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Linear projects: A rising threat to our forests and wildlife: Fauna

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Earlier this month, on December 5, locals at Hojai in Assam’s Nagaon district witnessed a distressing incident. A speeding Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek Express rammed into three elephants, killing them. It included two pregnant elephants, who delivered stillborn calves. Only 12 days later, two adult elephants and a calf were killed when a train hit them 125kms away from Guwahati, again in Nagaon district. These two accidents along with another one on December 6 took the life of eight elephants in December alone.The accidents in Assam and the rise in proposed linear projects such as highways, railway line doubling, power transmission lines and canals once again bring to attention how perhaps certain developmental projects pose the biggest threats to our forests and wildlife. A deeper look into projects that have been both, proposed and cleared, reveals that they will pass through some of our most dense forests that are home to rich biodiversity, varied wildlife and are precious sources of freshwater in fast warming climate. In 2016, some crucial linear projects that will fragment our forests, were cleared or have made their way towards being cleared.Wildlife corridors under threatFor instance, in March, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), chaired by the Prime Minister, cleared conversion of the 227-km long Gondia-Jabalpur line from narrow gauge to broad gauge. Of this 227km, 77km will pass through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, considered one of the most crucial in the country for it allows tigers from two different source populations and gene pools to move to newer territories.In Eastern India, the Indian Railways has approved expansion of the 156km long Sambalpur-Angul railway line, that already fragments Satkosia-Ushakoti-Badrama elephant and tiger landscape.Conservationists and wildlife activists have argued that while large linear projects should be avoided in forests and wildlife habitats, there is also an acute lack of standardized environmental safeguards.Lack of willIn the case of National Highway – 7 widening, that will pass through the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor and the Pench tiger reserve, the National Highway Authority of India was dragged to court to have them construct environmental safeguards such as underpasses and overpasses for safe wildlife passage.The NH-7 case illustrated that government agencies were unwilling to initiate expenditure on environmental safeguards to prevent wildlife casualties, until courts ordered them to. Following this case, the union ministry for environment, forest and climate change commissioned the Wildlife Institute of India to prepare guidelines on incorporating environmental safeguards in linear infrastructure. The ministry also commissioned this report with a view to ensure speedy clearances for linear projects.The guidelines were made public in October and suggested minimum engineering solutions such as elevated ramps and sections should for wildlife to cross highways and fencing in case of railways. The guidelines though, do not have to be followed mandatory, as they have not been notified.Environmentalists have also questioned these guidelines. “I don’t think these guidelines will be followed because the project developers always try to go for safeguards that will be least expensive. We need to put in place a conservation fund for linear projects and project proponents ought to involve environmental experts at the start of the project and not at the clearance stage. These projects are fragmenting and damaging valuable forest resource,” said Anish Andheria,, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation working in 110 protected areas across 19 states.Other conservationists said that the current dispensation has junked an earlier decision of the environment ministry to stop new roads in protected areas. “The NBWL, in its previous term, had recognised linear infrastructure as one of the major threats to forests and wildlife. This prompted formulation of guidelines that said that no new roads will be constructed in protected areas. Why were those guidelines junked? asks Prerna Bindra, conservationist and former member of NBWL standing committee.Upcoming projects passing through forests and protected areasProposed linear projects waiting for wildlife and forest clearance:Dedicated freight corridor passing through Gautam Buddha Sanctuary, home to leopards, bears and chitalCasterlock-Kulem railway line doubling and Tinaighat – Castlerock railway line doubling in Dandeli wildlife sanctuaryHubli-Ankola railway line will pass through Western Ghats forests, Bedthi conservation reserve at Yellapur and buffer region of Anshi Dandeli Tiger ReserveBarkhera-Budni third railway line construction in Ratapani wildlife sanctuary. Project will take up 104.75 hectares of the sanctuary

Home for reptiles: 70 snakes found from an apartment in Pune

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Over 70 snakes mostly deadly Russell’s vipers and cobras illegally kept for extracting venom have been seized from a residential apartment in Pune where a man was living with his wife and children. Ranjit Kharage (37) was arrested along with his alleged accomplice, identified as Dhananjay Belkute (30), for allegedly keeping the snakes in wooden boxes and gunny bags for extracting and selling venom, police said on Tuesday.The seizure was made on Monday from the rented apartment of Kharage, where he was living with his family. “We recovered 41 Russell’s vipers and 31 cobras from one of the rooms in the flat and investigations have revealed that the duo allegedly extracted venom from these reptiles and used to sell or smuggle it,” said a police inspector, attached to Chakan Police station.A case has been registered against the duo under relevant sections of Wildlife Protection Act, he said. According to police, they received a tip off on Sunday that snakes had been kept in a flat in the outskirts of Chakan, following which a team of police raided the place. “When we went there, Kharage was not at home. However, his wife and children were present. We found that the snakes were kept in wooden boxes and gunny bags in the flat and even children knew about it,” said the police officer.Since it was dark, the search team evicted the occupants, locked the house and the next morning all snakes were seized. “Investigations revealed that the duo used to get snakes from jungles and even from snake catchers in the area for venom extraction and smuggling,” he said.Police also found some venom stored in small bottles in the possession of the two. All the seized snakes would be handed over to forest officials, police added.

Leopard mauls 4-year-old to death near Gir Wildlife Sanctuary

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A four-year-old girl was mauled to death by a leopard at Baradiya village in Visavadar taluka of Junagadh district near Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, a top forest official said on Tuesday.”Victim Rashmita Tikhayabhai was dragged late last night by a leopard when she was sleeping at a farm along with her parents who are farm labourers from Madhya Pradesh,” said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Gir (West) division, Pradeep Singh.The victim’s body was found in the morning after which the forest officials were informed.The body was later sent for post mortem, Singh said.The family of the victim are migrant labourers from Mandva village in Alirajpur district of neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.They were staying at the farm land where Rashmita was attacked and killed. Forest department officials have laid a trap to catch the leopard so that it can be shifted to jungles away from human settlement, Singh said.

Two retired teachers come to the tigers’ rescue

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In 2009, the Wildlife Institute of India reported that the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) had no tigers anymore. As forest officials planned the re-introduction of tigers in the reserve, they recruited two retired schoolteachers for a key task.The officials realised that without the local community’s support, a sustainable tiger habitat was not feasible. They found their men for the job in two well respected teachers in Panna: Ambika Khare, and Devidutta Chaturvedi.Six years of sustained efforts of these two men, working alongside forest officials finally bore fruits, and how! Now, there are 35 tigers in the reserve. Earlier this month, Khare and Chaturvedi were recognised for their efforts with Sanctuary Asia magazine’s Earth Heroes 2016 Green Teacher Award.Khare, now 84-years-old and Chaturvedi, 74, have been conducting camps to sensitise the locals about the reserve and its wild cats since 2010. On camp days, the retired teachers reach the park at 6 am to receive the participants. For the next 12 hours, they energetically hold fort; age and weather no dampener for their enthusiasm. Conducted every Sunday and on holidays between November and March, each session includes nature walks, group discussions, role play, park tours and a quiz competition.“They’ve won us valuable local support. Their energy levels and fitness put even younger men to shame,” says Rangaiah Sreenivasa Murthy, a 1987 batch Indian Forest Service officer, who was at the helm of the plan designed in 2010.Now a former field director of the PTR, Murthy says the camps are immensely popular. “They are booked well in advance, and also has people from other districts besides Panna like Chattarpur and Damoh registering.” The registration fee for adults is Rs 200 and Rs 100 for children.Khare, however, insists that the camp’s success is a team effort. “Mr Murthy’s ideas have been able to change the social life and the attitude of the people. He also helped us finetune the nature camp curriculum.”The future of Panna, though worries the octogenarian. He raised the issue of the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project. “This project will submerge a large part of the Panna reserve. Those who think that water from Ken will feed the parched Betwa are short-sighted, and do not understand how nature works. It is the forests in the Panna reserve that feed Ken. When forests are gone, a beautiful habitat for tigers and a river will be destroyed. I plead for sanity and wisdom,” he said, while speaking to DNA.A Science and English teacher, Khare realises that while men like him and his colleague may have mastered the art of teaching ordinary people, their words carry little weight in the corridors of power in Bhopal or New Delhi.

New tigers in Jai’s territory

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Almost eight months after its dominant male disappeared from the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary (UKWLS), two males have moved in to replace the missing tiger Jai. What’s more, the number of adult tigers in the sanctuary has increased from four last year to seven now, with two pregnant tigresses likely to deliver fresh litters soon. A senior forest department official told DNA that camera trap monitoring which was being carried out in the sanctuary had revealed the presence of seven adult tigers, including two males and five females. The final results of this Phase IV monitoring exercise are expected shortly. The exercise carried out last year had thrown up the presence of just four individuals. “Two female tigers are pregnant and may deliver cubs very soon,” said another official. He added the presence of two males would ensure diversity in the gene pool. One of the males is Jai’s three-year old offspring ‘Jaichand’ (a combination of the names of his father Jai and mother Chandi) and the other tiger is supposed to have entered Maharashtra from adjoining areas since he has not been captured in camera traps earlier.Officials said there were chances that another male tiger was also trying to enter the UKWLS habitat. When 250 kg Jai — named after Amitabh Bachchan’s character from Sholay — went missing, it led to a massive outcry with fears that the iconic tiger, the largest in India, may have been poached. The NTCA tiger census, which is conducted every four years detected 190 tigers in Maharashtra in 2014. However, last year’s Phase IV monitoring by the forest department to confirm these figures had identified 203 tigers.

Assam forest dept files FIR against Patanjali Food Park after elephant’s death due to neglience

Ghoramari (Assam): The Assam Forest Department on Thursday filed an FIR against the builder of Patanjali Mega Herbal and Food Park in Sonitpur district for negligence in providing safety to wild elephants and digging pits at the construction site causing an elephant to die on Thursday.

Jasim Ahmed, Additional Conservator of Forest, West Sonitpur Forest Division, said the FIR was lodged at Salanibari police outpost under Tezpur police station.

He said the case was filed against the park’s builder, Uday Goswami, who is also the coordinator of the Patanjali Park at Ghoramari Assam Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) complex.

There were more than 14 open pits and some of them were filled up with earth after Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma visited the site following the death of an adult female elephant on Thursday, said Ahmed.

Video of the elephant falling into the pit

Regarding Goswami’s assurance of erecting a low-voltage solar-powered fence at the site, the Forest official said such a fence needed to be checked by the specialists of the Forest Department and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) before being erected.

The forest minister instructed the builder to keep half of the over-200-acre land free from construction through which the elephants could move.

On Wednesday morning, a calf ran out of an elephant herd towards the construction site, followed by its mother and another male elephant calf which was later rescued from the pit and sent to the wildlife rescue centre at Kaziranga.

The foundation stone of the Rs 1,300-crore Patanjali Mega Herbal and Food Park was laid on November 6 by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in the presence of Patanjali founder and yoga guru Ramdev, Union Minister of State for Heavy Industries Babul Supriyo and state Industries Minister Chandramohan Patowary among others.

Dilip Nath, member of Aranya Surakha Samittee, Sonitpur, told PTI that the place was known to be an elephant zone often frequented by the pachyderms from the nearby forest.

Meanwhile, state Congress spokesman Apurba Bhattacharya claimed that as the area was an elephant corridor and used by the animals for giving birth to their calves, the previous Congress administration in the state had not allowed the government land to be given to anyone.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 22:05 IST

State to count, map out bird species

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For better wildlife management and conservation and to arrive at an estimate of various bird species in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats landscape, the state forest department has launched an avifauna study in the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve (STR). While revealing details of endemic birds, it will also disclose species which were not recorded earlier.The study by researchers and experts from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, will map various species of birds found in the protected areas of the STR, namely the Koyna wildlife sanctuary and Chandoli national park and it’s buffer along with their distribution, density and habitat. This will help draw up a long-term conservation management and action plan.“This will help us arrive at a list of species, sub-species and new species of birds and diversity of hill birds in the Western Ghats” said V Clement Ben, Chief conservator of forests and project director of the STR, adding that the study would continue for 18 months. Ben noted that this would also improve wildlife management in the region. At present, the tiger project has recorded around 275 birds including endangered and threatened species. The various species of birds found in Chandoli and Koyna include hornbills, Indian river tern, long-billed vultures, woodpeckers and crested goshawks.Gopi G.V, scientist, WII, said that the study would reveal species richness and abundance in the landscape.”We are looking at land use and land cover categories in the landscape and the species components of birds and their estimated abundance,” he added, noting that based on the findings, a long-term conservation and management plan for the landscape could be developed. “Since the landscape is difficult and rugged, we are recording bird calls and trying to identify species,” said Gopi, adding that a sighting-based protocol based on observation was also being used. The study is being funded by the state forest department through the Sahyadri tiger reserve foundation. Researcher and project biologist Ashutosh Singh said the project, which was slated to end in early 2018, would record new species and even those which were sighted earlier but had withered away. “We will sight new species which had not been reported so far. We have to give total avifauna distribution in the STR,” he added.The STR is the only tiger reserve in Western Maharashtra and is spread over an 1165.56 sq km landscape. It is spread over the four districts of Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Ratnagiri.

Chennai forest dept nabs culprits who slit monitor lizard’s throat

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The disturbing video that went viral all across Chennai, in which some people were seen drinking blood dripping from a monitor lizard’s slit throat, helped the Forest Department nab the two accused on Thursday, who were selling the meat and blood.According to the Forest Department, Chennai, they were on the lookout for the accused since Monday when the video started circulating, and began visiting several such settlements belonging to Narikuravas— a nomadic tribal community known for hunting wildlife.“We got a tip-off about a settlement that looked similar in the video located at Mappedu. We reached the location and arrested the two accused who were identified from the video,” said Range Forest Officer (RFO) T Murugesan.
ALSO READ Chennai: Monitor lizards tortured to death for their bloodKnowing how close knit the community is, the Forest Department went with a 15 member staff. “The members started protesting and getting aggressive, but we managed to detain the two accused Vijay Kumar and Manickam who were involved in cutting the throat of the Monitor lizard and selling it,” said Murugesan, adding that they also recovered a live monitor lizard.During interrogation, they confessed that they were selling one kg of meat for Rs 5,000 and one glass of raw blood was being served on the spot for Rs 1,000. The accused have been booked under various sections of Wildlife Protection Act.Wildlife conservationist Shravan Krishnan from Chennai appreciated the work of Forest staff and said, “Had there been no video this issue would have never come to the notice of the people. The inhuman footage where one could see both the accused involved had flared up emotions of animal lovers and there was a lot of pressure on the forest department to nab them and we are glad that they cracked the case.”The monitor lizard is protected under Schedule II of the wildlife Protection Act, however, it is regularly killed for its meat, blood and oil as it is said to contain aphrodisiac properties as well as cure to several ailments, which has been rubbished by medical professionals. “The practice is extremely cruel as the neck of a live monitor lizard is first slit and the blood is gradually collected as its also believed that drinking fresh blood has even more effects,” said the activist who volunteers with the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau to crack wildlife crimes.In fact, according to wildlife experts in several parts of the country, there is a myth that consuming the cooked meat of the monitor lizard or drinking blood helps cure arthritis, muscular pains and is even considered an aphrodisiac.

