Tigers in BR hills

One of the exciting things about wildlife is the unpredictability. When you least expect it, you are rewarded by an amazing wildlife sighting.

Yesterday, along with two of my friends, I had been to BR hills. We left in the morning, reached BR hills by lunch time, finished some work and went to K-gudi (the tourism zone of BR hills) and decided to go on the evening safari. Two weeks ago, a mother tiger with 4 cubs were sighted near a water hole and we decided to drive straight to the place and wait there.

As soon as we landed up, a barking deer which was drinking water, walked into the understory and then started giving out alarm calls. Since half the time they give out false alarms, we waited hoping something would turn up. Then someone screamed “Tiger Tiger”. A cub came out of the bushes and slowly walked to the edge of the water. One more came behind it, followed by two more tiger cubs. We could not believe it. Four tiger cubs in front of you in a south Indian jungle. They came to the water, drank a lot, played in the slush for a bit and, one by one, just as they had appeared, disappeared into the bushes.

They were out for a good 10 min, but the mother never came out. We waited for an hour more, but there was no sign of the mother and it was time for us to leave. Personally I am so happy to see tiger in south India after more than a year and that too in my favorite place, BR hills.

BR hills has been one of those quite little gems hidden away because of which there is less tourism pressure and less corruption. It surely is one big bank for tiger populations and I hope it stays that way. A lot of people have been wanting this place to be declared a Tiger Reserve (at this moment its a Wildlife Sanctuary) but that will only ruin the place as a lot of money will be spent to ‘develop’ the reserve.

41 Comments

  1. Neysa · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Great read…. 🙂

  2. Sandeep R · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Good to see such young cubs at BR hills..

  3. Ganesh · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Wonderful! Hope BR Hills manages to retain its uniqueness!

  4. Vijay · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Yesterday when I saw your tweet, I thought it may be a far glimpse of it. But this is really awesome. Nice to see them in Karnataka, that too a place near by…

  5. Yogesh · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Kalyan, an excellent picture. I hope they grow up healthy and strong, live a long life and produce and LOT of offspring !


    Yogesh

  6. Dhaval Momaya · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Nice! Was this at Anaiadu Kere?

  7. Monish · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Awesome spotting…nice capture.

    ~
    Monish

  8. Vevck · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Nice to know that the tigers are still found in Karnataka. Thanks for the share. Hope no poachers are following u’r tweets 🙂

  9. Nagarjuna · March 25, 2010 Reply

    I understand the ecstasy of spotting the tiger cubs and further the joy of sharing but this very action works against your intentions of keeping it away from the vested interests. Any hotelier/investor with such evidence of tiger presence would want to take a commercial step!!

  10. Sud · March 25, 2010 Reply

    they r so so so so cute n u were so lucky (touch-wood, i wish u this luck lots more times)…. can you please share some more pics… (if its not much of a problem tht is)…

  11. shivani · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Wow! amazing .. lucky u

  12. Karthik Narayana · March 25, 2010 Reply

    That would have been such a wonderful sight..! Its give a sense of relief..!

  13. Nagesh Kamath · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Wonderful!! 🙂 It must’ve been bliss. Wondering about your view on the ‘develop’ment of a tiger reserve front. Taking of on a point I saw you post someplace else… you had said somewhere (was it on the elephant ban policy of Tanzania?) that a blind ban is better than educating/controlling poaching. Am wondering if that’s not the same with respect to developing a reserve. Unless it is declared as a tiger reserve, it will not attract the necessary focus from the government as well. Yes, it might lead to tourism driven ruin (development!) to a degree, but then wouldn’t the added focus and money also result in a poaching reduction? Guess its a double edged sword… I wonder…

  14. AtishG · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Kalyan, why do tiger sightings specifically in South Indian forests give you particular pleasure ? I know you’ve been in forests all over India. Is it more difficult to sight tigers in South India ? And if so, why ?

  15. Nara · March 25, 2010 Reply

    Fantastic capture of Tigers.
    Hope BR Hills is not ruined like many other reserve.

  16. Janjri Trivedi · March 26, 2010 Reply

    What a precious sighting, Kalyan ! I could not agree more regarding the development of the region as a Tiger Reserve which will only hamper moments like this one.
    I am looking forward to my next visit there but will need to make sure you are available too!
    Great to know such surprises can await a couple of hours from work in Mysore.

