* Launched by Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic, a creative collective that focuses on biodiversity awareness and conservation, the map turns the spotlight on species that are threatened
* Several near-threatened, endangered and vulnerable species on the IUCN scale, feature on the map such as the knife-toothed sawfish, hammerhead shark, blackheaded ibis, lesser flamingo, the Indian leopard and the Indian crocodile (mugger)
The big picture comes alive on a small space and at a glance — dive in and click away to discover Mumbai’s biodiversity. The megapolis now has an interactive map that marks its rich flora and fauna.
Launched by Ministry of Mumbai’s Magic, a creative collective that focuses on biodiversity awareness and conservation, the map turns the spotlight on species that are threatened. It draws attention to creatures one never imagined to be sharing space with in Maximum City. The map is available on the Ministry of Mumbai’s magic website , and can be accessed here .
Cartoonist, illustrator and wildlife buff, Rohan Chakravorty, who designed the map, certainly learnt a lot during the project. “This was an eye-opening experience for me as well. I didn’t know about many of the flora and fauna in the region such as a gecko species, discovered in 2016, endemic to the Western Ghats called Giri’s Geckoella,” exclaims Chakravorty, who runs a popular cartoon strip on environment conservation called ‘Green Humour’. This gecko is known for its conspicuous tiger-skin like colour pattern and is endemic to the megapolis.
Several other species, including two species of the jumping spider and tarantula, spotted in Aarey Milk Colony in Sanjay Gandhi National Park also make it to the endemic list on the map.
All of these are recently discovered species in the Aarey milk colony. Common knowledge of the area’s biodiversity strengthens the argument for its protection for reasons other than being the ‘green lung’ of the metro.
Two new species of jumping spiders — Langelurillus onyx and Langelurilluslacteus — were discovered in 2016 in Mumbai’s Aarey Milk Colony, an area perpetually in the midst of man-animal conflict. The genus Langelurillus has been found to occur only in Africa till now, making this the first such discovery in Asia. The Western Ghats is a global biodiversity hotspot and Mumbai’s location makes it a boon for biodiversity enthusiasts despite the urban sprawl.
“Till now, there wasn’t any one place that would focus on Mumbai’s biodiversity specifically, and hence, we all thought this was a good idea, to bring back attention to the city’s wildlife, and give the new enthusiasts an easy reference guide to spread awareness,” said Chakravorty.
The map is a fun way to learn, with bright colours and illustrations to involve children and minors in conservation. And there is plenty of quirky stuff to grab your attention. For instance, Palmyra Palm is ‘definitely the giver in this relationship’, says the map. “Grown for its timber, fibre, leaves, sap and edible fruit. It is also planted as a windbreak on the plains. Its flowers provide pollen for bee-keepers,” says the map. The palm is responsible for the popular drink along the west coast — toddy, and the stronger stuff — arrack.
For newbie birdwatchers there are detailed descriptions to help them with spotting. For instance, the Vigor’s sunbird males are bright red with a grey belly and iridescent blue-green tail and head markings. Females are dull grey overall with a paler belly. Native to the Western Ghats, they are also found in forests, scrubs and gardens.
Mumbaikars — or even visitors to the city — can use the map as a guide for some special sightings. The Olive ridley turtles, the map points out, are present near the Vasai creek, the Indian humpback dolphins meander close to the Haji Ali mosque and the Brahminy kite fly over the Malad creek.
The map covers the water bodies surrounding Mumbai including Arabian Sea, Vasai Creek, Mahim Bay and Thane Creek. It has illustrated 17 species of flora and 78 species of fauna. A click on the illustrated images prompts a pop-up box with information on the appearance, habitat, diet and conservation status of a particular species.
Several near-threatened, endangered and vulnerable species on the IUCN scale such as the knife-toothed sawfish, hammerhead shark, blackheaded ibis, lesser flamingo, the Indian leopard and the Indian crocodile (mugger),. also feature on the map.
Chakravorty, whose comic strips are popular for environmental activism and conservation awareness, says illustrations and comics are a great way to reach out to the public and build a feeling of responsibility. “The first time I felt so was when we started campaigning against some of the provisions of the Environment Impact Assessment Draft Proposal, when I felt my work got a lot of citizens interested and concerned after I made a comic strip about it.”
Hopefully, the map is another step in saving all creatures great and small.