Animals have always been a significant part of Indian tradition, religion and society. A cow is worshipped as the holy mother. Feeding birds is a daily ritual for many Indian citizens. Monkeys are revered by some tribes. Even snakes are regarded with awe and respect in most parts of our country. But, strangely, taking care of the creatures in daily life, is not something we are good at. Especially in the cities. Animals which share urban space with us really do lead a dog’s life!.
A dog’s life
The evolutionary history of many city animals is linked to humans. The most obvious example is that of the dog. Dubbed, ‘man’s best friend,’ these creatures can trace back their ancestry to wild wolves. At the time when humans were nomads wild dogs were befriended because they could assist them to hunt. The modern dog — a result of crossbreeding — has evolved in such close proximity with humans that they can’t survive away from people.
But cities are not kind to these creatures. Most animals live off foraging in the garbage dumps and roaming on the roads. The winged denizens share similar fates. Stray cattle are a common sight in every Indian city. Most of them belong to dairy farmers who lived in the outskirts of cities, and whose domain has been gradually eaten up. Grazing lands have disappeared. So they are content to leave the cattle to fend for themselves. The animals eat what they dig out of garbage dumps—hardly a healthy meal...consisting of a great deal of plastic bags!
Sharing space again
All animals that have evolved in proximity with humans have a delicately balanced relationship — each plays a role in the city ecosystem. Street dogs, for example, keep the city clean. They feed on edible waste from butcheries and slaughterhouses. They are one of the best urban scavengers. But this balance is now disrupted. With the volume of waste increasing at an uncontrollable pace, the number of stray dogs, too, have grown dramatically.
Result? Rabies cases in cities Delhi, for instance, have risen to more than 200 of which 90.7 per cent are due to stray dog bites. And when such emergencies occcur, the offenders are killed en masse.But the crisis can be averted if the burgeoning dog population is provided shelter.And the diseased ones are taken care of. In other words,we learn to share our space again.
See how popular animals became an everyday
Dogs: were domesticated at least 14,000 years ago in Asia. The DNA make-up of dogs and wolves is remarkably similar.
Cats: are a sub species of wild cats and became a part of huma household almost 3,500 years ago. Egyptians regarded cats as goddess Bast. Many mummified cats have been found.
Horses: were probably domesticated in Central Asia around 4,000 BC and were extensively used until the mid-20th century.
Goats: began hobnobbing with humans about 10,000 years ago in Iran.
Camels: were domesticated in Arabia around 4000 BC. Ancestors of the modern camel lived in North America 40 million years ago.
Delhi has some 31,000 heads of stray cattle and 250,000 street dogs.