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Vulture Conservation Programme

Vulture Conservation Awareness Motor Cycle Rally July 2014

500 kilometre Rally for Establishing Vulture Safe Zone.

Establishing a diclofenac Free Zone is not an endeavor that can be accomplished by a single person, or an organisation. It is a herculean task that requires cooperation from all the stakeholders of the project.  

Arulagam has been working towards creating a safe haven for the vultures by establishing a diclofenac free safe zone with the guidance of Tamilnadu Forest Department & Saving Asia’s Vulture from Extinction and with the support of Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund

Tirupur IT Association (TITA) wanted to know more about vulture and invited us to take part in their monthly meeting. We got an opportunity to share with them the predicament faced by Vultures.  We equated the fight to protect ecosystems and to redeem our depleting natural heritage to the second struggle for independence. It is the right time for starting the march to protect our ecosystem like what we did for freedom struggle. 

They found a cause in what we had spoken and asked us how they could take part in the project in their capacity. This discussion also brought to light the fact that they have not been able to see several birds that were regulars just a few years back. They also expressed desire to see them grace the skies yet again.

Why was motor cycle rally chosen for this purpose?

Since we too felt that we need to campaign in different areas of the proposed diclofenac free zone and participants should enjoy the event while creating an impact, We proposed an idea of conducting a motor cycle rally through the hills and opined that will be a great beginning. They agreed to the proposal immediately.

A group of motor cycles with uniform clothing will make heads turn catching their imagination. Such a parade will make people wonder what the purpose of it would be. We chose the bike rally so that we could speak to the public and the pharmacists and veterinarians in particular during the rally and distribute pamphlets and it would be ideal to communicate the message at the heightened state of excitement created due to the event.

One of the participants of the meeting felt that it would be better to have a bicycle rally as that would be more eco-friendly. Even while we fully appreciated their concern and agreed with the benefit of cycling, We explained that it would make sense to use motor cycles as it was a 100 km radius in which we were planning a diclofenac Free Zone and that we need to cover 500 kms in a short time of 2 days. The route was proposed to campaign in the 3 states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka covering a total distance of 500 kms and it would take about 14 days to complete it if were on bicycles. Since we had at our disposal just a Saturday and a Sunday, we had to take up the motor cycle rally as the benefits far outweighed the cost of carbon footprint. When we explained the objectives, constraints and the options, the members unanimously agreed to the motor cycle rally. We requested participants who were willing to register for the rally on July 12th and 13th, a maximum of 20 motor cycles with 40 participants (a rider with a pillion rider). But we received a total of 48 registrations which was more than expected!

When to start and where?

Tirupur is often associated with two aspects – one that it is the dollar city as it has earned the nick name due to its enormous exports of knitted wear and the second is that of a tenacious freedom fighter, who is known along with the city’s name – Tirupur Kodikatha Kumaran.

We would like to share a very important part of history connected to the late freedom fighter Tirupur Kumaran and the reason for his name ‘Kodikatha’ at this moment.Route map - Motor cycle rally

In the year 1932, the great Indian freedom struggle was at its peak. Gandhiji announces Civil Disobedience Movement. A revolution follows throughout India. It echoes in Tirupur of Tamilnadu as well. On the 11th of January 1932, a strike was announced by Desabandhu Youth Association. Kumaran, a 30 year old youth leads a group of volunteers, carrying the Indian tricolour flag. As the procession approaches the Tirupur railway station, they are stopped by the police. Kumaran proceeds in spite of being restrained. The policeman roars at him to put the flag down and warns him of dire consequences should he not obey him. Some of the protestors take to their heels at this altercation. None of these deter the determined Kumaran. He continues his march. The policemen rain heavy blows on him with their huge canes (lathis) indiscriminately. Some of the blows land on his head. He bleeds profusely. Even the injury or fear of further damage doesn’t deter Kumaran one bit. He holds on to the flag with even more determination. Due to severe loss of blood and trauma, Kumaran faints. He dies on the same day at the hospital. That he held fast the flag braving death, earned him the name ‘Kodikatha’ Kumaran (the one who protected the flag). 

In memory of the late leader, we decided to begin the rally right where he breathed his last for the cause of Indian freedom. The reason was that as the people participated in the freedom struggle voluntarily and attained freedom, they should now come forward for the cause of the environment and its fauna like vultures as well. As decided, 48 people on 24 motor cycles assembled on that day at the Tirupur Kodikatha Kumaran’s memorial. Kumaran held our tricolour in 1932 and our youth held placards which create awareness on protecting vultures. 

