The book “Wildlife India@50: Saving the Wild, Securing the Future” has been edited by Manoj Kumar Misra.
The book captures India’s 50-year-long wildlife journey through the eyes and experiences of a diverse set of authors who themselves played a part in it.
The book also features fascinating rescue tales of endangered animals.
Read an excerpt from the book below.
Editor’s Note: The following excerpt has been taken from the book’s introduction.
Dr Salim Ali was perhaps the tallest name in the game, in the period leading to and following the promulgation of WLPA. Dr Asad R. Rahmani, no less celebrated than his guru, in his ‘The Incredible Salim Ali’ pens an inspirational tale of his meeting and the time he spent with him and other stalwarts at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Bombay (now Mumbai).
Reporting, wildlife was not her own choice. It came Usha Rai’s way since she lived close to the zoo in Delhi, and her male colleagues had already cornered the important beats like political reporting at The Times of India, where she had joined as its first-ever female reporter. In her tale, ‘In the Wilds: Reporter at Large’, Usha Rai shares her long experiences in wildlife and nature reporting since the early 1960s.
The WII has been in the vanguard of wildlife conservation movement in the country. V.B. Sawarkar narrates the story of the making of the Institute as only he could have told on account of his rare privilege of having been part of the journey much before the WII was even conceptualized. While his story ends on a wishful note, sharpness of language and wit form the hallmark of Sawarkar’s tale titled ‘More than Bricks and Mortar: Making of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun’.
In 1972, World Wide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India) was perhaps the only national-level NGO in the country which set the trend for others to follow. Yes, the BNHS is much older than WWF, but it has always been primarily research-focused and is not a nationwide organization in the same sense. Volunteerism and nature education was WWF’s forte in its formative years, and, as a result, it has spawned thousands of naturalists in the country. Sharad Gaur, a long time and one of the earlier staffers at WWF-India harkens back in ‘Spawning a Generation of Conservationists: Reminiscences of WWF-India’ about the organization, its achievements and its evolution—which has not always been smooth or desirable— over the decades since 1969.
Reports of a fall in tiger numbers at the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and the disappearance of all its tigers at Sariska and Panna Tiger Reserves during the first decade of the twenty-first century brought home to a jolted nation that all was not well on the wildlife front in the country. Poaching was identified as the main cause, and rearguard action was taken to improve protection measures and reintroduce tigers into these areas. ‘Paradise Regained’ by R. Sreenivasa Murthy is the story of tiger revival in Panna Tiger Reserve told by the man who led it from the front.
Eastern Himalayas, in particular, the state of Arunachal Pradesh, is among the prominent biodiversity hotspots in the country. But till late, not much was known about it in terms of its biodiversity richness and even the presence of some wild animals there. Aparajita Datta, a celebrated researcher has been one of the pioneers in the area and ‘Journeys in Arunachal Pradesh’ is her tale about it.
Not many are aware that there are some 128 protected areas in the country under the marine protected areas (MPAs) category. Even less are aware of 18 types of winds that locals claim to blow in the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park in Tamil Nadu. In ‘Shifting Sands: Diaries from the Gulf of Mannar National Park, Tamil Nadu’, Stella James, Nayana Udayashankar and Bhuvana Balaji narrate a touching tale of people and park interactions and tensions.
Ishan Kukreti’s ‘Boomerang: When Success Begins to Breed Contestation’, is a take on challenges that have begun to confound local voluntary efforts at wildlife conservation and an urgent need for the state to design policies and realign the WLPA to address increasing instances of human-wildlife conflicts.
Similarly, increasing instances of man-animal conflict reported from different parts of the country have emerged as a key roadblock in ensuring a safe future for wild animals and the locals. Elephants are often at the centre of these skirmishes. R.K. Singh in ‘Elephant in the City’ weaves a fascinating tale about these incidents within the eastern state of Chhattisgarh and what the future holds in its bosom on this front.
There was a time when the majestic great Indian bustard (GIB) vied with the peafowl for adoption as India’s national bird. Today it is struggling for survival. Sumit Dookia, a GIB researcher of note, traces the GIB story and its current predicament in his comprehensive tale, ‘Survival: The Existential Threat Facing the GIB’.
Few conservationists in Rajasthan are engaged in developing private properties as wildlife havens. Interestingly at least two gaushalas (cow shelters) are also playing host to local wildlife within their campuses. This private conservation initiative is path-breaking in India and is a possible way forward in the future. ‘Four Conservancies Silently Protecting Wildlife in Rajasthan’ by Ishan Dhar, Dharmendra Khandal and Aditya ‘Dicky’ Singh is all about such initiatives.
A large number of people preparatory to and after the promulgation of the WLPA championed the cause of wildlife conservation as a personal mission. Many of them made a name for themselves, while others worked in the wildlife field and related disciplines behind the scenes. Ananda Banerjee, an artist and journalist rubbed shoulders with quite a few of them. In his tale about ‘Conservation Champions’, he talks of them and provides a rather incomplete list of them.
Similarly, beginning with a few notable NGOs that were active when the WLPA became operational, their number and geographical presence in the country has since increased. ‘NGOs in Wildlife Conservation’ is my personal tale about them and their vision, mission and priorities. Like the one before, this story needs to be considered an ‘incomplete’ narrative since the number of wildlife NGOs in the country is too large to fit within a single chapter in a book.
It is now well established that anthropogenic climate change has begun to transform land, air, water and life on earth. Adaptation to this change would be the difference between extinction and survival for various life forms extant on earth. Nivedita Khandekar in ‘WLPA in a Climate-Altered India’ highlights the emerging ground realities that any future wildlife policy and legislation must consider.
More specifically, is it possible to gaze into the crystal ball and visualize wildlife in India and an appropriate WLPA, 50 years hence in 2072? Neha Sinha took up the challenge and, true to her mastery in her craft, created ‘Looking into the Crystal Ball—The WLPA of 2072’, a scenario which might even turn out to be just the soothsayer’s jackpot. She discusses how the proposed WLPA amendment bill of 2021 can benefit from attention to climate change and creating a climate-conscious policy for wildlife.
This ‘story’ book seeks to offer you insights into varied aspects of wildlife conservation as it has unfolded in India over the last fifty years and a peep into what could unfold in the next fifty years. We hope you are well informed, entertained and enlightened as you read it.