Neelgai, spotted civet,samba deer ... all happy we are staying at home

By Vijaya Pushkarna

Neelgai on a road in Noida


There is lightness in the air, literally and palpably. The corona threat with accompanying threats of breathing problems is real, but as real is the fact that on Day 3/21 #IndiaLocksDown, the sky was more clear  and air more clean than it has been for months now , theAir Quality Index in the national capital was a rare and happy "moderate"-- not poor, very poor. After so, so many months!

True , there is no stubble burning in Punjab or Haryana. But also there has been no movement of the fume spewing buses and bumper-to-bumper traffic on the roads. And there have been few footfalls of human beings, their three-wheelers and four-wheelers loaded with water,chips, nimboo pani etc. All this has resulted in absence of irresponsibly tossed plastic disposable cups in which irresponsible people have had tea by the roadside, and the tons of low-grade plastic bags.

For almost as far as I could see from my sixth floor balcony in Kaushambi across Anand Vihar in East Delhi,the sky was clear blue—many would be forgiven for wondering if it was real. There were birds swooping past, chirping once in a while. The strays had the roads to themselves.

So, is nature trying to reclaim its space as humankind stays indoors?

The dolphins have returned to corona-infested Italy’s coast because ships were not moving. Swans have replaced gondolas on the famed canals of Venice! And otters are roaming around freely in Singapore, thanks to the empty public spaces. Egyptian geese were spotting happily, and fearlessly crossing an empty tarmac at the Tel Aviv airport. Deer were walking on the roads of Polish towns.

The Internet is replete with videos and still photographs as evidence of nature reclaiming its space as we step back, confirming that we have encroached on their space. Someone even tweeted a video of chirping birds:  he heard them when in sheer disgust; he switched off the tv news on corona!

And it’s happening in India too. A neelgai--an Indian antelope--  was spotted in the middle of what would in normal times have been a busy road in Noida—part of the National Capital Region. A samba deer from nearby forests of lower Shivaliks confidently walked through the uppity residential area of Sector 9, Chandigarh. 

In Kozhikode, the policemen enforcing the lockdown saw this morning a Malabar large-spotted civet, walking on the road! According to Indian Forest Officer Susanta Nanda, it is a critically endangered species endemic to the Western Ghats, with less than 250 alive. The last sighting was of this rare animal was more than 30 years ago!

This is not to suggest that are we are better off with corona and the lockdown. It a lesson about who we share the earth with, and how happy they must be  to have us stay at home.
 Only the stray cattle that had overtaken the roads ever since they found supporters in Parliament and government are defying the Prime Minister and not staying home! But then, they are an entitled lot.



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