By Aniruddha Dhamorikar
Featuring research supported by the DeFries-Bajpai Foundation
It is hard to tell if it is the same river you cross after every hill you descend. The jungle is new at every turn, and I might as well have crossed one-too-many. We were in the hills of Seoni, close to the Pench Tiger Reserve, the land Kipling adopted in The Jungle Book (1894-95), the land of many hills and rivers, and stories. One late afternoon, I halted at a large rock jutting out from a dry river, looking at tilting ribbons of light cast rippling shadows on the dusty bedrock. It was too early in the year for the rivers to turn into puddles.
At another time, along one such river, one late afternoon, the ‘Jungle People’ were gathering by the Peace Rock. The rains had failed, rivers shrunk, and trees and vines shrivelled and withered. “If I were alone,” mumbled Baloo, “I would change my hunting-grounds now, before the others began to think.” As a kid, Kipling’s narration of how fear came always made my hair stand on end. “And yet – hunting among strangers ends in fighting; and they might hurt the Man-cub. We must wait and see how the Mohwa blooms,” Baloo added.
Earlier than Kipling, James Forsyth in The Highlands of Central India (1872) writes that sloth bears “appear to lose their natural apprehensions of danger in some degree during the Mohwa season.”
Dunbar Brander in Wild Animals in Central India (1927) speaks of them as being “the most intelligent animal in the jungle, the primates excepted,” adding that “The time of plenty is when the fleshy calyx of the Mohwa tree is continually dropping, and it is an extraordinary sight to see the bears competing with each other so as to be first on the spot.”
Thus far, in my journeys through the Kanha-Pench landscape, sloth bears have always eluded me. A decade ago, in another landscape, on another bend on the hill, I had come face-to-face with an indolent bear loitering down a shallow dell. Needless to say, I was off in the opposite direction. To each his own fear, Baloo would have said. Forsyth describes sloth bears as “generally very harmless until attacked” adding darkly that “sometimes, however, a bear will attack savagely without provocation – generally, when they are come upon suddenly, and their road of escape is cut off”. Brander opined that, “a she-bear with cubs is a most dangerous animal to disturb” and “it is a jungle axiom that one never can say what a bear will do”.
Be that as it may, humans and sloth bears have coexisted more-or-less effortlessly for centuries.
Read more in the original article, published as a cover story on the February 2018 edition of Sanctuary Asia, where Aniruddha Dhamorikar writes of the changing landscape for sloth bears in their Central Indian strongholds and offers glimpses of solutions to human-bear conflicts that could determine the future of the species.
-- The Last Wilderness Foundation
The Last Wilderness Foundation runs a unique and innovative project called the Village Awareness programme, in association with the Kanha Tiger Reserve Forest Department. The programme aims to help pivotal stakeholders of conservation - the communities and children living in the buffer areas of the park - to understand the importance of the forest and imperativeness of conserving it. The programme ultimately hopes to develop a connection of appreciation between these stakeholders and nature.
The second leg of the programme was just completed in the buffer zone of the tiger reserve. This component focussed on-grounds problems in the target villages, and specifically helped deepen the connection between children and nature. The programme was initiated from 26th- 31st May and covered 5 villages located in close proximity of the park.
Read more about the programme, including the detailed report, on their website.
Species and Landscapes Programme, WWF India
In order to minimize the impact of unsustainable agriculture practices in the Satpuda-Pench corridor, a critical stretch of forest connecting the Satpuda and Pench Tiger Reserves in Central India, 2000 farmers from 22 villages located along the Satpuda-Pench corridor have enrolled in an organic cotton cultivation project implemented by WWF-India and C&A Foundation. Intensive farming practices which entail higher costs have resulted in significantly reduced incomes from agriculture and in turn led to soil degradation, reduced water availability and quality in the villages in this ecologically fragile area.
The organic cotton project has trained the farmers in organic cotton cultivation by setting up demonstration plots and providing training for pest management, preparation of organic manure and bioreagents, nutrient management and use of non-GMO cotton seeds. The cotton produced as a result of this project will be procured by a Denmark based garment company called ‘Neutral’ at a premium. By 2018, the aim is to get 6000 famers in the corridor villages to go organic, earning them a premium for the produce and significantly reducing the impact of unsustainable agricultural practices all along the Satpuda-Pench corridor.
Species and Landscapes Programme, WWF India
For communities living in Dindori of Madhya Pradesh and Mungeli of Chhattisgarh, the forests are an integral part of their life. Mahua (Madhuca longifolia), Indian gooseberry or Amla (Phyllanthus emblica), Honey, Chiraunji (Buchanania lanzan), Harra (Terminalia chebula) and Tendu (Diospyros melanoxylon) are collected by the communities for household consumption as well as sale in local markets to augment household incomes. As part of its project Madhuban in the Kanha-Achanakmar Corridor of Satpura Maikal Landscape in Central India, WWF-India works closely with communities in 13 villages to monitor the collection of resources, develop sustainable harvesting practices and establish profitable market linkages for the produce.
Honey collectors from the villagers have been trained and provided with equipment for sustainable honey harvesting. Through this initiative, honey collectors collected 210 kg of honey which was sold at the rate of Rs 130-150 per kg at Kanan Pindari in Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. The collectors are members of the Maikal Sahad Sangrahan Samuh, which has been supported in getting an organic certification for the honey collected by them. Another committee has been set up to monitor record of non-timber forest product (NTFP) collection from the forests, the idea being to eventually get all members of the community involved in NTFP collection to do so in a sustainable manner.
Project Spotlight highlights our members' work in Central India.
|Network for Conserving Central India||