Adventure

Namdapha

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

Sometimes surprises lead to the best discoveries. I left Itanagar with my travel permit to visit in the Northeast Hill States. My plan was to travel to Ledo by bus and then tour as much as remained of the Ledo Road. The Ledo Road was built during World War 2, connecting Ledo through Myanmar (Burma then) to Kunming, China. The road when built would serve two purposes. Supplies could be sent into China with greater ease than flying them in, and the road would create a barrier to westward expansion by the imperialist Japanese. The building of the road marked the beginning of the end and eventually defeat for the Japanese.

My adventure plan was almost a good one. The road is still used from Ledo to Pangso Pass and the frontier with Myanmar. However, foreigners such as me are only allowed out along the road to a small war memorial, which is perhaps four miles east of Ledo. After a long walk in the heat and then some rain, I returned to the hostel where I was staying in Ledo. That night I met two Japanese tourists who said they were just returning from a weeklong stay at a wildlife park. The Japanese couple enjoyed birding and we talked deep into the night about what they had seen. Until then, I had never heard of Namdapha National Park.

To my surprise, Namdapha sounded like a gem of a small park. It has an astonishing diversity of terrain. It advertises to those who might visit that it is the only wildlife park in the world providing natural habitat for four big cats- tiger, leopard, snow leopard, and clouded leopard. It also contains habitat for India's sole member of the ape family, the hoolock gibbon. At first it sounded too good to be true and I kept wondering how much of all this the couple was making up. The next day I made some inquiries in Ledo and then traveled to Margherita. From Margherita I went south to the small town of Miao and finally a gypsy to Deban. All of this travel was of the local variety and very entertaining. Deban is the entrance to Namdapha and there I was directed to the office of the Forest Supervisor. He was a very friendly man with shining dark eyes and patient manner. I grew very enthusiastic about my visit. Of course, sometimes even the best surprises do not lead to the desired results. Though it was March, it began to rain and leeches appeared almost everywhere. Unable to see much and with trekking in the mud not high on my list of fun adventure, I retreated all the way back to Ledo.

I hope someday to return to Namdapha, this next time in December or even January. Perhaps it will be dry and the wildlife more visible. The idea of jungle and snow clad peaks within one park still intrigues me. I hope some of you have already visited Namdapha. Cheers.

Visit http://www.numbum.net or call NumBum Adventurers at 406-777-2228

Answers To Quiz Of The Month

Right Answers to Quiz on Rhinoceros

Right Answer to Quiz on Rhinoceros

This month chattorajd@yahoo.com has given all 10 right answers

1.Rhinos are native to the continents of Africa and Asia. Only ------------- species of rhinos are still alive.
  • Two
  • Three
  • Five

  • 2.After elephants, the largest creature found in the African savannah is the ...........
  • white rhino
  • black rhino
  • hippopotamus

  • 3.The only two horned species in Asia is ....
  • Sumatran rhinoceros
  • Indian rhino
  • Javan rhino

  • 4.Poachers kill rhinos to sell which part of rhino’s body?
  • hide
  • the horn
  • hooves

  • 5.Rhinos can live to be....
  • 30 years old
  • 70 years old
  • 50 years old

  • 6.Rhinos have a gestation period of
  • 360-470 days
  • 250-360 days
  • 420-570 days

  • 7.Rhinos have
  • sharp eyesight
  • keen sense of taste
  • excellent sense of smell

  • 8.The population of Indian rhinos have stabilsed at --------------------thanks to conservation efforts
  • 1200
  • 2520
  • 5400

  • 9.Slightly larger than the Sumatran rhino with the armored plate look of the Indian rhino, this species is now reduced to less than 60. Which is this species?
  • Javan rhino
  • Black rhino
  • White rhino

  • 10.The rhino is a plant eating species. The Indian rhino weighs up to
  • 5000 pounds
  • 3000 pounds
  • 1750 pounds

  • Please attempt this month quiz on wetland

    Common Birds of India

    The Shikra ( Accipiter badius )

    - Ragoo Rao

    Winter is setting in and the cold is bringing in a lot of changes in the birds lives. Now is the season to observe and picture some of the birds which do not migrate but get tuned to a different way of foraging and roosting.
    The warblers are really active in these days foraging for dormant insects early in the mornings. Most of the trees would have shed their leaves and some birds would change their roosting places. The Barbets, specially the Green barbets, which seem to love leafless trees to look for insects in the bark are very much around with their familiar call .Kutoor....kutoor... call.

    This is Nature and the wonderful adaptations of all creatures.

    I have selected the Shikra for this month's feature.

    A slender pigeon sized raptor is a familiar bird through out the country. Ashy grey above, white below with brown cross barred markings and long slender feet are very familiar around home and avenue trees in urban areas and parks, on the look out for unwary small birds in trees and lizards and rodents  in the grass below. Females are brownish on the upper body. Early mornings, early afternoon and early evenings are its favorite time of preying. They usually sit in leafy trees waiting for prey and once spotted swoop down silently and carry off the prey. If there are squirrels and magpie robins in the area, they betray their presence by their alarm calls.

