Adventure

Calcutta!!!

'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

I arrived in Calcutta from Guwahati, a long way from the riverine wildlife of Kaziranga. The maroon colored mini-bus deposited me in a sea of humanity in what I hoped was downtown Calcutta . It was very hot. Calcutta has a poor reputation in the West, yet it is Mother India's second largest city. I had come to see for myself. My guidebook noted a tourist information office at the train station, the train station! Somehow, it had not dawned on me to take the train from Guwahati. Getting onto a tram, not wishing to go underground for transportation, and not sure I wanted to walk, I looked about to see many eager smiling faces. Conversation came easily. I was encouraged to see the museums, temples, visit Mother Teresa's facility, and spend an afternoon at Eden Gardens watching cricket.

Once at the train station I easily found the tourist information booth and a smiling, young lady helped me with a map, lodging suggestions, and even an itinerary for my stay. I was most impressed. She was polite and very helpful. I was not sure why I expected something else. I thanked her and wished her well. Her reply roused more curiosity, “please, welcome to the City of Joy .” I had never heard Calcutta referred to as the City of Joy . What I had heard of Calcutta was filth, poverty, and dark confinements. My plan was to spend maybe two days and leave quickly, I spent a week there and upon leaving for Tamil Nadu, taking the train this time; I wished I had spent a month.

I walked along the river observing sacred funeral ghats. I visited temples and art museums. I spent an afternoon at Eden Gardens trying to understand cricket. I wandered the Sanskrit College and the many city parks. Everywhere I met smiling gracious people eager to engage in conversation. I had expected a dark, dangerous city. I found a vibrant one rich in culture and progressive. Compared to Mumbai and Bollywood, Calcutta must be the intellectual capital of India . I found people as proud of their colonial past as of their boundless future. In south Calcutta , I visited the Kali temple, Kali being the patron-goddess of Calcutta , and the Mother Teresa's Homes. On another day, I visited the Academy of Fine Arts on Cathedral Road and while there I realized that in my own way, I had joined the millions of pilgrims who came here seeking enlightenment and understanding.

When I left, I realized I had found an inner adventure. There is as much varying diverse life and adventure, so much to see, and learn, and understand, in a city as there is near a river, desert, or mountains.AND there is one thing more. In Calcutta I found a city filled with love, hope for the future. Indeed, I found a city of joy. The young girl at the information booth had shown me the way and I had come to understand it.

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Answers To Quiz Of The Month

Right Answer to quiz on Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ) in India

This month no one have given all right answers, only jacquie@scientist.com has given 9 right answers.

Right Answer toQuiz on Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ) in India

1.A directive creating an inviolate zone of 500m from the high tide line was issued in India in the year
  • 1981
  • 1964
  • 1947

  • 2.The coastal line of India stretches …………………
  • 7000 km
  • 5600km
  • 2400km

  • 3.Many mangroves in Coastal Zones have been removed to create ……….
  • River Otters
  • shrimp farms
  • tourist resorts

  • 4.Coastal Zones in India are the direct responsibility of………………..
  • Ministry of Environment and Forests
  • National Coastal Zone Management Authority
  • State Governments concerned.

  • 5.The inviolate zone of 500m from high tide line has been reduced and selected industries permitted on the coast since………
  • 1997
  • 2001
  • 1991

  • 6.Absorbing shock waves from the sea and absorbing carbon dioxide from the air are two protective services resulting from
  • shrimp farms
  • coral reefs
  • mangroves

  • 7.The sea wall stretching along 1000km of Tamil Nadu coast line is planned to be made of ..
  • mangroves
  • concrete
  • stones

  • 8.The committee to review the CRZ notification of 1991 is headed by ……….
  • Valmik Thapar
  • Prof.M.S Swaminathan
  • Prodipto Ghosh

  • 9.The CRZ Act divided India’s coastal zones into --------zones
  • Four
  • Six
  • Three

  • 10.The National Coastal Zone Management Authority constituted in 1998 did not have a representative from
  • Kerala
  • Maharashtra
  • Andaman Nicobar Islands

  • Please try our quiz for the current month on animal(wild) rescue and breeding in India

    Burning Issues

    Poaching of wildlife in India - Year 2005

    Tigers, Leopards

    Birds and other animals

    Timber Mafia

     

    1 st Feb. 2005 . In the early hours of the day, the Delhi police raided the basement of a warehouse in Patel Nagar and discovered a huge stock of wildlife products.

