Photograph by Raman Kulkarni.
As the many-hued pages of Sanctuary’s newest large-format book come to life, one is reminded of the words of Albert Einstein: Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything. The book offers a mere glimpse into the living natural heritage that has been handed down to us, but this is more than enough to spark both memory, and motivation...
Tik... tik... tik... Philautus! Trik... trik... trik... Microhyla!
We sifted through thousands of mindboggling information nuggets, and images of utterly fascinating creatures such as these Microhyla tadpoles, so as to distill the best of the very best of Maharashtra’s wild biodiversity, a mere tithe of which is represented in the pages of this issue of Sanctuary Asia.
Personally, I am smitten by all this beauty. But even more so, every living moment piques my insatiable curiosity. Why does a bird have that particular shape of beak? Why do tigers, lions and even chimps kill infants they have not sired? How do orchids that seek to be pollinated mimic bees so perfectly and trick male bees into copulating with them? And yes, why do tadpole tails get absorbed into their bodies when they metamorphose into frogs?
Charles Darwin’s natural selection truth was always my North Star: “Man still bears in his bodily frame, the indelible stamp of his lowly origin,” he famously concluded in his Descent of Man. Between Darwin and Francis Crick, pushed along by Bertrand Russell, I was mercifully elbowed away from superstitious religion towards nature in my quest for answers, which lay in the realm of fossil evidence and digital codes imprinted on DNA molecules. But, one way or the other, the questions will continue to haunt all humans: Where did we come from? Why were we born?
When I started Sanctuary Asia over three decades ago, it was to meet three very basic objectives: 1. To trigger curiosity and the joy of nature. 2. To stir people to defend species and ecosystems. 3. To emphasise that this was in human self-interest, not an animal rights issue.
All three purposes were admirably met by the team’s almost total absorption with Sanctuary’s Wild Maharashtra, a book that purposefully takes a ‘half-full glass’ position on what remains of the state’s threatened, but still renewable biodiversity.
by Bittu Sahgal, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXII No. 5, October 2012