Sunday, October 7, 2018

Celebrating Wild Life Week!

“Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man”... Stewart Udall.

Stewart Lee Udall was an American politician and later, a federal government official. After serving three terms as a congressman from Arizona, he served as Secretary of the Interior from 1961 to 1969, under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. In his younger days Stewart has worked at his family farm & no wonder that’s why even after becoming a politician & spending rest of his life in Cities like Washington DC as well New York yet he can understand the importance of conserving wild life! And on this background with so many of our rulers coming from rural area as well with exposure from wilderness yet wild life conservation seems to me most neglected aspect of our society! Presently every State (read govt) is engaged in promoting the campaign about Wild Life Week which is being celebrated in the first week of October & during this, lot of activities are supposed to be carried especially making people aware about Wild Life & its importance & unfortunately it’s this aspect which is missing right now from the campaign! Well we will come to that point later but before that the reason which made to write this piece; whatever one may name to WhatsAp but it has become inherent part of our life now is a fact & like any technology it’s up to the user how he uses it is what defines the technology good or bad, WhatsAp too is no exception to this rule!

I am member of many groups on WhatsAp & indeed few are totally dedicated to wild life & share some real good information about the subject. On one such group there was hot discussion going on regarding stray dog’s menace in the city as well spotted deer around NDA Hills Forest. I am sure stray dogs’ menace I need not have to explain to any Punekar (or even any town in State) but spotted deer (chital) in Pune, many will be amazed yet yes there are few spots around Pune where biodiversity is still rich & conserved & NDA Hill forest is one such. One fact is as this land belongs to defense  so yet it has been saved by encroachment of all sorts as well poachers because the orders are “Shoot at Sight” for the trespassers though this is not from the aspect of wild life but for their establishment; yet the byproduct is with all the NDA security & patrolling the rich biodiversity along with habitat also got saved from all ill elements & we can see animals like spotted dears roaming around right on the border of suburbs like warje, uttamnagar & shivne sometimes. There is still some farming goes on the fringe of Pune’s these suburbs & these spotted deer can be a great threat to the farming though due to stray dogs increased population the spotted deer itself has come under threat. Thus the debate was going on the topic of not killing stray dogs as well saving spotted deer & then there were few members who were saying even increased population of spotted deer’s too is problem for the farmers around! While some members were putting the point forward how they are taking efforts to protect these spotted deer & stray dogs should be killed or eliminated & then there were animals loving members taking side of stray dogs (indeed there are many such). After reading a while all the posts I too decided to participate not to conclude as such debates rarely conclude but to put stop for a while, here is my post, pardon me for grammar as well spelling as putting it here in WhatsAp language...

“Hi, hv been reading this debate about stray dogs as well cheetals.. problem is never & not with animals may it be stray dogs or cheetals its about the system which allows stray dogs to grow in numbers as well cheetals too.. indeed stray dogs are big menace to even humans in city but then are the dogs at fault for their birth?? or cheetals at fault for increasing numbers? unfortunately pmc, forest dept, revenue & in this case nda too as its their land eventually its govt which dont have answers to many questions like where is forest land for new born cheetals or why the garbage heaps are everywhere which are feeding grounds for stray dogs & then no land for cheetals.. even stray dogs vs human is also in a way man animal conflict only!! .. i think we shud blame ourself than stray dogs or cheetals..unless until we come up with solution for them!@.. sanjay deshpande

