Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Maldhok's Fight For Survival!

“Unless someone cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not”… The Lorax.

I love cartoon movies like Lorax & it does give a wonderful message of saving the trees along with dash of entertainment. Above dialogue from the animated character Lorax, remained in my mind & when I met Dr. Pramod Patil, I felt like I am seeing a real life version of those words! At the age of just twenty nine odd years with a medical degree under the belt when many will be working on hard to make own carrier in profession, this guy is trying to save “Great Indian Bustard” named bird! I am sure not many will be even knowing such bird exists rather the name Bustard often used as a term with slight different spelling, that term many of us knows for wrong purpose as a curse! Many will be as usual saying, what’s big deal? Have we not more important cause to live for than wasting our time for some bird which we even don’t know where it lives & how it looks! At the same time, many will laugh at foolishness of Dr. Pramod as he should use his medical degree to make human life a shade better which is more important than some brown white bird which lives in barren lands. Well, best part of Dr. Pramod is that work also he is doing i.e. his research is on one of the biggest threat to human of modern times, diabetes. This research he is doing in parallel with his passion to save maldhok. And it’s this quality of Dr. Pramod is what makes him my subject of writing but before that lets know about his passion i.e. The Great Indian Bustard which we call in native language as Maldhok.

With our love for so called progress & development & urbanization, god knows how many other species we are making extinct i.e. gone from the face of earth forever & top on the list i.e. extremely endangered is Maldhok. In a way it’s just another brown gray white bird though pretty big in size, may be largest Indian bird which can fly but right now only some two eighty odd birds have been left all over the country & India is the only country where maldhok is found. Worst to that in our so called forest friendly State only some fifteen odd Maldhoks are there. Few of them are in Varora near Nagpur & fewer in Nanaj near Solapur. Once found all over the grass lands & even dry lands of India now only in few patches the birds is taking its last breaths. Ironically it’s the only bird for which there are nearly eight sanctuaries in the country but hardly in four or five of these sanctuaries, now we can see this bird!

What’s so special about Maldhok, is the question many will ask as aren’t there thousands of birds species in our country many of them are more beautiful as well exotic in looks than maldhok. Well agreed there are beautiful birds than maldhok & rare too, but it’s the habitat which makes maldhok special. All the poor bird needs is, open dry grass land with very less vegetation that’s why the biggest numbers of them are surviving in Rajasthan that to arid lands of Jeselmer near Pakistan border. And along with dry grass land it needs little bit of privacy which we don’t give to him & extinction of maldhok is sign of human encroachment on natural habitats around us! Because it’s a sign that how fast we are driving away every living specie around us, even those whose requirements are not very special. Unlike maldhok, which lives in dry grass lands which used to be plenty of them around every town or city; the very same habitat of maldhok also survives many other species like hare or rabbits or mongoose, wolf, hyenas. All these are slowly getting extinct along with maldhok & its habitat & main reason is we the human! A bird like maldhok which mostly stays on ground & lay egg also in open ground has many enemies, right from snakes to jackals to lizards. Though the egg is like stone & gets camouflaged in the rocky brown background. But more than these natural enemies which it has survived over the years, it doesn’t have a chance to survive in front of humans. We have not only directly killed maldhoks by hunting for eating it, but our other activities also has driven the bird to extinct. First we encroached its habitat for hundreds of reasons, right from making roads, digging canal, using the barren grass lands for plotted layouts of home making & yes laying power lines which also kills not only maldhoks but many birds. And then we have our cattle’s which roam in habitat of maldhok eating all the grass as well its hideouts & at the same time damaging its eggs which are on ground. And on the top of it, the female maldhok can conceive only once in a year & that too one egg at a time, making it very vulnerable to extinction! And if we can’t conserve even the dry barren grass lands for maldhoks, how we will be protecting the ever green forests & species like tiger living in those forests?

On this back ground there are people like Dr Pramod who are like saviors of the maldhok, trying their every bit to make the bird survive amongst our concrete jungle! He goes to the villages surrounding habitats of maldhoks, speaks with them, make them understand importance of the bird. He meets school kids in these villages around maldhok’s habitat & tries to make them friends of maldhoks. He urges them to keep an eye on the bird & its enemies, mainly human hunters. He works along with forest department & try to help in whatever best way he can, right from providing basic infrastructure like binoculars to jackets as well make them aware about the importance of the bird’s habitat conservation & every possible way to make the maldhok survive! He write articles in media & make people in cities aware about their responsibility for the bird as well he goes visiting school/college kids here & ask them to donate some time for spreading awareness for the birds conservation. In a way it’s not the captivity in which we want to make the maldhok survive but its open free natural living which counts most. Because that means protecting the entire dry grass lands around & that will result in survival of many species few of which I have mentioned above.

Maharashtra is one of the six states of India where great Indian bustards are still seen so let’s have a look at scene here. In Maharashtra Maldhok Sanctuary is at Nanaj, near North Solapur which is some 200km from Pune. Though it’s been declared as wild life sanctuary way back in 1979, means highest priority to conservation of Maldhoks preventing any human interference in this habitat; yet right from its area i.e. coverage to protecting its boundaries, all the things are in controversy. There are power lines, which the poor bird can’t see in its flight & collide with the same resulting instant death. There are roads going through the sanctuary, so are canals & every type of excavation goes on damaging the very grass land structure as well domestic animals grazing is on rampant along with human moments! Result is despite of having a tag of wild life sanctuary there are just three maldhoks, which also rarely seen here! Sometimes I really wonder whether we in true sense have understood the responsibility we carry as “Being Human’, towards wild life conservation; because with every possible power i.e. right from machinery, money to man power & more than that power to make policies, still we can’t assure a specie like maldhok, its right to live & survive happily! On the top of it even when there are same ruling party’s govt in Rajasthan & Maharashtra, we can’t get eggs for incubation to conserve more numbers of maldhoks here in our State from Rajasthan which has maximum numbers of the bird. Remember just declaring some land as wild life sanctuary isn’t going to increase the numbers, as how we expect the numbers to grow if the existing single maldhok pair is going to conceive just one egg per year? So many such questions needed to be not just answered by catchy announcements from our rulerts but by action.

Here is where person like Dr. Pramod’s dedication & efforts are eye opener not just for govt but every that individual who just makes comment on social media about incapability of govt to save maldhok & other species of wild life & considers his job towards conservation is done! And when it comes to doing something by our own self, we have every reason for not being able to do anything; we have to look after our job, career or profession & then most favorite question, what govt is doing? Well, surely one Dr. Patil is doing it on his own despite being in profession like medicine instead making money he is donating his time to save the bird which is not even part of his studies! We also can take inspiration from him & start doing something & trust me, sky is limit. You can help financially to people like Dr. Patil for his fight for maldhok survival, you can visit maldhok sanctuaries & help people like forest staff or villagers who are working or living there, you can make people aware about species like maldhok survives, you can write to so called govt or every person you know about his or her duty towards maldhok & its habitat on social media & what not! There are nearly One Twenty Crores of we the Indians, imagine if like Dr. Pramod, each of us decides to adopt at least one specie around & start doing something about wild life conservation! You may call this thought as day dreaming but then if we don’t see such dream & make war of survival for maldhok as our war then the reality of our future is one day poor maldhok would lost its war & gone extinct. Once every such specie is gone extinct, all that will remain on the earth is human bodies residing in our concrete jungle & then who will save us?

Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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