June 29, 2010
Trekking in the Western Ghats!
The Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Udupi district of Karnataka, Kollur and was established in 1974 covering an area of 247 sq km. The vegetation type is a mix of evergreen, semi-evergreen and moist deciduous
forests covering the steep slopes typical of the Western Ghats Mountains. This forest comes under the Medicinal Plants Conservation Areas. (Local communities are actively involved in this conservation effort. MPCAs serve as the study sites for conservation
biology related research and also the source of authentic and quality planting material for propagation).
Longitudes : 13o41'25.87"E to 13o58'51.85"E
Latitudes : 74o39'8.68"N to 74o56'8.84"N.
Annual rainfall : 4,593 mm
Elevation ranges : 9-1,315 m above sea level.
The sanctuary receives an annual rainfall of 4,593 mm and the elevation here ranges from 9-1,315 m above sea level. Water sources include the Chakra nadi, Kollur River, 27 perennial streams, 36 large seasonal streams, several smaller streams, two seasonal natural
lakes, one spring and 20 artificial water tanks. (Source from Atree’s Website)
I hadn't heard of Mookambika WLS and didnt know what to expect. I had gone on work and was pleasantly surprised when i reached this forest. It reminded me so much of Anshi( Dandeli- Anshi Tiger Reserve). We had planned our day so we could complete 2 treks.One
trek was focused on identifying the butterflies. This is being done to Educate tourist's on the different colorful species of the forest. The butterfly life was amazing and the list of butterflies seen was good. These forests can support a myriad of butterflies
due to the varied plant composition and diversity. I was amazed at their numbers. This place was teaming with butterflies all hovering about. On the trek i noticed a snake up on a tree. It was a lovely ornate flying snake. We completed this trek and rested
before we headed out to complete the birds trail.
A wide variety of butterflies, reptiles and birds are found here. My trek through this beautiful forest opened my eyes further on the beauty and endemism of species of flora and fauna seen in this region. I was completely amazed at the beauty of this forest.
I trekked to Arshinagundi Falls and its a wonderful place for Birding.I spotted the Mountain imperial pigeon, Black headed oriole, Pompadour green pigeon, Malabar Trogon, a lovely pair of painted bush Quail,White bellied treepie and lots more. We also noted
medicinally rare trees like
June 26, 2010
I was bit taken aback by the reach of urbanity as we neared Bharatpur bird sanctuary. The feel was missing but not for long. The wetlands as I discovered are a paradise for bird lovers. I was leading a group of Germans
and this was my first trip to Keoladeo Ghana.
The Sibes have gone but the sanctuary retains much of its glamor. At Bharatpur a two day trip yields a checklist of more than 150 species of wetland birds. Some of the bird we check listed here and at Bund Baretha include:
Little Heron, Black-crowned Night-heron, Glossy Ibis, Siberian ruby throat, Bar Headed Geese, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Asian Open-billed Stork, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Wire-tailed Swallow,
House Martin, Hume’s Warbler, Black Bittern, Cotton Teal, Northern Pintail and Eurasian Coot. Grey Francolin, Tickle’s Thrush, Brown Crake, Booted warbler, Great white pelicans, Spot-billed duck, Sykes Warbler, Common Crane, Sarus Crane, Black necked stork,
Dusky Fish Owl, Purple Swamphen, Wood sand piper, Spotted redshank, Green Sandpiper, Bronze-winged Jacana, Greater Spotted Eagle, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Booted Eagle, Lesser spotted eagle, Black-shouldered Kite, Black Kite, King Vulture, Temminck’s stint,
Oriental Darter, Grey Heron, Indian Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Purple Heron, Painted Stork.
We could sight Indian skimmers at Bund Baretha but could sight whiskered tern, Ferruginous pochard, Spanish sparrow, oriental skylark, Russets sparrow and more....
Our next destination was Chambal River Sanctuary more than an hours drive from Agra. It is a pristine river parts of which are designated as river sanctuary. Chambal is a unique destination as apart from birding this
is a good place to see Gangetic dolphin, Marsh crocodile and the endangered Gharial. On a boat trip we could come across Indian skimmers, sand lark, Isabelline Wheatear, Brown Crake, Long Legged Buzzard, Variable Wheatear, Desert Wheatear, Bonelli's eagle
on nest, brown fish eagle, booted hawk eagle and brownhawk owl.
A day is enough at Chambal River Sanctuary for
birding trip during winters. Most of the bird watching is done on the boat ride but substantial number of birds can be seen on the banks. The
boat ride is about three hours and covers a long distance.
