Adventure

Gaumukh

'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

“The Cow’s Mouth” or Gaumukh is the name of the ice cave on the Gangotri Glacier at nearly 13,000 feet in the Garhwal Himal of north central India from which pours forth the holiest river in all of India. The Ganga or Ganges as it has been called since the time of the British Raj descends from high mountain peaks through India’s most important farming area, the Gangetic plains, to empty into the Indian Ocean at the Meghna estuary.

This great river takes its name from the Hindu Goddess, Ganga. From its source, the river drops, gathers five other rivers, and meanders 1560 miles until it empties into the ocean. The initial portion of the Ganga is locally known as the Bhagirathi. The Bhagirathi has a drop of 10,000 feet in 120 miles until its confluence with the Alaknanda just below the town of Deoprayag, the Alaknanda rises from snow and ice below the holy mountain, Nanda Devi. While almost all of the Bhagirathi has been successfully run, most of the commercial rafting takes place between Tehri and Rishikesh. Here the Bhagirathi tumbles through two gorges and over one waterfall, when coupled with trekking in the Garhwal and visits to Rajali N.P. and Corbett N.P. creates an incredibly diverse and memorable adventure.

The Bhagirathi can be sampled in a quick afternoon of rafting, several days of rafting or the entire stretch from Tehri to Rishikesh can be rafted in a self-contained weeklong trip. During this week of river adventure, the rafter should see rhesus monkeys, spotted and barking deer and “spot” a leopard. The later is a wonderful local joke and can always bring about laughter. When you ask if you will indeed “spot” a leopard don’t be surprised at the gleeful reply, “yes, the leopard is always ‘spotted!” Overhead, bearded vultures are commonly seen, the walls of the gorges are steep and the river is swift, not conducive to plentiful wildlife viewing opportunities. The good news is two exceptional national parks, the Rajali and Corbett, flank the Bhagirathi. Here are present all the forest birds and mammals indigenous to India with Rajali being important for its elephant population and Corbett for its big cats, the tiger and leopard. The river ride rips down continuous fourth-class rapids with interesting names including Roller Coaster, Golf Course, and Daniel’s Dip. Make sure when choosing an outfitter all rafts are accompanied by a safety kayak. The Bhagirathi is easily accessed from Delhi and tours can be arranged there. Uttar Pradesh means ‘northern province’ with Delhi its heart and soul. A reminder, no journey through this province for rafting and wildlife viewing could be called complete without a visit to Agra and the Taj Mahal. There is an amazing amount to see and do. Take your time and take the time! Enjoy.

Contributed by   John H.Eickert

Num Bum Adventures or call  406-777-2228.

Amazing Facts About Wildlife

Spiders: Amazing All Rounders

By:Prashant Mahajan
Conservation Education Centre, Bombay Natural History Society

Spiders evoke varied responses among human beings. Scary to some but amazingly skilled and colorful web wavers-spiders are one of the most misunderstood creatures we live with. Spiders lack backbone in their body and are mistaken for insects. They are arachnids related to scorpion, ticks and mites. There are about 30,000 species of spiders distributed across the world, of which 1035 species are found in India. All the spider species are carnivorous and feed only on living prey.

Some of the spider species have eight eyes! The Jumping spiders have six small and two large eyes giving them almost 360-degree vision. They are day hunters with good colour vision and rely on sight to catch prey. They use their small eyes, with a wide field of view, to detect movement, and the large eyes, with a narrow field of view and sharp vision, for precise tracking. To focus its large eyes on the target, the spiders moves its retina while the lense remains fixed, and the eye colour changes: the spider is looking straight at you when the eye is darkest.

All spiders are venomous for their prey. Only few are highly venomous, which can kill human beings. However we do not have such species in India. In some species of spider, female is much larger than male. e.g. Giant wood spider, which is found through out the western ghats, is seen during winter months. The female of Giant Wood is known to feed on male spiders, if approached wrongly. They can trap and feed on small size birds like warblers. However, certain species of sunbirds use the nests of social web spiders for their nest.

The role of spiders as ‘pest controller’ is little known. The giant crab spiders feed on cockroaches while wolf spiders eliminates brown plant hopper, detrimental to paddy fields. Deforestation and indiscriminate use of pesticides are eliminating many beneficial spider species.

