Gift of life

We consider ourselves lucky to be living on planet earth. It’s the only planet in our solar system to have life, and what a diversity of life there is. To date, scientists have discovered 8.75 million species. But deep in the ocean beds, in dense forests and on high-altitude mountains where it is difficult for humans to access, there are all kinds of fascinating beings upon which humans have yet to set sight on.

Secret, revealed

What is unique about our earth that makes it support such an incredible amount of life? Here’s the secret: the earth orbits at just the right distance from the sun. If it were any closer, we would frizzle and turn into cinders. If it were any further away, we would freeze into permanent ice blocks.

It may gladden the heart to know that new flora and fauna are being discovered every other day, but on the flip side, so many species are also dying out. According to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the list of endangered species is increasing at an alarming rate. And, many of these are teetering on the brink of extinction.

About 3.8 billion years ago, the very first life appeared on earth. At first, it was just single celled organisms but much later, when cells with the magical compound chlorophyll were formed, they began to make their own food by photosynthesis and emit oxygen. The atmosphere of oxygen, another feature unique to our planet, was conducive to other life forms — animals — being born.

Many a time, in our planet’s history, a whole life has been wiped out. Volcanic eruptions, falling sea levels and asteroid collisions — disasters impossible to control, that have caused mass extinction. Today, it is human activities that are leading to this catastrophe. Building roads, rails and highways through forests, that destroy swathes of forests and animal habitats, pollution, large-scale fishing, sand mining, are but a few of the activities that spell doom for our vanishing wilds.

Today, on World Wildlife Day, let us give our whole-hearted thoughts to the living organisms on our planet, each of whom has an important role to play in nature’s scheme of things.


Deep in the ocean bed where sunlight cannot reach, are the red-lipped bat fish which hardly look like fish at all. Their thick protruding lips seem smudged with lipstick, hence the name. They have a large protrusion on their heads and their pelvic fins do not resemble fins, but look like legs. Unlike other fish, they use these leg-like fins to move on the sea floor.

During the monsoon season if you happen to go for a trek in the Western Ghats, do not be fooled by what looks like lumps of purple clay on the rocks by the streams. These are the pig-nosed purple frogs. Preferring to live underground for most of the year, they only come out during the rainy season to gorge on termites and mate.

Fishermen get the jitters if they find the mantis shrimps in their nets. They avoid touching these ‘terrors of the sea’ and use forceps to throw them back into the sea. The reason? These small shrimps can severely injure the fingers with their legs. These vicious marine creatures are notoriously called ‘thumb-splitters’.

There was a time when sail boats mysteriously capsized in the deep seas. Sailors never returned to tell the tale. In 2004, a photograph of a mysterious creature was captured and it is suspected that these giant squids, 40 feet in length, with eyes the size of truck tyres, are the cause. This fish-eating cephalopod uses the strong suckers on its eight arms and two tentacles to grip anything unusual that disturbs it. Its eyes are filled with water and when they die, their eyes collapse like a leaking water-filled plastic bag.

The giant squids have been observed in the seas off New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, the east and west sides of North Atlantic and South Atlantic along the southern coast of Africa. They prefer continental and island slopes.

There are so many more wondrous creatures that form the strands of nature’s vast tapestry — mind-blowing and awesome. Without them, the web of life would simply collapse.

Gift of life

World Wildlife Day

On December 10, 2013, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed March 3 as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. Today, World Wildlife Day has become an important global annual event. This year, the theme is “Life below water: for people and planet,” which aligns with goal 14 of UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The ocean contains nearly 2,00,000 identified species. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods as it provides food and nourishment, to material for handicraft and construction. However, life below water has been severely impacted, as our oceans and the species that live within it are under threat. As much as 40% of the ocean is now heavily affected by pollution, loss of coastal habitats and climate change. This is the first World Wildlife Day to focus on life below water.

Gift of life

What you can do

Here are some things you can do to and take part in the celebrations.

LEARN: Read up about marine animals.

POSE: Write a slogan, make a poster. As your parent to post it on social media. Remember to use the hashtags #WorldWildlifeDay, #LifeBelowWater, #PeopleAndPlanet, #WWD2018, #DoOneThingToday, #MarineSpecies

DISCUSS: Suggest to your class teacher to have a discussion in class.

DO: Stop littering. Everything ultimately finds its way to waterways and the sea.

VISIT: A wildlife exhibition or your local zoo, aquarium, wildlife park, museum, botanical gardens or national park.

WATCH: Check to see if anyone is screening wildlife films. If you are interested in hosting then ask your parents to help you and have a fun evening.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 4:34:42 PM |

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