BELAGAVI: Born and brought up in an isolated forest, this 18-year-old Beeru Kalu Kolpate does not have friends like Baloo and Bagheera, but is popularly known as the Mowgli of the Western Ghats in Khanapur taluk.
Beeru was born in Maleli, an isolated hamlet amid thick jungles of Khanapur, and his family had been the only one residing in Maleli for the past 15 years.
However, two years ago, following his father’s death, his family decided to move out of the forest.
Speaking to Express, Beeru said when he was three, he saw villagers from his hamlet shifting to Chapoli village in Khanapur taluk.
Kalu Kolpate, Beeru’s father, had taken a decision to stay in Maleli, though the place did not have power supply, road or any other basic amenities.
Maleli once had a population of about 32 people, later it was brought down to eight; young Beeru, his parents and five siblings.
Maleli was so isolated that one had to walk for kilometres, cross two rivers--Mahadai and Bandura-- and dare attacks from the wildlife to reach the mainland. “Wildlife kept us more isolated as people avoided visiting us,” he added.
Later, the only regular visitors were Beeru’s father and his two brothers who were working in Islampur of Maharashtra as masons.
They would visit the family once in four or six months. In the following years, three of his sisters were married off to faraway places.
On school education, he said: “I had been to a school for a couple of days at Chapoli village in Khanapur taluk.
Jungle was my school and all I learnt was to survive among the wildlife.”
According to the locals, who knew the Kolpate family, as Beeru was brought up in such an isolated atmosphere, he knows the wildlife and their behaviour very well. One of them said, Beeru could even smell animals from far away.
Following his father’s death, his mother suffered some health problem and she was shifted to a relative’s place in Talewadi village located in Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary limits. While his mother was taking treatment, he headed back home, making him the only person living in the hamlet.
It was not new for Beeru to watch wild animals like tiger, bears, leopards and snakes at close proximity. He had managed to cultivate vegetables in a small portion of land and his full-time job was to engage in protecting it from the wildlife.
It was only about two years ago that his relatives managed to convince him to move to Talewadi. Today, he works as a field labourer in Degaon village near Talewadi specialising in protecting crops from the wildlife.