No access to the forest immediate implications for children

August 3, 2012

Two incidents have cut us off from the forests of Karnataka.

The first one, which has resulted in a ban on permission to trek/walk in the Bannerghatta Forest area, happened because of the death of a young man, Satwik Sharma, who, with his two friends, walked into the forest one weekend, and who was killed by an elephant.

The second incident was the Government of India banning safaris in all the tiger reserves, because of the critical nature of the State of the Tiger in India. All safaris, whether in the core or buffer zones, have been stopped.

doe and fawn bndpr 040212

Chital Doe and Fawn, Bandipur, 040212

As a naturalist, I can see the merits of restricting entry into the forests, but I am afraid that a blanket ban like this may result in several unwanted occurrences. Regarding the access the poachers will have, and the freedom they will have to indulge in nefarious activities, when ordinary tourists cannot enter, I will not say much. Much wiser and experienced people have expressed, and will continue to express, their views on this matter.

I will talk only about children.

For some time now, I have been steadily involved in introducing children to the wonders of Nature. I have been very lucky in having Bannerghatta forest practically at my doorstep, and have taken several children to the forest. I’ve done my level best to show them the amazing things that can be observed and listened to, and I’ve also done my level best to teach them the do’s and dont’s of entering the forests.

lngr and baby rnning bndpr 040212

Hanuman Langur and baby, Bandipur, 040212

However, the ban now means that children can longer enter the forests…they can no longer see the creatures of the wild in their actual setting…never get a sense of the holistic picture…how the various flora and fauna interact to produce an ecology.

As a volunteer, I have suddenly run out of options on venues to take the children to. I am now restricted to places like Madivala Lake, Puttenahalli Lake, Valley School, and the Arikere Reserve Forest..all of which are urban venues, and in no sense of the term can I call them forests.

Even in the Zoo area, I could show the children an occasional mongoose, and give them the feel of a real forest….now, all that is at an end. If they want to see mammmals, they have to visit the Zoo.

If we are to take away (for whatever reason) the children’s right to see the world of Nature, how do we expect to generate in them, the enthusiasm to protect the jungles and their denizens? The sense of disconnect that I am already finding abundant in many children, will only become worse. We will be rearing a generation of people who have no love, no feeling, no enthusiasm for the forests, and who will not be doing anything to preserve the last bits of pristine forests that we have, or the wild creatures that we have left. Apathy is even more dangerous than wrong knowledge….and I am really afraid that the wilderness in our already overpopulated country will fall a victim to poaching and encroachment on one hand, and a don’t-care attitude from the urban public on the other.

elepnt and calf distance bndpr 040212

Elephant and calf, Bandipur, 040212

A blanket ban on anything has as many minuses and pluses, and I hope the Government of India soon makes it possible for naturalists and children to visit their own heritage, appreciate it, and come back with the determination to preserve it. Restrictions with conditions, rather than a blanket ban, would be much more practical, in terms of re-starting the revenue from wildlife tourism, while yet ensuring that our forests and wildlife do not get plundered to extinction.

lbv baby rmngr 030212

Long-billed Vulture Fledgling, Ramnagara, 030212.

I’ve included the photos of several children….those of our fellow-creatures in the forests, which I would like our own children to see, love, and appreciate.