Where have all the naturalists gone?

Tree-lovers seem to believe that tree-chopping is preferred hobby of town planners. As we can’t hope for a tree-lover to take trouble to understand science behind carbon sequestration by a tree or carbon emissions due to traffic jams, I can safely predict that we are in for a “save Vastrapur banyan” campaign leading to a bottleneck causing daily traffic jams and pollution that we will have to suffer.

But, having grown wiser about futility of reasoning with nature lovers, I rather take a journey down a memory lane with another fig tree, not exactly the grand banyan, but its loutish country cousin, the umra.

Umra is a bulbous tree that appears to have taken its gym subscription rather seriously. But, we must not go by its stout looks as, in terms of conduct, it lacks criminal history typical to members of fig family. As it may hurt the sensitive tree lovers, I would not like to point out that the banyan they are saving belongs to the “strangler” group that actually murders the host tree it has grown on.

The umra that I met was fruiting, and when a fig tree fruits in Indian jungle, it is like a Gujarati wedding party. There is incessant chatter, a lot of sweet food and a general mayhem that is fun to watch.

The tree that I was watching was laden with fruits and a huge flock of rosy pastors sounding like a school just after the recess bell.

There were parakeets conversing softly, with intermittent screaming over some personal disagreement. A small group of white eyes was moving from branch to branch like shy middle-class girls whispering to each other while inspecting expensive purses in Gucci shop.

Green pigeons were testing their camouflage by remaining silent, but were failing miserably because of their bright yellow feet. A tree-pie and a drongo were settling their political differences through polite discussions, but it was clear that diplomatic channels were collapsing fast and violence was on the cards.

While I was enjoying this drama like Gerald Durrell watching an African bazaar, I realised that I had drawn a really lucky hand that day as the producer of the show had decided to add a show stopper in form of a paradise flycatcher that silently alighted on a low branch.

A paradise flycatcher is exactly like a Parisian fashion model flaunting summer collection, as its slander form is extenuated by a whimsically long tail. The only difference is, paradise flycatcher actually looks beautiful.

While I was struggling between admiring its beauty and intellectually musing over evolutionary justification of its absurd tail, suddenly the most dangerous animals now commonly found in Indian jungle attacked us.

A gypsy full of 600 mm lens totting camouflage wearing wildlife photographers struck the scene emitting exuberant comments about great quality of light. In no time, the bird chatter was replaced by the sound of burst mode clicking of at least 500 photos.

As the birds appear to share my view regarding these nature lovers, they broke the party and left, leaving me with empty umra and a thought.

Where have all the naturalists gone?

If I look around, nature is hijacked by maniacal lovers and wildlife photographers who think that them adding one more image to the millions that already exist is an act of nature conservation. I fail to see people interested in adding to the big picture that naturalists of past have worked hard to put together.

Unfortunately for us, near-extinction of naturalists in India could not have come at a worse time. We are a nation required to take a lot of informed decisions, and if they are taken based on opinions of nature lovers, we (and not the planet) are in for big trouble.

#naturalists #treelovers #wildlifelovers #naturelovers #wildlifephotographers #umratree # #paradiseflycatcher #whiteeye #drongo #treepie #rosypastors #Indianjungle

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.

7 comments on “Where have all the naturalists gone?

  1. Interesting! I’d be keen to understand why you feel a photographer may not also be a naturalist in the manner of EHA, or Champion, or E.P.Gee.


    • I can always ask the philosophical question of “can you really reduce the biggest picture in the universe into a frame and still hope to understand it?” But won’t, as I know that you also know that the issue is now a practical one that needs no real explanation.

      Wildlife photographers are now obsessive collectors, a bit like check-list making bird watchers of our time, who are refusing to see that the God of nature is in the detail. Unlike Champion or Gee, who used photographs as an aid and not the end, they are just going into the jungle to return with lifeless trophies and not a story or an experience.

      It is sad to see so many images, now boringly same in most cases, and not even one line of insight or observation under them. They have converted wildlife into fashion models without any life or context.

      Sanctuary should consider that only those photographs accompanied by an ethological observation about the creature is displayed on its page.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kulasekhar Kantipudi

    I Enjoyed Reading your Thoughts… Thank You for Writing, what you say is so Right. Look forward to Reading More from You. All the Very Best. God Bless !


    • Well, a lot of such stuff is on my blog, and very few readers bothering to read, so the demand-supply equation is extremely favourable if you want to try 😉

      Thank you for reading.


  3. Rajpal Navalkar

    Well Written. Photographers,Tour Operaters cum Wildlife photograpers, have certainly hijacked Conservation. Leave alone the pseudo rich attention seeking image makers! The Common Nature lover seems to be the Endangered species .


  4. Anuraag Jonnalagadda

    Photography has indeed taken over what used to be patient observation and appreciation. And the desire for a better picture often leads to unethical/unrequired disturbances to the animals and the habitat. What would you suggest is the solution to this? Also, didn’t really understand what you meant about tree lovers? Are you referring to the ‘trees being cut for metro construction’ and other such similar issues?


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