The Urban Jungle Saga: the Need for Citizen Science in Urban Biodiversity Conservation

Text by Debanngini Ray

Photo Udayan Borthakur

Look out of your window..

What do you see?

Power lines against the backdrop of buildings, overflowing drains and garbage bins, busy roads with traffic, some trees in between abandoned infrastructures, people hustling, stray animals scrounging... The first impression of a city.

Look closer...You may spot a black drongo swinging on the clothesline, hear the call of an Asian koel trying to woo his potential mate, maybe a pair of Spotted doves perched on the edge of a flower pot in your balcony garden...

If you live in a quieter neighborhood, you may see an Indian bullfrog hopping away in your garden, or dragonflies hovering around with the characteristic buzz of their helicopter-ish wings. You might look up from a book you are reading, to catch a crow staring at you from the nearest branch, head tilted. You might even catch a glimpse of a Barn owl couple, roosting in one of the crevices in the old abandoned building opposite your house…

Cities, therefore, are not only about the humdrum of vehicular traffic and humans leading a robotic existence. It is also about the green spaces and the wildlife which live among us and around us. An ‘urban’ area can be simply defined as having an increased density of human-created structures and people relative to areas surrounding it (Adams & Lindsay, 2011), as well as a complex habitat mosaic of buildings, streets, and green spaces (Werner, 2011). It is here, right under our noses, that an increasing number of wildlife species are adapting, growing and embracing the urbans as their new habitat, sometimes even depending on us for their survival.

If we look at trends for urbanisation, we will find that only 15% of the world’s population lived in towns and cities in 1900 and by 2014, it rose to 54%. By 2050, it is expected to increase by 72%, i.e, from 3.6 billion to 6.3 billion (Zhang, 2015). Since it is clear that urbanisation is taking over the planet rapidly, the future will undoubtedly see more evolution of wildlife to adapt to urban areas for survival. If that happens, we must have a proper understanding of urban species, their food habits, habitat and other ecology if we want to co-exist. Co-existence may seem like an utopian term for the ‘urban tongue’, especially when we are succumbing to the “rat-race” but see rats as mere pests, and use terms li