One third of Indian species are now facing extinction

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>More than half of the globe’s wildlife population, especially those living in freshwater, are facing an imminent decline as human needs are destroying natural habitats, the Living Planet Report 2016 has said.India is one of the vulnerable countries as more than a third of our mammals, freshwater fishes, reptiles and amphibians are facing extinction.The Living Planet Report is a biennial effort of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in collaboration with several other research and non-profit institutions. Using data sources across the globe, it creates a Living Planet Index that reflects the health of ecology and fauna. For the 2016 report, over 14,000 vertebrate populations of 3,706 vertebrate species were studied.The report has warned that if habitats continue to be exploited, primarily for agriculture and other human needs globally, wildlife could decline by an average of 67 per cent between 1970 and 2020. In fact, the report has said that global populations of fishes, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012. At present, agriculture occupies about one-third of the Earth’s total land area and accounts for almost 70 per cent of water use.The rapid decline of flora and fauna and recent studies suggest that we are on the edge of a sixth mass extinction. Studies indicated that extinction rates are up to 100 to 1,000 extinctions per 10,000 species in a span of 100 years. “Our consumption patterns and the way we look at our natural world are constantly shaping the future of our planet. At WWF-India, we believe that the power to build a resilient planet for future generations lies in our understanding of how we are moving into this new epoch that scientists are calling the Anthropocene and adopting sustainable practices that decrease humanity’s impacts on the planet,” said Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF-India.In India, forests, wildlife and freshwater resources are at a constant conflict with development projects. While several big coal blocks are located near freshwater sources, forests are being cleared for infrastructure and as a result, the space for wildlife is shrinking. According to the report, 70 per cent of our surface water is polluted and 60 per cent of groundwater sources are expected to be in a critical state within the next decade.The decline of wildlife is not surprising given the rate of global deforestation, as accounted by global forest resources assessment. It said that 129 million hectares of forests or an area larger than South Africa was cut down since 1990 on a net basis while gross loss was 239 million hectares of forests.

New norms for infra in forests

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The union ministry for environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) will soon come out with uniform national policy guidelines on road, railway and other linear projects that pass through wildlife habitats to ensure their speedy clearances and also reduce the impact they have on forests and endangered wildlife.Speaking to DNA, environment minister Anil Dave said, “Yes, there is a policy under process on this issue and we will definitely have uniform guidelines that can be applied across the country.”SS Negi, director general of forests said the policy guidelines, which are under process, will be discussed at length during the on-going ministry conference with state wildlife and forest chiefs. “The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) will present a draft on this issue and also incorporate the views of states,” said Negi. DNA had recently reported that more than 1200 passenger and goods trains pass through sensitive wildlife habitats across the country, posing threat to elephants, tigers and leopards.A ministry note on this issue, while acknowledging that new projects of any kind are avoided within or near wildlife areas, also said that “location specificity or inevitability sometimes warrant appropriate mitigation measures for counter balancing negative impacts on habitat.”Presently, the MoEF&CC recommends ‘mitigation measures’ for linear projects on a case to case basis. Mitigation measures refer to specific conditions stipulated by the environment ministry while clearing linear projects that hamper wildlife habitats. In the case of highway projects, the ministry has in the past asked for building underpasses to ensure smooth movement of animals.The ministry’s move comes in the light of instances where clearances for linear projects got delayed after getting mired in court cases. In the recent past, the MoEF&CC’s National Board for Wildlife cleared the controversial National Highway -7, (NH7) widening project between Maharashtra and Nagpur. The widened highway will cut through the crucial Kanha-Pench tiger corridor. Activists had dragged the road ministry and environment ministry to court on this issue and both had to eventually agree to build overpasses and underpasses on the highway to facilitate movement of animals.The wildlife board also cleared the Sevak Rongpo railway line that will pass through Mahananda wildlife sanctuary. Under the National Democratic Alliance government, the environment ministry has cleared linear projects such as new railway lines, doubling of railway lines, widening of national highways, canals and power transmission lines despite opposition from within the ministry on several occasions.

No tiger reserve status for 2 new wildlife sanctuaries in Maharashtra

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a setback to plans for two new tiger projects in Maharashtra, the state forest department has ruled against the upgrade of the Umred Karhandla and Tipeshwar wildlife sanctuaries to the status of tiger reserves.The state had earlier appointed a committee to examine the conversion of the Umred Karhandla Wildlife Sanctuary (UKWLS) to a tiger reserve. After the disappearance of Maharashtra’s iconic tiger ‘Jai,’ from the sanctuary, the demand had gained traction due to its rising population of big cats and the need for better protection.Officials noted that the 189 square kilometres UKWLS could link tiger projects like Bor, Navegaon- Nagzira and Tadoba for better tiger movement and genetic dispersal.
ALSO READ How Ranthambore Tiger Reserve’s ‘tatkal’ scheme will benefit its tigersSenior forest department officials confirmed that Shree Bhagwan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF-Wildlife), had submitted a report about the plan to convert UKWLS into a tiger project not being feasible.“The PCCF has submitted a negative report to the state government. There is no need (for UKWLS to be upgraded to a tiger project). It will create other problems including opposition from people,” Girish Vashisht, divisional forest officer (DFO) and spokesperson of the forest department’s wildlife wing, told DNA. He added that to link UKWLS with the Bor tiger project, the buffer that had been proposed for the reserve, would reach the outskirts of Nagpur city.
ALSO READ After Ken-Betwa river project, concerns raised over upcoming power plant near Panna tiger reserve“The rules are same for sanctuaries and tiger projects. Its only that tiger projects get grants from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Centre,” said Vashisth, adding that the state was willing to allocate funds for wildlife management.The proposal by a committee consisting of state and NTCA representatives had suggested that the UKWLS area be the core and an additional area be designated as the buffer.Vashisht said similarly, the department was also negative on a proposal to convert the Tipeshwar wildlife sanctuary to a tiger project. It was proposed that the 148.63 square kilometres Tipeshwar sanctuary be clubbed with the Painganga sanctuary (400.28 square kilometres) and declared as a tiger reserve.“If we try to link Tipeshwar and Painganga, parts of Telangana will come in between. It also covers a developed area and is impractical,” said Vashisht, adding it would lead to resistance from the 14 villages inside the Painganga sanctuary, which would be part of the proposed core area and require resettlement.He pointed out that of the 54 protected areas in Maharashtra, barring the five conservation reserves, 19, including national parks and sanctuaries had been included in tiger projects. Sources said that while the Centre funded schemes in tiger reserves, the changed funding ratios, wherein the state had to contribute a part of the costs, would ensure only incremental benefits.However, a senior forest official noted that converting UKWLS and Tipeshwar- Painganga into tiger projects would have introduced better landscape management, habitat development for the growing tiger population and enhanced connectivity to tiger habitats within and outside the state.“There is a vast difference between management of protected areas and tiger projects,” he said, adding that the approach was more holistic in the second case due to a unified control over the core and buffer areas and the bordering parts under territorial forest divisions. The formation of a tiger project will ensure better protection due to the deployment of the special tiger protection force (STPF) and availability of Central funding.Conservationists pointed to how converting UKWLS into a tiger project would ensure wildlife-oriented management and peoples’ participation and reduce instances of man-animal conflicts due to speedy grant of compensation for crop and animal losses. The inclusion of the Bramhapuri territorial forest division, which has a healthy tiger population, in the buffer would have helped wildlife-oriented management. Moreover, UKWLS has a population of 19 big cats which were emerging as a source for other tiger bearing areas.The last location of the seven-footer and 250 kg Jai, who is named after Amitabh Bacchan’s character in the blockbuster ‘Sholay’ was at Paoni range on April 18. If UKWLS was a tiger project, Jai’s movements could have been monitored over an extensive area, sources said.Maharashtra has six tiger reserves. The tiger census, results for which were released in 2014, have said India has 2,226 tigers, up from 1,706 in 2010. Maharashtra has around 190 such big cats, more than the figure of 169 in 2010.

DNA test suggests Maharashtra’s iconic tiger Jai still around

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In what is being claimed as a major breakthrough in the search for Maharashtra’s iconic tiger Jai, forest department officials on Saturday said hair samples collected from Bhandara district in July have shown a DNA match with the missing feline. This, officials said, suggests that Jai, who went missing from the Umred Karhandla wildlife sanctuary in mid-April may be alive and in his natural habitat.A senior forest department official said hair samples collected from the Adyal range in Bhandara district had matched Jai’s DNA samples. “This shows Jai may be alive… (But) it is very difficult to locate a tiger in its natural habitat,” he added.Another senior official said that because the sample was collected from an area where Jai was reportedly sighted on July 12, there is “reason to believe that he alive”.”The DNA from the hair samples matches that of Jai. That means Jai had been there,” said Bilal Habib, a scientist with the Department of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), and who had radio-collared Jai. He added that considering the rainfall and likelihood of water run-off draining away any old hair, the hair sample is likely not “too old” and could have been shed just a few days before the samples were collected. He said that experts had matched the hair to Jai’s DNA to a 99% accuracy.The department had collected scat and hair samples from the spot; while the scat did not yield any DNA, the hair samples did. The last known location of the seven-feet, 250-kg Jai – named after Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s iconic character from the film ‘Sholay’ and known for his penchant for posing for photographs – was at Paoni range near Umred Karhandla on April 18 when his radio collar is suspected to have malfunctioned.Jai’s falling off the grid led to a massive outcry, followed by a search operation by the forest department, wildlife enthusiasts, and NGOs, The department also scanned data from the state electricity distribution utility to check if any tripping had occurred due to electrocution of a large animal.”We have checked all possibilities… there is no clue to whether he is dead or alive,” a source said, adding that there was no larger cause for concern as the wildlife sanctuary had seven young male tigers.Born in the Navegaon-Nagzira tiger project, Jai first migrated to UKWLS around 150 km away in 2013 and later to Bramhapuri . As the alpha male in the sanctuary, he is credited with successfully populating it by fathering over 20 cubs.”Tigers are territorial animals,” said the source, who declined to be named, noting that Jai was about seven-eight years old, an age when tigers are typically challenged by younger males for the leadership position. UKWLS has seven sub-adult males and its 187 sq km, area may not have had the holding capacity for such a large number of males, which may have led to Jai moving out to newer areas.

Guess what was found at Bhandup recently? An African Ball Python

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> A random snake rescue in Bhandup turned out to be extraordinary as the rescuers were stunned when they realised that the tail they were holding belonged to a sub-Saharan African Ball Python, an exotic species.Once they caught it, the rescuers faced another problem. Exotic species like the African Ball Python are not allowed to be released into the wild. The rescuers are now keeping the snake with them, after the Thane forest department gave the green signal. The snake, which was rescued on the night of August 21, is being fed a mice every week.According to Khushal Vaishnav of the Wildlife Welfare Association (WWA), on August 21, around 11 pm, he received a call from a building near the Shivaji Talao area at Bhandup. “I found that the snake had crawled up to the wall of a nullah, separating the building. Its tail was out and seeing the pattern, I could not believe my eyes. It was a Ball Python, which does not belong to India,” he said. “If we pulled the tail, the snake could have got injured. So we decided to break some bricks,” he said.As they started breaking the wall, the snake started slithering out and was safely rescued. “The forest department sanctioned us the custody of the snake after a medical examination to confirm whether it snake was healthy or not,” said Aditya Patil of WWA. The WWA has to regularly update the forest department about the health of the python, which is 2.7-ft long and weighs around 830 grams.”This species of pythons are shy and do not grow too long. Hence, it has a huge demand in the pet trade. At times, the owners get bored or find managing the snakes difficult and abandon them,” he said. This snake, too, might have been either dumped by the owner or it might have escaped, he said.He said it was obvious that the snake was brought through illegal wildlife trade that flourishes in Mumbai. An African Ball Python is normally sold for around around Rs 10,000-15,000.Mayur Kamath, honorary wildlife warden of Mumbai and state wildlife board member, said that this should serve as a wake-up call. One snake rescued means there must be countless others that have been released or dumped in forest areas. “People buy everything from snakes to crocodiles to iguanas from the internet as well as shops that are famous for selling all kinds of pets in the city. Once they grow up, they dump them. It’s not good for our ecosystem as these exotic species kill our native species,” he said.So, what’s the way out? “No amount of raids on pets shops and seizures are going to work. If this trade is regulated by the state forest department, every species sold needs to be documented and there can be better control and monitoring,” he suggested.

Culling Nilgai: To manage wildlife conservation and human interests, research is key

Conservationists are fond of saying India is a tolerant country for wildlife. Many of its billion plus citizens live cheek by jowl with dangerous beasts. Vegetarian animals eat their crops and predators snack on livestock. Some farmers claim compensation for their loss, but most stoically bear their burden. But this benevolent attitude is under siege.

For decades, farmers in Himachal Pradesh complained that they were unable to earn a living when hordes of rhesus macaques grabbed crops and fruits. The farmers’ distress became a political slugfest before every election in the state. Some abandoned their fields and quit farming. When sterilizing tens of thousands of macaques failed to control the problems, agriculturalists demanded culling notwithstanding the primate’s association with Hanuman. It was the last resort.

People complained about nilgai, but when given shooting rights, they weren’t prepared to do anything. The problem was the name of the animal: this antelope was conjoined with the holy cow. Just 18 months ago, managers considered changing the animal’s name to vanroz, to sever the sanctity bestowed by its common name.

Across the country, most complaints of crop damage feature large mammals, like nilgai and wild boar. Rarely do farmers complain to the forest department about rodents, perhaps the worst offenders of all. They don’t see the need to urge official action when they can deploy traps and poisons themselves. Should they pull the same stunt with larger animals, they could be prosecuted under wildlife laws. That doesn’t prevent people from trying.

Wild boar are survivors and ought to be found in every habitat. Even with legal protection, they have been quietly exterminated from most of our farmlands.

The Centre approved proposals to cull these animals in particular areas for specific periods. A sharpshooter engaged by the Bihar Forest Department shot at least 300 nilgai, even before an official name change.

Many believe culling will put an end to the daily pitched battles with wild animals. Although it is widely practiced in the US, Europe, and Africa, there is little evidence that it alleviates crop damage or loss of livestock.

The belief is: more animals eat more crops. Reducing numbers would therefore lead to less damage. However, this obvious logic doesn’t play out so well in the real world.

The Nilgai near the Parliament House. Image courtesy: ANI/TwitterThe Nilgai near the Parliament House. Image courtesy: ANI/Twitter

The Nilgai near the Parliament House. Image courtesy: ANI/Twitter

Kodagu has few elephants but its residents complain a great deal about crop damage. The Nilgiris has many more elephants but reports fewer complaints. There’s no evidence that increasing animal numbers leads to more dependence on human foods. Then how can culling alleviate the situation?

