Best seen at: Velvadar National Park, Gujarat
Status: Schedule I
THE BIG BAD wolf lying in wait of little girls is a myth, but it is such stereotyping, reinforced by the very occasional cases of wolves killing children (though they are more wont to pick up chickens and goats), that has been their undoing. The wolf has been much persecuted worldwide — causing extinction across many ranges, especially in Europe. In India, too, cubs are smoked out of their dens, and then clubbed to death; though poisoning is now the preferred mode of slaughter. Coupled with habitat loss and decreasing prey, wolf populations have plummeted to about 2,500. Once found almost throughout the country, it is now limited to isolated pockets, even though strictly protected by the law. It lives in small packs in scrub forests or rocky hills. Wolves mate for life and are solicitous parents: the male brings home the meat while the mother nurtures her young. The shy, secretive creature is forced into human habitation by hunger.
The Indian wolf is believed to be the ancestor of man’s best friend, and older than any species in the world. Studies show that the Himalayan wolf — the other subspecies found inIndia— dates its lineage to 800,000 years. If we are to save this ancient creature, we must end this senseless vilification, and enforce strict protection in its habitat, thus also preventing it from hunting livestock.