For avid birders Chambal is a must see destination. Most of the tour operators include this destination in their itineraries for birding in Northern India.
June 26, 2010
India had large tract of forests, extensive grasslands, deserts and wetlands all prime ecosystems that supported vast array of wild animals, birds, butterflies and reptiles. The
rapid increase in population and subsequent urgency for agricultural land and fuel wood resulted in destruction of our ecosystems. The demand for commercial wood and trophies all have contributed alongside to destroy nature and
wildlife in India.
Though much is still left, the wilderness now thrives in small pockets designated as protected areas -
National Parks and
sanctuaries. The protected areas were created to conserve keystone species like tigers and lion in India. The conservation efforts in the seventies and eighties resulted in comeback of most of the endangered species like the tiger, swamp deer, Indian
rhino and Asiatic lion to mention a few.
Project tiger is
one such example which after initial success was unable to control poaching and forest destruction. The creation of
tiger reserves was to accord additional protection. Unfortunately the increase in poaching incidence especially for tiger parts in China, skin
in Tibet and elsewhere took its toll and still does. The demand created a nexus of smugglers, middlemen and poachers. The lucrative demand gave rise to poaching incidence even in the best protected tiger reserves like Sariska and Panna National Parks. In
many incidences local communities are involved lured by a paltry sum.
The most threatened species is the Bengal tiger. This charismatic big cat in spite of a major conservation efforts continues to be exterminated by the poachers in India. Taking
Panna into consideration the administration and the law and order machinery appears to be helpless in nabbing and booking those involved in illegal wildlife trade.
Tiger apart from being an important part of our environment is a National Heritage. Indian wildlife is diverse and unique. India is home to many endemic species as well. The country benefits
from conserving its natural wealth and hence protecting the environment. If keystone species become extinct the damage to our environment will be irrevocable.
The wildlife also attracts tourists from all over the World. The increase in eco-tourism brings in crucial funds. These funds are employed in conservation, economic upliftment of local communities
as well as the tourism industry. The need of the hours is
responsible wildlife tourism and
tiger safari that promotes conservation. Tourism also brings into focus the understanding of the ecosystem and wildlife there in.
Stringent laws that prevent poaching and destruction of our ecosystems are required urgently. The protected areas are created with conservation. But tourism should not be discouraged. The
activity should be restricted and monitored. Neglected areas are more susceptible to poaching since the public eye is absent. Tourists along with local communities play an important role in conservation of our National Heritage.
Aparna V K
June 23, 2010
The first learning during my stay at Bandipur during the 3rd week of March was Forest Fires. I was under the impression that Forest fires were caused mainly due to dry boughs rubbing against each other (taking into consideration a large amount of dry
dead leaves littering the forest floor) , due to lightning during storms and sometimes by man. I was in for a rude shock when I came to know that all forest fires in India were caused by Man!
We are so much influenced by American way of life through the medium of television, that we know a lot more about their wildlife than our native species, we know the emu and the ostrich than the Bustard, we know about the cougar more than we know about
our panthers, we know a lot more about African elephants than about their Asian cousins and so also I was under the impression about forest fires through natural causes through the widely televised events shown in TVs about the fires in US.
Indian forests are mostly deciduous type . Even during the driest season they contain enough moisture to rule out fire due to natural causes. Unfortunately the same cannot be told about the invasive species -lantana, eucalyptus and the Australian wattle
which the government has planted everywhere to suck out the underground water, to wipe out the native species and thus deny the herbivores that depend on them for food, and hence to go extinction ( the introduced species neither provide good shelter nor
do they provide fodder) and to support fire to spread easily (these trees are so dry and the leaves litter do not decompose fast and contain oil thus encouraging fire). Of course that wasn't their idea, their logic seemed to simply rotate around the fast
growing nature of these trees. How could the govt without a scientific analysis on the impact from these trees to the native environment do mass planting everywhere ? why do they still continue doing so even after the impact is so visible and screamed
out loud by the scientific community?
Our forests are fragile. Every successive fires caused accidentally or deliberately by people living within and the fringes of the forest areas inadvertently causes irreversible damages to the ecosystem. Fires bring down century old trees that are destroyed
beyond repair and encourage rampant lantana growth in the successive rainy season. Not to mention the animals that perish in the fires. Bandipur this Summer saw fires breaking out all around. The concerned forest authorities were helpless. They lack resources
to control and prevent fires. They lack man-power and motivation. True they don't take steps to secure but dare I point at them? Isn't it true that the number of forest watchers and guards are at their record low? That there haven been any new permanent
posting, the govt happy to appoint guards on contract basis and pay them poorly.