Even if numbers mattered, a short spell of culling won’t fix the problem. Once an area is cleared of animals and there are no other claimants to the food, others move in from neighbouring areas. Within months, they replace the removed animals.

If the states seek recourse in culling, they are in for the long haul. They have to keep killing indefinitely until they drastically reduce the species’ numbers or exterminate it, undoing everything India has achieved in conservation.

Perhaps more than a real fix, the states want to buy tolerance by giving in to the demands for culling.

Many conservation organizations around the world believe a state-mandated cull could prevent poaching and retaliatory killing of wildlife. In its ‘A manifesto for large carnivore conservation in Europe,’ the IUCN says:

“Legalised, well regulated hunting of large carnivores at sustainable levels can be a useful tool in responding to conflict, through slowing their increase to socially acceptable levels, engaging local populations in management, increasing their perceived local value, and decreasing illegal killing.”

In a recent article for Science, two biologists Rosie Woodroffe and Stephen Redpath argued, “Pragmatic conservationists have long recognised that allowing some predator control — whether or not it achieves its stated aims—can help to build tolerance among land managers who might otherwise block conservation efforts.”

But there’s no evidence that killing animals promotes tolerance.

In a paper published in April 2016 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, ecologists Guillaume Chapron and Adrian Treves say contrary to accepted wisdom, culling reduces tolerance and provides an incentive for poaching. When the state killed wolves in the forest-less expanses of Wisconsin and Michigan, residents perceived that the benefits of wolves had declined. The authors came to these conclusions by modelling culling policies with projected wolf population growth rate, instead of actually looking at poaching figures and assessing people’s attitudes.

Many rural Europeans and Americans have it in for wolves, and every smidgen of support for the beleaguered animals is hard-won. If a few animals have to be killed to buy acceptance for the presence of the species, wildlife managers and conservationists compromised.

While our farmers may not believe ‘the only good nilgai is a dead one,’ many clandestinely do away with animals. They use live wires, mouth bombs, poisoned or explosives-filled pumpkins, snares, and a variety of cruel and crude methods to dispatch animals. Wild boar with their lower jaws blown off wander in pain before succumbing to infection, blood loss, and starvation. Elephants are maimed or killed by exploding or poisoned pumpkins. Live wires kill indiscriminately – anything large or small that comes into contact is toast. Would such killings become more prevalent as the study on wolves indicates?

Three ingredients encourage poaching during culling periods, Treves told Firstpost — “One, the government signal should be negative, example, too many wolves and many people suffering, and culling must be widely publicised as an alleged remedy.” In addition, the species must be unpopular among those with weapons and an inclination to poach.

In India, none of the marked species draw the kind of hatred that wolves do in the West. So would people prefer to let the government do the dirty work for them?

John Linnell of the Norwegian Institute of Nature Research studied the ecology of leopards and wolves living in Maharashtrian farmlands. He says, “It (culling) is a fascinating experiment which needs to be conducted so India can gain experience with different options for managing wildlife in human-dominated landscapes. It may not work, but I think it needs to be tried. I only hope that it is being followed up so that knowledge can be gained from the process. However, I would also hope that a range of other options are being tested as well.”

We don’t know what causes conflict, why some animals of a species prefer crops to wild forage, why particular areas are more prone to crop damage, and what measures farmers should take to protect their livelihoods. There is no single universal cause that drives animals to eat crops and neither are there any silver bullet solutions. It’s impractical for biologists to investigate such situations region by region and custom-draft possible ways of deflecting animals.

A policy to deal with wildlife in farmlands would help. Wildlife policy and laws provide species-wide protection and prescribe how wildlife areas are to be managed. They say little about what managers should do when animals live in agricultural fields. The Karnataka Elephant Task Force made a start in this direction by prioritising landscapes for people and elephants and recommending appropriate actions. There’s no question that wildlife living with humans has to be managed. The question is how.

If this culling effort fails, as it is bound to, how will farmers react? Would they go back to non-lethal methods? Or would they demand the extermination of the species? Would culling in some areas instigate people in other areas to demand similar relief? We need more research in wildlife management and social scientists to assess people’s attitudes. Not only is farm economy already in crisis so is wildlife conservation.

Unless we do more to help farmers, our famed tolerance for wildlife will be shot to hell.

Add four sanctuaries and extra buffer area to Panna, green ministry panel on Ken-Betwa

Addition of four satellite core areas, 8000 hectares of extra buffer area adjacent to the Panna Tiger Reserve, a possible reduction in the height of the Daudhan dam and an environment management plan of Rs.5073 crore are the chief mitigation plans the union environment ministry has put forth in the case of Ken-Betwa river linking project. An expert panel of the union environment ministry on river valley and hydroelectric projects had taken up Ken-Betwa’s proposal for environment clearance earlier this month and deferred it as issues pertaining to hydrology and wildlife remain unresolved.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Rs.10,000 crore project proposes to link Ken river in Madhya Pradesh to Betwa river in Uttar Pradesh to provide water for irrigation in parched Bundelkhand. Environmentalists have opposed the project on the premise that it will hamper Panna’s tiger population, a tiger reserve where the big cat had vanished in the past decade.According to detailed minutes of the meeting, the committee discussed at length recommendations of an expert committee who had visited Panna Tiger Reserve to assess the river-linking’s potential impact on wildlife and forests.The committee, formed on the directions of National Board for Wildlife, was comprised of government officials and independent wildlife experts. The expert committee, while recommending mitigation measures has played down the project’s impact on wildlife.This committee has recommended that four satellite core areas should be developed consisting of two wildlife sanctuaries each from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh has agreed in principle for inclusion of above Ranipur and Mahavir Swami sanctuaries while Madhya Pradesh is considering inclusion of Nauradehi and Rani Durgawati sanctuaries.The expert committee has also said that the Panna Tiger Reserve is facing acute shortage of water and due to creation of reservoir, its water regime will improve to a great extent. The expert committee though has not made any observation and remarks regarding the submergence of tiger habitat or impact of dam construction on Panna’s forest. It also goes on to say that the “construction of (Daudhan) dam will help Ken Ghariyal sanctuary situated in the downstream because of more ecological flow of water round the year from this dam.”After deliberations on the expert committee’s recommendations, the ministry’s expert committee asked the Wildlife Institute of India to expedite preparation of a landscape management plan. The committee also suggested that National Water Development Agency should consider dropping hydro-power generation component from the project. The project comprises of two powerhouses of 3x30MW and 3x36MW.

Taj Mahal, Vaishno Devi among 10 iconic places to undergo cleaning on par with international standards

Taj Mahal and Vaishno Devi are among the 10 iconic places with higher footfalls identified by the Centre that will undergo cleaning on par with international standards for which foreign experts are to be involved. Top government officials while giving details of this initiative also said that World Bank will provide technical assistance.The Centre is also in the process of drafting standard operating procedures (SOP) to ensure cleanliness at 10 popular sanctuaries and tigers reserves, they said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”We have taken an initiative at 10 iconic places. The idea is to ensure cleanliness of international excellence- level here. We have invited international experts for helping us and World Bank will provide technical assistance for the same,” Parmeswaran Iyer, Secretary (Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation), told reporters.Taj Mahal and Manikarnika Ghat(Uttar Pradesh), Vaishno Devi (Jammu and Kashmir), Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh), Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Maharashtra), Ajmer Sharif (Rajasthan), Golden Temple (Punjab), Meenakshi temple and Kamakshi Temple (Tamil Nadu) and Jagannathpuri (Odisha) are the 10 places identified by the government.Iyer said the government plans to do bench-marking to ascertain what will be the standard of cleanliness both inside and outside these places. He said the ministry will organise a two-day workshop next month, when consultations will be held with the experts, who, he said, will help chalk out a roadmap to implement the “site-specific” programme, fix indicators of international standards and decide on timeframe and financial resources.Iyer, who was accompanied by Environment and Forest Ministry Secretary Ajay Narayan Jha during the briefing, stressed that the initiative will require participation of corporate houses, both private and public, and people to succeed.Jha said that the Environment Ministry is working on SOPs to take forward cleanliness around national park/sanctuaries/ tiger reserves “a step forward” and identified 10 such locations with higher footfall being the main focus initially.Among these locations include sanctuaries such as Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary (Andhra Pradesh), Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park (Gujarat) and Flamingo Sanctuary (Maharashtra).Besides these, the government has identified Kanha (Madhya Pradesh), Tadoba-Andhari (Maharashtra), Nagarhole (Karnataka), Periyar (Kerala), Sariska (Rajasthan), Mudumalai (Tamil Nadu) and Jim Corbett (Uttarakhand) tiger reserves.Talking to reporters on ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’, the officials maintained that the implementation of the flagship programme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is “very much on track” as they noted “remarkable” progress has been made over the past 18 months.”…we are in the process of drawing up standard operating procedures. The National Tiger Conservation Authority notification already emphasises on maintenance of cleanliness around tiger reserves. We want to take it a step forward. To start with, we have identified 10 sanctuaries. Other places will be included after the SOP is ready,” Jha said.

Gujarat: 1 of 17 lions captured near Gir sanctuary identified as ‘man-eater’; shifted to Sakkarbaug Zoo

One of the 17 lions, captured last month for killing three persons near the Gir sanctuary, has been identified as a ‘man-eater’ and shifted to the Sakkarbaug Zoo in Gujarat.”A man was killed by a pride of 15 lions. We captured one and found it to be a man-eater. We have now sent the lion to Sakkarbaug Zoo. We have decided to capture the entire pride and shift them. Till now, we have captured 13 lions and kept them in a rescue centre. A scat analysis will be conducted there,” AP Singh, Chief Conservator of Forest (Junagadh division) told ANI.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He further said that out of the 17 lions captured by them last month, one was a male adult, and it turned out to be the main culprit.”We found considerable amount of human remains in that lion’s faeces, while very small amount was found from the faeces of two sub-adult females. It brought us to the conclusion that the male lion attacked, killed and ate humans, while two other sub-adults only ate some leftover body parts. These sub-adults were not involved in attacking and killing humans, as they only ate the leftover parts,” said Singh.Singh added the male lion would be kept in a cage at the zoo for its entire life on the outskirts of Junagadh city, while the two lionesses would be kept locked in any of forest department?s rescue centre.”All the three lions have to spend their lives in captivity now. The other 16 lions of the pride, including several cubs, will be released in the (Gir) sanctuary. As a precaution, they will be released in deeper pockets of the sanctuary, far away from where they were captured,” he said.The pride of 17 lions was caged last month outside the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary in Dhari taluka of Amreli district, on the border of the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.A major portion of the Gir sanctuary falls in the adjoining Junagadh district and Dhari taluka lies on the border of the sanctuary.The forest department had started the drive to cage the lions after three persons – a 14-year-old boy, a woman aged around 50 and a 61-year-old man – were mauled to death by the felines in the same region in April and May.Prior to these incidents, the man-lion conflict was rare in and around Gir, the only abode of Asiatic lions where there are around 523 lions, as per the last census.These incidents sparked anger among the locals, who along with some political leaders, including former Amreli MLA Dilip Sanghani, demanded action against the man-eater lions.

Three Asiatic lions turn man-eaters, sentenced to life in a cage

Ahmedabad: Three Asiatic lions, from near Gir National Sanctuary, found to have turned man-eaters, have been sentenced to life within a cage. A fully grown male lion would be kept in a zoo while the other sub-adult females would be sent to a forest rescue centre permanently, an official said on Wednesday.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“The male lion would be sent to Sakkarbaug Zoo (on the outskirts of Junagadh city) and two lionesses would be locked up in one of the forest department’s rescue centre,” Chief Convervator of Forests, Junagadh Division, AP Singh told reporters.

The forest department officials had laid a trap and captured an entire pride of 17 lions last one month after three persons – a 14-year-old boy, a woman aged around 50 and a 61-year-old man – were mauled to death by the felines in the region between April and May near the Gir sanctuary in Amreli district.

Of the 17 big cats, three were identified as ‘man-eaters’ after a thorough investigation. The forest officials took paw prints of the suspected lions and ordered a laboratory test of their excreta to pinpoint the real culprits.

“After analysing their pug marks and faeces during a 25-day captivity, one adult male and two sub-adult female lions were found to have turned man-eaters, as human remains were found from the excreta of these three,” Singh said. “The male lion attacked, killed and ate up the humans, while the sub-adult females appear to have eaten the leftover body parts.”

“The other 14 lions of the pride, including several cubs, will be released gradually in the (Gir) sanctuary. As a precaution, they will be released in deeper pockets of the sanctuary, far away from where they were captured,” he added.

The key reason for the lions turning man eaters, according to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife, Jamaal Ahmed Khan, is their increasing dispersal beyond the traditional habitats with the increase in their population.

This is where they come into conflict with human beings in regions, which is replete with social and commercial activities, where there is little or no prey base for the carnivore, he said.

Khan told IANS that the Gir lions are no more restricted in the Gir region within 5 to 6,000 km and have now dispersed to as many as 20,000 sq km covering covering districts of Junagadh, Gir-Somnath, Devbhumi Dwarka, Bhavnagar and Amreli in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

According to the 14thAlion census carried out in May last year across 20,000 square km, the population increased from 411 lions in 2010 to 523 in 2015. The census enumerators found that Junagadh, which comprises the Gir region, had maximum number of lions at 268, but the greatest increase in the population was reported from beyond the traditional lion habitats in Amreli district which has 174 lions. And this is where the attacks on humans have occurred.

Laxmikant Parsekar defends his colleague Tawadkar, says ‘no seriousness’ in the issue

Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar refused to drop his colleague Ramesh Tawadkar, who has been chargesheeted in an unlawful assembly case, saying that he finds “no seriousness” in the issue.”Frankly speaking, I don’t find any seriousness in the issue that I have to ask my minister to step down,” Parsekar said last evening responding to demands by opposition to sack Tawadkar. Last week, the sports minister was chargesheeted by Canacona police before a Judicial Magistrate First Class in a over seven year old case in which he allegedly barged into the office of a senior forest officer at Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary and forcibly took away two persons who were in custody there on April 27, 2009.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Allegations against him are of the time when he was an MLA. Post that he contested election, won and also became minister. This is nothing new. The offence was not committed when he was minister, so issue of sacking him does not arise,” Parsekar said.
ALSO READ Modi asked about Kejriwal’s rally: Goa CM Parsekar The chief minister said he had a telephonic conversation with Tawadkar after the chargesheet was filed. “He (Tawadkar) told me that the persons whom he saved during that time were not even Goan but from Karnataka, who were miserably beaten up by the police on the border check post of Goa,” he said.Meanwhile, opposition Congress, AAP and Goa Forward have been demanding resignation of Tawadkar.

‘Lust for killing’ in MoEF: Maneka Gandhi slams Prakash Javadekar over animal culling

On Thursday, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi lashed out at the Union Environment Ministry headed by Prakash Javadekar for handing out permission to kill wild animals. Maneka’s statement comes in the light of the environment ministry submitting a report seeking to legalise killing of certain wild animals which are found in excess in the animal-human conflict areas.

