INDIA’S WILDLIFE HERITAGE

India is fortunate to have been blessed with a myriad of wild flora and fauna by Mother Nature. If not in gold or green-bucks, at least in green wealth, India is certainly rich. From ages past, scientists, poets, writers and others have marveled at and extolled India’s wildlife heritage. Various animals and plants of various sizes have made India their home. The protection of these various, marvelous creatures is our bounden duty. However, of late, with the effects of globalization and industrialization, we have begun to ignore these indispensable assets of ours. We will certainly regret this action in the longer run. Or if not us, our descendents certainly will. Protecting it has to become our priority.

In these days of indiscriminate deforestation and usage of natural resources, we should make sure that our wildlife heritage is not lost. A sustainable use of resources in such a way that it will not endanger the very survival of a species is the need of the hour. The delicate mechanisms of nature bring to mind the proverbial Damocles’s sword which hangs from a single horse-hair. If it breaks, it falls down point-first onto the head of humanity. A dangerous thing indeed! If a single species is lost, then because of the nature of nature, all the organisms in its food web are adversely or favorably affected. This in turn has other consequences and in the end, the overall effect will be always negative. Negativity, unfortunately is a lot like the thermo-dynamical concept of entropy. Especially when it comes to nature. It always increases. If someone or something disturbs nature, the total effect is always negative. It however differs from entropy in a singular way; it is possible to reverse the flow of negativity, though with a large number of difficulties and tribulations. The haphazard and capricious way in which we are disposing of our biosphere is causing a huge increase in negativity which, needless to say will be difficult to erase.

India has about 350 different species of mammals, 1200 different species of birds which cover 14 percent of the world’s avifauna, 453 different species of reptiles, 182

different species of amphibians and 14500 different species of angiosperms. Also India boasts 45000 plant species that constitute 6.4 percent of plant species on earth. The Andaman and Nicobar islands alone house 2200 species of flowering plants and 120 species of ferns. When all's said and done, India has 77000 species of animals, about 50000 species of insects and about 13000 species of butterflies and moths. The sixteen major forest types of India are distributed in 10 distinctive biogeographic zones, having 25 subdivisions and a much larger variety of ecosystems. All these facts and figures give us just a bland, insipid view of the total richness of India’s ecosystem. The true picture can come only when we visit the green, thriving forests of India.

Visitors to India say that India has a particular ‘smell’. A dusty, inspiring odor filled with adventure. Or something like that. One runs across similar words in various accounts of foreigners who have visited and lived in India for an extended period of time; especially in the hill stations. This ‘smell of India’ is nothing more than the odor of India’s forests. An odor that has led many of different countries to choose India over their homes. When people from other countries have done so, it must be but a ‘no-contest’ that Indians feel too the same way about things, right? But no. Many in India, living right in our midst think and feel differently and resort to destroying the life of India via varied, cunning means that has made the Indian Government and the Indian people look on helpless. A sad state of affairs, indeed.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever” said the great English poet John Keats, perhaps the greatest of the second generation of English Romantic poets. Reviled as a bad poet during his lifetime, his subtle prominence was acknowledged only much later. A true worshipper of beauty as noticed in his poems, he had given up a possible career in surgery to write poems and so would have been hit hard by this lackadaisical attitude towards his work. He however had an eerie knack of hitting a nail on its head as can be evinced from the above quote. The aesthetic brilliance, beauty and peace provided by the richness of our wildlife heritage just cannot be overstated. According to our old Hindu customs, man has to spend one-fourth of his life - the last part, incidentally, in our forests. This is to provide ourselves with a serene backdrop in which to analyze our life and

meditate. Our wildlife heritage can thus be seen to have massive aesthetic or artistic value.

But this is not the end of the value of our environment. No sir! Life itself for humans is possible only because of our wildlife heritage. And it is not only about just survival. The word opulence is in the dictionary because of nature. Why, even the very pages of a dictionary are but examples of how important nature is! The old story of a tree giving away anything and everything that it has to fulfill the needs and desires of a young boy who grows old, gives us an enduring image of the beastly nature of man and the manly nature of nature. India’s heritage being as rich as it is demands a great amount of caring and we should at all costs extend a helping hand as far down the line as we can.

A country’s wildlife heritage is the gift that the country has got from the Almighty. Whether to exploit it unsustainably or sustainably is that country’s choice. Since days of yore, Indians have learnt to live with and in the forests. Generations of Indians existed, giving respect to and loving wildlife. Those times are long gone and can never be brought back again. It is accepted. In the fast-developing and growing world, India must keep pace and more. However the legacy of our far-seeing forefathers remains. The richness of India’s wildlife heritage is perhaps unmatched in today’s world. It enables us to use our resources to the fullest when the resources of other countries are but parched. But all that our ancestors did will be but wasted if we decide to throw caution to the winds and proceed, laxly in a manner usually called laissez-faire in economics. A strong, positive approach must be used. Such says the vox populi too. It has been often said that hoi polloi do not know what is good for them and what is not. However for once, our leaders would do well to follow the words of their esteemed voters.

PRATHEEK PRAVEEN KUMAR

prytheek@yahoo.com