Birdsong, insect orchestra, the odd roar and a rare orchid

Dudhwa Tiger Reserve Field Director Sanjay Pathak recalls the exhilaration of sighting a rare orchid after 118 years, and speaks about why it is important to enjoy Nature without any fixed agenda. Watch him speak on The Slow App.

Subha J Rao
| Updated: July 2nd, 2021

The Eulophia obtusa, also called ‘ground orchard’ is a rare species. All photos: Gaon Connection

Amid the pandemic and the general sense of being hemmed in at home, the Foresters channel on The Slow App is a great way to make you feel better. There’s so much green, so much wildlife… and the vast expanse that beckons, currently virtually.

And, when you have someone like Sanjay Pathak, Field Director of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Uttar Pradesh, speak about the treasures of the jungle, you learn to appreciate it more.

The Foresters channel on The Slow App, a brainchild of writer-storyteller Neelesh Misra, throws the spotlight on unsung heroes who serve in the nation’s forests.

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Pathak walks in the jungle with a pair of binoculars, revelling in the surprises it throws up. That was how his team once found a ground orchid species, 118 years after it was last sighted. The Eulophia obtusa, also called ‘ground orchard’ is a rare species and was discovered by chance during an inspection.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the Eulophia obtusa as “critically endangered” in Bangladesh. This species was said to be last sighted in India in 1902, before Pathak’s team found it. In fact, the Kew Herbarium in England has three specimens of this species, dating back to 1902.

Sanjay Pathak, Field Director of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, Uttar Pradesh, speak about the treasures of the jungle.

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Sitting in what looks like a porch with a wooden fence, the wide expanse of the forest in front of him, Pathak recalls how, after seeing photos posted in an ‘orchid group’, a scientist in Bangladesh asked them where they had sighted the white-and-pink orchid, and told them it was very rare.

The team went back and scoured for it, and found it near the rhinoceros zone. They took photographs of not just the bloom, but also of its fruits.

They also spotted some orchids in the Kishanpur and Sathiana  ranges. This year, the team hopes to repeat the exercise and publish a paper on the same.

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Speaking about it, Pathak said that whoever joins the Indian Forest Service always looks forward to serving in a place like Dudhwa. What gives those who work in these reserves joy is seeing people bond with Nature.

The ‘ground orchard’ was discovered by chance during an inspection.

“So many people keep returning even if they don’t spot a tiger,” he says, even as the background shows a baby elephant frolicking. 

But, Pathak also meets people who come with the single-minded focus of seeing a tiger, as if to tick one thing off the bucket list.

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“They might have booked for three days, but end up sighting a tiger on day one. They choose to get back,” Pathak rues. But what is a visit to the jungle all about, he asks. “It is about the fresh air and the birdsong. Animal sightings are a bonus,” says the field director.

Speaking about the behaviour of some tourists, Pathak says that he sees them peering into their phones or listening to music on their headphones even after reaching the jungle. “We have been given eyes and ears. Open both and listen to the music of the jungle.”

The birdsong and insect orchestra punctuated by the odd trumpet or roar is superior anyday! 

The short film has cinematography by Yash Sachdev and Mohammad Salman and is edited by Ram Sagar. Graphics are by Kartikeya Upadhyay.

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