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Communicating conservation science to a younger audience

Over the course of the last decade, Adrian Pinder (BUG Director), and colleagues have been engaged in research across South and Southeast Asia to conserve a family of the world’s largest freshwater fishes. The Mahseers (Tor spp.) can attain body weights in excess of 55 kg, qualifying them as megafauna and earning them the title ‘the tiger of the river’. Unfortunately, all 16 species are currently imperilled with the world’s largest mahseer, the ‘hump-backed mahseer’ being assessed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The hump-backed mahseer (Tor remadevii) is endemic only to South India’s River Cauvery, and only recently secured its place on the conservation agenda following groundbreaking research published by BUG and international collaborators. Despite, the publication of numerous scientific and popular articles highlighting the reasons for this species being on the verge of extinction, efforts to raise awareness beyond the adult scientific and conservation communities were previously limited.

This communication gap has now been addressed through the publication of a new children’s story/picture book. The Tiger of the River was written by BUG’s Adrian Pinder, illustrated by Maya Ramaswamy and published by Talking Cub, the children’s imprint of Speaking Tiger Books.

What’s the story about?

Somewhere in the Kaveri River where the water rushes through a deep gorge, lives a very special fish called Matisha, one of the largest and most beautiful freshwater fish on Planet Earth. Matisha delights in exploring her mysterious underwater world and meets a vast array of magnificent animals with whom she shares the river and the surrounding jungle. She is fascinated by the many strange fish of all shapes and sizes and the large powerful animals like tigers and elephants which occasionally visit the river. She dodges the attention of hungry birds, crocodiles and otters who would love to gulp her down as prey. She also learns about humans, who are sometimes far more dangerous than the animals around her. In this dream-like story, follow the wonderful adventures of Matisha as she migrates upstream to lay her precious eggs. Illustrated beautifully by Maya Ramaswamy with vibrant colours, the invisible world that lives below the waters of the river and in theWestern Ghats comes alive through the eyes of a fascinatingly beautiful, yet critically endangered species.

Working in close partnership with the Mahseer Trust and other international NGO’s, BUG is now exploring the potential to bring the story to life as an animated movie. This will symbolise Matisha (the Mahseer) and South India’s River Cauvery to communicate the threats faced by rivers and their ecological value to a general audience worldwide.


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