Shh.. animal trekking in progress

OUR EYES were wide open, prying for animal movement, our ears were fully alert to any animal cries, our lips, albeit, were sealed lest we scare away the already human-shy herbivores inhabiting the Bandhavgarh National Park.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 12:26 IST

OUR EYES were wide open, prying for animal movement, our ears were fully alert to any animal cries, our lips, albeit, were sealed lest we scare away the already human-shy herbivores inhabiting the Bandhavgarh National Park. The second phase of Wildlife Census 2006, for counting the number of herbivorous animals in the park, had begun.

It was 6.30 am on a cold, and still slightly dark, January 19 morning. I was part of a Forest Department census team including deputy ranger Ganga Prasad Namdeo and two forest beat watchmen Rampratap and Kamlesh.

We started our three-km-long trek into deep forests along transect line number 1/1 in compartment number 312 of the Bathaan beat of Tala range, which consists of 11 beats. The trek, in effect, was of six km, as it required walking back too.

Simultaneously, several three-member teams of Forest Department personnel started off from different spots to conduct the same process in numerous transect lines in all compartments under all the beats of the park’s three other ranges namely Khitoli, Kalwa and Magadhi.

From this year on, as per the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) guidelines, the herbivore census includes the study of flora too. Bamboo poles with a red line on top have been pitched at 400 metre distance in, as far as possible, a straight line along the three-km transect line. Nine such sticks form an entire line from start to end.

While walking from start to end, the teams conduct census of animals, and on their trek back they study the vegetation and habitat. The jungles are replete with spotted deer, sambhars, Indian langoors, monkeys, and wild boars were also seen in plenty. Crossing rivulets, hillocks and knee-high grass, which sometimes became chest-high, our team conducted the herbivore census in about two hours.

On the return journey, the personnel undertook the elaborate and more time-consuming process of studying the habitat and vegetation. It involves examining the kinds of trees, bushes, shrubs and grass growing in the area.

In the first phase, a study of species, number and density of trees in a 15-metre radius of each bamboo pole is undertaken. In Bandhavgarh, commonly found trees are sal (sarai),

First Published: Jan 21, 2006 12:26 IST