The pandemic lockdown has a contradictory impact insofar as some species are concerned. On a positive note, we see some changes in the environment for the better because of the coronavirus lockdown. COVID-19 has killed thousands of people in the world but it has saved the Mother Earth from another angle. There has been perceptible change in our surrounding, be it land, air or water. The pollution levels had gone down and animals were freely roaming around, even in city roads. The change was evident for three months. The air was fresh enough to breathe, river water was cleaner and with vehicles much less the sound pollution came down considerably. Some experts were elated to find reappearance of rare species.
A report in The Hindu mentions that one of the spectacular things that happened in the nature is the spotting of a rare dragonfly for the first time in nine decades. The name of the insect is awkwardly longish: ‘Megalogomphus superbus Fraser’. It is grass-green, yellow and reddish-brown in colour with bottle-green eyes. The naturalists, Ravindran Kamatchi and S Gopala Krishnan, caught this dragonfly on camera for the first time. It is found in the birding outing at a farm near Kallar Garden in Mettupalayam, Coimbatore. The naturalists were out in the farm taking pictures of the resident birds of the Western Ghats known as Solaipaadi, woodpecker and flycatcher. Suddenly they saw the unseen dragonfly which is much bigger in size from the other dragonflies. They did not think about anything else and they clicked many pictures. They posted the picture on WhatsApp group and later realized that it is one of a rare kind. It is a rare discovery by them. BBC in an extensive report observes that animals in urban areas are exploring emptied streets and waterways, and delighting human inhabitants along the way. Human restrictions gave them the confidence to go deeper into our cities and stay for longer.
In an interesting coincidence the National Endangered Species Day this year was observed on 15 May— during the lockdown. The day is observed to pointedly publicise awareness about endangered species and the need to protect them. When the whole world, no less India, is witnessing a decline and even extinction of species the day assumes much significance. One would remember the video and picture of a small Indian civet which was spotted in Meppayur, Kozhikode district, Kerala. It became viral and attracted lot of positive and appreciative comments.
But the problem is that the important surveys by the Zoological Survey of India were hampered because of the lockdown. These surveys are vital in identifying new species and fauna. The main months of surveys in the Western Ghats are from March to May, which were during the peak lockdown season. The surveys require lot time and patience. The lockdown has in general affected the taxonomists and biologists in severe ways for the strict restrictions within the country. But when we were seeing the fascinating pictures of animals confidently roaming around without the fear of human beings we could perhaps hear them saying ‘what a wonderful world!’