Day 1- Tirupur to Nilgiris

Motor cycle rally- TirupurThe rally was flagged off by Poet Mr. Kalimuthu with the blessings of the late freedom fighter. Kalimuthu wished the participants well and sent them off on the rally. We also invited Mr. Asokan, Secretary, Tirupur Drug and Chemist Association as a one of the chief guest. In his speech he spoke about the dangers of the drug diclofenac on vultures and assured that he would do everything possible in his capacity to prevent the sale of the drug in pharmacies. He assured strong support for the cause of the vultures.

Before starting the rally, we had a chance to read the greeting messages sent by Mr. Kasiraman, Secretary, Kovai Nilgiri District Drug and Chemist Association, Mr.Jack Turdoff, Grant Director, CEPF, Mr.Chris Bowden, Programme officer, Saving Asia’s Vulture from Extinction and Mr. Karthika Rajkumar President, Arulagam. The rally commenced at Tirupur and went through two sanctuaries (Muthanga & Wayanad) and  four tiger reserves (Mudumalai, Bandipur, Sathyamangalam and Biligiri Rangan Betta). 

Throughout the rally’s route, the participants met people who were either pharmacists or cattle farmers and spoke to them on the dangers faced by vultures due to the usage of diclofenac in cattle treatment and requested them to shun the use of diclofenac for the sake of the vultures and thereby our environment. They also met public and appraised them on the dangers of carcass poisoning which is done by aggrieved farmers to avenge their loss of cattle to predators too, as even this posed a major risk to vultures. The dangers posed by forest fire were also mentioned and that preventing forest fires was everyone’s responsibility.

It was raining incessantly. In spite of heavy rain, the participants proceeded enthusiastically enjoying the sight of elephants and deer while passing through the jungle roads.

Throughout the rally, the team was given a warm welcome and send off by various forest department and animal husbandry officials encouraging them on their good deed. Onlookers were amazed at the sight of 20 motorcycles braving the rain and moving in a single file on a mission to protect vultures. They had only seen youth from the plains visiting Ooty to have fun and this was a unique experience for them seeing determined youth marching together for the cause of vultures and they were very appreciative of the spirit of the TITA youth.

To commemorate the special occasion of the rally, a huge signage on awareness of vulture conservation was inaugurated at Kothagiri by Mr. Srinivasa Reddy, Project Director, HADP. Mr. Sugirtharaj Koilpillai, District Forest Officer of Nilgiri North, Mr. Badrasamy,  District Forest Officer for Nilgiri South  and Mr. Udayakumar, Range Officer  took part in the event.  The participants of the rally were welcomed by Mr. Karthiga Rajkumar, President, Arulagam along with the children of the SMYRNA home.

While we came across Dr.Sukumaran (Good Samaritan veterinarian) residence at Gudalur, we stopped and honoured him for his contribution for establishing Vultue safe Zone.  He voluntarily sent letters to his colleagues and urging them to stop using diclofenac in cattle treatment and we were moved by his noble act. We gave him a small memento to show our respect and gratitude to him for his care for vultures.

The team reached Mudumalai in the night. Range Officer of Mr. Pushpakaran, Mudumalai  gave a talk on the forest and wildlife.

Day 2- Towards Muthanga and Bandipur

Next day, the rally proceeded to Muthanga sanctuary. Members of the Malabar Natural History Society and RASTA were waiting to welcome the rally participants from the morning. Dy. Forest Range Officer Anilkumar said that meeting people in this manner will produce the desired results in conservation. It was a noble gesture that volunteers in 10 motor cycles accompanied the rally participants till the rally reached Karnataka to show solidarity in the purpose of conservation.

When our team reached Karnataka, the team was received by Mr. Rajkumar, Founder, Wildlife Conservation Foundation (WCF) and  Honarary Wildlife Warden of Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Mr. Paramesh, Forest Range Officer. A small meeting was organised and they spoke of the importance of wildlife conservation. There was a discussion during which participants expressed their views and experience on the rally. One of the participants, Palanisamy said that he had joined the rally as he would do for any outing looking for fun. But on attending the rally, he understood so much about nature and he said he had learnt to love and respect nature.

Each member took leave of the other with a satisfaction of having done something good and filled with fond memories of nature and friendship during the rally. They took oath to stand for nature. Mr. Amsa, a naturalist observed that our amazing times will be when we see vultures nest in our villages. We are all expecting that day, participant said unanimously.

Acknowledgement

We would like to thank Forest Department of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka and the members of Arulagam, Tirupur Information Technology Association, RASTA, MNHS, SYMRYNA Home, WWF- India, Shola Trust and Wildlife Conservation Foundation (WCF), Mr. Kalyanasundaram Perumal, Mrs. Pooja for the contribution and making this as a successful event. We also thank CEPF for supporting our vulture conservation effort.