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Thread: Urban Wildlife

  1. #1
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    Bangalore , India
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    Default Urban Wildlife

    I recently saw a photograph of a hybrid wild cat on a wildlife forum which was being passed off as the genuine article. What surprised me was that there was very little reaction when I pointed out that it was a hybrid and not the species that it claimed to be.

    However when another person posted a photograph (a very good one) of a feral dog it sparked off an uproar with calls to delete the image, which was done. The hybrid cat is still there. This led me to ask the question what is wildlife? If a hybrid wild cat is acceptable then why not feral dogs? Gauging by the reaction to my question I feel we need to take another look at our definition of wildlife.

    So I recommended to the moderators of the forum to create a separate category for urban wildlife and started a discussion on the merits of the same.

    The discussion on Urban Wildlife has been closed on the forum I was referring to . The moderators have decided not to add a separate category on urban wildlife. I respect their decision as they own the site however I was taken aback by some of the reactions of the participants.

    ‘I would request all of you to kindly follow the current rules and regulations of the forum. I strongly oppose the idea of posting domestic cattles on ......................

    Yes I may be rigid in my thoughts but I am of the opinion that the domestic animals are destroying the natural wildlife.

    You take any sanctuary / national park, and I bet there is some or the other nucience created by the cattles.

    For instance if a stray dog eats up the eggs/chicks of a lesser florican, would you call it the law of nature?? or if the cattles graze the herbs for which the macqueen's bustards migrate miles. Is that the law of nature??

    I disagree totally even to support the growth of cattles / domestic animals.

    Sorry if anyone feels offended by my post. But these are my views.’

    ‘All the birds of the city are included in wildlife excluding the domestic fowls and the domestic pigeons (white ones) which are kept as pets.

    The domestic dogs do not have to play any role in the environment and it's balance. Hence they are not included in any of the wildlife books of India. If you could prove your point that you consider the ferel dogs / domestic dogs as wild, then why do you think the great researchers and the authors of books dont consider it the same way.

    I agree that there would be some history for the domestic dogs too. That is a different chapter which is of breeds of dogs. There are different breeds of dogs which varies from Huge St.Bernard to the tiny chuawuva and the wierd ones like daschund. But all these are not "WILD" and hence they do not have any scientific names for each of them.

    The hybrids of a Wild and Ferel might be acceptable as it has atleast 1 WILD part. The ferel dogs and cats do not have any place on INW and rightly so.

    Actually I think these domestic dogs/cats disturb the environment's balance and hence I'm totally against it.’

    Domestic cattle? Domestic animals? Dog breeds of the world? Where did all that come from? The discussion was on urban wildlife and if feral dogs and cats that live in our urban landscape should come within the gambit of urban wildlife.

    In the first place there seemed to be confusion in the minds of the respondents as to what I was referring to. I was referring to the urban landscape and not to the issues of illegal cattle grazing in protected areas or to the ill effects of the introduction of non – native species there.

    Urban means "related to cities." It may also refer to:
    • Urban area, a geographical area (including cities and towns) distinct from rural areas.
    • From Latin urbanus, itself from urbs 'city'areas

    . For the sake of clarity, in govt. speak we have divided the country into urban and rural areas. I refer to urban as defined by the Govt. of India. For example Bangalore is divided into Bangalore Rural and Bangalore Urban with well defined boundaries.

    Cities are very similar to ecosystems as we know them. There are different habitat types in the variety of architectural styles of the buildings, designated green spaces, sewers and drains, water bodies etc. There is also an abundance of food. All these factors make it an attractive habitat. A host of animals, birds, reptiles, insects etc have adapted to it and are thriving there. They can be in no way be considered domestic.

    The laws of nature are as active there as in any wildlife area with predator-prey relationships thriving. It is this landscape that I was referring to. And it is in this context that I said that stray dogs play the role of predators and that they are prone to the laws of nature. Likewise for cats.

    For example with the increase of meat waste in Bangalore and the decline in the population of vultures due to the effects of dicoflenac there has been an increase in the population of stray dogs which have started exhibiting traits that are found in wild candid – living and hunting in packs .

