Like other properly structured metropolitan, the suburbs of Kolkata were surrounded by a Green Belt, just like Delhi or London. But Kolkata’s green belt wasn’t properly defined, the edge was blurred. But with new settlements and profound unceasing population growth the edge, newly formed got rigid. Yet this belt was big enough to accommodate several species of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. And Citizens of Kolkata always had an interest about this wild world. They had an affinity for pets including the famous rose ringed parakeets or the Alexandrine Parakeets that adorned the Bonedi balconies of North Kolkata before Wildlife Protection Act (1972).Therefore several educated people of the city took it upon themselves to explore this wild greens and contribute to the ever-growing database of flora and fauna of West Bengal.
Eminent ornithologists from West Bengal were cautious about the consequences of this maddening adventure of every weekend. They warned and failed every time.
With the introduction of Digital Photography, Camera prices started falling every year. Compact and powerful cameras became affordable which invoked a new interest of Photography in every person, people started saving up and buying small, handy cameras replacing the old Yashika or Leica or even the Pentax. Nikon and Canon created the consumer market of Photography and consumerism took a hit on the commoners mind. And with a steady and growing income level, and the ever affordable compact cameras, photography became a passion for everyone.
But no one thought that with the advent of Digital Photography, the wildlife of Kolkata or even West Bengal (India in a wider aspect) will suffer in the upcoming years. The wildlife enthusiasts got a new audience with the availability of Facebook. It was the cherry on top.
It started with a noble idea of creating wildlife awareness and these enthusiasts started influencing young and old minds. A large number of follower bases were built up and they had their own audience block, networking took place and a huge platform for showcasing the wildlife in and around West Bengal came up without anyone’s intention.
Facebook groups were created and members joined every day, celebratory statuses were shared when they reached a membership goal and set a new one. Pinned posts showcased the necessary rules of the group posting, wildlife discussions transcended into wildlife photography competition. Pseudo enthusiasts started mushrooming and the wildlife groups turned into the daily recreation forum where people post photographs and others judge them by showering likes and comments (a combination of words like amazing, lovely, nice, great take, perfect shot, killer shot, interesting, adorable, nice shot, etc). Why you ask? The people liking and commenting posts are creating and influencing beginners (not even amateurs) with false appraisal.
The groups never sifted the members, never ran a background check and this resulted in information leakage to poachers and boomed the pet trade market (all of this is a conjecture). Poachers appeared in places where bird-watchers visited daily, the winter migrants of west Bengal were endangered with the callousness of Facebook groups. Nesting images got banned after a lot of fuss, though there are regular updates of sighting of some specific rare species informing people like, ‘Hey kid, there’s a candy, do you want it?’
Advertising is a sensation on social networks but negative publicity will always adversely hit the cause in the long run. Non sense posts about nests and eggs and number of birds, well no one actually cares. It is just another lure to attract everyone to a certain name and the outcome of sheer pleasure of being everyone’s mentor- SIR.
Every time I open Facebook I find my news feed flooded with the same post of bird posted in several groups just to get a thumbs-up from the so-called experts. But there’s no proper discussion on animal behavior or habitat protection or anti-poaching campaigns except in the likes of Sanctuary Asia, etc.
Facebook Wildlife Groups is now a hub of shaming people, Admin politics and nuisance. How a noble cause made a wrong turn and crashed!
And the green belts, well they just remind us of a time without Facebook and when cameras weren’t affordable to everyone.
The only people who benefitted from this whole phenomenon are Poachers and Real Estate developers and the administrators of the groups whose egos were fed with daily dose of self-importance and the thoughts of being a nature lover, so to speak.
P.S. this is all just an opinion, intended to hurt the feelings of the pseudo nature lovers and bird watchers.
Featured Image: Agnij Sur