In an interview with ANI, Maneka, who is also an animal rights activist said, “The ministry is writing to each state giving permission to kill animals. In West Bengal, they have issued orders to kill elephants, in Himachal Pradesh they have ordered for monkeys to be killed and in Goa the peacocks are killed. In Maharashtra’s Chandrapur, they have killed 53 wild boar and given permission to kill 50 more.”

Accusing the environment ministry of indulging in animal slaughter, she said, “I don’t know what kind of lust for killing has taken over the environment ministry.”

Maneka claimed that this is the first time a environment ministry has given such a permission to kill animals.

In a move to resolve increasing man-animal conflict, especially those causing damages to crops, environment ministry earlier this week had said that it has sought report from the states to declare certain overpopulated animals as vermin for a limited period of time.

A file photo of Maneka Gandhi. AFPA file photo of Maneka Gandhi. AFP

A file photo of Maneka Gandhi. AFP

Once declared vermin, that particular species can be hunted without restriction.

“We had issued a circular in this regard earlier also. In areas where farmers are facing huge problems due to animals, there is a procedure to declare them as ‘vermin’ like blue bull and wild boar for a particular period of time,” environment minister Prakash Javadekar had said.

“As soon as we get states’ response on this, we will give them permission to declare such animals as ‘vermin’ for a limited period of time,” he said.

If implemented, it will apply to wild animals listed in various Schedules of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) 1972. The provisions to declare wild animals as problem animals are already there in the WPA, the Minister said.

In the past, various tigers have been killed or relocated after they were termed as man-eaters by the state forest departments.

With inputs from PTI

Here’s it, first proof on presence of Eurasian Otters in India

For the first time in history of India’s wildlife conservation, the near threatened Eurasian Otters have been discovered and captured on camera in Satpura Tiger Reserve and in the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor, confirming presence of these elusive creatures in the country. The photo evidence was obtained between November, last year and February when Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) and the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department (MPFD) undertook a joint camera trapping study across 58 sq.kms in Satpura Hill Range and Kanha-Pench corridor.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Otters are elusive creatures that are one of apex species in the wetlands and river ecosystems, feeding largely on fishes. In India, three species – the smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata), Asian small-clawed otter (Aonyx cinerea) and the Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) – are found. The Eurasian Otter is spread across Europe, Africa and Asia and the IUCN has listed it as near threatened on its red list. According to experts, the species has either gone extinct from several regions or it has been reduced to small isolated populations. Except for Europe, there is lack of data on population status and distribution of this species from the rest of the world.”After we obtained the evidence through camera trapping, we followed up with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and confirmed that the photographs were indeed first proof of the presence of Eurasian Otters from India. The otters were found in highland streams in the Satpura reserve,” said Milind Pariwakam, wildlife biologist, central Indian landscape programme, WCT. Camera trapping involves installation of cameras equipped with motion sensor or infrared sensor to capture animal photographs inside deep forests. Wildlife researchers commonly use the technology to establish presence of animals and collect evidence.According to Madhya Pradesh forest department, the presence of Eurasian Otters is also a heartening confirmation of the thriving rivers and streams found in Satpura ranges and in the Kanha-Pench corridor. “This is an exciting discovery that was made as part of the study on tigers in these forests. It is an indication of a healthy ecosystem and biodiversity,” said Ramesh Pratap Singh, former field director, Satpura Tiger Reserve and additional principal chief conservator of forest, wildlife protection.Apart from the Eurasian Otter, the smooth-coated otter is the most abundant and widely distributed in India while the Asian small-clawed is patchily distributed and is found in Himalayan foothills in northern India, parts of Eastern Ghats and in southern Western Ghats.To illustrate the magnitude of the discovery, WCT said in a statement, “These new photo-records extends their geographical range to central India. The discovery of the Eurasian Otter in the Satpura Tiger Reserve proves the value of large inviolate protected areas in conserving bio-diversity. The presence of the rare species in the Kanha Pench corridor also proves the value of connected landscapes for highly endangered species such as gaur, wild dogs, leopards and now the Eurasian Otter.”Satpura Tiger Reserve, established in 1999 and located in Hoshangabad district, Madhya Pradesh, is spread across 2133 sq.kms and includes Pachmarhi wildlife sanctuary, Satpura national park and Bori wildlife sanctuary. The reserve is home to nearly 30 tigers, leopards, jackal, otters, sambar, chital, gaur, Indian Giant squirrel, Indian flying squirrel and 31 species of reptiles. The vegetation is of moist deciduous forest type, teak, mixed forest and sal.

Central Zoo Authority instructs MP government to stop tiger safaris in ‘Mowgli land’

New Delhi: Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has asked Madhya Pradesh forest department to stop tiger safari in the state’s Pench National Park citing alleged violation of wildlife norms. Pench national Park is famous as home to ‘Mowgli’– the protagonist of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’. In a letter to the State’s Chief Wildlife Warden, the CZA said that no safari shall be established without its prior approval.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“As per records of the CZA, no approval has been granted for creation of safari at Pench tiger reserve or Bandhavgarh tiger reserve. Therefore, no construction work should be carried out,” the communique said. The move assumes significance as many wildlife activists have been objecting to the creation of tiger safari in Pench and in Bandhavgarh national parks claiming it harmful for the big cats.

Earlier, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had allegedly found violation of laws in construction of tiger safaris in these two national parks. The NTCA, a statutory body under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, had also written to the state government saying the ongoing construction of tiger safari inside Pench “is detrimental to tiger dispersal” and “exposes them to poaching”.

The Madhya Pradesh forest department has failed to take “prior approval” from the CZA before construction of tiger safari in Pench and Bandhavgarh. “It is a welcome decision by the CZA. We want the state government to immediately stop construction works inside the tiger reserve,” claimed wildlife activist Ajay Dubey. There are six tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh–Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Panna, Bori-Satpura, Sanjay-Dubri and Pench– which have at least 257 big cats. While the tiger population in the country was estimated at 1,706 in 2010, it rose to 2,226 in 2014. Madhya Pradesh ranks third–after Karnataka and Uttarakhand–in tiger population in the country.

In Jammu and Kashmir, animals too fall prey to ‘enforced’ disappearances

Srinagar: In the conflict-ridden Kashmir valley, it is not people alone who go missing. Animals too are now falling prey to ‘enforced’ disappearances and a case in hand is a Hangul, an endangered Kashmir red stag that had been tagged with a satellite collar by wildlife scientists in 2013.

The decision to fit satellite collars on a group of Hangul at Dachigam Park was taken to find out the causes of extinction of the species, but ironically, the lone sample for the research remains untraced. It is being widely speculated that the Hangul died due to strangulation or a possible infection in its neck because the collar had been fixed too tightly. The probable death of the Hangul has also spurred a controversy on the use of radio gadgets on animals. There are no traces of the Hangul and officials have been maintaining silence over the issue.

The collaring was meant to enable satellite telemetry of the animal and provide in-depth knowledge on lesser known aspects of Hangul biology, behaviour and ecology. The cost of the project is pegged at approximately Rs 70 lakh.

Hangul in Jammu and Kashmir. Reuters

Hangul in Jammu and Kashmir. Reuters

“It has come to our knowledge that the Hangul fitted with collar has died in the initial months of the research, and has not survived due to the reasons best known to the scientists,” a wildlife expert said. He said that the satellite collar was tightly fixed around the Hangul’s neck. It is a farce that one Hangul lost its life due to negligence of the officials at a time when the species is already facing extinction due to shrinkage of habitat, official apathy and lack of effective scientific intervention for its survival.

The skeleton of Hangul has not been found so far. “The collared Hangul seems to have migrated to some inaccessible destination where neither the radio waves nor the satellite signals work,” former chief biologist, Department of Wildlife J&K, Dr Mir Mansur, said. He said regardless of which telemetry system was selected, potential effects on Hangul’s normal behaviour must have been considered whenever an animal was handled or instrumented. “Adverse effects from capturing and radio-tagging an animal may have short to long term impact and in some cases, it may prove fatal,” Mansur said. He said there was a technical fault in installing the collar besides disparity in choosing the sample for the study. “Technically, I can affirm that the way the collar was installed onto the animal, it clearly indicates that the Hangul is ether strangulated or has died of infection,” he said. “One Hangul as a sample doesn’t justify the study either.”

After tagging a lone Hangul in 2013, the scientists had later said they would tag eight more Hanguls with satellite collars at Dachigam Park. They claimed to have gained an insight into the behaviour of the highly-endangered animal. The satellite monitoring of Hangul has been carried out by the Centre for Mountain Wildlife Sciences of Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Shuhama, in collaboration with Jammu Kashmir Wildlife Protection Department and Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

“As far as the Hangul project is concerned, researchers haven’t come up with periodical findings and it is because the Hangul is either dead or we have to go by the claims of the researchers,” former Regional Wildlife Warden, Kashmir, Muhammad Shafi Bacha said. He said the Wildlife department in Kashmir “has gone to dogs”.

“There is no rationalisation of the finances issued to the stakeholders. Similar is the case with researches carried out at the department,” Bacha said. “I am working on the census of the Hangul population and the picture is worrying.”

Principal investigator of the project, Dr Khursheed Ahmad, informed that in 2013, an adult male Hangul was tagged with GPS satellite collar and then monitored on a regular basis through real-time satellite link by the scientists. The monitoring enabled scientists to study the animal’s movement, seasonal foraging patterns and other behaviour since 2013. Ahmad said the earlier research on tracking by satellites had given insight not only about the expanse of the park traversed by Hanguls but also on how they avoid certain areas which they see unsafe due to human interference.

He said the research would facilitate better management of these endangered species within its last abode and help scientists plan some future projects. “Collaring gives us an exact data about the subject, its habitation and things that we are working on. In the past, we relied on humans studying the animal behavior and their movements, but now technology gives us more accurate and diverse results,” Dr Khursheed said.

Dachigam National Park, the last habitat of the Hangul, is a 141-sq km multi-terrain expanse near Srinagar starting from the foothills of Zabarwan mountain range to the high-altitude ridges and lakes toward Nagaberan, Tral. “The operation has to be so effective that an animal does not realize what has happened to it and it is vital that it is fitted with the collar quickly and allowed to rejoin its herd,” Dr Khursheed said.

Officials at SKUAST feigned ignorance about the data and assessment of the Hangul project. “I think we have got the data regarding the Hangul project. It has been over two years now. The project should have been completed by now,” Director Research, SKUAST-K, Dr Muhammad Shafi Wani said. About the suspected collar killing issue, Wani said the Hangul may have been eaten up by wild animals in the woods. “We completed the study on that Hangul but I don’t know what happened to the animal afterward,” he said.

Hangul is the only Asiatic survivor of the red deer specie, which was declared a critically engendered species in the Red List of The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in 1996 and also listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to which India is a signatory. Presently, the animal has lost its conservation status in the IUCN Red list of the species. However, Hangul, being the State animal of the Jammu Kashmir, is protected as Schedule 1 specie under both Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978.

Minister for Forest, Environment and Ecology, Chaudhary Lal Singh said conservation of the State animal (Hangul) was a priority for PDP-BJP coalition government. “This is a serious matter and it will be proved,” he said. “I will personally meet the officials and get the figures about it.” Singh said his government was “serious” about the conservation of wildlife animals in the state. “I am planning a trip to all these areas in order to get the report about various matters pertaining to wildlife,” he said. The former Forest Minster, Bali Bhagat, had ordered a probe into the issue, however nothing concrete came up.

The minister put the population of Hangul in Kashmir region at around 200. In the world of wildlife conservation, use of radio telemetry is nothing new. It gives valuable data on animal behavioural patterns from a distance without disturbing their natural movements. Experts and researchers believe that radio collars play a crucial role when it comes to conserving endangered or threatened species. However, they believe there was something intrinsically wrong with these gadgets, trusted by the wildlife scientists for over three decades.

Pertinently, the minister informed the legislators during an ongoing Budget session in summer capital Srinagar that for preservation and safety of Hangul, the Government has submitted a project report of Rs 25.72 crore to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for approval. He said the plan provides conservation, completion of construction and maintenance of conservation Breeding Centre as well as other provisions like veterinarian, research fellows, plan, training and Red Deer breeding expertise consultancy etc. The Minister informed that as per records Shikargah is part of Tral-Cum-Khiram Rakh under the J&K Preservation Act-1942. He said these are deemed to be conservation reserves under J&K Wild Life Protection Act-1978. He said for conservation of Hangul, construction of an off-display Hangul Conservation Breeding Centre was taken up in 2008-09, which continued upto 2011-12 with the assistance of Central Zoo Authority of India.

There are too many questions about the issue, but not many answers. Developed in the US in early 1960s, radio collars were first used in India by the Bombay Natural History Society to study elephants and by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to observe behaviour and movement pattern of lions in Gujarat’s Gir forest in the mid 1980s.

Activists who are already worried over the Hangul mortality rate in Kashmir are not ready to accept the red stag’s death “for the sake of research”. They are raising the question whether radio collars are to blame for animals’ death.

“We had already highlighted this important single case of Hangul with collar. We demand an FIR must be filed under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978 against all involved in this act. As an environmental lawyer, I will write to the Chief Minister and Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and seek a detailed inquiry into the issue and also follow up action,” environmental lawyer and Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Law, Nadeem Qadri said.

Amazon selling wildlife specimens, alleges green body

A wildlife body on Friday alleged that Amazon website was selling wildlife specimens including sea horses and alligator heads, protected under the country’s laws, and urged the company to stop their sale.Wildlife SOS claimed the website was offering an array of wildlife trophies, snares and manuals on hunting – including alligator heads, preserved snakes, butterflies, starfish, rare beetles and seahorses along with dangerous trapping and killing devices like snares.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The body noted it was “incredulous” that a company like Amazon would list items for sale listed under protected species in India. An Amazon India spokesperson, however, said the company supports wildlife protection efforts and it was in the process of informing the seller about the concerns raised so that “corrective action” can be taken.” supports wildlife protection efforts. We are in the process of informing the seller of the concerns raised so that the seller can take corrective action wherever necessary,” the spokesperson said. According to SOS, it has launched a petition asking Amazon to stop selling such items that encourage or propagate maiming, hunting and killing of wildlife.The petition has gathered nearly 7,000 signatures, with animal lovers across the globe expressing their outrage and vowing to boycott the retailer, it said. The campaign aims not just to implore the website to stop selling these items but also educating people about snares and the suffering caused to innocent animals by their use, it said in a statement.Quoting Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, the statement said, “The government and NGOs like Wildlife SOS are struggling to protect our wildlife and make this country safer for animals, yet we have a giant like Amazon shamefully selling wildlife specimens and animal traps that directly contribute to the slaughter of wildlife.” It alleged that traps and snares are being sold on one of the world’s leading online retailer’s website (Amazon) not just in the USA but also in India where all wild animals are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and hunting is illegal.

