Koushik Ranjan Das
July 02, 2011
“My Sunday noon: Urban Squirrel watch from my balcony”.
On one lazy Sunday noon while standing on my balcony I noticed one small squirrel playing on the sunshade
and water-pipes of a nearby house. I glued my eyes to and found it in a playful mode. I have hardly captured any squirrel as I am interested with people and places, but that time I became very much interested with this tiny loving creature. To capture a squirrel
movement is a tuff job, but I fixed up my mind to follow it and shoot it as an assignment and “ON ASSIGNMENT”. I watched and captured it to play, relax, giving anxious call, run & jump, fight with the crows and Salikhs for a piece of bread and also a strange
thing I have noticed about it : to eat the dried white crow-shit (may be for calcium enrichment) <Picture SQ35>. Also I am lucky enough to freeze it’s long tongue movement. Later I found it as a female and she was carrying. She made her nest behind a hollow
of a gutter-pipe of that house, may be for giving birth to her babies. I am still keeping my eyes on her and eagerly waiting for her proud pose with babies. I don’t know whether I could make it or not. (#I am shooting with my Canon 450D and Nikon D7000).
See the photographs in my facebook album:
June 27, 2011
A tiny piece of information regarding snakes by Pooja Shah in the July issue of care4nature(E-magzine) inspired me to share some more myths on snakes in
rural Rajasthan which I think to an extent justify to science and rurals as well.
Myths, may it be on anything, are never false but they are always time proven general observations around people & followed by the justifications of the
innocent brains or sometimes created by shrewd quacks. Snakes!!! after God unfortunately crowns the maximum number of myths amongst all immortals and living things, in my last 18 Yrs. of resquing, releasing & general social working on reptiles I came across
many situations for example a road side welder once called me on the site & I saw a rare behavior of a cobra, the welder and the labour around refused to work cos a cobra used to surface a few minutes after the welder would start welding in the underground
pipeline, I was unable to help at that time but now I think I know the reason, Infact the Arc welding rod leaves a long trail of red hot metal behind it, snakes depend upon their Thermal vision for food & the hot trail of metal must be giving an illusion of
a smaller snake or amillipede or may be some other insect in the snakes menue.
Similar is the reason behind a common misbelief that the Ratsnake (Dhaman) suckles milk from the cow’s nipples& people are not lying when they say they have
seen this, in fact this is another illusion of the thermal vision, the ratsnake confuses the nipple for a live rat & holds around it looking for the head of the rat as all reptiles eat their prey from the head first, the moment it realizes that its not a rat
it simply leaves it, but why ratsnakes only do this? this is so as ratsnakes have a great ability to lift their bodies very high in comparison to the rest.
It is most commonly believed that snake charmers remove the teeth of the cobra as protectection, but snake charmers or beggers to be precise are far more
cruel than simple Defanging, The heart touching fact is that the helpless cobra’shead is laid inverted on an upside down mud pot and then using a shaving blade an H shaped incision is made inside the mouth over the venom duct to expose it, then a small piece
of the duct is cut off in order to delink the venom gland and the fangs, turmeric powder is then applied as a disinfectant. Even if thecobra survives the trauma the results of this barefoot surgery are sad as the snake is unable to eat on its own and neither
can it digest the force fed egg or minced meat, nothing on earth can stop the snake from dying due to starvation& in addition to this snake charmers stop giving water to their snakes months before the Naga festivals cos the snake has to perform in public the
act of drinking milk while the starved reptile is actually drinking milk to satisfy the quench of water as it has no other options.
Well! Placing myths and the facts behind is endless, it is required that we wildlifers start sharing the responsibility to generate awareness to protect
this innocent reptile, there are very simple things we can do like stop entertaining charmers on streets and ask others to follow, efforts are to be made by coordinating with NGOs dealing with beggers& ask them to add charmers in their targets & to help snake
charmers find alternate means of living.
It is not a good idea to call a snake charmer or a local wildlife activist involved in snake resquing (like me) if in case a snake enters the house as the
snake charmer will kill the cobra & if it some other snake apart cobra he will simply leave it next doors cos he will never bother to find the right place to release, where as the local wildlife activist is likely to release it in some forest adding to food
pressure on regular basis, any how removing the snake or killing it is never a solution as a new snake will take its place uptill the food source (rat, frogs, insects, lizards, bird nests) is not removed so it is always better to shift the snake outside the
house and explain to people the facts of their food chain and easy availability.
