Conservation is now an important word, the world over. We have finally woken up to the plunder of our environment. But, are we doing enough to stop this destruction? I really do not think so. Let alone the dialogues at international or national levels, individually too a lot remains to be done.
Even though environment conservation is taught from school onwards, but still the rules of conservation are not being followed in totality by people. We need to reflect on our actions and find out ways to avoid further harm to the environment. We also can learn from the mistakes of others.
Let me share with you an experience when I disregarded these rules. This happened when I was working on a project where I had to identify and catalogue the orchid population of a tropical rainforest. To undertake regular trips to the forest I had to organise a group of people, including a forest guard (to help us avoid paths frequented by elephants). Bigger groups (five to six men) were for protection against the danger that lurked not just in form of four legged animals, but also from the two legged animals (man!). So, 'the more the merrier' was my motto at that time.
How my actions were against the principles of forest conservation
• Our group would go orchid hunting with scant regard to the forest undergrowth.
• I had to submit specimens of orchids sighted back in my department. So when an orchid was sighted, I would ask the climber to take it down. He would then uproot the entire bunch from the tree. In case of terrestrials, I would pull out two or three plants.
• Sometimes, due to lack of knowledge, I would take down an epiphytic fern or a liana. Sadly, I did not pay much attention to these plants once these were identified as ferns or liana. Most of the time these perished.
What I should have done instead
• Instead of five or six persons, I should have taken along just two, a climber and a forest guard. Also, at that time I was not aware that trampling the ground near the wild plants could kill them.
• Instead of uprooting orchids, taking their photographs would have been a wiser decision. Plant samples could have been procured from the forest nursery. This way, epiphytes other than orchids could have been saved too!
Though, with time I did realise that my lack of knowledge is hampering the project. So, 'King and Pantling' would also travel with me to the forests. Let me clarify here that in these trips I did not behave totally like a 'bull in the china shop'. There were a lot of things that I avoided.
What I never did
• I never left behind any kind of plastic waste inside the forest.
• Apart from orchids and other epiphytes (due to lack of proper identification), I never brought back anything else from the forest.
• Unlike the local people, who organised picnics with jarring music; we never creating any kind of disturbance within the forest.
• We usually kept to the forest areas adjacent to the paths laid out by the forest department. As a consequence, did not disturb the forest life in the core area, which is normally accessible to Forest Department personnel only.
However, now I feel that the underlying purpose of the project was defeated when the orchids were removed from their original habitat. I might have been able to identify a large number of orchids growing in that area, but I was unable to protect them.
Time and experience have changed my perspective. Now, I appreciate the beauty of a plant most when I see it growing in its natural environment. Even when I go to purchase orchids, I always inquire on how that particular orchid was obtained. I never buy an orchid brought from the forest. My appeal to the readers, especially in orchid rich regions, is that there is no harm in searching orchids in wild, but please do not bring them home. You might just end up killing them as well as your other plants. What if these wild plants are carrying with some wild pests or diseases?
To beautifying your homes or offices, check out the local nurseries instead. They will surely have the orchid you are searching. We have just one world. Conserve it! Save it!