notification on its part.
Conservationists see two reasons for the delay in the State government delaying the relevant notification. “Opposition to establishment of the tiger reserve by local tribes is one and the seeming antipathy of higher officials in Hyderabad towards the project is the second but more important reason,” says an official summing up the perception of locals.
After the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, came into force, Forest officials are finding it increasingly difficult to keep under check illegal felling of trees by local tribal people. As many as 17 cases have been registered under Forest Laws against encroachers in the area since 2008 yet, there is no stopping the illegal activity.
“Our only hope lies in the tiger reserve becoming a reality. Besides better management of forests becoming a possibility, the mental makeup of villagers suggests that they will desist from forest degradation only after the notification,” points out the official.
Meanwhile, Forest officials have urged the Revenue authority at Jannaram to impose prohibitory orders in Kothurpalli and surrounding areas.
The encroachers are staying put despite appeals for vacating the place.