ADYANADKA (MANGALURU): It’s more than six years since American naturalist, author and filmmaker Paul Rosolie spent two hours being constricted by an anaconda for a stunt for his TV show at the time, Eaten Alive. But, it's still the first question people seem to ask him when they meet him.
“I did it to draw the world’s attention to the massacre of wildlife and depletion of forest cover in the Amazon. All my previous attempts to do hadn’t had impact," he says. “Even being swallowed by ananconda was not successful—it didn’t make any difference to policymakers. So I’d say it was a failed attempt," he says.
For the last few years, Rosolie has been working on conservation efforts in the Western Ghats. He first came to India in 2008, and has since made this his second home after marrying well-known wildlife photographer and rock climber Gowri Varanashi. Rosolie spends a lot of time in Karnataka, both in Bengaluru and in the village of Adyanadka in Puttur taluk, about 50 km from Mangaluru.
“I belong in the jungles. I hate to wear a suit and attend conferences, which do nothing for the conservation of wildlife. I’ve learnt that I prefer to work with a smaller, more dedicated group carrying on conservation on the ground," he says.
It’s a long way from his career in the spotlight, and though he’s slowed his pace, the danger he faces while doing conservation work is the same. “My body is a map of animal bites right now—cobras, tiger scratches and more. I escaped being trampled by a tusker by inches. If I hadn’t jumped into a ravine and rolled 20 meters through thorns and shrubs, I wouldn’t be alive today."
He’s been looking into elephant migration routes, which are being affected by urbanization and development. “Habitat destruction has become a common problem not just India, but also in Africa and the Amazon," he said.
Last year, Rosolie published his second book ‘The Girl and the Tiger’, inspired by the wildlife and tribal communities of India. His previous book ‘Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western Amazon’ (2014) received acclaim for its pitch for conservation of the Amazon rain forests. “The Amazon is like a continent in itself. The wildlife and ecology losses are huge in terms of not just money but also in terms of damage to biodiversity," he says.