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