Saturday, 3 August 2019

Unusual friends

If we have to think who is the most important person in our lives, we would think of friends and family. We recognize the contribution our friends have in our lives. Friends make us feel more alive, help us through tough times, they make us who we are. But do we recognise ALL our friends? Some friends shape our lives silently from the background. 

Those, for example, who stand tall in the scorching sun to generate oxygen so that we don't suffocate, provide shade from the heat, provide food, bind soil together and trap water inside so that we don't get washed away in floods or landslides. 

A few years back, a few of us were stranded on an unstable high altitude region of the Himalayas in the middle of a torrential rain and landslides all around. What saved our life was a tiny stretch of the cliff above us - thick with trees where the soil refused to come loose in the heavy rains. 

Then why don't we put our trees on the same pedestal as our best friends? They support the life we live, silently, saving us from a horrible death and extinction. Shouldn't they be considered as our biggest friends and saved above everything else? 

If you find the comparison a bit posh rant from the privileged and smirk worthy- just close your eyes and imagine a world without trees. Without their oxygen producing abilities, our lungs won't last even a few minutes! So let’s go ahead and enjoy as this friend gets killed today for getting us another precious concrete cage. At least our corpses will have smirks on the face.

Friday, 2 August 2019

What's next?

On International Tiger Day 2019 the Indian government announced our latest tiger count: 2,967. This count has grown steadily in the last decade, thanks to a tremendous effort from forest officials, locals, activists and, of course, the Indian government. Ever since the good news, the entire tiger lover community around the globe have been rejoicing, celebrating and applauding the effort. And yet, hardly anyone is talking about the obvious question! What's next?

For simplicity’s sake, let's focus on just one of the issues tiger conservation is facing right now. Habitat loss. Tigers are territorial animals. Every tiger needs space, a large territory to call their home, with adequate food supply. Due to rising pressure from human population, tiger habitat is not expanding to accommodate the growing tiger population. When tiger population grows beyond the capacity of the reserve, they fight each other over territory and often - die. If they live, the losing tiger may migrate to areas around the reserve closer to human habitation having limited natural prey base. When out of desperation for food, tigers attack cattle, human-wildlife conflict starts, again leading to the tiger's death. Due to lack of wildlife corridor free from human presence, they cannot even safely migrate to other tiger reserves. 

Like any other committed soul who loves our fantastic predators, I too am over the moon at this increase in tiger count. But it doesn’t mean that I am also not equally cautious! Are we really preparing to address the problem at its root proactively? Without significant increase in habitat, how would the count increase further? It is most natural for us to be satisfied at the cost of being complacent. The first level of increase in tiger count wasn't easy. And it wouldn’t be  easy from here on. The face may have changed a little, but the danger still looms large. We simply cannot lose the momentum now, else we may end up not just undoing our efforts, but also losing our pride, our beautiful, powerful tigers, and along with them the whole ecosystem. 

Thursday, 1 August 2019


In the natural world, balance is the key to everything. We cannot survive without water and yet, too much water can leave mayhem in its wake. Sun provides the energy necessary to sustain life. And yet, too much of it can cause harmful radiation and death. Carbon is the building block of life. And yet, too much carbon emission is one of the biggest threats in the world right now. Humans are nature's most amazing creation and yet, too many humans can destroy this natural balance and invite their own doom. 

Nature is an incredibly complex machine connected through delicate balance of all its components. When we disturb those natural balances, we risk the efficiency or functionality of the whole machine. 

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Culture, in the nature

As human beings, we are wired to think that what we do is the right thing to be done. Be it our culture, our religion, or more - we think our way is the correct way. Still, with everybody doing the correct thing, the society is crippled with so many issues - why?

When you travel the world, you get exposed. Exposed to new people, new perspectives, learn new things. This exposure opens you up to new ideas and diversity of thoughts. Exposure to natural world does that same trick to me. 

