The first half of the third batch of the Volunteer Training Program, this time in the grassland/shola landscape of Kudremukh, was held from 18th to 24th May, 2014, at Bhagavathi Nature Camp, about 20 km from Kudremukh, Karnataka. The Programs are jointly organized by the Karnataka Ecotourism Development Board (KEDB) and Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR).
Mr Sarath Champati email@example.com
Mr Vijay Mohan Raj, IFS, E D, JLR firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Mr S. Karthikeyan firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Dr H N Kumara firstname.lastname@example.org 91 94861 91438 (Google H N Kumara and “Research Gate”)
Mr K S Seshadri email@example.com 91 94810 29488
Dr N A Madhyastha firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com (Poornaprajna College, Udupi)
Facilitators, Jungle Lodges and Resorts
Mr. Sanjai Mohan, IFS, M D, JLR firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Avatar Singh, IFS, E D, JLR.
Mr Basavanna H S Basu, email@example.com 91 99453 55252 (Bandipur Safari Lodge)
Mr Gurudatt Rajgolkar firstname.lastname@example.org 91 99725 22943 (K. Gudi Camp)
Facilitators at the Bhagavathi Nature Camp
Ramesh L Naik email@example.com 91 94808 76648
Dr Ramesh Kumar, District Forest Officer, Kudremukh Range firstname.lastname@example.org 91 87628 01602
Mr Nagaraja M R, ACF Office Clerk, in charge of Bhagavathi Nature Camp and the arrangements.
All the staff and specially hired assistants of Bhagavathi Nature Camp.
Participants (in alphabetical order)
Short Day-wise Account of the Program:
Sunday, 180514, Day 1
All the 29 members were welcomed by Mr Vijay Mohan Raj (affectionately called VMR), IFS, an Executive Director of Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) The RFO’s of the 3 ranges...Karkala, Kudremukh, and Someshwara...were introduced. He mentioned that the VTP has been conducted in 2 landscapes, Bandipur and Dandeli, earlier, and this was the 3rd landscape, in the grasslands and sholas of Kudremukh. VMR emphasized the three components of the program: excitement, learning, and inspiration.
Sarath Champati, an independent wildlife consultant who is the Lead Trainer for the program, and VMR both spoke of the course content, and about the experts who would be visiting and sharing their knowledge.
The participants introduced themselves and spoke of their expectations from the program.
Monday, 190514, Day 2
Dr Ramesh, the RFO of the Kudremukh range, made a presentation which started with the general concepts of Protected Areas, National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, and Reserves, such as Community., Tiger, Biosphere and Elephant, and then talked specifically of the Kudremukh, which he lauded as one of the best forest regions in Karnataka, as well as being grassland habitat.
VMR gave a presentation on the importance of photography in conservation.
Post-lunch, S. Karthikeyan, Chief Naturalist, JLR, introduced the participants to “Lesser” life forms, and showed how interesting they could be. Heavy rain repeatedly interrupted his presentation but it was still an eye-opener to the participants.
Tuesday, 200514, Day 3
Participants were taken on a drive to see the shola and grassland habitats, and visited Ganesh Katte, a high point amongst the hills. Post-lunch, Sarath talked about “Tools of the Trade” that a volunteer would require, such as a field notebook, a pair of binoculars, a field guide, and so on. A small explanation about binoculars was also given.
The Managing Director of JLR, Mr Sanjai Mohan, IFS, visited the camp along with Mr Avatar Singh, Executive Director. He also welcomed the participants and spoke of their privileges and responsibilities in the field. He also spoke of the history of the region, with the eventual closure of the Karnataka Iron Ore Corporation Ltd (KIOCL).
Sarath made a presentation about birds, touching on the various ways of identifying them and observing their behaviour.
Wednesday, 210514, Day 4
As several ranges were out of bounds, 5 Anti-Poaching Camps (APC) were selected, with BNC as the 6th one, for the participants to stay in overnight. Women participants were assigned to the Mining Area, and the other participants were assigned through a draw of lots. The 5 ranges were: Pandaramukhi 1 and 2, Sujigudde, Ganapati Katte, and Kurinjal.
Sarath made a presentation on Tracks and Signs, showing several slides of the various tracks, and other signs, that volunteers would look for, to read the “story” of what had happened in the jungle earlier. Several mammals and reptiles were touched upon. The importance of urine and fecal matter was explained.
Post-lunch, there was a presentation on trees, explaining the key id features volunteers should look for.
Participants then left for the APC’s, spending the evening and the rest of the overnight stay getting a feel of how the forest guards, the true foot-soldiers of the wilderness, work and live.
