When Shinde turned on the pipe for supplying water through an abandoned, dusty culvert - he expected a free-flowing stream to provide some water to irrigate his fields. What he did not anticipate was the yelps of two young jackal cubs startled at the sudden flux of water. He jumped to shut the water supply, lifted out the meek cubs, and carried them home. “Their mother was nowhere to be seen, and they would have died in the ditch alone, so I decided to take them home,” he reasoned.
The rescued jackal pups © Mrunal Ghosalkar
Early that evening, Shinde then called officials from the Nashik Forest Department, and the seemingly abandoned jackal pups were picked up by Forest Guard Teknar and Van Mazdoor (permanent daily wage earner) and Sheikh of the Nashik Forest Department, who nursed and fed the cubs.
By nightfall, however, the very worried family arrived at the Forest Department office once again. They recounted that they could hear an increasingly agitated jackal mother sending out loud, piercing calls near their house, in search of her pups. “We would like to take the cubs back to our house and leave them at the same place. That way, their mother can come find them and they can be reunited,” they earnestly suggested. “आम्हाला ती कोल्ह्याची पिल्ले परत द्या. त्यांना आम्ही परत त्याच जागी ठेवतो. कारण त्यांची आई सारखी सारखी येतेय आणि जोरजोरात गागतेय."
The Villagers then took the pups back to the spot where they had picked them from and left them there. The next day there was no sign of the pups or the mother.
The villager who rescued the jackal pups with staff of Nashik Forest Department © Mrunal Ghosalkar
This story of tolerance and care towards wild animals comes from Chittegaon village of the Niphad Taluka in Nashik district that lies towards Western Maharashtra. Niphad is a largely agricultural district, and being on the banks of the Godavari River, has extremely fertile land.
These landscapes were arid zones until a few decades ago, but the construction of dams on major rivers drastically altered the landscape, with irrigation bringing a regular water supply to previously dry areas. The landscape has thus changed from dryland to permanently irrigated agriculture, with cash crops such as sugarcane flourishing in the area. This change has made agricultural areas a good refuge for species like leopards as well as hyenas, wolves and jackals.
The rescued jackal pup © Mrunal Ghosalkar
The above narration may be that of a minor incident, but such an attitude of tolerance and acceptance of wildlife is characteristic of this landscape. With the high densities of human populations that exist, interactions between people and wildlife are frequent. However, despite human-wildlife interactions sometimes causing losses to humans, it is observed that people here are very accepting of the presence of wildlife.
WCS India Program Awareness Cordinator, Mrunal Ghosalkar has been working in collaboration with the Nashik Forest Department on educating communities about sharing spaces with wildlife, especially carnivores. She reports that people here are generally very accepting of wildlife presence, even if it causes them some loss.
“People in this landscape know about the presence of carnivores even if there is no dense forest area. If we sensitize people with the necessary knowledge then human-wildlife interactions and fear can be minimized and eventually, an understanding of this complex issue can be increased amongst the people. In this case, villagers could relate the situation with simple human relations (the bond between a mother and child) and initiated a reunion of jackal mother and her pups. In any conservation initiative, engagement of local people plays a vital role.” she says.
Clearly, rural India has lessons in peaceful coexistence of humans and wildlife.
Narrated by Mrunal Ghosalkar