India: Mumbai naturalist strives to save leopards

Prachi Jatania – CNN-IBN

Published on Sat, Sep 13, 2008 at 11:38 in Nation section

Mumbai: Sunjoy Monja, naturalist and wildlife photographer, has been instrumental in preserving the natural forest in Mumbai and giving its elusive and endangered denizen – the leopard- a fighting chance.

Monga had vehemently opposed the proposal to build a road in the centre of the forest connecting Mumbai’s eastern and western suburbs in 1975 as he saw this as a big threat to this natural forest in the city’s backyard.

He had challenged the move in the Bombay High court and work on the road was eventually stalled.

Monga says, “In a city with lowest open spaces in the world, it’s a miracle this place has survived.”

He has spent almost every weekend since the 1940s exploring the Mumbai’s national park and feels at home in the wilderness.

Snake expert Vijay Awasare says, (translated from hindi) “Sanjay Monga has done what nobody could do. He has saved the park and advocated for the fencing of the park which helped in saving leopards.”

Monga gave a creative twist to his awareness campaigns for saving the leopard by actually transforming his car into split window – painted car and called it ‘panthera’ as an ode to his fascination for the leopard in an attempt to make people understand the animal.

“Even then when I took the car out, people said, that’s a tiger, cheetah, giraffe, that’s how misunderstood the leopard is,” quips Monga.

His green activism indeed has given a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘back to nature.’


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