Tree Revival Campaign: Wadala Edition

"As we progress, most of us have a tendency of forgetting the older and sometimes crucial necessities of life. One of the things we have forgotten is the trees that have been there since forever in our neighbourhoods. It's time we rediscover the trees around us," said Father Savio Silveira as he kicked off the latest Tree Revival campaign workshop on 27th September.

Around a hundred students from six schools close to Five Gardens had gathered at St. Joseph's High School  for the Wadala edition of the Tree Revival Campaign conducted by Ekonnect and GreenLine. We were also joined by college students from the Rotaract Club of Ruia, who pitched in as volunteers, and Julius Rego with his team from Green Souls. And of course, there were the tree experts who would go along with the students to map the trees they saw.  Father Savio also talked about the trees in our surroundings and how we usually take them for granted. He talked about how it's important to learn about the trees that grow in our neighbourhood, and about the biodiversity they support. Father Bernard, principal of St. Joseph's High School Wadala then told the students they were here as "torchbearers of change". Resident tree expert Katie Bagli then took the stage to tell the students about the rare trees found in Five Gardens (which happens to be her home ground!) and some lesser known facts about them. Everyone was all ears as Katie talked about the jewel box pods of the Guest Tree, whose seeds look strangely like pearls! Or the African native Sausage tree which is called so because of it's sausage-shaped fruits.

She also talked about Five Gardens through time, and about Mancherji Joshi - the man behind it's making.We felt a sense of pride for having so many trees rare to Mumbai growing just next door!

Aristo from the GreenLine team then gave everyone instructions about how to go about mapping the trees. He also divided the schools into teams, consisting of the students, a tree expert and two volunteers. Every team was given colour coded routes

The route for the tree mapping looked something like this:

No map of Middle Earth, but pretty cool huh?

To make things tricky and keep the students on their feet, we came up with a small game. Each team was named after a rare tree found in Five Gardens (sometimes exclusively!). The aim was for the team to find that particular tree on the route they were assigned. So for instance, the Amulakh school team was called Albizzia richardiana and they had to find their tree namesake (which was on the Red route) and click a group photo with it!
By now the students were raring to go out and start mapping the trees, everyone filed out of the hall and headed to their routes. The teams not only observed the trees but also looked for any forms of biodiversity they could find on them...whether birds, insects or anything else they could find moving about!

The roads were buzzing with activity as everyone moved towards Five Gardens, even people passing by stopped to ask what was going on!

The tree walk threw up a lot of surprises. The Shishuvan team was lucky to see a Common Emigrant butterfly laying eggs on one of the tree's leaves!
The Auxilium team got a glimpse of a Coppersmith Barbet on, no marks for guessing - a copper pod tree!
And most of the students saw hordes of noisy fruit bats roosting on the rain trees. Other than taking in all the sights and sounds, the teams also had the challenge of looking for their tree. Most of them managed to track them down. One hour flew by and everyone got back into the hall for well-deserved snacks.

The students from each team then came forward to tell us what they found while walking among the trees. The interesting thing was that apart from the trees, they also came across many other forms  of biodiversity.
Most of the teams brought back souvenirs they found under the trees, from leaves of different kinds to seed pods! Many said they realized for the first time that there were so many varieties of trees growing near them that they never knew about. The Amulakh team also noticed some Rain Trees with cages around the trunks, that weren't supposed to be there and decided they should do something about it.
There was an on-the-spot quiz contest of sorts. The budding botanists also threw and fielded questions at each other, like why is a Samudra Sheng called a Samudra Sheng?"

Julius Rego from the Green Souls team then came up and said that this was "a means to an end". He then showed us how easy it is to make green spaces where we stay, like our window grills, and grow plants in easy-to-get plastic jars and bottles. He showed us some 'kaddi patta' plants and 'Jamaican Blue Spike' plants that he grew in plastic jars. Incidentally these plants are also Butterfly-attractants too! Everyone was spellbound as he picked up a Common Mormon Caterpillar that was found crawling around on the kaddi patta plant!

Father Savio then concluded the programme by thanking everyone who participated and also reminded us that this was just the start. He also reminded us to look more closely at the trees right next to us and making space for more green in our neighbourhoods.

- Jessica Luis,
GreenLine Team

Father Savio flagging off the Tree Revival Campaign with Katie Bagli, Father Bernard of St. Joseph's HIgh School and Sonal Alvares from Ekonnect

The tree experts and volunteers!

Team Albizzia richardiana: The students of Amulakh School Wadala take notes furiously as tree expert HUtokshi Rustomfram shows them around

The teams at work!

Spotting the Common Emigrant laying eggs!

The St. Joseph's students measuring the tree girth like pros!

