It is said that the East Delhi colony of Mayur Vihar got its name because of the number of peacocks in the area before it became so densely inhabited. A week into the lockdown, the mayur (peacock) has returned to Mayur Vihar. It’s not just in the capital. With humans out of the picture, animals are coming out to reclaim the streets. A nilgai calmly strutted outside a usually bustling shopping mall in Noida while Chandigarh and Mumbai residents did some deer and dolphin spotting.
A couple of days ago, residents of Kerala’s Meppayur city were amazed to see an Indian civet on the road, that too one obeying traffic rules by using the zebra to cross. There are no forests in the vicinity so many wondered how the animal, usually a nocturnal one, had turned up in the city.
Mohammed Jafer Palot, scientist at the Zoological Survey of India, Western Ghats Regional Centre, Kozhikode, said that the Small Indian Civet was normally found in the rural areas of the state where there is tree cover. “It is a nocturnal animal and that is why normally it doesn’t get spotted much. The one captured in the video seems to be unwell going by the way it is walking,” he added.
Even the mammals seemed to be enjoying the clear skies and tranquil shores. Wildlife conservationist Darshan Khatau shot a video of dolphins splashing around Marine Drive waters though experts later said that it wasn’t very unusual as there had been some sightings earlier as well.
Conservation biologist Latika Nath said that it was a heartening sign that pollution levels in the air and water had come down enough for rare birds and animals to be seen in urban habitats. “The water near Marine Drive is cleaner and there is little disturbance because of the boats, which is why we are seeing dolphins near Marine Drive,” she said.
Other parts of the country also reported wildlife action. Four Asian Palm Civets and two sloth bears were spotted close to human habitation near Telangana’s Siddipet. In Kamareddy district, villagers spotted a Rusty-spotted cat cub — one of the smallest wild cat species in the world — in a tree trunk at Bhavanipet village.
In Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor area, residents have seen sloth bears and even the reclusive black panther in the past two-three days. “With no vehicle and human movement too, the wild animals have started coming out of the forest area. Last evening we saw a pair of sloth bears roaming in our area,” said residents of Drummulla located 8 km away from Coonoor.
The lockdown has also been a boon for birders. Bird Count India has launched a lockdown birding challenge. Suhel Quader from the Bengaluru chapter said this was an attempt to document birds in the neighbourhood. “It is not only about documenting rare species, but to understand and record common birds around us, “he said.
Meanwhile, birder Mohit Shenoy from Manipal said that birders of the region including Tejaswi Acharya and Arun Prabhu have sighted the Indian Pitta, a colorful stubby-tailed bird, and the Thick-Billed Flowerpecker, a tiny bird from the flowerpecker group which is not very commonly seen in and around Manipal. Since birders cannot step out, most of them are using this time to document birds from their balconies or compounds, he said.
Of course there are still animals who might miss us such as stray cattle, dogs and monkeys since they rely on humans to feed them but the others seem to be enjoying our retreat.