     

    The haul consisted of 39 leopard skins (including one snow leopard), 2 tiger skins, 42 otter skins, 3 kg of tiger claws, 14 tiger canines, 10 tiger jaw bones, about 135 kg of porcupine quills, 60 kg of tiger and leopards paws, and 20 small pieces of bone that appear to be tiger and leopard 'floating' clavicle bones.

     

    Four people were arrested, including the niece and another relative of the notorious wildlife trader Sansar Chand, and two employees at the warehouse. The four were brought before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Mr Manoj Jain, this afternoon and were remanded to judicial custody for 14 days. Advocate Anil Sehgal represented the accused in court.

     

    The case has now been handed over to the Delhi Forest and Wildlife authorities.

     

    This shocking new seizure is proof that Delhi is still the hub of the illegal wildlife trade.

     

    Sansar Chand is presently absconding from another wildlife case in Jaipur last year. His wife Rani and son Akash were arrested in this case on 18 October 2004 . They are still being held in custody in Rajasthan. In April 2004, Chand was convicted to five years imprisonment, in another wildlife case in Ajmer . Three weeks later he was granted bail on a technicality.

     

    Spanning a period of at least 30 years in the trade, Chand was first arrested in September 1974, for a seizure which included tiger and leopard skins. He was convicted in this case in April 1982 to one and a half year's rigorous imprisonment.

     

    6th February 2005 .

    The Patna Police arrested three persons involved in illegal trade of sarus cranes and white necked stork. During interrogation it was revealed that the species were being smuggled out to Bangladesh . A bird fetched over Rs 15,000 in the international market.

     

     

    Sarus Crane

     

     

     

    Timber

     

    Feb21, 2005

     

     

    Ten shahtoosh shawls and a number of mixed shahtoosh–pashmina shawls were seized in an undercover operation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) assisted by the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) late Sunday afternoon.The owner of an up-market store, Gulati Silks and Sarees, located in the heart of Chandigarh in Sector 17 was arrested with an accomplice.

     

    28 January 2005 : CRPF Director General J.K. Sinha: ‘‘Criminals and organized mafia are using the Naxal movement to make money. Timber mafia and the organized extortion racket of Bihar and Andhra Pradesh are not only posing as Naxalites but in many cases they are using the services of the Naxal cadre to extort money through kidnapping and smuggling... The money made through such means is in many cases shared by the organised mafia with the Naxals.''

    The DG said that his force had come across several instances where the Naxalites were in cahoots with the organized mafia. ‘‘Either the Naxal cadre is being used or the money is being shared,'' Sinha said. According to him, smuggling of ‘kattha' from the Chatara forest in Bihar was one such example. ‘‘Local forest officials, Naxals and the organised mafia are all involved in this operation,'' he said.

    This organization estimates that the majority of timber smuggling in Bihar and Andhra Pradesh is now being run under the garb of the Left-wing movement. ‘‘There is a nexus between government officials... Forest officials and other local officials are in hand-in glove with these criminal groups who are using the Naxal movement for their own convenience,'' he said.

     

    Eco-travel

    Trekking in Andhra forests

    - Saraswati Kavula

    I have just returned from a trek to the Kawal Wild life sanctuary in Adilabad

    district in Andhra Pradesh. While we all had a breath of fresh air away from the

    din and smog of the city life, the sights we saw were not too encouraging. On the first day our trip was very encouraging, we found many birds and also some black buck and chinkaara. We walked through the forest in search of the birds to a watering hole inside the sanctuary. It was a small canal called kadam canal which comes from kadam reservoir that joins the Godavari ahead. Only our hopes were dashed, as there was no water. After having Walked about four kilometres, we thought of going to the lake, which was another 3 kilometers away. But Amjad our driver from the forest department said, ‘there Won't be any birds now as there is no water even in that other lake'. Looking

    down at the canal, it did seem like there is no such hope as to find either water or birds in that region.

