One would believe that tigers do not eat grass but that is only until one visited the Melghat Tiger Reserve or read veteran forester Prakash Thosre’s book that explores, among others, this lesser-known habit of the big cats. The tigers, like the dogs in Melghat, go for the grass because of its medicinal value when they have an upset stomach, Thosre says in the recently-released book The Melghat Trail.
Spread over an area of three thousand square kilometres in Dharni and Chikaldhara tehsils of Maharashtra’s Amravati, Melghat boasts of glorious congregations of plant communities. It was among the first nine regions to be notified as a tiger reserve under the Project Tiger’ in the early 1970s, the same decade when Thosre joined the Indian Forest Service and soon got posted in Melghat. The former principal chief conservator of Maharashtra weaves stories from his experience of working in Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR), taking readers through the habitat of wild flora and fauna, including leopards and tigers, tribal communities and the forest officials. Thosre says there are about ninety species of grasses found in the MTR.
Among the grasses relished by wild as well as domestic life are primarily the pavnya, the sheda, and the marvel, he says, adding that plantations of these grasses have been tried on numerous occasions but without much success. Interestingly, when a tiger has an upset stomach, it goes for the same medicines as dogs do it eats grass, Thosre says in the book. “In the field, I have seen that the tiger prefers the wild sugar cane grass (sachcharum munja). In the dry naala beds of the MTR, one sees droppings and regurgitates of the tiger containing this grass,” he adds.
Another grass, he says, which has got Melghat on the bio map of the world is the rosha grass (cymbopogon martini), locally called tikhadi and the motia variety of this grass has a high percentage of raw oil. The oil once had its buyers in the world-famous perfumery market of Paris. Once upon a time, the business of distilleries extracting raw oil prospered in Akot, which borders Melghat,” Thosre, 68, said. Running nearly 300 pages, the book offers insights into the MTR from the point of view of an insider.
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