An elephant's sniff gave Mike Pandey first whiff of wildlife

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New Delhi, May 4 (UNI) Noted nature filmmaker Mike Pandey got his first whiff of wildlife at close quarters as a child when a wild elephant sniffed at him and his brother.

At that time, the family home was adjacent to a National Wildlife Sanctuary in Nairobi, East Africa. "Once, when I and my brother were sitting at the window and an elephant passing by just stopped, gazed at us, sniffed and passed. We were petrified and could only say, woooohhhh... marking a sigh of relief and an exclamation coupled together," Mr Pandey told UNI.

He said he started clicking pictures of animals at the young age of seven. "I always wanted to capture things, cinema was always a pull." The passion still continues under the banner of his New Delhi-based Riverbank Studios, where he has produced some of the phenomenal films and the television series "Earth Matters".

Talking about the various species that form an integral part of planet earth, he said, "why do all of us feel like swatting at a bee whenever it is around. It will only harm us if we hurt it. It's the simple self defence mechanism. The need of the hour is to tell people about what they can actually do to save the environment.

After all, it is only the human beings who can bring about changes." Mr Pandey has bagged world's top environmental award, the Green Oscar, thrice. In 1994, he became the first Asian to win the Wildscreen Panda Award, also known as the Green Oscar, for his film "The Last Migration-Wild Elephant Capture in Sarguja". In 2000, his film "Shores of Silence-Whale Sharks in India", won the Green Oscar for the second time. The film also led to the ban on the killing of whale sharks on Indian shores.

"When I actually started making a film on whale sharks in India, nobody believed that whale sharks were to be found in the Indian coast also. But the film, Shores of Silence' was effective in bringing conservation of these creatures and a change in the wildlife protection law, which for the first time included marine species," he said.

He also brought to light the plight of the 'Horseshoe Crab', a 562-million-year-old endangered species, only found at Behrampur on Orissa coast. "For the last six years, we have been going to the Environment Ministry for its conservation under the Wildlife Protection Act. It is very urgent to protect the crab as it is being smuggled out in large numbers." The crab is in demand as its enzymes are used to repair damaged eyes, cure Osteoporosis and even used in AIDS, Tuberculosis research, he added.

About his coming projects, Mr Pandey said he is making a series of films on climate change in relation to melting glaciers, vector-borne diseases and green house emissions not to forget the catastrophe that methane gas, much more harmful than carbon dioxide, can cause.

"Earth is our home. We are the only intelligent species who can reverse the situation and bring about a change. A collective effort is needed, we need to wake up now," he said.

Another project is setting up of two rehabilitation homes for old and sick elephants in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. It is being undertaken in partnership with Earth matters Foundation as a conservation effort to involve local communities, especially the youth.

About the crazy things he did in his life, he said, as a 19-year-old, "I did some modifications with my car, gathered some of my friends and drove all the way from London to India covering a distance of 6,460 miles in 12 days." UNI AE NK RK1148

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