“Taxidermy is a job that requires a lot of patience. It takes months to build the frames, prepare the skin, paint the eyes. You need time, and most of that time has to be your spare time because you also have a regular job,” he said.
“However, in modern India mankind has no patience. People just want everything fast. Fast food, fast cars, fast money. Taxidermy is slow and frustrating, but when you are finished with an animal it is an amazing feeling. Young people just do not understand that you must first struggle and work before you can have that completed sense of achievement,”
There is an even bigger issue that Dr Gaikwad faces: India’s wildlife crisis. Despite continued efforts by state governments to set up national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, India is experiencing a rapidly declining level of biodiversity.
Pollution, deforestation, poaching, and the effects of climate change are all having a dire impact on India’s wildlife. Several years of drought have left many ecosystems near-decimated, and wildlife are increasingly being caught in deadly conflicts with encroaching human settlements.
“When people think of big animals, they usually think of Africa. However, India has just as many large and wondrous beasts such as elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers and the list continues,” said Dr Gaikwad, whose Taxidermy Centre is located in an area infamous for incidents between leopards and local residents.
“However, we are losing many of these animals are a rapid rate from poaching and the destruction of the forests. I try to preserve the tigers and bears and lions so that people can see that these animals are beautiful and have worth in their life, but sometimes I worry that that is not enough,” he said.
“I will stay here and continue my work, but if I have no apprentice and there are no wild beasts left in India, then that will be a very disturbing world. I would just be alone with all these dead animals.”