Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Wild, wild world...
Two conservationists bust myths and educate wildlife lovers on lions and the Western Ghats
“In the end, we conserve only what we love, we love only what we understand, and we understand only what we are taught.” This quote by Senegalese environmentalist Baba Dioum inspired wildlife photographer and filmmaker Sandesh Kadur to discover the wonders of wildlife. Following a course in wildlife conservation in the United States, Kadur visited the Western Ghats. His two-year research on the phenomenal mountain range, culminated in his critically-acclaimed book, “Sahyadris”.
Ravi Chellam, Country Director, Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program, quit his career in marketing to pursue his passion for wildlife. Both Chellam and Kadur shared their experiences, work and opinions at a Wildlife Talk organised by PageTurners Bookstore.
The images Kadur captured of the Western Ghats, extending from Maharashtra to Kerala, are breathtakingly beautiful. Most of the world's amphibians and reptiles are found here. It is home to one of the rarest species of frogs: the pig-nosed frog.
Kadur showed life-like photographs that he had taken of the frog.“This frog,” Kadur says pointing towards a huge, black frog “is one of the coolest frogs ever. It was discovered only in 2003. It spends almost all its life underground and comes out only for two weeks throughout the year.
Ravi Chellam's talk, “Tales from the Lion Country- Conservation of Asiatic Lions” was an educative session. Chellam's PhD research was in the Gir forest in Gujarat. “I took my first picture of a lion in December 1985,” Chellam reminisces.
“Most people associate the lion with Africa and the tiger with India. But the Asiatic Lion is one of India's most important animals. Between 1880 and 1915, lions in India had a close brush with extinction. The numbers then were less than 50. Now however, due to human efforts, the number of lions has increased to about 411.”
Lions eat up to five to seven kg of meat per day, but when hungry, they can eat up to 40 kg of meat.
To communicate with other lions and defending territory, lions roar (long distance, short duration) and mark their scent on trees and stones (short distance, long duration).”
Chellam also spoke of translocation programmes where free-ranging lions (those found outside the forest) are transported from Gir to Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh. “These programmes will manage the success of conservation. It's like buying insurance for free-ranging lions.” Due to political pressures and management issues, however, the translocation programmes are still under consideration.
Talking about conservation, Chellam said: “There are many enthusiasts who want to work in a sanctuary. The problems for conservation, however, don't occur within a sanctuary, but outside it. So conservation really begins at home. If citizens, particularly in cities, behave in a socially-responsible manner then conservation is possible. By social responsibility I mean, the kind of lifestyle you lead, the decisions you make on what and how much to consume.”