Environment Awareness

Forest Fires

Posted by Aparna V K on June 23, 2010

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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.

Environment Awareness

Threats to Melagiri forests

Posted by Aparna V K on June 23, 2010

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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  rejuvenate.


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.

Wildlife

Melagiris

Posted by Aparna V K on June 23, 2010

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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.

Wildlife , Forest Laws

Kirigalpoththa

Posted by Kirigalpoththa on June 22, 2010

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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/


Any other

Changemakers

Posted by Susan Sharma on June 08, 2010

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IndianWildlifeClub.com has  entered a competition hosted by Artemisia and 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.
http://www.changemakers.com/en-us/node/75297

Please go through the above entry tracing the evolution of our club.  Look forward to your feedback

Dr.Susan Sharma

nature/wildlife films

The Peacock Courtship Dance- a video of a peacock displaying and dancing

Posted by Rakesh on June 03, 2010

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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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-wqHP-CrWU
  
"http://flickriver.com/photos/desert_bikaner/"><img src="http://flickriver.com/badge/user/all/recent/shuffle/medium-horiz/ffffff/333333/34273112@N03.jpg" border="0" alt="desert_photographer - View my recent photos on Flickriver" title="desert_photographer - 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.

Anthropomorphism

share something

Posted by sushil kumar on May 31, 2010

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      this is sushil from chandigarh, i have made a shrort wildlife film on ghariyal i want to screening it in film fest through iwc.

Climate change and Global Warming

Sinking Islands

Posted by Susan Sharma on March 07, 2010

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Sinking Island-Majuli

Majuli in upper Assam is the largest river island on the Brahmaputra River . It is a pollution free fresh water island. Total area of the island was 1250 sq.km., now it is about 650 sq.km, having lost significantly to erosion. Only 26 percent of total land area of Majuli is suitable for cultivation.

In the 16th century a sage called Shankardev founded a new sect of Vaishnavism here, which has flourished healthily in the last five hundred years. Today, the ‘sattras’ play a major role in the religious and social lives of every inhabitant of Majuli. Every family sends one son to be a monk, usually from the age of six; the belief is that if one son becomes a monk, then the whole family will be blessed by God. With pilgrims flocking here every year in numbers matched only by the migratory birds for which the island is also a haven, Majuli is known in some circles as the ‘Vatican of Vaishnavism’.

Performed by the monks of the Bhogpur Sattra at the Birla Mandir, New Delhi on 20th February, 2010, the dance clip below, has no song or words but strangely resonates with the uncertain future of this island.

 

 

The island today is separated from the mainland of Assam by 2.5 KM.  Apart from the ferry connecting Majuli to mainland, an “e-Sethu” or e-governance project of Government of India connects the village to Assam.  A wetland, Majuli is a hotspot for flora and fauna, harbouring many rare and endangered avifauna species including migratory birds that arrive in the winter season.  Among the birds seen here are: the Greater Adjutant Stork, Pelican and Whistling Teal. The island is almost pollution - free owing to the lack of polluting industries and factories and also the chronic rainfall.  

A UNDP study reports that the island is under threat due to the extensive soil erosion of its banks. The reason for this magnitude in erosion is the large embankments built in neighbouring towns upriver to prevent erosion there during the monsoon season when the river distends its banks. The upshot is a backlash of the tempestuous Brahmaputra’s fury on the islet, eroding most of the area. According to reports, in 1853, the total area of Majuli was 1,150 km² and about 33% of this landmass has been eroded in the latter half of 20th century.  Since 1991, over 35 villages have been washed away. Surveys show that in 15–20 years from now, Majuli may cease to exist. 

Here is another evocative clip, a dance by Sattriya Dancers of Kalabhumi- one of complete surrender to fate?

 

 

Anthropomorphism

From a green barbet

Posted by Susan Sharma on February 26, 2010

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We, barbets are great at home building. Apart from finding something to eat, pecking a hole on the tree keeps us occupied for the best part of our life. (After all we are related to the famous woodpeckers!) When this neat hole on a wild neem tree was complete, we had reason to be proud of our handy work. We managed raising two broods inside during the summer months and our chicks are now grown up and flying about on their own. During winter, we normally fly away to warmer climes, what are wings for anyway. It seemed appropriate to rent out our premises to other needy folks. But look at what the ants have made of it. They are really dirty housekeepers. When the squirrels came and cleaned up the mess, we were happy. The squirrel kids were snug and warm for the winter. Not one but two families lived inside. The parakeets need a spacious bungalow and are now checking out the squirrel home. We barbets are sitting on the fence and watching the fight between the parakeet and the squirrel. Hey, but why is the tree looking shrivelled up? The squirrels have been extending the house illegally from inside, eating away the sap inside. Looking at the withering tree, we know that it will not be able to weather the next winter storm. May be it is time for us to move on to another tree! (The more you observe nature, the more you tend to identify your emotions and feelings with it. That is the reason why I have included this blog under"anthropomorphism")

Urban Wildlife

Spring in the garden

Posted by Susan Sharma on February 14, 2010

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At last the cold winter of 2010 is on its way out and spring is here again. The redstart which heralded winter for us, is all set to disappear to higher plains till the weather beckons again. The nasturium flower smiling at the sun gives itself completely to the grass blue butterfly. A peacock balances itself on the wall as the clouds proclaim a mild shower coming.



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