(Photograph of the Giant Wood Spider is by Prashant Mahajan)

Answers To Quiz Of The Month

Right Answers to `Elephants-Part II`

Last month no one has given all right answers, only adventure@numbum.net has given 9 right answers

Right Answer to Quiz on elephants-Part II

1.Asian elephants attain sexual maturity around the age of --------------- years
5-6 years 13-14 years 20-21 years

2.Asian elephants were widely tamed more than ---------------- ago.
1000 years 2000 years 4000 years

3.Elephants learn as many as ....commands in a year of training
30 10 100

4.The tame elephants used to catch wild elephants in India is called ………
Kumki Khedda Khotal

5.The lustrous white dentin called ivory are actually--------------------- of elephants.
upper molars upper incisors horns

6.When male elephants want to mate, they signal it by
oestrous fluid musth fluid trumpet calls

7.Elephant babies are carried by their mothers for---------------months.
9 months 5 months 22 months

8.Who is the author of the book "Elephant Days and Nights"?
Katharine Payne George B. Schaller Raman Sukumar

9.To ensure long term survival of elephants, in addition to forests, forest--------------are to be protected.
paths fauna corridors

10.The species closest to elephants are,
rhinos dugongs hippos

Please try our quiz for the current month at Elephants-Part III

Did You Know ?

Did You Know..?


  • Tallest bamboo: The tallest bamboo found in Assam and Bengal grows to a height of 30.4 to 36.5 m. with a diameter of 20-25 cm. The bamboo flowers only once in its lifetime every 15,30,60 or 120 years. The whole plant, stem and branches, bloom as last efflorescence before the bamboo dies.
  • Longest grass: The longest known grass stem was reportedly cut at Pattazhi near Trivandrum in Kerala in November, 1904. Its reported height was 37 m.
  • Longest Creeper: The Elephant Creeper (Entada pursaetha) can grow to a length of 1.5 km, making it one of the longest in the world. It has enormous bean-shaped pods over 1.5 m and 10 cm wide containing chocolate-coloured seeds. It grows in the eastern Himalayas and in the Western Ghats.

    (Collected from Limca Book of Records by Prashant Mahajan, CEC, BNHS)

  • Endangered

    Elephants - shrinking herds and habitats around the world.

    Dr. Susan Sharma

    Using satellite data, it is estimated that 16.4 to 20.4 million hectares of rain forest, which is the elephants' habitat, are being destroyed annually.

    Elephants compete with man for land, food and water. Man has developed the land, forcing earth's largest terrestrial mammal onto smaller tracts of Savannah and forest, right to the brink of extinction. Add to this the ivory trade, crop destruction by elephants and this gentle beast suddenly seems to have no friends among humans. India is home to roughly 35% of the species -the Asian elephant. With human populations crossing 100 billion already, elephants cling to a habitat under siege

    The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) once spanned Asia from Syria to northern China. Now it inhabits only India, SriLanka, and South East Asia

    Elephants occur in several of India's famous national parks, including Corbett and Kaziranga National Parks and Mudumalai Forest Reserve, as well as in many smaller wildlife and forest reserves. However, few of them are large enough to contain a resident population within their boundaries and problems are bound to occur when elephants range outside in search of food and water. Ivory poaching is a particular problem in southern India, where there is a long tradition of carving.

    There are an estimated 26,000 wild elephants in India, in fragmented populations, and at least half live entirely outside protected areas. About 12,000 of these are tuskers. Only Asian elephant males carry ivory, unlike their African cousins.

    Trade in Asian Ivory is prohibited in India as well as internationally.

    (Wild elephant herd moving peacefully in the Corbett National Park, photographed by Karan Singh Bisht)

    (To be continued)....

    News and Views

    News & Views

    Dr. Susan Sharma

    News.....

    In keeping with the three month focus on 'Conserving the Indian Elephant', we have uploaded an online contest " See the movie, Write a Story and Win Prizes too ". Our team has created a touching screen saver on elephant behaviour (Photographed by Karan Bisht, Tour Guide, Corbett National Park) which tells a story. What can this story be? Are we humans sensitive enough to understand the emotions and anxieties of these gentle pachyderms? We would request all of you to participate in the online story writing contest, which is on till February 28, 2003. Details of the contest are given on the homepage of IndianWildlifeClub.com.

    Our online chat sessions are picking up slowly, thanks to the patience and perseverance of Mr. Mahendra Vyas. You can read a short transcription of this month's chat on "Migratory Birds" elsewhere on the homepage of IndianWildlifeClub.com. The topic for next month's chat will be " The Asian Elephant". So please be there on 18th of January, 2003, between 7.30PM and 8.30 PM (IST).

    We have received an email from Oksana Borowik, a producer at the Discovery Channel asking for help in documenting stories from Kerala. The mail is reproduced under. Members from Kerala may like to respond.

