The bee moth, also known as the hummingbird hawk moth is here again. I look forward to its annual dusk time visits. I have to be quick with my camera for this moth never lingers for too long. It clearly favors the colour purple: African lilies [Agapanthus] and verbena [Verbena bonariensis] andlarkspur [Delphinium] -which is toxic to us. I have seen them sip up the nectar of pink zinnias and cosmos, so perhaps they are a bit partial to these flowers. To be honest, this hawkmoth does look hover like a hummingbird and hum like a bee.
How did I manage to get published? I’m clueless. I only know that The Hindu-Open Page editor’s click of approval transported me to a new level of thrilled. All those zillion rewrites, years of rejections and no replies from other publications finally paid off. This piece was way shorter, the timing was right perhaps–around Salim Ali’s birth anniversary–and I think my writing struck a chord with nature-loving folk who are missing the ‘wild’ connect. Reading their appreciative emails brought me as much joy as writing. There is no greater reward. Will I get published again? I can’t tell but you will know if I do.:) Why don’t you read the article (via The Hindu link below) and tell me what you think of it in the comments space?
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau, in Walden, or Life in the Woods
A year ago I realized I want to spend the rest of life working for wildlife conservation. It wasn’t a midlife crisis moment. On the contrary, what should have been obvious all along dawned on me rather slowly.
How does one begin to live the dream?
My new wannabe goal lacks the prerequisite academic backing. I don’t know anyone influential enough to open doors for me. Nor am I a donor. Scientific papers are mostly beyond my realm of understanding. I don’t recognize every other bird or ungulate. What I do know is that it’s not too late.
I want to get up close and personal with wildlife. Go out on field trips. Be involved. Inspire. Document. Help a researcher. Assist a vet. Be better informed. Tell the world. Invest in serious skills. Attempt to bridge that gap between scientists and citizens. Do what needs to be done 101%. For the rest of my life!
A friend, also a WII alumnus, happened to mention Wildlife Institute of India’s IV course on Wildlife Conservation for Wildlife Enthusiasts. It’s exactly what I was looking for. They hadn’t put in an age limit, so I applied. I was selected and it was everything I hoped it to be. And more. The ten-day course was divided into lecture-style classes and a field trek/trip into a core forest area.
A second revelation
I hate stereotyping but in startling contrast to the ‘government babus’ in my head, WII staff were a breath of fresh air. I interacted with charismatic and enterprising individuals from various departments. Their passion is admirable, their involvement, inspiring and their generosity in sharing, genuine.
The path of an environmentalist, as you and I know, is not an easy one. A few of our mentors joined WII as students and chose never to leave. 15-20 years on, these research scientists continue to battle on at great personal cost. Graciously, they make time to motivate ordinary people like myself. It’s humbling.
“When someone has spent decades devoted to observing certain creatures, their observations are not to be taken lightly.”-Carl Safina
I agree. If there’s one way to learn, it’s to walk with the experts. As a trekker, the highlight of the course for me was visiting core forest areas on foot. After a few days in the field with Dr. R Suresh Kumar and Dr. Lakshminarayana—both storehouses of information—my respect for conservationists has risen several-fold.
It’s one thing to learn in the classroom about how elephants communicate. It’s another, to be startled awake by trumpeting a few yards away from where you lie, trapped in a flimsy sleeping bag.
This course is undoubtedly a significant one. The WII campus, tucked away in a green haven, hosts a great number of wild inhabitants. I am honestly astounded by WII’s collective wealth of expertise and by the impact they’re making, unknown to the rest of the world. I’m sure my course mates echo my sentiments. We’re a mixed bunch of adults from diverse professional backgrounds, different states, and varying ages. We were a rather enthusiastic and animated bunch: absorbing, theorizing, questioning and arguing. I can now say with conviction that there are 14 more Indian citizens in this world, who are better informed, convinced, and committed to saving our natural wealth.
Scope of conservation lectures
Biogeography of India/History of Indian Natural History/Achievements/Challenges and opportunities in wildlife conservation /Wildlife of Himalayas: conservation through science/ Large carnivore conservation in India/Saving Tigers in a human-dominated landscape/Science and management of tiger reintroduction/ Elephant conservation challenges/ Wetland conservation in India/Saving our sea turtles/ turtle trade/ Fish conservation in India/Dealing with wildlife crimes/A need for developing wildlife forensics/ Managing wild animals in distress/ Dealing with snakes, venomous and non-venomous in India/ Introduction to classic natural history books.
I was out with friends in the Little Rann of Kutch on 18th Jan 2016, exploring the sanctuary for Asiatic wild asses and birds, when we came across this beautiful lone Nilgai (Indian Antelope) standing perfectly still. It was a great photo-op. As I zoomed in I noticed its eyes were focused at a point somewhere behind us. Thinking it odd, we took our shots and moved on. Before we knew it the Nilgai turned around and started sprinting away with two dogs in hot pursuit. Very soon a third dog joined the hunt. The chase continued for a quite a while. The antelope was tiring but the dogs looked like they would go on forever. As much as I love dogs, I mentally rooted for the Nilgai.We didn’t quite expect to see wild dogs or a hunt. I did a second take when I realized these were strays. The sanctuary fringes a village. Never before have I seen strays attack wildlife. There was nothing friendly or domestic about these dogs. They were plain wild. There was something wrong with the whole scenario. It wasn’t the same as watching a wild animal hunting another wild animal!
We kept our eyes on the animals till they disappeared from sight. What happened to the Nilgai? I’ll never know but I’m beginning to think something more needs to be done with managing strays. The incidents of humans being attacked by strays are multiplying. Now they seem to have found new hunting grounds.