The Optimist Citizen

A Bollywood Music Director who bought a hill to start his own Wildlife Reserve


Since childhood, there were just two things around which the life of young Abhishek Ray revolved. They were Music and Wildlife. Singing hymns and visiting the zoo was his favourite past time. But his heart kept aching on seeing animals in cages and he would often question such enclosures. As he grew up, his love for Music grew along with him. He went on to become a renowned music director by giving music in popular and acclaimed films like Paan Singh Tomar, Welcome Back and I am Kalam and winning numerous accolades for it. But all these years, his love for wildlife never waned off. Instead it grew monumentally. His enthralment for the wild drove him to learn Tiger and Leopard tracking at the age of 12 and become a certified tracker.

“‘The forest is like a book’. If you understand its language, it starts opening up to you beautifully”, says Abhishek. His thorough understanding of the language of the jungle helped him gather deeper knowledge of the wild and their ways of life. And it was during his journey that he understood that most of the human race does not share the same love for wildlife and animals. He knew that in today’s growth of globalisation, humans have opportunely invaded habitats of hundreds of other species and displaced them with concrete jungles and hence taking control. “To put a veil over this cancerous growth, a convenient term ‘Wildlife’ has been coined, providing the humans with a right to cage or kill animals, and create a shallow and misleading interpretation”, says Abhishek. Thus, Abhishek devoted his time to wildlife tracking, surveys and conservation activities in various parts of the country. It was during such a trip to Corbett National Park, that he stumbled upon a barren hill degraded by long term slash and burn farming.

Peacock at Sitabani Wildlife Reserve
Peacock at Sitabani Wildlife Reserve

Shockingly, the hill indicted many Tiger, Leopard and Ungulate activities. It was at this instant that the thought of creating a wildlife corridor came to him and thus, the seed for ‘Sitabani Wildlife Reserve’ was sown. It took 7 years of constant efforts and land procurement on the part of Abhishek to create a single patch of land for the wildlife corridor. But to make it suitable for animals and other species, the land had to be revived again. As the banks of the river Kosi were being colonised by resort owners, cultivating a source of fresh water body was the foremost step in this regards, as water acts like a magnet for wildlife. This was followed by getting rid of the Lantana weed, sowing grass on the hill and planting over four-hundred different kinds of trees in the region. “All the rest was taken care of by nature under the blissful conspiracy of the universe”, says the humble naturalist.

Man-made water body developed at the Sitabani Wildlife Reserve
Man-made water body developed at the Sitabani Wildlife Reserve

The efforts have borne fruit and the reserve is now a haven for innumerable animals including Tiger, Leopard, Deer and 600 different varieties of birds and other species. Abhishek today, is a strong advocate of promoting conservation of wildlife by adopting a model of controlled tourism that shall benefit the local communities without any interference in the privacy of the animals. He outlines the significance of Tigers, Leopards and wildlife as a whole to be indicators of the ecological health of our Indian Sub-continent and states that presence of such animals specifies a forest to be virgin, capable of bringing rainfall, giving birth to rivers and controlling monsoon cycle. But regrettably, our nation is facing a down surge in the numbers of Tigers and Leopards who have pushed to the brink of extinction. Commenting on this, Abhishek says, “Our culture has always preached TOLERANCE FOR ALL FORMS OF LIFE. And that includes tolerance towards the wildlife by mutual coexistence and respect. If we all can at least imbibe this small idea, the job would be half done. Everything else would be then taken care off by Mother nature”.

Nazneen Kachwala | TOC

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