Clicks and Conservation
Well-known conservationist Dr. Anish Andheria has been capturing wildlife in his camera for over two decades now. He shares some of his iconic images and views on conservation.
After having worked in the field of conservation for more than 25 years, Dr. Anish Andheria shares his views on conservation and the need of the hour.
Currently, the forest covers 21.23% of the total land area of India. However, only about 5% of this falls under the Protected Area (PA) network (national parks, sanctuaries, conservation reserves, and community reserves) that supports a reasonably good quality forest. The remaining is either degraded, fragmented, or under threat from unplanned anthropogenic activities, which will only escalate in the coming years as urbanisation accelerates. This 5% of India forms the catchment for an overwhelming majority of rivers. In other words, the hydrological security, and therefore, the socio-economic stability of this thickly populated nation, depends on the well-being of such a miniscule and vulnerable area!
Crocodiles coexisted with dinosaurs. Their phenomenal resilience and adaptation have ensured that they thrive across most of their historical range, 70 million years after the last dinosaur got extinct. This picture was taken in Satkosia Tiger Reserve, Odisha
India’s rich biodiversity often gives a false sense of security to policymakers, who feel that development can be carried out at the expense of forests without much negative impact on the vital ecosystem services that these forests are providing. Long-term studies on mammals, birds, amphibians, and arthropods have shown a tremendous decline in both the distribution and population size of these groups across their ranges. Additionally, it has been observed that the decline is far steeper in forests that fall outside the PA network of India, indicating the rapid rates of forest degradation from the Himalayas in the north to the Western Ghats in the south.
Camera details: NIKON D300S Focal Length: 48.0 mm (in 35mm: 72.0 mm) Exposure: 1/160 sec; f/9
This near-perfect reflection of the snow-laden mountains in the still waters of the Hidden Lake en route to Seaward from Anchorage epitomises unadulterated natural beauty. This is how the world would have been before Homo sapiens evolved on this planet.
Inferences from ongoing studies on the most researched animal, the tiger, also paint a grim picture. The overall range of the tiger as per the 2014 estimation has decreased by 12% in half a decade. Thus, despite the increase in tiger numbers, the species occupies a smaller area than it did five years ago. The increase in tiger numbers has been achieved by better protection inside the core of India’s 47 tiger reserves, which constitute only about 1.2% of the total area of India. Outside the core of these reserves, the fate of the tiger is virtually sealed.
Camera details: NIKON D300S Focal Lenght: 210.0 mm (in 35mm: 315.0 mm) Exposure: 1/500 sec; f/5.3; ISO 250
India, with a population of 2,226 tigers, remains the last stronghold of the world’s most charismatic mammal. Though spread across 13 countries, only a meager 3,300-3,500 tigers exist in the wild, occupying less than 7% of their original range. This photo was taken in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, Maharashtra.
If business continues as usual, India is likely to lose a significant proportion of its forests and with it, a considerable variety of flora and fauna, within half a century. Several of the major rivers will dry up during summer. Simultaneously, rapidly dropping underground water tables will make small-scale agriculture unviable, affecting 54% of the population dependent on this sector for their livelihood.
Camera details: NIKON D200 Focal Lenght: 105.0 mm (in 35mm: 157.0 mm) Exposure: 1/100 sec; f/5.6; ISO 160
With over 300,000 species globally, beetles are among the most diverse group of insects. Their varied feeding habits make them an integral part of the food chain – their diet constituting leaves, buds, plant sap, pollen, wood, flesh, blood and even dung. This plant-eating species was photographed in Periyar Tiger Reserve, Kerala.
Camera details: NIKON D200 Focal Lenght: 298.0 mm (in 35mm: 147.0 mm) Exposure: 1/80 sec; f/11; ISO 125
Master of camouflage, the chameleon is bestowed with several breathtaking adaptations – eyeballs that can rotate a 180 degrees independent of each other, a sticky tongue that is longer than its trunk, and ability to change colour to merge with the surroundings and a prehensile tail that can be used as a fifth limb.
Additionally, the negative impact of climate change, which manifests itself through extreme weather events, will put tremendous pressure on the socio-economic fabric of our country. The synergy between all these factors and more will translate into a dip in GDP, which will only add fuel to the existing crisis. The vicious cycle that evolves from the interaction between social, economic, and environmental factors is nearly impossible to break when one is in the grasp of it. The only viable option is to act proactively before the downslide begins.
Camera details: NIKON D300S Focal Lenght: 28.0 mm (in 35mm: 42.0 mm) Exposure: 2.5 sec; f/18
Nearly all rivers either originate from or are fed by forests. This tiny cascade photographed with a wide-angle lens is on one such rivulet that separates Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh from Guru Ghasidas Wildlife Sanctuary in Chhattisgarh. Hydrological security is synonymous with forest protection
The Stern Review (2007) indicates that the economic costs of climate change will lead to a loss of 5-20% of GDP every year! Contrarily, a yearly investment of just 1% of GDP will help avoid the adverse effects of climate change. It is public knowledge that deforestation accounts for up to 26% of all greenhouse emissions and that anthropogenic factors have escalated the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) content to a whopping 400 ppm. This is appalling as CO2 content was stable at around 270 ppm for the past one million years!
While roads, dams, electricity, and minerals are important for the economy of India, policymakers have to understand that the value of standing forests with high biodiversity is many times greater than the reasons for which these forests are being destroyed. Development is important, but it should happen without the depletion of India’s green cover and biodiversity. By carving out policies that encourage natural regeneration of forests and reduce the threat to existing wildernesses, we can mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity and safeguard riverine and marine ecosystems, which are pivotal to sustainable agriculture and fisheries, prosperous industries, and stable livelihood options for people.
Camera details: NIKON D300S Focal Length: 250.0 mm (in 35mm: 375.0 mm) Exposure: 1/400 sec; f/5.6; ISO 250
A majestic male Asiatic lion patrols its territory nonchalantly in the Gir National Park and Sanctuary, Gujarat. One of the greatest success stories in the conservation history of India, the lion has been brought back from the brink of extinction – from around 20 individuals in the 1880s to over 420 in 2011!
The long-term future of the planet hinges on how environmentally inclusive our economic models are. Simply put, what is good for natural ecosystems is good for businesses in the long run. Governments will have to understand this cardinal fact.
Masai Mara, the land of spectacular sunsets, is undoubtedly one of the wildest places on earth. It is well-known for its sheer diversity of mammal life, especially antelopes. Among the most popular is the wildebeest, attracting people from across the planet to witness their annual migration.
This article was first published in the 2015 May edition of Saevus magazine