Blogs
Wildlife > Memories of a tiger census in the Sunderbans
Posted by Soumya Banerjee on August 30, 2015

After filling up our boat with foodstuffs and water, we – myself, two forest guards, the owner of our launch, and his assistant, bid adieu to civilisation, leaving the small town of pakhiralay (located opposite to the entrance to sajnekhali wildlife sanctuary) far behind, as we journeyed into the heart of the throbbing wilderness that constitutes the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve. This reserve, spread over 2,585 sq. km, is the only place in the world where wild tigers exist in a mangrove habitat. We were participating in the initial phase of the quadrennial tiger census carried out by the NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority).

The world's only mangrove tigerland.

The world’s only mangrove tigerland.

Enumerating wildlife scientifically involves demarcating “transects”, or pathways, in the forest and then noting down signs and direct sightings of the various species which are encountered while the transect is being negotiated. In the sunderbans, the various transects coincide with the innumerable creeks which dot the mangrove forests.

A map showing the transects in Panchamukhani block of Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary.

A map showing the transects in Panchamukhani block of Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary, STR.

Our transects lay mostly in the Panchamukhani and Pirkhali forest blocks, a part of the 362 sq. km Sajnekhali Wildlife Sanctuary, which forms the north-western part of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve.
We had to fill up several forms stating the time and GPS location of each of our sightings of the various species and their signs. At half-hour intervals, we also had to state details of the flora noticed- the various mangrove species encountered, how tall they were, etc.

Such sheets needed to be filled diligently!!!

Such sheets needed to be filled diligently!!!

We negotiated each river bend in extreme caution, hoping to spot tigers at the very next one. Unfortunately, the big cat itself remained elusive. But tiger pugmarks were everywhere-we even saw the pugs of a tigress and her three cubs at a riverbank. Another set of pugs appeared to belong to a mating pair. These are the welcome signs of a thriving population.

Pugmarks left by the king of the mangroves.

Pugmarks left by the king of the mangroves.

Not that this population isn’t affected by any threats, though. Man-animal conflict is a significant problem in the Sunderbans, for this is an ecosystem where man is still preyed upon by quite a few species- the Bengal tiger and the estuarine crocodile being the foremost among them. We saw two crocodiles during our boat survey, however, they were extremely wary and rushed into the water as soon as they saw us.

An estuarine crocodile basks in the sun opposite the Nature Interpretation Center at Sajnekhali.

An estuarine crocodile basks in the sun opposite the Nature Interpretation Center at Sajnekhali.

The vast majority of those who get killed by tigers and crocodiles in the Sunderbans are honey-collectors and fishermen. Crab fishing often yields fair returns, but it is an extremely dangerous occupation, which, sadly, the poorest of the poor have no option but to take recourse to. Numerous ecodevelopment initiatives have been launched by the authorities in the fringe areas of the Sunderbans in the recent past; however, many people continue to remain heavily dependent upon the forest. Sometimes, poachers sneak into the reserve in the guise of crab fishers. While the direct targeting of tigers for their skin and bones has never been a common occurrence in the Indian sunderbans, there should be no let up in vigil.

The fisherfolk of the Sunderbans.

The fisherfolk of the Sunderbans.

Naturally, there are few permanent residences for the forest staff of the Sunderbans which lie on terra firma. Several boats have been converted to “floating anti poaching camps” , for more effective patrolling. Nevertheless, the average age of a forest guard in the Sunderbans is 52 years, and several posts lie vacant.
After having met no humans during the first day of our survey, we stopped at the first floating camp we came across on the second day. The guards there told us that a tiger had crossed the creek where the camp lay only half an hour ago. And sure enough, we saw his huge saucer-shaped pugmarks on the opposite shore.
Our next encounter with Homo sapiens was of a different kind, for a boatload of tourists chanced upon us, as we were headed off towards our next transect. They initially thought that we were an errant tourist-carrying boat that had strayed into  a part of the forests where tourists are forbidden to go!!!
On that very same transect, we came across a small herd of chital- some 4-5 members of the group were visible. Chital, or spotted deer, form the bulk of the tiger’s preybase in the sunderbans. Chital sightings in sunderbans are few and far between, since they are heavily reliant upon the few fresh-water ponds which exist on the Sunderbans. Poaching for meat has also played a significant role in depressing their density, which, at 13.3 per sq. km (according to a WII survey), leaves a lot to be desired.

Chital form the bulk of the tiger's preybase in the Sunderbans.

Chital form the bulk of the tiger’s preybase in the Sunderbans.

Tigers in the Sunderbans also prey on rhesus macaques, wild boar(of which there are few), and monitor lizards, some of which can grow up to 7-8 feet in length.

Rhesus macaques are commonly seen at Sajnekhali.

Rhesus macaques are commonly seen at Sajnekhali.

After 3 days, the hectic census finally came to an end, with our sheets full of data regarding the time and GPS location of each sighting of wildlife and their signs. Even though i am a novice birdwatcher, i was able to identify common sandpipers, great egrets, ospreys, purple herons, golden orioles and 4 species of kingfishers- black-capped, brown-winged, small blue and white breasted, among others. The Sunderbans, with over 230 recorded species of birds, is a dream destination for a birdwatcher.

A common sandpiper.

A common sandpiper.

Great egret(Ardea Alba).

Great egret (Ardea Alba).

The results of our hard work were made available a year later- 76 tigers were estimated to exist in the Indian Sunderbans, compared to 70 in 2010. The need of the hour is to strengthen conservation initiatives in the Sunderbans, especially when it comes to patrolling and monitoring. The mangrove tigerland, with its enchanting habitat, fierce tigers, lurking crocodiles, and soaring egrets is a unique component of our natural heritage which deserves to be jealously protected forever.
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Postscript : This article is a tribute to Panchanan Mondal and Ghosh Babu, those awesome forest guards whom i accompanied during the census, and whose dedication and knowledge was a source of inspiration. These brave foot soldiers of the Sunderbans are doing a wonderful job in possibly the most inhospitable tiger landscape in the world- serving with dedication day in and day out, inspite of having lost colleagues to tiger attacks in the past. 
I also thank Joydip and Suchandra Kundu, eminent Kolkata-based conservationists, for their help and support, and Subrata Mukherjee, the then field director of STR, and his team. May they receive all the support they so earnestly need, in their war to protect the mangrove tigerland.

Insects > A walk along the banks of Ulsoor Lake, Bangalore
Posted by Susan Sharma on August 29, 2015
I watch with interest the large number of morning walkers on the walking path so well carved out along the cleaned part of the Ulsoor lake.  Some are engaged in conversation, most glued to the earphone, some exercising, some playing ball in a clear strip.   Cormorants splash around in the clean part of the lake, obviously there are fish in the water.   Their splashes arouse the curiosity of walkers who are new to the area.  Mobile phones go clicking.   Pariah kites circle around.  A single Brahminy kite stands out.  The number of Brahminy kites seems to have gone down.  I could spot only one in about ten days' time.

This blog is for all of those who do not have time/inclination to watch the lovely butterflies and other insects they pass by every day.  These insects are becoming rarer by the day and we in India are lucky that spraying of insecticides is not that widespread yet so as to kill them off for ever from our parts. Safety tests done in labs before marketing insecticides don't account for the long term poison accumulation that kills bees, and possibly many other beneficial insects.   By disregarding the threat of chemicals to tiny creatures, scientists warn, may be endangering larger ones like ourselves. 

I call them Gems, because they are priceless in today's world.  Here are a few I could manage clicking.


Tailed Jay

To read more about this butterfly, go to

http://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/sp/569/Graphium-agamemnon



Common Castor

To read more about this butterfly, go to

http://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/#!/sp/765/Ariadne-merione



Plain Tiger

To read more about this butterfly, go to

http://www.ifoundbutterflies.org/#!/sp/744/Danaus-chrysippus



Silk cotton Bug

And now,  the Glaring Gaps of the Lake!

To reach the walking path I had to walk along a stinking sewer which borders the Lake for almost 1000 meters.   Sewage water kept spewing in from other parts of the lake as well. 


The stinking sewer whose water goes into the lake



The pretty water Lilies blooming in the enclosed part of the lake did not prevent the steps of the step well getting strewn about with polythene bags and styrofoam glasses.   (Double click on the picture to see a larger image)

Marketed in the US under the name Styrofoam, EPS Expandable Polystyrene Foam (EPS) was invented by Dow Chemical scientist Otis Ray McIntire in 1941.  There are two main issues that polystyrene causes for marine (read lake) animals - mechanical and chemical.

"The [mechanical root] is very straight-forward," says scientists.   Oftentimes, we find polystyrene foam lodged in the intestines that causes blockages that can be lethal. If you think about how we worry about a mild blockage from eating the wrong thing, imagine eating a ball of Styrofoam. That's what some of these animals are doing."

Chemically, absorbent properties make EPS even more dangerous. "Polystyrene foams essentially act like little pollutant sponges, picking up and concentrating some of the nastiest contaminants in the water"   That's not just bad for the fish and the cormorants. It could be bad for humans.

My earlier article on Ulsoor lake "Bringing back nature into the city of Bangalore"

can be read at the link


http://www.indianwildlifeclub.com/ezine/view/details.aspx?aid=830
Eco-tour > Maredemilli eco -tourism
Posted by K.Vinai Bhushan on August 28, 2015


 

I   visited  Maredumilli forest in april 3rdweek 2014 ,which is 80 km from historic town rajahumdry – andrapradesh. Theforest was very green even in hot summer. Falls were running with good amountof water. Thick forest with some good number of animals in cluding big cats.The pplace wa very cool and rainy. We have visited some water falls, coffeeplantations and a river. We tasted the local famous bamboo biryani too.  The accomidation facilities are good and atreasonable fares.  Visit www.vanavihari.com.


Regards

   



Travel > Mowgli Land - Pench Wilderness
Posted by Uday on August 22, 2015
Less known as tiger reserves since quiet late the park in India was made famous by the legendary Rudyard Kipling. It is said a British Officer (Lt.Moor) discovered Mowgli living among the wolves near the village of Sant Vavadi. The news got to Col.Sleeman and then to Kipling.

Using his imagination he carved playful but adventurous life of the child and his wild entourage of the Seoni Hills. The vivid spins of imagination and entailing story that emerged made the Jungle Book immortal. The escapades enthrall and enliven the minds of young and old. The Seoni Hills mostly under serve biotic stress harbor enchanting wildlife in small area untouched by the mauradaurs of the wild.


This is now known as Pench Tiger Reserve and National Park all over the world. Ensconced in Seoni and Chhindwara District of Madhya Pradesh in Central India the tiger-land is one of the choicest place to get to see the tiger in its natural home. A part of the  reserve is under Maharashtra Forests but most of the tourism is in the belt that lies in Madhya Pradesh.


The park is about eighty km from Nagpur Airport while the distance from Jabalpur Airport is about 200 km. The distance from Kanha National Park is about 150 km. The long drives to the reserve takes a turn at Khawasa Township on the border to the two states. From here it is a ten km drive to Turia Gate of the reserve.

Both the long drives to the tiger reserve cut across some of the finest reserve forests creating a picturesque spectacle. The road to Turia Gate offers a chance to see the Indian wolf for those lucky enough. The big cats are encountered everywhere in the dense canopy besides the other animals. The reserve is home to many other mammals and antelopes like the Nilgai, four horned  deer and Indian Gazelle.


Tourists on tiger safari preen their eyes and alert their sensory apparatus to get a sight of the sloth bear,leopard and the wild dog. The majestic gaur is striking in appearance due to its massive musculature and sheer grace. The coarse feeder thrives in the park thanks to excellent conservation efforts. Wild boar, spotted deer,sambar and langur are a common sight.       
Pench River intersects the reserve and is dammed at Totlah Doh. This has created a large reservoir now frequented by various species of water birds. Hence the reserve is a good place to see both the wetland and forest species in Central India. The river is a perpetual source of water and hence acts as the lifeline of the park.  

The ecosystem comprises of low lying mountains, dense mixed forests, grasslands, water bodies and rivers. These elements form an excellent habitat for the tigers and major mammals. Small nocturnal mammals can be seen on the night safari in the buffer zone of the park. Animals such as civets, mongoose, wolf, leopard, porcupine, pangolin, ratel and many more. The night safari is available throughout the year and can be booked on the MP Online Portal.

There are many resort hotels for accommodation in the buffer zone of the park near the Turia Village. The hotels at Pench National Park range from budget to star category offering accommodation at different tariff to suit the visitors.  

The main tourism zone of the park is open from  1st October to end of June while the night safari is available throughout the year.  Tourists visiting the park must carry warm clothed during the winter along with good set of binoculars and some bird books.

Since the gate entry is limited to set number of vehicles one should always book in advance before arrival.        
Bird Watching > Searching for Winged Wonders in Northern India
Posted by Uday on August 21, 2015

Grill and Grime sets the pace for birding in Northern India. The race begins from the T3 Airport where avid birders from far away lands arrive. The trip begins as we move towards Agra on the way to Bharatpur and Chambal River Sanctuary. The mini bus rattles along past a quagmire of  human dwellings tortuously placed in a juxtaposition. Soon we we begin rolling past the green fields and small hamlets. But not for long, for at Mathura Township we turn in the direction of Bharatpur the avian paradise like non else where.  


A fifty km drive further on will lead us to Bharatpur. The road riddled with pot holes - as treacherous as they can be  - wades across a picturesque countryside. The yellow lined mustard fields are the hall mark of this drive. The quaint hamlets are as striking as they can be. The colorful courtyards, veranda all painted in Rajasthani motifs impress my foreign visitors.   


At Bharatpur we are greeted by Mr. Singh - the robust and cheerful owner of the Sunbird Lodge. The day begins with the search for avian in the fields near by the Sanctuary Gate. The search is for Indian Courser but we also come across lot of grassland birds.


The whole day is spent in the sanctuary on foot we we come across scores of avian species. We visit extensive wetlands, mounds and dikes. The small patches of forests also yield many delights. We also visit Bund Baretha which is about fifty km from the park. Here we score for some water birds, pipits and buntings. This is where we  come across Indian Skimmer whence they come to nest.   


From Bharatpur we head to Dhaulpur and visit the Chambal River Sanctuary. This is an exciting destination, and boating in one of the most unpolluted river is an experience. We come across many birds besides the marsh crocodile, gharial and river dolphin. The long stretch of river accords an exciting boat ride in between low lying sandy hills and shores. Jackals, foxes, hyenas and wolves are often encountered in the shores with luck.


Some of the birds we come across are prinias, buntings, gulls, storks, ducks, sand grouses, falcons, eagles, owls and warblers to name a few.  


We head back to Agra and then move towards Nainital. On the way we look for Sarus Cranes as well as species on the Ganges River Banks. Nainital is a hill resort but badly urbanized hence we chose Sat Taal And Pangot up hill each at a distance of about fourteen km from the township. Sat Tal at 1400 MSL is crowded but the natural beauty of remaining forests and lakes also offers magnificent bird watching opportunity. At Sat Taal we look for Forktails, thrushes, flycatchers, minla, leiothrix, golden robin, buntings, woodpeckers and more. A two day birding yields a checklist of more than fifty exciting species.      


We climb higher to 2100 MSL in the Himalayan Foothills two reach snow covered Pangot. Our target species here are the Kokals Pheasant, Chir Pheasant, Himalayan and Eurasian Vultures, Bearded Eagle, buntings, thrushes, tits and many more. A two day stay accords sightings of unique birds which are altitude migrants.    

     

The drive to Corbett Tiger Reserve is a pleasant eighty km via Kaladungi the home town of legendary Jim Corbett. The avi fauna begins to change as we descend towards the plains.  The fantastic tiger landscape has more than five hundred avian species to sight. We stay at the Dhikala Complex while in the park and look for tigers and other mammals besides avian species.


The foothills are frequented by species from the plains as well as the altitude migrants from the Himalayan Landscape. We search for the Siberian ruby throat, paradise flycatchers, Niltavas, flycatchers, wren warblers, laughing thrushes, bulbuls, nuthatches, woodpeckers and many more.


We than move to outskirts of Corbett to search for more species. The trip is full of excitement a midst tigers and elephants. We visit Mohaan, Lal Dang, river banks of Kosi, Kumeria and Sita Vani for some amazing discoveries.


The fortnight long trip ended as we headed back to New Delhi. Happy that the extensive birding tour package  organized by India Footprints was a great success. All around the tour we were assisted by local guides very familiar with the regions. We stayed at the finest lodges with great service, food and friendly staff.


Every year as winter sets in I look forward to exciting ornithological trips in India as tour leader and birder.      

Travel > Magical Wildlife of Bandhavgarh
Posted by Uday on August 19, 2015

A four hour drive through picturesque Umaria Forests takes one to Bandhavgarh after landing at Jabalpur Airport. Albeit one comes across lot of denuded patches the remaining low lying hills with good forest cover create a pleasing picture. Once teeming with wilderness and forests the region has lost its sheen. Like every where else the reserve forests are slowly turning into green deserts. The wildlife is badly decimated thanks to indiscriminate poaching which still goes on sporadically. 


The long continues stretch takes an abrupt turn at Shahpura township. This place hosts the famous Ghagua Fossil National Park. The plant fossil date back to 60 million years whence the tectonic plates became active. Another fifty km of drive takes you to Umaria rail head. Close to Bandhavgarh National Park the forests appear some distance from here. A good thirty two kilometer drive takes you to the Tala Gate. This is a premium tourism zone in the land of the tiger. The tiger landscape stretches to about 1100 sq.km an area under the Project Tiger.    


Bandhavgarh is one of the most picturesque park in India. Small as compared to many it contains high density of tigers. It is also an excellent breeding ground for the big cats and other mammals. The stunning biodiversity encompasses all forms of wildlife from microbes to giant gaurs. The Indian bison as they are called had become locally extinct some years back due to disease prevalence.     


Translocation of gaurs from nearby Kanha National Park is a major success story. The park is home to other mammals like the sambar, leopard, barking deer, sloth bear, spotted deer, four horned deer, langur, rhesus macaque, wild boar, dhole and many small nocturnal ones.  


Excellent bird life prevails especially the forest species. Unfortunately bird watching is much neglected under the shadow of the majestic tiger. Reptiles, insects and many other forms of diverse life thrives in this magnificent ecosystem.


Bandhavgarh is home to some ancient relics of civilizations dating back to two thousand years. The fort complex is magnificent, a visit offers sight of Vishnu Idols in stone in zoomorphic forms. The large reservoirs, fort in ruins, Hindu temples and intervening forests and grasslands all create exotic ambiance. The low lying Bandhavgarh Mountain offers a view of the park. A panoramic grandeur which leaves the visitors spellbound. Midway up the ascent is Sesh Shaiyya esoteric and remote the pool is surrounded by ferns and grasses with springs. The dense canopy and the grove accord amazing serenity to the visitors. The reclining Vishnu is carved out of an igneous rock and is twenty feet long.   


Jungle roads enable the tourists to cover a large cross section of the forests. This is the tiger safari that lets you seen the beast in the wild. A drive yields much more deer, wild boar and langur the ubiquitous fauna of the reserve. Three species of antelope can be seen here namely Nilgai, Four horned Deer and the Indian Gazelle.


For the more attentive plethora of avian species mesmerizes with their startling colors. More than two hundred and fifty species inhabit this National Park many of which are migrant.


The park is open throughout now but during the monsoon only buffer zone safaris are available. Post monsoon all the three core zones are open for tourism. While photographers tolerate the intense heat of the summers, International visitors keep to the cooler months. Hence October to March are busy months here. Visitors should avoid festival days in order to gain a positive experience of the resort.            


During holiday periods the hotels in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve are nearly full. All type of accommodations are available near the Tala Gate. The park permits are also booked fully hence one should reserve much in advance for the busy period. Early Booking is possible on Internet at MP Online Portal.   


About three day safari offers holistic experience of the wildlife heaven. Winter clothes are required as it gets very cold. In summers khakis will do. Carry binoculars, good cameras and bird books for better understanding of this magnificent ecosystem. 

Bio-Diversity > A walk along a Buxa riverbed
Posted by Soumya Banerjee on August 17, 2015

The dry bed of the Jayanti River, which cuts through the heart of Buxa Tiger Reserve in North Bengal, presents an extremely appealing sight to the naturalist.
DSCN3524
Steep hills, clothed in green, present an enchanting backdrop.
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The golden rays of the morning sun illuminate a landscape unmatched in beauty.
DSCN3562

Lucky is he who gets to live here.
DSCN3516
The streambeds tell us many a story of who has gone before us, and how long ago.
DSCN3570DSCN3547
May they continue to live in these bountiful hills for many a decade to come.
DSCN3463
And walk these endless paths forever.

DSCN3462To save which, from threats like these, should be every person’s duty.
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Wildlife > The Dugong-The Mermaid of the Indian Waters
Posted by Soumya Banerjee on August 16, 2015

A medium-sized marine mammal, which, at first glance, appears to resemble a hornless bull with flippers, the dugong is the only strictly marine herbivorous mammal in existence. The dugongs, and their relatives, the manatees, may have been the inspiration behind the legend of the mermaid. However, given the immense threats they face today, he dugongs may exist only in the forms of fables in the coming years, unless strict measures are taken to ensure their protection.
Dugongs are found in warm coastal waters in the Indo-Pacific region. Their numbers are usually higher in wide and shallow protected bays and mangrove channels. They are remarkably long-lived, often attaining 70 ears of age. They are usually solitary or found in pairs, though larger gatherings sometimes occur. Their diet consists mainly of seagrass, and they use their strong sense of smell to locate edible plants.

A dugong, in its typical marine habitat.  Credit : WikipediaA dugong, in its typical marine habitat.
Credit : Wikipedia

Dugongs have a relatively slow rate of reproduction, which, coupled with their dependance on seagrass, makes them a relatively ecologically fragile species. This makes it even harder for them to recover from the brutal assault which man launches upon them each day.
A variety of factors are responsible for their endangerment. Possibly, the biggest threat is the entanglement of dugongs in fishing nets. Gill netting and shark nets cause most deaths. They have also been hunted for many millennia for their meat and oil. Environmental degradation brought about by marine pollution and the destruction of coastlines also destroys the seagrass meadows on which they depend.
In India, only about 250 dugongs remain, according to a ZSI survey in 2013. The 3 main populations in Indian waters are:
a)Gulf of Mannar- 77-158 dugongs
b)Andamans-41-81 dugongs
c)Gulf of Kutch-10-15 dugongs
Extensive seagrass meadows are found only along the Gulf of Mannar. This population thus has the best long-term survival potential. However, they have historically been subjected to a lot of poaching by fishermen here, partly because of the mistaken belief that their meat acts as an aphrodisiac.

A dugong, found dead after it had been washed ashore in Tamil Nadu.  Credit : HinduA dugong, found dead after it had been washed ashore in Tamil Nadu.
Credit : Hindu

The MoEF has recently declared dugongs to be among the 5 species under CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) on which special focus will be given. A species recovery plan is also being drafted to help increase their populations. These, and many more stringent measures, need to be implement urgently before India loses her last few mermaids.

