Sometimes, our emotions or the need to ‘feel good’ gets the better of us. We may not act in the best interests of the hapless creatures we endeavour to save. Nothing could illustrate this better than those instances when we rescue a squirrel pup or cute chick fallen out of its nest, love it to bits and domesticate it. However, it is rendered ‘useless’ for a return to the wild.
The 1966 hit film, ‘Born Free’, which was based on a real story and greatly encouraged this tendency, may have done more harm than good as evidenced by Shekar Dattatri’s sterling essay in retrospect, ‘Why captive or man-eating big cats should not be released into the wild’, published online in ‘Conservation India’. Such romantic misinterpretations of wildlife conservation actually turn out to be failures concealed in a spin of popular, tear-jerking narratives. Fact is lions of ‘Born Free’ lived a life of many maladies, some died unnatural deaths, others turned man-eaters/cattle-lifters and were shot.
Advocate Ami Prabal did not have lion cubs to rear, but a Common myna in her Gwalior garden. The myna has one leg and a deformed beak. Ami has resisted the allure to turn the myna dependant on her. In her stirring, evocative words: “I really love to see my brave and strong baby, a single day when I don’t see her, I feel bad, she makes my day, I really love to see her, how she eats, how she balances herself, how vigilant she is about the surroundings, she loves to eat soft grains or may be because of her beak she can eat those only, in this small pot mixed grains are kept and some biscuits (for crow), she very skillfully searching and taking her food, I can keep her special food separately, but I don’t want to make her dependent upon me... because I love her, I love her wildness and independence.”
Ami’s myna will not make for a successful Bollywood film. But Ami’s is the self-effacing way that places wildlife’s interests above our emotional frailties.
TAILORED FOR BLIND LOVE
So goddamned cute was this little bird — whom our daughter named, Swift, after the singer, Taylor Swift — that we were loathe to set it free. But parent birds take weeks of nurturing and guiding a fledgling through shrubs before bidding it adieu as an adult.
Though we could not locate the nest, the parent birds were frantically searching. We placed the chick in an Evening Glory hedge running along our boundary wall, which the parents frequented. It was soon taken under the wing of the parents. Our hearts were heavy, but a smile gently lit our lips.