MoEF preparing guidelines to protect tiger corridors

Facing criticism from conservationists for clearing several projects in vulnerable tiger corridors, the union environment, forest and climate change ministry (MoEF&CC) is working on new guidelines to enhance tiger corridor landscape by getting project proponents to procure land in and along tiger corridors. This can happen as part of compensatory afforestation, ministry officials have said.India is home to an estimated 2,226 tigers and corridors act as a crucial link between protected areas such as tiger reserves or national parks, helping to disperse source populations aiding genetic exchange. Environment minister Prakash Javadekar told dna that his ministry is still preparing separate guidelines to conserve tiger corridors. “We need more forest land in corridors but we cannot do it by law. So we are incentivising, we are preparing guidelines. For compensatory afforestation, if while using 1000 hectares, 800 hectares is provided, but in tiger corridors it will be good enough. It will enhance tiger corridors.”<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Unlike the protected area network of tiger reserves, national park and wildlife sanctuaries, tiger corridors are not protected legally. But, the ministry often seeks the view of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) before clearing projects in crucial tiger corridors. The ecological importance of tiger corridors to aid movement of the big cat from one tiger reserve to another has to be taken into account before clearing projects. MoEFCC secretary Ashok Lavasa said that most crucial corridors have to be first identified. “Project proponents will have to procure land in the corridor to the aid its conservation,” said Lavasa.The NTCA and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) though have already identified the major tiger corridors of the country in a major report called – Connecting Tiger Populations for Long-Term Conservation. The report has categorized corridors under broad landscapes such as Shivalik Hills and Gangetic plain landscape, Central Indian landscape, Western Ghats landscape complex and North East Hills. The Kanha-Pench corridor, Rajaji-Corbett corridor and Nagarhole-Bandipur-Mudumalai-Wayanad corridor are some of the most crucial tiger corridors in the country.In recent past, the Centre has faced maximum flak for allowing multiple infrastructure projects through Kanha-Pench tiger corridor spread across Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The National Highways Authority of India is widening National Highway-7 through this corridor while the Gondia-Jabalpur railway doubling will also cut through it. In another instance, Durgapur open cast mine located near the Tadoba-Indravati tiger corridor was cleared last August.YV Jhala, who co-authored the 2014 tiger census report said on the proposed guidelines, “Government land is not sufficient in tiger corridors and if project proponents are asked to buy land at pinch points where the corridor has shrunk, it will be good. But, whenever a project is cleared in corridors, the mitigation measures recommended need to be implemented with a sound checking mechanism.”Other conservationists said that corridors need to be accorded equal importance as protected areas. “Very few viable tiger corridors are remaining in the country. These corridors are as important as protected areas and development projects should not be allowed to ravage them,” said Anish Andheria, President, Wildlife Conservation Trust, a non-profit organisation working in 110 national parks and sanctuaries of India across 19 states.

Brigadier’s son arrested for hunting endangered goat in Leh

On Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir police and state forest department arrested serving brigadier’s son for allegedly hunting an endangered species of goat, Ladakh urial in Leh, reports a leading daily.According to the report, a colonel stationed at the 254 (1) Armed Brigade in Leh is also being questioned over suspicion of providing the accused two army vehicles and logistics supporting the hunt.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The daily report, quoting Leh SP T Gyalpoo said that Arun Mehta, the accused and son of Brigadier Balraj Mehta (who is posted at Army headquarters in Delhi), was caught with an army jeep which had blood stains. Colonel Banu Pratab Singh, stationed at the 254(1) Armed Brigade, was said to have accompanied the accused along with a few army jawans when the accused was chasing the endangered goat.Mehta was sent to police custody and Colonel Sing was handed over for questioning to the army, the police said.Arun Mehta has been booked under Section 8/51 of the Wildlife Protection Act and Section 7/27 of the Indian Arms Act. As far as Col Singh is concerned, no FIR has been lodged against him, reports the daily.

The Maneka Gandhi column: It’s time we took note of the scourge of rare animals’ trade on the Internet

Two months ago the Ministry of Health raided the kingpin of the illegal oxytocin trade in India. He is a lowly employee of the Municipal Corporation of Kolkata with five houses, and many godowns stuffed with oxytocin, and another illegal drug codeine. Both items have been flown in for him from China regularly by FedEx which has been doing a roaring business in shipping illegal drugs and wildlife trophies across the world. FedEx has not been hauled up as yet. If they are, they will blame a single employee. In July 2015, an American dentist from America went on holiday to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe and shot the national animal, a lion named Cecil, which he then cut into parts and sent to himself through UPS.

Both FedEx and UPS have facilitated wild life crime across the world. More than 26,000 wild hunting trophies were shipped around the world between 2010 and 2014. This includes thousands of wild animal heads, elephant ears, panther skulls, black bear claws and monkey bodies. Other items include turtle eggs, snake skins, panther skulls, alligator skins and rhino horns and leather. These trophies do not include the millions of insects that both these companies have been handling. From India, lakhs of butterflies have been sent through these international shippers and three species have become extinct. Snake skin exports are common. Foreigners come, pay locals to catch the animals and send them through parcels to foreign countries — unchecked by customs and usually mislabelled. Mongoose hair, pangolin scales , star tortoises, even tiger parts – all these are shipped through by the single worst poachers on the planet – UPS and FedEx. I am surprised that they have not been banned from most countries.

After Cecil, the Lion case, they were asked to stop shipping animals and their parts. Both shippers have refused. Over three lakh people have signed petitions saying that they will not use these delivery firms in future. It makes no difference to them. Even after the lion case, they have shipped another couple of hundred trophies of elephants, wild buffalo and leopards out of Africa to America. A spokesman for UPS said that it “is strongly against the trafficking or trade of endangered species” but “accepts for shipment taxidermy items that are legally obtained and appropriately documented”. That is an outright lie. No documentation is given or asked for any illegal shipment of wild animals or drugs by either of these two firms. The dentist has also killed a leopard and an elephant.

Blackbucks in a field. Image courtesy: Jay MazoomdarBlackbucks in a field. Image courtesy: Jay Mazoomdar

Blackbucks in a field. Image courtesy: Jay Mazoomdar

Keng Liang Wong, a Malaysian wildlife smuggler has been sentenced in federal court in San Francisco to 71 months jail and a fine of $60,000 for trafficking in some of the most endangered reptile species in the world. The species involved ranged from Komodo Monitors and Plowshare Tortoises which are on the brink of extinction. Wong also trafficked in such rare species as the Chinese Alligator, the False Gavial and the Radiated Tortoise, Gray’s Monitor, Spider Tortoise, Burmese Star Tortoise, Indian Star Tortoise, Boelen’s Python, Timor Python, Green Tree Python, and Fly River Turtle. He sent regular shipments to the US through Fed Ex. Seven other defendants have been convicted for sending or receiving FedEx consignments, including a FedEx employee Robert Paluch. Wong spearheaded an international smuggling ring that illegally imported and sold more than 300 protected reptiles native to Asia and Africa. None of this could have happened without Fed Ex, who brought the reptiles in express delivery packages and large commercial shipments of legally declared animals.

The United States is the biggest customer for all illegal wildlife. But while special agents in the Wildlife Service patrol the major air and seaports, no one is paying attention to FedEx, Airborne and other mail carrier hubs. In fact the number of agents has decreased over the last 25 years while wildlife crime has exploded in sales and revenue across the globe. The staggering profits which now run into billions have engaged international organized crime syndicates like the Russian mafias. The growth has been fed by the internet and the parcel carriers. The net is an unrestricted shopping mall for natural resources and has enabled thousands of illegal transactions from one side of the world to another. Global shipping services are a smugglers’ best friends. They don’t screen packages but do provide online tracking and delivery confirmation. Dealers use their services regularly as the animals and their parts arrive safely. In one DHL package from Singapore, labelled as toys addressed to a dealer from California, US wildlife officials found 51 Indian star tortoises smuggled out of India. Caviar, eggs taken from the slit bodies of live protected sturgeons, is a commonly smuggled item.

India is one of the major victims of the parcel trade. We have no sniffer dogs at parcel venues. Even though DHL, FedEx, UPS have been caught many times in both drug and animal smuggling, no action is taken against them and they are left to “self regulation”. Our Home Ministry has no one patrolling the internet for wild animals / fish / birds being freely advertised by Indian sellers. Some instances are the thousands of painted glass fish being offered, dried seahorses, shark fins, dried fish bladders, butterflies, and scorpions – all these will be exported illegally through the parcel companies. Even though there is a ban on all ivory advertisements, code words are common on the Net and in the shipment service. As soon as a law enforcement agency catches on that “white gold” is code for “ivory,” a new code word pops up.

Sites like Yahoo openly advertise ivory. More than 12 tons of ivory exchanged hands from 2012 to 2014 on Yahoo Japan. With more than 30,000 elephants being killed for their ivory each year, Japan and China have emerged as the drivers of the illegal trade. How did the ivory reach Japan from India and Africa? FedEx zindabad. While Google has technically banned ivory sale on its platform, it still has advertisements for ivory products on its shopping site in Japan. The advertisements are for hanko, ivory Japanese stamps used as signatures on contracts.

eBay has been identified as the worst offender in the online trade of endangered wildlife products. The International Fund for Animal Welfare found that 4,300 of 5,200 tracked elephant ivory listings took place on eBay. Amazon explicitly bans ivory sales. Still, the Environmental Investigation Agency found, in 2013, that the company allowed thousands of ads for real ivory on its Japanese site. Craigslist was thrust into the spotlight in March 2015 after an investigation by IFAW and the Wildlife Conservation Society showed more than 600 elephant-related items, worth a total of $1.5 million, were advertised on the website. Only three percent were legally obtained. Craigslist is still selling ivory products and endangered animal parts. When a customer buys an illegal animal item from these sites, who do you think delivers them to your doorstep; the unhampered, unregulated parcel companies. In March 2015 UPS forfeited $40 million to the US Government for shipping drugs from “illegal internet pharmacies”.

Fed Ex admitted that it had been doing the same but refused to pay the fine. A Grand Jury has indicted them for delivering drugs to vacant homes, parking lots where carloads of people are waiting, customers with multiple names and suspicious identification documents and people who are under watch by the local law enforcement agencies for criminal activities. In its defence FedEx claims that its job is to deliver packages. Not to examine packages to make sure they are legal. We are a transportation company – we are not law enforcement.” is their cry. Which means they can carry on criminal smuggling right under the nose of every government!
Today, over 140 species of sharks are threatened by extinction. An estimated 73 million are killed per year for shark fin soup. 98% come from India where shark fin export has been banned. Two international shipping companies — UPS and DHL — publicly declared they will not ship shark fins any more. FedEx has refused to take part in the ban. And we refuse to do anything about it.

To join the animal welfare movement contact [email protected],

India willing to share tigers to help Cambodia, experts call for caution

At the conclusion of the third Asia ministerial conference on tiger conservation India signalled that it is willing to share its Bengal tigers in countries such as Cambodia where the animal has no viable breeding population.Translocation and reintroduction of tigers has never happened between two countries. “We are willing to provide all co-operation in this regard and the idea will be taken ahead when all issues are looked at,” said Prakash Javadekar, union minister for environment, forest and climate change.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>As per World Wildlife Fund, tigers are “functionally extinct” in Cambodia as there is no breeding population left. India on the other hand has 2,226 Bengal tigers constituting 70 per cent of the global tiger population as per the 2014 population estimation exercise. Though the two countries engaged in conversation on this issue at the global conference, Cambodia is yet to officially move a proposal requesting India to consider sharing its tigers.”The Eastern highlands are conducive for tiger reintroduction in Cambodia. By way of this global conference, we have begun talks with India on this issue. But before submitting any proposals to India we will have to look at the feasibility of reintroduction,” Ty Sokhun, Secretary of State, Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries told dna.While India is home to the Bengal or royal Bengal tiger sub-species of tiger Cambodia had the Indochinese tigers, also found in neighbouring Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Tiger experts said that a plan to reintroduce tigers from India in another tiger range has to be thought out carefully since its success depends on numerous factors.”Elaborate planning and background study is required for such a proposal. First of all, the recipient country needs to have suitable habitat and prey base to sustain tigers from another sub-species. If that is not available then reintroduction will fail. The beginning of a conversation on this reintroduction is welcome but it should be done only when all the necessary checks are carried out,” said Rajesh Gopal, secretary general, Global Tiger Forum and former head of Project Tiger.Panna a successfulIn India, Panna Tiger Reserve has successfully managed a full-scale translocation and reintroduction programme after all but one tiger was left. The reserve got four females from other tiger reserves along with two males to mate. Today, Panna has more than 30 tigers.

Cabinet nod to adopt SAWEN statute to check wildlife crimes

New Delhi: Union cabinet on Tuesday gave its nod for India adopting the statute of the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) which will help in checking cross border wildlife crimes.

Saving India's wildlife. ReutersSaving India's wildlife. Reuters

Saving India’s wildlife. Reuters

The approval by the cabinet at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi allows the country to become a formal member of SAWEN in order to strengthen ties with the member countries in controlling the trans-boundary wildlife crime through communication, coordination, collaboration, capacity building and cooperation in the region.

SAWEN is a regional network comprises eight countries in South Asia—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India,
Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka—and aims at working as a strong regional inter¬governmental body for combating wildlife crimes by attempting common goals and approaches for combating illegal trade in the region.

Modi had after inaugurating the third Asia ministerial conference on tiger conservation on Monday announced that
India was moving towards formally adopting the statute of SAWEN.

“The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval for India adopting the Statute of
the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) and India and becoming its formal member in order to strengthen ties with the member countries in controlling the trans-boundary wildlife crime through communication, coordination, collaboration, capacity building and cooperation in the region,” an official statement said.

The South Asia region is very vulnerable to illegal traffic and wildlife crimes due to presence of precious biodiversity and large markets as well as traffic routes for wildlife products in the region.

The collaboration in harmonising as well as enforcing the wildlife protection in the region is considered very important for effective conservation of biodiversity.

Elaborating on the objectives of the adoption of the statute, the statement said India along with other member
countries will take initiatives to bring “harmonisation and standardisation” in laws and policies to conserve fauna and flora and will also document the trend of poaching, illegal trade and related threats to the natural biodiversity.

The objectives also include strengthening institutional responses to combat wildlife crime by promoting research and information sharing, training and capacity building, technical support, sharing experiences and outreach and to encourage member countries to prepare and implement their national action plans in curbing wildlife crime.


‘Doubling population by 2022 is unrealistic’: Wildlife expert Dr Karanth on the tiger population in the country

On Wednesday, newspapers across the world reported widely that the population of wild tigers had grown from 3,200 in 2010 to 3,800 in 2014 which has been steadily dwindling for 100 years.

Quoting a joint report from The World Wildlife Fund and The Global Tiger Forum the news came ahead of the three day International Union for Conservation of Nature Conference of 13 countries in New Delhi.

The WWF-GTF report should have brought much cheer to conservationists, however, world renowned conservation zoologist and leading tiger expert based in Bengaluru, Dr K Ullas Karanth, Director for Science-Asia for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), was quick to release a critical response to the WWF-GTF report.

