Having seen so many people and learning about the culture and history i was more than ready to see a bit of India’s unique wildlife and environment.
India, having 18% of the world’s population on 2.4% of world’s total area has greatly increased the pressure on its natural resources. Water shortages, soil exhaustion and erosion, deforestation, air and water pollution afflicts many areas.
In recent decades, human encroachment has posed a major threat to India’s wildlife; in response, the system of national parks and protected areas, first established in 1935, was substantially expanded. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat; further federal protections were created in the 1980s. Along with over 500 wildlife sanctuaries, India now hosts 14 biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; 25 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.
One morning we visited Pune’s Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park so some of the native animals of the area. Originally it was started as purely a snake park to teach people about the many types of native snakes in the area with the aim of protecting the snakes. Slowly, the snake park became a rescue center for wild animals and eventually the zoo was moved there aswell. It has been open to the public since 1999, earning over 1.3 million visitors during 2007-2008.
After the zoo it was time to broaden my horizon’s and find our about the state of Maharastra and it’s wildlife. Physiographically the state of Maharashtra may be divided into four natural divisions – the coastal strip (the Konkan), the Sahyadri or the Western Ghats, the Deccan plateau, and the forests of the north.
My hosts decided the best way to learn was to see it in real life! We organized a full daytrip to see some of the wetlands areas accompanied by the best possible guide, Dr Erach Bharucha. He is a good family friend of my friends as well as the Director of the Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environment Education and Research, a surgeon, photographer, author and well… a legend to put it simply. He has been engaged in implementing a variety of environmental education programs for schools and colleges and for the public at large as a way to create awareness and protect India’s unique ecosystem.
So with the 6 of us spread between 2 cars we set off at the sprightly hour of 5:30 AM! We drove for 2 hours, stopping for a bite to eat and some Chai Masala Tea before finally arriving at the wetlands.
In all, 62,891 birds of 104 species were recorded during a recent survey covering 33 important wetlands in Maharashtra. More abundant species were the Coot, Tufted Duck, Pintail and Red-crested Pochard. Bhigwan had the maximum number of species and was the one we decided to visit!
Of all the 33 wetlands, only three, (Nandur-Madhmeshwar, Jayakwadi and Mayni) have been given some level of legal protection as sanctuaries, which at least protect the waterfowl from poaching. Bhigwan didn’t fall into this category and the people who have migrated to the area (living in makeshift tents which they move according to the water level), have access to fish the entire area which has become the source of their livelihood.
We had originally gone there with the hope of seeing Flamingos but unfortunately we found that they’d recently moved when the rains started a few days prior. Regardless we saw an array of lovely water birds
and though the men were out fishing, the Dr chatted to the women and I took photos of them and their tiny children.
It’s incredible how different their way of life is, living in tents with only a few essential possessions. My friends told me they would likely get a lift to town to sell their fish and get basic supplies but would never visit a city. And the best thing was, they were so happy! Im learning A LOT about human nature, adaptability and the things that create happiness throughout my travels here in India.
We came to the other side of the wetlands and though we didn’t see flamingos, we saw women doing the washing,
the fishermen hard at work
And many more birds aswell ☺
I think it’s a reflection of my fascination with India’s enormous population, that even when we go to remote wildlife areas, I can be just as intrigued by the people, as I am by the wildlife. But on my behalf, the way the people live and their culture and traditions are completely new to me.
Our next destination was nearby Rehkuri, located on the road from Bhigwan to Ahmednagar, it is a one of many tiny villages in this seemingly vast area. It derives its importance from being one of the few reserved areas for the protection of the Indian Blackbuck. Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), Krishna Mrigam is a species of antelope found mainly in India, and also in some parts of southern Nepal, and Pakistan, though it has also been introduced in Texas and Argentina. It is one of the fastest of all terrestrial animals reaching to speeds of up to 80 km/hr and is one of the few antelopes where males and females have distinctive coloration, as the male bucks are a distinctive black and white and have long twisted horns, while females are fawn colored with no horns.
It used to be one of the most abundant hoofed mammal in the Indian subcontinent though today only small herds are seen. The chief reason of their decline has been excessive hunting. Eventually, when in the 1970s several areas reported their extinction, it was enlisted as a protected animal under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972
According to the Hindu mythology Blackbuck or Krishna Jinka is considered as the vehicle (vahana) of the Moon-goddess Chandrama.
The Dr had come here many times before to study the Blackbuck and the men working here were delighted to see him again and show us around.
and finally headed home in the afternoon