So, what is the solution? Encourage forestation with native species. Check the growth of lantanas. Educate the tribal and villages encircling the forests about the menace of forest fires and steps they must take to prevent accidental fires. Educate tourists
on the same lines. Post more guards and watchers. Raise their salaries to the level of hawaldars in the civil dept. Provide them with equipments to control fire in case of forest fires. Its a big task ahead of us. Educating the masses , mobilizing them
to protect this rare treasure that's in our hands.
Aparna V K
June 23, 2010
A strong odour of cattle dung hit us even before our eyes caughtsight of it littered everywhere like shopping freaks in Bangalore'sMall. And here we were in the middle of a thick scrub jungle come todo a census on the flora and fauna of the Hosur Forests
also called asMelagiris. Kenneth Anderson Nature Society together with Asian NatureConservation Foundation have taken up several surveys in this regionthat spreads over an area of almost 1200 sq kms containing a mix ofseveral vegetation but mainly abounded
by the dry scrub forest to studythese forests and restore the region back to its original state.
Theseforests face manifold threats and perhaps the one by cattle grazingtops the list. Cattle here are grazed in large numbers and pegged downin large cattle-pen called pattis. The absence of large carnivores anda blind eye by the forest department has
made the Hosur forests acattle grazing grounds for the locals. There is a suspicion that thecattle that's been grazed belongs to the wealthier families in TamilNadu living far away from Hosur employing the services of the local.While the locals are allowed
to graze cattle and sheep, grazing goatsis illegal, though one can frequently come across goats grazing in theMelagiris. This has been made illegal because while the cattle/sheepfeed mainly on grass the goat eats up tender shoots thus denying theforests to
Chital that is so abundant inthe other side of the Cauvery, on the Karnataka side, that you yawnwhen you sight herd after herd thudding away in your wake has in thisregion become a sight to feast on. So why have the herbivores beenthinning out even as the
forests remain? Answer, human interference andCattle Grazing. These herbivores have been hunted down for meat andskin. Also since they naturally avoid man increased human interferencehas made them to flee these forests. The dwindling grass cover by thecattle
even as it sprouts and the foot and mouth disease, poaching formeat has all played a major role in wiping out the larger populationof the herbivores. With such a small prey base and poaching has wipedout the tigers, not to mention cattle-kill poisoning carried
out bytheir distraught owners long ago. Although we have recorded pug marksof leopards and wild dogs, tigers and hyena have are no longer to be found although the locals claim to have seen one or two a while.
Thick lantana jungle has sprung up everywherewiping away the native plant species. Its likely that these dry bushescatch up fire at the slightest chance building up into a roaringfurnace and destroying the forest. KANS (Kenneth Anderson NatureSociety) has
drawn plans to employ locals to remove this invasive weedfrom the roots. However no amount of de-weeding can remove themforever, the seeds of lantana are spread by birds and need but a briefspell of rain to grow back to numbers. A sustained effort over timeonly
can put a cap on the lantana jungle.
Man-Elephantconflict is on steady rise. The Elephants have taken to crop-raidingdue to a variety of reasons - perhaps because the farms have replacedtheir original forests? or because they face shortage of food withinforests due to expansive cattle grazing?
Some also say the Elephantshave taken a liking to easily available farm produce while othersvehemently deny it stating elephants are shy of humans and doeverything in their power to avoid human habitation. And havingexperienced that first hand I must say
I agree with the latter belief.Human death toll is getting higher too. Unwary locals and forestguards have been trampled by bulls occasionally.
Atseveral places Villages have taken permanent residence within theforest boundaries. Re-settling these villages from the Melagiris isessential to give the forests and wildlife a chance to revive. Howeverthis is a very sensitive issue, the tribals in this
region have beenliving in the forests are called Poojaries and have since timeimmemorial developed a culture that is deeply associated with theforests. It is indeed very difficult to separate the original settlersfrom the new families that must have taken
residence in the recentpast. A fair approach must be followed and enough compensation must begiven for the families to persuade them to move out of the forests. Afew of the natives could be soaked in as the forest staff as theirknowledge of these forests
is exhaustive and indispensable towardsstudying and protecting them.
The locals have beenusing the forests to extract a variety of forest produce includingfirewood, tamarind pods, honey to list a few. KANS has drawn up plans to provide LPG gas to the families to cut down on the firewoodgathering. Farmlands are extending their
tentacles into the forestlands steadily. When the Melagiris assume Sanctuary status, withenough security, it can be said that Timber extraction, poaching andsuch illegal activities can be capped.
