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K’taka celebrates wildlife week with cyclethon, walkathon

Bengaluru : Karnataka joined the country in celebrating the National Wildlife Week from October 2-8 with a series of programmes and events to create awareness and care for its rich flora and fauna, an official said on Tuesday.

“The 66th Wildlife Week is being celebrated since October 2 across the southern state, with various events like cyclethon, walkathon and webnairs to commemorate wildlife conservation,” Karnataka Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Shiva Raj Singh, told IANS here.

Unlike in the past, the wildlife week is, however, low-key this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and the guidelines in place to maintain social distancing.

While a walkathon was conducted in this tech city from Cubbon Park to Lalbagh Botanical Garden on October 2, the week-long cyclethon with the theme “protecting the elephant corridors” was flagged off on October 2 to mark the Wildlife Week.

“Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, only forest officials, staff and a few guests participated in the 4-km walkathon through the city centre,” Singh said.

The walkathon was flagged off by Sandeep Dave, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest, Environment and Ecology, in the presence of the department’s senior officials, staff and their families.

The cyclethon is being conducted on twin routes through the Dandeli Elephant Reserve in Uttara Kannada district and through the Mysuru Elephant Reserve.

The cyclethon will conclude at the Aranya Bhavan in Bengaluru on October 8, said Singh.

The first group of 45 members are pedalling through Bhimgad WL Sanctuary, Khanapur, Nagargali, Dandeli, Kulgi, Yellapur, Sirsi, Jog, Shimoga and Sakkrebylu to Mutthodi.

The second group of 30 members are riding from Mutthodi, Chikmagalur, Hassan, Sakleshpur, Madikeri, Nagarhole, Mysore, Bheemeshwari and Bannerghatta to reach Bengaluru on Thursday.

“The groups are a mix of cyclists and forest staff. The local forest officials and staff are joining the groups on the way for some kilometres,” said Singh.

With the Western Ghats as a part of it, Karnataka is the sixth largest state in the country with 38,720 sq km forest area, which covers around 20 per cent of the southern state.

Being a part of the southern peninsula in the Deccan region, Karnataka’s ecosystem supports different kinds of forests, ranging from the wet evergreen forests of the Western Ghats to the deciduous forests in Mysuru district to the thorn scrub forests and rocky outcrops in Ramanagara and Daroji, extending to the riverine and marine ecosystems.

The state’s forests support 25 per cent of the elephant population and 20 per cent of the tiger population of the country.

As the theme of this year’s wildlife awareness week is “Vultures for Future”, Kannada film actor and former ambassador for the state’s forest life Ramesh Arvind said that “as scavengers, vultures are vital contributors in maintaining ecological balance”.

The country’s only vulture sanctuary is atop Ramadevarabhatta in Ramanagara district, 55 km southwest of Bengaluru on way to Mysuru.

“The 346-hectare vulture sanctuary has been notified as an eco-sensitive zone to protect its granite rocky hills from mining and other human activity as it is the only place where the endangered and endemic Indian white-backed vulture and long-billed vultures are found in South India,” said Singh.

The 8-year-old sanctuary also hosts the white-backed, long-billed and Egyptian vultures which are a rare species.

According to bird experts, the population of Asian vultures is on the brink of extinction, as they had perished after ingesting the residual diclofenac drug found in cattle carcasses.

Though the drug is banned for veterinary use, its usage as an anti-inflammatory medicine in cattle continues unabated.

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