Monkeys in the jungle are shouting and restlessly jumping from one tree to another out of fear and anxiety, not knowing what needs to be done. They have seen something, which they don’t want to believe. The birds are shrieking loudly. The jungle inmates are experiencing a sense of insecurity.
All the materfamilias with their calves, fawns, kittens, and cubs are very scared and are keeping an eye on them twenty-four by seven.
The jungle and its inmates are experiencing a collective fear. This uncertain fear has been disturbing them for the past few months and today their feelings turned into their worst nightmare when they witnessed a fresh ‘carcass of the Cheetah without its skin’ lying open and surrounded by flies. This was the third such instance in five months. Earlier they had found an elephant and a Rhino dead with their teeth and horn missing. A dead tiger robbed of his skin, naked and skinless as the Cheetah. The jungle is in a mourning state.
No one dared to go near the lifeless Cheetah, even the hyenas and the foxes who never got along with the cheetah are too scared to go near it or want to eat it. What has happened to Cheetah is not because of the jungle rivalry, it seems someone is trying to intrude into their territory. This was not acceptable to the jungle and its inhabitants.
The next day as the sun rose, the lion made an announcement in the morning. He said, ‘After the sun sets, all shall gather at the lakeside’. Surprisingly all the animals voluntarily gathered near the lake even before time. The birds, ducks, owls, bats, eagles, vultures, Giraffe, Zebra, Deer, Black Bucks, Wild Buffaloes, Bison, Bear, Boars, Hyenas, Foxes, Wolves, Wild Dogs, Wild Cats, Pythons, Crocodiles, even the spiders. Everyone was present.
Tigers and Leopards bring the family of Cheetah, who enters the crowd silently and finally comes to the Lion. The Lion is looked up with respect and security. The Lion stands on a high rock. Everyone is looking up to him. There is complete silence.
The Lion speaks, ‘Condolences from the Jungle to the jungle’ then Lion slowly moves his eyes with a slow blink to the family of the Cheetah and says ‘Especially to the family of our dear Cheetah, who was not hunted but murdered’. ‘I have called you all for this meeting a few of our members have been sharing their fears and experiences of some haunted activities happening in the jungle.’ The Lion then shares his fears with great confidence, ‘I myself am not ashamed and afraid of accepting my fears too.’ On this, the crowd starts looking at each other with great surprise and starts murmuring among them. ‘Silence’ says the Lion, ‘we have gathered here to confirm.’
On this, the deer who is shy and fearful most of the time says with anger and pain, ‘When a deer is murdered for skin or horns no one feels anything or considers it right to hold a meeting’. Hearing the deer say this, the Owl shouts, ‘It’s only when the hands of the murderers have reached the most powerful like Elephant, Rhino, and Cheetah, only now it is considered as murder. Zebra says, ‘Yes, till then it is called hunting, and no one seemed to have bothered.’ The Wolf decently intervenes and says, ‘Yes it’s a great pain that so far we had never given it a thought, but it’s time now to value each other for our survival.’ The Bison in his heavy voice says, ‘We are equally sad for the loss, but what can be done, we daily witness this.’ The Lion questions, ‘Daily, what do you mean?’ The Elephant who is standing far says, ‘Some of them come daily to hunt, steal and murder.’
Ducks cry and sobbingly tell, ‘They steal my eggs and my family has stopped growing, soon we will be extinct’. Everyone looks at the python with strange eyes. The python immediately feels the eyes on him and stutters in his voice ‘N.. not me, I am not.. not doing that, in fact, I am as much scared, because last month they took my beautiful and shiny neighbor in a net, I am scared for my life too, come on guys’.
The crowd starts talking loudly this time and the Lion roars to silence them and then continues in his firm voice, ‘So this is happening from a very long and finally, now it has reached us and my apologies to all those who have not been able to reach out to me with their fears before, does anyone know what happened with the Cheetah.’