    The little natural ponds inside the forest, which should be carrying some water, also were dried up. There have not been good rains this time. There was some bird life around Kadam reservoir. But we did not have much time to spend as we needed to head towards the Gond village Maisampet where we stayed that night. Linganna who was a local man from a neighbouring village Dostnagar, five kilometres from Maisampet, was accompanying us. Maisampet is 6 kms deep inside the forest. He worked with the forest department as a forest watcher. He has been working since 7 years. His salary was 1500. He was used by some visiting professors to do their research on tiger ecology for which he was paid 1500 occasionally. But for the last two years he had been receiving money once in a couple of months. But he manages to earn a living from farming, and continues to work out of his own interest to safeguard the forest and also in the hope that soon the government will change its policies and will pay him in future. Since going there after

    dark was risky, we started out around 5pm . The journey was about 17 kilometres

    from Kadam Reservoir. Soon, we entered the jungle and managed to see some Black

    Buck and Chinkaara. We did hope to find a bear but we didn't.

    Towards dusk we reached Maisampet. We thought of going for a walk into the

    forest that night to spend time on the Machaan. But we all needed some tea first. Linganna asked the village headman for some tea. He said they don't have any milk; they could only give some decoction. We agreed. Some of the team members who are used to city luxuries even on their “organised treks” protested. By the time the tea arrived it was past eight o'clock , since the people cook on wood fires. Then someone said it may be too late to go out now. The idea was anyway dropped and while we waited for dinner, we listened to Mr.Waheed the newly transferred DFO of Nirmal division. He heard of us coming into Maisampet and came to meet us all. “What brought you to Maisampet?' he enquired. “We wanted to start a truly eco-friendly tourism in this area, one which will also benefit the local people and using bare minimum resources,” our organiser Imran

    replied. Mr. Waheed was happy to hear that. He seemed to be one of those who took his job very seriously. He was associated with the tiger conservation project for nearly twenty years now. He had many stories to tell.

    “Once when I was working in the Srisailam project, a group of villagers came in

    for compensation, saying that one of their men was attacked and killed by a tiger. I was worried, because if the villagers think it is a tiger, then they will kill it. I asked them if they had mistaken it for a sloth bear. They said no it is not, they were sure it was a tiger. We went to see the location. Five of us had gone there. Just as we were seeing the area where the animal had killed the man and dragged him out, we were attacked from behind. It was a sloth bear. It had attacked one of the villagers who came with us. This was the man who lost his relative already. If he doesn't live then, the villagers will not believe our words that the animal which attacked was not a tiger but the bear. So, I had to distract the animal and then it attacked me. My ligaments in the wrists were torn apart fighting it. Meanwhile, one of my rangers tried to help me out by bringing the bear's attention on to himself. By then I collapsed totally , having lost lots of blood already. The others too couldn't save him. The bear caught the ranger and dragged his body away. We never found his remains either. I survived with about 45 stitches and four operations later, what with the people having taken me immediately to the nearby town PHC and later to the city corporate hospital. It is a very tricky situation to balance the act of protecting the tiger and the interests of the people. People can get paranoid about tigers and don't let them live. Normally bears are prone to attack people; they are very unpredictable and need to be feared more than the tigers.”

    ( Photograph of Chinkaara in Ranthambhore- Susan Sharma)

    Gardening for wildlife

    Spring in Our Gardens

    Ms.Promila Chaturvedi is a freelance landscape designer whose organization "Gardens India" undertakes a number of projects in landscaping and gardening.

    February is month of our short lived spring in our country. During this month of spring red, orange, pink, yellow, blue and white flowers take charge of Semal -Bombax malabaricum , Pink Kachnar- Bauhinia variegata, Ashok or Saraca indica ( picture on left) and of prune trees like peach and plums.

    Mustered fields are full of aroma and colour.

    The gardens are full of various shades of red, pink, orange, yellow, violet, blue and white annuals and bulbous plants.

