Adventure

Gorillas in Uganda

Gorillas in Uganda


The following article is an account sent in by David Agenya (davidagenya@gmail.com), Head Guide at   Bwindi Park, South Western Uganda.   The rich ecosystem of this park  protects the endangered mountain gorillas.  Gorilla tracking is a popular tourist activity.  

Here is what David has to add in his own words.  

David with his back to a gorilla

On your arrival to Bwindi park head quarter, you will be given warm welcome by any guide on sight and later handed to Head guide like me for the general briefing.    Thereafter, you will be allocated guides in each group.  

Mountain gorillas live in families known as groups.   The dominant alpha male is called silver back and he attains this status at age 14 years and above.    He determines where the family should go and will protect them from other wild groups;  the more strong you are the bigger the family.   The gorillas have toilets of their own-it is also a way of announcing territory.  They make nets every evening and toward morning;  they defecate on it such that no other animals will use it.


"While sighting, viewing is done in one hour so that they don't develop stress.  Sometimes you may find them down feeding on leaves,fruits,ants or  playing, resting or mock fighting.   From the start you will be allocated a guide.   On the way to watching gorillas you will be moving with the guide who will be talking to you about rules and regulations and interpreting to you nature.   In case you are to eat some thing on the way the guide will always stop and allow you but no dropping left overs in the forest, no smoking while in the forest to avoid  fire danger.   In case you feel like easing/defecating you ask a guide who will prepare you a small good hole to use and cover it well that is while in the forest."    


While sighting gorillas you are asked to maintain a distance of seven meters so as to avoid risk of communicable diseases like flu, cough,diarrhea etc.    The risk of a gorilla charge is also there.  


Some of the other rules which are strictly enforced 

  • Flash photography is not allowed because it may make the animal to turn on you
  • Always face the back of a gorilla  instead of the face.  Gorillas are always approached from behind such that they remain knowing that  we eat left overs.   If you happen to go in front of the gorilla, it may  consider you as a challenger.
  • Also stay in a tight group for control No sudden movements are allowed. Loud body reactions invite wasps, bees, fire ants etc.  
The  guides are well trained in communicating with Gorillas.  In fact each member of the gorilla group is identified, named and the guides are trained to communicate with them using vocal language.  To know more about gorilla tracking  visithttp://www.gorillaaccess.com


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Corporates and Environment

Deforestation-Who are to blame?


Deforestation-Who are to blame?
-Dr. Susan Sharma

We all love our children ....and grand children.  We make assets which we bequeath to our next generation.  But if someone told you that we are overusing the natural resources in our lifetime leaving little or none for the generation next,  does it surprise you?.  Or shock you into action?   No amount of air-conditioning and purifying can protect a human being if the air she breathes outside is loaded with aerosols(particulate matter).  The ROs (Filtered by reverse osmosis) of the world cannot protect her from polluted waters which enter her blood stream through vegetables grown with polluted water, milk coming from cattle who have no drinking water available.  

"It is no longer feasible to think of production processes delinked from clean environment as a resource.  .....If a clean environment is used up and degraded during production in one time period, less of it will be available in the future.   So if the current generation of consumers uses up its quota, future generations will have to do with polluted rivers and degraded land resources.  " says Jairam Ramesh on  intergenerational equity.   

Who is to blame for the systematic deforestation of tropical forests?  All of us, it would seem.

Forest500

 While the world is busy lauding the Fortune 500 Companies,  an NGO called Global Canopy Project (funded by UK) has drawn up another list -Forest 500-listing the power brokers of zero deforestation.

The Forest 500- for the first time- identifies, ranks, and tracks the governments, companies and financial institutions worldwide that together could virtually eradicate tropical deforestation.    Here is a quote from the website of forest500.org

"The majority of tropical forest loss and degradation is driven by the production of just a handful of globally traded ‘forest risk’ commodities: namely palm oil, soya, beef, leather, timber, and pulp and paper. These commodities move along complex supply chains – from producers, to traders, processors, manufacturers and retailers – ending up in over 50% of packaged goods in supermarkets worldwide. Through these commodities, we are all part of a hidden deforestation economy."

Where does India figure in this scheme of things?

India plays an increasingly important role as an importer of forest risk commodities.  According to forest500.org, India is the largest importer of both palm oil (especially crude palm oil) and soya products from tropical forest producer jurisdictions. In 2012 and 2013, it was the world’s largest importer of edible oils, purchasing 8.3 million tons of palm oil and 1.3 million tons of soya bean oil (as well as 1.2 million tons of sunflower oil).  Around 90% of all imported and domestically produced palm oil is used in cooking and food production rather than for biofuels or in the production of personal care items, as is the case elsewhere.  While India itself is a significant soya producer (fourth globally in terms of hectares under production),  it also imports large amounts, with 16% of soya oil exports from tropical forest countries destined for the Indian market.  As with palm oil, imported soya oil, which is primarily imported from Brazil and Argentina, is mostly used as cooking oil.  

To make up for a severe domestic timber shortage, India is also a major importer of timber products. These are primarily in the form of unprocessed logs and in recent years, almost a third of all tropical roundwood has been destined for India. It has been estimated that up to 17% of tropical timber imports to India may be of illegal origin. 

