Book Review: The Goan Jungle Book

Hidden Pleasures

THE GOAN JUNGLE BOOK
BY NIRMAL KULKARNI
HERPACTIVE PUBLICATIONS
INR 300

This book could have used the services of an editor and inept printing has muddied many photographs. That said, it warmed my heart to read it. These illustrated essays on Goa’s wildlife, though by no means styled after Peter Matthiessen or even Madhaviah Krishnan, are the spoils of a gallant indie effort. At the very least, the book might inspire tourists to more than ogle and tank up.


Despite hundreds of square kilometres of seashore, rainforest and undulating coastal plain, Goa has received scant attention for its wildlife. Few field guides exist, and websites promoting ecotourism are enterprises of brazen skulduggery. Yet, wildlife enthusiasts flock in search of hornbills, flying snakes and rare tree-frogs. Kulkarni’s intimate knowledge of the region’s biodiversity motivated his attempt to fill the void. A commercial artist and photographer smitten with things that walk, fly or creep, he has initiated several conservation efforts, though most have escaped media attention since they do not involve charismatic megafauna such as tigers and elephants. 

The book unpretentiously escorts us into the leech-plagued, moss-girded forests of the barely explored Mahdei Wildlife Sanctuary, the Eden that Kulkarni despairs to protect. To see the creatures in his menagerie, you just have to look underfoot. Or peek into a bush. His protagonists are squirrels and wild boar, shieldtails and tarantulas. There are charming notes, told with childlike enthusiasm, on nest-building weaver ants and those little-known legless amphibians, the caecilians. He laments how Goans still stalk monsoon swamps to catch bullfrogs for the pot and how flying foxes were until recently hunted by village quacks. Tip for your next Goa vacation: Dump the beaches, unless you’re looking for turtles.


– BIJOY VENUGOPAL

This review appears in the August issue of Outlook Traveller. Stop gawking and go buy the magazine!

Though I do not know Nirmal Kulkarni personally, I am aware that he blogs at Goa Wildwatch. To buy the book, write to him
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