The students back from the tree walk tell us what they've found!

Team Lagerstroemia speciosa: The students of St. Joseph's High School under their tree with the volunteers and tree expert Vishal Rasal. They found their tree bang in the middle of Garden Number 3!

Julius Rego talking about greening the spaces you can find, and how he's planted saplings in plastic jars and urban farms.  Here he shows us a Common Emigrant caterpillar that was sitting on a  kadi patta plant he planted!

Team Berrya cordifolia: The Auxilium students with the volunteers and tree expert Katie Bagli near the tree. Two of these rare trees are found in Mumbai, outside the agiary near Five Gardens

Team Sausage Tree: The Don Bosco students with tree expert Anil Rajbhar
finally find their tree!

Katie Bagli talking about the trees found (sometimes exclusively!) in Five Gardens

Team Persian Lilac: Students from DPYA with their tree experts Nita Shashidharan and Devyani Singh

Team Ebony: The Shishuvan students with tree expert Julius Rego

Those tiny shapes hanging from the branches are infact, Fruit Bats! The students came across large colonies roosting on the Rain Trees at Five Gardens 

Trekking around Tadoba

by Jessica Luis

Tadoba Tiger Reserve is the oldest National Park in Maharashtra. It was declared a tiger reserve way back in 1935. Apart from being home to around a whopping 60 tigers, you will also find diverse wildlife like leopards, sloth bears, gaur, wild dogs, Indian Muggers, civets and many species of deer.

Like all national parks, Tadoba is divided into a core and a buffer where you find most villages. But these boundaries don't mean that humans and animals are separated in compartments, humans outside the forest and animals inside. Both end up having to share the same space. And when you stay so close to the forest, you're definitely going to have VERY close encounters with the animals that live in it.

The light green area shows the core region of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve
Map from:

Earlier in September, a few of us volunteered for a conflict survey at Tadoba, where we had to go to around 200 villages near the forest and talk to tribals staying there, about animals they had seen coming into their villages or crop fields, and whether those animals cause them any trouble (or the other way around!). We showed them pictures of animals found in Tadoba and asked them whether they had seen any while going to collect firewood from the forest or roaming around in their fields. They also had to tell us the names of these animals. We had to learn the Marathi names of these animals (some animals like the Four Horned Antelope had MANY different names!)

The Four Horned Antelope is called Chouran or Chousingh among many other names
Pic from :
Human-wildlife conflict is the term used to describe interactions between wild animals and people that impact either of them negatively. The 'Creating Co-existence' workshop defined human-wildlife conflict like this: “Human-wildlife conflict occurs when the needs and behaviour of wildlife impact negatively on the goals of humans or when the goals of humans negatively impact the needs of wildlife."

The photo identification part of the survey always managed to draw huge crowds. We started off interviewing one person and by the time you looked up there was a whole audience around! We got a huge range of answers, depending how close or far the village was from the forest core region. People living in villages far away from the core said the only place they had seen most of these animals was on Discovery! A lot of them called the nilgai "zebra" and the foxes "tiger and giraffe", clear influences from the Serengeti show on Discovery. Not surprisingly, schoolkids were pros at photo identification!

People living close to the core, like in one village called Sitaram Pet, carnivores encounters are an everyday occurrence.  A lot of times they also said that the "bibat" (leopard) or "patta wallah wagh" (what many villagers call the tiger) attacked their cattle when they're grazing near the forest. Sometimes they, and also jackals and wolves, enter villages to take off easy prey like goats. In Sitaram, we saw a recent kill near the main road, a cow that had fallen prey to a tiger (actually just the bones of the cow remaining!). The tiger usually kept coming back around 7.00 in the evening, the villagers even showed some of us a video of that very tiger marking it's scent on trees nearby, something they do to "draw" their turf! Others said that when they went into the jungle to gather firewood they frequently came face to face with Sloth Bears!

The biggest conflict, as the villagers there say, is herbivores polishing off their crops. Many of them grow rice, jowar and other crops which are fast food for deer, wild boars and langurs. People are trying to come up with new ways to keep them out.

In one field that we passed, we saw a large group of Hanuman langurs munching on newly grown soya bean crops while villagers tried to scare them away by shouting and waving sticks at them. Some langurs on a tree kept deftly dodging the stones being pelted at them! Another time, we were driving back almost at night when we chanced upon a herd of around twenty wild boar (including piglets!) moving stealthily through the bushes. They were probably on their way to the nearest rice field. We were amused by the sighting, but a lot of villagers (who see it everyday)  think the wild boar is a pesky nuisance.