    From: Oksana Borowik <oborowik@discovery.ca>
    To: "'iwc@indianwildlifeclub.com'"

    Subject: Discovery Channel Documentary
    Date: Thu, 28 Nov 2002 13:17:43 -0500
    X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2655.55)
    I am a producer at the Discovery Channel currently doing research for a documentary on Kerala. I was wondering if you know of any people that I can contact that are doing research on animals or the environment in the area or the story of a person who is trying to save or find an endangered animal, etc...
    If you know of any good stories that could be used in the documentary I would very much appreciate to hear them. I look forward to hearing from you.
    Regards,
    Oksana

    Joydip Kundu & Rajarshi Banerji of Calcutta are organizing a photo-exhibition called"WildFrames". Here is the announcement.

    "Beautiful natural images and objects nourish human beings the way nothing else can – as you know just nothing can be the substitute for Mother Nature and her splendor.

    We are two photographic artists with a passion to capture on film the sheer beauty of the wilderness and its denizens in this magical land of ours. Our fond hope is to instill the appreciation for wildlife and nature in others by sharing our captured images with them.

    WILDEFRAMES seek to propagate the message of conservation by exhibiting the treasures of wildlife, flora and landscape. Thus the primary objective of WILDEFRAMES is not to prove our photographic talents but to capture Mother Nature before her riches vanish from the sinning earth.

    WILDEFRAMES is to be held from December 22nd till 26th,2002 (2pm to 8pm daily, except 22nd.) at Gaganendra Shilpa Prodorshoshala (Kolkata Information Center), which as you know is part of the cultural hub of Kolkata.

    Joydip Kundu & Rajarshi Banerji
    Mail : joydipk@rediffmail.com "

    And Views………….

    " ………..Just beyond the ticket booth Father had painted on a wall in bright red letters the question:DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO? An arrow pointed to a small curtain. There were many eager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had to replace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror. …………."

    From Page 31 of 'Life of Pi ' by Yann Martel

    Understand The Animals

    Endangered Birds

    Dr. Susan Sharma

    Schedule I, Part III of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 lists rare and endangered birds which are totally protected throughout the country, live or dead or part thereof. They include Andaman Teal, Assam Bamboo Partridge, Bazas, Bengal Florican, Blacknecked Crane, Blood Pheasants, , Eastern White Stork, Forest spotted owlet, Jerdon's Courser, Great Indian Bustard, Great Pied Hornbill, Hawks, Hooded Crane, Hornbills, Houbara Bustard, Humes Bartailed Pheasant, Indian Pied Hornbill, Jerdon's Courser, , Lammergeier, Large Falcons, Large Whistling Teal, Monal pheasant, Mountain Quail, Narcondam Hornbill, Nicobar Megapode, Nicobar Pigeon, Osprey, Peacock-Pheasant, Peafowl or Indian Peafowl, Pinkheaded Duck, Scalter's Monal Pheasant, Siberian White Crane, Tibetan Snowcock, Tragopan-Pheasant, Whitebellied Sea Eagle, White-eared Pheasant, White Spoonbill, and Whitewinged Wood Duck.

    Cheer Pheasant(Catreus wallichii)
    Other Names: Wallich's Pheasant

    Range: The Himalayas from Afganistan to Nepal

    Subspecies: None The Cheer Pheasant is the sole member of the genus Catreus

    Brief Description: Drab in comparison to other pheasant species, both sexes share the long gray crests. Plumage overall buffy and gray, with black barring; the tail is long and barred buff, gray and brown. Female very similar to the male; lacking spurs, facial skin smaller, duller in plumage and slightly smaller in overall size.

    The only pheasant species that pairs for life in the wild, and where both parents help to raise their young. They have extremely loud territorial calls so that they can communicate over great distances in the mountains of their homeland.

    Habitat: Highland forests and scrublands from 4,000 to 10,000 Feet.

    NORMAL LIFESTYLE: It is generally found as small populations within isolated pockets of suitable habitat. It is a very sedentary bird with a strong attachment to its territory. Its call is a raucous whistle. The species is monogamous and is usually found in pairs or family parties. Clutch size is between 7 and 14 eggs. They run fast and fly downhill at great speed when disturbed. Ground birds which rarely perch in trees and usually sleep on the ground

    Cheer pheasants have been declining in the wild in their natural range for many years.

    REASONS FOR DECLINE: Hunting, habitat loss.