    Hope all is well otherwise with you?

    All the best,

    Janjri

  17. Kunj Trivedi · March 26, 2010 Reply

    Dear Kalyan,

    Fantastic. My sentiments on Tiger sighting and a hope that it continues to remain a sanctuary continues. I hope, you are able to develop some areas like waterholes etc so that both predator and prey will continue to use it. Best of luck, and not in too distant a future, I hope to visit BR Hills.

    Regards/ Kunj

  18. Siddharth · March 28, 2010 Reply

    wow 4 is like a jackpot.. 🙂
    You may want to consider to stop publishing such stuff to avoid people flocking to see wild life to BR hills.. 😛 just kidding..thanks for sharing Kalyan
    I have actually seen Masingudi being destroyed right in front of my eyes… hope no other place sees such destruction.

  19. Anil.S · March 28, 2010 Reply

    Oh My God …..hair raising stuff this …

    4 tiger cubs at once ….is this luck or what ?

    Very happy that you experienced this ..TFS & I give a nod to your opinon.

    Bye,
    Anil.S

  20. bkumar · March 29, 2010 Reply

    “ruin the place as a lot of money will be spent to ‘develop’ the reserve”

    It is very interesting that you say this…& I hope you seriously think on those lines, hopefully a balance can be achieved.

    I have been following your work since the day you acquired your D70 and were experimenting on MG Road & as you metamorphosed into a awesome wildlife photographer. (I love your work, especially the way you can tell a story & follow it as much as I can).

    Consider this…

    The first time I went to BR Hills was in 1997-98 time-frame and have been a regular visitor(8-10 times / Year) to that place till the STF took over & finally when you started as a naturalist there. To me one of the effects of your blog was that it drove a lot of traffic into this place. Initially it was well meaning independent wildlife enthusiasts, but later on – party, office break, Travel Agent, travel website etc. etc. The place was discovered! The traffic is still surging. I am sure you can co-relate your blog (+Yathin’s) postings with the raise in traffic into JLR properties. The result – 3 more resorts in Kabini, 3 More in Bandipur, 1 that was planned for in BR Hills as far as I know. (BR Hill bookings that were once at a sustainable rate became “book at-least 4 weeks in advance”)

    Once TG Ramesh bought his permission in his opportunistic pursuit, practically all other resorts that got permissions used the line “If you can give it to them why not us” Chorused by local politicians & fixers. Today the density of traffic in these jungles are unbearable & the development is ecologically unsustainable.

    I am sure you know all this (BR Hills is no longer the place it was in the 90s) & I just wanted to highlight the perspective.

    A lot of work has to be put in to educate law & decision makers on sustainable development, today they are motivated by commercial interests. I am not sure our population density can be controlled without adverse side-effects.

    You are doing commendable work educating people about our fragile wildlife & environment. I only wish you can find a way to balance this without causing damage.

    I hope you can take this constructively.

    Kumar

    • jeet · September 25, 2010 Reply

      huh? how can the blame be assigned to kalyan or someone like him? the responsibility for managing and preserving the park falls to the public at large (visitors), tour organizers, providers of amenities – controlled by clear and strictly enforced rules/regulations set by the government responsible for its preservation. you are clearly holding the wrong person accountable.

  21. Avinash · March 30, 2010 Reply

    Great to read this over and again !
    After spending loads of time in BRT, Now i Recon — You are a lucky Dude 😉 heh

  22. Anil.S · March 30, 2010 Reply

    Ho Ho Ho Hair raising stuff this !!
    Congrats on this ‘ Once in a Lifetime ‘ sighting Kalyan .

  23. Dilip Chacko · April 1, 2010 Reply

    Wonderful – after visiting Kabini, BR Hills and other S Indian wildlife sanctuaries time and again, I have only had one fleeting glimpse of the tiger. This is true luck!!!!

  24. Ram · April 3, 2010 Reply

    Wow, Kalyan!!

    This is the moment you’ve been waiting for since ages… and man, this is truly a moment to cherish forever! Feel very excited and happy we have four of them and also you having a chance to see and photograph.

    Thanks for publishing this… and yeah, am hoping I join you soon sometime to the long desired BR Hills.

    Many congratulations on this!!

    regards,
    Ram.