It is indeed very difficult to explain this to most of the people around because of the myths and fears but that is where we conservationists are required
in the society. This reminds me of an instance where I made a Monitor Lizard (varanusbengalensis) bite my finger in order to explain to the villagers that it is not poisonous and to my surprise they started making fun of me saying ”We know you are not gonna
die as you catch snakes, you’ve poison in you but we’ll surely die if this one bites any one of us” I felt very helpless indeed but continued to work. Today people of that village are far more aware about snakes than what they were at that time.
June 25, 2011
Over the last five years, the forest department has rescued more than 70 leopards in North Bengal. In most cases the animals, which is covered as a co-predator under the tiger conservation programme, were rescued from tea gardens. Bushes are like natural
cover for leopards and the drains running through the tea gardens are used as the hiding place. The heap of leaves in the drains acts as a cushion for the big cats, especially when the females give birth to their cubs.
In many cases in the past, leopards lost their life in conflict with humans when they strayed into villages or gardens. Since the predators often lift livestock animals, humans prefer to kill them once spotted. Around five-six leopards and a couple of human
beings die in this conflict every year.
June 24, 2011
"Part of the problem arises from the fact that we do not have a system of “green accounting”. Economists estimate GDP which is gross domestic product as a broad measure of national income and also estimate NDP which is net domestic product which accounts
for the use of physical capital. But as yet, we have no generally accepted system to convert Gross Domestic Product into Green Domestic Product that would reflect the use up of precious depletable natural resources in the process of generating national income.
Many years ago, the noted Indian environmentalist Anil Agarwal had advocated the concept of a Gross Nature Product to replace the usually estimated Gross National Product................
.........Economists all over the world have been at work for quite some time on developing a robust system of green national accounting but we are not there as yet. Ideally, if we can report both Gross Domestic Product and Green Domestic Product, we will
get a better picture of the trade-offs involved in the process of economic growth. Alternatively, as some economist have argued, we need alternative indicators to measure true welfare improvement, as Green GDP is not be the best indicator of sustainability
or future increases in consumption or welfare – indicators such as “Genuine Savings/Investment”, and “Genuine Wealth Per Capita” are being developed as alternatives. We don’t need precise numbers. Even a broad-brush estimate will be a huge step forward to
give practical meaning to the concept of “sustainable development” which all of us swear by in theory.
Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta at Cambridge University has calculated that the “genuine” domestic investment rate in India is around 2.3 percentage points lower than the normally reckoned domestic investment rate for the period 1970-2001 after taking into
account environmental costs and both calculated as a proportion of GDP. He goes on to show that as against the estimated growth rate of India’s per capita GDP of 2.96% per year during this period, the growth rate of per capita genuine wealth after taking into
account environmental costs works out to 0.31% per year."
Read full speech by Jairam Ramesh,
Minister of State (Independent Charge), Environment and Forests, Government of India at the link
[Open in new window]
June 23, 2011
"Scientists have developed the first mobile app to identify plants by simply photographing a leaf. The free iPhone and iPad app, called Leafsnap, instantly searches a growing library of leaf images amassed by the Smithsonian Institution. In seconds, it returns
a likely species name, high-resolution photographs and information on the tree's flowers, fruit, seeds and bark. ...
Leafsnap debuted in May, covering all the trees in New York's Central Park and Washington's Rock Creek Park. It has been downloaded more than 150,000 times in the first month, and its creators expect it to continue to grow as it expands to Android phones.
Smithsonian research botanist John Kress, who created the app with engineers from Columbia University and the University of Maryland, said it was originally conceived in 2003 as a high-tech aid for scientists to discover new species in unknown habitats.
The project evolved, though, with the emergence of smartphones to become a new way for citizens to contribute to research.
..Leafsnap cost about $2.5 million to develop, funded primarily by a grant from the National Science Foundation. It will cost another $1 million to expand it within the next 18 months to cover all the trees of the United States, involving about 800 species.
Full Story on - San Jose Mercury News
June 21, 2011
How many times have we felt 'virtual proximity' to nature,just by watching a movie or a program on Discovery/Net Geo (for India,usually the credit goes to Tigers).Our problem is (Media included) we do not think of other animals,forget birds.For us,Tigers
rule the rule books.
Fortunately,I got a copy of 'Sarang-The Peacock',last week.It's a wonderful account of Peacocks and their life made by Susan Sharma.Watching it is like a musical journey,too calm and soothing (thanks to the excellent music score).
Peacocks have always fascinated us,rains can't be imagined without a dancing peacock,making that 'eye catching' pattern.The whole 'web of life' including humans,snakes,squirrels and peachicks (new born peacock) is encircled in this beautiful narration.