Dr Ullas Karanth. Photo credit: Sandesh KadurDr Ullas Karanth. Photo credit: Sandesh Kadur

Dr Ullas Karanth. Photo credit: Sandesh Kadur

Stating that these were his personal views and may not reflect that of the WCS, Dr Karanth said, “The various country-wide, regional, and landscape level tiger numbers reported in the WWF-GTF report are not based on any estimates from intensive rigorous camera trap/DNA studies of source populations. They are predominantly based on various kinds of counts of tiger spoor or in some cases simple guesswork.”

He also stated, that “Some tiger numbers cited in the GTF-WWF report have been generated by demonstrably flawed statistical extrapolations. Consequently these numbers are not reliable or useful metrics for assessing the fate of wild tigers, unlike the rigorous methods.”

We reached out to Dr Karanth to find out more.

Firstpost: So does this report call for celebration or is it a call too soon?

Dr Karanth: Neither, these numbers are all derived using poor methods or in some cases, guesswork.

Firstpost: India has the best numbers — 2,226 tigers. Cambodia on the other hand has zero tigers. What did we do better than the other countries?

Dr Karanth: India certainly has more tigers than any other country, for the past 50 years we have invested more money, man power, and political backing for tiger conservation and the results are showing.

Firstpost: Has the tiger population really grown or is it that our survey methods are better? For instance you have pioneered the radio telemetry and also the Camera trapping techniques. How have these newer methods vis-à-vis pug mark method changed in the tiger population census?

Dr Karanth: Tiger population in India has grown from the lows of 1960s, but the growth is uneven across the country.

His response to the report clarified this further: Tiger ‘source populations’ that produce ‘surpluses’ occupy just 90,000 sq km of the remaining 1.2 million square kilometers of tiger habitat in the world. About 90 per cent of all surviving tigers are confined to small 7 per cent area, broken up into 40-50 source populations. Tigers will certainly go extinct if we fail to protect these. Because of this these source populations should be monitored using the most rigorous methods that employ camera trap/DNA surveys at advanced statistical models.

The Pugmark method was abandoned in 2005 and camera traps are being used increasingly now, although not always using the best statistical design or analyses. These aspects need more attention.

Firstpost: You and the Centre for Wildlife Society (CWS) have done a lot of work in the Nagerhole National Park and in saving the Bengal tiger. How did this work help in conservation and preservation of tigers?

Dr Karanth: The WCS supported work in Nagarahole for over 30 years and has many components: development of new methods to monitor tigers and prey; gathering basic knowledge about their biology using these methods, supporting fair voluntary relocation of people who want to move out of the reserve and citizen science to develop local conservation leaders. All these have delivered gains, I think.

Firstpost: What can we look forward to gaining at the upcoming 3 day International Union for Conservation of Nature Conference of 13 countries at Delhi?

Dr Karanth: Such tiger summits have been held regularly for the past 10 years at great cost to the tax-payer… I do not think they have been very useful in practical terms.

Firstpost: Whither 2022 and what are the goals you hope to achieve by then?

Dr Karanth: I do not believe the goal of doubling tiger numbers by 2022 is realistic. I hope the country will infuse more rigorous science into its already substantial investments in tiger conservation.

‘Focus of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been on doing such advanced monitoring of number of key source populations across tiger range. Rigorous, intensive, long term camera trap studies conducted by WCS in India, Thailand and Russia show that tiger population recovery from depressed levels is a slow process, even in these relatively better protected sites. None of the populations have been observed to ‘double’ in 10 years, even under best of protection.

If that is the case, simple back of the envelope calculations show that to double global tiger numbers from 3200 tigers in 2012 within ten years, would necessarily require increases of 27 per cent per year in ‘sink landscapes’.
This does not appear to be a realistic goal.

Firstpost: Predators are increasingly appearing in human habitats like the recent incidents of a leopard getting into school in Bangalore and a tiger that was killed in Nagaland. With increasing encroachment of forest land, how can we prevent these kinds of human-animal conflict for habitat and right to life?

Dr Karanth: Tigers are at high densities and producing surpluses in some well protected reserves, so such conflicts are inevitable on the edges and need to be managed scientifically so that local people living around the reserves do not turn hostile to them.

The notion that these tigers are coming out because there is no food for them inside is not correct. If there is no prey, tigers cannot raise cubs and the population dwindles.

India has successful track record of protecting its tigers, says PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said India has a long standing and successful track record of protecting its tigers.PM Modi said tiger conservation is a collective responsibility of the Government of India and states.”I also compliment the state governments for their efforts,” he said in his address after inaugurating the third Asia Ministerial Conference on the tiger conservation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said tiger conservation or conservation of nature is not a drag on development, adding both can happen in mutually complementary manner.Prime Minister Modi said the tiger has brought all of us together here.
ALSO READ Wild tiger population increases for the first time in 100 years”By protecting the tiger, we protect entire ecosystem and ecological services, which are equally crucial for the well-being of human beings,” he added.The Prime Minister said the benefits from tiger conservation are enormous but intangible.”We cannot quantify this in economic terms,” he added.Prime Minister Modi also mentioned the great effort made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in convening the Tiger Summit in 2010.He said forests are inseparable from wild animals, adding both are mutually complementary.”Destruction of one leads to destruction of the other. We consider the earth as our mother. In India, the majority of the population respects trees, animals, forests, rivers and other elements of nature like the sun and the moon,” he said.India has more than 70% of global tiger populationThe Prime Minister further said India as a country having more than 70% of global tiger population is committed to complement initiatives of other Tiger Range Countries.More than 700 tiger experts, scientists, managers, donors and other stakeholders from all Tiger Range Countries will discuss issues related to tiger conservation and anti poaching strategies during the three-day event.The ministers and government officials from all Tiger Range Countries, namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, India, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russian Federation, Thailand, Vietnam, besides Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan, having ranges of Snow Leopard are also participating in the conference.While several Tiger Range Countries like India, Nepal, Russia and Bhutan have registered an increase in tiger population, the status of Tiger remains ‘endangered’. Tiger population has decimated to non-viable level in some range countries, which is a cause for concern.Minister of State for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar has said the government has allotted 380 crore rupees to Project Tiger in the current fiscal year, which is an all-time high.He said India is committed to the conservation of Tiger, which is the national animal.Javadekar also said due to the concerted efforts of the government and other stakeholders, more than 70% of the global wild tiger population is in India.The conference is the latest step in the Global Tiger Initiative process that began with the Tiger Summit in Russia in 2010. At the Global Tiger Summit at St. Petersburg held in 2010, range countries committed to double the tiger number by 2022 and adopted the Global/National Tiger Recovery Programme.This conference is being co-organized by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, National Tiger Conservation Authority, Global Tiger Forum, Global Tiger Initiative Council, Wildlife Institute of India, WWF and Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Taxidermy model created for popular Great Indian Bustard- Alpha

The country’s only taxidermist, Mumbai-based Dr Santosh Gaikwad, has played a crucial role in giving a new lease of ‘life’ to one of India’s most loved and photographed birds — Alpha, the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) that died in September last year.Taxidermy is an art that involves stuffing an animal body to preserve it for display and educational purposes by making it seem life-like.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Alpha, who was also popularly known as ‘Vicky Donor’, was from Nanaj Wildlife Sanctuary (NWS) in Solapur. It’s role was extremely important as it was one of only two males at NWS, which is home to the critically-endangered GIBs in Maharashtra. Forest officials were sure that the bird could attract females to procreate, thus helping increase the numbers of GIBs in Maharashtra, which has only five or six of these at present, of which two are at NWS. But, Alpha was found dead in a small village, Karamba, outside the sanctuary’s premises.Dr Gaikwad said: “It (the process of taxidermy) was an extremely challenging task, since when forest department officials brought Alpha to me post his death, almost 50 to 60 of his big feathers were found to have been separated. Also while carrying out the taxidermy of birds, one has to be extremely careful since the skin is as thin as only a few pages of a newspaper stacked together. This makes the art of dissection a severe test since if even a small mistake is made, all the feathers would come out and the final model would look ugly.”Since Gaikwad — who runs the Wildlife Taxidermy Centre at Sanjay Gandhi National Park — was also busy with other projects, Alpha’s taxidermy was kept on hold. But now, after a three-week process, the GIB is ready, standing four feet tall.The skinned bird’s skeleton was used to create a mold and after a process of tanning, the skin was fixed to the mold and stitched along with neatly-arranged feathers just like the ones on the live bird. The finishing touches involved giving it glass eyes and a platform with grass to stand on.”This was the first time that I got to properly create a GIB model since before this I had created a model for a small female, but it could not be given the best shape as it was brought to me in a very poor condition,” Gaikwad said.”Alpha was the pride of NWS for almost a decade, adored even by tourists, and was the most photographed GIB. Hence, we have decided to preserve it in the GIB interpretation centre at Nanaj,” said chief conservator of forest Sunil Limaye, who is the in-charge of NWS.About Great Indian BustardGIB is listed under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and is also listed as a critically-endangered species by the IUCN since the population of this bird has reduced to below 150 across India. It’s found in dry bushy grasslands and the GIB can be distinguished by the black crown on its forehead, contrasting with a pale neck and head. They breed mostly during the monsoon season. Males have a gular pouch right below the tongue, which helps produce a resonant booming mating call to attract females and can be heard up to a distance of 500 metres.

Vanishing fauna: Madhya Pradesh has lost 16 tigers in the last year due to poaching, says NGO

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh has lost nearly 16 tigers, including seven in Pench reserve, due to poaching and others reasons in the last one year.

While an NGO blamed the state government for it, forest officials contended that most of the deaths were natural.

MP has lost 16 tigers in the last year. Reuters

MP has lost 16 tigers in the last year. Reuters

“MP, which was once tagged as tiger state, has slipped to number three slot in the country in big cats count primarily due to the state government’s failure to protect the majestic beasts,” Ajay Dubey, who runs NGO Prayatna for protecting the feline, told PTI on Friday.

“Even after eight years, the Special Tiger Protection Force has not been formed in MP,” he said.

“The conviction rate in tiger poaching is below 10 percent in MP. The intelligence gathering regarding poaching is zero. No preventive arrest in regard to tiger poaching has been made in recent memory,” he contended.

However, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Shahbaz Ahmad said, “The state government and forest department are doing their best to protect tigers. The killing of tigers is just negligible.”

Maximum deaths of the big cats reported in the state were natural, he said.

Ahmad said a few cases of electrocution and poisoning of tigers had come to light which were being dealt with severely. In some cases, people had laid traps to kill herbivores where the striped animals walked-in, he said.

Efforts were also on to overcome man-animal conflict around the tiger reserves, he said.

On the formation of Special Tiger Protection Force, Ahmad said it is under consideration of the state government.

As per National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) official website, MP lost 16 tigers in the last 12 months.

Seven deaths were reported from Pench Tiger Reserve, where a tigress along with its two cubs were poisoned in Satosha area last month, a senior official said, adding three persons were arrested in this connection.

In September last year also, the Pench Tiger Reserve authorities arrested four poachers and recovered body parts of a big cat they had killed.

“These poachers are being prosecuted,” Pench Reserve’s Director Shubranjan Sen told PTI.

Besides, tiger deaths were also reported from Kanha Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, a forest in Chhindwara district, Umaria-Shahdol district highway and Dewas, as per the NTCA website.

The details of most of the deaths was awaited by NTCA, the website said.

Madhya Pradesh loses 16 tigers in last 12 months

Madhya Pradesh has lost nearly 16 tigers, including seven in Pench reserve, due to poaching and others reasons in the last one year.While an NGO blamed the state government for it, forest officials contended that most of the deaths were natural.”MP, which was once tagged as tiger state, has slipped to number three slot in the country in big cats count primarily due to the state government’s failure to protect the majestic beasts,” Ajay Dubey, who runs NGO Prayatna for protecting the feline, told PTI today.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Even after eight years, the Special Tiger Protection Force has not been formed in MP,” he said.”The conviction rate in tiger poaching is below 10 per cent in MP. The intelligence gathering regarding poaching is zero. No preventive arrest in regard to tiger poaching has been made in recent memory,” he contended.However, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Shahbaz Ahmad said, “The state government and forest department are doing their best to protect tigers. The killing of tigers is just negligible.”Maximum deaths of the big cats reported in the state were natural, he said.Ahmad said a few cases of electrocution and poisoning of tigers had come to light which were being dealt with severely.In some cases, people had laid traps to kill herbivores where the striped animals walked-in, he said.Efforts were also on to overcome man-animal conflict around the tiger reserves, he said.On the formation of Special Tiger Protection Force, Ahmad said it is under consideration of the state government.As per National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) official website, MP lost 16 tigers in the last 12 months.Seven deaths were reported from Pench Tiger Reserve, where a tigress along with its two cubs were poisoned in Satosha area last month, a senior official said, adding three persons were arrested in this connection.In September last year also, the Pench Tiger Reserve authorities arrested four poachers and recovered body parts of a big cat they had killed.”These poachers are being prosecuted,” Pench Reserve’s Director Shubranjan Sen told PTI.Besides, tiger deaths were also reported from Kanha Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, a forest in Chhindwara district, Umaria-Shahdol district highway and Dewas, as per the NTCA website.The details of most of the deaths was awaited by NTCA, the website said.

MoEF expert panel asks NTCA to study Bunder diamond mine project; site already identified as rich forest

An expert panel of the Union environment and forest ministry has established without doubt that Rio Tinto Exploration India Private Limited’s (RTEIPL) proposed diamond mining project in Bunder, Madhya Pradesh, falls in an inviolate forest or ‘no-go’ area for mining. Even as it established this with the help of both digital forest maps and ground surveys, the ministry’s expert panel wants to know the view of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) as the proposed diamond mine falls in the crucial tiger corridor between Panna Tiger Reserve and Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The proposed Bunder diamond mining project falls in Chhatarpur forest division of Madhya Pradesh and the Rs.2200 crore project is currently being appraised for forest clearance as it requires felling of 970 hectares of richforest. While in the past several projects have been rejected on the grounds that they fall in the inviolate forest area, the ministry’s expert panel is yet to take a call on it and wants to wait for the NTCA to carry out a ground survey. Under the wildlife protection act, 1972, NTCA can recommend the ministry to reject a project if it finds it unsustainable for protection and conservation of wildlife corridors that links two protected areas or tiger reserves. NTCA has formed a three-member team to examine this project. Besides being a crucial tiger habitat the forest in question is also home to the Indian rumped vulture, leopards, sloth bear, Indian Gazelle and Chowsingha.The digital maps of the vast forest area and ground surveys by a ministry team revealed that the proposed mining site is home to Southern Dry Mixed Deciduous Forest and a Very Dry Teak Forest which is in its climatic stages of evolution and is one of the largest forest type of its kind. On parameters of forest cover, forest type, biological richness and landscape integrity it scored high thus qualifying for the inviolate category or a ‘no-go’ area four mining.During its field visit, the ministry’s team observed, “from any point in the forest area to the area comprising a circle of a radius of 5kms is having good floral contiguity with approximately crown cover more than 70%.” While the ministry official themselves have already confirmed the high value of the forest that will have to be felled,t some of the villages located on the proposed mining site such as Shehpura Gram Sabha have opposed the project.Rio Tinto’s proposed diamond mine is one of many projects located in highly sensitive wildlife corridors. In recent times, the ministry has mostly cleared projects falling in wildlife corridors after drawing up mitigation measures to protect the animals. But even the mitigation measure have come under fire from wildlife activists. The ministry recently cleared a proposal to build an air-strip in the core of Indravati Tiger Reserve, Chhattisgarh. In another project that has courted immense controversy, it cleared widening of National Highway-7 that will cut through the Kanha-Pench wildlife corridor.Background of the projectThe estimated deposit of the kimberlitic ore is 53.7 million ton and that of diamond is 34.2 million carat. The project cost, at current value, is estimated to be Rs.2200 crore and the current mineral value is estimated to be Rs.20,500 crore. The Madhya Pradesh government and Rio Tinto Exploration India Private Limited (RTEIPL) have signed a state support agreement in 2010. The agreement allows the company to evaluate, develop, construct, finance, operate and manage integrated diamond mining and processing operation at Bunder diamond deposit.