Every species have their own culture, language, food and social structure. There are dangers, struggles, hardships, and yet they never give up. Despite their differences, they find out a way to live together and help each other. Their synergistic relationships always fascinate me. It's like your neighbors. You may not share the same culture, but you help each other, stand up for each other in the face of danger. Every species is like a community. Their interaction with the ecosystem makes a society. Every ecosystem is like a new country. 

It isn't easy to start thinking of the natural world as something beyond the resource provider. But if you immerse yourself in that experience, this world has a lot more to teach you than the best libraries. 

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Nature's abuse

A few weeks back we wrote about Chennai’s water crisis. And today it's time to talk about Assam’s flood. Water crisis doesn't discriminate. Neither does flood. It washes away humans and animals alike. 

Every year Assam faces devastating floods leading to property and life loss. While floods can be a part of a natural ecological process, it can also lead to massive destruction. Due to rapid deforestation and climate change, flood incidents are on the rise, just like any other extreme weather event. And that is what we are seeing everyday now, on social media, or in the news - people of Assam suffering, animals running for high grounds, failing and drowning. 

Every action has its consequences. Our abuse of natural resources has got us to this stage and we only have to stop this mayhem. Praying would not help unless we actively turn back from some habits. We destroyed the green space, and only by restoring it, by planting trees we can bargain for a last chance to keep breathing on this planet. 

Monday, 29 July 2019

My strength!

When everything seems to be falling apart, when there is no light at the end of the tunnel, when the future appears grim, there’s always someone I keep turning to...Tigers, my dearest big cats !! They are my most favourite! I look at their photos & they give me the strength to put one foot forward & then the other and get through the day, day after day. 

You may laugh. What a silly little thought!! But is it really? We feel lost, we turn to our families & friends, don’t we? I consider these wild cats to be my friends, maybe even family...every one of them who still breathes on this earth.

It’s the most ideal connect. The wild tigers are the embodiment of struggle. Less than 3,000 of them remain in the Indian forests now. From the day they are born, they are taught by their mothers that they are never safe. There are dangers lurking at every corner, a farmer's electric fence, a speeding car on a highway cutting across their home, a poacher's snare or guns because some twisted pervert thinks tiger's reproductive organs are aphrodisiac or a poison trap set by someone who just doesn't happen to like them because of the 'inconvenience' they create. Their homes are disappearing, so much that they don't know if they will have a place to call their home once they grow up. May be another stripe just moved behind the bush ready to pounce on them, may be the baby the mother just had will never grow up because she couldn't stop herself from blinking for a second & that moment took away her baby. Their food sources are depleting or getting washed away every year in floods. 

For them every single day is a struggle. Every additional day lived is an achievement! So they give me confidence. If they can go on, so can I.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Saving our pride!

Tigers are the pride of our nation. They are incredibly beautiful, intelligent animals. If you have been following our tiger series, by now you know how important tigers are to our economy and our ecology. It is beyond all doubt that tigers are worth more alive than dead. What is it then that still and really threatens tiger conservation?

Tigers are currently listed as endangered (by the IUCN Red list). Most dangerous to tiger conservation are trophy hunting, poaching for illegal trade, habitat loss, loss of primary food source, human wildlife conflict etc. Over the years, a number of strategies have been implemented (by NTCA) for tiger conservation, and yet more needs to be done. 

Among initiatives, ones that can most positively impact tiger population are controlled tourism with proper monitoring and development of local communities through creation of jobs. Equally needed are: Protection and separation of tiger habitat from human reach; creation of wildlife corridors so that tigers can migrate to other national parks; implementation and execution of strict laws around poaching; education of local communities about tiger behaviour; and relocating villages around wildlife corridors or tiger reserves. 

As individuals also, we can contribute significantly to tiger conservation. Strictly boycott any form of tiger products, tiger temples, zoos, artificial safari parks or any other tourism outside of their natural habitat. Visit as many tiger reserves as you can. When you are inside the reserve, make sure you follow the rules, be respectful to the animals and don't disturb them. Sustainable tourism will help the locals generate income and incentivize them for coexisting with the animals. Drive carefully around the park and report any illegal snare or activities to the forest department immediately. Using your photos and videos, encourage others around you to do the same. Together we can save our pride.