  25. Aravind Raj · April 4, 2010 Reply

    Too good,,congrats Kalyan!! I spent a month at BR hills and was only lucky enough to spot a leopard. That too a fleeting glimpse. But never was I in doubt of the amazing biomass that those hills behold. H. Kumar under Mewa Singh is now perusing a large mammal survey of the hills and may be for the first time after Ralph Morris we would have serious study of the hills ( besides the tiger scat DNA survey that was attempted a few years ago).

    However I disagree on your opinion regarding the Tiger reserve issue Kalyan. Agree there will be more greed and corruption. The main threat I see is not tourism ( wildlife or temple) even though the temple side of the hill is getting unbelievably crowded. It is the string of coffee estates a the core and the top ranges of the hills. The reasons are-
    1) Attikan estate of Sangameshwara coffee board, Beduguli and Honnammatti estates of Birlas have silently encroaching hundreds of acres of climax shola forest and the encroachment is increasing day by day. Any officer who dares to question is transferred by this powerful estate lobby very easily.
    2) They are the only source of income for the for the 20 odd sholiga settlements including the ones like nallikadara, keredimba, doddasampige, kanneri colony, etc. Tractors full of collies from these village move through the core of the forests( on the illegal roads built in the forests) day in and out. As long as there is employment at the estates it will be very difficult to relocate these settlements.
    3) The estates use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THREAT TO THE BIODIVERSITY OF THE REGION. Situated at the centre and on the highest ranges, they are not only dissipated as aerosols but are washed down through the countless streams to the foot hills.

    Without a strong forest department presence( project tiger for one) the abuse of the hills by the estates will go unopposed. It will not be easy to take on a field director, not even for the mighty Birlas. The 10 lakh per family for relocation can help relocate some settlements like Kanneri colony where the tribals have more or less lost their culture, language and unfortunately have become ” civilized”.

    Congrats again Kalvan.

    – Aravind Raj

    • Kalyan Varma · April 6, 2010 Reply

      Dear Aravind,
      Thanks for the comments. I’m looking forward to Kumara’s study results too. Lantana of course is an issue in BR hills.. but large mammals at least seem to be doing fine for now.

      I have a diff opinion about the coffee estates.

      The place got converted many decades ago and now by closing down the estates, only the lantana will take over these forests. Also remember that they are illegal at this moment itself. The land was leased out for 99 years and I think it ran out some 5 – 6 years ago. So BRT does not need a tiger reserve status to move them out.. they can do now.. and even if it does become a tiger reserve, they will have enough powers to keep on doing what they are doing.

      The 10 lakh thing has backfired in many places. There are very few people who can implement it well and where will they move these thousands of soligas ? Giving them money and asking them to move out is surely not a solution and there is no free land around for them to give either. So I think it will only open up a can of worms. Making it tiger reserve would also mean closing down the whole BR hills township as it will fall inside the reserve. As you already know, BR hills is doing great without any status.. and changing it could only make it worse. Some world bank will pump in few crores.. and it will be used to making checkdams which will only ruin the place much further.

      Anyway these are my thoughts 🙂

      Kalyan

  26. Aravind Raj · April 9, 2010 Reply

    Well Kalyan I still beg to differ and I will explain why. First of all let me clarify- I am just an armchair conservationist who do not have the death of ground reality like you or the others have. Hence my reply will be more academic than possibly practical. Anyway-

    1) “The place got converted many decades ago ” – The first recorded history of BR Hills is probably “13 years among the wild beasts of India” by GP Sanderson where of course there is no mention of coffee estates ( setting is b/w 1864-1880). There is a clear mention of Punjur and what can possibly be Beduguli. The first record of coffee cultivation that I can find is the mysore gazette of 1897 ( page 218 last but one para). I have a soft copy of that and am sending that to your mail. This was by Randolph Morris in Attikan. According to the popular lore, just like in Ooty he brought the entire podu with just a jew meals. Later his sons started out the Honnamatti, Beduguli estates but the size was small by the time the Forest act of 1927 came into force. So these areas were revenue lands even before the forest act and the concept of reserve forest came into force. What got “converted” was areas expanded after Mr. Subramanyam( I believe that’s his name) bought the estates from Ralph Morris. He was one of the Managers and after incorporation of Mysore into the union and adaptation of the constitution ( which retained the forest act and applied to Mysore state which before had semi sovereign status) used his political muscle to expand the areas. The lease of these are going to end 5 decades from now. There is however a contention as to when the lease is ending from the initial expansion by Morris family in the 1900’s under mysore state. The areas bought from the Sholigas was apparently exempt and any forest land expanded later which was granted 99 year lease by the Mysore Maharajah was supposed to lapse. I am not aware of the finer details as much of the information presented above is from the estate managers themselves who for obvious reasons refused to divulge even during “friendly” talks. Anyway with so much ambiguity with to the validity of Maharajah’s lease, transition to Indian law, initial non- inclusion when the reserve forest status was determined during the 1950’s- who ones these tracts is anybody’s guess and left to their interpretation of law.