    The Shikra has a unique flying pattern, rapid wing strokes and a swooping glide below the tree levels and glide up to perch. During nesting the birds frequent their nests, which is usually in a large Mango or Mahogany tree. They can be found carrying small birds and lizards in their beaks while feeding the chicks.

    The shikras are very vocal in the nesting season and their call is a loud warning Ki..Keee...Ki...Keeee. to crows which come close by to the nesting trees. The nest is very much raptor like, with loosely arranged twigs, lined with grass and roots. Three or sometimes four eggs, bluish white, speckled or spotted with grey are laid. Both sexes share all nesting and chick rearing activities. Incubation is done by only the female bird while the male guards any intruders.

    The Shikra occupies a very important niche in the food chain, keeping rodents and lizards in control.

    ( Photographs of Shikra-Ragoo Rao)

    Endangered

    Scarlet Waters

    -Shivani Thakur Singh

    The environment is a fragile thing. Although self-sustaining, it is fast losing out the battle against human intervention. With tigers, leopards, chiru and other species on the verge of extinction; there are many who are on the endangered category. The Olive Ridley Turtles found in India and only on the Orissa coast are one such species.

    Olive Ridley turtles get their name from the coloring of their heart shaped carapace (shells), which starts out as grey but reaches an olive green once they reach adulthood. Their life span is between 50 and 60 years reaching reproductive maturity at 10 to 15 years of age and remaining reproductively active for 21 years. Their diet usually consists of crabs, clams, shrimps, mussels, sea urchins and jellyfish. These carnivores survive on mosses and algae also. Inspite of their extremely gentle behavior this species is being threatened. But the main culprit in their declining population are humans. The coastal areas like elsewhere in India are major areas for fishing. Olive ridley's get killed due to gill nets and trawlers used by fishermen. The fishermen use big mechanized trawlers. These turtles are hurled aboard along with the fish. The demand for turtle meat is high in Japan. The traders get a good deal for their meat. This rampant demand along with water pollution and natural breakdown of nests contents which creates fungus and bacteria that destroys the buried sea turtle eggs are causes for their decreasing numbers.

    A major wildlife organization put the figure of turtles killed at last count to 2000. In the past thirteen years around 1,29,000 carcasses have been found. Last year around 9000 turtles were found dead. In March alone 1,700 deaths were recorded in a single incident. These deaths raise a question mark on conservation of turtles. Most prominent areas where deaths were recorded, were in Devi river mouth and Paradip. Trawling has been prohibited till 20 km off coast here but on January 13, 2006 eleven trawlers were found fishing 2-3 km off the coast. In Delhi , the ministry of environment and forests refused to comment on their declining population arguing that it is state subject. With government empathy at the center and state level, their plight has been ignored. The ‘passing the buck ‘ policy has resulted in bringing the turtles on the endangered list.

    Belinda Wright of Wildlife Protection Society of India has pointed out that both the environment ministry and Orissa government have been asked to stop the deep-water trawlers from entering the restricted area. In the past 10 years the uses of deep-water trawlers have risen. These trawlers not only kill fish and turtles but also destroy the biomass that supports them. Also, the offshore oil exploration in the area could mean adverse impact on the future of the species. In 2004 the Supreme Court gave Central Empowered Committee the direction to ensure their protection but nothing has been done so far. Also, the patrol boat at Nuagarh fishing base sits idle despite orders for day night patrolling. This continuance ignoring of the situation will only result in dwindling population of the turtles.

    The task forces come out once any species reaches the extinction level. Are we all waiting for animals or birds to reach their minimum numbers before we take any action or can we make efforts while we still can???

    (Photo of Olive Ridley by WWF-Guy MARCOVALDI

    Stamp issued by India in 2000)

    News and Views

    News & Views

    -Dr.Susan Sharma

    News…..

    The news of the month is our campaign to motivate people to visit bird sanctuaries- a campaign initiated by two youngsters in an advertising firm. We had lots of people visiting ourbird sanctuaries page- Hope some of them actually visited the sanctuaries as well.

    A couple of years back traveling by road in Himachal Pradesh, we were driving near the bridge over the Sutlej river. Suddenly my nephew called out Look! There is a rainbow on the road!! Sure enough, the sprinkle of water from a rock surface had caught in its spray the rainbow colours. This artwork by nature mesmerized all of us. We tried to capture it in our camera. This month when Saraswati sent in a poem written by her, this photograph got the words it needed to tell a story.

    2 nd February each year is the World Wetlands Day. Check your knowledge about India 's wetlands by attempting ouronline quiz.

    ………….And Views

    “The challenge is to secure the desired quality and pace of development, not only economically but also socially and environmentally. As the nation embarks on an ambitious journey of economic growth, this is also the right time to engage with the broader scope of growth- namely sustainable development. The need of the hour for the Indian industry is to play a proactive role towards achieving sustainable growth.

