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Old 10th June 2024, 09:32   #1
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Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

Roads and automobiles represent progress and freedom for most humans.
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-dsc_0165edited.jpeg

However, they can also bring destruction and doom to others. Why did the chicken cross the road? Perhaps, the question is, why did the road cross the chicken’s path?
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-elkcarmarkgockefix.jpg
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-road_16.jpg

It was my turn to pick a book for our Book Club, and I chose New York Times Notable Book of 2023 and Editors' Choice, Ben Goldfarb's, Crossings: How road ecology is shaping the future of our planet.
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-123627807.jpg

The book provided a shocking insight into the adverse impact of roads and what can be done to limit the damage. The numbers are just staggering. Entire species are at the threat of becoming extinct.
  • USA: It’s estimated that more than one million vertebrate animals are killed by vehicle collisions every day
  • Brazil: Cars strike 400 million animals each year.
  • Tasmania: The roadkill capital of the world! One dead animal every 2.7 km. 300K animals killed every year.
Look at the time and effort required for a Koala to cross a major road,

About the book:
An eye-opening account of the global ecological transformations wrought by roads, from the award-winning author of Eager. Some 40 million miles of roadways encircle the earth, yet we tend to regard them only as infrastructure for human convenience. While roads are so ubiquitous they’re practically invisible to us, wild animals experience them as entirely alien forces of death and disruption.
In Crossings, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb travels throughout the United States and around the world to investigate how roads have transformed our planet. A million animals are killed by cars each day in the U.S. alone, but as the new science of road ecology shows, the harms of highways extend far beyond roadkill. Creatures from antelope to salmon are losing their ability to migrate in search of food and mates; invasive plants hitch rides in tire treads; road salt contaminates lakes and rivers; and the very noise of traffic chases songbirds from vast swaths of habitat. Yet road ecologists are also seeking to blunt the destruction through innovative solutions.
Goldfarb meets with conservationists building bridges for California’s mountain lions and tunnels for English toads, engineers deconstructing the labyrinth of logging roads that web national forests, animal rehabbers caring for Tasmania’s car-orphaned wallabies, and community organizers working to undo the havoc highways have wreaked upon American cities.
Today, as our planet’s road network continues to grow exponentially, the science of road ecology has become increasingly vital. Written with passion and curiosity, Crossings is a sweeping, spirited, and timely investigation into how humans have altered the natural world―and how we can create a better future for all living beings.



What is road ecology?
Road ecology is the study of the interactions between roads and the natural environment. It is a multidisciplinary field that examines the ecological effects of roads and transportation infrastructure on wildlife, habitats, ecosystems, and the overall landscape. The main areas of focus in road ecology include:
  1. Wildlife Mortality: Understanding and mitigating the direct impact of roads on animal mortality due to vehicle collisions.
  2. Habitat Fragmentation: Assessing how roads divide habitats and disrupt the movement and connectivity of wildlife populations.
  3. Ecological Corridors: Designing and implementing structures like wildlife crossings, overpasses, and underpasses to facilitate safe animal movement across roads.
  4. Pollution: Studying the effects of pollutants from roads, such as runoff containing heavy metals, oil, and other contaminants, on surrounding ecosystems.
  5. Noise and Light Pollution: Examining how traffic noise and artificial lighting from roads affect wildlife behavior and physiology.
  6. Invasive Species: Investigating how roads can facilitate the spread of invasive species, altering local ecosystems and outcompeting native species.
  7. Landscape and Vegetation Changes: Understanding how road construction and maintenance impact local vegetation and landscape structures.
The goal of road ecology is to develop strategies and solutions to minimize the negative impacts of roads on the environment while promoting safe and efficient transportation. This involves collaboration among ecologists, engineers, urban planners, and policymakers to create infrastructure that balances ecological and human needs. (Source: ChatGPT).

It was fascinating to learn about animal crossings and their positive impact on the wildlife. World over a number of initiatives are being taken to make life a little bit easier for animals.

Canada - Banff National Park Animal Overpass:


Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-banff-1.jpgRoad ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-banff-crossing2.jpgRoad ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-banffwinter.jpg

USA - Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing: World’s largest wildlife crossing to open by early 2026.


Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-libertycanyoncrossing1.jpgRoad ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-libertycanyoncrossing2.jpg

USA - Oregon: The Salmon Super Highway:


Netherlands - Ecoducts:



Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-ecoductsa.jpg

Australia - Christmas Island Bridge for Crabs:
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-christmas-island-crabs.jpg

India - PENCH Tiger Reserve - Elevated Highway:


My musings,
  • Being a self-confessed automobile enthusiast, I wonder if I sound hypocritical to talk about the adverse impact of roads and cars on animals. However, I suppose it is worthwhile to understand and change some habits.
  • Personally speaking, I reckon it’s time to take the “Slow down for animals” sign seriously and take extra care when driving through national parks.
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-tasmaniasave.jpg
  • I’m afraid some motorists consider pedestrians as not-equals and treat them like animals crossing the road. Forget about animals, it’ll be good if such motorists treat pedestrians with dignity.
Keen to understand what other members think on this topic.

Last edited by kiku007 : 10th June 2024 at 09:47.
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Old 11th June 2024, 18:11   #2
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

Nice post!
It is mind boggling to learn how sometimes a highway could disturb the ecology of the area (hinderance to animal migration/ hindrance to cross pollination/ hindrance to natural ecological flora and fauna balance). So happy to learn that a part of population is still motivated to make a difference.

For folks who are interested in exploring more on such topics, I recommend this Netflix documentary - SeasPiracy (https://www.netflix.com/title/81014008). It was quite unnerving to learn the impacts of accelerated fishing on our planet and compared to banal things like paper vs plastic straws that draws far more public attention! It was like restoring a scratch on a car that got totalled in a crash!

Some tips to be a nice driver and nicer human to you fellow planet beings:
  1. Stop honking, especially when you have pedestrians and animals just in front of your car. People get it, they will step aside when they spot a (slow) moving car. You can't imagine how loud a horn sounds to the animals. Be considerate
  2. Drive slow through ecologically sensitive areas. It could prove to be deadly for you and the others
  3. Don't feed animals on the road. They tend to get habitual of easy food - changes their food scouting habits and also makes them vulnerable to road traffic
  4. Avoid getting down in restricted forest areas for that one not-so-uncommon Instagram selfie. Animals hate intrusion in their private space, just like us!

Thanks Kiku007 for bringing this topic to fore
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Old 12th June 2024, 03:02   #3
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

My SIL wrote and defended her thesis (PHD) on the topic and was closely involved working with NHAI on the Pench elevated highway. She wrote an article long back in 2019 while working on the project.

https://www.researchgate.net/publica...titive_efforts

I have seen some pictures from the cameras below, animals crossing the underpass, they have put them to study their movement, especially the tigers. We need more of such initiatives from NHAI.
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Old 12th June 2024, 06:37   #4
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

I have been an enthusiast, and love driving. But over the years, my mind is tilting towards public transport. (Not that I use it much), but I feel, the world should just move to being transported, than drive. We have overdone highways and roads, to suit the US-like car culture.

Just think of those tourist destinations you have travelled to, over the last few years. Most places are crowded with cars. The roads leading to them are crowded. Our cities don't spare an inch, even for a grasshopper. I don't see that these mega expressways are any sign of progress. Yes, they make travel faster, but they would have been designed differently if they were to cater only for transportation, and not cars.

Imagine, you booking a trip to your nearest hill station with your travel partner, and you hop onto an auto, to your nearest Metro station that takes you to the nearest Bus terminal, which has an overnight bus waiting for you. You sleep all along your journey, or watch out of the window, not worrying about traffic, or overtaking or toll or fatigue. You reach your destination, and there is another transport that the hotel has arranged to pick you from the bus. And all of this arranged flawlessly by your travel partner. This can turn more convenient that personal transport if done effectively.

I don't see that these newly built expressways as any sign of progress. We are just living in ridiculous times, of human history. I wish we just went back 50 years in time, where there were just trains and buses, and everything was slower.
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Old 12th June 2024, 07:53   #5
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

Great thread. It aches my heart to see a "scenic road" skirting a fresh water lake, preventing hundreds of thousands of species from safely accessing the water.

