Deep in the bowels of Mumbai’s Lower Parel suburb, printing presses clack and whirr relentlessly in Pragati Industrial Estate. Here, another machine purrs gently through the day in a small, windowless room owned by Sanctuary Nature Foundation. This is the home and heart of Sanctuary’s Natural History Photo Library, a diskstation containing tens of thousands of images of biodiversity from across the subcontinent. These images have been collected, categorised and published over four decades, and comprise a visual narrative of the country’s conservation history.
My colleague Prachi Galange, a graceful naturalist, manages this library. From the constant flow of images, and new ones coming in each day, she and I discern trends: a slew of images draws our attention to the growing threat to wildlife posed by expansion of roads, railways, and canals; a burst of pictures of snow leopards raises the question of sustainable tourism; dozens of photos of free-ranging dogs chasing wild species compels us to consider their impact and raise a red flag to the Animal Welfare Board of India, and so on.
In 2020, Prachi and I began to notice an influx in images of wild animals foraging in heavily polluted habitats. These images challenged the conventional representation of wildlife in India existing only in pristine wildernesses, far from the impact of humans. They revealed the appalling reality of wild animals forced to live and feed, quite literally, in our filth.
We launched the #InOurFilth campaign to document and disseminate this reality and to underscore the “one health” concept — “an approach that recognises that the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our shared environment”. In the short term, we hope this series will inspire introspection and action from wildlife enthusiasts. In the long term, we hope to take our burgeoning database of images to concerned ministries to catalyse better decision-making on plastic production and waste management in India.
This selection of images depicts our wild neighbours encountering the waste we generate.
Photographers are welcome to submit images of wild animals #InOurFilth to firstname.lastname@example.org. All relevant pictures are added to the campaign database, while a select few are published on social media and other online platforms.