    Even if we exclude the stray dogs and cats (after proper discussion) there is still a tremendous amount of wildlife in our cities. While a lot of people have documented the birds and trees found in particular cities the others have generally been ignored or have gone undocumented.

    By creating a separate category for urban wildlife in the forum I was hoping to not just generate a record and document urban wildlife but also to encourage people to take a closer look at their own backyards and to make them more aware of their own ecosystem so to speak. I feel that this will also turn them into being more responsible citizens.

    Judging from the reactions it seems that a quite a few of us are totally unaware and unwilling to accept that there is something called urban wildlife. They seem to think that all wildlife is incapable of adapting to change. Unless we are aware of and sensitive to our immediate environment there is no way we can be sensitive to the environment as a whole.

    Are we suffering from tunnel vision? Are we dogmatic or just plain stupid? You decide.

    Let me also remind you that our protected areas are fast becoming islands in a rural landscape and that very soon these rural landscapes will start acquiring the characteristics of urban areas. The dividing line between urban and wild can become blurred (eg.. Borvili N.P and Mumbai) it is therefore even more important for us to understand our urban wildlife.

  2. #2
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    I agree that Urban wildlife is in danger as there is hardly an focus on them.

    With increasing urbanisation and concretisation of our landsacapes, the habitat is getting fragmented and some of the species are no longer being found.

    In my child hood days, we used to see lots of birds in our garden in the plants and trees. Today, we don’t have space for gardens as most of us have shifted to flats. The so called gardens are now green due to the lawns but devoid of any flowering and fruit bearing tree that can nurture birdlife. The impact on smaller mammals, reptiles, insects is also huge but has gone unnoticed by us.

    Take the case of a mongoose. It is supposed to be as endangered as the tiger having been placed under the same section in our wildlife act. They have tried to adapt themselves to the last bit of greenery left in the urban areas. You can still find them in big gardens, lakes and wetlands (often termed as wastelands). One can often find a mongoose trying to run for cover and at times with fatal consequences as can be seen in the attached photograph.

    If you are in Delhi, then you will notice that once the Delhi ridge had forests. Today it is broken up into various parts. You can still see Nilgai in the area named as Sanjay Van behind Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) in the Lodhi Institutional Area. I had once seen two bar headed geese there. I was surprised. Unfortunately, they flew away before I could remove the lens cover. Jackals and Peacocks are common sight. Green pigeons, owls, raptors, coots, mallard geese etc are common as well. In the Delhi Golf club you can find some Sambar. However, fragmentation of habitat is like a death knell on them.

    If you are in Chennai, you will read in papers during the rainy season about crocodiles entering into the house of people. Well this year I didn’t read it. Seems they have all been killed. Most of Chennai was wetlands that have been “reclaimed” as they call it and buildings constructed. Wastes dumped in the the wetlands kill them gradually. After some time you find the wetlands too toxic for survival of species. Also eutrophication plays a big role. Similarly urbanisation has taken its toll on the forests nearby. Guindy today has very few animals. You can find few deers still left in IIT campus.

    Urbanisation has taken its toll on the wildlife in every town and city in India. Even during my college days, I used to watch huge vultures fighting over carcass on the outskirsts of the towns. Today they are all gone. I still find Diclofenac being sold in shops (Well that is topic for another thread).

    The question that comes to mind is who will save the last remaning wildlife in the urban areas?

    As far as the feral dogs in question, I have no love lost for them. However, we can’t just brush away the menace of feral dogs. Once my friend was witness to a killing of a deer in Bharatpur inside the Keoldeo Ghana National Park by a pack of dogs. I have reports of deer killing by village dogs on the outskirts of Bandhavgarh National Park. I have seen two dogs last year inside the Mirchahani area in Bandhavgarh. I was told that the young tiger cubs had given a chase but could not catch the dogs. The cubs were too small to tackle the dogs at that time. So what is the solution? Sterilisation? Culling of dogs? Cutting off the free supply of food by proper garbage disposal? Well the last one is the toughest I believe, given the state of our Municipal corporations and our abysmal discipline levels.
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