Citizen activism strong in India, says Paul Rosolie

Paul Rosolie is a naturalist, author and wildlife filmmaker.

Paul Rosolie likes to call himself a South Indian and with good reason. The naturalist, explorer, author and wildlife filmmaker first came to Bengaluru in 2008, found a photographer wife from the city and now spends four months in a year here — the rest being divided between New York and the Amazon Rainforests. 

Paul visited the Bengaluru office of ITW Consulting Pvt Ltd to give the employees a break from the usual Monday routine and share stories of his adventures and challenges. Rajitha Menon caught up with him to glean his thoughts on the current state of forests in India.

What do you think about the state of forests in India, especially the Western Ghats?

I have worked in rainforests all over the world and you have some of the most important natural habitats on the planet here. But the current situation is quite scary due to many mining and dam projects being sanctioned. Men make money when they destroy forests, but only a few rich people benefit and everyone else suffers.

Implications of current policies on the lives of people living near forests now?

The implications are not just for forest dwellers or those living in the periphery. I have spoken to coffee farmers who say that the rainfall now is almost 90 percent lesser than what it was 50 years ago and this is affecting their crops. Similarly, cities like Bengaluru and Goa are running out of water. It’s such a simple rule - more forests mean more rains. In that way, more forests will be better for the economy as a whole. 

Do treks or safaris in core areas of the forests help in tackling poaching?

Core areas are very important. The wildlife needs areas where there are no people; just like we all need a house, a space that is not public. So I don’t agree with allowing tours and stuff inside the core zone. 

But treks and tours outside these core areas are indeed helpful. The human presence deters poachers and people also realise how incredible wildlife is. 

Any advice to government authorities?

We can’t afford to lose any more forests. No project should be sanctioned in a forest area, we can develop it elsewhere.

In the last 50 years, we have lost 50 percent of the wildlife on this planet. We are seeing more and more environmental catastrophes, like the recent flooding in Kerala. The droughts and the flooding will get worse as we lose more forests.   

What about the people here?

What I like about India is that so many people still care about forests and conservation. I have never seen people who will fight for forests with so much passion. If it’s possible in India with so many people then it is possible anywhere. That makes me super inspired. 

City way of conservation or native tribal knowledge?

Both are valid. Western methods like radio collaring and studies have protected many species. At the same time, native people have been living in the forests for thousands of years and they know things the outsiders dont know; that has to be respected and incorporated into conservation. 

 

A passion that developed early

Even as a child, Paul always wanted to be around animals. He spent many weekends tracking foxes and bears in the forests in New York or would go hiking by himself in the woods. He dropped out of school at a young age and went to the Amazon as a research assistant. he has now worked in Amazon for past 12 years and says that his training came from the tribal people there.

New book next year

Paul will be coming out with a book next year titled ‘The Girl and The Tiger’. Already touted as a ‘21st Century Jungle Book’, it is a novel based on the story of a Bengaluru girl who reached out to him when she heard that there were two abandoned tiger cubs in her hometown.

“I love South India. It is where I want to live and it is what is inspiring me right now. The book is entirely based here. My editor was telling me that we need to include a glossary for the American audience because I have used many completely Indian terms,” he says with a laugh.

His first tiger sighting

“It took me six years to see my first tiger. I was walking on a path at around 6 on a misty morning and suddenly saw a full grown female tiger in front of me. It the most amazing moment of my life.

Another memorable experience was when I rode a night train for the first time and saw the Western Ghats. I was going from Bengaluru to Puttur and when I saw the huge mountains and forests at night, I got so excited that I spent hours looking out of the window.”

 

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Citizen activism strong in India, says Paul Rosolie

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