Maharashtra project to radio collar Vidarbha tigers

In a first of its kind study in central India, Maharashtra forest department has launched a project to radio collar tigers in Vidarbha, to monitor their movements and dispersal. According to officials, the study will help in the protection of the corridors used by these felines to move from one forest area to another.Senior forest department officials said that the state government had written to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) asking them to study the dispersal and movement of tigers using radio collaring. Recently, two male cubs of tiger T6 at the Umred-Karhandla tiger reserve were radio collared and WII experts are expected to radio collar 13 more big cats from other tiger reserves.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Forest officials affirm that this is the first time that such a project is being done at this magnitude as tigers from six reserves in Maharashtra, including Tadoba, Melghat, Pench, Nagzira, Sahyadri and Bor, could be collared for the study.A senior Forest official said the project could prove to be a shot in the arm for saving the tiger corridors, which are under severe threat, thanks to urbanisation, as well as mining and other projects. “Once the study is out we will know the important corridors used by tigers,” said an official adding that the corridors can then be given same status and protection by amending the current laws.”Adult tigers move from one area to another. The study will help understand their movement patterns,” said MS Reddy, chief conservator of forests and field director of the Pench Tiger Project. “The project will study the dispersal of tigers, their movement, identify the corridors etc. Identifying the corridor also help in reducing the man-animal conflict,” said Reddy.The Rs 1 crore project will be executed by WII experts Bilal Habib and Parag Nigam where the collared felines will be monitored for two years, depending on the battery life of the collars. Two tigers from the Tadoba Andhari tiger reserve (TATR) were also radio collared last year. Though this had the same purpose, it is not part of the new project.Fact CheckMaharashtra has 6 national parks, 47 wildlife sanctuaries, 4 conservation reservesEstimated tiger population: Around 190 (census report of 2014)India has 2,226 tigers (census report 2014), up from 1,706 in 2010Benefits & concernsA radio collar is a belt fitted with radio transmitter that emits signals that can be tracked and is put around the neck of a tiger. Over a period of time wildlife researchers believe that radio collaring is one of the best ways to study tiger behaviour and its movement. There were even claims that radio collars cause deaths and was a reason for them not breeding but these have been denied by experts.

SC seeks Centre, states response on owning elephants

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and several states including Kerala and Goa to apprise it on whether a person can keep an elephant in his custody as the owner under the wild life protection laws.A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said if there is no prohibition for keeping an elephant, then what rule would govern the upkeep of a wild animal like pachyderm. The bench also comprising Justice Shiva Kirti Singh asked who the authorities were to regulate the health and upkeep of elephants.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The direction came after Animal Welfare Board submitted a report regarding the upkeep of three elephants and alleged violation of Wild Life (Protection) Act by two resorts in Goa.Senior advocate CA Sundaram appearing for Animal Welfare Board in its report has mentioned 10 aspects pertaining to apparent violation of animal protection laws and guidelines and made recomendations for the upkeep of elephants.The bench posted the matter for further hearing on April 27 and sought the replies within three weeks. The direction came on two applications moved on a PIL, filed by six organisations and individuals including Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, which said the number of captive elephants kept by private persons and religious institutions stood at over 3,000.The two pleas alleged that the elephants, used for religious processions or rides, were chained and ill-treated in violation of the statutory provisions. Earlier, on December 8, the apex court had sought reply from the Centre, Rajasthan and Goa on pleas alleging that cruelty was being meted out to elephants used for such rides in these states.The court had taken note of pleas alleging cruelty meted out to captive elephants in Kerala, particularly in temples, and directed the top wildlife officer to undertake a head count of all of them and act against those keeping them without the requisite permission.Kerala had informed the court that there are total 599 privately-owned elephants in the state, out of which 289 have no declared owners under the Wildlife Act. The court had directed the Chief Wildlife Warden to ensure that all captive elephants in Kerala are counted and registered. Elephants are used to participate in religious festivals and processions in Kerala and also to carry the deities.

An airstrip inside Indravati tiger reserve and mine near Similipal reserve cleared by MoEF

At a time when the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is trying to improve the tiger habitat and their numbers in Chhattisgarh and Odisha, the union environment ministry’s wildlife board has cleared an air-strip in the buffer area of Indravati Tiger Reserve, Bijapur and also approved renewal of an iron mining license near the Similipal Tiger Reserve in the Badampahar reserved forest.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Compared to the states such as Madhya Pradesh or Maharashtra that have a high tiger population, Chhattisgarh and Odisha lag behind. While the Indravati tiger reserve serves as a crucial tiger corridor linking it to the Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve in Maharashtra, the Similipal tiger reserve has seen a reduction Badampahar forests serve as a crucial elephant corridor.According to the 2014 all India tiger estimation report, Chhattisgarh has shown an increase in tiger numbers due to the first extensive assessment of Indravati Tiger Reserve but Odisha has shown a decline due to loss of tiger habitat.Official documents show that the airstrip inside buffer area of Indravati Tiger Reserve has been planned to counter left-wing extremism in the region. But interestingly, there was no discussion in the wildlife board meeting on the potential disturbance to wildlife due to operations at the air-strip, according to the minutes of the meeting.In fact, even the NTCA approved the project without much resistance. The wildlife board though has granted wildlife clearance with riders. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has been told to work out a plan to reduce disturbance to wild animals and accident by vehicles as the air strip will be located close to the forest area.To distract animals from coming close to the air strip, creation of water bodies and development of grassland has to be taken up in buffer ranges of Bijapur. As compensation, Rs5 crore, the state government has to deposit Rs5 crore in the tiger conservation foundation.Meanwhile, independent experts in the wildlife board highlighted the importance Mayurbhanj Elephant Project close to the iron mine. It was suggested that adequate mitigation measures are needed for preventing human-elephant conflict As part of mitigation efforts the mining company M/s Lal Traders and Agencies has been asked to deposit 2 per cent of project cost or Rs.1 crore, whichever is lesser. The company has also been asked to fund a project on elephant dispersal from Similipal Tiger Reserve to adjoining landscapes.

Sudhir Mungantiwar’s no tiger poaching claim unacceptable: Animal activist

Despite minister for forests Sudhir Mungantiwar stating in the state assembly that there has been no tiger poaching incident in the state in past two years, activist Kishor Rithe has objected to it and said that it is impossible to accept this claim as there are a few unanswered questions.Mungantiwar on Wednesday had informed the state assembly about it. Rithe — president of Satpuda Foundation and is also former member of the standing committee of National Board for Wildlife — cited an incident which took place on December 27, 2015. He pointed out that on December 27, 2015 four tiger cubs were found abandoned. The question remains as to where is their mother? Rithe said that there is a possibility that the mother of the cubs was eliminated by poachers.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Speaking to dna Rithe said that it is hard to believe the claim by the minister since on March 15, 2016 a tiger was found dead in compartment 23 of Pawnar in Zarijamani Tehsil of Yawatmal circle and it is suspected poaching by poisoning out of revenge killing. Hence, it is hard to believe that the minister is unaware of the same. “On March 14, a leopard was found trapped in a snare wire trap which was actually put for killing wild boars in Nanded. There are number of such instances which shows that wildlife poaching is going on in Maharashtra,” he said.He added: “I cannot accept his claim as he has the figures from official record — NTCA/Traffic India of tiger mortalities from October 2015 to January 2016 — that states that there are 28 total tiger deaths of which 7 deaths are from Maharashtra.”Rithe pointed out that if one takes the tiger skin seizures during the same period, there are no seizures of which the credit goes to cyber crime cell set up by the government of Maharashtra under the leadership of Mungantiwar.”At the same time there are many wildlife (other than tiger) poaching incidents detected by Maharashtra forest department which are reported time to time in the media as well. It is visible that wildlife poaching is going on in Maharashtra by local poachers and the presence of Bahelia gangs also have been reported by the department which shows that they are also active,” said the activist.Rithe, however, has appreciated the efforts by Mungantiwar. He said: “I must accept that the poaching gangs from outside the state seem scared to see more vigilant Maharashtra forest department. We must also thank the judiciary in Maharashtra for acknowledging the gravity of this heinous crime and not granting the bail to these notorious tiger poachers.”

Delhi saves 229 MW power during Earth Hour

Delhi today saved around 229 MW of power as electrical appliances were switched off across the city between 8.30 AM and 9.30 PM as part of the global Earth Hour initiative aimed at energy conservation.Power major BSES said its twin arms BSES Rajdhani and BSES Yamuna, that caters to large parts of the national capital, saved around 130 MW and 77 MW of electricity each.”This is more than last year when Delhi had saved around 200 MW,” it said in a statement.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BSES had earlier appealed to its over 37 lakh customers to unequivocally support the event and voluntarily switch off non-essential electrical appliances for an hour.The Earth Hour also coincided with the India-Pakistan match in the ongoing T20 World Cup, which started around 8.30 PM after being delayed by rain.Earth Hour is an annual international event created by WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund) that urges households and business establishments across the world to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for an hour at the appointed time to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change.

Uttarakhand CM Rawat gives green signal for Special Tiger Protection Force in Corbett              

Dehradun: Against the backdrop of five tiger pelts being seized recently, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish
Rawat has given his nod for setting up a 112-member Special Tiger Protection Force at the Corbett Tiger Reserve and
deployment of 100 additional personnel for forest patrolling.

Clearance for constituting a Special Tiger Protection Force at Corbett was given by Rawat at a meeting with the
Wildlife Board on Wednesday, an official release said.

The Chief Minister also underlined the need for better co-ordination between the forest and police departments to
check wildlife crimes and asked their officials to hold a high level meeting every month to take stock of wildlife crimes and take measures to control them.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Rawat’s nod to setting up a Special Tiger Protection Force follows several reminders from Union Forest Minister Prakash Javadekar for constitution of a dedicated force to protect tigers and reduce instances of man-animal conflict.

Rawat also suggested that phones of wildlife criminals should be put on surveillance and their photos or sketches
should be circulated in public.

He said damaged roads in forest areas should be repaired on a priority basis to facilitate smooth patrolling.

Special Task Force of Uttarakhand Police arrested a poacher having links with an international gang of wildlife
peddlers from Shyampur area of Haridwar district on 13 March and recovered five tiger pelts and 125 kg of tiger bones from his possession.

According to the STF, it was the biggest haul of tiger pelts from the hill state, worth Rs 70 lakh in the
international market.

The arrested poacher has confessed to killing tigers in areas adjoining Corbett Tiger Reserve and Rajaji National
Park. A case was lodged against the accused under the Wildlife Conservation Act, 1972.


In a dare devil mission, endangered Sambar rescued from icy waters after two days

It is being termed as one of the biggest missions to rescue an endangered animal in Jammu and Kashmir.For the last two days, wildlife authorities were busy in an arduous rescue mission to free a highly-endangered animal from the icy cold waters of Baghliar dam basin in the remote Asr village of Doda district in Jammu division.Local wildlife authorities believed that the trapped animal was the majestic Hangul, which prompted them to call in the experts from Wildlife Institute of India (WTI) to help in rescuing the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>When the operation was over, WTI experts concluded that the rescued animal was not Hangul but Sambur, an endangered antelope mostly found in the tropical areas of Jammu division.”Sambar is an antelope which is a Schedule One endangered animal if not critically endangered. It is a mystery how this animal reached this place because it is found in the warm areas of Samba and Kathua,” Pankaj Raina, regional wildlife warden, Kishtwar, told dna.Wildlife authorities believe that Sambar might have strayed into the populated area and lost its way before jumping into the water. “On the first day, the animal stayed into the water and then we extracted and kept it in the bushes nearby. The animal has also got some injuries and we are taking it to Jammu. WTI experts after a detailed examination have concluded that it is Sambar not Hangul,” said Raina.A large antelope with brown coat and antlers, Sambar (Cervus unicolor) is mostly found in Indian subcontinent, southern China and southeast Asia. Sambar resembles Hangul though they are from two different families and species.On the other side Hangul – cervus elaphus hanglu — is the state animal of Jammu and Kashmir. Found in the forest ridges of the Dachigam wildlife sanctuary, the animal is critically endangered animal known for its reddish coat and two antlers.According to Hangul census 2011 Dachigam National Park and its adjoining areas houses 218 red deer. Official figures reveal that the Hangul population in 2004 had been estimated at 197, 153 in 2006, 127 in 2008 and 175 in 2009 at Dachigam National Park here.

82 incidents of tiger attacking human in last 3 years

As many as 82 incidents of tiger attacks on humans have been reported in different parts of the country in the last three years, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Tuesday.Among these incidents, 28 have been reported in 2014-15, 33 in 2013-14 and 21 in 2012-13, he said in Lok Sabha during Question Hour.Javadekar said the National Tiger Conservation Authority has a multi-pronged strategy to deal with human-wildlife conflict including habitat interventions, restricting habitat interventions, material and logistical support besides others.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Based on the carrying capacity of tigers in a reserve forest, habitat interventions are restricted through an overarching Tiger Conservation Plan, he said.In case tiger numbers are at carrying capacity levels, it is advised that habitat interventions should be limited so that there is no excessive spillover of wildlife, including tigers, thereby minimising man-animal conflict.”Further, in buffer areas around tiger reserves, habitat interventions are restricted so that they are sub-optimal vis-a-vis the core tiger habitat areas, judicious enough to facilitate dispersal to other rich habitat areas,” he said.Javadekar said the central government through the National Tiger Conservation Authority has operationalised and funded setting up of Electronic Eye (E-eye) surveillance in Corbett and Kaziranga Tiger Reserves along with Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.Besides observing the movement of tigers and other animals, E-eye acts as an early warning system wherein movement of poachers and intruders can be viewed before they reach the sensitive areas of tiger reserves, thereby checking any wildife crime.It also helps in monitoring dispersal of wild animals in human habitations. This facility may be replicated in other tiger reserves also, if needed, he said.

