Nilgai in Noida, Olive Ridleys in Odisha: How the Coronavirus Lockdown is a Boon for Indian Wildlife


Nilgai in Noida, Olive Ridleys in Odisha: How the Coronavirus Lockdown is a Boon for Indian Wildlife

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The global coronavirus pandemic has been hard to endure for humans, but other species on the planet seem to be doing just fine. Even in India, the 21-day lockdown has led to nature reclaiming the spaces humans have occupied, and for many, these incidents have been a reminder of the glorious biodiversity of India’s wildlife. Last week, videos of dolphins frolicking in Mumbai’s waters went viral, and that was only the beginning.

Odisha’s beaches are home to the rare and endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle, a majestic aquatic reptile that comes ashore once a year to lay its eggs. Normally, the throngs of tourists on the beaches disrupt the turtles nesting sites, and conservation authorities have to employ considerable resources in preserving the habitat. But the lockdown has seen the troublemaking tourists stay away, and the turtles can reclaim their beach like nature intended.

And it’s not just beaches and oceans, even India’s towns and cities – where the only fauna people are used to are stray dogs and cats – are having sightings of wild animals. A small Indian civet was spotted on the roads, showing more civic sense than most humans by actually using a zebra crossing to cross the street!

Meanwhile, as most of Noida’s residents stayed indoors, a nilgai appeared, prancing down the streets. The large antelope is native to the entire Indian subcontinent, and are sometimes seen cautiously crossing state highways, running the risk of becoming roadkill. Trotting down what was once a busy city street is quite a step up.

Meanwhile in Haridwar, a herd of chital, or spotted deer, took a cue from the nilgai and emerged on the streets for a night-time stroll. They were spotted by excited kids in their balcony, who saw their antlers and thought they were reindeer.

While those weren’t reindeer, which are native to the colder climes of the northern hemisphere, the joy of seeing wildlife being able to thrive, even as humans remained locked down, does make an animal lover feel like Christmas has come early.