There are so many problems.

The planting of flowering trees on highway lane dividers is also a problem. When first planted, I saw lakhs of butterflies (and other species) along the road trying to access the flowers, getting massacred by speeding vehicles. On The same high, i hardly see butterflies now.
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Old 12th June 2024, 09:00   #6
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

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Originally Posted by Kols View Post
Nice post!Some tips to be a nice driver and nicer human to you fellow planet beings:
Great tips. Awareness certainly helps. I myself have changed habits after being made aware.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sinharishi View Post
My SIL wrote and defended her thesis (PHD) on the topic and was closely involved working with NHAI on the Pench elevated highway. She wrote an article long back in 2019 while working on the project.

I have seen some pictures from the cameras below, animals crossing the underpass, they have put them to study their movement, especially the tigers. We need more of such initiatives from NHAI.
Thanks for sharing. Kudos to your SIL. I was genuinely surprised to read about the PENCH highway in the book. It is relatively easier for rich countries to spend on conservation initiatives, but exponentially difficult to get funding for such initiatives in emerging economies.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vinya_jag View Post
Just think of those tourist destinations you have travelled to, over the last few years. Most places are crowded with cars.
I know what you mean. The kodaikanal town is effectively ruined by tourism. There are times when I’ve felt that some remote villages in high mountains are better left to be difficult to access.

Quote:
Originally Posted by parambyte View Post
The planting of flowering trees on highway lane dividers is also a problem. When first planted, I saw lakhs of butterflies (and other species) along the road trying to access the flowers, getting massacred by speeding vehicles. On The same highway, I hardly see butterflies now.
Interesting you mentioned this. The book talks about the Monarch butterfly conservation efforts in the USA and Taiwan’s efforts to protect butterfly migration paths.



The Freeway Bureau yesterday temporarily closed the Formosa Freeway’s (Freeway No. 3) outer lane and shoulder in Yunlin County after detecting a massive migration of purple crow butterflies.

The number of purple crow butterflies flying across the freeway section in the county’s Linnei Township reached 250 per minute at about 9am, Taiwan Purple Crow Butterfly Ecological Preservation Association deputy chairman Chen Jui-hsiang said, adding that the bureau closed the outer lane and shoulder in the section (251K to 253K milestone) at 9:20am.

The maximum number of purple crow butterflies recorded yesterday morning exceeded 687 per minute, the association said.

Source:https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/tai.../16/2003774883

Closing a section of a highway for butterflies? Wow!
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Old 12th June 2024, 09:13   #7
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

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Originally Posted by vinya_jag View Post
I have been an enthusiast, and love driving. But over the years, my mind is tilting towards public transport. (Not that I use it much), but I feel, the world should just move to being transported, than drive. We have overdone highways and roads, to suit the US-like car culture.

Just think of those tourist destinations you have travelled to, over the last few years. Most places are crowded with cars. The roads leading to them are crowded. Our cities don't spare an inch, even for a grasshopper. I don't see that these mega expressways are any sign of progress. Yes, they make travel faster, but they would have been designed differently if they were to cater only for transportation, and not cars.

Imagine, you booking a trip to your nearest hill station with your travel partner, and you hop onto an auto, to your nearest Metro station that takes you to the nearest Bus terminal, which has an overnight bus waiting for you. You sleep all along your journey, or watch out of the window, not worrying about traffic, or overtaking or toll or fatigue. You reach your destination, and there is another transport that the hotel has arranged to pick you from the bus. And all of this arranged flawlessly by your travel partner. This can turn more convenient that personal transport if done effectively.

I don't see that these newly built expressways as any sign of progress. We are just living in ridiculous times, of human history. I wish we just went back 50 years in time, where there were just trains and buses, and everything was slower.
India needs a robust network of roadways. It helps with social integration of communities, that would otherwise be isolated without any respite. Connecting every single village to the railway network is an expensive task, with unsolvable logistical nightmares. Roads are the best solution in these scenarios.

But I agree that the public transportation ecosystem in India needs to improve. The current system is overburdened without even trying. New systems have to be carefully thought out and developed to ensure they sustain for a long while before being overwhelmed.

