Pics by Violet Pereira Team Mangalorean
Mangalore, Jun 20: Yes, there are foreign visitors who have taken up permanent residency in Moodushedde panchayat, but without passports and visas. They are the winged ones.
There are dozens of new arrivals. But all come without the help of maternity hospitals or nursing staff. They are the crawling friends of ours.
All this has happened at Pilikula, the pride of Mangalore.
Just like a few other examples like Katipalla (the pond of the bison) and Pakshikere (the pond of the birds), the name of the days of yore has been tastefully preserved, without allowing it to take an ugly form of some ‘So-and-so Nagar’ as it has happened to many other places, all in a mad scramble for re-naming.
It couldn’t have had a better name. Pilikula in Tulu literally means a pond or a watering-hole for tigers or even a safe haven for them. For centuries, tigers had made this place their favourite haunt. However, over the years, deforestation and urbanization has made it out of bounds for the very animals which gave it a name.
But thankfully, over 400 acres of green, woody land remained as reserve forest to shelter some apes and birds, even peacocks and hens. The idea of turning this green patch into a nature park and wildlife sanctuary took shape in 1995 with some enthusiastic officials putting their heads together.
The then-deputy commissioner of the undivided Dakshina Kannada district, Bharat Lal Meena, took the lead with the support of John Richard Lobo, then assistant revenue commissioner of Mangalore sub-division, Heroor Jayaprakash Bhandary, an energetic forest official who loves nature and wildlife and Dr K V Rao, who had retired as a Physics professor from St Aloysius College. We couldn’t have asked a better combination.
So the Pilikula Nisarga Dhama, PND in short, was registered as a society. A small pond was developed into a large lake. Gardens and walking tracks were developed and various facilities were introduced.
Today, besides being an eye-pleasing nature park, it is a sanctuary for about 650 animals and birds belonging to 80 species. There are about 160 snakes belonging to 27 species. Common Langurs, spotted deer, Indian Sambur, bears, tigers, lions, elephants and many more make their presence felt.
The Pilikula Nisarga Dhama has been given the status of a major zoo in Karnataka on par with the Mysore Zoological Gardens and the Bannerghatta National Park. This Zoo has been recognized as a breeding centre for King Cobras which is the only one of its kind in the world.
This has 14 King Cobras which is said to be the largest collection in the entire world. King cobras have laid eggs for the first time in captivity and we need to wait for 60 days for their hatching and if it succeeds, then Pilikula Zoo will create a world record for breeding King Cobras in captivity, say the officials.
An expanse of 150 acres has been earmarked for the zoo alone. Besides the present crowd of animals, Hippopotamuses and Indian Gaurs will be soon seen here. A large pond for Hippos and a spacious enclosure for Gaurs are already in place.
All animals and birds have spacious enclosures, perhaps a feature that can claim to be better than other zoos. The snakes have a fine nature-like ambience in the form of a snake-house, where a large ant-hill welcomes the visitors.
Birds are a special attraction. Blue Gold macaw, Green-winged Macaw, Citron Cockatoo, Galah Cockatoo, Channel-billed Toucan, African Grey, Sun Conure, Rose Ring-necked Paraqueets – all these make an exotic collection. Owls and Guinea fowls also fill the ‘bill’.
The collection of reptiles is indeed ?staggering? and is a fine example of natural ‘hiss’-tory here. Indian Rock Python, Hump-nosed Pit Viper, Indian Cobra, Whittaker’s Boa, Russel’s Viper, Common Krait, Ceylon Cat Snake, Common Vine Snake, Bronze-back Tree Snake, Checkered Keelback, Bander Racer, King Cobra and the like – the collection is simply amazing.
The caretaker staff like scientist Vikram Lobo, Roshan Menezes, Jay, Dinesh and others make a good team to take care of the animal kingdom under the leadership of wildlife director Jayaprakash Bhandary. It is fascinating to watch the tiger, Chandu, responding to Dinesh’s voice and getting closer to the fence as he calls out its name.
So is Jay’s way with the birds. They just seem to love the way he pampers and plays with them. Elephants Durgaparameshwari ? Durgi in short – Prashant and Radha – the last mentioned being a tiny female calf – literally stand out with their huge appearance.
But, without any governmental or official grants, running the zoo and the park and maintaining the mighty infrastructure has been a back-breaking task. True, some benevolent NRI donors like K G Shenoy have picked up the tab without much fanfare. (The names of elephants and those of lions – Sara, Victoria and Bharat representing three communities were given by Shenoy.) Gate collections too make good a part of the expenses. Many corporates and business establishments have sponsored some animals.
But in the long run, it would be an onerous mission to keep the show going. This is where people who have Mangalore at heart come into the picture. Those who would like to sponsor animals or contribute can contact PND on email –
When we laud the upkeep and caretaker staff, the role played by one person who has contributed the most in terms of efforts should not be forgotten. Without undermining others, it can be safely said that it is because of J R Lobo?s day-and-night endeavour towards developing and finding finances etc., that this establishment, to a large extent, has stayed afloat. The citizens and visitors alike owe their full-steam support to this team.
Ps: A visit to Pilikula can also include viewing a biological park, a herbarium, a science centre, a golf course, a heritage ?Guttu? house and an artisans? village, besides the Manasa water sports centre. Jungle lodges also are available if anyone is interested in staying there.
Author: Richard Lasrado