In the case of deforestation, Indians are guilty of fuelling demand for "forest risk" commodities, it would seem.  

 

Sandmining in Morni hills (Chandigarh) has resulted in large scale degradadtion of forests-Photo Susan Sharma

(Dr.Susan Sharma is the founder of IndianWildlifeClub.com)


Gardening for wildlife

Earthworms – Heroes of Organic Farming

Earthworms –  Heroes of Organic Farming
-K. Amina Bibi
Earthworms are hermaphrodites. Each worm has both male and female organs. They are small tube like organisms who tirelessly work to turn the earth from lowest strata of earth to top. Worms tunnel deeply in the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface mixing it with the topsoil. This makes the formation of multitude of linear tunnels minute in diameter but deeper below the subsurface. These tunnels last long even after the worms are dead. These tunnels facilitate infiltration of water into subsurface, reduce runoff, help in harvesting rainwater. Such stored moisture is slowly released to crop at summer season. In this process of tunneling it also maintains the soil structure and enables the processes of aeration. This act makes EARTHWORM as a Real Farmer who toils day long tilling the fields. In the fields of organic cultivation we could see the reserve moisture throughout the year. The latent hard work of a large number of worms helps the crop survive when the other areas are parched.
Earthworms live on what we call WASTE. Yes, they feed on the vegetable wastes we throw; leaves shed from trees and any form of organic matter available in soil, and living organisms such as nematodes, protozoans, rotifers, bacteria, fungi which are harmful to plant growth. Their intake per day is one third of their body weight. 
The organic matter the earthworms consume gets digested in their bodies and gets excreted in the form of casts, a type of soil aggregate rich in nutrition. Thus Earthworms facilitate improving soil fertility and deposits on the surface. Their role gains significance because they convert larger organic matter into simple accessible form. This is also the Nutrition cycle. Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants. The sticky slime helps to hold clusters of soil particles together in formations called aggregates. These have greater role in porosity which helps in aeration and physical property of soil. The micro-tunnels provide good root growth as they are lined with readily available nutrients and make it easier for roots to penetrate deep into the soil. 
Three months back there was a fertilizer scarcity in our place as well as throughout Tamil Nadu State. Farmers were ready to pay twice or thrice to purchase a bag of UREA and DAP. The MRP cost of it was around Rs. 2000 (both). They were running between pillars in search of  availability of fertilizers. Some innovative organic growers were at peace, not worrying about the fertilizer scarcity. 
They just scooped the vermicompost produced in their backyard and just spread (broadcasted) in the fields. Compared to the fields with chemical fertilizers, organic fields were outstanding and the yield comparatively higher. Vermicompost supplied many minerals needed for the complete crop growth. The pest load was very less due to available farmers’ friends (natural predators and parasites) which took care of the pest control. The farmer had no need to go for any pesticide spray as the pests were below Economic Threshold Level. These were the visible advantages. Beyond this there were more advantages like the vegetables had longer shelf life, tasted better, and many more…
In an organic field, earthworm multiplication becomes natural and nutrition cycle is in full swing and the field is not limited with any nutrition. The web of life is perfect in Organic Farming and Earthworm has a great role to play in this; be it cycling of nutrients, micro-flora and fauna population. It also becomes a prey to birds and it goes on. The load of earthworm in a field is directly proportionate to the nature friendly living (ORGANIC). 
Due to the chemical farming methods, the earth worm population is greatly reduced. The trend is to turn back to nature and regain the earthworm population farmers are rearing in the valuable Vermicompost pits, either with permanent structures or temporary structures made of Silpauline sheets. When vermicompost (the casts collected from the pit), a rich source of nutrition, is applied to fields, the crop stand is very good due to supply of multiple nutrients. Often the field itself becomes a vermicompost unit as the applied vermicompost contains inoculums of cocoons, from which earthworms’ population increases. Sometimes segments of earthworm reach the field with vermicompost as earthworms have the ability to regenerate lost segments, the population increases. After prolonged use of vermicompost the lost microbial load is regained and so is the quality of food we get from fields. 

(K. Amina Bibi is a Post Graduate in Agriculture with specialization in Plant Breeding and Genetics. She is currently working as Agriculture Officer in Karaikal, Department of Agriculture, Government of Puducherry)

Press on environment and wildlife

Press this week

1. Shops disrupt drive against pollution on temple tank  
2. Ganga pollution: Closure process starts for 98 tanneries [
3. A map to help you plant saplings in the right spot 
4. Punjab govt to make Siswan forest area as eco-tourism hub
5. Forest Dept. and volunteers rescue 28 parakeets in Coimbatore, Erode
6. Maiden Dolphin Census in State Coasts on Feb 15
 7. Who Ate My Forest? 
8. HP moves SC seeking environment clearance exemption for mining in smaller areas
9. India among most vulnerable to climate change, says Global Commission 
10. Vanishing wetlands 
11. Militants kill rhino, fire at guards 

