Sav­ing wildlife

A col­lec­tion of es­says on a con­ser­va­tion­ist’s sin­gle-minded cam­paign for pro­tec­tion of wildlife sanc­tu­ar­ies in Kar­nataka.

FrontLine - - BOOKS IN REVIEW - BY VIKHAR AHMED SAYEED

O

N Fe­bru­ary 7, 2016, a dra­matic news story was tele­cast on tele­vi­sion chan­nels in Bengaluru. A leop­ard had strayed into a school on the out­skirts of the city. As a cor­don of State For­est Depart­ment of­fi­cials and oth­ers armed with ri­fles and sticks gath­ered to catch it, the fren­zied an­i­mal tried to leap across a wall and bite whoso­ever crossed its path. One of its vic­tims was San­jay Gubbi, a wildlife sci­en­tist and con­ser­va­tion­ist. It at­tacked him as he tried to scramble up the gate. As he fell to the ground, it bit his right arm. Gubbi tore him­self away from the an­i­mal with great force and swung his binoc­u­lars at it. Gubbi re­quired 55 stitches in his right arm and sev­eral weeks of phys­io­ther­apy in or­der to be able to use his arm again. As Gubbi’s in­jury be­gan to be dis­cussed, his con­ser­va­tion work also be­gan to be talked about.

The book un­der re­view, Sec­ond Tribe: Sav­ing Tiger Land­scapes in the Twen­ty­first Cen­tury, is about Gubbi’s wildlife con­ser­va­tion ef­forts to which he has ded­i­cated more than two decades of his life. Gubbi has been a Mem­ber of the State Wildlife Board for the past 14 years.

Since Gubbi has lived and worked in Kar­nataka, par­tic­u­larly Bengaluru, the sto­ries that are col­lected in this book per­tain to his ef­forts at safe­guard­ing and ex­tend­ing the pro­tected ar­eas in the State so that the an­i­mals in­hab­it­ing these re­serves have a good chance at sur­vival. The book suc­cinctly de­scribes the te­dium of ap­plied con­ser­va­tion prac­tices, and in this it is dif­fer­ent from the thrilling sto­ries writ­ten by an ear­lier gen­er­a­tion of nat­u­ral­ists or a later gen­er­a­tion of wildlife bi­ol­o­gists.

Fol­low­ers of en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues in Bengaluru will be fa­mil­iar with the cam­paigns Gubbi has un­der­taken and dis­cussed at var­i­ous fora. A book col­lat- Sec­ond Na­ture Sav­ing Tiger Land­scapes in the Twenty-first Cen­tury

By San­jay Gubbi Rain­fed Books, Chen­nai, 2018 ing these valu­able ex­pe­ri­ences is use­ful to both con­ser­va­tion­ists and wildlife en­thu­si­asts.

In the in­tro­duc­tion, Gubbi says: “Gov­ern­ment de­ci­sions are of­ten un­pre­dictable. I some­times doubt if sci­ence ever comes into play when mak­ing de­ci­sions about con­ser­va­tion in In­dia.” If sci­ence does not come into play, what does? The book shows that myr­iad fac­tors come into play in is­sues re­lat­ing to con­ser­va­tion. His in­ter­ven­tion at a meet­ing where the Chief Min­is­ter was present per­haps helped a for­est re­tain its con­ser­va­tion sta­tus. Gubbi told the Chief Min­is­ter that the gov­ern­ment could get a bad name if it al­lowed min­ing in a for­est area as such an ac­tiv­ity would pol­lute the wa­ter in the re­gion. This must have re­sulted in the po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion to not al­low min­ing in a cru­cial elec­tion year.

Gubbi sums up the fun­da­men­tal credo that has de­fined his work: “Put sim­ply, tigers are threat­ened in In­dia and else­where. To sus­tain a healthy pop­u­la­tion of tigers, a for­est must ful­fil two ba­sic cri­te­ria: plenty of prey and large, un­bro­ken spa­ces. Ad­dress­ing these two is­sues is key to sur­vival of tigers and that has been my life’s work.”

NIGHT CLO­SURE OF HIGH­WAYS

At the out­set, Gubbi ex­plains one of his key cam­paigns—the clo­sure of high­ways at night in wildlife habi­tats to mit­i­gate road kill.

He, along with a team of con­ser­va­tion­ists, was suc­cess­ful in get­ting the au­thor­i­ties to close at night the stretch of the Mysore­m­anan­thavadi High­way that passes through the Na­gara­hole sanc­tu­ary. (On April 20, the Supreme Court up­held the clo­sure of the Mysore-man­an­thavadi high­way for ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and also rerout­ing of a part of the high­way.)

This high­way, which is lo­cated in the south­ern part of the sanc­tu­ary, con­nects Kar­nataka and Ker­ala. Con­sid­er­ing that a num­ber of an­i­mals end up as road­kill, clo­sure of the high­way for a few hours helped re­duce the threat an­i­mals faced while cross­ing the high­way at night­time. Af­ter sev­eral years of

Pages: xxii + 126 Price: Rs.499

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