MADIKERI: Triangular green and yellow stickers with the silhouette of a sambar deer are instantly recognisable on a majority of vehicles in Kodagu. The stickers of Coorg Wildlife Society -- a pioneer NGO that has taken oath to protect the Western Ghats in the district -- are a badge of pride which not only connect residents instantly, but also give out a strong message of environment conservation.
Established in 1980, Coorg Wildlife Society (CWS) is primarily engaged in wildlife programmes across Kodagu, and has a dedicated team that aims at increasing awareness about wildlife and protected habitats.
“CWS started with an aim to educate children and the local population about wildlife, flora and fauna. Gradually, the society got involved in conservation of environment,” explained KA Chengappa, president of CWS. Member Navin Bopaiah shared that CWS has a long history of campaigning for the environment, which has ensured that government policies and laws help safeguard wildlife and promote wildlife-friendly land management.
Among the many projects undertaken by the organisation, the conservation of mahseer fish ranks first in its table of achievements. Nearly 35 years ago, CWS leased a 35-km stretch of river Cauvery near Siddapura to start a conservation programme for the endangered mahseer species. Today, the organisation has been successful in curbing mahseer poaching, and establishing a large-scale breeding programme to revive the fish variety.
“All commercial activities along the 35-km stretch of river have been stopped due to the efforts of CWS. We have made many blocks across the stretch and appointed guards to stop illegal fishing of mahseer. With successful breeding programmes, the fish variety has restocked in river Cauvery,” explained Chengappa. He added that CWS has now taken special interest in repopulating the Cauvery with the orange-finned mahseer variety.
“Orange-finned mahseer are native to the Cauvery and are critically endangered. Apart from illegal fishing, excessive preying of these fish by other fish varieties affected its population. We are starting conservation of the orange-finned variety in a holding tank, and have got immense support from the fisheries department,” he explained.
CWS is also in talks with the forest department to extend the conservation of mahseer in the Cauvery at Bheemeshwari, in Mandya district. “We have written several letters to the authorities to stop construction of the Mekedatu dam, that will seriously affect the species in Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary,” Chengappa confirmed.
Apart from mahseer conservation, the society is actively involved in plantation drives, cleanliness projects, birding programmes and organising eco treks across Kodagu. CWS, with support from the forest department, will soon initiate a plantation drive of Napier Grass across Dubare and Mathigodu riverside areas, where elephant populations are found in herds. The organisation hosted a bamboo re-plantation drive to replenish the forests. It also hosts treks across reserve forests and hills of Kodagu with support from the forest department. “These are awareness treks, and participants learn the importance of forests and its inhabitants. Cleanliness drives are also hosted along the way,” he explained.
Meanwhile, a massive clean-up drive was hosted by the CWS team on Thithimathi forest fringes and saw participation from students from Bengaluru and Mysuru too. Two truckloads of trash were cleared during the Environment Day event. The annual birding initiative by the organisation attracts professional and amateur birders, who record the variety of bird species found in the district. During this year’s bird festival, the team spotted the critically endangered Indian Vulture soaring high up in the sky, across the Brahmagiri Range.
The team opines that awareness among the people towards environment protection is the need of the hour. “Alongside awareness, forests must be maintained scientifically. The population of tigers and elephants is increasing, but forest cover is shrinking. If this continues, we will have to face a grave future filled with human-wildlife conflict,” concluded Chengappa.