Sunday, June 8, 2008

Rajmachi - an urgent need of hour

The Rajmachi has its own intimate history of conservation. It not only has two of forts, but is also one of most potential & successful habitat for the wild ungulates. The forest lies in the 5A zone of Sahyadri range, and is easily accessible from Lonavla Stn. or Karjat Stn. near Mumbai. Way from Karjat Stn. to Kondavane base village is roughly around 17 Kms. and hence it is drivable. And then from Kondavane, one has to literally track for another 5 Kms. which is very steep terrain. This enable the trackers not only pass through the dense forest, but also to encounter the wildlife, which is endemic to Sahyadri only. The walk from Lonavla Stn. to Rajmachi fort at the top is 14 Kms. and is trackable or walkable. The Protected area is likely to get the wildlife sanctuary status and which is actually awaited by the state government. The forests of Rajmachi as I said have the great potentiality of wildlife habitat, is because of its hilly terrain, undisturbed forest zone (Lonavla-Tungarli- Rajmachi- Dhak & Vadap Base ) of over 400 Kms. which is the origin of Ulhas River. The river which originates from Ulhas valley cross over 97 Kms. before meeting Arabian sea at Mumbra and Dahisar on Mumbai’s eastern and western shoreline respectively. The river which gives birth to several rivulets on its way and those rivulets give new greens to the cultivation. The Valley has several perennial and seasonal streams forming its origin. These streams which flows from the top of Rajmachi forms the catchments area of several ponds and reservoirs on the way before entering the plains of Karjat-Dhak range. Rajmachi forests spaces more than 195 forest and scrub bird species. The most vulnerable species are vultures, which are almost extinct in its neighboring town. Not only bird even predators like hyenas and jackals are also seen here in sizeable population. I have spent couple of monsoons, winters and summers in this forest, exploring the possibility of big cats in the untamed green and hilly terrains of this region. The results are bit sheer clear and are otherwise exiting to know that the leopards are still ruling the forests, and their signs of presence are clearly seen. Not only leopards, but even hyenas and jackals droppings are the clear evidence of these forests being the best habitat of these predators, preying on the wild ungulates. The track to Rajmachi from Lonavla is more or less drivable, and the road has hills from one side and valley from the other side. And in the early mornings one can encounter a lone Sambars grazing on the plains of the forest. The burrows and the droppings of mongoose and porcupine are also the direct evidence of these insectivorous. The plains of the Rajmachi are not only the grazing area of Sambars, but also of spotted Deers. The over growing population of Chitals in the region are significance of how undisturbed these forests are till some extent. These Chitals otherwise easily to spot are difficult to locate due to the inaccessibility of the forest by the outsiders because of its terrain in Rajmachi. One of my friend, who just been back from Rajmachi sighted a hoof mark of Sambar overlapped by pugmark of a jungle cat. It is not that way, me only being talking about mammals, but this forest is paradise for the birds, reptiles and butterflies. Few of major or commonly sighted raptors of the terrain are Crested Serpent eagle, Black kite and Common Kestrel. The very uncommon raptors would be long billed vultures & White rumped vultures as well. A month or two ago, the bird watchers from Pune confirmed the sighting of vultures scavenging the Caracas. These scavengers have always made sure that everything is well consumed in the forest. These raptors not only scavenge the dead bodies found in the jungle, but also hunt the live prey. Serpent eagles and Shikra are known to prey on spotted dove and little brown dove. Spotted dove and The Little Brown Dove which are otherwise common and abundantly available in these forests, are one of the regular hunts of these raptors. Not only these raptors, but the bats like false vampire and others also target these small ground birds. The other common birds of Rajmachi are Rufous Treepie, Plum headed parakeet, White rumped Shama, Indian grey hornbill, Malabar pied hornbill and paradise flycatchers. The local winter visitors like verdict flycatcher and Black Necked Storks are also sighted near the watering bodies at the fort. The list of birds although big enough, but speculates, the birdwatchers, that how and on what these forest birds would be feeding upon, in this semi-deciduous forest. Ofcourse there are several trees to take shelter on, but there are very few fruiting tress in this forest. Further ahead, the long trackable road is also ground for several mud-puddling butterflies. These butterflies like Swordtail, Pansies and several other species. The most common encounter would be common
crow, tiger striped and blue bottle. The Rajmachi is also breeding ground for the world’s biggest Atlas moth. The moth which is endemic to South East Asia only has been seen in many parts of Rajmachi forests. The moth has very small span of life during monsoon season, and hence the sightings of such a species are restricted during the season only. Now, coming to reptiles, the reptiles of Rajmachi have also created much of excitement in the herpetologist community. Right from Spectacled Cobra, Common krait and vipers, Pythons to geckos & lizards. The easiest sightings of the area are green vine snake and Malabar pit viper along with several lizards.
May god maintain the pristinity of the forest, as safe ground for the wildlife-dé-Sahyadri

No comments: