Ecologist Brawin Kumar’s comic raises awareness of endangered animal species
Extinctions are a natural part of evolutionary processes. Major changes in conditions on Earth have caused ecosystems to collapse and a large percentage of species have become extinct. The causes of most of the recent crisis are the activities of one species: humans. In an effort to protect and save the hedgehog (paraechinus nudiventris), a small mammal endemic to southern India, an environmentalist and conservationist, Dr. Brawin Kumar has released a comic Mullikkaattu Ithigaasam (Legend of the scrub forest) to sensitize the children of Tamil Nadu who live in and around the habitat of the hedgehog. Even after facing many challenges due to lack of funds, Kumar did not limit himself, and his social responsibility, to just one comic. He’s struggled with challenges and odds and once again comes up with two new comics 300 eliviras and Shrews.
Kumar is a National Postdoctoral Fellow at the Indian Institute of Scientific Education and Research in Tirupati. negligence.
Animation Xpress reached out to Kumar and his partner and designer Venkatesh Babu (Venba), to learn more about the process of creating their first comic and how they managed to create two new comics.
Sharing the idea behind creating a cartoon about the hedgehog, Kumar explained, “In India there are 423 mammals present, among which we have 200 species of rats and bats in the Indian peninsula. Research and conservation focuses on larger animals like rhinos, tigers, elephants and charismatic species. Due to rapid climate change and biodiversity, all species in the environment are affected, especially small mammals like rats and bats are the most affected. Animals like hedgehogs are less studied and there is a lack of knowledge among people in this regard.
He added: “Hedgehog was first sighted by the British in the Madras residence in 1851, later named him Madras hedgehog. After the first results, no study or research has been conducted on this mammal. So I decided to search for these mammals to save them from extinction. Hedgehogs are mostly found in the human-dominated cityscapes of Tamil Nadu and are very rare to see. People began to poach, sell this animal and use it for traditional practices in Ayurvedic and Siddha medicine. Many of them are killed crossing roads. People and children don’t know about hedgehogs.
So I decided to raise awareness and ensure that children identify and know better the animal species in their habitat. Babu and I decided to make the hedgehog known through the comics. Comics are an effective tool for connecting with children. Our younger generation easily misses science if we give them rough information. We wanted them to learn science in the funniest and most creative way possible, and we made sure the kids learn about animals and landscapes through creative medium.
Speaking about the research process that followed to collect and run the comic, Kumar commented, “The research process was very extensive. I met around 1200 people in southern Tamil Nadu to collect data and information regarding the hedgehog’s appearance, where they first saw it, etc. We had the idea of creating a hedgehog comic back in 2013, but it took three long years to execute. With the help of my study and conclusions, Babu created a screenplay and turned into a 20 page comic book. All the creative credit goes to him.
Mullikkaattu Ithigaasam is the first complete comic book by Venkatesh Babu. When asked what inspired him to become a comic book designer, he replied: “Before Mullikkaattu Ithigaasam, I worked on comics that motivated me to continue fueling my creativity. Since my childhood, I have been a big addict to Lion Comics, in particular 300. It was my favorite comic book series which is a historically inspired comic book series written and illustrated by Frank Miller with colors painted by Lynn Varley. I am always inspired by illustrations and I love to express myself through cartoons and cartoons so I know very well that in order to make an impact or educate children it can be effectively done through comics.
Elaborating on the creative process and the challenges encountered, Babu explained, “After receiving Kumar’s contributions, I examined each narrative to create an engaging storyline. We have chosen a female character as the protagonist so that the character reaches a large audience. The female character Malli is named after my mom, because I thought it would work sentimentally for my first comic book. Meanwhile, Indian lyricist Vairamuthu released his book Kallikattu Ithikasam (The epic of Kallikkadu), and we took inspiration from this title and named our comic Mullikkaattu Ithigaasam. From there, we started sketching out our stories and creative panels.
He added, “The challenges we faced in creating our comics are that we weren’t technologically equipped in 2016, we created the comics manually. It took almost seven to eight months to complete our book. We made our comics with paintings, sketches and poster colors. However, now we are digitized and we can create our outputs in an effective time. Writing dialogues was another challenge we encountered because we made it clear to give clear and familiar content for easy understanding among children.
List of Upcoming Work Babu mentioned that he is open to working on ecology topics and his upcoming comics are 300 Eliviras, Poecilia Enga Ponnaal, and life skills development comics for children.
Asked about expansion plans, Kumar said, “We are here to raise awareness of endangered species and do it for a nonprofit cause. We have distributed the comics for free to schools in and around the hedgehog habitat and very soon we are offering an English version of Mullikkaattu Ithigaasam. Currently, we are aiming to reach 156 places where hedgehogs are present in Tamil Nadu to raise awareness among the local population. If the situation calls for it, we can also reach other parts of the country to raise awareness of endangered species. “
Shedding light on future projects, Kumar added, “I have a lot of concepts in mind for creating various comics on green topics, but due to lack of funding I’m not able to deal with them. Currently we are working on two comics, one on Elvira, a critically endangered rat species, found only in Salem Tamil Nadu, and the second comic features shrews. “
“My goal is to conduct a mass awareness program for the conservation of the Madras hedgehog and its habitat. We need more awareness and knowledge among people and students to save and preserve the remaining hedgehog habitats from extinction. We all collectively, as a community, need to conserve animals in the best possible way. Kumar concludes.