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Opinion and Editorial

Whose planet is it, anyway?

Bikram Vohra
Filed on August 20, 2020

Snakes and other reptiles are going suburban and leopards and panthers have been seen on city streets

Many years ago, I saw a film called Planet of the Apes in which we humans are the caged animals and the apes are the superior intellect. For nights after that I did not sleep well and was sure the monkeys were coming. If you are ever in New Delhi near the red sandstone imposing buildings that house the corridors of power, be careful you do not have food on you because the monkeys who own the place are the most fearless of predators and will think nothing of swiping your meal.
My friend had his ear lobe taken off while eating a chocolate.
These memories came flooding back to me tangentially when I read of a 14-year-old boy being swallowed whole by a crocodile in Malaysia recently. To cap that grisly episode just a couple of days ago a small child was eaten by a similar reptile in Pakistan. Bisons trotting down a highway in South Dakota like they owned it attacked a lady and gored her. Around the same time an Aussie surfer Phil Murmmet was attacked at Bunker Bay by a 16-ft shark gouged his leg. A week earlier a ten-year-old boy in Russia was mauled to death by two bears. And in Georgia a 16-year-old girl was mauled by two pit bulls.
I can go on but the point being made is very clear. Has Covid-19 and the shrinking of the visibility of the human race through stunted presence emboldened wildlife and even confused it?
For over five months now the homo sapiens have been on the backfoot and this has led to an encroachment of their territory in that urban landscapes by a rise in animal appearances, especially from the cat family. Even in rural setting, the receding humans have seen wild animals coming into areas they never inhabited before. Now they are nonplussed at the sighting of these people coming back into space they had left and, hence, they are the enemy.
We have always been told that animals are more scared of humans than we of them and will always run away unless attacked or their young ones endangered. Perhaps that still holds good except that the fear is now that of one viewing an interloper or trespasser because that is what we are as far as they are concerned.
Elephants are approaching the village line. Snakes and other reptiles are going suburban and leopards and panthers have been seen on city streets.
Is it a fair change in the relationship? Has Covid brought the animal farm too close for comfort and now we have no clue how to retrieve what we took for granted. Which is why a bear in New Jersey could get there and attack a resident. A mountain lion in Hollywood. Coyotes, hyenas, foxes, wild dogs near traffic lights in a dozen metros in the world. Not always peacocks dancing in the streets.
So what exactly are the options for us. To wrest back what we think is ours and establish that exploitative dominance that we pretend does not exist or let wildlife have the moral victory and surrender to their march?
Perhaps we won't have a choice as we cower under the cosh and Covid refuses to go away. The planet of the apes.who knows?

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