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They too belong to Delhi

Baishali Adak, October 3, 2012

Wildlife week

Delhi is observing Wildlife Week from October 1 to 7, but wildlife itself seems to be missing from the Capital. A few parks, two odd dying sanctuaries, a zoo and an occasional reptile or bird rescued from a locality seems to be all that Delhi has in the name of wildlife. Delhi, though, had a rich history in wildlife at a point of time. What went wrong? Why are once abundant species of birds and animals vanishing from the City? Metrolife finds out from wildlife experts.

Wildlife SOS, established in 1995, rescues wild animals which pop up occasionally in homes and offices in the city. Its co-founder and director, Kartick Satyanarayan,
informs us, “Even until a few decades back, Delhi housed a number of wild species like Sambar deer, Hog deer, neelgai, porcupines, jackals, hornbills and the yellow-legged green pigeon.

Also, many kinds of snakes ranging from the Royal Diaden, Wolf snake, Rat snake, Common Krait, Common Cobra, Checkered Keel Back, Cat snake and monitor lizards used to be found here.

“Today, though, they are hardly spotted anywhere. The Asola Bhatti sanctuary, Deer Park and the ridge area still retain some, but the other green pockets of the city are lying vacant. Some new parks like the Yamuna Biodiversity Park have been established, but once a habitat has been destroyed, it takes decades, sometimes centuries, to revive it again.”

The reason, his colleague and co-founder Geeta Seshamani says, is unplanned urbanisation and ruthless commercialisation, “A city is like a giant eating machine. The more space it gets, the more it needs. There are roads, residential areas, malls, phone towers, airports and other civic amenities required to be built, and the easiest places to sacrifice are forests.”

“One must realise that when we fell even one tree, a micro-habitat is lost.”

“When the Indira Gandhi International Airport was constructed, at least 2-3000 acres of greenery, housing the last of wild species in Delhi, were lost. Today, some are found in the ridge, JNU campus, Hauz Rani, Panchsheel Park and other such areas but they have largely vanished from the City.”

Nikhil Devasar of the Delhi Bird Watching Society agrees, “There was a time when thousands of rare domestic and foreign birds - like the Common Shelduck, Serujinis Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Indian Courser, Tufted Duck, Greater Flamingo etc., used to roost at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. Today, not even 20-30 are found even in the peak season.”

“Understandably, our political leaders decided that installing their own statues at these places was more important than conserving these precious birds and animals.”

However, how does one convince the common man, not just politicians, of the need to conserve wildlife. In a Capital City, isn’t the housing of humans more important than animals?

Kartick says, “That’s an ill-informed mindset. Animals are not there to just hang-out. They form important links in the ecological chain. Without them, natural processes like bird-aided pollination etc. cannot be completed.

“Secondly, they are dependent on nature and nature is dependent on them. When you conserve your green areas – the lungs of a regions, wildlife is bound to come on its own. All that one needs to do is preserve the City’s green pockets. That is the least expected from the world’s most intelligent animal – human being.” Touché.


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