Often certain unsung folklore’s lie wrapped up, dusted and hidden in the annals of wildlife and environmental library. Either they are soft targets owing to the polity of the area or they are too small and feeble to fight for a share they deserve as in recognition. The ‘Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary’ is one such untold ‘success’ story. Fortunately it now seems that this ‘minnow’ is carving a niche for itself on the National map amongst the big-wigs.
Declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in year 1990 and located in a small erstwhile princely state of Jambughoda after which it derives its name, this is a small 130 sq. Km. sanctuary which lies 60 Kms to the North-East of Baroda city and 25 Kms from the ‘UNESCO World Heritage Site’ of the ‘Champaner Archeological Park’. It is ideally located in the hilly ‘Tribal Belt’ of Godhra, Panchmahal and Chotta Udepur on the foothills of the Vindhyas. Deciduous in nature, Bamboo, Teak and Mahua trees dominantly stand out of the 116 types of trees which house about 132 species of birds in this sanctuary. Leopard is a primary predator which sits is at the apex of the food chain alongwith Sloth Bears, Hyenas, Chausinga, Neelgai, Wild Boars, Porcupines, Palm Civets, Hares, Cats, Ant-Eaters, Pythons and a wide variety of Snakes reside in this sanctuary.
The Baria, Rathwa and Nayak tribal’s residing in the 30 villages within the Sanctuary have for generations been inhabitants of these forests. Other than being distinctly known for their arts and culture these tribal’s are self-instated ‘guards of the Jambughoda Sanctuary’. As we read and hear of the human-animal every day, here is a Sanctuary where no fatalities have been reported in last 30 years owing to the same. Most National parks and Sanctuaries face demands as in monetary compensation by the human dwellers residing therein, surprisingly the most tribal’s of Jambughoda sanctuary humbly turn away the compensation offered to them by the forest department following the losses suffered by them owing to the ungulate in their farmlands, accepting the loss as destiny drawn by the Gods. The forest department had taken a tough call on inviting the tribal’s to participate as major partners in a project of equipping the Sanctuary with eco tourism centers at various points to propagate tourism in the area in form of Wildlife lovers, birdwatchers and weekenders, and the bold step successfully paid off with active tribal participation. These centers are now fairly equipped with more than basic amenities and are quite comfortable to retire to.
Humans have coexisted with the wild for thousands of years, in other words humans have often encroached in the wild territory enticed by the richness, mysteries and alluring exploits of forests which has paved way for human pockets in wilderness. The striking difference between other sanctuaries that I have known and Jambughoda is that the tribal’s here show their concern towards rapidly disappearing wildlife and its habitat. This school of thought with the tribal’s here is unknown to the resident’s of most other sanctuaries. The tribal’s here are prosperous land holding farmers and therefore they find no need to exploit the forests. This is a primary reason why the human-animal conflict is unheard of in this part of the world with the terrain here which is visibly divided into the plains which are agricultural in nature, where the tribal’s farm their lands and the rocky mountainous terrain with out-growths on slopes which is a perfect natural hideout for variety of wild animals.
I am proud to be a student absorbing the nature at the Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary for twelve years now. Evidently a small sanctuary that strikes a perfect balance between the humans and animals, one that has carried a non controversial projection over the years, one sanctuary where none has heard of animals being pelted with stones or torched alive. Not so often we find examples where ‘minnows’ dare to stare into the eyes of the big-wigs when it comes to achievement in true spirit of conservation. Wildlife in India is not just the Corbett’s, Ranthambore’s, Kanha’s or Kaziranga’s as sanctuaries have more to offer than just safaris or sighting of large mammals. At Jambughoda sanctuary, the tribal’s exist in harmony with nature, in perfect balance with the wild, and they show respect towards both. Big is always better and small is worthy of being ignored, is not always true. It is not always just the Tendulkar’s that steal the limelight, sometimes the Shreesanth’s perform too.