Forests

An open letter to forest denizens to avoid being roadkill

The hapless leopard, imprudent tiger, unreasonable tortoise, witless pangolin, incautious deer and the irrational elephant should just stop venturing out. Or learn a prayer or two   

 
By Kunal Sharma
Last Updated: Tuesday 23 June 2020
A tiger that ended up as roadkill. Photo: @RoadkillsIndia / Twitter
A tiger that ended up as roadkill. Photo: @RoadkillsIndia / Twitter
A tiger that ended up as roadkill. Photo: @RoadkillsIndia / Twitter

Dear fellow beings,

Fractured wildlands are a reality now. With India undergoing massive industrialisation and an almost concurrent push towards infrastructure development, a silent and often undocumented repercussion is faced by our wildlife.

Silent as they are, their deaths mostly go unreported. Yet, they continue to die in unprecedented numbers and the trend is increasing each day. So inured have we become that rarely if ever, an image of an injured or dead wild animal stops humankind in its tracks.

News pours in of more roadkills and electrocutions that wild animals have to endure every day of their lives. It is no longer a question of mutual coexistence but more of an end game where the theory of survival of the fittest will be determined by animals trying to find their footing in their remaining wildlands.

If only animals could talk. For we could then ask them the reason of sauntering (to use John Muir's words) down national highways, state highways, PWD roads, village roads or for that matter, even forest paths. Why do they find the warmth of the tar road so enticing, why do they feel that a straight dark road leads to a state of animal utopia?

With an estimated 55,000 kilometres of roads passing through the forests of India, it is a false conviction of the innocent animal that what they call home is truly theirs to call. The right of the animal over his forest has long ceased to exist and this misplaced sense of belonging is what is getting him slain.

Walking down roads as if it were an owned heirloom, crossing highways that even men can't dare to and even cavorting on the hard tarmac. This is why they are getting murdered. Not just a simple painless death, but squished, trampled, pasted, knocked down and mutilated beyond all definitions of annihilation that your fellow men invented.

What is this primal need to cross roads? Why can't you be happy in your island. It is still a fairly big island, is it not? And even if you cross, why do you not look left or right? Perhaps, you were not taught the basics of civics during your schooling days. Even a child knows how to cross a small-sized road. Even a big truck knows how to cross a road. You guys are just wrong. Wrong and foolish. Listen, don't cross the road.

In fact, you guys should start an online campaign to ban road crossings. And what is better, make the elephant your mascot. Because that terrible giant out-of-sorts artifact ranks highest in this road crossing mayhem that you guys so seem to enjoy.

Listen guys, as your ancestor, here is a solution. Maybe, an animal’s collective can be set up and everyone can talk to the nearest politician or maybe an officer and get you a fencing.

Or maybe, we can use the spare fencing that is leftover with authorities after they finished fencing the whole forest. These leftovers can be useful for creating another fence around roads. And as far as snakes and beetles and lizards go, well they can go to hell for that is where they are going anyways, right?

If you really feel the need to crisscross roads, I offer a somber reminder. Please click on the road-kills tab in YouTube and take a look at the myriad ways that you guys end up dying. And if that does not inspire you to stop crossing the road, what else can?

One look at your cousin, the leopard whose hind legs were totally disintegrated while trying to cross makes me feel that the way to animal nirvana is only by crossing roads.

And what is more, you also usually get a couple of hundreds of humans with cameras on an ever-ready-recording mode who will lap up your slight discomfort and share your struggles with life in one of the many Whatsapp groups that seem to exist just to document your evening sojourns.

There is a final solution, however. What if we guys decide to sit down and talk? What if we decide to close a few roads, make a few bridges, dig some underpasses, put some serious speed controllers on trains and even put some bad-ass road humps?

But again, I think I was joking as I wrote this. None of this will ultimately happen in the way you guys want it. Better still, take the first idea. Stop venturing out. Find your local supermarket in that box-shaped forest enclosure that we are so lovingly making for you. Or perhaps, learn a few prayers or two.

Maybe, you will just survive.  

Love, 

Your ancestor from the heavens

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