Wild Mumbai

“Every night for the past eleven years, Rajesh Sanap and Zeeshan Mirza have spent the post-dinner hours combing the woods behind their homes. Like restive sprites, the young men skirt ponds, bash through spiky hedgerows, upturn rocks, shake up leaf litter, and thread through dirt trails hairy with undergrowth. In the course of their nocturnal walkabouts, they’ve found about a dozen arachnids, including two that are entirely new to science: a rangy, amber-hued scorpion and a compact, ashen tarantula with lean limbs covered in white fur. A few years ago, they totted up all the living creatures they’d encountered, which they began observing as inquisitive teens and continue to record as full-time conservation biologists: 76 species of birds, 86 moths and butterflies, 13 amphibians, 46 reptiles, and 16 mammals. Not a bad haul for some backwoods. It’s positively profligate when you consider just where these backwoods are located: Aarey Milk Colony, as it’s called, is in the heart of Mumbai, the most populous city in India. It’s a five-square-mile thicket of deciduous forest interspersed with scrubland, cattle sheds, and Bollywood film studios.”