Showing posts with label Waynad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Waynad. Show all posts

Trees that Watch Us

Recently Vinay and I trekked in Tholpetty forest with a local guide. Tholpetty forest is part of Waynad, Western Ghats. This forest is adjoining Nagarahole forest and is located in Kerala.
Tholpetty - Waynad
On entering the forest, we struggled to walk without stepping over the dry leaves that were scattered on the forest floor. We had to be as silent as possible so that we do not unduly advertise our presence to other denizens of the forest. This was even more important in this trek as we had seen more than half a dozen lone Tuskers on the previous  evening. 
Lone Tusker
However, this proved more difficult than I had anticipated: every few steps I invariably stepped over a dry teak leaf that crunched loudly under my feet. A troupe of Langurs watched us from their tree top perches and they seemed to wonder what we are up to in their forest.
We came across trees that had notches in their bark, resembling an eye. These notches or “eyes” might have been created when old branches had fallen out from the trunk of the tree. Our guide mentioned that tribal folks salute these trees with reverence; they believe these ‘trees with eyes’ always watch out for them and their forests. The way he looked at these trees with part reverence and part hesitation, convinced us he would have saluted the trees just like a tribal man, if it wasn’t for our presence.
Eye-shaped notch on the bark
As we progressed westwards into the deep jungle, the canopy of the trees grew thicker and the ferns covered the jungle floor. A stream was murmuring somewhere nearby and the air was filled with the chorus of Green Barbets, interjected by the calls of Malabar Grey Hornbills. As we carefully picked our way across a wet and slippery nullah, we came across elephant footprints that looked as though somebody had dug holes that were a foot in depth and a foot in diameter.  Water standing in the these footprints was still muddy indicating the elephant had passed here within the last few hours. There was a single set of these footprints; probably they belonged one of the lone tuskers we had seen in the previous evening.
Just as we were about to continue on our trek, we noticed the pug mark of a tiger, evidently just a few minutes old, as the grass that had bent where the tiger had tread, had not sprung back yet.  In fact, when our guide pointed out, we noticed there were two sets of tiger pug marks, one slightly smaller than the other. This was undoubtedly the queen of the jungle with her cub. It was no longer wise to continue on the same track, as a tigress with her cub tends to be very aggressive. We turned back, thrilled that we got so close to the queen of the jungle and walked where she had just walked; slightly disappointed that we could not meet her;  thankful that these majestic creatures still roam the forests.
Tiger Cub Pugmark
We had retraced a few steps, when I heard a strange clattering sound in close quarters and I stood still, only to hear this sound echoed from other corners of the forest. It was a sound of trepidation and seemed to stand out from the rhythm of the forest. When I looked back, Vinay was pointing at the towering giant of a tree.  I had to scan the tree for some time, before I could see the owner of this sound, who was demurely hiding behind the leafy branches, contrary to the bold calls he had just produced. This Malabar Giant Squirrel high up in the towering tree directly above us, was the one who had given these alarm calls, which was unfailingly reciprocated by his friends far and wide. He was clearly saying "Be Alert, Be Alert" in his language. Was he sounding this alarm for us or for the tigress?
In the forests, when we watch with the eyes of the forest folks and hear with their ears, every sight and sound has an enthralling story to tell.
On our way back, when we met the trees with eyes that watched us, we instinctively saluted them with a silent prayer in our heart... "Please keep the tigress and her cub safe... May this forest remain a forest forever..."

We were not yet out of the forest cover, but the magic of the forest was rudely intercepted by the sprawling plantations lined with electric fencing. Forest trees cut and cleared away to grow tea or coffee... a mixture of chemicals like copper sulfate and different varieties of weedicides used carelessly... all so that we humans can enjoy our beverages... if your question is "so what?", not to mention the irreparable damage to the delicate ecosystem of our Western Ghats, these chemicals are invariably washed down in the Monsoon rains and join our rivers which supply drinking water to us. Are we sacrificing clear and clean drinking water just for drinking coffee and tea? This is just one of the many examples where our actions are affecting the earth.

Coffee plantations lined with electric fence
The planet will survive and evolve as it has done for billions of years, but what about us? Who is more susceptible to global warming and depleting ozone?
Though our traditions are derived from paganism and our ancestors worshiped Nature, today we hardly take note of how our actions affect our planet that has always given us everything we need. It is not just the trees that watch us, it is the planet earth itself watching us now.
We are currently exploring some ideas on how we can help and here I have to mention Sanctuary Asia (a leading magazine on Nature and Conservation in India). Fortunately, there are some people who believe our destiny is intricately linked with our natural heritage and tigers themselves and are working tirelessly in this direction, here is the link to explore:
http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/people/tiger-defenders.html