Regarding crowding in cities, half the problem can be solved if the road infrastructure is improved and maintained well. A congestion charge and logical route planning for public transport can go a long way in decongesting cities and keep unnecessary vehicles off the road. The government has to promote alternate solutions for last-mile commuting. A simple step could be to redesign the metro coaches to allow people to take their bicycles with them on the train.

Going back 50 years will not solve the problem. People couldn't receive the aid they desperately needed, or access good healthcare because they weren't connected to the rest of the country.
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Old 12th June 2024, 09:41   #8
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

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Originally Posted by vinya_jag View Post
I have been an enthusiast, and love driving. But over the years, my mind is tilting towards public transport. (Not that I use it much), but I feel, the world should just move to being transported, than drive. We have overdone highways and roads, to suit the US-like car culture.





I don't see that these newly built expressways as any sign of progress. We are just living in ridiculous times, of human history. I wish we just went back 50 years in time, where there were just trains and buses, and everything was slower.
Correct me if I'm wrong. Having buses, lorries (for freight) would require same infrastructure that you are blaming, even if cars disappeared over night. How is it going to get changed. Please explain.

Even if you want to add more railway tracks to ferry billion people for their daily activities, it would need significant amount of infrastructure than what it is right now, which would mean even bigger impact on ecology/forests.

Movement is life, either for animals or humans. Evolution tells us that. It's just that our movement is efficient and needs additional infrastructure. Without roadways there's no comfort of civilization we are living in right now. What we need to be is mindful about other living beings, their ecology and movement and make sure to provide safe passages for them for their movement. Banning cars and increasing number of public busses would still require same infrastructure albeit with more inconveniences/delays/inefficiencies/safety/thefts/fights/ etc. on daily basis.

Last edited by Earthroamer : 12th June 2024 at 09:42.
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Old 12th June 2024, 09:42   #9
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

Here is a new elephant crossing bridge coming in the outskirts of Bengaluru.


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Old 13th June 2024, 00:12   #10
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

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Correct me if I'm wrong. Having buses, lorries (for freight) would require same infrastructure that you are blaming, even if cars disappeared over night. How is it going to get changed. Please explain.

Even if you want to add more railway tracks to ferry billion people for their daily activities, it would need significant amount of infrastructure than what it is right now, which would mean even bigger impact on ecology/forests.
A case in point:
The new Bangalore Mysore expressway, was a great achievement in the recent times. It has reduced travel time between the two cities by almost an hour. But, was it necessary?
Absolutely yes, if you like the comfort of your car.
No - for me, if I consider what we lost because of that.

Just look at the expanse when compared to the earlier one.
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-screenshot-20240612-11.09.37-am.png
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-screenshot-20240612-11.10.42-am.png
A rough calculation (150Km * 100meters width) gives me an estimated 3800 Acres of land acquisition. Considering that this road was built around the existing road, and not reusing the existing road, most of this was newly acquired.
Some of it was pristine forest land. I have trekked the Sholay hills region around Ramanagara, and those are uninhabited hilly areas.
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-screenshot-20240612-11.19.57-am.png
This detour around Ramanagara gobbles up so much of that. It just splits the forest into two.
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-screenshot-20240612-11.18.08-am.png
Another view of what was lost
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-screenshot-20240612-11.58.27-am.png

Train times have also reduced by almost an hour in the recent years. Shatabdi takes me there in an hour and 50 minutes. And some trains cost as less as 50 per person.

Another argument that I had was that how much road space, cars occupy, vs buses and cargo vehicles. Our Beloved Shiradi Ghat.
Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?-screenshot-20240612-11.55.02-pm.png

I asked ChatGPT to estimate number of passengers who use cars, buses and trains. Here are some numbers.

KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) Data
Number of buses: Approximately 100 KSRTC buses operate daily between Bangalore and Mysore.
Average capacity of a bus: 50 passengers
Load factor: Assuming an average occupancy rate of 75%.

