Let’s talk wildlife

Holematthi Nature Information Centre, Chamarajanagar.

Holematthi Nature Information Centre, situated on the border of Malai Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary(MMWS) in Kollegal taluk of Chamarajanagar district, is the brainchild of Sanjay Gubbi, a wildlife scientist and conservationist. It was inaugurated in July and is supported by the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme(ITHCP), which aims to protect tigers and their living spaces.

The centre hosts details about the local flora and fauna, the different kinds of wildlife habitats like deciduous and semi-evergreen forests which are found in the MMWS. Murals, which depict animals, landscapes, threats to wildlife, and information about relationships between insects and plants are on display here. And, for children, it has interactive games and wildlife-related jigsaw puzzles.

Touch of art

“I appreciate the team for taking such limited materials and turning them into this wonderful Information Centre,” Yedukondalu V,  deputy conservator of forests, MMWS, says, referring to the abandoned building and its surrounding area which was visualised as an Information Centre by Sanjay Gubbi a year-and-half ago and turned into reality with the help of Sangeetha Kadur, the design consultant and nature artist.  

The Terminalia arjuna is a large deciduous tree which is known as Holematthi in Kannada. The tree is found in many places in Chamarajanagar and surrounding areas. “It only grows alongside rivers and streams, so its growth is a sign of presence of water in and around the area,” Sanjay says, while talking about origins of the centre’s name.

He also notes that Holematthi trees grow along the prominent local streams like the Udthorehalla, Doddahalla and Minnathalla which cut through the forest. They also grow beside the River Palar which flows along the boundary of the MMWS. “Most of the nature information centres are usually built in areas where there is a tourist footfall,” Sanjay says. “But here, our main focus is not on the tourists. This centre is for the local kids, people living on the edges of the forests in the area,” he elaborates. “It’s for them to learn about the trees, plants and wildlife present in their backyard.”

Scores of pilgrims who visit Malai Mahadeshwara Temple have an impact on the wildlife habitat by way of high levels of land and water pollution. Hence the centre acts as an educative source for pilgrims too.

“We are very happy that you brought this to a rural area, such centres are available only in cities,” says a visitor from the region. A forest official adds, “We now have a high-quality interpretation centre for rural school children and we’ll use it to the maximum extent possible.” The content in the centre is mostly in Kannada, while a translated text is available in English booklets. “I’m sure the people here would have seen a lot of these birds,” Sanjay says, pointing at a section of the mural in the information centre. Here, they can get more information about what they see every day.

According to the artists who designed the centre, a few locals who came there in the past few weeks when work was still going on claimed to have seen almost all the animals in the mural. These artists belong to the State and have come from Goa, Maharashtra, Punjab etc to contribute to the centre. The artwork here is, therefore, a blend of styles from various places along with certain artists who brought in the local flavour.  “This is well planned. I’m very happy with the end-result,” Yedukondalu says. “This generation prefers visuals, so it’s good that this space is interactive.” Eshwar, a member of the gram panchayat, says, “We get most of the daily supplies from the forest and we want to save it for our future generation, so we have to engage in conservation efforts.”

For the locals

Children studying at the Morarji Desai Residential School and Ashrama Shaale, both of which are run by the government visit the centre as part of excursions. This centre largely caters to local communities, village children and students. “The area is home to two tiger projects — the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve and Bandipur Tiger Reserve and two wildlife sanctuaries — Cauvery and Malai Mahadeshwara sanctuaries. So, efforts at conserving nature and wildlife are especially important here,” said R Dhruvanarayana, MP, Chamarajanagar.

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