We recently co-produced a series called On The Brink that aired on Animal Planet and Discovery. In its first season, this is an eight episode series that aims to give an unprecedented portrait of India’s natural world, exploring species, habitats and grassroots conservationists – all of which arerarely seen on Indian television.
The idea came about after looking at the state of infotainment content currently being broadcast in the country. Nature programming has always inspired wonder and curiosity, but off late, television content speaks a different language. It either showcases animals as monsters, or is all about pets or pure blue chip. Of this, very few films come from India and those too focus on the megafauna – tigers, leopards, elephants lions, and rhinos.
We wanted to bring a change, bust myths, showcase the incredible diversity we live with and ignite hope for the future through stories of people. This is more for the next generation – the future custodians of this heritage. We want them to grow up with pride, empathy and responsibility towards the environment. And thus, the first step is to knowing what their natural world holds.
How is wild India surviving in the 21st century?
It is ‘On the Brink’.
Forests are under grave threat, migratory corridors are being torn apart, water bodies are heavily polluted and climate change is beginning to play havoc. Within all this, the varied plant and animal diversity too is under threat – dramatic declines in populations are underway and local extinctions have begun.
We may lose so much within this century itself.
But there are individuals working and struggling to keep hope afloat. Had it not
been for them, India today may have been a very different story. What we need is
a growing breed of such people, sooner than ever before.
We filmed Red Pandas with Degin Dorjee along the Indo-Tibet border in Arunachal Pradesh. The focus was on the local community conservation initiatives in the Eastern Himalayas that aim at reviving the natural habitat as well us making sustainable dependance of the forests a reality.
We joined hands with Tiasa Adhya to film Fishing Cats in Howrah to show the community how resilient and important their closest wild neighbour is.
The Bengal Tiger episode, filmed across Ranthambhore and the Pilibhit – Dudhwa Landscape, exploring ways to balance the tigers’ need for space and accommodate the needs of communities that live alongside them. We also went to Tadoba to film with Poonam and Harshwardhan Dhanwatey who have been working with local communities to open the doors for human-animal coexistance.
Under urban jungles, we filmed the elusive Grey Slender Loris in Bengaluru with two young researchers Kesang Bhutia and Varsha Bhaskaran. They are a part of the Urban Slender Loris Project started by Dr. Kaberi Kar Gupta that monitors the population and distoribution of the animals in and around the City, and hope to get local people engaged in the long term monitoring and conservation efforts. B.V. Gundappa in Tumkuru took us around the countryside at night to see the Slender Loris in all its glory in the wild, and also see how he is motivating children to turn the tide in favour of the animal.
The episode on the King Cobras explored the natural world of one of the most mis-understood species with snake rescuers Ajay Giri and Abhishek Shirsat in Agumbe. This episode was way off my comfort zone, that too with my children prodding every moving thing, but we survived!
Dr. Karthikeyan Vasudevan, credited among those who discovered the Purple Frog, took us deep into the Anamalai Tiger Reserve in the peak of monsoons to search for an elusive species that holds clues to the way our continents were once shaped.
We trekked across Dachigam with Nazir Mallik to witness the feeding frenzy of the Asiatic Black Bears just before winter set in in Kashmir, and also to witness first hand, how the species is losing its ground to unplanned development.
Our last epsiode was on the Great Indian Bustard, a bird whose extinction may become a reality within our lifetime. With less that 150 of them remaining in the wild, Dr. Sutirtha Dutta expained how there is not one factor that is not going against the survival of this creature.Broadcasters across platforms need to start getting real and showcasing the reality. Humanity is being shadowed by a major environmental crisis, the balance is skewed – the time to accept it and take action is now.
Conservation may not pump adrenalin like a Netlix series does, but it is the need of the hour. Pretty pictures over the God’s voice no longer shake our conscience or create empathy. There is a generation growing up whose attention span is reducing, and this is the generation that will take the baton from us.
What do we want them to remember?
What do we want them to inherit?
And encourage women in wildlife.
I can not say this enough and I can not stop saying it.
We need women in this field and every field – in the foreground and background, young minds and old – as scientists, biologists, lawyers, researchers, ministers, journalists, camamerapersons, anchors, strategists, communicators, teachers, photographers, content creators, and the list can go on and on. Women in such positions means that girls have role models they can look up to, something that is not common in this country, or even around the world.
Not only do women create an inclusive culture, they change the work place for the better.
They inspire and nuture.
They increase productivity.
They create empathy.
And they problem solve from the head and the heart.
These women make me proud – Team OTB from On The Brink – Season One.
There is so much money that gets pumped into “Saving the Tiger”. To start with, even if 10% of it trickles down to species, habitats, communities and conservationists living and working in the shadow of the tiger, conservation will be empowering and have far reaching consequences in the years to come. Development cannot stop, but a middle ground can be achieved with some imagination and better planning and design.
After all, it is not just the trees, birds, bees and tigers, but also us who are an intrinsic part of the circle of life.