Leopard Moon Rising: Distant views of India

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British conservationist Laurence Rose travelled to India to hear stories that are rarely told: first-hand accounts of indigenous people's special relationships with the wildlife around them. The Warli people living in the urban forests of Mumbai use ancient art practices and traditional dance to protest forest destruction and encroachment. Like the Maldhari pastoralists of Gujarat, they live harmoniously alongside some of the allegedly most dangerous animals in the world. In Mumbai, it is the leopard, living at the highest density of any urban big cat population. In Gujarat's Gir forest, it is the endangered Asiatic lion, which preys on the herdsmen's prized buffalo. Rose delves into the values and practicalities that govern life among India's big cats, discovering that even the tiger is revered as much as it is feared.

Along the way, he observes at first hand the devastating effect of the Asian vulture crisis, which has seen over 100 million birds die in ten years. The human cost is only beginning to be understood, with the effects on some communities hidden from official view.

The country that saw the world's first conservation principles laid down - by the emperor Ashoka, ruling the Indian subcontinent in the 3rd century BCE - now struggles to live by his edicts. Rapid economic growth, population growth, infrastructure development and the spread of mining and agriculture are essentially the same threats as are encountered everywhere on Earth. Opposed against them are ancient aspects of culture that deem such assaults on nature anathema. For an outsider like Laurence Rose, the roles of traditional culture and contemporary values are best understood when the two sides come together and do battle.

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Gritstone Publishing
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