    2) “the lantana will take over these forests” – personally I think it is better than coffee and pesticides!!!. Not to mention of the human pressures, lights, sounds, etc. On serious note- it is true that BR hills is particularly severely affected by that and more studies are needed to find out why. It is surprisingly absent just 20 miles on the foothills towards punjur and the Talalimali/talavadi plains across the Sathy road. THe continuous areas of Talalimali/talavadi into moyar valley and Mudulmalai are still exempt from that scourge but by the time it reaches the Bandipur limits the lantana Ogre stands laughing. There is an urgent need to study them and the ways to get rid of them. Its a serious problem in the tiger reserves of the south and the north and despite what WWF mentions about the use of lantana for the small birds ( who no doubt feed on those seeds) it needs to be eliminated for the native species to thrive. If BR hills is a tiger reserve may be we can get funds for that too, but seriously we need a scientific lab specifically for lantana who will experiment on all possible methods- biological, imported insects, burning from the roots, etc to eliminate them.

    3) “So BRT does not need a tiger reserve status to move them out.. they can do now” – Again as I mentioned in the first part there is too much ambiguity and the forest department has limited powers. By including in the Project tiger -you give the FD more teeth. Instead of the DFO, you will have a field director in charge. The media needs flashing news and instead of so and so happening in some nondescript WLS and ” coffee mafia pillaging the tiger reserve” will be a better story. There will be more staff ( can obviously come from the sholigas) more ecodevelopent ( not necessarily World Bank dams but just lantana clearance types), incorporation into the PA network, expanding of the buffer area, etc. ONE MOST IMPORTENT THING THAT WE GET OUT OF IT IS JUST THE PLAIN OLD LEGAL STATUS. The whole point of the first para argument was the legal status of the estates in context of the forest act of 1927. By declaring a tiger reserve you give the hills the legal status for protection this biodiversity gem truly deserves.

    Just to come back to the lease question for a minute- even the Thangameruda village in the newly constituted Satyamangalam WLS ( also a proposed tiger reserve) has a lease which will end I believe in 2020 . Source- Dr. John singh’s article ( boy, I envy your luck of trekking through sisipara pass with him!!!)http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2705/stories/20100312270506400.htm . If you want to move them, I think it will be better if we can move these estates out first. Just think about that Kalyan- the BR hills tiger reserve will meet the Satyamangalam tiger reserve buffer at the Sathy road. May be well can regulate that traffic, night bans or even a undisturbing flyover down the dimbum ghats, ( now thats where I will expect the World bank money to come)A chain of well protected PA’s from Muthunga to BR hills!!! with such a metapopulation you can expect a spill over dispersing tigers all the way into Banngergatta through the south bargur forests and north Dharmapuri hills. That will be a much better consolidation of wildlife than introduction of CHinkara and Nelghai in Thengumarada as Dr. Johnsingh wishes.

    4) “The 10 lakh thing has backfired in many places”- yes but has worked in many places too. It is in its initial stages and will take time to be refined.

    5) “very few people who can implement it”- agree 100 %. The current DFO Mr. Misra has an classmate of his IFS days across the border in Satyamangalam ( Asanur range). They has excellent coordination and frankly I see more wildlife in the reserve forests of TN ( geddesal, bilur, Asanur- foothills of Jodigere) than in BRhills. Now there is no garuntee they will not be shited tommorw, but it both stay for atleast 5 years and both areas come under project tiger then that will for an opening of a champagne bottle.

    6) “where will they move these thousands of soligas”- Again we are back to the tribal vs tiger question. People have debated about that enough now and for people like Asish Khotari BR hills might be the perfect setting for arguing their case. But I still think there is a case for resettlement.

