The preys, the predators, the crème-de-la-crème and a noble cause - it was a visual treat indeed for the wildlife buffs as they thronged the capital's Taj Mahal hotel for a photo exhibition on nature and wildlife.
The aim: Save the one-horned rhino, a rare species which was once the pride of Assam and India. The project: Indian Rhino Vision 2020, undertaken by the Government of Assam in partnership with WWF. The goal: To attain a population of 3000 wild rhinos in Assam.
The project highlights a major area of concern - rhino conservation in one single area. Tariq Aziz, Head, Asian Rhino and Elephants Action Strategy elaborates, "Rhinos have already vanished from three Protected Areas. This leaves over 85 per cent of the Indian rhino population in Kaziranga alone. Hence the need to take back the animal to its homes in the lush grasslands of Assam".
A possible solution being explored is translocating the rhino from two source populations - Kaziranga and Pabitora - into 3 or 4 targeted areas - Manas, Laokhowa - Buracharpori - Kochmora, Dibrusaikhowa, and possibly Orang . Besides this the involvement of community villages to involve rural people in the mission is also being looked at.
The exhibition provided an apt forum to raise awareness on the issue and awaken the people to the declining wild life population in India. Stunning pictures taken by master photographers captured the animals in all their majesty and beauty, a beauty that made you feel wistful and angry at the loss of such riches, and hence urged a more proactive, individual approach to conserve India's wildlife.
"Save one save them all" was the message highlighted by the wild moments captured by eminent wildlife photographers such as NC Dhingra, Raghu Rai, Achal Kumar, Gopi Gajwani to name some of them. Be it the courtship pose of two pachyderms, the Kama Sutra craft on a tree, water droplets in fern branch, the yellow wagtail or monkey in mirror - a visual delight for the senses was on display.
As NC Dhingra , the engineer turned photographer said, "I have no professional training in photography; books have been my teachers. Besides, I often used to freak out to jungles to divert attention from my hectic business schedule."
And which animal did he consider the most difficult to shoot. "Birds", he instantly replied, "as they are swift". "Besides, their migratory streak makes it a task tough to capture them on lens. For Dhingra the pachyderm is the most camera-friendly animal. He is happy that his pictures are being auctioned. "Well, if the platform and the cause is good then why not", he asserts.
For photographer Raghu Rai, conservation is not about wildlife alone. It is about the environment as a whole. His pictures spoke for themselves. To quote him "I take pictures which concern me as a human being". Rai did not fail to point out as to how the media today is deviating from its original role - that of being a watchdog and is banking more on the entertainment quotient.
Celebrities, too, endorsed the cause wholeheartedly. The pioneer of modern dance in India, Astaad Deboo, loves the cheetah for its agility. For Tripti Pandey, it is ecological balance that matters the most as she rightly points out how gir population in Rajasthan is swindling with the increase of lion population.
Even as cocktails and snacks did the rounds, Vir Das, India's youngest celebrity comedian, who quipped "comedians are wild", enthused audiences to the snap shots collectively themed as "Call Of The Wild", with price tags ranging from Rs 1,500 to 1 lakh. And guess what? There was no stopping the flora and fauna enthusiasts loosening their purse-strings for a noble cause.
Other guests who shared the dais at the Vision that also saw the inauguration of a special Reader's Digest issue on "Conservation, wildlife and animal stories", included Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF India, Amitabh Kant, (Joint Secretary, Ministry Of Tourism), Ashutosh Bishnoi , (Publishing Editor) Reader's Digest, Ashok Mahadevan, Editor, Reader's Digest, Piyush Pandey (CEO & Chairman), Ogilvy and Mather, Tajinder Singh (Resident Manager) Taj Mahal Hotel and Deepti Dang, Marketing Manager, Hewlett Packard.