Woods are no more dark & deep
Wildlife can only survive if each forester has the powers to work effectively 
Deepak Rikhye

Not many tea planters have written a book. However there are exceptions. Edward Pritchard Gee (1904-1968) was a Cambridge-educated Anglo-Indian tea planter. He was acknowledged for his discovery of Gee's golden langur in 1953. His comprehension of wildlife was given credence because he interacted with the famous ornithologist, Salim Ali. He had also discussed his observations with S.H Prater, former curator, Bombay Natural History Society. EP Gee utilised holidays touring forests in India.

The golden langur was discovered by Edward Pritchard Gee
The golden langur was discovered by Edward Pritchard Gee 

He visited a strip of land in Assam. This was between the river Sankosh in the west and Manas in the east. He was gifted with his first sighting of the golden langur on that tour. It is only these two small tracts of forest where this langur thrives. Flowers, fruit and leaves form the diet of this animal. The colour of its coat is a uniform deep cream colour which transforms to a bright golden colour in the sunshine. After Independence, Gee assessed the challenges and threats to our wildlife. He propagated the policy that wildlife would only survive if each forester had the powers to work effectively. His study of our tigers presented a situation of concern. In 1963, he put the figure of the tiger population at 4,000.

Gee's thoughts in those earlier decades were indeed prophetic and his stress was on protection by foresters. Their involvement in this role is crucial. His book, Wildlife of India was published in 1964. Let us identify factors with ecological significance. Our wildlife's cauldron of woes has bubbled trouble over the years.

In general, langurs are shy. They live more in trees than on the ground. The periphery of smaller forest tracts are often invaded by villagers. The practice of shifting cultivation would cause pandemonium amongst langurs. A forest just has to be treated as a "hallowed" area. It needs 24 hours protection. This includes flood management. We do accept that every forest has trees. We must also accept that a census for trees is conducted.

Established in 1940, the sprawling sanctuary, Mudumalai, was a first in India. It is a paradise for tigers and leopards
Established in 1940, the sprawling sanctuary, Mudumalai, was a first in India. It is a paradise for tigers and leopards

An example is a sprawling sanctuary like Mudumalai. This National Park was established in 1940 and was a first in India. It is a paradise for tigers and leopards. The combined total of all adjacent areas covers forest area of over 3300 sq km. It has the providential support of the Moyar river. All these forests will need consolidation. Once again, fringe areas at the periphery should be brought under the programme. Different areas in different states have their own situations. But certain measures will then protect the golden langur, the pygmy hog or the hispid hare (not seen since1951).

The Mudamalai sanctuary has withstood the ravages of time for over 60 years. It is natural to expect a certain percentage of trees to be replaced. How do we plan a replacement programme? A monumental task must be undertaken. Mark every tree on a map. This will create a microcosm of a huge forest.

We become selective in our choice of trees. Introduce specific trees for birds and animals. The ficus group of trees will provide figs eaten by birds and langurs. Deer and wild boar will devour what falls on the ground.

A word of caution. If a few saplings are planted in the midst of an existing thicket, there will be less hope for survival. The new small saplings will get smothered by larger trees. The map must focus on vacant areas. Vacant areas will exist in every forest. When these vacant areas are planted with new trees, the area will become part of the forest.

We will be confronted with another hazard. Wild elephants will trample the young saplings. To protect younger plants, the new vacant areas need to be segregated. Surround the larger vacant areas with electric fencing (used in sanctuaries abroad) or dig perimeter drains.

Elephants will not enter those areas. Apart from ficus trees simul (bombax) trees will help our wildlife. These trees produce a profusion of flowers and pods. The flowers which fall with pods will support animals on the ground. This in a gist will form a master plan. In the years ahead, we will be blessed with more tress and in turn more forest.

We reach to the final requirement, water. This entails rivers and lakes. Water management, be it for the Periyar lake or the mighty Brahmaputra, is part of this programme. Protect these water sources from chemicals. This will protect migratory birds like the bar-headed goose and goosanders. Let us pledge to consolidate our existing legacy. To save our wildlife, do not allow it to go into the "twilight". They still come to be seen by us.

William Wordsworth wrote: "Nature never did betray the heart that loved her." We betrayed the cheetah. The last three were killed, in India. This tragedy went into our history, in November, 1947. The curtains came down on the swiftest animal to be seen on our planet or in India.

Billy Arjun Singh gifted these cats with a title "The Prince of Cats".

Shakespeare's words convey a poignant tribute to the "Prince of Cats".

"Good-Night, Sweet Prince.........".