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Bandhavgarh Needs to Step-up Efforts to Handle Man- Animal Conflict

Solo with  her cub Any news about the death of a tiger always hurts.  Suspected poisoning of a tigress, one of the most popular, big cats of Bandhavgarh national park, surrounded by about 100 villages , shocked the wildlife lovers earlier this week. Before the exact reason of her death is known and viscera were sent for forensic analysis, various theories started floating by the mushrooming tiger experts over the suspicious death of Solo, the 10 year tigress.A latest picture of the tigress showed wound marks on her body-a deep wound near her neck exposing flesh, caused, perhaps, after fight with Chakardhara male, a ferocious tiger of the park. Tragic End of Solo: Who Killed the Tigress Solo Officially known as T42, the name Solo  was given bya crew of the BBC some years ago while shooting for its documentary ‘The Hunt’in the tiger reserve. Solo was born to the legendary female Rajbehra and Jobhi -male in 2011. It was Rajbehra’s first litter of cubs. Solo dethroned her mother in 2018 and …

Lantana: World’s Worst Weed Devouring Jungles


When people from the world of glamour take up some issue like conservation of forest and environment, the message is sent far and wide. Versatile Bollywood actor Rahul Singh, famous for films like Ghazi Attack, Tere Bin laden and  Delhi Belly among others,  decided to convert the  corona crisis into an opportunity and joined the  wonderful initiative of Inspector General of police Binita Singh to uproot Lantana ( Lantana Camara) from Sajjangarh  wildlife sanctuary in Udaipur. As the campaign continues, more and more people joined to get rid of one of the world’s 10 worst weeds,  fast spreading in the country' s forests.  Rahul Singh shares his views on the  issue.
Tarachand

I live near the 519.61 hectare Sajjangarh wildlife sanctuary in  Udaipur,  home to leopards, jackals,  jungle cats and a variety of antelopes and deer  including , sambhar ,cheetal  ( spotted deer) and blue bull or the nilgai among others .  But the beautiful forest known as crown of Udaipur is infested with Lantana, a weed that has worried the whole world. Creeping lantana is toxic and forms dense, impenetrable thickets that smother native bushes and plants. Known for spreading fast, it has already infested 40% of India’s forests.  I found the herbivore of the wildlife sanctuary in Udaipur started facing scarcity of food because of the weed growth.  Forest and wildlife conservation interventions were urgently required. And during the corona lockdown I got an opportunity when I heard about an initiative launched by the dashing IG of Udaipur Mrs Binita Thakur. This initiative was against a notorious weed that has started usurping the wild sanctuary. Led by zealous officer, the joint effort of the police and the forest department inspired citizens like me to volunteer and put the corona lockdown to productive use.

The Jungle Demon, Pluck and Chuck It

Tarachand

Thiscampaign also reminded me of school days when weeding up campus areas was part of extra-curricular activity at Mayo College Ajmer, teaching us to respect  the environment in primary school itself. For the last many months,  we have been working hard to uproot the   lantana thickets that have grown around the  wildlife sanctuary.

Many times I feel it's cool to press ‘like’ buttons on social media’s environment posts but what are we actually doing actively? Maybe the beautiful greens you just whizzed past, need to be plucked and chucked. It is among the top ten invasive plant species on earth. Due to its thick foliage, patrolling staff face difficulties and researchers are unable to search any other plants.

Also read: The legacy of white tigers: Mohan Virat to Mukundpur safari

If we want millennials to care for the planet, we must inspire them in practice and not just theory. Lantana plucking can become a part of everyone’s morning walk  and  exercise while breathing fresh air – socially together yet distanced.

It triggers various sickness and even death in animals but surprisingly doesn’t harm birds – whether indigenous or migratory. Gulping seeds from its pretty flowers, they flutter around pooping all over the planet – an ideal yet dangerous example of the idiom ‘being a bird-brain’ – where one is unaware of the degree of danger one is causing! We surely cannot get rid of the birds but need to remove the bush. An ornamental plant, it has adapted to all soil types, transforming into a creepy pest scrambling further every day – a useless curse on the earth that let’s nothing useful and edible grow around it. Cattle, goats and sheep in rural areas depend on regular grazing in the wilderness but return home hungry. Herds of deer  and antelopes are dying not only due to hunger but also by entanglement in thickets of this evil weed. During a recent jungle trek, I was shocked to discover a bunch of rotting corpses stuck amid a lantana grove.

 The Jungle Demon

Ajit Uchoi ,DFO.

With this vicious bush reducing the prey-base, carnivores are also bearing the cruel brunt of starvation that finally leads to death. Apart from subjects like jackal, fox, wolf, hyena and leopard  among others being affected, the king –who is already battling  against the odds in its own kingdom due to mankind’s greed – is suffering doubly. The equilibrium of the entire food chain and ecology has been disturbed by this aggressive bush endangering the tiger habitat in many jungles.

If the great epic Ramayan’s invincible villain Ravan reincarnates as a plant, what will he be called? The answer is – Lantana! You chop off the trunk –and ten more shoots sprout up instantly. Though this metaphor is Indian, the problem is universal. A tropical American plant brought to India two centuries ago by the British has invaded the jungles . The Brits left, but their divide and rule strategy  and the stubborn lantana – both stayed and spread all over the sub-continent. While the former is still harming society via politics and crime, the latter is ruthlessly destroying our environment.

Link MGNREGA with Lantana Deweeding

Tarachand

It’s a herculean task requiring labour and patience – a great opportunity to provide long-term and mass livelihood plans  -like Mahatma Gandhi  National Rural Employment  Guarantee Act -for labour. The parasite plant needs uprooting and not chopping. Displaced heaps must be transported immediately to hard grounds or else flower seeds keep dropping into the soil. Uprooted shrubs can be used as firewood. Next step would be to keep checking and plucking saplings that may have sprung up. Through all seasons, the area will require constant vigilance of residual roots and fresh shoots. With the soil’s nutrient cycle altered by lantana, it takes about two years before the earth regains enough fertility for useful vegetation to return, hence gradually restoring the food cycle.

Living in concrete jungles, many of us are unaware of invasive weeds’ impact on actual jungles. It’s high time we realize that the woods are not merely a picnic spot. The forest is an ecosystem housing numerous living things and beings who have as much right on the planet as humans. Apart from providing food  and  shelter to millions of species -all playing a role in the earth’s circle of life- the  jungles, whether green patches near your house or hundreds of square km of sanctuaries , provide oxygen, invites rain, offer employment, shield the biosphere, beautify your country and  planet. You cannot put any price tag on this jungle economy.

Out of India’s 712,249 sq km forest area, most likely 303,607 sq km is already infested with Lantana. I am no expert but a wildlife enthusiast trying to do my bit. More shocking facts, infested regions’ details and   its ill- effects can be surfed on the web, provided by more qualified sources. Being an actor whose work may have entertained you at some point, I sincerely plead with all of you to work to eradicate such problems and make it a part of your life. It’s your planet after all and   each of us would contribute our mite to make it a better place to live.

Banner Pic by Ajit Uchoi ,DFO: Deer entangle in lantana bushes in Sajjangarh  wildlife sanctuary

Comments

  1. Lantana an outdated problem.. it is so outdated that even forest researchers like me wud not like to talk about it anymore . ..lot has been done regarding its use, like making furniture, fungicide, insecticide (blah blah) and lot of energy time n money has been spent on it but nothing substantial came out in getting rid of this invasive species. Let's just accept our defeat gracefull n let the species get evolve in the ecosystem, who knows one day the extract from this plant can treat the untreatable diseases(just a thought)

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