We didn’t start the fire

We didn’t start the fire

16 June 2009

published by www.hindu.com

India — In the heat of summer, the likelihood of forests catching fire is high. How does it happen? What happens to the animals?

Beginning a new monthly column that will talk about the life and travails of tigers living in the wild.

In scorching summer months forest fires are a given. Hardly did we step into February this year, the mercury shot up several notches, winter making way for summer straight away.

A feeling of dread

We jungle folk dread summers. My vegetarian friends have difficulty finding green grass and water holes dry up. The heat tires us more than you, since we don’t have the facilities like cool shelters, fans, air conditioners and the like. Forest fires add fuel to our woes.

How do these fires happen? In the summer months, dry leaves, grass and twigs litter the forests. It only takes a spark to set a fire going. This may happen naturally (say a lightning strikes a tree and sets it on fire) or by people who carelessly throw a cigarette or a match stick among the dry leaves.

The tribal people and villagers who live in the jungles or close to them are also the culprits. These folks get fires going to cook their food in the dry forest areas and in the process cook our homes too. My little friends — rodents, reptiles and others who live on the ground — are most at risk. There are also birds who lay their eggs on the ground. Moving our little ones and old folk is difficult when these fires are upon us. Fires destroy precious flora and fauna. Cutting down green cover is one thing but burning them is even greater cruelty.

Why have we got to this? Thanks to humanoids emitting more poisonous fumes from vehicles, factories and these increasing fires in the forests. Forests absorb all the carbon dioxide from the air, giving us good, breathable oxygen in return . But burn the trees up and they give you more carbon back.

Forest officials do help. Before the onset of the fire season, they do fire line tracing, which is, controlled burning of dry leaves and debris on the forest floor. This ensures that younger, newer vegetation is protected and there is enough fodder for the animals .

Talk to me. Mail me at sherook@wildmail.com

A Children for Animals and Nature Unlimited Initiative (CANU)

Every little act counts. When you visit a jungle:

Do not litter,

Do not throw plastic bags/

bottles or anything that

feed a fire.

If you do see an adult light a

smoke, tell him/her to put

it off.

We need to make our

jungles a fire free habitat.

Fire! Fire!

Over February and March, fires raged across the forests in the

Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve destroying over 900 hectares of land.

Gir forests in Gujarat, home to my friend the Lion King, had a fire

which destroyed over 300 hectares of grasslands and forests.

Forest areas in Uttarkhand, Jharkhand, Sikkim and Andhra

Pradesh have also suffered large-scale fires this season. NASA’s

Aqua satellite images show raging fires in Eastern India and Myanmar.

It burned everywhere, even in Australia and Indonesia.

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