Travel by Car
Assumptions
Number of cars: Estimating about 10,000 cars travel daily between Bangalore and Mysore.
Average occupancy of a car: 2.5 people per car.
Total*passengers*by*car*daily=10,000cars×2.5passen gers/car
Total*passengers*by*car*daily=25,000passengers

Indian Railways Data
Number of trains: Approximately 20 trains operate daily between Bangalore and Mysore.
Average capacity of a train: 1,200 passengers
Load factor: Assuming an average occupancy rate of 80%.
Total*passengers*by*train*daily=20trains×1200passe ngers/train×0.8
Total*passengers*by*train*daily=19,200passengers
Summary
By bus: 3,750 passengers
By car: 25,000 passengers
By train: 19,200 passengers
Total*daily*travelers=3750(bus)+25,000(car)+19,200 (train)

Total*daily*travelers=47,950

So, roughly 47,950 people travel daily between Bangalore and Mysore by bus, car, and train.
And then I asked it to adjust those to a holiday weekend and it gave me this
Summary for Holiday Weekends
By bus: 5,400 passengers
By car: 32,500 passengers
By train: 30,000 passengers
Total*daily*travelers=5400(bus)+32,500(car)+30,000 (train)
So, approximately 67,900 people might travel daily between Bangalore and Mysore by bus, car, and train during a holiday weekend.
Another factor to consider was freight
And ChatGpt did a lot of math to arrive at this
Cargo Vehicle Estimate:
Percentage of cargo vehicles: 15-20% of total traffic
Using 17.5% (the midpoint) for a balanced estimate.
Cargo*vehicles*daily=50,000total*vehicles×0.175
Cargo*vehicles*daily=8,750

Summary:
Approximately 8,750 cargo vehicles travel daily between Bangalore and Mysore. This estimate includes trucks, lorries, and other commercial freight vehicles transporting goods along this major route.
So, if today, I had the old road (Just remodeled scientifically, with a few extra flyovers), and if the road was tolled heavily, I would have happily chosen a train or a Bus and would have left the car home.

That would have left us with a good 250 buses, 8750 cargo vehicles on any given day (Including holiday weekends), and would have reduced overall road usage by more than 50%.
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Old 14th June 2024, 12:52   #11
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

TBH, with this current government's focus on "expressway expansion", new roads are inevitable. For all intents and purposes, the DM Expressway has been a massive success. Green belts are being envisaged and flyovers are being built to protect forest land. Perhaps with improvements in road technology, we might see flora and fauna cohabiting peacefully with modern infrastructure. Hanging gardens and rooftop gardens, to take two examples, are evidence that green zones have been successfully integrated with building infrastructure. Maybe, something along these lines might become financially and logistically viable in India too soon.
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Old 14th June 2024, 13:26   #12
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

Those animal road crossings are impressive and very thoughtful. They may be located at regular intervals, but how will the animals know not to cross the road wherever they are standing and there is a bridge some distance away?
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Old 14th June 2024, 17:15   #13
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Re: Road ecology is shaping the future of our planet - Are we aware of it?

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Those animal road crossings are impressive and very thoughtful. They may be located at regular intervals, but how will the animals know not to cross the road wherever they are standing and there is a bridge some distance away?
The crossing is just one part of the plan, it also requires fencing along the rest of the road that skirts forested areas to prevent animals crossing there.

https://y2y.net/blog/how-do-wildlife...nimal-bridges/

So it's a pretty elaborate solution. I think the best solution, if we really want to conserve wildlife, is to declare some areas as protected and just let them be. No mining, no roads, no tourism, etc. Very hard thing to do in a country as populated as ours.

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This detour around Ramanagara gobbles up so much of that. It just splits the forest into two.
This road is a good case study. The writings of Kenneth Anderson have documented the abundance of leopards in the Ramanagara region. Before the expressway, a friend had seen a leopard on a small rocky hill, past Bidadi, that we used to visit. At that time, it was a bit of a trek to get there. Now the road has come within 200 meters of that same hillock. You can probably get off the expressway and drive a 4x4 to the base of that area (off-road enthusiasts, please don't!). Interestingly, someone had posted a video of another leopard sighting recently in the area. But who knows, the next time we widen the road, maybe in 15 years, that rocky hill is going to get blasted out of existence. And with it the leopard dens. But we'll put 'Save Wildlife' stickers on our cars, while we drive to Mysore faster.

Last edited by am1m : 14th June 2024 at 17:41.
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