    The total population of sholigas in chamarajanagar district is around 25,000. Out of them only around 4,000 live in the santuary limits. The big settlements are the 8 podus around the temple( harkalagadde,Purani, Muttalgadde, VGKK, etc), Budhipadaga, Kanneri colony(home of all Jungle lodges sholiga workers) and Beduguli. The tribals here are almost mainstreamised and have the same aspiration any rural folk ( school, hospital, job, etc). The children of these settlement have no interest in the tribal way of life and their knowledge of wildlife is pitiful. Being more educated you can get them the jobs like Jungle lodges does or like the vocational training imparted by VGKK. The 10 lakh per family can the imparted for the people who are interested in. To their credit the sholigas have long abandoned poaching had have to be rewarded for that. The resettlement should be handled in atmost care and respect with long term fallowup like in Bhadra.

    The smaller settlements like Nallekadara, Keredimba, Gombegallu, etc with less than 20 huts in each are the ones who definatly have to be moved. For the visiting tourists they are the real “Navi people” which is far from the truth. Agreed there are very few examples of indigenous people retaining their culture and living with reasonable harmony with nature than these.( the only other example of sholigas leading such life are in the North Bargur forests south of palar in TN, but in the rest of chamarajanagar you cannot distinguish between a sholiga and a nontribal rural folk). But even here working in the coffee estates have brought them the ills of the civilization- alcoholism is rampant, greed is taking over there once pure lives. It seems like the tribal culture and way of life is numbered. Well that’s another story. Anyway if you give them 10 acres of land per family in the core of the sanctuary as the VGKK argues you can well say goodbye to the wildlife too. 2 decades down the line you will still have the same problem- with increase in population ( this time the younger, semi-maintreamised, alcoholic)there will be demand for more forest to be opened up. You cannot argue for family planning in these settlement where life is very precarious. With no other employment you will have these people continuously dependent of forests for livelihood. As of now they are exploited routinely by the coffee estates as cheap labor. Back in the settlements they have long abandoned cultivation of sustenance crops and shifted to coffee too.

    I feel there is a need to address their problems than promote the depersonalized romanization of their plight. Obviously you cannot have an hospital, school, industry in each of the settlement. Instead of viewing them as cases of anthropological experiment we should be more practical. This well intentioned intellectually thought out idea of leaving them to themselves will only end up igniting a left wing insurgency like it has already done in central India. Resettlement and continuos engagement with true concern for their lives is the only answer.

    7) Regarding where to relocate them ? All ideas should be considered including the original idea of VGKK – Shift the estates and the nontribals out and use the infrastructure for relocating the remote settlements. Personally I prefer relocating at least the educated, willing mainstreamised tribes to the plains, or even open up the non wildlife rich areas near purani for settlement.

    8) “would also mean closing down the whole BR hills township”- Personally I wish that happens. Everybody seems to be exploiting the revenue status of the township. Even VGKK is starting a resort in the township!!. Rajatadri hill villas fellow can even organise a night safari till doddasampige!! (pays moola to the guards and collects the checkpost key at the wireless station). Coffee day which bought Cicada resorts is now intreasted in taking over the Kannada actress Arthis home near Harkallagadde. And these are just the wildlife resort problems. Temple tourism is another issue. On the Jathre day this January the KSRTC dedicated 100 buses for continous service from Yelandur. Every Tom, Dick and Harry wants a home in BR hills townsip. 30 years ago when my father visited BR hills apparently there was no road from Yelendur. The only road was from chamarajanagar through K.gudi. He was unmarried them and apparlently stayed in one the houses near the temple. He was on a research project and had to collect data from every household. He apparently could find only around 35 houses there. If nothing is done rest of the settlements will also meet the same fate 30 years from now.

    9)) “BR hills is doing great without any status”- by the stroke of goodluck, maybe even post Verrappan syndrome, but without a proper legal ptotection it is bound to go bad. By saying lets not do anything you will only encourage disorder, while project tiger is an experiment ( however immature) is setting things in order. Everybody (even world bank) can learn from mistakes and there is no reason to suspect they are going to repeat their mistakes again. As long as the intent is good we need people to work together. What BR HILLS BADLY NEED IS A LOCAL PRESSURE/ LOBBY GROUP WHO CAN FIGHT FOR ITS WILDLIFE. Just like Praveen Bhargava and Wildlife first took on the Kudremukh iron ore factory and got it the national park status, thus pressure group should relentlessly fight for BR hills and support the Forest Department. Frankly before Jairam Ramesh gets out of the office we need to fix some stuff.

