In 1996, when filmmaker Janaki Lenin and her husband Romulus Whitaker, the famous herpetologist moved into their new home at a farm 60kilometres from Chennai, she was hoping to embark on a life amidst greenery surrounded by barn animals. Little did she know that their home was soon going to turn into a mini-sanctuary for leopards, porcupines, civets and monkeys.
Lenin and Whitaker's experience of living in such an environment is the core of her book - 'My Husband and Other Animals', which was launched at Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) on Wednesday. "I have tried to talk about man-animal conflicts and the idea of co-existence by narrating our own experiences. Romulus has grown up studying wild animals but I struggled to cope with their existence initially and soon learnt that their presence was inevitable," said Lenin.
Lenin recounted that from building a house on a barren piece of land, they created lush greenery that attracted several wild animals. "Initially toads and huge frogs invaded our home followed by geckos, insects and then we had porcupines, civet cats, monkeys When our dog disappeared one day, we realised that a leopard was roaming around," added Lenin.
Lenin and Whitaker installed camera traps around their home to document which wild animals roamed around their home. Whitaker, the founder of Madras snake park and crocodile bank got to know Lenin when she edited his wildlife movies
Recently, Whitaker studied the Aarey Milk Colony and Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) while working on a documentary on leopards for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). "There are no easy solutions to the man-animal conflict. But we should definitely avoid trans-locating leopards as it creates territorial issues and they can return back to their territories," said Whitaker.