The man who talks to birds

Current wildlife warden for Pune district, Kiran Vasant Purandare, has spent much of his life studying and working towards the conservation of nature

A decade ago, Kiran Vasant Purandare, repulsed by urban chaos, chose 14 months in the forest in Nagzira over his native city, Pune. “I approached the state forest department with a project. My plan was to observe every facet of the forest closely and submit a report. After a lot of convincing, I was put up in a forest guards’ run-down cabin in the heart of the forest. I was later moved to a slightly better accommodation, but was always under the risk of attacks from scorpions, sloth bears or, albeit rarely, leopards,” recalls the researcher who shunned a vehicle to cycle and walk over 1,200 km in the forest.

Greater Flamingoes
Greater Flamingoes. PICS/Kiran Purandare

In touch with nature
Today, Purandare recognises various birdcalls and mimics 75 species, including the Common Iora, White-throated Fantail, Crested Serpent Eagle and the Coppersmith Barbet. “I seldom use it in the forest. Birds respond to my calls and I’d rather not disturb or confuse them,” he says.

Demoiselle Cranes

Purandare spends a month or two every year in Nagzira, and works with the tribal community. One of his most prized projects is the conservation of natural waterholes. “In Pitezari, a village near Nagzira, we dug out a natural waterhole that had been buried under the rubble. It is extremely important to conserve these waterholes. The fauna share water in a surprisingly amicable manner — you’ll never see animals fighting at a waterhole,” he adds.

Kiran Purandare

Entitled honorary wildlife warden for Pune district by the state forest department, Purandare and co-warden Anuj Khare have been conducting orientation programmes for the forest guards, guides and other frontline staff.

Purandare has also been constructing eco-friendly waterholes in and around Pune. When Praveen Pardeshi, principal secretary, Revenue and Forest dept Maharashtra, noticed these eco-friendly waterholes, made with stones and no artificial materials, he asked the conservationist to replicate these across the state. “We’ve now constructed more than 300 of these across the state from Bor sanctuary in Wardha to Melghat Tiger Reserve,” Purandare says.

Spreading the word
When in urbania, Purandare spends his time writing and with children at his two-year-old nature club, Kika’s Bird Club. “At my first stay in Nagzira, I used up 180 diaries. I sorted them out over two years to write my book, Sakha Nagzira,” says the nature lover, who has since written 16 more books. Also a keen photographer, Purandare is currently working on a series of pictorial bird guides.

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