    Sorry for boring you with such a long mail and hope you will continue the discussion ( may be move into a different heading in your journal).

    -Aravind Raj

    P.S- heard from Prashanth N.S you met Monika Jackson in London, would love to hear about that someday!!

  27. Mallik Umapathy · April 10, 2010 Reply

    Aravind,

    Honestly its not a boring but its lengthy reply though!!! you have highlighted the core issues,
    pros & cons about the proposal that will be sending (for the 2nd time)to the Central Government
    to consider BR Hills WLS as a Tiger Reserve.

    If BR Hills WLS gets the tag of tiger reserve and if well managed – god forbid not the sariska
    way, will sure contributes for the growth of tiger population in to the adjoining forest ranges
    of kollegal RF/MM Hills RF/Cauvery WLS/Sathy WLS/Dharmapuri RF/Erode RF, and i believe we both agree to it….some patches of Sathy, MM Hills and Cauvery WLS has a decent population of herbivorus animals and can support a smaller number of carnivore.

    By declaring Venugopala swamy reserve forest (now Bandipur forest area) in to Tiger Reserve in 1973 has greatly contributed to the meta population of Tiger to the adjoining forests including Madumalai and Muthanga and hence I would like not to ellaborate my opinion too …since we agree there is a benefit in declaring it into Tiger Reserve.

    I felt over optimistic (no offence) about the points which you have made above on moving the coffee estates and relocation of human habitation!!!

    For instance forest department and state government took a very systematic approach while relocating tribals out of the Bhadra Tiger Reserve ….tribal relocation in Nagarahole NP & Madumalai NP is still in progress….

    In late 80’s the Karnataka Government and Forest department did tried pushing adivasis out of
    the Nagarahole forest…..a total of 1220 families consisting of more than 6000 people were
    pushed out to locations 1-12 km from their original habitats….the situation turned ugly…
    when the relocated adivasis were ignored on the promises made by forest department and state gov’t before the relocation.

    All i wanted to say was, we cannot implement “Nature without People” policy as soon as BR Hill
    WLS gets a tiger resereve tag, initially we have to look for the work around (like co-existence b/w of Nature/Human….which is already well managed in BR Hills with NGO’s) and later the systematic approach should be taken in to consideration in relocating the people….like the way it was successfully exceucted in Bhadra Tiger Reserve.

    No offence – i am replying to your comments in a good sport.

    I am away from India, hence i will keep spying kalyan’s website to check the latest wildlife sightings in and around BR Hills.

    Regards,
    Mallik Umapathy

  28. Prashanth · April 11, 2010 Reply

    Hi Arvind,

    It is amazing how most of us can dole out judgements about how some tribals have ‘lost their culture’, as you say. What is this culture? Do we have it? Are we in a position to judge the loss of culture of a few tribals and decide to relocate them? Apart from alienating and disenfranchising them, we will not achieve much. Have you ever wondered how much the ecological footprint of the entire settlement of Kanneri Colony might be? I am willing to take a bet that between the two of us, we cover the entire ecological footprint of Kanneri Colony. Yet, we say, they are a problem. Hmm..

    Yes, I agree that human impacts are an important threat, and yet, we jump on the tribals with eroding culture and resettle them cos it is easier to pick on them, right? What about the quarries, the coffee estates, our roads, our tourism needs etc.? I wonder how you make claims such as “these tribals are mainstreamised’ and ‘their knowledge of wildlife is pitiful’. After three years of staying there and actually studing their traditional knowledge, I cannot still say these things with such conviction. I think a little bit of humility and respect for these people is called for. How did you assess their traditional knowledge? ANd what is this mainsttream? If they aspire for a television, is that then mainstream? If they have a cell phone, is that mainstream? If they are now attending schools and coming to a hospital, is that mainstream? What is our definition here? What is our conception of tribal way of life – only those who wrap themselves in leaves and have no access to modern devices are considered tribal and others are mainstreamed?

    I think a bit of retrospection is called for here. If we are all people who believe in self-determination, we cannot with such conviction pass off judgements for a whole group of people who have lived there for millennia. Tigers were there in Jalahalli also. Today there is a bus stand there and I can get 3G access at Jalahalli. We Bangaloreans polished off our tigers before 1973, and thanks to that we have access to ‘mainstream’ technologies. The ones that did not do that quickly are today being judged on blogs and policy making chambers. Let us at least give credit to these people and as a first step not judge them. Talk to them and engage with them with humility – that is what is called for. After all, if for some reason, Jayanagar is declared a wildlife sanctuary, you think it would be easy to get us all out of there?

