Now, youngest Thackeray joins fight to save Aarey

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s younger son Tejas is regularly visiting Aarey Colony to photograph its rarer species; he plans to post the pictures online to create awareness about Aarey’s biodiversity

While Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and his eldest son, Aaditya have openly expressed their displeasure regarding the Metro Line III and the newly proposed development plan which threaten Aarey’s green cover, the youngest Thackeray scion is silently doing his bit to save Aarey as well.

Sena chief Uddhav Thackery’s younger son, Tejas is quietly doing his bit to save Aarey from destruction by documenting rare species found there. File pic
Sena chief Uddhav Thackery’s younger son, Tejas is quietly doing his bit to save Aarey from destruction by documenting rare species found there. File pic

All of 20 years old, Uddhav’s younger son, Tejas has been visiting Aarey’s woods for the last few days to photograph and generate awareness about the rare and obscure species there (see box). While Aarey is home to several leopards, Tejas has chosen to focus on the lesser known residents of the forest.

Male purple sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica)
Male purple sunbird (Nectarinia asiatica)

He intends to post the pictures on Instagram, and hopes to create awareness about the existence of such animals that have made their home in Aarey, and why the city’s green lung must be protected. “While travelling across forests in Maharashtra and central India, I realised conservation isn’t just about saving the large animals, but the ecosystem as a whole.

Deccan ground gecko (geckoella deccanensis)
Deccan ground gecko (geckoella deccanensis)

The small creatures we tend to neglect play a major role in the smooth functioning of the ecosystem. Without them, the balance would just collapse. For the past couple of years, I have clicked reptiles, amphibians and fish; exploring the biodiversity of various regions,” said the 20-year-old.

Ground gecko (geckoella cf. collegallensis) Pics/Tejas Thackeray
Ground gecko (geckoella cf. collegallensis) Pics/Tejas Thackeray

He further added, “Citizens are aware of the leopard’s presence in Mumbai, but not about these tiny jewels perfectly hidden in the leaf litter or high up in the canopy. In the past couple of years, many new species were described from the Aarey region and even today there are species there that are still a mystery.

Through photography, I hope to show that even under constant pressure, Aarey’s biodiversity is thriving.” A passion for nature seems to run in his blood, for his father, Uddhav is well-known as a wildlife enthusiast and photographer.

The Sena chief had also conducted several medical camps for forest guards and villagers working in hostile conditions to ensure that the forests’ protectors are protected as well. Since the last few days, Tejas has been visiting Aarey mostly during the night, documenting the species he has spotted there.

He will continue to do so till the winter season, to see how the forest changes with climatic conditions. “I have decided to carry a series of Aarey’s flora and fauna on my Instagram page, for all those who want to know more about the place. This is a rare occurrence, having a thriving forest within a large metropolis like Mumbai.

As a citizen, I hope I can do my bit and protect our only remaining forest which is like a tiny island surrounded by our ever growing city,” he said. Tejas isn’t alone during his nightly photography sessions in Aarey – he is accompanied by several other naturalists who are also attempting to document the local biodiversity.

Needless to say, environmentalists fighting to save Aarey from destruction are glad to have Tejas’ support. Stalin Dayanand, from the NGO Vanashakti, who is also associated with the Save Aarey movement, said, “If a Thackeray is involved, then it will really help us in taking our message to the public.

The rich biodiversity of Aarey can be seen through his photographic documentation. Aarey needs to be protected and should remain a no development zone, as it acts as a buffer corridor to Sanjay Gandhi National Park.”

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