BENGALURU: A 28-year-old is on a one-man mission to save wildlife reserves and forests. Technology analyst Manoj Prabhakar started trekking into the wild and doing birding tours only four months ago. But two months into this, in Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary, he saw a skinny elephant and its calf wandering under the heat of the summer sun for water.
“The forest was very dry and there were few water sources left,” he says. He thought of how fragile the ecological balance is. “With that encounter, I realised the importance of trees and rainfall, both of which we have lesser of every year.”
Lessons in photography
Prabhakar, based in Chennai, is also an avid photographer. In May this year, he decided to combine both his interests and began organising walks through various forested areas and green reserves, such as Nandi Hills and Tumkur’s Jayamangali Black Buck Reserve. His efforts are towards making people feel more connected with and responsible towards Nature.
His next is a three-day safari at Kabini Nature Reserve on July 6.
“The safari will include lessons on basic photography skills and the need for wildlife conservation,” says Prabhakar, who takes inspiration from a wildlife photographer Harsha Narashima Murthy. “He taught me how to respect the forest and the ethics to be followed while organising such walks, how to understand and approach a wild animal and also various techniques in photograghy.”
Prabhakar will talk to the participants about the importance of wild animals and forests and help them understand the forest ecosystem, besides his photography lessons on everything ranging from aperture and shutter speed to composition rules and post processing using the latest software. He makes sure that the safaris and walks are plastic free — using reusable bottles and packing lunches from home — and that his teammates follow the ethics of birding and wildlife photography. “I want people to learn how they can create an image and tell a story without disturbing the animals,” he says.
‘Animals know they won’t be harmed’
Participants will be transported in closed buses and, even if there are stretches which will be covered in open jeep, Prabhakar is confident that the animals will do no harm because “they know that people take their pictures at a safe distance without disturbing their private space”.
He has gained a reasonable amount of experience in this short span of time. Prabhakar has organised eight such events so far, including trips in and around Bengaluru and Chennai -- to Shivanahalli which is a birding spot in our city’s outskirts and it has nearly 160 species, Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, Yala National Park, Hoskote Lake again a birders’ hotspot and Bandipur National Park.
Permissions are relatively easy to get. “We need to report to the forest department before entering any reserved forests or national parks and they will then record the number of people getting in,” he says.
Conversations with tribals next
Prabhakar has decided to go beyond organising treks, and is now planning to contribute to the Tiger Conservation Fund and hold wildlife awareness sessions for the tribal people who live in buffer zones around forests.
“I had decided to learn more about animal behaviour in my very first trip,” he says. The first people to join his safaris were his own friends — Aashish, Nagesh, Mamatha, Tribhuvan, Kranthi, Sachinand Sanders to name a few — who go trekking regularly. “People who come for my walks are generally between 18 and 35 and are mostly working professionals like software engineers,” he says.
There have been many unforgettable moments on his trips. One of the most beautiful ones, he says, was the spotting of a black buck. “It was in Jayamangali Blackbuck Reserve, on April 8. I spotted a black buck running away under a lightning-lit sky,” he says.
On May 20, in Bandipur National Park, his group saw a sloth bear. “It was on the safari track, walked towards the vehicle, sniffed around and then disappeared into the forest,” he says. “The same day we saw a spotted deer feeding her fawn.”