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Wild. Life. Conservation

One more leopard dies in India. Another leopard was burnt to death. This has become common place and these incidents do not even make it to the mainstream media. So, what chance does wildlife have in India? I am thinking about the reality of life for Indians and trying to guess where saving tigers or leopards would fit in in their spectrum of priorities.

Let's look at a few lives across the economic spectrum.

  • Think of the guy who runs a tea stall or a cigarette stall or does ironing of clothes. Income per month: 5,000 rupees. Family members: one wife and three kids. What are his priorities? A grown up daughter at home who needs to be married off. The kids in school who need money for books and fees. The wife has been falling ill. There is talk of widening of the road and so the stall might need to be relocated. Does this guy wonder about the vastness and beauty of the cosmos? Does the guy wonder if there's life elsewhere in the universe? Does the guy think about the diversity of biological life and the splendor of evolution? Does the guy worry about the dangers of deforestation and the loss of biodiversity and species becoming extinct? Does it matter to him if leopards are being beaten to death by villagers or burnt to death? Not likely.
  • Think of the guy who does a middle of the road job. Income: 20,000 rupees per month. Family: one wife and three kids. What occupies his mind? College education is getting expensive in India. Private engineering colleges are particularly expensive. There are so few seats available in the government colleges. He needs to buy a refrigerator, AC, washing machine, TV, mobiles for all three kids. Ten years ago, they had no phones. Now, they have five. Oh, and the son wants a two wheeler too. Does this guy wait with bated breath for the LHC to become fully operational so that the Higgs would at last be detected? Does he marvel at the brilliance of Richard Feynman and the elegant mathematics of Chandrasekhar and the singular insights of Paul Dirac? Does he try to evaluate who was the greater genius: Einstein or Newton? And so, does the death of leopards bother him? Not likely.
  • Then there's the wannabe generation. Ahhh. This is fun to write about. The hip and happening youngsters. The future of India. The jeans generation. Males in jeans ... and females too. Income: anywhere from 50,000 ... 200,000 rupees per month. Family: anywhere from single status to wife and a kid or two. So, what keeps the 10 trillions neurons in their heads busy? Let's see. Movies. Dresses. Eating out. Tasting the diverse foods from all over the world in different restaurants. Living unhealthy lifestyles. Did I mention drinks ... Medicines. YES. CAR. CAR. CAR. Home. Installments. Installments. Installments. Installments. Mobiles. AC. Furniture. LED LCD TV. Apple (not the fruit). Goa visit. Nainital visit. Shimla visit. Did I forget something? And any chance that they are into watching the final launches of the space shuttles? Are they worried about the energy challenges facing the planet? Some of them are animal lovers. Some have dogs at home. But that's about it. Mostly, they have a long way to go. Lots more to achieve. Lots more to earn. Many more installments to pay. Would they bother about leopards? The fact that the media does not even report such deaths answers that. Cricket news makes for a lighter read.
  • The narrow tribe of celebrities. This includes movie stars, cricketers, and other rich people. Some belonging to this tribe are associated with various causes. Some of them are associated with wildlife conservation too. Sometimes, celebrities might come to attend some function wearing short dresses and forgetting some items of clothing. Well, animals wear nothing. And we ARE animals. This is called raising awareness.

So, who are we left with? Valmik Thapar and Maneka Gandhi. And surely thousands more who truly understand the complex web of life. Perhaps millions of them are there. Although I think millions would be too optimistic a number.

What does the future hold for animals? The big cats in the wild will surely continue to dwindle in numbers. They may not quite become extinct. Thousands of species continue to become extinct of course. But then extinction is perhaps a part of the very nature of evolution. Some of the natural cycles would be there even if there were no humans on the planet.

Science will play the role of savior as it always does. It will provide some answers ... partial solutions. What is unpredictable is the speed with which science will find solutions. It might be too late for some species. The international treaties that have been fought over and worked out to protect whales gives some sense of the challenges involved. Nations seem to have agreed to keep Antarctica pristine.

My other-worldly hope is this. Nations will agree to keep Mars free from large scale human habitation. This will be more or less easy as humans won't be so keen to go so far away from home and start over. Animals on the other hand won't mind. I don't know when we'll start to terraform Mars. Let's make it warm and fill the ancient river beds with water. Make the atmosphere oxygen-rich so that animals can live and exhale carbon dioxide so that plants can thrive.

I hope in a century from now, Mars will be full of forests and a variety of ecosystems and climates just as Earth does. Then we can transport a variety of animals to start living there. It would be fantastic if the elephants and zebras and lion and cheetahs and antelopes and peacocks and wildebeests of Earth are transformed into the Martians.

How wonderful would that Be?


  1. An out-of-this-world solution to the problems of conservation! You are aware of course that a Noah's Ark (to Mars) will do nothing at all to prevent the disaster in the making - that loss of the key links in the intricate web of life that nature is, will mean much more than loss of some of the well recognizable animals or plants. Waiting till a large enough proportion of humans realize the importance of such critical environmental issues is not sensible.
    You are right though, the solution lies in science. But we need to work in that direction in right earnest.


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