Mahseer Conservation on the River Cauvery

Image: Sabrina with her Mahseer Catch
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By: Sabrina Duelken, with inputs from C.P. Aiyappa

Our rafting guide commented that there are no animals living in the water of this rafting area, however different species of animals can be seen in other parts of the river, such as the Masheer fish further upstream.

The Mahseer was believed to be extinct due to over fishing, but one man knew better. C.S. Ponnappa caught the first Mahseer fish in this area in 1985 – a 44 kg Masheer. Since then the Chendanda Clan  is playing a big part in the conservation program of the Coorg Wildlife  Society .

C S Ponnappa with a mahseer that he caught in 1968
C S Ponnappa with a mahseer that he caught in 1968

The Deccan Masheer which is found in this area of India can grow up to 60 kg and is of great importance for the river environment. The Masheer cleans up the river while eating small fish and fruits which fall into the water. Without this animal the pollution of the water would rise incredible and it could also turn over. That is why C.S. Ponnappas family along with six other families are still protecting the Mahseer.

To protect the fish from illegal dynamiting or netting the Coorg Wildlife  Society leases a 26 km stretch from the Siddapura bridge to Kushalnagar every year from the government to give the Masheer a protected environment to live and grow, but the Mahseer Security System even goes further –  two watchmen control the Cauvery river each day. Naveen is doing this job for the CWS for eight years, but does not have to do it alone – Naveen has a network of local people who inform him when they see something suspicious or illegal fishing.

But the Mahseer fish could lose its protected habitat soon. The government has not yet announced their plans officially, but there are discussion going on, about taking the stretch which is leased by the Coorg Wildlife Society and protected by C.S. Ponnappas family to give it to the fishermen community . Nevertheless fact is that there are no traditional fishermen communities in Coorg as C.S. Ponnappa knows, but for the moment they can do nothing but wait for the official announcement to react to. If the government stops the lease of the protected stretch, soon there will be nothing left than pictures to remind one of  the Mahseer fish.

Mahseer Caught in Coorg River

For us it was also time to take some photos. Many staggering pictures will always remind us of our rafting trip on the Cauvery river and the Mahseer fish. It was an adventurous experience in which we had fun, enjoyed the natural landscape, but specially learned about the environmental importance of the Cauvery River, which is the habitat of valued species such as the Mahseer fish and is also the main source of water to irrigate farming fields such as paddy, sugar cane and vegetables among others in Bangalore, Mysore and Tamil Nadu. Undoubtedly, the rafting and exploration activities  will be part of the memories of our Indian experience in the River Cauvery in  the Southern state of Karnataka.

Courtesy: Coffeeland News

For further details regarding conservation of the Masheer,volunteering for river clean ups and for fishing permits contact C.P.Aiyappa at 919443775875.

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