Friday, December 23, 2011

Snakes and Tree-ladders

"A king cobra can climb up trees to a height of a three-storied building," said Gerry Martin, wildlife adventurer and educator, while talking to children at the launch of the book 'A King Cobra's Summer' in Crossword, Bangalore. We didn't know this fact when we were looking at huge trees in the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens a week earlier!

The Pratham Books team was tagging behind a group of kids lead by Roopa Pai of 'Bangalore Walks'. The pleasant walk was a happy lesson in art (children traced out bark patterns), geography (the trees here are from different parts of the world), history (the garden was laid out by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan), and spirituality (we sat under the trees and soaked in the serenity). The event was our way of launching the book 'A Walk Among Trees', written and illustrated by Nimret Handa. The setting for the book launch was the foothills of Kempegowda Watch Tower on the rocky hill of peninsular gneiss. These are among the oldest rocks of the earth dating back to 3000 million years! The kids took a vow to respect nature and try to follow the rules of eco-sensitive living.

Roopa showed the children some of the trees that are featured in the book - the tamarind and mango trees. Like Lalbagh, the book too has a king and prince story. Hundreds of years ago Emperor Hyder Ali showed off the trees to his little son Tipu, and the book too has a king taking his son through the royal fruit orchard. We also learnt about funny trees like the elephant tree, and candle tree, and a ficus whose leaves have pockets where Krishna is supposed to have kept stolen butter. The tree has the scientific name Ficus krishnae!

The book launch and walk were part of the Pratham Books Awareness Today for a Greener Tomorrow campaign. And then on 17th, we launched 'A King Cobra's Summer', a book written by Janaki Lenin and illustrated by Maya Ramaswamy. Conservation and wildlife expert Gerry Martin and Pratham Books Managing Trustee Suzanne Singh launched the book.

Apart from the fact that king cobras use trees as ladders to go get their prey, Gerry shared many intriguing facts about these snakes. "The king cobra requires a lot of energy to produce venom, so it does not want to waste it on humans," he said, explaining why very few snakes are dangerous or harmful to humans. Live and let live is his message to human beings.After Gerry's audio-visual session, children were treated to the story of Kaala the king cobra by architect and storyteller Arathi Parigi. Using clever props, Arathi had childrenawe-struck as she showed them how Kaala took off his snake skin.

Read the review of the book here and about The Gerry Martin Project which he runs to focus on enabling conservation through education here. And hope you will join the over two lakh children who have made a pledge to conserve nature - let's act wisely today for a greener tomorrow.

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