IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 4 Issue IX

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 4 Issue IX

Aseem’s Cartoons: Popular Misperceptions about Wildlife

The Government of India has been thoroughly panned by civil society and others for trying to throttle the freedom of expression when a cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was put behind bars.

After looking at his cartoons, I must say that there are certain pointers for conservationists as well.

National Emblem of India shown for educational purposes only

Our National Emblem is an adapted version of the lions of Sarnath. In one of the cartoons, he had replaced the lions from our national emblem with wolves with blood dropping from their mouth and on the abacus below instead of the words Satyameva Jayate, he wrote Bhrastameva Jayate.

Aseeem cartoon wolves replacing lions in emblem

Aseeem cartoon wolves replacing lions in emblem

The original lions of Sarnath were standing back-to-back on an abacus with only three visible. This cylindrical abacus has an Elephant, bull, galloping horse and lion which were supposed to represent different phases of Buddhas life with the lion indicating nirvana. Other interpretations suggest that the four lions facing four different directions indicating Ashokas rule over all the four directions.
When the artist Aseem changed the lion to wolves with drops of blood from their mouths, it indicated a few things about the perception of animals in our eyes. The lions and tigers are somewhat seen as regal, majestic, graceful, royal etc. Where as, wolves are seen as bloodthirsty. In many states in India, wolves are accused of child-lifting and killing people. During the pre-independence era, killing wolves had become a priority with monetary rewards given to the general public who can show evidence of a dead wolf. It is another matter that not many can distinguish between wolves and jackals.Magicians are also accused of changing into were-wolves and hence villagers either close the cave openings and burn down wolves and any animals in it to death or stone/club them physically.However, like any other wild animal, life is a constant struggle for the wolves as well. A Scientific study (Mech, L. David, 1964, My three years among timber wolves) tells us that in one day a wolf pack chased moose fifteen times and still were unsuccessful in making a kill. Over a three year period this wolf pack was observed to make 77 attacks on moose on Isle Royale and could only kill a total of six animals. And I am sure the notion of wolves as blood curdling animals will get further dampened when one comes to know that in India in the semi-arid ecosystem, zizyphus fruits form a significant diet of wolves (Jhala, Et al).

Aseem Trivedi's version of National bird

Aseem Trivedi’s version of National bird

In another cartoon of this artist, under the caption National Bird, a vulture is shown with drops of blood from its mouth.

The beautiful peacock is the National Bird of India

The Vulture is shown as unethical predator as opposed to be the beautiful peacock. Perhaps the first problem came from Pandit Nehru himself, as he shot down the suggestion of making the Great Indian Bustard as our National Bird as he felt that Indians with their proclivity to mis-spell are going to cause immense harm. Apart from being the vehicle of God Kartikeya, the peacock is beautiful and won the nod over other birds. Vultures, on the other hand, despite their immense contribution to the ecosystem by being the scavengers and keeping our world clean are being considered as bad omen or harbingers of death. Even though the diclofenac induced vulture deaths had hogged the limelight some time back, the people at large couldnt be educated on the importance of vultures in keeping our ecosystem healthy.

King Vulture

King Vulture

In Hindu mythology, Jatayu was the king of vultures and friend of King Dasaratha of Ayodhya. Jatayu had fought with Ravana, the king of rakshasas, to unsuccessfully try and stop him from kidnapping Sita. Despite such a major role played by vultures in form of its King in our religion, today the popular belief is that vultures are blood-thirsty and harbingers of death.
Whereas, many of us may have come to know about the artist Aseem Trivedi only after his arrest, the very fact that popular media/literature conveys erroneous impressions about our wildlife and the conservationists havent made efforts to point out the fallacies ought to be regretted. Especially since, the conservation community were very vocal about the effect of the Supreme Court ban on tourism in core areas of tiger reserves as many conservationists either cannot venture into the core areas themselves or their tourism business interest are affected.
Are we only going to take up issues, which affect our livelihoods? Can the conservationists not take up holistic issues like this emanating from our culture and/or popular perceptions which in-turn affects nature conservation? This may not help us in earning some brownie points by blasting the authorities, however, preservation of our wildlife and wilderness areas is a long drawn battle and requires the combined effort of all.
As George Schaller had said Conservation, in the final analysis is culture, economics and politics.(Dataquest, 2007) So it is very important that we try to raise our voice against beliefs that are popular albeit misplaced. Taking cues from our culture, we should try to reinforce/modify the general perception about our wildlife. People often make value judgements on the basis of the news and stories from popular media as those often lead to shaping the culture in the long term. The first step is to change the understanding of people about the importance of the wildlife. When understanding changes it gets reflected in the values and in the judgements of people and the society at large.
In a country where the majority of the people are hindus, it is important to remind people that all the creation is attributed to God and is divine. There was a time, when as kids we were taught that God is present in everything, within the plants and trees, rocks and mountains, birds and bees and animals big and small or in any non-living object like a cot or table etc. If by mistake your leg hits something, we were taught to say Vishnu. Unfortunately, in the midst of unprecedented riches and the poverty, the dichotomy that India is today, we have perhaps slowly forgotten our culture and gravitated more and more towards the big and the ostentatious. So we talk about how big the statute of the Lord is in so and so place or how much money has spent on the place or worship.
In a country that was up in flames for creation of a temple for Lord Rama, it is surprising that there is no voice to save the vulture whose king Jatayu had given away his life trying to save Sita from being kidnapped by Ravana. There is still time to correct the wrongs of the immediate past. However, if we delay, we may lose our cultural heritage – our wilderness and wildlife forever.


Wild India: Sambar attacking wild dogs

A unique account of Sambar (Cervus unicolor) attacking dholes (Cuon alpinus) in Bandipur Tiger Reserve.


Conservation News:

Narcondam Hornbills saved:

Tiger killed in Itanagar Zoo

Zoos have outlived their utilities long back. And now, zoos have become easy hunting grounds for poachers. In a shocking incident, a six year old tiger has been killed in the Itanagar zoo. For further details please check in our Abolish Zoos article and discussion at the following link:

Ban on Plastic bags in Delhi:

Tamil Nadu Budget allocation for greening of eastern Ghats:

Hessarghatta Grasslands:


Sounds of Nature :

We have created a new section in the IndiaWilds forums to document and share biophony and geophony. We invite all nature sound recordists, both professional and amateurs to share their recordings and increase our knowledge of natural history.


Flora & Fungi:

IndiaWilds is pleased to announce another new section devoted to documenting and showcasing our Flora & Fungi, many of which are moving into extinction without being noticed or talked about. Inviting our naturalists, photographers, researchers and other interested people to help in documenting the amazing flora and fungi of India.


Natural History:

Country Notebook: M Krishnan a compilation


‘A Call in the Rainforest’ nominated for Wildlife Vaasa Festival, Finland:

The first production of IndiaWilds, A Call in the Rainforest Nominated for special awards in Wildlife Vaasa Festival 2012, Finland.


Wildlife Photography:

A Bat by Sameer Ghodke

Jungle Cat with Coucal kill by Sucheth Lingachar

Tigers of Tadoba by Praveen Siddannavar

Purple rumped Sunbird by Jitendra Katre

Hanging parrot by Jitendra Katre

Tickells Blue Flycatcher by Neeraj Padwal

Naja naja by Kartik Bhat

Andaman Cat snake (Boiga andamanensis)by Sameer Ghodke

Spin Orb weaver with prey by Kaling Dai

Bandhavgarh Tiger Cub


I look forward to your inputs and support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in our beautiful country. For other interesting articles and images check –

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