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Koppal: What roles do locals play in conserving wildlife?
| June 29, 2018
Grasslands stretching far and wide till the eye can see; Koppal, a district in Karnataka is blessed with a varied set of landscapes from rocky outcrops to grasslands - these habitats play home to some of the most elusive wildlife species in India.
The Indian grey wolf, striped hyenas, jungle cats, rusty spotted cats, leopards, blackbucks, jackals, foxes are some of the species spotted in this widespread landscape.
Despite the rich biodiversity, Koppal isn’t a protected area. Through the generations, locals and wildlife have lived together in the same space. There is some amount of fear, but also considerable acceptance for the wildlife.
When Iravatee Majgoankar, WCS India collaborated with Deccan Conservation Foundation to study wolves in the Koppal region, one of the most important tools to aid this study were the camera traps.
As wolves are elusive creatures and not easily sighted, a camera trap helps study their behaviour up close. A camera device is installed in a secretive place, not easily retrievable. When a creature walks past the camera device, it automatically snaps pictures and starts recording a video. Since the device makes a small clicking noise, curious animals come up close to sniff and explore the camera giving us better shots and insight into their behavioural patterns.
Setting up a camera-trap © Deccan Conservation Foundation and Karnataka Forest Department
These camera traps are helpful only if placed in the right spots, places where wildlife movement is highest. The question arises, how does one figure this out?
This is where the locals come into play. As they co-exist with the animals and accept them in their surroundings, they know where exactly to spot these wild animals. With their help, camera traps were set up some unique observations were made; wildlife and humans were sharing the same space. The camera traps would show wolves, leopards and shepherds cross the same spots sometimes just a few hours apart. This shows that villagers are aware of wildlife spaces and have a certain level of acceptance.
Camera-trap image showing wildlife and humans sharing the same space © Deccan Conservation Foundation and Karnataka Forest Department
“Deccan Conservation Foundation had local acquaintances in villages and if it wasn’t for these locals, scouting the spots for a camera trap would have taken much longer and precious research time would have been lost. It is only because of them that we found the right areas in human-use landscapes”, Iravatee says.
There lies a small rock formation about two acres wide, in a part of the Ishappa Temple Trust, some 200 metres from the nearest village. This rock, though, is unlike other rocks. Rising about 100 feet off the ground, this formation houses small packs of Indian foxes, jackals, a family of jungle cats and monitor lizards, under the same roof – a phenomenon rare and unusual. The locals have actively lobbied against any quarrying attempts in this area, thus saving this little wildlife space.
The foxes, jungle cats and jackals are very comfortable with moderate human presence and are often easily spotted.
Muthappa, a nearby villager says, “I have seen this phenomenon since my childhood. These animals find comfort in staying here. They do not disturb the villagers and vice versa the village respects their space.”
For its sheer rarity, a visiting photographer coined this place as “Magic rock” and the name has stuck ever since. And it does stand up to its name, displaying its magic every day.
An Indian fox (top), an Indian jackal (bottom right) and a jungle cat (bottom left) spotted at the Magic Rock © Meghana Sanka
There are innumerable co-existence instances evident in Koppal but do not find themselves in any records. The need of the hour is to not just protect this landscape, but to do so with the help of locals. Incentivize the locals, rope them in and get them more involved in conservation efforts, create the needed awareness and slowly the flora and the fauna of this region might flourish and prosper.
Written by Meghana Sanka