Anthropomorphism > Tiger Death Statistics
Posted by Soumya Banerjee on August 16, 2015

Recently, several articles were brought out highlighting the loss of 41 tigers from India’s forests over the first 7 months of 2015. A variety of causes were responsible for these deaths, ranging from infighting, to poisoning and killing for skin and bones by professional poachers.
http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/environment/flora-fauna/india-loses-41-tigers-in-7-months/articleshow/48446348.cms
However, what does this say about the efficacy of India’s tiger conservation programme? Wildlife scientists have always held that tiger populations experience high turnovers-they are prolific breeders, but also die young. This may be borne out by the reasonably high number of annual tiger deaths recorded over the past few years-61(2014), 76(2013), 89(2012), 56(2011) and 53(2010). Intensive monitoring of tiger populations actually tells us that the recorded death figures are actually a fraction of the total number of deaths. If populations are adequately from adverse factors such as habitat loss, poaching and conflict, then the naturally high rate of reproduction will ensure that tiger populations continue to thrive.
Which is  what brings us to the next question- how indicative are these deaths of the effects  human-induced adversities on tiger populations ? The likely answer is- that they present a highly incomplete picture. For instance, only 3 seizures of tiger parts have been made from poachers this year; the figure was 12 in 2014. However, independent investigations indicate that only a small percentage of seizures come to light.

A tiger skin being seized from poachers.  Credit : Telegraph IndiaA tiger skin being seized from poachers.
Credit : Telegraph India

. Official investigations into such deaths are also marked by a lack of transparency. Officials are usually very keen to make it look like as if every instance of tiger death is a result of natural causes, which often causes many instances of tiger poisoning to be swept under the carpet. Many carcasses are recovered in an advanced state of decomposition; which, coupled with a shortage of adequately trained vets, means that the actual causes of death are determined in only a very small number of cases. Details of investigations into tiger deaths are still awaited in as many as 33 of the aforementioned 41 cases.

An investigation into a tiger death in progress in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.  Credit : The HinduAn investigation into a tiger death in progress in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.
Credit : The Hindu

Wild tigers continue to be threatened by innumerable factors ; but tiger death statistics alone cant quantify these threats.

Insects > Where benign insects control harmful pests.
Posted by Susan Sharma on August 11, 2015

Where benign insects control harmful pests.

Much of the destruction that we see on the farm is the result of unwanted and exorbitantly expensive chemical inputs. Take the case of chemical pesticides. It was in late 1970s that David Pimental of the Cornell University had said in his landmark paper that 99.9 per cent chemical pesticides go into environment and only 0.01 per cent of the pesticides sprayed reach the target pest. Despite this warning, agricultural scientists continued to advocate the use of chemical pesticides. While the industry gained immensely, farmers as well as the gullible consumers suffered. This makes me wonder whether there is a way out. Can the Indian farmer ever emerge out of the chakravyuah?  

.....Last week, I visited Nidana and Lalit Khera, two tiny and nondescript villages in Jind ditrict of Haryana. Farmers and village women in these villages have gone a step ahead. Not only they don't spray chemical pesticides on cotton, they don't even use bio-pesticides. They have allowed the insect equilibrium to prevail to such an extent that the harmful insects are taken care of by the beneficial insects. 

Meena Malik is a 23 year-old graduate, who along with some 30 women of the nearby villages, partakes in a mahila keet pathshala (women insect school) every week. Once in a week, they spread across cotton fields in small groups early in the morning, each carrying a magnifying glass and with a notebook in hand. They identify the beneficial insects, which are mostly non-vegetarian, and count its population on a few plants. Similarly, they look for the harmful insects, mostly vegetarian feeding on the plant foliage and fruits, and based on their observations make a note of the insect diversity that exists in the crop fields.

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