By Prem Prakash
New Delhi [India], June 26 (ANI): How many of you have heard of Bera in Rajasthan? This small town in the Pali district of the state is hidden from those of us who look for something different or who want to be with nature.
Surrounded by hills, the town also has a castle. But what Bera is perhaps known for is that it's a surviving habitat of leopards. You could call Bera a 'Leopard country' as a large number of leopards inhabit here peacefully.
Sundeep Bhutoria, known for his global travels, shared his foray into Bera through an excellent book "Bera Bond" - in which he described the close bond between leopards and the humans of Bera.
We read almost every other day of a leopard coming into a village and attacking humans, but never from Bera. Here, humans and the leopard live in perfect harmony.
As we see it in the book "Bera Bond" they are almost one family. Nothing shows it better than when you see the photographs of the Shiva Temple in Bera.
The leopards sit around the temple. The priest leaves buckets of water and milk outside, which the leopards love. There is a lovely photograph of seven big cats relaxing on the stairs of the temple. Most of the superb photographs in the book have been taken by Shatrunjay Pratap Singh.
Singh, who is in love with the region, lives in this wilderness and owns a lodge that has five cottages for tourists. In this wild country, away from so-called modern civilization, he and his wife Katyaini have made the place famous for those wanting to be with nature and watch wildlife.
The couple's decision to live in this area shows how devoted they are to the cause of conservation. He has named many of the leopards and is a perfect host and guide.
You may have imagined Bera to be a rocky desert surrounding, but no, the lovely River Jawai flows alongside the town. You could say that Bera is situated on the banks of the Jawai. Then there is a dam, which maintains a vast water body.
The foundation stone of the dam was laid by Maharaja Umaid Singh in 1946 and it completed in 1957. The vast water body of the dam attracts migratory birds during the winter, which is a great sight. It is also home to local birds like Sarus crane, pelicans, waterfowl and many more. Well, crocodiles too inhabit the large water body and the river.
While Bera is known for its leopards and the bond they have with humans, it is full of other wildlife. You can spot here sloth bear, jungle cat, nilgai, hyena, great white pelican, common sandpiper and more. The list is endless.
Let me not deprive the readers who may have seen the Bollywood movie Zubeidaa of the fact that Maharaja Hanwant Singh together with his mistress Zubeida was flying the plane in 1952 that crashed, killing both of them. Sundeep has well mentioned that too in the book.
Can other parts of India where humans get into conflict with wildlife learn from Bera? Yes, they can. Sundeep Bhutoria has well documented this in his book full of lovely photographs that show the bond between leopards and the residents of Bera. "Bera Bond" is a book that lovers of wildlife must read.
The author of this Opinion piece is the Chairman of ANI, Mr Prem Prakash. (ANI)