India Nature Watch

The advance of the Internet, and the technological advances in digital photography have come together to impact our lives in many ways; but few would have thought, a few years ago, that it would result in a major innovation in a field where until now, enthusiasts were never near a net connection…that of wildlife. Yet a team of four people
have, in a short time, managed to build up a strong association and bond between diverse people, by starting India Nature Watch, an online resource for Indian wildlife/photography lovers.

I decided to meet Vijay Cavale, Sudhir Shivram, Kalyan Varma, and Yathin S.K., who form the India Nature Watch – Team and help in keeping this online web-wildlife forum up and running. India Nature Watch, or INW for short, has grown into an all-India nature lovers community where folks from many different backgrounds and walks of life meet on a common platform – love for nature. One can see a continuous flow of images of wildlife and nature from ever part of India along with informative field trip reports, and interesting discussions on INW.

The origins of INW lie, says Vijay, in his having started

his website

which focused on birds found in India in 2000. Soon, he was flooded by various enquiries and messages, and he decided that everyone should be able to post their images, and he started a e-group India Bird Pixs, which soon morphed into India Nature Pixs (INP). India Nature Pixs celebrated its 4th anniversary recently, and is a email list, where people would regularly share images from nature. INP membership grew by leaps and bounds, and even today, stands at around the 700 mark.

The email lists’ limitations were exposed when Yahoo, whose egroup facility they were using, decided to stop archiving images. This meant that if anyone had not seen a photograph, or could not receive a particular post due to full inboxes, they could not go back later to see it. Several member of INP mooted the idea of a web based forum. This led to the launch of INW, on October 01, 2005 coinciding with the world wildlife week.

This meant, essentially, says Kalyan, “Instead of our pushing the content at the members, they could go directly to the content on the web. They could post their own pictures, add their own descriptions, and write field trip reports and travelogues of any wildlife-related trips that they had been on. The forum was designed with several
categories: Birds, Mammals, Insects and so on…and to be sure that everything under Nature is included, categories such as Flora and Landscapes have been added, There is also a category called “Others”…for those interesting shots that might not exactly fit into the other slots! As INW gathers speed, the sun has to set on INP soon, adds Kalyan.

“INW can be looked at as the end or the beginning of the journey,” says Vijay. For some, sharing their images on INW is the culmination their effort as they showcase their love for nature. For others it is the beginning of a long journey that would expose them to the joy that nature always has on offer.

One of the essential features of INW is the fact that it is completely non-commercial. At present there is no membership cost. The “INW Team” takes care of all issues leading to the smooth functioning of INW. We want INW to be a “happy place” for nature lovers to freely share their love for nature as they forge friendships and continue to learn form each other, says Vijay.

“We are not interested in activism, evangelism, or confrontation here,” he emphasizes. “At the end of the day, folks should look at INW as to a pleasant haven of rest and recuperation, where their love of Nature will re-charge their energy for the future.” The idea is also to lead newcomers to a greater appreciation of Nature in all her aspects.
To this end, “negative” posts or photographs are strongly discouraged. “We find that the positive approach works much better” say the INW team. I myself saw ample evidence of this at the first INW anniversary meet, in March this year, at Dandeli, held at the Kulgi Nature Camp run by the Forest Dept. INW’s active encouragement of the honest and committed Forest Officers and the other officials resulted in a synergetic meet where members were
given every assistance by the Forest Department. The co-operation was a palpable force at the meet.

The democratic nature of INW is also something dear to the INW team. No one bothers who or what the members are, apart from their shared interest in wildlife and photography. A 60-year old corporate icon could talk as an equal with a 21-year-old who is thinking of taking up his first job! Everyone is encouraged to post photographs, field trip
reports, or topics of interest; the exchange of information is unlimited and untramelled. “Such content generation on the Web on Nature-related topics has never happened before,” says an enthusiastic Yathin. Several photoghers’ skills have improved as they exchange tips with the others.

However, all this takes a lot of effort and maintenance, which the INW team keeps up assiduously. Posts or hotographs which go against the guidelines are pulled, generally with an email to the concerned person. This is the only time, feels Sudhir, where sometimes people are disappointed. “But we have had several huge discussions on topics such as nest photography, and feel that lines have to be drawn somewhere, and it is sometimes tough,” he says. But all such guidelines, they say, evolve out of the members’ participation and are not unilaterally laid down; so by and large, they are also observed.

Each of the team members takes care of a different area. Kalyan is the “technical expert” and the “security uy”….the guy whom everyone turns to when something goes wrong with the server, for example. Sudhir is
the public face of INW; he moderates the emails and other communication.He has a devoted band of helpers. Yathin is an expert on the platform. Vijay’s vision and ideas inform the forum at all times; and he is the supporting force.
The membership of INW now stands at around 550. New members are vetted by the INW team; each new applicant has to have a “credible” identity; faceless posters cannot join. This makes for a great community spirit, and there is very little of the acrimonious debate or ad hominem that mark other e-forums sometimes.

INW sees several developments happening in the future; they are not even sure, at this point, what directions those developments may take. “The sky is the limit, as far as the marriage between technology and communication are concerned,” says Vijay. They might introduce video and audio components on the forum. Another possiblity is the “Golden Collection”, where the best photographs might be displayed.

The “INW Team” insists “It is important to understand that INW is not an organization, it is not an NGO with office bearers and objectives”. INW is simply a common platform that helps the coming together of nature lovers and likes to focus on the positive aspects. Awareness building, content generation, sharing the joy and forging friendships is the way to go, they all agree. I will feel a sense of achievement when folks enter INW with a smile on their face and peace in their mind, adds Vijay.

As INW continues to grown in strength, let’s wish this band of wildlife enthusiasts the very best in their efforts to
bring the wonderful, majestic facets of Nature to everyone. Check them out at

their website

…you will definitely be stunned by the accumulated wealth of information and photographic talent that this community has brought out!

“A beautiful journey to look forward to,” in Vijay’s words. …let’s wish INW Bon Voyage!

Here’s the INW Team: Inset: (Left-Hand-Side)Sudhir Shivaram, Main pic, L to R: Yathin, Vijay, Kalyan

INW-TEAM

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