Table of Contents

Introduction

This chapter introduces us to two wildlife experts namely, Kiran Purandare and Shaaz Jung. The first part is Purandare’s account of how he lost his way in the jungle during one of his wildlife projects. The second part is about the incident that prompted Shaaz Jung to become a wildlife photographer and conservationist.

Part – I: Lost in the Jungle

Taken from the book ‘Sakha Nagzira’, this is Purandare’s account of his experiences in the jungle. The narrator recounts an episode from his 400-days study in Nagzira forest area. After a productive day of field study in the jungle, he was on his way back to his lodgings in village Pitezari when he was alerted by the alarm calls of a gang of Langurs.

He knew that only the threat of a predator like a Tiger or a Leopard could cause such commotion. The narrator followed the target sight of the Langurs and examined it for any traces of a predator. He saw a spot of fresh animal droppings which confirmed the presence of a leopard nearby. He hurriedly left the place and advanced on his way.

Ahead on his way, he met a village man named Raju Iskape. Raju too had heard the alarm calls and had therefore decided not to go close to the site. The two men chatted for a while before their ways parted. Left alone in the jungle once again, Purandare climbed a hillock and moved forward until he realised that he was on the wrong path. It was the sunset time and the realisation that he had lost his way made the narrator panic for a while.

After some thought, the narrator started following the same path that he had come from. Moving at a quick pace, he spotted marks of bicycle wheel on the soil. Now assured of human presence close by, he climbed another hillock and could finally see the presence of human civilization.

Totally exhausted, he eventually reached the village where he bathed and ate heartily. Back in the safe proximity of humans, the narrator amused on the thought that somewhere in the world the jungle still exists and it is a blessing that one is not lost in that wilderness.

Part – II: Tracking the Panther of Nagarhole

This is an account about Shaaz Jung, the wildlife photographer and man-animal conflict resolution seeker. He works in the jungles of Nagarhole or the Rajiv Gandhi National Park. He also showcases his photography in art galleries around the world. Jung also leads many photography safaris in the dense forests of Africa.

His journey started with an interesting incident. He recalls that he once encountered two leopards, one an old, tired leopard and the other, a young and active one full of energy and strength. To Jung, they seemed to be symbols of the past and the present, respectively. He sensed that the two were about to have a fight, but he could not stay to witness the battle between the two big cats.

Curiosity brought him back to the same spot the next morning and he saw the young leopard was still there with blood dripping from a cut on his face. It seemed to have been victorious and was seated like the “king of the jungle”. This interesting incident initiated Jung into the field of wildlife photography.

Jung gained fame and admiration for his photographs of the young leopard whom he had named Scarface. He also went on to photograph other leopards like the old leopard who had lost to Scarface. One of the important protagonists of his photographs was Saya, a black panther whose behaviour Jung documented on his camera.

Jung did not limit himself to photography only but also went on to create Buffer Conflict Resolution Trust of India (BCRTI) in order to educate villagers who live on the peripheries of forests. Jung strives to resolve the man versus animal conflict. The absence of a buffer zone to separate the areas of the village from the forest has created a conflict between the two sides. Animals like elephants and even tigers often walk into the residential areas and harm the crops. There is, therefore, a feeling of fear and a threat of the wild animals to the lives of the villagers.

Jung started a training program for villagers in order to educate them about merits of conservation of wildlife and how it can be achieved. This training has been funded by tourist currency that comes from numerous wildlife resorts in the Nagarhole area.

A villager named Madegowda, who initially despised the animals because they destroyed his crops, is now a certified naturalist who works with ‘The Bison’. With his knowledge of animals and their sounds, he guides visitors to the animals and earns this way. He has come to believe that listening is more important than sight. All it requires is shutting off other sounds and listening patiently to the jungle.

Conclusion

Both the accounts conclude that the jungle can be both adventurous and dangerous at the same time. They also prove that an understanding of animal behaviour and their habitats, can help in mitigating the human-animal conflict. Though full of dangers, wilderness is not a threat if humans and animals can learn to co-exist peacefully. The task of wildlife conservation can be achieved by more wildlife enthusiasts like Kiran Purandare and Shaaz Jung.