Loris abuse echoes the zeitgeist

We need an environmentally aware society, not one that herds the majority back to the dark ages.

The forward set eyes of the loris surely leave an impression if one is to come face-to-face with the animal, which hardly ever occurs in the natural setting. PHOTO COURTESY: N A NASEER

Denying a species its natural habitat and if that wasn’t enough, abusing it in whatever is left of its home can be termed outright inhumane. It is shockingly saddening that a primate, largely nocturnal and rarely seen, was injured after it was abused for black magic and discarded there on.

That the elusive slender loris somehow survived over millennia, breaking away from our common ancestors and managed to hold up in a few pockets up until now should evoke positive curiosity. By far that has not transpired among the urban citizenry. As news emerged of the horrid act a few days ago from the heart of the city, the meek civic response it drew is deplorable.

We need to understand that we are living in a modern city, where black magic and such have no place.

The tragic tale of primate abuse finds greater resonance against the backdrop of the UN report awaited today -- so far the most ambitious study ever undertaken on the world’s biodiversity.

At least a million species are at risk of annihilation, some within decades, according to the assessment by the UN’s apex body for nature, reports The Guardian.

“There is no question we are losing biodiversity at a truly unsustainable rate that will affect human wellbeing for current
and future generations,” Robert Watson, chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Science Policy-Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), that compiled the report, told The Guardian.

“Unless urgent action is taken to reverse the loss of plants, insects and other creatures on which humanity depends for food, pollination, clean water and a stable climate,” there is no hope, the report asserts.

IPBES study is quite similar to the IPCC’s 1.5 degree report on climate change. However, the latest on biodiversity is aimed to influence policy makers.

Oddly though, now black magic is a threat to Bengaluru’s biodiversity is incomprehensible, when its time that citizen-led initiatives campaigned against such bizarre practices. If it is a loris today, tomorrow it would be a barn owl or a sand boa. The mysterious appearance and shy demeanor of these creatures are often at the advantage of quacks who fool unsuspecting folks who are unaware of their existence.

“It is sheer nonsense. The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill 2017 is law today. The onus is on the government to enforce it. In India, sadly, superstitions are inculcated at a very young age, irrespective of the urban/rural context,” says rationalist Narendra Nayak.
“In 2013, while at a protest meeting in memory of Narendra Dabholkar, late Gauri Lankesh and myself demanded a strong legislation to check such practices. A couple of detailed drafts were prepared, one in collaboration with the NLSUI. BJP started a furore and it was put in the cold storage,” recalls Nayak.

It is baffling that in our wired world, just 3% of the urban population is keen on the environment and the species that we share our immediate ecosystems with. Hence, such practices prevail. At this juncture, we need an environmentally aware society, not one that herds the majority back to the dark ages.

“After M M Kalburgi was assassinated in 2015, once again we demanded a strong anti-black magic legislation, named after him. How many lives would it take for social advancement?
Finally, now when we have the law, there’s zero implementation,” Nayak reminds.

Practices like black magic are endorsed even by the upper echelons, exposing the policy makers and the affluent.

It’s a travesty that technological advances that we boast of are reduced to nothing by the spectre of superstition.

“I was called when some voodoo was involved in Mangaluru against a candidate in the last Assembly election. It was a doll we found. The opposition candidate’s name was scribbled on a piece of paper and kept inside the doll. When political bigwigs are involved in such rituals - animal sacrifice for instance - it takes a lot to transform the layman’s thinking,” notes Nayak.

The story doesn’t end with the slender loris. We have such a rich natural heritage around us, even within Bengaluru. It just takes a closer look.

“While studying leopards around the Roerich estate, we discovered something astounding. A smooth-coated otter appeared in one of our camera traps. Perhaps the first time this otter is recorded in these parts,” reveals conservationist Sanjay Gubbi.

“Community awareness and law enforcement are primary concerns. The loris is part of our natural heritage. We need a change of attitude,” says Gubbi.

“Slender loris can be the symbol of Bengaluru’s biodiversity,” he suggests.

As ambitious initiatives such as The Urban Slender Loris Project spread awareness, connecting citizens with their larger environment, instilling true passion for nature, elevated corridors and suchlike break the continuity of the canopy, boxing in enigmatic creatures like the loris, until they completely vanish from the city.

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