As per the Indian tradition, culture and folklore, animals always had respect and a special place in society. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism have always preached kindness and compassion through animals and the related anecdotes. Each Hindu God or Goddess is seen with an animal. Lord Krishna was a shepherd and is seen with a cow, Lord Rama with the monkeys, Lord Vishnu with the eagle and the snake, Lord Shiva with a snake around his neck and the bull ‘Nandi’ at his feet, Goddess Saraswati goddess of wisdom and literacy is seen with swan. Goddess Amba symbol of power is seen riding a tiger, Lord Dattatraya always has dogs at his feet, and so on. The foundation of Buddhism and Jainism is ‘Ahimsa’ or ‘nonviolence’, not only towards fellow humans and animals, but also to every living creature including an insect.
With such rich culture and heritage, where kindness and compassion were the foundation of society, there was no need for animal welfare organizations, as each home was an animal welfare institution by itself. Every home had cattle in the backyard. The bullocks worked in the fields alongside the farmer, the cows and buffaloes provided milk to the family, but only after the calves have had their fill. Dogs and cats lived inside the homes as members of the family. The hen lived happily in the front yard and provided the family with eggs. Leather was made from the hides of only dead animals. Thus it was a beautiful picture of co-existence and symbiotic relations of animals and humans.
But times have changed. With population explosion, urbanization and consumerism catching up, animals are an easy prey for human greed. They are soft targets for anyone trying to make a quick buck, and prime candidates for exploitation. Today even healthy, young animals are killed for leather, meat and tallow. Calves are kept hungry and emaciated, while the cow’s milk is sold in the markets for human consumption. Chicken are kept in cramped batteries, either for the eggs or for slaughter. Slaughter animals are made to walk thousands of miles to slaughterhouses, or carted in trucks / tempos packed like sardines, with the result some of them die of suffocation before they reach their destination. Rhesus monkeys and Dancing Bears performing on the streets, with hordes of people watching them, is another hazard in India. The fear of the baton falling on their backs is clearly visible in their eyes. Same is the case with thousands of animals performing in the circuses. Research on animals is another major issue that needs to be tackled. With tremendous pressure from animal welfare groups in the developed countries, companies are bringing their research work to India, where the laws are not strict and they can get away with just about anything.
Today even in Metropolitan cities like Mumbai, bullock and pony carts are seen playing alongside cars and motorbikes; cows and buffaloes, let loose by dairy owners after extracting the milk are seen loitering or sitting right in the middle of busy streets and eating from the garbage, which consist of plastic, paper and sometimes even pins, hooks, or battery cells. Similarly donkeys used for carrying loads are let loose to eat from the garbage dumps. Dogs and cats live on the roads – many homeless and some looked after.
It is quite common to see community dogs or cats living in residential colonies. This is because due to very fast urbanization all the open spaces are getting used up for construction of residential complexes, and the animals like dogs and cats living on these open areas are getting displaced. The residents that occupy these residential buildings find these animals to be a nuisance and want them evicted.
Another victim of urbanization in the city of Mumbai is the Borivali National Park, which is the only lung of the city, houses plenty of wild animals including the leopards. Perhaps Mumbai is the only city in the world, where a National Park and a Metropolitan city lie adjacent to each other. The city has been allowed to grow to such an extent that it has started encroaching into the National Park. This ‘lung’ of the heavily polluted Mumbai city, also serves as the catchments area for rainwater that flows into the lakes supplying water to the Mumbai city. Despite its importance, unfortunately this National Park is fast becoming smaller and smaller, with the result leopards have started entering into the residential complexes in search of food and attacking people.
In this situation, animal welfare in India takes on a whole new meaning. With so many animal issues and so many animals on the streets, the need of the day is to have several animal welfare societies in each community, whereas there is only one full-fledged hospital in whole Mumbai city which is not at all sufficient to look after all the sick and injured animals. NGOs that are running the ABC centres also treat the sick, injured animals or house the abandon animals with very meagre means and facilities. The Government of India is trying to encourage setting up of an space in each District of the country, but there are few takers. IDA India also has a project on the agenda to build an animal hospital with latest technology and equipment.
