Recently, on Mann Ki Baat, our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi said that the theme for this year’s World Environment Day (June 5) is “Biodiversity”. Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth, in all its forms and all its interactions. Prof. David Macdonald, at Oxford University, once said, “Without biodiversity, there is no future for humanity.”
But sadly, the most advanced species i.e. human beings are not so smart when somebody tells them about their welfare. Therefore, this kind of eye-opening statements are ignored by a majority of people. It is only because of our ignorance, we experience unprecedented things like global warming, climate change, ozone layer depletion, increasing carbon footprints, loss of biodiversity and what not!
If you look at the list of extinct animals, almost all of them, be it Woolly Mammoth or Sabre-toothed tiger, got extinct because of human activities like hunting, human encroachment to their habitat, climate change etc. Even if you look at the list of endangered species, be it tiger, orangutan, chimpanzee etc., they became endangered because of same reasons. Till the late 90s- early 20s, we could easily spot sparrows, crows, cranes, chameleons etc. But, now these things are very rare to spot. Why is that?
So, one thing is clear that directly or indirectly, we destroy the biodiversity. But, the thing which is hardly discussed is, the loss of biodiversity by gulels (slingshots), especially of migratory birds and small reptiles like chameleons etc. I want to talk about gulels because I think almost every child in India uses it, either frequently or once in a while. Some over enthusiastic adults do it even now.
It is easily available and it can also be made with sticks etc. Indians have a special bonding with gulels. That thing passes from one generation to another. At least hunting is considered a big deal in India but Gulel is considered very normal just any other game. That makes it even more harmful. Also, those who aim targets correctly are considered very cool. So, it’s obvious that people and, specially children, desperately want to do it and ace that skill.
Even I used to enjoy that a lot when I was a child. I realised it is wrong only after I started thinking about various things. No one taught me that it is wrong. I was recently having a conversation with a kid and I asked him “Why do you do it”? He said, “Maza aata hai aur bohot naam hota hai”.(It’s fun and makes me popular) I convinced him in every possible way but at the end he said: “Bade hone ke baad nahi karunga didi bachpan mei sab karte hain” (I’ll not do it once I grow up, but everyone does it as a child) but I’ll continue to convince him!
Can you see how it has been made a mandatory act? How it is associated with coolness and fun!
We don’t realise but we do many such things just for fun. Children need to be sensitised about these things. They obviously don’t want to kill or hurt someone purposely but it’s just that they have never thought about it from this perspective. They obviously don’t want to disturb the ecological balance but they just don’t understand the consequences of their act. It is the responsibility of elders, and of the society generally, to spread awareness and to make them sensitive. It is not funny or cool. It’s cruel and barbaric.
As a privileged citizen, I don’t think you have been troubled by insects and rodents. But, ask a farmer, he will tell you about the menace created by insects, rodents etc. Who eat those insects? Some birds which are hunted down or injured by gulels are very helpful in tackling them. The locust attack is a hot topic these days. It is funny how some channels even went to the extent of connecting it to Pakistan!
But, birds can be very helpful in controlling them. As has been written in an article by The Scroll, “British colonial officials in the late 19th relied heavily on observing Indian ecology, which helped them realise that birds could help to limit the locust population. Officers in various parts of India noted that kites, crows, storks, starlings, peafowls, and rosy starling birds fed on locusts. They also observed that birds killed more locusts than human effort ever could.”
Talking about insects and farmers, let us also talk about pollination. As we all know, pollination is a process by which pollen grains from the male part of the flower called Anther are transferred to the female part of the flower called Stigma. When both Anther and Stigma are of the same flower are involved, pollination is quite easy. But, have you ever wondered how pollination happens when the flowers are situated apart or even miles apart? Again, it’s with the help of various organisms especially the birds, whom you hunt! They help in pollination when they sit in one flower to another or when they drink nectar from one flower to another etc. Without pollination, you will not be able to see beautiful flowers.
Since we are talking about pollination, how can we not talk about seeds? As we all know, in the majority of the cases, seeds are the first step of the growth of a plant. Birds help in dispersing seeds from one place to another. Because, birds know no border, they fly freely to any country. During the journey, they come across various fruits and help in dispersing the seeds to far off places. Imagine, a fruit in India may be brought by birds from Russia or Afghanistan!
Some birds even feed on dead organisms and act as natural scavengers. They hardly get any appreciation for it. But just imagine who will do that job when they will be gone?Some migratory birds also act as biodiversity indicators.
And at last, how can we forget about the tourism aspect! Those pink flamingos, those Neelkanths, those cranes, those chameleons and many more. How can one dislike them? People come to see them from far off places. Not only does it generate enormous revenue for the state but it also helps in keeping our mental health in a good condition. Especially, a country like ours where talking about mental health is considered a taboo, these soothing visuals help a lot of people.
Not only birds but reptiles such as chameleons are also very helpful for the environment. They act as natural pest control, natural scavengers etc. There are so many benefits but I have only discussed the very important ones. Do you want to know the seriousness of this situation? Here’s a piece of data from India – Mr MD Madhusudan, co-founder of Nature Conservation Foundation said, “For current trends, there was data only for 146 species, of which [numbers of] nearly 80% were declining,”!
Here’s another eye-opening data by an article written by Jeremy Hance back in 2014 – “In all, 36% of chameleons are currently threatened with extinction when looking at those for which there is sufficient data, but the percentage for reptiles as a whole is 19%. Although it must also be noted that less than half of the world’s reptiles have been assessed by the IUCN”.
Use of gulels to scare birds and animals to save crops etc. is a reasonable use of Gulel but killing of animals and that too just for fun cannot be justified. When it is used by tribals for sustenance, in my opinion, it is justified because they suffer from geographical backwardness and without these things, they can’t survive. But, what about those who use it just for fun?
Just imagine the very famous Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary) without birds! Just imagine your courtyard without chameleons! Just imagine a sky without the beautiful birds and their beautiful formations! Believe me or not, a day will come when we will not find these things. Because we are already treating our ecosystem badly. And, to make it worse, we also hunt animals and birds with gulels, guns etc.
This has to stop and I don’t think any law would be useful for it because Section 2(35) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which defines “weapon” is wide to include gulels and Section 2 (16) of the Act, which defines “hunting” is wide enough to include killing, injuring, capturing etc. of animals by gulel. Still, why does it continue to happen openly? Why are there thousands of tutorials on YouTube on how to use gulels and those videos get millions of likes?
It is because of the culture. Unless and until it changes, it is not going to stop. Therefore, it is the duty of elders to sensitise children or whoever uses it. Besides being dangerous for biodiversity, it is equally dangerous for the children because weapons in the hand of children is a crazy idea. Also, no one should acquire barbaric tendencies of hurting species, be it, children or adults. We can’t put our biodiversity at stake at the cost of our entertainment.
Featured Image: – https://www.smartsciencepro.com/vertebrates-animals/amp/