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The Wild At The Edge



The Wild At The Edge

On the occasion of Endangered Species Day, here’s an intro to the beautiful and the bizarre Indian species we might not know much longer

Obsessive, irrational, awesome, however weird our passion is I believe if it’s strong enough it can really pull us out of the matrix. Arghya, a friend of mine, has managed to free himself not only from the post of a media strategist in Singapore but also from any social liabilities to mankind. He’s been in the Andaman islands for four years now – initially volunteering with and now managing – organisations dedicated to conservation of species I’d never heard of and I’m pretty sure won’t be seeing in any form except as jpegs in this lifetime.

“You know you’d actually like the White-toothed Shrew, it’s this tiny little thing that starts its day at twilight. It appears magically out of rocks, you should come see it”, my Bengali friend has been saying such things to me for a while. I still haven’t made it to Andaman, but I did force some national parks into my latest travels, and was pleasantly surprised. It struck me that being a ‘wildlife enthusiast’ needn’t be dictated by a manifesto charted by IUCN, it can just be as simple as looking at a long-tailed colourful bird and feeling joyful.

We can’t know all the birds and animals and marine beauties out there, but we know that Nature is full of trippy creatures, think of them as introvertish friends who demand dedicated effort to catch up with. For today, meet a few of the most exclusive wild Indians, unfortunately classified endangered.


A marine mammal that is a strict vegetarian and has long-lost relations to the land elephant we know so well. Dugong, also called Sea Cow, has been hunted for so long that only a few of its kind remain. It stays close to the surface of water and munches on sea grass and other aquatic plants, and is found around Andamans, Gulf of Kutch and Gulf of Mannar waters within India. The Department of Environment and Forests in Andaman Islands has done good work in its conservation.

Peacock Tarantula

I’ve never seen it, but it’s the only spider I like in the world. Hard not to, this hairy tarantula is a gorgeous blue (‘steel blue’) with specks of black, white, orange and yellow, the whole thing looks like exquisite wool craft. Also called Gooty Tarantula, it is so named after Gooty in Andhra Pradesh where it was first discovered and has been largely elusive since. This glowing metallic Gooty Sapphire spider also sells for $500 as a pet. You won’t see it in Gooty, but about 100 km away in the Eastern Ghats, and only if you’re blessed. It was last seen in 2013, after a gap of 113 years.


Native to Kashmir, Hangul or the Kashmir Stag can be found in Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary, though a ban by the Supreme Court on hangul tourism has made sightings much rarer. Just as well too, because this red deer has a dwindling population in mere hundreds across the dense valleys and forests. Plans are underway to start a breeding centre in Kashmir.

Namdapha Flying Squirrel

‘One of its kind’ is a term that lives up to its literal meaning as far as this reddish flying squirrel of Arunachal Pradesh is concerned. It can only be seen in the Namdapha National Park there, and you better be taking a quiet picture at the time because any such sighting would be historical considering their small numbers. Shockingly, and somewhat obviously, it’s not protected by any legislation and has no organised conservation efforts. Which takes me back to Arghya, to whom I’ve promised to show up this winter and volunteer whatever little I can to preserve (and see!) all the exotic friends he keeps reminding me of.

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Mineli Goswami is a 24-year-old Assamese-East Indian, which usually translates into pretty good weekend feasts. When she’s not at her desk struggling with poetry – more often than she’d like – she’s seen wasting time on an assortment of things such as lugging an antique SLR, breaking nails climbing boulders, and chasing turtles. She’s graduated in history and has an unofficial PhD in Bandra-style jiving.

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