Mumbai lensman earns another accolade in wildlife 'Oscar'
Nayan Khanolkar's photograph of a leopard in SGNP earns him prestigious 'Highly Commended' NHM award
A leopard on the prowl walking through a Warli tribal house depicts how in the middle of a congested metropolis, humans and wildlife share the same space at different times of the day in Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
This frame, captured by city photographer Nayan Khanolkar has earned him 'Highly commended award' in the urban category of prestigious wildlife photographer of the year competition — also termed as wildlife Oscars.
He earned the accolade on Tuesday and it is the second time in four years that he has been conferred with the prestigious honour in the competition organised by the BBC and the Natural History Museum, London.
Nayan's picture of a leopard in Aarey Colony which won the NHM award in 2016. Pics/Nayan Khanolkar
Back in 2016, it was also his picture of a leopard from Aarey Colony which took the 'Save Aarey' cause to an international platform when he became the first Indian to win the award. In conversation with mid-day, Nayan speaks about his award-winning frame
You gave Aarey Milk Colony's leopard an international recognition when you won the NHM award in 2016. Now once again you have won the award for your leopard image from SGNP. What would you like to say?
I only wish that my photography raises awareness and increases sensitivity towards other creatures. Through these pictures, we have demonstrated to the rest of the world that in the city of 20 million people, big cats can coexist with humans. My photography has got me on numerous forums to voice this. It has connected me to like-minded people. To me, that's the payoff for art.
What motivated you to set the camera at that particular location for the winning image?
The image shows a wild leopard on the prowl walking through a Warli tribal settlement. It conveys how in the middle of a congested metropolis the same space is used both by humans and leopards at different times of the day. Actually, I was surveying that area and saw sunlight percolating through a hedge of a Warli tribal house casting shadows on the ground. I wondered how a picture would look if a wild leopard walks through this. Tried recreating the same scene with artificial light and got lucky.
What do you think needs to be done for their conservation?
Mumbai leopards have adapted well to urban spaces. They have learned the city's way of life and are different from their wilder relatives. We need to allow them to coexist with us and stop encroaching on their territory. Mumbai has a chance to become a role model for the world, that humans can be large-hearted enough to allow the wild to co-exist through better planning. Let's not fritter away the opportunity.
The current government has declared Aarey colony a forest. How do you view this decision?
I am extremely happy. Firstly, we are lucky as Mumbaikars to have a national park within city limits. But, as a naturalist, I know that every national park needs a buffer zone to ensure that encroachment and other effects of city life do not enter the forest. And we were lucky to have Aarey as a buffer zone as it has the necessary biodiversity. A busy and heavily populated city like Mumbai needs lungs to absorb the pollution and give the city a breather.
Year Khanolkar won NHM award first time
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