Express press service
MADIKERI: Green and yellow triangular stickers with the silhouette of a sambar deer are instantly recognizable on the majority of vehicles in Kodagu. Stickers from the Coorg Wildlife Society – a pioneering NGO that has taken an oath to protect the Western Ghats in the district – are a sign of pride that not only instantly connects residents but also conveys a strong message of environmental conservation.
Founded in 1980, the Coorg Wildlife Society (CWS) is primarily engaged in wildlife programs through Kodagu and has a dedicated team that aims to increase awareness of wildlife and protected habitats.
“CWS started with the goal of educating children and local people about wildlife, flora and fauna. Gradually, society became involved in environmental conservation,” explained KA Chengappa, Chairman of CWS. Member Navin Bopaiah shared that CWS has a long history of campaigning for the environment, which has helped ensure that government policies and laws help protect wildlife and promote wildlife-friendly land management.
Among the many projects undertaken by the organization, the conservation of the mahseer fish ranks first in its chart of achievements. Almost 35 years ago, the CFS leased a 35 km stretch of the Cauvery River near Siddapura to start a conservation program for endangered mahseer species. Today, the organization has succeeded in curbing mahseer poaching and establishing a large-scale breeding program to revive the variety of fish.
“All commercial activities along the 35 km stretch of the river have been stopped thanks to the efforts of the SCF. We did many blocks through the stretch and appointed rangers to stop illegal mahseer fishing. Through successful breeding programs, the variety of fish has been replenished in the Cauvery River,” Chengappa explained. He added that the SCF is now particularly interested in restocking the Cauvery with the orange-finned mahseer variety.
“The orange-finned mahseer is native to Cauvery and is critically endangered. Besides illegal fishing, excessive predation of these fish by other varieties of fish has affected its population. We are starting the conservation of the orange fin variety in a retention pond and have had immense support from the fisheries department,” he explained.
CWS is also in talks with the Forest Department to expand mahseer conservation in the Cauvery to Bheemeshwari in Mandya District. “We have written several letters to the authorities to stop the construction of the Mekedatu dam, which will seriously affect the species in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary,” Chengappa confirmed.
In addition to mahseer conservation, the society is actively involved in planting campaigns, cleanliness projects, birding programs, and organizing eco-hikes through Kodagu. The CWS, with the support of the Forestry Department, will soon launch a planting campaign of Napier Grass in the riparian areas of Dubare and Mathigodu, where elephant populations are found in herds. The organization organized a bamboo replanting campaign to replenish the forests. It also hosts treks through the forests of the reserve and the hills of Kodagu with the support of the forest department. “These are awareness hikes, and participants learn about the importance of the forest and its inhabitants. Cleanliness campaigns are also organized along the way,” he explained.
Meanwhile, a massive clean-up campaign was organized by the CWS team at the edge of Thithimathi forest and also saw the participation of students from Bangalore and Mysuru. Two trucks full of waste were cleared away on Environment Day. The organization’s annual birdwatching initiative attracts professional and amateur birdwatchers, 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 in the sky across the Brahmagiri Range.
The team believes that raising public awareness of environmental protection is the need of the hour. “Along with raising awareness, forests need to be maintained scientifically. The population of tigers and elephants is increasing, but the forest cover is decreasing. If this continues, we will face a serious future filled with human-wildlife conflict,” Chengappa concluded.