The monkey jumps from the tree with a thud, scaring everyone and says, ‘I didn’t see what happened but few of us witnessed a group of jungle humans who live with us in the jungle. They stay in huts and love animals. These humans sometimes look for hives for honey and worship the jungle also’. Scratching his head, he continues, ‘These came with Khaki coloured strange and rude looking humans who always carry long guns to aim at us and are mostly seen in the area where they cut the woods and load it in the huge moving machine, which they call a truck.’ The monkey further added, ‘These Khaki men with hats moved around the Cheetah and took some photos and then told something to these jungle men. Then the jungle men picked up the naked skinless Cheetah and buried him under the tree with tears and pains. The animal witnesses had then offered the goodbye gesture sound during burial. The Cheetah’s family humbly whispered, ‘Thank you’.
The Lion roars in his charging tone and says, ‘We need to make a strategy to guard our jungle day and night tirelessly. For that we need volunteers. Those who wish to volunteer come forward?’ The jungle inhabitants are all silent. Then the Eagle says, ‘I can keep a watch in the daytime from above’. The Vulture also joins in and says ‘I can do it too; we can manage our time together’. Best friends Owl and Bat say rather quietly but firmly that they will guard the jungle in the night. The wolf says, ‘We will lead the patrolling at the borders of the jungles during the night’. The Bear says, ‘I have a sharp sense of smell; I would do the patrolling with my gang during the day time.’ Soon the Wild dogs also agree to join the Wolves. Hyenas and Foxes look at each other and say, ‘We can guard the calves and babies of the animals inside the jungle after all some are needed to be inside.’ Rabbit says, ‘I can carry the messages from one place to another quickly. But during the night …’, ‘don’t worry we shall take care of it’ say the Owl and Bat together.
The leader of the elephants says, ‘Since we can distinguish among different human groups, we will warn of the type of danger ahead.’ He goes on and explains that they will divide themselves into four different herds, to cover the jungle day and night and will also guard their calves. On hearing about guarding of the calves and non-dependence on hyenas and foxes, the rabbits and birds started giggling.
Bison explains that he would lead the army of soldiers of the wild boars. The Zebra and Deer say, ‘we are always ready as frontlines to run over and to chase the enemy’.
The Lion says, ‘I will be awake all the time and will keep visiting all of you at regular intervals.’ I request one of the sharp birds to be always available around me. The Falcon popularly known as ‘Baaz’ by the jungle fellows says, ‘I will be around you, always, just call for me.’
‘Now that we all are set, our time starts now’, announces the lion and everyone starts moving to their designated jobs and areas. After a little chaos, everything settles down and the trees and air maintain silence.
The Lion and others gathered near the lake understood the silence, the silence was so overwhelming that all the animals gathered there felt that the trees and air were confirming their promise of standing along as warriors.
That night passed by and several days too. It has been almost a month now and no activity or threat by the external forces reported. It seems the killing of Cheetah has made an impact.
Far away tucked in a temporary canvas tent was an underground secret space where hunted materials were hidden and stored, they were covered with leaves and logs. A few jeeps were also covered with leaves and parked around the camp. A group of men is boasting of the animal hunts of the past two months. They express their wish to enjoy hunting and murdering one more time, before returning to the cities, where they can sell the jungle catch.
The air above overheard those conversations and starts blowing strangely, it strikes the noisy peepal tree which makes sharp sounds, as if they were shouting of danger. The birds with their nest on the trees come out to tell the trees to calm down but in vain. The peepal trees continue to shake tirelessly making a lot of noise. By evening that day, the bears share the warning signals with everyone alarming them. And the eagles, vultures, and rabbits spread the warning message to every corner of the jungle.
The Lion discusses the restlessness in the jungle with his fellows and commands everyone to be cautious and be wary of any slightest movement. Darkness falls and the elephants are all set silently at the borders.
The human children who live in the jungle see the elephants standing silently but not entering their paddy fields and hence they neither aim nor approach them to shoot them with mud balls or firecrackers to chase them. They go back and sleep on their machan (an attic to keep a watch on fields).
Around midnight the elephants sense the danger of humans. They want to confirm whether these are the humans who live among them, ‘No no it’s not them, they smell different, yes they are the poachers.’ The elephants convey this to the owls and bats to warn every one of the impending dangers and be ready for the war.