    India ranks 133 among 180 countries in terms of water availability in the UNDP Report 2005. In terms of water quality, its record is even more dismal, as it ranked 120 th among 122 countries. Besides, India ranks 127 th among 175 nations in terms of Human Development Index. Under these circumstances, the industry and the corporate segments have a special responsibility to ensure that no deferred burden is placed on coming generations”.

    -Y C Deveshwar, Chairman, ITC Ltd.

    Poem

    Memories

    Story Of The Month

    In Harmony with Nature (The Indian School of Business-ISB .)

    - Ragoo Rao

    Development is imminent. It cannot be stopped. It can only be stalled for some time. Development is often thought of as destruction of some other thing, but it need not be so. Urban development is one such imminent thing. It cannot halt. It need not necessarily destroy anything else. It can be planned keeping our fragile environment in mind and going harmoniously with it than against it.

    A perfect testimony of this is ...”The Indian School of Business (ISB)”… which has shown the way.

    Nestled deep in a scrub- jungle range, about twenty kilometers away from Hyderabad in a locality known as Gachibowli, this state-of- the art premiere business institution reflects its perfect harmony with nature. It is spread over a sprawling area of around two hundred acres with high rise buildings and strategically located student villages. Despite this, it has managed to retain the pristine condition of the scrub-jungle. The terrain is rocky with huge boulders of granite- some being monolithic; rising almost twenty feet from the ground. The range has a lot of thorny shrubs, huge trees, natural ravines interspersed with natural cascading small brooks and small ponds. It is a typical scrub- jungle and everything is untouched. The buildings are so well and aesthetically planned that nature and man-made structures compliment each other. In fact, one of their buildings has a monolithic granite deposit as one of its walls. It's a marvelous merging of nature with development.

    The ISB campus has its own preserved ecosystem comprising of abundant flora-fauna. Adding life to such a setting are the resident Peafowl, Quail, Partridges, Sunbirds, Shikras, Bee-eaters, Baya weaverbirds with their hanging nests around the ponds, Egrets, Herons, Mynas, Warblers, Tailor birds, Cuckoos, Coucals,….and the list could go on and on. The main attraction being the magnificent Peacocks which adorn the campus.

    The common mongoose is frequently seen looking for prey around the buildings. Chameleons are in abundance here and can be spotted on almost every second Neem tree. The birds and animals here are well protected and respected. Even to venture into the area and photograph them the ISB insists on a written permission from the Administration. In short it is mainly a Nature Sanctuary also housing the ISB. As one enters the ISB through their only main gate-after a strict security check, boards can be seen on all driveways instructing drivers to drive slow and look out for well shown “Peacock crossing” sign boards. “Nature truly has the right of way here.”

    A day spent in the ISB campus is a memorable one for any nature lover. As dawn ascends on the huge boulders and scrub-jungle, it spreads a spectacular golden glow on the rocks and one can hear the shrill cry of a peacock close by. It is answered by another distant cry of another peacock, and then another somewhere else and in a few minutes the whole place is filled with a chorus of shrill peacock calls. Then suddenly they stop, only to return to the chorus after a few minutes. At the first break of light it is a delight to see from one's window…the peacocks, an entire flock of them on a boulder socializing & preening.

    As the day starts getting brighter, the other birds like the Sunbirds are out to get to the first blooms of the wild flowers to get their morning nectar. On the ground, in the tall grass the Partridges are out cackling and scratching the ground for grass seeds. The warblers are out hopping from shrub to shrub in search of insects. The Herons and Egrets scan the lawns of the campus for crickets and small frogs. Each one going about its life the way nature designed it, unmindful of the regular security guard doing his morning rounds in the jungle.

    Suddenly, the Squirrels, who until then were busy chasing each other from branch to branch, go into a fit of shrill alarm calls. Watch carefully and you'll find either a Mongoose on the prowl or a Shikra scanning the scene from a nearby branch.

    As we approach the brighter & warmer mid-day, the orchestra and drama of these animals and birds fade away and one could only hear the gurgling sound of a nearby brook and an occasional egret take-off from one of the ponds.

    The evening sets a different scenario; the peacocks are quietly foraging like domestic hens all around the campus, blissfully ignorant of a passing car or the residents walking around or the children playing. The male Baya weaver birds are all gathered near the pond in the high reeds trying to show off their nest building capabilities and the choosy female birds inspecting one nest after the other. The Green bee- eaters, in flocks of hundreds, are all perched on the electric wires of the campus in trying to catch an insect in the late evening.

    Dusk is heralded by a grand finale-orchestra of the peacocks once again all perched up on their favorite trees, only to be seen as silhouettes against the velvety dark sky. Everything is quiet in the campus, with the sight of eerie silhouettes of the mammoth boulders against the star filled sky, until the next dawn, when the drama starts unfolding itself again, each player doing his role precisely as nature directs.

    This is what proper planning of development means. LIVE AND LET LIVE….Indeed… The ISB shows the way.

    As experienced by Ragoorao. Photographs by author

    (October 2005)




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