THE CHIRPING of birds is more than just a pleasant sound for Nagpur-based Rohan Chakravarty. During his visits to the woods, the wildlife geek keenly lends his ear to these high-pitched sounds and tries to identify the birds. “More than just spotting the birds, it is their behaviour that fascinates me. Mostly, bird-watchers want to see different birds and tick them off their list. I would like to see that changing,” says the 31-year old. For his second book, Bird Business, Chakravarty has illustrated around 100 birds and described their unique behavioural pattern alongside. The book was recently launched at Hornbill House, Bombay Natural History Society.
Chakravarty’s field trips took him to various wildlife sanctuaries across India, including those in the remotest areas of the North-East. While signing copies of the book at the launch and drawing quick illustrations as bird lovers flocked around him, he said, “I help several wildlife parks in making maps and that’s where I encounter most of these birds. The experiences I have put together in the book started in 2015 when I visited the Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh to draw habitat maps.” The book features illustrations of birds such as Osprey, Baya weavers, Oriental dwarf kingfishers and Amur falcons. “My personal favourites are the raptors. They are a family of birds that hunt and scavenge on carcasses. Eagles, vultures, hawks, falcons and osprey are part of this family. They have a really sharp eyesight,” he says.
The author-illustrator expresses concern at the dwindling number of big birds such as vultures and hawks in cities like Mumbai, where green cover is fast disappearing. “It is rare to spot vultures in Mumbai now. Their presence is limited to heavily forested areas such as the Western Ghats. The Parsi Tower of Silence called Dungarwadi near Mumbai’s Hanging Gardens used to be home to a large number of vultures. Today, you won’t find any of them there. The only birds that scavenge on dead bodies are eagles and kites with the latter being fairly common in the city,” he says. His first book, The Great Indian Nature Trail, was published in 2018 in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund.
Creating cartoons on wildlife and conservation since 2010, Chakravarty believes pictorial descriptions and humour are powerful tools to get the message across. “There is a common misconception that cartoons and illustrations are for children. However, I want people to realise that cartoons are a form of art and communication rather than something created just for the entertainment of young readers,” says Chakravarty, adding, “For instance, if I want to talk about elephant poaching, making a cartoon series will get the message across more effectively than me writing about it.”
Chakravarty also runs a website, Greenhumour.com, where he has uploaded around 500 cartoons till date. Many of them have appeared in newspapers and wildlife magazines. “There is always a funny way of approaching serious issues,” says Chakravarty, who has also released a pictorial story about a baby elephant named Gaju on his website. The protagonist, Gaju, is cut off from his herd by a train that runs through an elephant corridor and the story follows his hapless journey thereon.
Presently, Chakravarty is working on a book on snake-bite — titled Making Friends with Snakes — along with American wildlife conversationalist Romulus Whitaker, who has been living in India since 1950. “Through this book, we are trying to spread awareness about snakebite,” he adds.