By Bittu Sahgal
I have never once in four decades of tramping through India’s wilds seen a black leopard. I have dreamed of seeing one, spoken to people who have seen one, gazed adoringly at images such as the one on this page… but have never, ever, been personally blessed by an actual darshan (sighting).
I have, however, been blessed by the desire to see a black leopard. And that desire to be moved by wild nature, and be motivated enough to defend it from harm, is what drives me to introduce the young and young-at-heart to the fragility, wonder and beauty of nature.
When Sanctuary Asia was born, in October 1981, my purpose was transparent. I wanted to dramatically widen the pool of people who understood and appreciated wild nature. I believed that all elevated human inspiration we held dear originated from nature – art, culture, music, dance, philosophy, religion and tradition… all rooted in the magic of sunrises and sunsets, storms and cyclones, rivers and lakes, the dark of the night sky and the moan of tigers wafting over silent jungles.
Thirty five years later, Sanctuary’s vision, values and mission remain unaltered. But the online tools available to us to trigger appreciation, concern and action, among the young, have become vastly more powerful. Much to the consternation of those who imagine that they can continue to turn public assets - forests, rivers, lakes and snows - to private profit, Young peoples’ voices are rising in a crescendo... calling a halt to the destruction of what is precious and critical to our survival today, and to our children’s survival tomorrow.
Politicians and economists believe that those who ask for protection of our planet are unrealistic; that we cannot comprehend the shades of grey inherent in modern ‘development’. My take is that destroying natural India is black as black can be. No amount of spin can tinge such vandalism with a lighter shade of grey.
That is this leopard’s reality. That is my grandchildren’s reality.