Read details at

http://indianwildlifeclub.com/MediaCenter/Press-Releases.aspx







Press on environment and wildlife

Press this week

Press this week


1. Shops disrupt drive against pollution on temple tank  
2. Ganga pollution: Closure process starts for 98 tanneries [
3. A map to help you plant saplings in the right spot 
4. Punjab govt to make Siswan forest area as eco-tourism hub
5. Forest Dept. and volunteers rescue 28 parakeets in Coimbatore, Erode
6. Maiden Dolphin Census in State Coasts on Feb 15
 7. Who Ate My Forest? 
8. HP moves SC seeking environment clearance exemption for mining in smaller areas
9. India among most vulnerable to climate change, says Global Commission 
10. Vanishing wetlands 
11. Militants kill rhino, fire at guards 

Read details at

http://indianwildlifeclub.com/MediaCenter/Press-Releases.aspx






Press on environment and wildlife

Press this week

Environment News 

1. Using art to promote water conservation  
2. First avian census to take wing 
3. Ocean warming melting one of largest Antarctica glaciers 
4. US to help India lean more on renewable energy 
5. Global warming needs a radical approach 
6. ASI ropes in NGO to save blackbucks in Akbar tomb premises  
7. Power line realigned for safe flight of vultures 


Ruddy shelducks at Sariska-Susan Sharma

Story Of The Month

Discussing the Tiger-Ruth Padel and Valmik Thapar

Discussing the Tiger-Ruth Padel and Valmik Thapar
-Susan Sharma


Ruth Padel, award winning British Poet is the great great granddaughter of Darwin.  She has been visiting India since long with her first visit being to the Panna National Park.   When Panna lost all their tigers, Ruth decided that tiger is her call in life.  Over the next years, she learnt the biology and ecology of the tiger and visited more national parks in India, Sumatra, Russia and Bangladesh.  She wrote her  first book on the tiger a novel " Where the Serpent lives ".  Her second book " Tigers in Red Weather"  was written after getting an advance of pound sterling 50,000 from a London publishing house.  

Ruth Padel with Prerna Singh Bindra of Bagh Foundation

Bagh foundation organized an evening with Ruth Padel and Valmik Thapar on 28th January, 2015 in New Delhi.  Ruth read excerpts from her books and also shared her insights about India's wildlife.   Her book highlights the need for science in conservation and the importance of politician's attitude to conservation.  She attributed the comeback of Amur tigers in Russia solely to political will.
She also said that while the problems are global, the solutions are local.  Padel's book is based in Sumatra, where she spent time understanding the "co-evolution of man and animal"as she termed it.  She writes about the superb understanding of the animal by villagers who cross its path often.  " When a tiger wants to make its presence felt, it breaks a twig"  " The presence of the tiger can be felt by all the forest and its inhabitants"  "Man cannot be arrogant while entering the forest, the balance and respect between species has to be maintained" are some of the ground truths gleamed by her through interactions with mountain dwellers of Sumatran jungles.

Is there worship of tigers?  Yes, the bad and good tiger is referred to with respect. The stories  of Dhukan, the bad tiger regales many.  Ruth had a piece of advice: Harness the worship of tigers to protect him;  if you don't, the same people will want a slice of the  beauty of the tiger.  The worshiper can then turn poacher.  Tiger is so "tangled" with nature.  "For me tiger is nature, so I write about him, she averred.  In response to a question about the place of lions in India, she said "Lion is alien to India, tiger is the soul of India". A young man wanted to know her opinion on stopping the demand for tiger parts.  Who would she blame for the current scenario?  Ruth was unequivocal in stating that you cannot blame anyone for the situation as human greed cannot be controlled.  Implementing protection of tigers would seem to be the only way.  


Valmik thapar was more forthcoming in his criticism of the current systems in place.  "Of the 500 officers trained in wildlife, only 80 are currently holding wildlife related posts.  After writing a scathing article in newspapers, he is also bringing forth a data driven book on India's tiger protection system.  He believes that field protection is a deterrent.  After the shock of Panna, Ranthambhore (and Sariska) there are scientists and wildlife enthusiasts who have come together in a big way especially in the South, to help in field protection.  Work done by Ullas Karanth and Hemant Kothari are yielding results.  The tiger numbers going up in the recent census is proof of the increased protection.   

"All wildllifers in the country must unite.  Restart with partnerships.   Involve youngsters in wildlife protection in Parks.  Use links outside government"- Valmik's enthusiasm was contagious.  Why can't we have an annual  "Embargo China Day",  asked Thapar who has brought out unknown facets of tigers  in his latest book "Wild Fire".   Tourism has to be a tool for conservation, he said in reply to a question from the audience.  Many wildlife protectors like Valmik and Ullas started out as tourists after all.  Tourism must bring gains to the local population.  Management of tourism can be outsourced to reputed private agencies.  Masaimara, not much bigger than Ranthambhore, thrives on tourism, because 80% of the earnings go to the local population.  The ideas kept pouring in.  As Prerna Singh Bindra of Bagh Foundation stood up for thanking everyone, the audience seemed to be absorbing the words of Valmik and Ruth, two individuals-one  from India and the other from  London who loved the tiger enough to dedicate a life to it. 

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Spotted deer at Corbett National Park-Photo Susan Sharma



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