Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Maidenahalli (Jayamangali) Blackbuck reserve!!

A day with the Krishna mruga's (Blackbucks) The herd with many females and the solitary male were busy grazing, I stopped close by to them, they saw but could not differentiate between me and the car, they continued their grazing, I took out my equipment, loaded it, aimed at the solitary male, locked the target and then…. Click! Click! Click! I had shot the Blackbuck; I had shot the Blackbuck… in real sense I had shot him with my camera… Back to the desk: I had never heard of this place rather I was unaware of this place on the peripherals of Bangalore and where blackbucks are sighted! I too as others was surprised to know this fact that there is a Blackbuck conservation reserve near Tumkur, known as Jayamangali Blackbuck Conservation Reserve or Maidenahalli Blackbuck reserve that comes from the name of the village where it is located. This reserve is located 23kms to the north east of Madhugiri town and about 20kms to the west of Hindupur town. It’s a 798-acre patch of grassland with the largest population of Blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra) in Karnataka apart from the Ranibennur Blackbuck Sanctuary (another surprise). Laudable here are the efforts of the Tumkur based Wildlife Aware Nature Club who have worked hard in getting the protected area status to the reserve. With the place of visit decided, the next big thing was to find the route to this place, initially this was not easy but our task was made simpler from a lot of help from the net, in particular this site of Ameen , who is a member of the WANC and directions to the place are given in detail.So with everything in place and directions in hand, on 26th July 08, we left Bangalore by 6am and reached the reserve area by 8am with the help of our listed directions as well guidance from the villagers. The roads were in good condition with bad patches here and there and the catch is you are too sure to miss the deviation to be taken if speeding on these good roads. We were lucky enough just to stop at the point of deviation and ask a local villager who ever happily told “etlaage hogi balakke” (go to the right). As we approached the gate of the reserve expecting forest guards but were surprised not finding anybody to welcome us, we went inside and hardly few meters ahead we saw a male blackbuck on the right happily grazing, he gave us a quiver look and then not finding us dangerous enough continued his grazing and slowly moved out of our sights. Blackbucks are very shy animals, they run away at the very sight of humans, but they cant differentiate humans sitting in a car, as we knew this we didn’t step out of the car and neither the blackbucks ran in spite of seeing the car. In a span of 15-20 minutes we had sighted around four blackbuck males in addition to a large herd of female blackbucks. We stalked them very slowly and stealthily, in order not to disturb them and make them fleece but also kept jostling inside the car to get some good sightings and snaps. The roads inside the reserve are mud roads and with stones popping all over, driving in small cars need to be with care so as not to get some hard hitting underneath. Somewhere on to our right we could sense something happening and our instincts made us step out of the car and enter the grasslands. There were blackbucks, which upon sighting our movements moved deeper inside, we stealthily followed them camouflaging ourselves between the shrubs until we reached a rocky plateau at a considerable height from where the valley could be seen as far as our eyesight could manage. Suddenly we could see from the height a huge herd of blackbucks running across with some 2-3 small predators chasing the herd. No sooner we realized the animals were not predators but dogs that were chasing the blackbucks! We were shocked to see dogs chasing but still got to see some acrobatic and scintillating jumps from the blackbuck herd that were being chased, but neither our reflexes nor our movements were so fast to capture those amazing moments which you don’t often get to see when in the wild. We got back and went ahead on the defined path till we reached the end point where electric fence was put up for demarcation. We turned around, came back and stopped for a while at the watchtower and whaled some time gazing at the grasslands and posing for our routine photography. We took another of the routes which ran deep inside the reserve, we just kept going on uphill, downhill, mud slashing, on the rocks virtually however we could manage, the blackbucks were still reluctant to see us go, so we got another good sighting of a solitary male probably from the nearest possible distance – they look beautiful, the dark body color, the tweaked horns all combine to give them a beautiful outlook. We continued onto this path and went on and on and finally landed up on a tarred road leading to a village! Traversed on this path to Madhugiri and after a light lunch from there back to Bangalore. So there ended our destined meeting with the blackbucks and left us convinced and happy that in spite of such rapid urbanization all over, there is space for wildlife to co-exist. Time duration: about 3 hrs traveling on the right path. Route: there are quite a few routes but mentioned below is the route we took Nelamangala – Kyatasandra tollgate – Sira bypass road – Koratagere - Madhugiri – Puruvara village – Giregoudanahalli – Maidenahalli reserve. ½ a km after giregoudanahalli, an unmetalled track turns right which needs to be taken to reach the reserve gate. Food: Carry food and water, madhugiri is the nearest place for these. Camping: Possible with prior permission from the forest department.Caution: Don’t litter the clean place; leave no traces of your visit. care for the nature and the nature cares for you!
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