Thursday, 220514, Day 5
Early in the morning, the volunteers went on Foot Patrols with the Forest Guards and watchers, and returned in time for lunch to BNC. There were a few minor incidents of falls, tiredness, and an unexpected encounter with feral cattle which charged! These experiences were much livened by an artist having sketched several scenes, a poet having penned some lines about the experience...and much shared laughter.
Post-lunch, the volunteers were debriefed, and exchanged notes on what they had seen, experienced and learnt. Many felt that the Forest Department personnel should be paid regularly, appointed as permanent staff, and provided with better equipment, especially footwear. Dr. Ramesh then explained some of the restrictions under which the Forest Department works, and about the preferences of some of the FD personnel.
Since several people were tired, there were no evening sessions.
Friday, 230514, Day 6
Sarath started early with a session on Mammals. touching on animal classification. After this, Dr H N Kumara made a presentation on Conservation Crises, with reference to several species which went extinct. He stopped his presentation so that Dr N A Madhyastha, who needed to drive back, could address the participants about genera conservation, with special reference to snails. The presentation was then resumed and the topic of Lion-tailed Macaques touched upon in some detail.
Sarath then showed the volunteers several videos on bird behaviour from his extensive collection. Following this, Seshadri talked about Amphibians...frogs and toads, and several others. He then led a short “Amphibian Walk” for the participants, showing them various creatures on the campus, right along the path.
Saturday, 240514, Day 7
There was an early-morning “Malabar Whistling Thrush” walk, the highlight of which was the sighting of the Blue-eared Kingfisher.
Sarath made a presentation on the tiger, the facts and figures of this charismatic animal. There were several inputs from VMR, regarding recent findings and theories.
VMR then talked about the Wildlife Protection Act and its ramifications, enforcement, and otherwise. Rather than a dry disposition, he showed the participants the other side of the Act...the ways and means that poachers and traffickers adopt, and the measures the Forest Department takes to counter them. The Forest Department is hobbled by limitations such as jurisdiction; the poachers are not limited in any such way. He showed the photographs of sandalwood being smuggled, especially “Rakta Chandana” or Red Sanders, as well as other trees like teak and mahogany. He mentioned how Red Sand Boas were trafficked for as much as Rs.20 lakhs each, during the Bellary mining boom. Other trees such as Durvasane mara, Saptarangi Selicia chinensis, were also being poached.
VMR talked about poachers-associates/ Carriers/ Middlemen and buyers, and the nomadic people..Pardhi, Bawaria, Bahelia, Banjara, Kalbelia, Kanjar, Sapera, Gujjars, Bangala...central to northern Indian tribes, called Khanabadosh, who are repeat offenders. The Bawarias rule now; they are from Panipat in Haryana.
The presentation was an eye-opener in the almost Bollywood-gangland-style operations of these poachers and criminals, and the way the Forest Department has to deal with old criminals and constantly arising new threats.
Every evening, there were informal sessions with VMR, Sarath and the participants, where a lot of information was exchanged, and a lot of bonding happened!
Finally, certificates were distributed to all the participants, who thanked both the staff and team of Bhagavathi Nature Camp and the team of KEDB and JLR for organizing and conducting the course so well. The participants dispersed with great goodwill, some of them staying back to enjoy the waters of the Bhadra river, and going down to Kalasa together and taking the overnight bus to Bangalore.
Bluebird, Asian Fairy
Crow, Jungle (Large-billed)
Drongo, Greater Racket-tailed
Eagle, Crested Hawk
Eagle, Crested Serpent
Flycatcher, Grey-headed Canary
Flycatcher, Tickell’s Blue
Flycatcher, White-browed Fantail
Hornbill, Malabar Grey
Hornbill, Malabar Pied
Pigeon, Blue Roc
Pigeon, Mountain Imperial
Quail, Painted Bush
Thrush, Malabar Whistling
Moths, various, un id
Tiger, Dark Blue
Yellow, Common Grass
Yellow, Three-spot Grass
Bees, Beetles, Damselflies, Dragonflies Flies (especially the Cattle Flies which stung!), Grasshoppers, Wasps
Lizard, Un id
Snake, Bronze-backed Tree
Snake, Green Vine
Mongoose, Un id
Squirrel, Three-striped Palm
Squirrel, Malabar Giant
VTP members (29)
Click for FB albums of the program
here for Day 1
here for Day 2
here for Day 3
here for Day 4
here for Day 5
here for Day 6
here for Day 7