The only ray of hope is the advent of television. Awareness about animal issues and environment is spreading with youngsters watching channels like Animal Planet, National Geographic and Discovery. They are becoming aware of the place of animals in our lives and the need to give them due respect. IDA India hopes to tap the potential of these youngsters for welfare of animals, and has formed the ‘Compassionate Children’s Club’ IDA India also regularly organized the animal welfare and awareness programs in schools, colleges, and social groups which is playing very effective role in bringing wider vision for animal issues among the adult and children.
As we move towards the concern of bird welfare they are also going extinct faster due to human activities resulted some 500 bird species worldwide to go extinct over the past 500 years, and 21st-century extinction rates likely will accelerate to approximately 10 additional species per year unless societies take action to reverse the trend.
Without the influence of humans, the expected extinction rate for birds would be roughly one species per century. Habitat destruction, selective hunting, invasive alien species and global warming are all affecting natural populations of plants and animals adversely. Such impacts accelerated the rate of extinction in the 20th century over that in the 19th, despite conservation efforts, some 1,200 more species are likely to disappear during the 21st century; we need to get special protection or likely will go extinct, too.
In the upcoming time you will set a bird song as your mobile ringtone. For that may soon be the only way you get to hear from our winged friends — Radiation from mobile towers wipes out birds in many regions of the country. Studies show that the increasing number of cell phone towers in cities is bringing down bird population.
While studies in Spain and Belgium have established the ill-effects of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) emitted by cell phone masts on birds, a study has found that EMR can damage bird eggs and embryos. The study is applicable to all Indian cities where cell phone masts are proliferating. Chennai has 4,000 cell phone towers, compared to about 200 in Chandigarh. Researchers say there are enough reasons to attribute bird mortality to such radiation. Cell phones and towers emit a very low frequency of 900 or 1,800 MHz, called microwaves. The microwaves (300 MHz to 300 GHz) emitted by cell phone towers and handsets responsible for damaging eggs and embryos. And that is just one of the urban factors driving out several species of birds out of the cities. Birds are known to be sensitive to magnetic radiation. Microwaves can interfere with their sensors and misguide them while navigating and praying. Chennai is no exception. According to zoologist, at least four of the 200-odd species of birds of Chennai are fast disappearing. On their way out are house sparrows, red whiskered bulbuls, brahminy kites and spotted doves.
Bitter but Truth, Birds may come and go for a few centuries, which is just a miniscule span in the evolutionary cycle. As cities continue to grow, some birds, mainly scavengers like crows would proliferate at the expense of other birds. Experts may be divided on the reasons for the disappearance of birds, but everyone agrees on one bad news: Once gone, these birds would never be back.
Extinction is a natural part of evolution and happens for many reasons, but birders can be part of responsible environmental stewardship and take steps to minimize the risk of more bird species going unnecessarily extinct. While our world is changing and not all birds are able to change along with it, understanding the causes of extinction and how to help birds overcome those hazards is a great way to promote bird conservation before more species vanish.
Bird species go extinct for a wide range of reasons, including:
- Habitat loss through development, natural disasters, climate change, etc.
- Food loss through competition from other species or loss of food sources.
- Hunting and poaching, as well as invasive predators and egg collecting.
- Toxic poisoning that may be fatal or could devastate breeding success.
- Lack of individual adaptability to changing circumstances, range changes, etc. In some cases, the loss of a complete bird species may be inevitable because they are too sensitive to rapid changes that cannot be reversed in time to recover, while in other cases simple changes and help from conservation initiatives could lead to population recoveries.
- Be Aware of Endangered Species: Of the nearly 10,000 bird species in the world, more than 10 percent are officially classified as threatened or endangered. Understanding how many birds are at risk to become extinct is the first step toward raising awareness of how to lower the risks of extinction for the birds that need the most intervention and conservation help.
- Support Bird Conservation Programs: Supporting conservation programs and projects is the most immediate way to help reduce the risk of bird extinctions. Many zoos and aviaries work with captive breeding programs for endangered birds, and visiting the facilities helps fund their work. Joining a birding organization also helps support conservation work, or making donations to conservation groups, bird rescue organizations or wildlife rehabilitators can be useful.
Even with the best efforts, extinctions will still happen and some bird species will still be lost in the future. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the time or the troubles to help minimize those risks, and every responsible change that birder’s and other wildlife lovers make will benefit a wide range of species and preserve our planet’s biodiversity for many generations to come.
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