Wildlife Conservation Day, observed every year on December 4, spreads awareness about preserving and protecting the natural world and its inhabitants.
This year, in the subsequent lockdowns due to the pandemic, the wildlife took to the streets, roaming freely, giving the Internet enough fodder to turn into memes and also to think about how our actions have been harming the planet.
Then, closer to November, the AQI levels rose remarkably, thanks to the age-old problem of stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Delhi-NCR.
Wasim Akram, Deputy Director, Special Projects, Wildlife SOS, feels there is no awareness among people on conservation and animal welfare, and manmade problems like pollution add to the woes. “When we talk about air pollution, visibility becomes an important factor. We have good biodiversity of small mammals in the Delhi-NCR area. Road accident cases shoot up because of poor visibility. Moreover, the foam that gets collected on Yamuna every now and then, poses a threat to the wildlife. Winter is a period of hibernation. So, the wildlife encounters reduce and we only get to see reptiles. The bigger challenge during winter is road accidents, and we start getting calls every day. Recently, we got a call of a jackal being hit and run. Its hind leg had broken and we had to amputate it. Nilgai is also another common victim of road accidents,” adds Akram.
Samir Kumar Sinha, Head of Conservation, Wildlife Trust of India, feels that awareness about wildlife conservation exists, but is hardly implemented. However, the impacts of pollution on animals in the urban areas is still an understudied area, he observes. “You may put out artificial nests and pots of water in urban areas, but if their habitat is destroyed, the animals will not live there. Moreover, it is we who demand development, and development will happen on the ground and will, in turn, disturb the wildlife habitat. So, we have to measure the pros and cons of every development being done,” adds Sinha.
Wildlife photographer Ashish Sulkh from Delhi shares that the Bar-headed Goose, world’s highest flyer, comes in large numbers to Surajpur Wetlands in Noida every year, and Bluethroats fly in from Europe. “But the pollution, an every-year phenomenon, delays the arrival of migratory birds,” says Sohail Madan, centre manager, CEC-BNHS, Delhi. However, Sulkh urges one to look at the other side of the story as well. “The flamingos eat the algae and the waste from the factories that lend them their pink colour. They survive on this waste. For them, the lockdown was not that great. However, the lockdown saw less human and wildlife interaction, and so the wildlife ecosystem got the time to heal it’s ecosystem.”
Director Ramesh Pandey from Delhi Zoo that kept its doors closed for the public since the lockdown, says some animals have been showing attention-seeking behaviours. “Though we cannot generalise it scientifically, there was a change in the behaviour. It was the first time we closed the zoo for the public. While some animals seemed comfortable and stress-free, but since many of them have been born in captivity and have been engaging with the public, they tried to draw attention and seek engagement when people are around. Still, we can’t conclude anything as there is no data.” Pandey wants people to realise that a zoo is not just a place of entertainment. “A zoo plays many serious roles in conservation breeding, understanding behavioural aspects of animals, conservation education, and understanding health, hygiene and disease issues that can help in treating animals,” he adds.
In a nutshell
This year, in the subsequent lockdowns due to the pandemic, the wildlife took to the streets, roaming freely, giving the Internet enough fodder to turn into memes and also to think about our harmful actions. Then, closer to November, the AQI levels rose remarkably, thanks to the age-old problem of stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Delhi-NCR.