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Footprints of the wild

Publishers worldwide need to be goaded to specialise in environmental publications, but the fair was piled high with coffee table glossies on wildlife and environment, some targeting children.

By Anuj Sharma
Published: Tuesday 15 March 1994

Few of the 950 publishers spec JOHN BERGER, American art historian and sociologist, in an essay entitled Why look at animals?, points out that in the 19th century, animal toys such as rocking horses became popular during a societal move away from nature and towards urbanisation, and animals ceased to form a part of the immediate environment.

Today, in an age when it is not unusual for a child to think that tigers and lions live in zoos, not in forests, nature books for children seem to be immensely popular. The simply titled For the green planet, A forest in the city, The giant of the jungle, Animals and their homes, Conservation A to Z are some books on environment and wildlife published by the Children's Book Trust and other publishers, and displayed at the 11th World Book Fair held in New Delhi from February 5 to February 13.

The recently concluded World Book Fair in New Delhi, the biggest so far, focused on Africa with a special display of books from the continent and seminars organised by the National Book Trust and the Sahitya Kala Akademi.

Of the 950-odd participants, few publishers specialised in environmental publications. Fortunately, environment, particularly wildlife, appeared to be a favourite with authors and publishers. Coffee table books on the Amazon and on wildlife photography, encyclopaedia on plants and animals, guide books on butterflies, birds and reptiles, books on cheetahs and elephants, kangaroos and pandas -- wildlife has never had it so good before.

Of special interest to Indian readers, of course, was a book on Indian birds (title?) by Bikram Grewal. A World Wide Fund for Nature publication, the book has true-to-life colour pictures that thankfully do not leave amateur birdwatchers flipping through dense page after page of confusing illustrations.

What was lacking at the fair, however, was any sign of improvement in the quality of Indian publishing. One wonders how many interesting and important issues lose themselves in unreadable print between dull covers.

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