A Shekru Mahtosav is being organized on 1 July 2013 in Pune. This festival marks the beginning of the Sahyadri Fortnight from 1 to 15 July. The initiative to declare 1 to 15 July as Sahyadri Fortnight by the Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra is to commemorate and celebrate the inscription of Western Ghats sites as World Natural Heritage by UNESCO last year. This first Sahyadri Fortnight focuses on Shekru or Indian Giant Squirrel. Shri Sanjay Deotale, Environment Minister and Shri Sachin Aher, Minister of State for Environment, Smt Valsa Nair Singh, IAS, Secretary, Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra will be present on the occasion. The Shekru Mahotsav will take place at Yashada in two sessions from 9 am to 1 pm and 2 to 5 pm.
Students and teachers from about 30 schools that are part of the Western Ghats (Sahyadri) Special Eco-clubs Scheme of Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra and located in the Sahyadris from Nashik to Sindhudurg and Kolhapur will participate in the Shekru Festival. The Scheme is implemented by Centre for Environment Education (CEE). Shekru Festival is being arranged by CEE on behalf of the Environment Dept, Govt of Maharashtra.
Students would participate in games, quiz and an exhibition on the ecology of the Giant Squirrel, threats and conservation efforts. In the afternoon, a slide show, talk by experts and presentations will be made about the projects that schools will be taking up in the Sahyadri Fortnight till 15 July.
The Western Ghats are the habitat of the Indian Giant Squirrel, the State Animal of Maharashtra. Kas Plateau and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary in Satara District, Chandoli National Park in Sangli District, and Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary in Kolhapur District are the sites in the Western Ghats in Maharashtra inscribed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in July 2012.
For more information contact: Avinash Madhale, CEE, Pune. Cell: 9881466529. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shekru Festival aims to:
- Enhance awareness and knowledge about Shekru or the Indian Giant Squirrel among students of the Sahyadri Eco-clubs
- Initiate action projects through school eco-clubs for the conservation of Shekru
- Plant and care for trees that are part of the natural habitat of Shekru
- Enhance understanding about the importance of Shekru and to increase the popularity of Shekru, the State Animal of Maharashtra, which gives the message of nature conservation to all
Under the Western Ghat (Sahyadri) Special Eco-club Scheme, eco-clubs have been set up in 246 schools in 63 Talukas of the 12 Districts in Maharashtra that have a segment of the Sahayadri mountain range.
Of these, 30 schools from Pune, Ahmednagar Satara, Raigad, Nashik. Kolhapur, Sangli district will be taking up a variety of activities to celebrate Sahyadri Fortnight from 1to 15 July 2013. These would include awareness activities about Shekru, the State Animal of Maharashtra, its protection and conservation, presentations to the community about Shekru, collection of seeds, nursery preparation and plantation of tree species necessary for its survival, survey of the area around the schools to assess the habitat, especially checking for tall trees, tree canopy, sacred groves, etc.
Shekru is the State Animal of Maharashtra. Shekru or Shekra (scientific name Ratufa indica, common name Indian Giant Squirrel) belongs to the squirrel family. The Indian Giant Squirrel is rust coloured and much larger than the commonly seen five-striped squirrel. It is found in the moist forests of the Western Ghats, especially on tall trees such as banyan, wild mango, kinjal, hirada, beheda etc.
However, today, the natural habitat of Shekru is vanishing or getting degraded due to a variety of reasons, such as conversion of forest lands to agriculture, housing or industrial lands, building of dams, monoculture plantations, logging for timber, hunting, etc.
Shekru is present in Maharashtra, mainly in Bhimashankar (Pune district), Phansad Ajoba mountain range, Mahuli, Vasuta region, Chandoli National Park (Sangli district), Radhanagri Wildlife Sanctuary (Kolhapur district), Melghat Tiger Reserve (Amravati district), Tadoba National Park (Chandrapur district).
The weight of an adult Shekru is about 2 to 2.5 kilos, and length of the body is 2.5 to 3 feet, including the tail. Its eyes are red and it has whiskers on its face. The coat is rust or brown coloured on the back. The belly or underside and front legs are usually lighter cream coloured. The head may be brown or beige with a white spot between the ears. The tail, longer than the main body, is a distinctive feature.
Life cycle and Behaviour
Shekru is a solitary creature. The male and female come together during the mating season. The female produces 1 or 2 off-spring once in a year in December-January. Shekrus build 6 to 8 nests for the protection of the young. The nests are round or spherical and made of twigs and leaves, which are usually on the thinner branches of tall trees where predators find it difficult to reach.
Shekru can leap from one tree to the other at distances of 15 to 20 feet.
The average life span is about 15 to 20 years
Its diet includes mainly different types of fruits, seeds, flowers, leaves and bark of a variety of plants available in his habitat
Food Plants and Nesting Plants
Food plants: Anjani, Hirada, Beheda, wild Mango, Phansada, Jackfrruit, Chandada, Ambada, Moi, Jamun, Ombal Vel
Nesting plants: Anjani, Ambada, wild Mango, Beheda, Nana, Satveen, Kinjal