The Lion is informed to take the next course of action. The wolves are all set and call the army of front-line soldiers. The Bison commands his army of wild boars, deer, and zebras to take their positions. The Lion comes and hides silently in their midst getting ready to attack. The Lion and Wolf look at each other in the eye and nod at each other, which defines their understanding, trust, and courage in each other. The lion asks the owls and bat to fly and estimate the distance of the poachers. Eagle says to them ‘Wait I shall join you’, the wolf says, ‘Would you be able to see in the night time?’ and the Eagle answers, ‘Yes, I am a diurnal predator who mainly hunts during the day and typically inactive at night. But it doesn’t mean I can’t see at night.’ Lion says, ‘Wonderful, also find out what arms they have, I am sure it’s not a difficult task for you as I have seen you many times bringing back food in the night, and you can’t do that without distinguishing colours.’ Eagle looks at the lion with surprise and admires his intelligence, tells himself “no doubt he is the king of the jungle”.
They all fly and return back soon. The owl and Bat are gasping for breath and start blabbering, behind them the eagle flies back too, calm and composed, and tells the Lion, ‘They are around seven men, approaching in a moving box which is hardly making any sound. They have huge nets and long things from which they aim, then something hits the bird or animal causing blood to ooze out and finally death.’ The Lion immediately understands that these are not meant to shoot mud balls but, it’s something dangerous and is not used by the jungle humans.
The Lion roars, commanding everyone to line up. The Eagle leads the company of owls and bats to keep an eye on the bad humans by floating in the air and informing the others when they are at a hundred meters distance. The Lions don’t want to give the poachers the chance to run away. The air listens to the lions that are not aware of her presence all around and blows in such a way that assists and helps the eagles, owls, and bats to keep floating right above them. The eagle swiftly comes back and tells the lion to go-ahead for the next step.
The lion commands the front lines to march ahead towards the poachers. The poachers were not at all aware of the jungle planning are suddenly taken aback by herds of animals from the front, and sooner from the left and the right too. They are surrounded by herds of wild warriors.
Nowhere to escape, they have no space left to go back. They can’t turn on their now soundless box called a jeep and they just can’t reverse back and escape. One of them picks up the gun and shouts ‘Shoot shoot shoot’, he then aims at the herd, but he can shoot, here comes the Bat and strikes on his neck. The others sitting at the back of the open jeep are attacked by the owls and bats, the Elephants come and turn their box upside down, soon a group of monkeys comes, picks and throws the guns away from their reach.
The poachers have no way but to run. As they run a little ahead, the lion roars loudly informing them of his presence, he also invites the tigers and the Cheetah’s family members. The poachers are attacked by them. Hearing the strange sounds of many animals, a jungle human approaches the scene with fire torches and crackers to find the poachers badly injured and bleeding. The jungle human seeing the scene gets frozen and requests and pleads with the Lion to stop and leave. The Lion looks in the eyes of the jungle humans and conveys to them that it is now their responsibility to take them away from here and see that they never return to their territory and breach the trust of living together in peace.
His eyes spoke as if he was telling the jungle humans to warn the poachers that ‘This Jungle and everything within it, water, trees, animals, air and even you are ours’. The leader of the jungle-humans comes close to the Lion and tells him softly, ‘Go now, take rest and let everyone rest.’ The lion turns away and commands the warriors, and all the fellows start walking behind them. The jungle humans get hold of the poachers and inform the forest police, the khaki. The jungle humans immediately take the poachers for medical assistance and thereafter the forest police arrest them for illegal hunting and murders of the animals, as they find evidence with them like elephant teeth, Rhino horns, and Skin of Cheetah.
The jungle human informs the birds about the poacher arrests by playing the bamboo flute with adoration and excitement for the Jungle.
All the animals domestic and in wild join together, Dog – Bark, Cat – Meow, Cow – Moo, Horse – Neigh, Pig – Oink (Grunt), Lion – Roar, Snake – Hiss, Donkey – Bray, Bear – Growl, Goat – Bleat, Frog – Croak, Elephant – Trumpet, Mouse – Squeak, Tiger – Growl, Bee – Buzz, Chicken – Chirp, Duck – Quack, Owl – Hoot, Eagle – Screech, Goose – Honk, and they all sing the song ‘Ye jal, jungle, Zammen aur Hawa humara hai, humara hai, humara hai; ye humare Jeevan ka adhaar aur sahara hai, sahara hai, sahara hai….’