    Arvind – all said in healty debate and not with any spite. As you know, it was not for the people that I went to BRT. I too went for its wildlife, but once you live among these peole, you stop seeing things in black and white. It’s quite grey…..

  29. Swethadri · April 12, 2010 Reply

    Hi Kalyan,

    Simply Superb… thanks a lot for publishing this!!!

  30. Aravind Raj · April 14, 2010 Reply

    wonder how you make claims such as “these tribals are mainstreamised’ and ‘their knowledge of wildlife is pitiful’. After three years of staying there and actually studing their traditional knowledge, I cannot still say these things with such conviction. I think a little bit of humility and respect for these people is called for.

    I read my comments again after and I have an unconditional apology here Prashanth. I surely was not sensitive enough.

    At the same time don’t you think by not having any thought about the wildlife impact and opening up 10 acres per family in the remote settlements is also wrong. Don’t you think that who propose that are plying the tribal maximalist card.

    Forget that, just think about the tribal themselves that these measures are supposed to help. For once without wanting to hurt anybodies sentiment I would like to play Devil’s advocate. There is absolutely no chance that such a small populations would get any decent healthcare, education etc under the current scenario, esp if you want to keep them in cultural seclusion. Do you want them to be left to their current state (mainstream or not). I wonder how giving them some more land and left to chronic malnutrition, illiteracy, etc will “empower” them. Post independence India had different grades of cracking practical jokes on tribes by using different terms. Non interference in tribal way of life for the cultural preservation is the most common line used. Except for the Andaman tribes where maybe the non-interference was in true anthropological spirit the rest( esp in central India) was just a guise to exploit them. Just look at one glance- in BR hills who will benefit from tribes being backward ? Coffee estates are the land lords of the plains who get CHEAP LABOR.

    I am not even going to the historic injustice argument. For how long can we be the prisoners of the past and not take care of out fellow citizens as they should be. If you want to engage them as a responsible civil society, would you want to get bogged down because we still cannot figure out what a tribal culture is?

    Yes, I agree that human impacts are an important threat, and yet, we jump on the tribals with eroding culture and resettle them cos it is easier to pick on them, right? What about the quarries, the coffee estates, our roads, our tourism needs etc.?

    I believe 80 % of my previous comment had vitriol against the coffee estates and the non tribes at the BR hills township. I am not picking at the tribes who are the soft targets in this argument. My argument is against the society which seems to use the tribal culture argument to infact keep them backward and be emendable for exploitation. My argument is against the acute lack of concern the tribal lobby has even in the most critical wildlife areas. My argument is against the collective lack to the will by the govt to consolidate whatever is left of our biodiversity.

    I am willing to take a bet that between the two of us, we cover the entire ecological footprint of Kanneri Colony. Yet, we say, they are a problem. Hmm..

    Why two of us, I can bet it is less than one of us. But is the current ecological catastrophe that we are facing so simple to decipher with indices like ecological/carbon foot print ? Can we use the carbon footprint argument to justify continued disturbances in critical (or for that matter not so critical) wildlife habitats. Are you using the carbon foot print argument to justify the continuation of the current model of governance in the high fertility, jigh mortality, low literacy, high forest dependent, miserable low human development index populations ?

    After three years of staying there and actually studing their traditional knowledge, I cannot still say these things with such conviction. I think a little bit of humility and respect for these people is called for. How did you assess their traditional knowledge? ANd what is this mainsttream? If they aspire for a television, is that then mainstream? If they have a cell phone, is that mainstream? If they are now attending schools and coming to a hospital, is that mainstream? What is our definition here? What is our conception of tribal way of life – only those who wrap themselves in leaves and have no access to modern devices are considered tribal and others are mainstreamed?

    Again apologies for being so casual. Prashant I started my comment by stating I am an armchair conservationist who do not have true field experience. I should not have made such sweeping remarks, after all I am the one who for a brief period of time derived immense “peace of mind ” sitting next to the Doddasampigemara. It is another matter that this peace was shattered by a Parle-G biscut cover flowing down the steam ( may be from the estates). I am not qualified to make that judgment. However my personal view is if a tribal has an aspiration of the mainstream( yes including and not just TV, hospital, cell phone – 3G or not, etc) he has the responsibilities of the mainstream( its laws- including wildlife).

