Chenchus stand guard to save the forests!

Generations of knowledge being passed on !
(Ramachandra Reddy Palavali) Seen here are Chenchu father and son holding a water hen in a cage. This male bird was caught in the wild and domesticated for hunting purposes. This caged bird will be set in a proper water hen habitat, and after a while when it starts calling, water hens in the surrounding area will come to check it out. And those birds will eventually be caught by the bird trap which is set by Chenchus earlier. 
 Chenchus ( tribal Group)are living predominantly in the Nallamala forest range.When asked about their roots, they told they originally belonged to Nallamalas, but about 3-4 generations ago many Chenchus migrated and dispersed to plain areas of Andhra. 
They are now widely spread in coastal Andra Pradesh.They even told that elders in their families sing Chenchu folklore songs. At present day their main livelihoods are setting up rat traps in agricultural lands for farmers, farm labour, fishing and a small income from hunting small game. 
“Hidden Chenchus “  conserving big cats:
If there’s really someone who understands tigers and help them let live and multiply, its the Chenchus. Members of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG), the Chenchus toil day in and day out in the expansive Nallamala forests manning the base camps.While this is so, the number of big cats in Andhra Pradesh has been put at 48 as per the assessment done by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the maiden one in the State after bifurcation.

Living in  harmony:
A group of five Chenchus man each of the base camps and move into the interior forests at dawn each day conscientiously to digitally capture pug marks and other remnants left by the big cats in the sprawling Nallamala forests. Equipped with GPS-based Garmin GPS72h equipment, the tiger trackers record the droppings and other evidence left by the wild animals overnight in the Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR), the biggest sanctuary in the country


The grassroots-level workers trek up to 5 km in the rugged terrain and record all the findings in the GPS-based equipment which works perfectly fine even in case of heavy tree cover. Then it is uploaded into a computer in the forest range offices like Dornala, Ganjivaripalli, Markapur etc.“We have been co-existing with big cats and other wild animals without disturbing the natural environment in the forest for long,” says another proud tiger watcher Kudumla Anjaiah who is well-versed with the topography and can sense the movement of fast approaching wild animals by practice to move in time to safety.

( Ramachandra Reddy Palavali, Former Bureau In charge,Deccan Chronicle and currently working as General Manager, Sricity (P) Ltd, Tirupati.email- ramachandra.palavali @gmail.com)

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