    Researchers from WildlifeInstitue of India have reported that sightings of of Cheer pheasants from Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) are quite limited. " I could observe this pheasant near Gati Pat in Jiwa Nal valley on the southern facing grassy slopes. Pre-recorded calls of Cheer pheasant were broadcasted at this site during dawn. Two parties of Cheer pheasant responded to these calls. There are potential Cheer pheasant sites in the grassy slopes of villages in EPA. Using the pre-recorded amplified calls is the best technique to locate/observe this pheasant in its habitat. Otherwise, it is very difficult to see Cheer pheasant in its natural habitat.".

    Chail and Majathal sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh ( H.P) are reported to be having small populations.

    Formerly a private hunting reserve of the Maharaja of Patiala, Chail is now severely degraded (Singh et al., 1990). Nevertheless, it holds an internationally important population of cheer pheasant (Gaston and Joginder Singh, 1980; Garson, 1983).

    Cheer pheasant breeding centres are there at Blossom and Jhaja in H.P.

    The World Pheasant Association has worked for nearly 20 years to re-establish this species in the foothills of the Himalayas, in Northern India and in Pakistan where they had become extinct. Parent-reared young birds from the UK are now successfully re-established and breeding in the Margalla Hills in N. Pakistan and at Jabri in N. India.

    Zoo

    Carrying Coals to Newcastle?

    Toby Ninan retired from Delhi Zoo about two years back. With his varied experiences with the wild animals in the zoo, he is the right person to direct your queries to. Hear what Ninan has to say about his life and chosen career!

     

    The year 1974. The pair of baby elephants had to go to Zanzibar. This was a gift of the Vice President of India to the Tanzanian government and they had to go by sea.

    This was the first time that I had carried elephants without crates & that too by sea.I had two mahouts to help me ship them to Africa. I wondered why take elephants to a land where they were in plenty but soon I came to know that these were being sent to a hotel in Zanzibar where hey would be giving joyrides to tourists.

    We hired an eight wheeler railway wagon (postal van as it was called) to transport them from Delhi to Bombay. Housed in the Byculla zoo temporarily, we were told that 'Mapinduzi' was arriving in Bombay harbour in a couple of days.

    The elephants had to travel on the deck and had to be hoisted up by a crane. I had only seen elephants hoisted up in films where it looked an easy enough task. Here I learnt the hard way that each elephant had to not only have a belt around its middle but also one on either side of the side of the head which passed from under the fore-leg pits. Finally all the belts joined above the back to the hook of the crane. Hoisted by a crane, the youngsters boarded the ship and were soon tied securely to poles on the deck.

    I was given a beautiful cabin fully air conditioned with a fine bathroom fitted with a bathtub and bubble bath. I also had a small fridge which contained six beers which would be replaced daily throughout my voyage. The Captain was Japanese. He wanted the deck to be spotlessly clean at all times. This meant that any pile of dung coming down from the rear of the elephant or a sower of wine had to be cleaned up no sooner than it hit the deck. This was OK by me but to my horror both my mahouts came down with a bout of virulent sea sickness and i had to bear the brunt of 'operation cleanup'.

    The sea sickness improved after a week and I sat back to enjoy a wonderful voyage though I had to settle for either uncooked fish of the Japanese style or boiled meat of the Tanzanian style as the crew consisted of six Japanese six Tanzanians and one Indian engineer. The ship, built in Japan, was on its way to be delivered to Zanzibar at a cost of 63 million schillings. There were no other passengers besides the elephants, the two mahouts and me.

    After a voyage of two weeks we reached Zanzibar. After unloading the elephants I was asked by one of the Zanzibarian officials as to what the elephants would eat. I asked what was the staple food of their people and they said it was rice. You can give them rice, I said casually. This however proved to be a bombshell. Unknown to me, there were two groups at Zanzibar -one pro Indian and the other anti Indian. The anti -Indian group started spreading rumours that the Indians had sent the elephants so that they ( elephants) would eat up all the rice produced and all the people would starve. This was told to me by the Chief Engineer of their Electricity Board who was an Indian! This was horrifying news indeed and I immediately called up the Zanzibar official to clarify. The elephants can be fed sugarcane tops available in plenty as waste from the sugar cane factory. They could also feed these animals with leaves and branches from the mango and jackfruit trees which grew in abundance on these islands.

    Once the presentation ceremony was over and all misconceptions ruled out, common people poured in large numbers to see the elephants. Surprisingly, very few had seen an elephant though just forty miles across the ocean from the mainland there were elephants (African Elephants) galore. There was a belief among locals that burnt elephant dung was a cure for colds. So it was very easy to get rid of dung and the premises of the elephant yard were kept spotlessly clean.

    After a month's stay I had settled the animals in their new set up and returned to India with the satisfaction of a job well done.




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