    Often it is said that during this month there is very little work in the garden.

    But to keep a garden in good shape one is always busy.

    Perennial Chrysanthemums' suckers should be removed in this month. Root pieces should be lined out under the shade in a corner or be planted in 4inch pots; keep varieties separately.

    Bela shrubs need pruning this time of the year.

    Garden pests also would not let you sit idle. They will attack fruit trees, shrubs annuals and perennials. Aphids (see picture on right) attack on Chrysanthemums, Citrus and other fruit trees, annuals specifically which grow in shades like Cinerarias. The green fly also attacks certain plants during this period like cabbage and cauliflower. In a garden its favourites are wallflowers, erysimums and stocks. The advance of attack usually goes unnoticed till plants start showing distress. These insects serve as vector to bacterial infection. The gardener is always busy during this month fighting with the aphids and greenfly.

    News and Views

    News & Views

    Here is a message from a Club member who is researching on environmental attitudes of members of nature clubs.

    "I am researching the reasons why people join wildlife societies and clubs and would love the chance to be able to interview and speak to some of the members of the Indian Wildlife Club. If you would like to participate in and share some of your views on wildlife and the environment in India I would love to meet you at your convenience and conduct informal interviews. I look forward to hearing from you."

    Deepti Sastry
    PhD Student
    University of London
    Email: deeptisastry@gmail.com
    Please contact Deepti at the above mail id so that she can meet up with you.

    News……………….

    IndianWildlifeClub.com is now part of the global eco-portal

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    Click on the following links to see some of the networks we are part of:

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    and Views……….

    “ ----- Excess consumption of chemical fertilizers pollutes and degrades the environment…. not just in the field where they are used, butt as the fertilizers run off with the rains, they pollute the entire land. But because the vested interests for fertilizer subsidy are so strong and are so well disguised behind socialist pro-farmer rhetoric, the environment's case is lost. The sad Indian tax-payer is subsidizing and positively encouraging lazy businesses to pollute the environment.

    The same holds true for subsidized pesticides. If they were priced right, farmers would use them sparingly paying proper respect to a scarce resource. Price them low…. and then why complain if they over-use them and literally poison the environment and our very own food chain? One might want to argue that pollutants should be taxed and priced high to control their consumption. But to actually subsidize them must take really convoluted logic. --------”

    Excerpts from the article ‘Running India to the Ground' by Jerry Rao which appeared in Indian Express dated 7 Jan 2005

    Story Of The Month

    So how did the wildlife survive?

      Contd. From our last issue.

      -Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, CEO, Jetwing Eco Holidays (www.jetwingeco.com)

      Sixth senses aside, one simple reason why animals survived is that the few hundred meters beside the coastline is an arid habitat. It is generally sparsely populated by large, visible animals, relative to the habitats further inland which has fresh water pools and grassy meadows fringed by scrub of woodland.

    Another reason could be the so called sixth sense which allowed many animals to 'hear' the arrival of the Tsunami. The seismic activity which generated the Tsunami would have generated energy waves at long wavelengths. Long wavelengths carry great distances, which is why radio communication uses long wavelengths. The human ear hears within the range of 20 - 20,000 Hz. Many animals have a wider auditory or hearing range.Elephants have been studied for a number of years on their use of communication with infra sounds, wavelengths longer than which the human ear is able to hear. They are also known to stomp their feet and create seismic waves which can be picked up by other elephants over 40 km away. In November 2003, I remember being in Yala with Lyn Hughes, the Managing Editor of Wanderlust Magazine. A distressed family of elephants touched and nuzzled each other whilst keeping up a chorus of deep rumbles. I also guessed they were communicating in infrasound, with other members of the family. Mature bulls are usually solitary, but one bull may have been tailing the family because one of the cows were in heat. Suddenly there was a crash in the undergrowth and a big tusker emerged 'stomping' his feet, sending seismic waves announcing his arrival and might.

