Western Ghat - Shekru Habitat                                                                                  
Sahyadri Fortnight Launched with Shekru Festival
Delicate, cute and shy, this creature is the indicator of the health of forests with tall trees with dense canopies, found in the Western Ghat mountain range. This is the reason that the first Sahyadri Fortnight has been launched by the Environment Dept, Government of Maharashtra with a focus on the Shekru. 

Under the Environment Dept’s Western Ghat (Sahyadri) Special Eco-club Scheme, which is implemented by CEE, eco-clubs have been set up in 246 schools in 63 Talukas of the 12 Districts in Maharashtra that have a segment of the Sahayadri mountain range. Of these, 30 schools from Pune, Ahmednagar, Satara, Raigad, Nashik, Kolhapur, Sangli district participated in the Shekru Festival and will be taking up a variety of activities to celebrate Sahyadri Fortnight from 1 to 15 July 2013 for reaching out to the community with awareness activities, collecting seeds of tree species important for the survival of shekru. Here is a brief report of the event:

The event, started off with a rally by participating school children from Chaturshringi to Yashada, the venue for the event. The rally was a new experience for the students most of whom were visiting Pune for the first time. Their excitement reflected in the slogans they called out during the rally. The onlookers got to learn a few things about the Giant Squirrels from the rally.

The event was inaugurated by Environment Minister Shri Deotale by planting a Mango tree at YASHADA, signifying the importance of tall trees with dense and spreading canopies in the habitat of the Shekru. Shri MK Rao, Chief Conservator of Forests, Pune Wildlife Division informed the students and teachers about the conservation issues of Shekru and its habitat.

Shri Chindu Dhondu Asavale, who in the 1990s, was the local guide in Bhimashankar for Dr Renee Borges in her surveys and scientific research on the Indian Giant Squirrel was felicitated by the Minister. Dr Borges, currently based in London, communicated over e-mail her best wishes for the event and appreciated the initiative of involving school children.

Of special interest to students and teachers were informal interactions with experts, researchers, community workers Dunda Rama Shengale and Sakharam Dhondage, community artists from Rajpur in Bhimashankar performed folk songs on the theme of Shekru. Participating students learnt these songs and also prepared their own poems on the themes of Shekru, Sahyadri etc.
A mela was organised for the children, this included games, quiz, film screening and an exhibition on the Sahyadris, ecology of the Giant Squirrel, threats and conservation efforts. The Web of Life and Ropes and Ladders games helped students understand the ecology of the shekru, threats such as habitat degradation and fragmentation  and some dos and don’ts related to biodiversity conservation.  

Seeds of trees used as food plants and nesting plants, such as Hirida, Beheda, Wad, Umbar, Mango, were displayed at the Festival. Each school was also presented seeds of all these species; schools will raise saplings and plant them over the coming months.
A Tree of Hope encouraged students to think and write one positive action that they would take up for conserving the giant squirrel population. 

An informative poster about Shekru developed by CEE for the Sahayadri Fortnight was released at the event.

The participating schools got an opportunity to display their projects at the venue. Some examples included display of scientific information on all the 8 species of Giant Squirrel, display of collected seeds of food plants of the Giant Squirrel, stuffed toys of the animal, articles made from a local grass variety called Tambat, cloth bags made from discarded saris, cloth materials.
For more information contact:
Satish Awate 
Programme Coordinator
Centre for Environment Education
A 1 Garden Estate, New D P Road
Aundh, Pune - 411 007
Ph +91-20-25884077, 25894066
Fax +91-20-25884067

Photograph courtesy: CEE Central photo bank 

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