Another large mammal census and another opportunity to learn from nature by being in it. I was off to the Nilgiris for the census and turned out to be initially disappointed as I was given the Killor fragmented forests adjoining the Chamraj Tea Estate in the Bengal Mattam area. This area is far from the ethereal forests of Mukurthi National Park and I was for one, apprehensive about the Killoor Region.
But first surprises first - the ranger turned out to be a jolly fellow, the guard Panneer Kumar an equally respectable person and the watcher Mani - an absolutely potent house of information on forest, even the forest quarters possibly the best I have ever seen in the past several years. Though I wanted to feel bad, yet knew from the bottom of the heart that this will be an unique experience, tough yet an eye opener.
Tough - Walked 21 km of rugged Nilgiri Shola terrain on the first day, a little lesser on the next day. Tiring yes, but a complete eye opener about the way fragmented forests operate. Also, saw the good work being done by tea companies like Chamraj.
The forests were broken into various Reserve areas such as Maryland and so on and each patch of forest was anything between 500 metes to 1 km from each other interspersed by tea or habitations. What happens to the animals then. Do they remain stuck in their respective islands. From what I understood, the reverse is true. They happily roam about, moving from one shola patch to the next. Two rather large families of gaurs have infact made a part of the Chmamraj estate as their own, living literrally of the tea bushes. I saw leopard scats on the main road which means that they are roaming in the vicinity of the villages. There were plenty more leopard scats in the boundary regions of the tea and forest. There were tiger rake marks, perhaps him marking his territory but the poor tree had a deep gash from the tiger, must have felt bad, for the tree.