Text and photographs by RWC
Wildlife science is a growing field in India, and wild places and the myriad species that live in them are revealing their secrets to a growing tribe of both professional and citizen scientists. The disconnect with the natural world in urban jungles is being bridged by citizens using magnifying glasses, binoculars, cameras and what have you, to understand the natural world and in the process generate data. ‘BIG DATA’, the new buzzword, is being collected by small groups of passionate scientists and hobbyists. As in any field, regulations are necessary and an attempt was made a little more than a month ago to draft guidelines that will oversee the process of granting permits for conducting wildlife research.
A closer scrutiny of the draft guidelines reveals that they are not progressive and tuned to the times but instead are regressive. For example, the ambit of the permit granting authorities has been broadened ambiguously to ‘PAs and beyond’. This throws up troubling scenarios. Will this mean that nature enthusiasts watching birds or tracking butterfly migrations in cities will now need wildlife research permits? As civil society is beginning to take a greater interest in the natural world, attempts should be made to encourage participation of citizens and scientists alike in collecting data that will help throw light on issues both big and small. It is imperative that the draft guidelines be modified and finalized in a democratic manner after discussion with all players with stakes in research concerning the natural world.
The draft guidelines can be downloaded here (doc). The response of Researchers for Wildlife Conservation to the guidelines can be downloaded here (pdf) and is being shared under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 India (CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 IN) licence.