About a month ago, Delhi witnessed a bizarre incident where a Nilgai was found in one of the most unlikely places in the city – the lush green lawns of parliament house! The front page of newspapers featured an image of the frenzied animal being caught by trappers after it probably strayed into the area from the nearby ridge forest. In a metropolitan city like Delhi where about 97.5 per cent of the population is urban, incidents such as these are likely to be in the public eye. It is actually quite surprising to find a wild beast caught in the hustle and bustle of one of the most populous cities of the world.
As urbanization is occurring at a rapid pace the world over, cities tend to transform in structure and composition. The constant craving for space causes the city to foray into the countryside, leading to a general reduction in the buffer that separates the urban from the non-urban. As a result, cities are becoming increasingly accessible to several faunal species that might choose to colonize the city for a variety of reasons. For one, cities are heterogeneous entities that can cater to habitat preferences of a wide range of species. Secondly, although habitats may be fragmented and patchy within the city, sustained supply of resources acts as an attractant to animals from the surrounding countryside. While these factors may or may not be sufficient to explain the existence of fauna in the city, there are other factors that have contributed to making the forests of Delhi an abode for wildlife.
The two most prominent ecological features of Delhi are the Aravalis and the Yamuna floodplains. By virtue of being situated in the tapering end of the Aravali mountain range, a significant portion of Delhi’s landmass has always been under forest cover. Most of these forests form a part of the Delhi Ridge, which has served as a refuge for a plethora of animals. The nilgai or bluebull – an antelope species – is the largest mammal that is found in Delhi. The golden jackal, on the other hand, is a mesopredator or a mid-sized predator that is widely distributed in the green patches of the city. Some of the other medium and small-sized denizens of the city are porcupines, civets, rhesus macaque, mongoose and hare. There have also been unconfirmed reports of jungle cat and striped hyena in Delhi’s only wildlife sanctuary – the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary.
The presence of nilgai, golden jackal, porcupine, civet and hare were confirmed first-hand when we at the School of Human Ecology, Ambedkar University Delhi, undertook a preliminary faunal assessment in Sanjay Van – a city forest that forms a part of the south-central ridge of Delhi. Sanjay Van is spread over an area of about 3.17 sq. km and surrounded by human establishments from all sides. Within the Van itself is a network of jogging tracks and walking trails that are used for recreational purposes and thoroughfare. There are also a couple of religious establishments within the forest that are frequented by people. After about a month of camera trapping in the Van, we were able to gather photographic evidence of the kind of faunal species that inhabit the forests of the Delhi ridge.
For the common man living in Delhi, it is fascinating to know that there exists such a rich diversity of animals in the city. I myself was ecstatic the first time I saw images of different animals on my camera trap. While the city serves as a refuge for these species, the city benefits from the various roles that these species play in maintaining its ecology. There is also some aesthetic value that may be ascribed to the city by the mere presence of wildlife. While there is a general lack of awareness about parks, forests and wildlife among the citizenry of Delhi, efforts are being made by state authorities and other environment based societies and organisations to sensitize people about the biodiversity of the state through education programmes, nature walks and so on. Such efforts are, in my opinion, necessary to ensure that the citizens of Delhi understand the ecological as well as the aesthetic value of having fauna in the city.
9 responses to “Fauna in the City – Part I”
[…] stated in my previous blog “Fauna In The City – Part I”, cities are heterogeneous entities with a sustained supply of resources that cater to niche […]
[…] In a world that is urbanising at such a rapid pace, what is the role and place of nature in the city? As stated previously, urban ecosystems are the new age ecosystems that have been largely shaped by human interventions, thereby setting them apart from the other, more natural ecosystems. Urban ecosystems are highly modified systems with novel combinations of ecological stresses, disturbances, structures and functions (Pickett et al., 1997). Yet, they continue to remain similar to their non-urban counterparts in that they provide essential ecosystem services such as air purification, regulation of ambient temperature, absorption of noise pollution, carbon sequestration, and so on. What is also interesting is that the modified character of urban ecosystems means that they also support a variety of floral and faunal elements that have carved out unique niches for themselves in order to not just survive, but thrive in the city4. […]
Well researched article…
Making common man understand the urgency of keeping the ecological balance!!!
Way to go Ajay…. Expecting many more research from you
[…] of one of the most densely populated cities in the world are home to a plethora of wild creatures? 4 Our recognition of the nightlife of animals and the nocturnal city will lead us to a very different […]
[…] There are a few things that we wish to highlight through this article. Firstly, the city must be seen as a space that is not just inhabited but co-inhabited by both humans and non-humans who are entangled in a multiplicity of ways (Hinchliffe & Whatmore, 2006). In fact, a vast majority of literature in animal geography is based on the argument that not just humans, but also animals have a right to the city. Secondly, animals cannot be treated as docile second-class citizens. While on the one hand, urbanization has made us humans aware of our ability to domesticate vast landscapes and entire ecosystems, on the other hand, it has also shown us how animals have avoided human subjugation by existing as “beings possessing subjectivity, agency and intentionality, active in configuring both the environment they inhabit and their interactions with people” (Yeo & Neo, 2010). Monkey business is perhaps not only about scavenging, stealing or terrorizing human beings, but is also about gaining access and rights to the city by resisting human actions and ‘transgressing’ human-ordained physical and socio-cultural demarcations (Narayanan & Bindumadhav, 2019). Thirdly and finally, is it perhaps time we broadened our definition of companion species to include not just ‘desirable’ species such as dogs and cats, but also ‘undesirable’ species such as monkeys and other city wildlife? […]
[…] the green spaces available in the middle of the city and share space with humans. For instance, a study by Ajay Immanuel Gonji and Dr. Suresh Babu revealed the presence of several species of wildlife in Sanjay Van – a small urban forest in […]
[…] In a world that is urbanising at such a rapid pace, what is the role and place of nature in the city? As stated previously, urban ecosystems are the new age ecosystems that have been largely shaped by human interventions, thereby setting them apart from the other, more natural ecosystems. Urban ecosystems are highly modified systems with novel combinations of ecological stresses, disturbances, structures and functions (Pickett et al., 1997). Yet, they continue to remain similar to their non-urban counterparts in that they provide essential ecosystem services such as air purification, regulation of ambient temperature, absorption of noise pollution, carbon sequestration, and so on. What is also interesting is that the modified character of urban ecosystems means that they support a variety of floral and faunal elements that have carved out unique niches for themselves and made the city their abode4. […]
[…] stated in my previous blog post “Fauna In The City – Part I”, cities are heterogeneous entities with a sustained supply of resources that cater to niche […]
[…] urban gaushalas which acquire feed from neighbouring states? What about urban Delhi forests where an assemblage of critters such as pigs, macaques, and golden jackals interact with a number of people who feed them on a daily basis? How does this unprecedented change […]