International Women’s Day: Her name is synonymous with that of leopards

Her work has been the subject of a famous Marathi movie, Ajoba. Between 2007 and 2012, she was part of a first-of-its-kind, pioneering study in India on movement of leopards across human habitations and croplands. She is also the mother of a 14-year-old girl and hates to be away from her during her field work. Meet Vidya Athreya, 47, a wildlife biologist and a leading researcher-cum-conservationist, whose work has almost become synonymous with leopards in the country.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Ahead of International Women’s Day, Athreya spoke at length about what drives her to venture out in the wild and intimately study leopards, who have come to be one of the most persecuted animals in the country. “I was always fascinated with cats as a kid, but it was a trip to Annamalai forests in the late ’80s with the nature club of Ruia College, Mumbai, that really got me hooked to the wilderness,” said Athreya, who is working with the Wildlife Conservation Society, a non-profit organisation, as a research associate since 2007.For Athreya, ‘living’ with leopards didn’t happen by design. “It was after moving to Narayangaon in Pune, where my husband was working as an astrophysicist, in the early 2000s that I began working with the forest department in bringing down human-leopard conflict,” she said.Her collaboration with the Maharashtra Forest Department continued till 2007, tracking leopards who had adapted to co-existing with humans in places such as Junnar. Later, she received a grant from the Rufford Foundation to train five teams of the forest department – across Jalgaon, Sangamner, Junnar, Satara and Kolhapur – in tranquilising leopards.Athreya’s major study on tracking leopards in human habitations in Akole, Ahmednagar district, however, began only in 2007. She received support from Norwegian collaborators and managed to put GPS collars on four leopards, including the famous elderly leopard who Athreya named ‘Ajoba’ (grandfather in Marathi) for his calm and composed demeanour.”The study showed that leopards were moving in close vicinity of humans, even during day time, without people even noticing… and there was no conflict. The study also revealed that leopards were preying on cattle and pets and shied away from humans,” said Athreya.As a minority in the field of wildlife research, Athreya said she faced more opposition and patriarchy in her own fraternity while she felt more comfortable working with forest officials. “There were instances when I faced chauvinism and sexism from my male colleagues and as a female wildlife researcher I always had a lot more on my plate. I could have certainly done double the field work if I had not restricted myself to be with my daughter when she was growing up, but I never regretted it,” Athreya said.Having taken a back seat from rigorous field work, Athreya is now focussing on mentoring youngsters and facilitating projects on wildlife ecology that also involve social science and citizen participation. Athreya said, “My goal in the next three-four years is to facilitate grooming of next generation of researchers and four are doing research on leopards. I see myself as dispensable and thus I want to established processes and let the youngsters take it ahead.”

Centre nods 261 metre ropeway between Raghunath temple, Toad Rock

The Centre has given environment clearance for installing a 261-metre passenger ropeway from Raghunath temple to Toad Rock in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.”Based on the recommendations of the Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC), the Environment Ministry has given clearance to the project subject to the compliance of some specific and general conditions,” a senior government official said.The proposed project at Nakki lake will have a base station near Raghunath Temple and upper terminal near Toad Rock. The project would cover an area of 3,774 meter and the cost would be Rs 4 crore, he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Among conditions specified, the official said the company should maintain a distance from Toad Rock to the ropeway as per the certified plan. Ropeway should be operated during day time only.The company should not allow restaurant or food court in ropeway project without setting up a proper effluent treatment plant and monitoring mechanism, he said.The environment clearance would be subject to obtaining of prior clearance from wildlife angle including clearance from the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife, he added.The proposed ropeway, which is expected to carry 400 person per hour during peak load, is expected to promote tourism and pilgrimage.

At least 310 lions died in Gujarat in last five years

Gujarat, the last abode of the Asiatic lions, has lost over 300 lions, including cubs in the last five years, the state Assembly was informed on Friday.Forest Minister Mangubhai Patel, in a written reply, said 310 lions, including cubs, as well as 547 leopards died due to natural or unnatural causes in the last five years (as on March 2015). He was replying to a written query submitted by Tejashree Patel (Congress) during the ongoing budget session of the Assembly.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Of the 310 lions, 25 died due to unnatural reasons and number of leopards falling in this category stood at 121. The causes of unnatural deaths varied from falling into open wells, being hit by trains or vehicles to electrocution, the minister said.Replying to a related question raised by the Congress MLA, the government said six lions and cubs have died after being hit by trains outside Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, the last abode of the big cats.Four leopards and five crocodiles met the same fate on railway tracks during the last five years, it said.To a question by Raghavjee Patel (Congress), the minister said, as many as 10 lions died after they were swept away in flood waters in Bhavnagar and Amreli district during the June 2015 deluge in Saurashtra region.Patel maintained that various measures are being taken to save these wild cats from mishaps. These included covering open wells with parapet wall, building speed breakers on roads near the sanctuary, putting fence on both sides of rail tracks on some routes and identifying electric fences illegally put up by farmers near the reserves to stop lions from entering in their fields, he said.

World Wildlife Day: Clear evidence of rise in elephant poaching in India

On the occasion of World Wildlife Day, the theme of which this year is ‘The Future of Elephants is in Our Hands’, TRAFFIC India also said that some of the illegal ivory entering the markets could be from privately owned or “captive” elephants, which is also illegal.”The current poaching hotspots are the similar to what they were about two decades ago, in the elephant-rich habitat of Western Ghats, spanning the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, as well as in Odisha and Assam. There is clear evidence of increase in poaching of elephants in the last few years,” said Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Head of TRAFFIC India.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The wildlife body said the endangered pachyderms are facing the threat of extinction in the wild in many countries, including India, with poaching for illegal trade being one of the “major drivers of its decline”.
ALSO READ In a new PETA ad, Neil Nitin Mukesh says no to ‘elephant rides’Noting that in the case of captive elephants, the ivory is generally scrapped at the tip of the tusk, which takes about a year to grow back, he said the lack of effective intelligence could be a stumbling block towards ending elephant poaching.”Though it is early to comment on ongoing investigations, it is being speculated that some of the ivory entering the market could be from privately owned or ‘captive’ elephants, which is equally illegal.
ALSO READ One-million-year-old elephant tusk discoverd in Pakistan”Today, on the occasion of World Wildlife Day, we released a poster urging people to pledge never to use any parts made of elephants,” the wildlife body said.Wild Elephants in IndiaIt said the Asian elephant was once widely distributed across the country, including in states like Punjab and Gujarat.Currently, they are found only in 14 states, in four fragmented populations, in south, north, central and north-east India.
The elephant has been accorded the highest possible protection under the Indian wildlife law through its listing under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, of India.”Domestic demand is one of the drivers for elephant ivory in India, with a few communities of Western India using it for bangles and decorative ornamental purposes. Poaching for meat and other products like tail hair also pose threats, especially in north-east India.”Ivory is also smuggled out to countries like Japan and China via Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines. It is used for making Japanese hanko, artifacts, wedding bangles, trophies and medicines,” said TRAFFIC India.

Dead dolphins washing up on Mumbai shores aren’t unique: Over 100 such incidents since 2015, says expert

A month after a 40-foot Bryde whale was found ashore Juhu beach in Mumbai, three dolphins have been spotted dead on three different shores of Mumbai in the past 24 hours, reports Hindustan Times.

The bodies of the three Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins were found on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In the first incident, a 6.5-foot-long dolphin was washed up on the Gorai beach and it was sent to the Bombay Veterinary College for post-mortem reported The Indian Express. According to Hindustan Times, the dolphin did not have any visible injuries on its body.

Dead dolphin washed ashore. Image credit: Twitter/sudhakar ‏@naidusudhakarDead dolphin washed ashore. Image credit: Twitter/sudhakar ‏@naidusudhakar

Dead dolphin washed ashore. Image credit: Twitter/sudhakar ‏@naidusudhakar

The second incident took place in Vasai where locals found the 10-foot dolphin on Wednesday morning and they immediately reported it to the authorities. According to a report in DNA, a resident from Vasai’s Bhuigaon village, Rohit Tandel was the one who reached the spot first and who informed the local authorities. He added that the dolphin’s carcass was covered in tar and it smelt of petrol.

Sources in the forest department were quoted by Hindustan Times as saying that the third dolphin had washed ashore at Girgaum Chowpatty beach at 5.30 pm on Wednesday.

Pawan Sharma, 23, founder and President at Resqink Association for Wildlife and Welfare (RAWW) told Firstpost, “A very basic problem with our system is that we don’t have a standard operating procedure for the rescue or response of these washed-up mammals. It is very crucial to do an immediate autopsy of these marine mammals to find the exact cause of their death, otherwise the bodies start to decay. Usually the ground-staff does not have an autopsy team or a field veterinary doctor to do the requisite procedure.”

Sharma claimed that there have been some 100 cases of washed-up marine mammals that have gone unnoticed since 2015.

Last year, at least three dolphins were reported to be found on different beaches of Mumbai. The increasing frequency of dead mammals found on the shores is a worrisome matter for environmentalists. There could be various causes for the death of these mammals — climate change, poaching or pollution.

MoEF panel stalls Ken-Betwa EC, asks for taking up wildlife clearance first

Environment clearance for Centre’s ambitious Ken-Betwa river linking project has hit a roadblock as an expert panel of Union environment ministry has decided to look into the project only after its wildlife clearance and related issues are taken up for appraisal. Senior officials of the union ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation told dna that the environment ministry’s expert panel does not want to take any call on the issue before the project’s crucial wildlife issues pertaining to Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) are addressed.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Union environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) on hydroelectric and river valley projects has taken up the project’s clearance for discussions thrice since October and in this decision was taken in the last meeting on February 8. “Earlier the EAC had asked National Water Development Agency to prepare a landscape management plan in collaboration with Wildlife Institute of India and it had also asked the agency to look into the project’s impact on Panna tiger habitat. But after the last meeting, they have decided to first see what decision is taken on the project’s wildlife clearance,” said the senior official from water resources ministry on the condition of anonymity.The Ken-Betwa river linking project has already received nod from the Madhya Pradesh government and according the sources from both environment and water resources ministry, the National Board for Wildlife will appraise the project’s wildlife clearance proposal.Conceived under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, the Ken-Betwa river linking project’s will link Ken River in Madhya Pradesh to Betwa in Uttar Pradesh for providing irrigation to 6.35 lakh hectares of land. The project has come under intense scrutiny from environmental activists both in Madhya Pradesh and nationally on the basis of hydrological reasons and wildlife reasons.Key reasons among the opposition to this project is the submergence of 41 of forest in Panna tiger reserve (PTR) and 14 of forest in Chattarpur and the division of the tiger habitat. Wildlife activists also point out that Panna Tiger Reserve has already faced an existential crisis when in 2009, tigers depleted from the protected area. According to the the project’s nodal agency National Water Development Agency (NWDA), the project will also involve construction of a dam near Daudhan village in Chhatarpur district and a total of 1585 villages across 10 villages will be displaced by the project.

No ‘mor’ our National Bird? Peacocks may be declared ‘vermin’ in Goa

Panaji: Forget that the beautiful peacock is the national bird and protected under the wild life laws of the country. In Goa, it may well be termed a vermin and culled ruthlessly.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Goa’s Agriculture Minister Ramesh Tawadkar sees in the peacock a farm nuisance that, like monkeys and wild boars, causes severe damage to crops and “should be declared a vermin” and culled periodically.

Tawadkar said on Friday a committee of government officials is considering what to do.

“We have said in the last Assembly (sitting) about monkeys and wild boars creating a nuisance for farmers and that a committee would be formed to assess and declare them as vermin,” he said.

“Some farmers said that peacocks also were damaging their crops in fields in hilly areas. The committee will also assess whether peacocks should be declared vermin or nuisance species,” Tawadkar said.

The Goa agriculture minister, however, hastened to add that no species of animals or birds, including the peacock, have yet been declared a vermin.

The peacock is India’s national bird and is a protected species under the Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

During last month’s winter session of the Goa legislative assembly, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar had assured that wild boars, monkeys and other wild animals who disrupt agricultural and horticultural activity and destroy crops would be classified as vermin soon.

“Time has come to classify some of these animals as vermin. Monkeys and wild boar regularly destroy fields,” Parsekar said.

Rapid growth of urban areas and shrinking forest cover in Goa have left decreasing space for wild life, which often encroaches upon human habitat.


Hey, that bird is called Salim Ali now!

A team of scientists from India and Sweden has not only discovered a new species of bird from North-East India but has also named it after the great Indian ornithologist Dr Salim Ali. This is the fourth discovery of a new bird species in India since Independence in 1947.The Himalayan Forest Thrush (scientific name Zoothera salimalii) is the first Indian bird to be been named after Ali. For the Ali family, this is double honour. In 1998, ornithologist Pamela Rasmussen, who discovered the Nicobar Scops Owl from Greater Nicobar named it after Humayun Abdulali, a well-known ornithologist and cousin of Salim Ali. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Now, let’s cut to the present. Till the other day, birdwatchers had mistaken the Himalayan Forest Thrush as the Plain-backed Thrush. But ornithologists Dr Per Alstrom from Sweden and Shashank Dalvi from Mumbai realised that there was a difference in the way the two sing. Alstrom, a leading ornithologist, is a professor from Uppsala University, Sweden, and Dalvi is a resident of Mumbai and an alumnus of the Post Graduate Programme from the Wildlife Biology and Conservation, Bengaluru. “What struck us was that the Plain-backed Thrush, found in coniferous and mixed forests, has a rather musical song. Those found in the same region but on bare rocky habitats above the treeline has a much harsher, scratchier and unmusical song,” said Dalvi.Dalvi recorded the calls of both the birds and carried out a detailed analysis. There came the first clue. In the next step, they studied museum specimens from 15 countries, including the US, the UK and China.Soon, they noticed differences in plumage (feathers) and physical structure. “This confirmed that the species breeding in the forests of the eastern Himalayas, which we had discovered, had no scientific name. We named this species as the Himalayan Forest Thrush,” said Dalvi. The Plain-backed Thrush has now been renamed as Alpine Thrush.They spotted the Himalayan Forest Thrush first at Sela pass, between the west Kameng and Tawang districts, in May- June 2009, while studying high-elevation birds of western Arunachal Pradesh. The two then spent a couple of years travelling to various high-altitude places to sight and study the bird.After a lot of studies, they realised that what was considered a single species- the Plain-backed Thrush (Zoothera mollissima) was, in fact, two different species in N-E India.Dalvi says they could not have confirmed this without the help of researchers from China, the US, and Russia. “Most collaborators visited several museums to study the samples of these birds… The detailed study was converted into a scientific paper and submitted for peer reviews by the Scientific Journal, where it has been accepted and now published,” said Dalvi, adding that the new bird should be added in popular guide books in the future.Himalayan Forest Thrush Found between elevations of 3,400-4,200 metresPrefers steep slopes filled with old coniferours forests, rhododendron and broad-leaved trees with lush undergrowthFound in Sikkim, Darjeeling, and Arunachal Pradesh to northwest Yunan, China, during breeding seasonIt winters as far south as Meghalaya and Manipur, India and northern VietnamHas noticeably longer and deeper bill with more arched culmen and dark, longer hookHas shorter wings, tail and tarsi (part of the legs) and also more ruddier than Alpine Thrush