RecklessTourism is another contributing factor. Although Melagiris arerelatively unknown patch of forests it can be predicted that with allthe conservation activities in progress, the limelight on the floraand fauna will inevitably attract a steady stream
of picnic-goers.Already tourists are seen loitering around. At a prominent lake wherethe elephants usually gather in large numbers at dusk touristsunmindful of the danger have been seen in groups. Although there is nostraight forward solution to the Tourism
issue but it must be handledwith caution.
Although the list of threats does notend here, they are not new. Our forests throughout India are reelingunder the same tell-tale signs. We have only around 3% land underforest cover protecting a fragile eco-system. New lands are almostimpossible to secure
for the already threatened plants and animals and the majority of the forests in this 3% fall as reserved forests. Theforest staff are few, they are underpaid and not well equipped to fightthe poachers. There are many problems and many more solutions. Todaythe
cry of the hour is to guarantee the security of our remainingforests, to guarantee a life to the many beasts and wild plants thatabound our lands. The time is to act.
Aparna V K
June 23, 2010
Atroop of five people descend down the narrow trail juggling theirglances between the sky to look out for birds, the trail to look outfor scat and pug marks and everywhere else to soak in the heavenly viewof the towering hills all around. The call of the
Common Hawk Cuckooalso called the Brain Fever Bird reverberates all around.
Weare the members of a Kenneth Anderson Nature Society, named after theerstwhile legendary hunter turned conversationalist Kenneth Andersonwho roamed these very forests of Melagiri. The Melagiris are a range ofhills on the Eastern Ghats, bound by the river
Cauvery on the west. Thetotal reserve forest area is around 1295 sq. kms. Inspired by thestories of Anderson the first KANS members ventured into these foreststo feel the wild in first person. Over the years however the forestshave been infiltrated by the
locals for cattle grazing and to obtainthe forest produce. The reserved forests are shrinking at the rapidlyencroaching agricultural lands , the fauna disappearing by theunrestrained poaching activities.
KANS decided to takeon the task of securing this habitat for the Tiger, to restore theregion back to its original state.This is being achieved through a mixof passive and active conservation activities like communityinteraction programmes (afforestation,
educational programmes,alternative agricultural practices), equipping the ground forest staff(uniforms, torches), field work to control Man-Elephant conflict,removal of invasive species etc.
Last weekend sawthe the bio-diversity survey conducted at Anchetty, The objective ofthe surveys have been to take stock of the forests. To bring to publiclight the beauty and diversity of these forests and also highlight thesocio-economic issues facing conservation
in this region. The inventoryof the species and inputs on the human-forest interaction issues are toadd in to help to achieve the goal of securing Sanctuary status to theMelagiris.(Note: The proposal has not yet been submitted)
Aswe reached the bed of Dodahalla river, that has been a witness to theglorious past, a time when Majestic Tigers roamed this land, a timewhen Kenneth Anderson set float his hair raising adventures, We grewexcited as we IDied the pug marks of leopards. At
least one of thebigger carnivore has escaped the same fate as that of the Tigers,although that could be due to the fact that leopards are tinier thanits cousin, have an excellent camouflage, very shy but intelligentcreature that can live on smaller prey base
and very adaptive. We alsospotted pug marks and scat samples of Civet, Chital, etc.,However ourjoy was shadowed by the presence of large amount of Cattle dungscattered everywhere in generous quantity. Cattles are a menace to theforests. Their rampant grazing
not only means less grass cover,dwindling the wild herbivore population but also causes seasonaloutbreak of diseases to which the wild animals have no resistance. Thetigers in this region have been single-handedly wiped out largely bythe locals by poisoning
the cattle kill (Tigers finish their food inseveral sittings thus becoming an easy target.) diminished prey numbersand a variety of other reasons due to the never ending interferences byman. If the forests are to be revived their is no go but to stopcattle
grazing withing the boundaries of the forests.
Wetrekked a stretch of 8km approx along the Dodhalla river that is beingfed by several small streams originating in the forests. This riverfinally joins the Cauvery, that forms western boundary of the Melagiriforests. While the forests on the other side
of the Cauvery within theKarnataka state borders are Sanctuary the Melagiris are only Reservedforests. While the protection provided by the Sanctuary tag has helpedsustain the Tigers in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary they have vanishedfrom the Melagiris.