Must watch for every Indian, at least we must know about our 'national bird'.Thanks Susan for this beautiful account.I am on my way to search out for peacocks in fields nearby.
June 13, 2011
David Rankin's Ganges Himalayas Watercolor Expedition
- Although I am primarily a Wildlife Artist who focuses on the Wildlife of India... my most recent efforts are centered on the sensitive regions of the Ganges Himalayas. And I am gradually posting my Artist Journal pages on Facebook from my artistic efforts
from Haridwar... up into the high altitude glacial regions of Gangotri... Kedarnath... and Badrinath.
You can review this journal at...
June 11, 2011
"Do Elephants View Humans As Direct Threats?
We are constantly learning more about how intelligent elephants are, about their incredible memory, their tight family structure, and their intricate language. In fact, just a couple days ago we learned about a study showing
how very alike humans and elephants are. Considering that this species is always surprising us with their smarts, the conflict between elephants and humans may go even deeper than habitat loss. Gay Bradshaw, an elephant behavior expert, tells Live Science
that with humans killing elephants, the aggression could be stemming from this violent interaction.
Bradshaw says elephants are simply reacting as people would when under siege. People are shooting, spearing, poisoning the big animals: "From a psychologist's perspective, that's trauma. If you look at elephants and people, that's the same thing
we see with people under siege and genocide."
Bradshaw likens the conflict between humans and elephants to colonialism, with the people taking over the elephants' indigenous culture, and with "elephants fighting to keep their culture and their society as they are pushed into smaller places and killed
It's easy to brush this theory off, saying that Bradshaw is anthropomorphizing elephants and that attacks such as what occurred in Mysore is the result of four males getting separated from the herd and lost in the scary streets of a strange city. However,
if we pause for a moment and consider the amazing things we know about elephants, the idea that wild elephants view humans as a direct threat more than ever isn't such a stretch."
Read full article at
[Open in new window]
June 04, 2011
(This blog was posted by 'tarientree' on 11 Oct 2010 15:11 in the discussion forum of 'connecttoearth')
I am living in a well developed country and I think most of you, as you are having access to internet, do as well. We can think about protecting areas and wish there are more such all over the globe. But do we really know and can we even comprehend, how it
is, when there is war in the country? Or if we would be so poor, that we must get our food out of the bush? I read about Africa and national parks there. Nationalvparks in countries in war are sometimes almost empty of game, because people go hunting for their
food supply. Parkbrangers get killed or corrupted. I do not mean the ivory or trophy hunters, allthough they are a major problem as well. If they would have a better perspective, they would do otherwise.
I think, protecting nature habitats is only effectively achievable, if the people around and in this area have everything to live and therefore can be made sensible for sustainable handling of their land through education. But even this is very hard to achieve,
because the well developed countries (Europe, USA, meanwhile parts of China, etc.) take their resources where ever they can get them - and this would be in the underdeveloped countries. The people there get nothing than total nature destruction and health
problems, they do not see a cent the incredible earnings the foreigners get.
The mentality of rich and well developed countries like USA can best be seen in Alaska. A national park should be a strongly protected area, right? But oil drilling is allowed! So what is this protected area for then? It is only valid as long it does not concur
with capital interests, this means, if the area has no resources or is uneconomic, only then it can be well protected.
So how can we effectively protect nature? The answer is wide spread and not achievable in short-term, if even ever:
* Leaving fossile energy beyond and invest in renewable energy, especially in "free" solar energy so that destroying natural habitats and exploiting of Third World countries is no longer economically of any interest..
* Elect politicians with natures interest and not economic interest (this means, if they promise you work and good development, it is pure economical thinking). So if you are egoistic (which is natural) you would first choose your own convenience and
only then followed by nature preservation, right?
* Sensible consumption behaviour (organic, MSC, FSC, etc.)
* Stop rich countries exploitation in countries, where the population is poor and only a very view are rich through sale of their resources (China, USA, Europe, Russia --> Africa, Eastern Europe, South-America)
* Why need gold and diamonds on your neck or arm? For status? Get rid of this thinking - it is only a material, which makes other people rich, when you buy it.
* Ask where your sorted out computer, TV or mobile-phone is recycled or trashed. (Does it end up in Africa to be pulled apart for gold and copper by children?)
There is so much more which would be necessary, but most of it would mean, that global economy and globalization need to be completely renewed. The current behaviour of mankind means complete destruction of nature and leaving some small isles of protected
areas for a while.
May 28, 2011