Hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I’ve written! Past year was quite hectic but I should have continued writing. Sorry folks, for the long gap. I will now be a regular, hopefully! Starting with a bit of a news – I have now moved back to Ahmedabad, and loving it! 🙂
The past year with The Gerry Martin Project was great with a lot of interesting field experiences. I will be mentioning them in the coming articles. Hope you’d look forward to that!
Now back at home, I was remembering the days when we had freshly moved in. This was, I think in 1996. There was just one mud road from Jodhpur village (1 and a half kilometer away, via a crematorium!) and one trail through the fields coming from Vejalpur railway crossing (almost a kilometer away). These were the only access routes to our house. You could see our house from the railway crossing and the houses at Shyamal cross roads from our terrace. 360 degrees of lush green fields and a lot of native trees. Snakes, monitors, scorpions were regular visitors in our backyard. Toads, frogs, centipedes, geckos, and small birds used to live here. Some very smart toads used to live in our bathroom, under the kitchen sink, in flower pots, my shoes, and in my dog’s water bowl!
The 2 Salvadora persica (“Piludi” in Gujarati) in front of our house accommodated so many house sparrows, doves and a lot of bush birds. A Shikra trying to catch its favorite prey – a Calotes versicolor (Common garden lizard) was not an uncommon sight. I used to sip my morning chocolate milk looking at the male peafowls with their impressive long tail feathers and females teaching their chicks to probe the earth for insects.
2012 – Almost all is gone!
Gone where? And why?
Welcome to wildlife displacement! Pushing them out of their habitats – in other words. Guess who’s the cause? Us, ALL of us! I proudly mention how there were so many animals before all these people moved in and ‘developed’ this part of the city. But hey, they did exactly what we did! We encroached in 1996, others followed later.
We have stopped living a simple life several decades ago. ‘Survival’ can no longer be used in to describe our (city dwellers) life struggles. Our life now is comfort and luxury oriented. We started moving in with all our ‘needs’. Electricity, roads, vehicles, concrete, pollution, malls… everything! We can’t freakin’ live without everything.
My backyard was my favorite herping hotspot. Want to see something rare? …just go out a kilometer in the fields! You can’t even walk there safely now without getting run over by a million cars, ..okay, a few hundred cars! But then, what will you go out looking for? Buildings, rash traffic (typical Ahmedabad style), noise, what else? …dogs, feral dogs, a few hundred of them. Not exaggerating. I don’t hate dogs. Folks who know me would know. But, I would hate the incident of feral dogs attacking any wildlife. Be it ground nesting birds or large birds like peafowls, small, or even large mammals cannot match a pack of feral dogs. During my professional days as a wildlife rehabilitator we used to get around 200 peafowls every year. Guess what happened to most?? Yes… feral dog attacks. Reports of feral dogs taking down large antelopes and deer are not unheard of. They have outcompeted jackals, wolves, and many small predators in several places.
Cats, what about cats? Must clarify, I’m talking about feral cats. Tremendously sustained populations have wiped off loads of small wildlife. I’m not gonna stretch more on this. There is tons of info on the internet. Please exploit google. Again, I do not hate cats. We’ve created these feral cats and dogs. It is our responsibility to control them and not allow them to ruin what exist naturally.
My backyard looked empty after just 4 cats moved in some 10 years ago. Squirrels often turn in to pests simply because they are so adaptive. I did not see a single squirrel for like two years. TWO YEARS! That’s when me and Akanksha decided to get our much loved animals back. We planted many more trees, put up a lot of nest boxes, water bowls, feeding stations and cat proofed them. Re-introduction of squirrels was a great success as there is a sustaining population now in the neighborhood. We had practically hand-raised the parent stock when they came in as orphans to us. Young ones of these are now a regular food source for shikras. Some of the birds are also doing well. Lots of them come to roost in the hot afternoons. We’ve also managed to raise our gecko and calotes population. Our backyard garden comes alive with at least 16 species of birds. I feel happy, and sad. They come to us, but then ours is their only resort!
The amphibians were not the only victims, there used to be a small scrub patch that was used by a family of Indian brown mongoose. I’ve seen so many litters grow up. The scrub patch was bought by BSNL, and a wall now envelops the new mobile-phone tower. Fortunately, for some structural reason, they kept a lot of ground level windows on the pond-side wall. The mongooses had their burrows in the compound but had free access to the pond. Sadly, the pond itself was already covered-up with buildings from all sides.
Now, the last two mongooses are barely surviving in the compound, raiding garbage thrown in the now filled-up pond. I feel bad for them. I feel bad for all animals that used to thrive here before people started encroaching mindlessly. Whom am I blaming… I started it!