    Tigers were there in Jalahalli also. Today there is a bus stand there and I can get 3G access at Jalahalli. We Bangaloreans polished off our tigers before 1973, and thanks to that we have access to ‘mainstream’ technologies. The ones that did not do that quickly are today being judged on blogs and policy making chambers. Let us at least give credit to these people and as a first step not judge them. Talk to them and engage with them with humility – that is what is called for. After all, if for some reason, Jayanagar is declared a wildlife sanctuary, you think it would be easy to get us all out of there?

    Wildlife today is a responsibility of everybody. Just last week the TN police has started the process of shifting its STF training camp from Thengumarada. The WWF has adopted the tribal villages in the talaimalai reserve forest and there is a serious dialogue. Looks like Satyamangalam will get the Tiger reserve status earlier than BR hills. What I said was if we can have a tiger reserve status to BR hills with the buffer extending to the sathy road th future of the tiger in this metapopulation will be more secure. We are talking about 25 % of the tiger population of India ( the whole nilgiri biosphere population) and 10% of the world population. Prashanth it is you who repeatedly quote that BR hills as the niche b/w eastern and western ghats. Agreed there needs to be humulity and engagement( Even the small town of Bannari has a wildlife club and cattle compensation program by local bigwigs who are now pressing for the tiger reserve status to satyamangalam). But to be a prisoner of the past and simplifying the argument as the the people who pushed off the tiger first dictating terms is not the way either. Are you suggesting that if the tribal aspires lets say to “turn doddasampige into a Jayanagar with a bus stand and 3-g phone network” we as the “people who pushed off the tiger first” have no right to object ? Tiger too is an integral part of their culture and history and has fascinated them as much as it did to us. Agreed these are sensitive issues but what I am suggesting is lets continue to engage them instead of saying “all is fine now and will continue to be fine”. Lets not turn back on the idea of project tiger and the money and human talent that such an exercise beings about. For the record all is not fine.

    But the way I see it is the opposition to declare the tiger reserve status to BR hills has more to do with the corporate greed ( yes the estates), than the real tribal welfare.

    BR hills was quoted even by a nature article as a good example of co-exsistance ( Nature. 2006 Aug 17;442(7104):744. Bawa KS). But prashanth looking at the current state of VGKK and the ecological pressures- is this the way forward ?

  31. Prashanth · April 17, 2010 Reply

    Hi Arvind,
    Thanks for the detailed response. There seem to be two different issues here. One about BRT being declared a tiger reserve, which I find very little evidence for and which is what I am arguing and the other about tribal presence in BRT. As far as the former is concerned, I strongly believe tigers have been doing great in BRT for several decades now, and there is some anecdotal evidence to say that they have increased especially over the last decade. And all this in the ABSENCE of Project Tiger. Project Tiger brings along with all the good it has like greater protection, more staff – it also brings in more money and more corruption. Thinking that BRT getting project tiger status will improve wildlife here is a bit too simplistic.

    Regards all your other arguements here, I would prefer to answer them in detail but perhaps, Kalyan’s blog is not a great place. So before he asks us to ‘get a room(!)’, lets close our tete-a-tete here for now. Will link you to a blog with responses soon. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Prashanth

  32. Prashanth · April 17, 2010 Reply

    ….Ah, and Arvind, it’s a bit confusing to read your response as you dont seem to have differentiated between what you have quoted and what you are saying.

  33. Aravind Raj · April 25, 2010 Reply

    Sorry for the late reply Prashanth, was travelling fora while. Sure further debate in another forum would help me understand the situation better. Looking forward for that!

  34. Shantharam · June 15, 2010 Reply

    Outstanding capture Kalyan,

    Check this out
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/

    very soon your loved BR will be making such news, if right steps are not taken.

  35. Kemparaju · August 10, 2010 Reply

    Hi Kalyan,

    NICE pics I too feel my self very lucky to see four cubs with mother at the same place,show was for around 20min playing in the slush it was morning 6:30am.

  36. Naveen · September 10, 2010 Reply

    Hey Kalyan,
    Am amazed to see all your photos really i can see the perfection in every pic which u have took man really it was wow and behind every pic again i can see the hardwork,professionalism. I pray to god to give you more wisdom,strength and courage take care

    Regaards
    Naveen Dinakaran

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