A lot of people have started fencing their fields to keep the animals out. Or sometimes putting  up machans (or watchtowers) in their fields to watch for "raiders" at night. One person told us that the wild boars no longer get scared when they aim torches at them! We asked people to come up with solutions. Some people told us there should be a HUGE wall around the forest so the animals stay inside the forest and don't come out into their fields.

The conflict survey made us ask a lot of questions. Are the animals invading the places where these villagers stay? Or did the people get into the place where animals live, since they've been in the forest for probably longer than us? Who's space is it really? 

This man-animal conflict occurs not only in Tadoba, but all around India, (even in Mumbai!) and we can't exactly say who is in whose space? Conservationists around the country are trying to look for ways that animals and humans can co-exist peacefully before it turns into a turf war.

Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) is also a brilliant place to see wildlife in the monsoons. On our trip there we saw a huge variety of birds, which we usually overlook in national parks. We came across many of Baya weaver nests lining the road when we zipped from village to village to do surveys. This bird makes around 500 trips over as many as 20 days to gather dried grass for these impressive looking nests! Another bird we frequently saw sitting on electric pole wires along the road was the Long-Tailed Shrike.

Baya weaver nests
Pic from:
Long-Tailed Shrike
After getting done with our field work we went for a small safari. Most national parks around India are closed for safaris during the monsoons, there is a just a nine kilometer tar road in TATR open for vehicles doing safris. The erst of the mud roads apparently sink during the monsoons, which makes them off limits.
Here's a glimpse of what we saw at Tadoba...

On a night trail in the buffer zone...a  fresh pug mark left by a 11-month-old tiger cub

A Sri Lankan Bullfrog coming out of it's hideout at night 
A juvenile Crested Serpent Eagle

Spotting a herd of Spotted Deer. The male in the middle is sporting new "velvet" antlers that he has regrown after shedding his old ones

A Sambar Deer grazes undisturbed.  Herds of them sometimes enter villagers fields to eat rice and jowar

A Ruddy Mongoose looks up from his food (could have been a snake it was eating)
Only a nine kilometer tar road is open for safaris in Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve during the monsoons...

A Grey Junglefowl crossing the road...

Budding Naturalist on a Trail!

Riya Bhagat from the 9th Standard of St. Anne's High School Borivali writes about their nature club's trip to Sanjay Gandhi National Park...

On 17th September we the students of St .Anne's were taken on a nature trail arranged by GreenLine along with our school nature club team and teachers. We left our school at 8:00 in the morning and reached Sanjay Gandhi National park . We started the trail by visiting the information centre.  We saw a 3d map which depicted the extent of the park. We also observed that the benches were made by plastic waste. We went inside and got loads of information on the biodiversity found in the park. Then went on a trail towards the Gandhi Smarak.  We also went on to many places and saw a number of plants and animals. Some of the animals seen by us were butterflies like the White Orange Tip and Yellow Orange Tip , Evening Brown, Wanderer, Lime Blue, Glassy Tiger, Blue Tiger, Chocolate Pansy, Danaid Eggfly, Common Crow and some Grass Yellows that were mud-puddling. We also saw plants like Spiral Ginger, Bamboo, Ceylon oak tree, teak and many more.  Some other things that we spotted were the Woolly Bear Moth caterpillar, the  Red Silk Cotton Bug, freshwater crab, sting bugs, Giant Wood Spiders, Funnel Web Spiders, Rhesus Macaques, Indian Myna and bracket fungi. We are very thankful to GreenLine and the nature club team. It was an altogether an adventurous as well as a knowledgeable trip. We thank all of them who arranged a wonderful trip like this.
On a spotting spree!

Pit stop at the Gandhi Smarak...

A sting bug on the trail...

A Giant Wood Spider becomes the centre of attention!

One of the many Funnel Web Spider webs...

White Orange Tips were seen everywhere you looked...

Up a machan...

The surprise tag-along...

Pics by: Jessica Luis and Aristo Mendis

Green Schools Campaign 2013-2014 Takes Off

Don Bosco High School, Matunga

The Green Schools Campaign is back!
And so are the sessions and activities with the students!

The theme for this edition of the Campaign is 'Green Alternatives' - looking for eco-friendly options or choices in our day-to-day lives.

A lot of sessions with schools have already been completed and many more are to follow in the coming weeks..

For the students, obviously the best place to start implementing 'Green Alternatives' would be in the school itself. And so, the first session of the year mainly focuses on the Green Alternatives that can be introduced in the school.

We look forward to an exciting year, interacting with a host of Changemakers from various schools in the city!

For details about the Campaign get in touch with us at

St. Anne's High School, Fort
Our Lady of Dolours High School, Marine Lines
St. Agnes High School, Byculla
St. Andrew High School, Bandra