The chaser of the Black Baza

When we call up Nashik-based Anil Mali, the 41 year-old wildlife photographer is busy curating his 1000-odd collection of pictures of different species of birds, animals and reptiles found in the Western Ghats.

In December, Mali will hold an exhibition of his pictures, some of which are rare species of birds and animals such as the Black Baza, the White-Bellied Sea Eagle and the Nilgiri Tahar in Nashik and plans to bring it to Mumbai, too.

Thanks to Aligarh resident Sabiya Riyazuddin’s efforts, the place is free of polio. Pic Courtesy/UNICEF India

“After the Western Ghats were declared a heritage site by UNESCO on July 1, I felt it was necessary to document these pictures to make people aware of the amazing biodiversity in this region. That’s the only way we can conserve the region, especially after the heritage tag,” says Mali.

Mali has toured various sites in the Western Ghats such as the Nagarhole National Park in Kodagu and Mysore districts in Karnataka, Mudumalai National Park and the tiger reserve in the Nilgiri hills, Bandipur National Park in Karnataka, Rajmalai and Periyar National Parks in Kerala, Chandoli National Park and Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharshtra over the past 12 years and captured the fauna. “The Western Ghats have more than 500 species of birds, 63 mammals and around 165 reptiles. Yet there are many more species of birds and animals that have not been identified as yet,” says Mali, leaving us curious about the region’s secrets.

Mali narrates an incident while capturing the Nilgiri Tahar — a rare species found only in the Rajmalai National Park amidst the Nilgiri Mountains.  “The Nilgiri Tahars venture high into the Nilgiri mountains. I once stationed myself on a mountain peak near Munnar to photograph them. However, to my surprise, that particular day, their herd went on to the foothills instead of the mountain peak.”  “I still waited for three days on the peak to capture them,” says Mali proudly, who believes that the photograph of the Nilgiri Tahars is one of the best in his collection. 

Mali is not a full-time wildlife photographer. “I am a Science teacher for Class 9 and 10 at Modern English School in Nashik,” says Mali. So how did a Science teacher venture into wildlife photography? “My fascination for the Western Ghats began in 2002 when I came across a photo journal, Encounter in the Forest, compiled by the internationally-acclaimed wildlife photographer TNA Tirumal. In this journal, 60 photographers from Karnataka had taken breathtaking pictures of the ghats and the fauna found there.”

The amazing scenery got Mali interested and he decided to visit the Ghats himself so he could photograph the marvel. He studied the pictures of the 60 photographers to figure out the lenses he’d need to photograph different animals and birds.

Mali has travelled across India and photographed birds and animals in around 50 sanctuaries and national parks in the country. “The Western Ghats are the main source of rainfall to Maharashtra and it is high time we preserved this natural habitat for the people, animals and birds who thrive here,” he signs off. 

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