Climate Change & Environment Ecology

A billion dollar skink

No wild creature would dare visit a courtroom, but yakka skink from Australia has unintentionally managed this amazing feat!

With a corporate giant’s billions of dollars at stake, spotlight is (temporarily) on the skink family; so I am tempted to utilize it to introduce to the readers arguably the most beautiful member of reptile class living in our midst!

I am really fond of skinks, purely for their looks. The skink in contention, yakka skink, is not exactly a beauty queen (no connection, but it belongs to a genus that is considered most intelligent amongst squamates – an order that includes all the lizards and snakes of the world!), but its cousin living in our gardens is a creature that can surely walk the ramp; for, it is the most well-put-together animal that I know. If the word sleek was alive, it would have chosen to be a brahmini skink.

Brahmini skink (Mabuya carinata), found commonly across India, is a great example of our apathy towards studying nature as well as appreciating its beauty. This harmless little lizard can be heard scurrying under the leaf-litter, but if it ever appears on the scene, it is treated with acute fear. Referred to as bodi-bamani or saap-ki-mausi, rural folk consider it poisonous as its small limbs and wavy locomotion makes it appear a bit snake-like. But, if you are ready to dispel the “native” fear and locate this well camouflaged creature hidden under the leaves, you will find an immaculately dressed lizard with shiny armour of bronze-golden scales. If you get lucky enough to see it basking in sunlight, you will be tempted to believe that it is some sort of alien automaton made from liquid metal!

The case of brahmini skink brings forth an interesting question. It is plausible that that we can end up overlooking the dull and the drab of the nature’s creations, but brahmini skink is like a jewel found in our backyard, and yet I am nearly certain that I can walk in a room full of educated Indians and get disbelieving looks if I mention its existence.

How is it possible that we show acute apathy for learning about such creatures, but we also allow them to hold a billion dollar project?

This question needs a lot of debate as it is critically connected with our future. Economic development and environmental protection are agendas that require to coexist for growth, but we are unable to find solutions that work for both. And, one of the reasons for this is lack of informed public opinion.

Greedy corporates and green crusaders, for me, are same people with different opinions that are fighting an ugly war that is adversely impacting people at large. And this is happening because man on the street is ignorant about nature. This collective ignorance is allowing hardliners to appear on both sides and disallows sensible decisions. A green crusader assumes that he/she is fighting a holy war for the cause of the nature and becomes zealously protective sans reason. This leads a corporate executive to consider him/her a nuisance and not an opinion worth considering. With this drama going on since a while, both sides have lost ability to come to the table and see reason for the sake of people at large.

Though I have no observations on the merits of coal exploration in Galilee Basin, but yakka skink appears to be a mere technicality being used by green crusaders to serve their obstructionist purpose. This is possible purely because ignorant public is incapable of having an informed opinion in such matters. The same ignorance also allows corporates to capture and destroy pristine natural habitats.

We need an educated society with ability to make informed decisions instead of being misled by crusaders or corporates. If we want to save nature, we all need to become aware of its existence.


I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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