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An interview by Frederick Noronha "fred at bytes for all dot org"

HARVEY D'SOUZA was a journalist... till he grew wild. The newspaper's desk is probably too boring a zoo for any kind of animal to inhabit for too long. But Harvey's latent love was wildlife. (You get a hint of that from his email address, which is .)

He has been working hard to make his alternate wildlife tours, primarily targeted at the tourist, a viable operation. Of late, this has borne fruit. Harvey and his partner cum co-villager from Nerul cum friend Neil Alvares have their work widely appreciated by a younger generation here who have taken part in their adventure trips across hidden spots in the state. They're both widely seen as concerned wildlife and nature enthusiasts, not businessmen out to make a fast buck.

They run a Wild Goa Club "which does give us plenty satisfaction". More and more concerned nature lovers now come on their wildgoa trips. And, as Harvey puts it, "we have an interesting job, exploring nature along with others."

Harvey spoke out in a recent interview, as yet another green spot -- the Saligao spring at Salmona -- also comes under the axe of 'development'. He is interviewed by FREDERICK NORONHA ""

FN : How does the Saligao spring (locally called the 'fountain') rate among your favourite bird-watching spots? Why?

The Saligao spring is one of the best birding spots in Bardez for various reasons: the forest is moist-deciduous, the spring runs right through the year, a fact which has not escaped the avian species. Also, some birds spotted here are hard to find elsewhere.

Indeed birders flock to Saligao to spot the Brown Wood Owl, which roosts in the trees by the spring for more than six years now. (We have located another roosting site for Brown Wood Owl -- but we are not telling!)

You can also reliably locate small numbers of Grey-Headed Bulbul (now classified as threatened), or even the all-white male Paradise Flycatcher here. Other examples also exist, which distinguish Saligao as a unique birding spot as compared to other verdant patches.

FN : What are the kinds of birds you've actually seen there?

Many, we have a complete checklist, but let's look at the rare and notable sightings.

One sighting of a Malabar Pied Hornbill sighted on November 4, 2000. Also sighted by Gordon Frost on different dates. (Then there was the) Malabar whistling thrush, crimson-backed sunbird (endemic to Western ghats)

Red-winged crested cuckoo (sighted by WildGoa Club on Dec 1, 2002). We know of no other sighting in Goa. Pair of Brown Wood Owls, Jungle Owlets, Western Crowned Leaf Warbler, raptors like Booted Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Short-Toed Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black Eagle, Black-Shouldered Kite, the Plain Flowerpecker, Thickbilled Flowerpecker, Rufous Woodpecker.

FN : How uncommon are these?

None of the birds stated above are found only at Saligao. However some birds, such as the Grey Headed Bulbul, are listed as threatened. The Brown Wood Owl site certainly needs protection. In Scotland, they had a round the clock team just to protect the nesting site of a pair of osprey!

What makes it unique is the wide variety of species seen here. Adjacent forests like even the Calangute spring or Nerul or Betim hill cannot boast of such a wide variety of birds. How many? Ours is in no way a comprehensive list -- but i would say a number of 120 species would be a workable and realistic number. Worth protecting!

FN : What are the change you've been noticing at the Saligao spring in recent years?

The litter at the spring does tarnish the pristine beauty. From time to time, we have observed trees cut down. The last incident -- a whole patch being cleared (sometime in late 2002) -- was something we could not let go...

One change we would rather NOT see is development. Let no tourism department convert Saligao zor ('spring' in Konkani) into another Pomburpa bathroom!

FN : Does the place need protection or preservation? If so, why?

One reason would be the rich birdlife, but even as a village heritage spot it certainly preservation. Imagine being able to walk a hundred meters to the best picnic spot in Bardez!

FN : What are the steps that are needed?

Legal steps. This must be classified as a private forest immediately, along with other verdant patches in Arpora, Baga, Assagao, Betim, Pilerne...

FN : Which are the other interesting nature spots in other parts of Bardez which are similarly rich but under pressure?

Besides the ones mentioned above, the Pilerne wetland, Porvorim, Salvador do Mundo, Tivim, is fast going the dodo way. Sooner or later, though we hope never.

FN : You've been "investing in the future". Do you believe a sensitive younger generation could change the way we treat nature in Goa?

Absolutely. The young 'uns know what matters, and are willing to learn. And volunteer time and effort as well.

FN : It's an uphill road. But do you feel the satisfaction of a job well done often? Are you beginning to feel the impact of your campaigning?

Tough one. Satisfaction comes at fleeting moments. Nature rewards in its own manner, though. The beauty of a Peregrine Stoop into a dive, or a Black-winged Kite Hover.. these are sights we will never ever forget. It gets pretty demoralising at times. But being crazy helps.

FN : Lastly, are tourists also interested in such issues, or just 'passive consumers' of nature?

Hate to say this, but the foreign tourists are most sensitive to eco-issues. Catch Germans littering! Or take the example of our Scottish friends who come twice a year to Goa just to start a bird ringing programme here.

Very often tourists have told us they do not mind paying a deposit on each mineral bottle -- just to ensure each bottle is collected and given back to the factory. Some domestic tourists, and Goans as well, need a few lessons!

Frederick Noronha * Freelance Journalist * Goa * India 832.2409490/2409783
fred at bytesforall dot org * Mobile 9822 122436 (Goa) * Saligao Goa India
Writing with a difference ... on what makes *the* difference


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