The Wild Life of India, Collins 1964
E.P. Gee was one of the earliest wildlife photographers of India together with his more famous compatriot, F.W. Champion. He led, what one may call, ‘a-dream-life’. A Cambridge educated Anglo-Indian, Edward Pritchard Gee took up employment on the tea estates of Assam in the midst of thick forests. All his holidays and leisure time was dedicated to travel and photography. He travelled to all the major wildlife sanctuaries and forests of India – with the one point agenda of clicking photographs!
The book is about his travels, the people he met and the animals he saw. Up close. The majestic gaurs of Bandipur. The charging rhinos of Kaziranga. The impressive elephant herds of Periyar. The unforgettable lions of Gir. The schools of barasinghas at Kanha. The golden langurs that he did not discover! The wild asses he chased in the Rann in open jeep. Of his many pets some of which ended up as celebrities in international zoos.
His style of narration is easy paced, relaxed. He takes you for all those wildlife adventure trips that you somehow could never manage to take. You travel on train. On jeep. On elephant back. On boat. You will miss nothing!
He talks of the early efforts at conservation – the foresters and the naturalists he encountered. Of his surveys to estimate populations of wildlife – the country’s earliest efforts at animal census. He talks of his simple ideas to manage wildlife. He laments our foresters being trapped with paperwork and not being able to spend time in the wild.
E.P. settled down with his pets at Shillong after his retirement to grow orchids and to pursue his hobbies with a greater vigour.
The book is an enjoyable read. The foreword has been written by Jawaharlal Nehru! The flavour is much like that of Enid Blyton’s fairy tales for children. E.P. makes you experience the charm of wilderness – those enchanted woods – without trying too hard. And to make you wish that the story of India’s struggle to save its wildlife gets a fairy tale end.
The book is out of print and hard to get by. The Tramp will be happy to assist his readers in finding a copy!