nagavallipeople storiestumkurwildlife

A passionate teacher spreads awareness on the slender loris

Slender Loris

I was in Nagavalli ,, a village near Tumkur recently to meet BVG sir aka B V Gundappa , a high school teacher whose passion and mission is to create awareness and conserve the slender loris in the villages around his home. Here is the story that I wrote about him in my column Inside Story. People do make places.

“ Please take the left turn after the toll gate before Tumkur and then drive for another three kilometers ;I will be waiting for you there ,” says Gundappa  Master on the mobile and then the line goes dead. It is almost 6 pm in the evening and the sky looks ominous, pregnant with dark clouds as we head towards Nagavalli, a village located 15 kms away from Tumkur.

I had planned this evening journey on an impulse to meet BVG sir, as Gundappa master is known among his students in theGovernmentHigh School in Nagavalli village. And the agenda was not just to meet him , but to see one of the most exquisite creatures of the dark – the slender loris .BVG Sir and his team have been selflessly working on creating awareness to conserve and protect these animals in these villages over the last 15 years .

 The toll gate arrives and we take the detour, but there is no sign of the master. It is almost twilight and the empty landscape stares back at us .We inch slowly forward and find a small shop, where our queries for one Gundappa Master from Nagavalli village is met with a blank stare. And then all of a sudden, the network comes alive as the phone rings. We drive a couple of kilometers ahead to find the master waiting for us with a wide grin .

 He seems to be a household name in Nagavalli as villagers and students crowd around him the moment we enter the school. There is a huge board educating people about the nocturnal creatures on the compound wall. I ask him about his interest in slender loris and he says ,” I am a science teacher and am interested in wildlife and bio diversity.. But it was my 8th standard students who told me about three slender lorises that they had seen in the school compound. Fascinated by them , I started researching and then creating awareness about them. “ BVG Sir is not just into conserving slender loris ; he is also interested in butterflies , birds and even catches snakes.” I have also documented almost every flora in this region,” he says .

 Today the master is almost synonymous with the word ,” kaadu papa “ as the animals are called in the local language .” It’s like a baby ,” he says, adding that people call him from all over Tumkur if they sight one .” We have rescued a lot of them from towns and villages and release them into the wilds. We also have a local veterinarian who takes care if they are injured,” he adds. The bigger threats he says are of road kills and electricity wires as several animals die of  electrocution.

There are more than 60  slender lorises in the farms and wild habitats around Nagavalli and surrounding districts, most of which have been rescued by the master and his team. The omnivorous creatures prefer haunting small agricultural farm lands with trees and bushes where they are likely to find insects, says the master.

We walk in the dark into a small patch of greenery near a stream adjoining an agricultural land . Holding flashlights we scan the bamboo, teak and other small trees and bushes for slender lorises. I am told that they stir awake as darkness sets in and start hunting for their first meal of the day. . Sumitra, a former panchyat member joins us in our quest along with Vasanth kumar, a student .We find worm snakes, giant African snails and hammerhead slugs , but no slender loris . And then atop a bamboo tree we find two eyes blinking like red lights from the leaves, only to scurry away. It starts raining but we continue our search. Finally we find a young slender loris , almost the size of a kitten climbing up a branch of a teak tree . It looks at us with those curious big eyes as it allows us to photograph for a while, before scrambling up the tree . The rain pours, almost ending our evening , but the baby slender loris has just made our day.

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