In the early 1900s, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, from the Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition – the “Christmas Bird Census” encouraging citizens to count birds during the holidays than hunt them. Today, over 117 years later, the Christmas Bird Count is one of the most successful citizen science projects – and it’s the data collected by the common man that led to Audubon’s 2014 Climate Change Report that predicts how climate change could affect the ranges of 588 North American birds – indicating that 314 species will lose more than 50 percent of their current climatic range by 2080.
My friend who owns a small piece of land on the outskirts of Tumakuru is not new to the world of human-wildlife interactions. He respects wild animals, has been involved in many rescues himself, and is sensitive to their needs and space. But what he has been observing over the last few months makes him anxious. “I would spot sloth bears on farmlands at least thrice a week. We would often hear and witness villagers chasing, screaming and pelting stones at sloth bears. The animosity is very real. There is a growing intolerance towards leopards and bears here.”
They often trumpeted, anxious and confused and driven from one village, only to be forced out from the neighbouring village. The herd even took refuge in a lake, the matriarch making desperate efforts to calm the young ones, while villagers stood close by shouting and screaming. The image of five elephants deep in the water with raised suspecting trunks constantly sniffing the air still remains fresh in my mind. And the commotion continued for over 12 hours.
The article was published in the Outlook Traveller Magazine India, October 2017.
How often do tigers attack and kill leopards? Or are a pack of wild dogs up for a stand-off with a tiger? There have been several such documented anecdotes in the past.
A few years ago, almost every day, I took my coffee in the balcony, observing the extremely animated and expeditious parakeets that never failed to keep an appointment with the old trees huddled on the side of the road.
The year 2016 was all about several lows (unfortunately) and a few highs for the environment. Across the globe, unethical tourism is still a major contributor to the lows. In India, it was no different — right from elephants found dead with plastic in their stomach (thanks to garbage dumping near National Parks) and death of selfie-crazed individuals in the hands of innocent wildlife to rise in wildlife mortality by greedy resort owners refusing to give up illegal properties. While it is lovely to get away from the mayhem of the city for a holiday to the quiet forests, what’s important is we keep it that way. Quiet, clean, and ensuring zero stress to wildlife.