That did put a stop on the debate for a while at least of group but the topic lingered in my mind & then the ongoing campaign of Wild Life Week provoked me to think more as what is Wild Life in first place because unless we define it or say understand it how we are going to protect it? As per Wikipedia wildlife means, Wildlife traditionally refers to undomesticated animal species, but has come to include all plants, fungi, and other organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans. Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems. So, in common man’s perception it’s the animals & birds (mostly) found in forest i.e. jungle. So for most common men wild life exists only in forests where humans doesn’t go or at least wild life has nothing to do with the cities like Pune & I know my die hard wild life friends are not going to like this definition but that’s the way we the urban folks look at it is a bitter fact. Why I am stressing this point because unless you don’t know what’s the problem you won’t be able to ever solve it & understanding wild life as well our responsibility to conserve it is the major problem for the people living in cities & even towns is the problem! We think wild life is found in forests like Africa, Amazon (courtesy Animal Planet & National Geographic channels) at the most it’s found in Tadoba, Kanha like places which are hundreds of miles away from us & we have many more problems here in city like Pune which includes traffic congestion, petrol prices, school admissions of our kids & home of our own (list is endless actually)! And in all this who cares if wild life survives in the above mentioned remote places, yes I love to watch above channels where some Cheetah is chasing some deer (for common man black buck, chinkara, spotted deer, sambhar all are same & named as just deer) on the back ground of vast grass land & a lone baobab tree, that’s all, I do Love Wild Life, I tell to myself & my friends! And yes there are some NGO’s in city who keeps doing some activities like wild life film festival, there are wild life photographs exhibitions in Bal Gandharva Art Gallery which I do visit with my wife if eventually I am visiting JM road for shopping or eating out on some Sunday evening, yes one reason is I get parking space to park my car in parking lot there & they are great pictures displayed & I come back home after having nice dinner at some eating joint at JM road, my “wild life lover” quota is done! Indeed, some times in news papers I get to read leopard entering in some village or a tigress has become man eater in some place named Bramhpuri or Pandharkavada (though I don’t know exactly these places are, are they part of Maharashtra State, well what the xxxx it maters?). Oh, yes one more thing, few years back in summers when I visited for my wife’s sister’s marriage in Nagpur, somebody told us about Tadoba & we had gone there, it was very hot & we did get to see a tigress, locals said she is very famous & they had a name for her too something like “Maya Memsab’, that was cool experience; I did click some snaps of the tiger on my cell & shared on FB (received maximum likes till now to my that post)!

This attitude of people is what we are fighting with actually, as when its wild life & threats to it, all the NGO’s, wild life activists as well forest dept blames human encroachments on wild life habitats, poaching, less man power for the job, poor infrastructure & the list is on but by me biggest threat to wild life conservation is ignorance of the society (read masses) for this cause. And when I say ignorance it means not knowing or not finding need to know their responsibility towards wild life conservation. Here “their” means every that person who does nothing not even thinking towards wild life around! If you take one look at present wild life week types campaigns or celebrations then all you see is same familiar faces from NGO’s or forest dept’s personnel & some school kids marching on road with “Save Tiger” posters that’s all! Sorry if I sound negative but the wild life thing has remained restricted for hardly one percent persons from the society & in that also majority are doing it as it’s their job that’s all. With keeping very respect for my many sincere forest officer friends yet let me ask you how many forest officers you come across (if at all you come across any as that’s not a common man gets to meet every day) are really dedicated to forest or wild life? Look at the body language of most of them, all they are doing is duty as they don’t display love & affection for wild life or else many things forest dept can do which currently are not being done on the front of making common man aware for wild life in first place, conservation will follow later!

And for that what we have to do is make people understand wild life is not just about tigers & in some remote forests but it’s about butterflies, frogs, snakes & even sparrows along with grass & trees & yes water bodies like rivers around us. To conserve wild life doesn’t mean just save tiger but it means give space to every other specie which is part of nature & to save wild life one need not have to go to forests as well get in to forest service’s but we can do it in the backyard of our bungalow or in the premise of our concrete building as well very much in city like Pune too! Indeed we have to save the tigers also but before that we need to save hundreds of species like sparrow & mainas which we are driving away from our city! Wild life conservation doesn’t mean attending wild life film festivals or going to Tadoba & clicking snaps of tigers, it is just one aspect of the cause. Wild life conservation means what I have done personally to make even a single species breathe at peace in its habitat & this habitat can be developed or cultivated right in the midst of a city like Pune in the form of a small patch of greenery or a water body clean enough to survive some fish! Wild life conservation means deciding by myself that from today I will not pollute my river which is home ( read habitat) of many species as well I won’t allow to cut a tree unless its utmost necessary & then I will plant at least two trees for one such cut tree & see that they survives! While doing this if I am celebrating birthday of my son by spending some thousand rupees for a party in posh hotel then I will spend some money for the people who are actually working for protecting forests far away from me as that will also make me a wild life conservator!

Keeping due respect for all those who are active part of Wild Life Week, please note that need of the time is to make this week a movement & make every single citizen of this city ( read respective city or town) part of it as then only we can really celebrate this week. Or else all the wild life will remain in films & exhibitions & on that day we will have to celebrate not Wild Life Week but Wild Life Punya-Tithi as the wild life will be long gone already! 

Sanjay Deshpande 
Sanjeevani Dev.

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