    In "Leopard and other wildlife of Yala, Charles Santiapillai et al write "The feet of elephants are filled with vibration sensors known as Pacinian corpuscles, which have a structure similar to an onion, with a shiny gel between each layer. Vibrations from the ground are picked up by the feet and passed on to the brain through these sensors. Thus, they are able to detect infra sound which we cannot hear, and communicate over very large distances".

    The so called sixth sense is probably in many cases a wider hearing range which allowed them to pick up wavelengths which the humans did not hear. In a sense they heard the arrival of the Tsunami. This could have been airborne infra sounds or seismic waves (also in the infra sound range). Even noise audible to humans would have been detected earlier by animals who have more sensitive hearing. A few seconds or minutes of extra warning would have given them enough time scramble to safety. Sometimes all that was need was to climb a tall tree or flee a few hundred meters.

    Animals such as lizards and snakes who are sensitive to vibrations may also have picked up tremors as the Tsunami approached the shore. Nadeera Weerasinghe, one of the naturalists of the Yala Safari Game Lodge reported seeingsnakes and lizards sharing the trees which human survivors had climbed.

    Birds which migrate long distances and turtles have a sophisticated mechanism for detecting subtle changes in the earth's geomagnetism. Seismic activity could produce changes which animals can detect. But it is unlikely that birds in Sri Lanka were alerted by geo-magnetic changes. As the tidal wave struck the east and south coast, oblivious to it, I was in the Kotte Marshes, a wetland on the outskirts of Colombo . A flock of over 100Lesser Sand Plovers and Golden Plovers , winter migrants gave no hint of impending devastation.Purple Swamphens were engaged in bitter territorial warnings. There was no hint of danger from the wildlife around me.

    It seems that the birds in Sri Lanka picked up the danger, visually by seeing the tidal wave and not by geo-magnetic changes or changes in atmospheric pressure.

    Uditha Hettige in his account of survival e-mailed to me wrote "In the morning, about 20-30 minutes before the tsunami hit Yala, I saw flocks of birds (Black-headed Ibis, Painted Storks, Openbill Storks , etc) flying inland. That does not prove that they sensed the tsunami. I have seen them behaving like this before due to other reasons.

    I was at Yala at the time the tsunami hit the Yala area. I was having breakfast at that time, while looking at the lagoon. A group of birds (Cormorants, Egrets, Terns , etc.) took off suddenly and I knew that it was not because of an attack by an animal (e.g. raptor or bird of prey). At the same time I looked at the estuary of the lagoon and saw water coming from the estuary of the lagoon. And at that point it occurred to me for water to come this far, it must be a tidal wave as the beach is about 100m away and 5 feet plus lower than the level of the hotel. I could not see the sea because my view was blocked by a row of rooms. I stood up, even without grabbing my camera bag and shouted “Tidal Wave” and started running and everybody around started running".

    The birds probably picked up an acute alarm call from birds in the air. Birds have a varied vocal repertoire which serve different purposes. In the rainforests of Sri Lanka , one can hear the Sri LankaCrested Drongo uttering a 'flock gathering' call to form a mixed species feeding flock. I have heard the same bird utter an alarm call and observed how the whole forest falls silent as animals freeze for safety. Uditha's account supports the view that many of the birds escaped by other birds raising the alarm after visual detection. Perhaps Sri Lanka was too far from the center of seismic activity for geo-magnetism to have played a part.

    On the 28th of December, I noticed one of the Giant Squirrelsat the Game Lodge back in its old territory. The sounders of wild pigwere back. Animal life had returned to normal. For us humans, we will forever be scarred by the tragedy of the great wave which swept away many lives. We still have hope and determination to re-build a shattered nation. Recognizing the need to help the local communities who are dependent on wildlife tourism and because the damage was minimal, the park was officially re-opened on 5 January 2005 . Wildlife conservationists and animal lovers can help the local communities by travelling to Sri Lanka 's national parks and reserves. The park is ready for visitors and so are all of the places providing accommodation at Tissa (and the Yala Village hotel). Everyone from safari jeep drivers, to wayside kiosk owners to room boys and restaurant waiters, need the dignity of employment to face the future. Many tour operators and clients have responded positively and confirmed their travel plans from mid January onwards.




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