The Tiger census that yieldedthe numbers 1411 has created a huge wave of alarm and people across thecountry have risen up in arms to protect them by raising funds throughrunning marathons and what not. While money is continuously pouringinto already protected
Tiger Sanctuaries securing them and tighteningthe protection, we have sadly not hit the mark. The numbers 1411 are ofthe number of tigers that can be accommodated in the Tiger Reserves.You cannot stuff in more, in fact the recent Tiger Cub deaths we havebeen
reading are by the Adult Tigers is to reduce the competition forterritory. Internal fighting have become common, the excess tigers havebegan to search for new territories and are frequently seen on thefringes of the Sanctuary boundaries inadvertently going
for the cattlekill and what happens? A Ranathambore episode is inevitable. Man-Animalconflict is on rise. And here its just not Tigers, Elephants areseasonal migrants. They do not recognize the boundaries set by man.
BannerghattaNational Park (BNP), Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS), Nagarhole (RajivGandhi NP), Bandipur Tiger reserve, BRT and the Hosur forest Division (Melagiris) forms a continuous region making it a major bio-diversitybelt and Elephant corridor. With
Melagiris assuming the Sanctuarystatus, the excess Tigers from The CWS, BNP and BRT can be soaked bythis region. This indeed is an viable option since securing theMelagiris is cheaper than trying to extend the already existing tigerreserves that have swarms
of villages littered on its fringes. Not onlythe Elephant Corridor is secured minimizing Elephant-Human conflict butalso sustains the life-source of Karnataka-Tamil Nadu, Cauvery.
Withthe Anchetty Survey, ends the last of the bio-diversity survey by KANS.KANS with ANCF has found both direct/indirect evidences of the rareGrizzled Giant Squirrel, Four horned Antelope and Leopards. The Floracontains almost 20 Red listed species, these
were discovered during thesurvey, considering the Melagiris are almost 1200sq km (An area coveredby putting Nagarhole and Bandipur together) there could be many moresurprises waiting to be discovered. Unless this region is declaredimmediately with effect -
Sanctuary, the poaching/ extraction ofnon-timber forest produce and infringement of the Forests by the localfarmers and cattle grazers will only deteriorate them further snatchingaway the last chance for the Tigers in this zone to grow back torespectable numbers,
increasing the Man-Elephant conflict , depletingthe Cauvery - a death-blow to the farmers in Tamil Nadu and increasingtension between the two states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
June 22, 2010
Kirigalpoththa- A walk through a magical island
Kirigalpoththa is the second highest mountain in Sri Lanka. It is one of the best hiking routes in the island.
This blog updates on exciting places for hiking and camping in the country and also tries to share information on some of the best routes and beautiful locations in Sri Lanka.
URL - http://kirigalpoththa.blogspot.com/
June 08, 2010
IndianWildlifeClub.com has entered a competition hosted by
Ashoka's Changemakers for "Leveraging Business for Social Change" and we'd love to get your feedback.
Ask us a question or post a story about how our portal has impacted you and we'll respond directly on the site.
Please go through the above entry tracing the evolution of our club. Look forward to your feedback
June 03, 2010
Indian Peacock (called Mayura in Sanskrit) has enjoyed a fabled place in India since ancient times. In imagery Lord Krishna is always represented wearing a peacock feather tucked in his headband.
Ancient kings in India were said to have gardens to raise peafowl where guests were invited to see the peacock dance during the mating season. Due to this close relationship with humans for thousands of years, they have entered ancient Indian stories, songs
and poems as symbols of beauty and poise. As the mating season coincides with the onset of monsoon rains and the month of Shravan in the Hindu calendar, many songs of rains have peacock-dance mentioned in them. One possible origins of the name of the famous
Maurya dynasty of ancient India is probably derived from the word Mayura as the ancestors of the Mauryas are thought to be peafowl-keepers of a royal court in eastern India.
Hindu mythology describes the peafowl as the vehicle or vaahan for Karthikeya, also called Murugan, the brother of Ganesha, the goddess Saraswati, and the goddess Mahamayuri.
watch the video of courtship displaying dance of Indian peafowl at my you tube link
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View my recent photos on Flickriver"/
Indian Peafowl displaying his train during the peafowl breeding season. Indeed, its sole purpose is to attract a mate. Seeing a peahen approaching, the peacock lifts his train—a cluster of long tail coverts that spread out to form a fan several feet high and
extending down to the ground on both sides. The train feathers are iridescent blue and green, with an eye-like spot of brilliant blue, green, and orange, at the end. Each feather is a work of art in itself—together they make a spectacular backdrop for the
sapphire blue peacock and his carefully orchestrated courtship dance: 1. During the breeding season, peacocks choose special places to perform their courtship dance and they tend to return to the same location year after year.
May 31, 2010
this is sushil from chandigarh, i have made a shrort wildlife film on ghariyal i want to screening it in film fest through iwc.