Today we celebrate the birthday of Sir David Attenborough, one of the greatest naturalist and wildlife expert known to us. Many of us show a lot of concern about preserving nature and saving wildlife. But for most of us, that concern end with an emotional message posted on our Facebook page! We don’t venture out of the comforts of our homes to study wildlife and understanding nature in its raw form. Fortunately there are a few individuals among us who took the task of saving wildlife from the ever expanding human intrusion. Here are some of the best known examples of few individuals who made the difference to make this a better planet to live:
One serious wildlife researcher and conservationist I have personally met is Giridhar Malla. His first assignment was to work as a field assistant for the Tiger Census Project for Wildlife Institute of India in 2006. Since then he has conducted several research studies on olive ridley sea turtles, tigers, leopards, birds, insects, etc. One day he would be conducting tiger pugmark census at Nagarahole national park in Karnataka, the next day he will be witnessing a Turtle Kumbh Mela at Gahirmatha in Odisha. The next time he would encounter a tusker elephant in Biligiri Rangaswamy Hills; later he would rediscover the wild nature of the Eastern Ghats.
While he has written many of his stories, I can recollect him telling me more thrilling stories about Naxalite militants and wild boars. I am amazed by his work as a wildlife researcher and wonder whether it is his profession that has taken him to such exciting places or is it his passion for preserving wildlife.
Gururaja K V
Gururaja K V alias Kappe Gururaja is another focused wildlife scholar I know since my college days. Being an avid birdwatcher, he used to take us on treks across the countryside in Shimoga. He developed a serious interest in frogs and completed his doctoral thesis on them. We used to joke the ‘K’ in Gururaja K V stands for Kappe! Obviously his focused approach on studying amphibians of the Western Ghats was noticed and soon he became an eminent scientist in the Indian Institute of Science.
This year, he has been on the national news for discovering two new species of frogs based on how they look and sound – the Honnametti bush frog and laterite narrow-mouthed frog! If you have any doubts about how serious Gururaja has been about frogs, here comes the clincher. He and his team in Gubbi Labs have innovated FrogFind, India’s first mobile application to identify frogs. It contains visual information about the habitat, distribution, key identifying features, and ecological status of frogs and toads. Now you too can venture out in the countryside and discover some new species of your own!
I have read the stories of Himalayan adventures of Abhishek Ghoshal in search of the elusive Snow leopard. Being a Research Scholar at the Wildlife Institute of India, he surveys across the high altitude landscapes of the Himalayas. While it is hard to find and study the Snow leopard, Abhishek has managed to study a variety of mammals such as Bharal or blue sheep and Asiatic ibex in Spiti and Lahaul Valleys in Himachal Pradesh.
Leading a nomadic life, Abhishek has spent months in the lonely cold deserts of Himalayas. His efforts have brought the media spotlight on the persistent threats faced by smaller mammals such as Himalayan marmot and Himalayan Woolly hare. In fact Himalayan marmots were mentioned by ancient Greek historians as the gold-digging ground squirrels, since gold chunks were mined from the burrows dug by these marmots! Apart from studying animals, he discovered ancient pictographs on rock surfaces that were painted by our early ancestors—a practice collectively known as rock art.
LIFE Sapna & Harshavardhan
I have known this engineer couple from Bengaluru since the time they first organised a tree planting drive in 2007 to replace the numerous trees cut down by road expansion and metro construction. After they formed a voluntary organisation named Lets Integrate For Environment (LIFE), I was invited to join them on a trek to a quaint village named Kaggaladu in Tumkur district.
Sapna & Harshavardhan had heard of migratory birds coming to nestle amidst a noisy village where villagers took care of the hatchlings, if they fall down from their nests. But the villagers were ignorant on how to take care of cranes, pelicans and storks. So Sapna & Harshavardhan adopted the village and made regular visits to the village school to educate children and teachers on how to help these birds. They are now creating a mini forest named ‘Shanthidhāma’ near Hesaraghatta outside Bangalore in a protected land of 2.5 acres with numerous species including few uncommon and western ghat species.