Published: 24th March 2021
Wildlife conservationist Neha Sinha brings to the fore stories from the wild in her new book
Drawing from her experiences of working in the wild, Neha Sinha tells 15 tales that make us realise that humans don't own Mother Earth, we are just one of her creatures. We speak to her to find more
One fine day, when all the world was brought to a standstill because of the lockdown, Neha Sinha spotted a rosy starling perched on a peepal tree near her house in Mumbai. The award-winning conservation biologist noted that the migratory bird was surely far from home and though the world had paused, life went on for this bird and several other creatures of Mother Earth, barring humans, of course. And while the pandemic has been one huge collective epiphany for all of us to reevaluate our place on Earth and go back to nature (like going to the terrace/balcony/window to spot birds), for Neha her resolve to put out the book she started writing in 2019 firmed up. Which is how she came to release the book Wild and Wilful recently.
Fifteen tightly-woven stories featuring wilful creatures from the wild — the plain tiger butterfly, majestic elephants, the royal Bengal tiger and many more — are a part of this book published by HarperCollins India. "The book has been written from a biological perspective. It is about addressing the needs of the animals, like what kind of habitats they need to thrive in, so that these conversations find their way not only into our lives but into policy and governance as well," says the wildlife conservationist who works for the Bombay Natural History Society. Hence, it is essential reading for anybody who need not have any prerequisite domain knowledge to understand these humane stories of animals, tales that Neha has borne witness to.
Read these stories
One such story is of the small yet stunning Amur falcon. In 2012, as many as 1,50,000 birds of this falcon family were killed in Nagaland. But with conservational and educational interventions, in which Neha was involved as well, these hunters turned protectors. "We intervened, yes, but the decision was of the Nagas," points out this alumna of Oxford University.
The book | (Pic: Internet)
Then there is Sitaram Das AKA Baba from a nondescript village in Chhattisgarh. His hands were eaten by a crocodile and now, Baba is involved in their conservation. The wealth of knowledge he has gathered by observation alone is multi-fold. For example, since reptiles are cold-blooded creatures and are unable to self-regulate their temperature, every villager who has shared a waterbody with them knows that they are not active in the morning. Why? Because they are literally basking in the sun so that they can get started for the day. Hence, they know that accessing the waterbody in the morning is safe and it helps them avoid conflict with the crocodiles. "This traditional and undocumented knowledge of India has been accumulated over generations. Look how much difference it can make if we merely start paying attention to what's around us," Neha points out.
Keep speaking up
"It's not easy being an animal. For them, it's about surviving every day. We acquire our food but the animals have to hunt for it. What we need to do is stand up for our environment," says Neha and adds, "Instead of malls, let's build parks. During the pandemic, it is these parks that are full of people while the malls are going empty. There is still love for nature left in us, we just don't realise it. That is why we still love walking barefoot on the grass."
But in the light of what's happened to Fridays For Future activist Disha Ravi, will youngsters still find it easy to speak up for the wild and wildlife? "The issue is not about young or old, it's about the questioning of dominant ideas of what development should look like," points out Neha vehemently. She also reminds us that it is these youngsters who will have to bear the brunt of all the environmental damage that our decisions are causing. Dismissing youngsters, just like farmers are being dismissed, saying that they don't know what's good for them is a wrong notion. "My mother used to swim in the Yamuna river when she was a child, I can't imagine doing that. It's disgusting today. The most real example is people trying to move out of Delhi because they have asthma. Similarly, the youngsters are seeing the change in the landscape. Why shouldn't they have a say in what kind of landscape they want to live in?" she questions.
Neha leaves us with some food for thought when she says, "It is easy to dismiss dissent or shut down ideas by saying calling us young and foolish. But what I say is we need more young and foolish people. Because the old ideas? Their days have long passed."