Last Sunday, I went on a field trip to Mirzapur, UP (UP) with three friends. In the scorching sun, we crawled into a cave on a rocky cliff and settled on the edge of a precipitous rock to soak up the view of the Kaimur hills, while the three species of vultures gave us a magnificent flight, the Son River floating. Boiling ribbon in the heat in the distance.
However, a dazzling story lies on the stone face: a series of ancient rock art (some 4,000 years old, called Lekahia paintings). They depict how our ancestors lived, hunted, fought and celebrated life. It was a way to document life in nature. We tried to find something resembling hyena in the paintings. Last night, we saw one with the help of Kartik Singh, a young, talented naturalist from Mirzapur.
Unlike its portrayal in the television series, Mirzapur is a treasure trove of natural history. One can easily get lost in its territory with deep gorges and waterfalls and pockets of dry deciduous forest. Several residents disagreed with the disgrace the screen received by the district. Instead, he spoke of Percy Windham, a long-serving collector in Mirzapur (1900-13) and his penchant for hunting the big game with his close friend, hunter-turned-conservationist Jim Corbett. This infamous sport remained a popular pastime in Mirzapur until recently, when logistics agencies were cut off. In 2017, Mirzapur was in the headlines when wildlife officials seized five caracas from wildlife traders.
We had no luck finding a carcass, but with Singh’s keen tracking skills, we saw a wild cat hunting in a ruin. Mirzapur seems to be the place for small mammals, especially wild cats. From a recent survey of the Vindhyan Ecology and Natural, Singh showed us the camera-trap images of the Asian desert cat, also known as the Indian desert cat (the first for UP), the leopard, the civet, the zombie bear, the hedgehogs and the foxes. The History Foundation (VENHF), a non-governmental organization (NGO) is working to establish a conservation reserve in Mirzapur. We have heard about how the animal tracks the presence of wolves and the movement of nomadic livestock communities.
But, as each year passes, a little wilderness disappears as new development blooms. Already, the sprawling campus of Banaras Hindu University is nestled in a fragmented forest. Fortunately, VENHF has halted construction of a 1,320-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant after it emerged in the press that allegations that pioneers had masked information about the presence of endangered wildlife in the project site (forest area). .
It is not only Mirzapur. Many such lesser known wild landscapes are disappearing all over India. Apart from forest diversions for development projects, illegal land use, unsustainable mining and converting forests into farmland is rampant. For example, in central India, Chhattisgarh, 840 acres of dense hosi forest is being sacrificed for coal mining. India is considered a hugely diverse country, with its rich heritage of biodiversity and high indigenousity. It is unfortunate that the country publishes a fallow atlas, ignoring the ecosystems and ecosystems of these places.
Despite the constant loss of “natural forest,” researchers are finding new species. In 2021, India added 557 new species to the list of animals (now 102,718 species) and 267 new botanical species (54,733 species). India accounts for just 2.4% of the world’s total land surface, 18% of the world’s population, and 8.1% of the global species diversity is livelihood with 535.78 million livestock (2019 livestock census). And on paper, 5.26% of India’s 2.4% of total land surface is identified as a “protected area network”. But do species know the boundaries drawn by humans? The 2018 study, Biomass Distribution on Earth, It revealed that humans and livestock comprise 96% of the Earth’s biomass, with only 4% remaining for wild animals. Humans represent just 0.01% of all organisms, yet our activities have resulted in the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half the plants (50%) by agricultural expansion.
Today is International Biodiversity Day. If you want to learn more about the natural heritage of the world and how humans are destroying it, look up The fence, Artwork by the American novelist Daniel Quinn. This is a satire on why we should not forget about the uninterrupted expansion of human civilization, our changing relationship with the natural world, and the legacy of biodiversity.
Ananda Banerjee is an author, artist and wildlife conservationist, affiliated with the Wildlife Trust of India, and the opinions expressed are personal