Amazing Facts About Wildlife

Light a bulb with Electric Fish!

Prashant Mahajan
CEC, BNHS, Mumbai

These are the highly specialized species, which are capable of producing electricity in their bodies, and are thus unique in the animal kingdom. For this power-generation they possess electric organs which consist of a group of hexagonal muscular tissues separated by fibrous ones which are connected by sensitive nerve endings serving as positive and negative poles at opposite ends. These muscles on stimulation by nerves create electric charges which can be measured and vary from 60 to 220 volts, or even more in some cases. They are used for stunning the prey or driving away enemies. Man also sometimes becomes a victim if he happens to touch the fish.

In another type of electric generation, low-frequency fields are created around the body for recognizing the mate in muddy waters as well as for sensing the approach of enemies or obstructions in the neighborhood. The electric eel and catfish of the Amazon River are capable of lighting small electric bulbs! In Indian waters the small ray fishes are known for their capacity to administer electric shocks of low intensity. They have their electric organs situated on both sides of their backbone, behind the gill slits. In the specialized Stargazers, who remain hidden in the mud with only eyes and mouth protruding above also are capable of giving electric shocks, these muscles are situated near the eyes in the head region. All these fishes inhabit the muddy coastal waters of both coasts and sometimes startle fishermen by their shocks.

The electric ray (Torpedo, Narcine) is found in Indian sea. It has an organ made up of modified muscles, which produces an electric current that can shun it's prey or ward off it's enemies.  P.S
 The electric ray has attracted considerable amount of research in the West, but apparently little or no work has been done on this  marine animal by Indian scientists. 
Click for pictures of electric rays

Answers To Quiz Of The Month

Answers to Quiz on Tiger answered all the questions correct. Congratulations!.The correct answers are given below.

1. Where did tigers evolve millions of years ago
O China O India O Tasmania
2. All white tigers across the world are the progeny of a white male tiger captured in 1951 from………..
O Madhya Pradesh (India) O W.Bengal (India) O Siberia
3. Which tiger subspecies is considered to have become extinct in the 1950s?
O The Siberian tiger O The Sumatran tiger O The Caspian tiger
4. Which is the largest of the tiger species?
O The Javan tiger O The Royal Bengal tiger O The Siberian tiger
5. Tigers are called 'umbrella' species because……
O Their fur is waterproof and sheds water like an umbrella O Their range is so vast that efforts to conserve tigers also protect other species. O They are at the top of the food chain and have no natural enemies.
6. In addition to poaching, tigers are threatened by
O global warming O air pollution O habitat loss
7. Most of the world's tigers are today found in
O San Diego Zoo O Siberia O Southern Asia
8. Tigers eat .
O Fish & frogs O Bears & boars O All of the above
9. How much do male tigers measure from head to tail?
O 6-7 feet O 4-5 feet O 9-10 feet
10. How fast can a tiger run, if only for a few seconds?
O 15 miles/hour O 60 miles/hour O 35 miles/hour

Please also attempt this month's quiz called Are we poisoning our Planet?'

Did You Know ?

Did You Know..?


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

  • Largest tree canopy: A Banyan tree discovered in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, has the largest canopy. The tree covers an area of 5.2 acres and is believed to be over 600 years old. This beats the earlier record of the Banyan tree at the National Botanical Gardens at Calcutta, which has a canopy covering three acres.
  • Biggest tree trunk. The majestic Deodar found in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh have trunks measuring a record 12 m 39.36 ft. or more.
  • Largest hollow tree: A Baobab tree or Monkey-bread tree of African origin and belonging to the hibiscus family, standing amidst the ruins of the eastern part of the historic Golconda fort near Hyderabad, has a hollow of 36 sq.ft., which can comfortably accommodate 10-12 people. The 700 year-old tree is 29 m 95 ft. wide at base.
  •  Heaviest wood: Anjan is found in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. It has a specific gravity of 0.12 to 0.15.
  • Blackest wood: Ebony, the blackest wood, is found in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Karnataka.
  • Lightest Wood: Balsa, found in Tamil Nadu has a specific gravity of 0.12 to 0.15.
  • News and Views

    News & Views

    News and Views

    Susan Sharma


    The new look homepage of has user friendly menus and a site map to help navigate better. Hope the page is more pleasing to the eye as well. Pictures by our talented photographers have been converted into interesting screen savers, wall papers and posters which are available as free downloads to our registered members. Our “Wildscapes” module is undergoing a transformation too.

    We would like members to give their feedback on the changes. Suggestions are also welcome. If you like the web site, please ask your friends to register too. Just use the ‘recommend it’ button on the main page to invite friends.

    There are a large number of independent filmmakers in India who are making issue based films on Indian wildlife and environment related issues. You can read synopsis of some of these films on our video page. We have also decided to highlight the synopsis of one film per month on the home page. Unfortunately these films are seldom screened or telecast for the general public. WWF ( I ) arranges screenings at Delhi regularly. But these films ought to reach a larger audience. Please spread the word through ‘Wildbytes’ ezine if you know of screenings/telecast of any of these films.

    The recent happenings at Ranthambhore National Park wherein people and cattle laid siege to the park last month have brought the issue of protecting our National Parks to the fore once again. Given below is an appeal drafted by us which please address ( by snail mail) to concerned authorities of your area as individual appeals from concerned citizens.

    ( The picture above is that of “Machali’, a tigress in Ranthambhore photographed by Aditya Singh)


    Respected Sir,

    India as a country is blessed with a population which has, since time immemorial lived life in partnership with nature. Most of us consider the rich bio diversity of this country as the biggest wealth of this country. We have fortunately had democratic leaders who have realized the need for preserving these priceless natural treasures for posterity.

    The Wildlife Protection act of 1972 which spelt out clearly the legal and administrative details for preserving wildlife and environment through declared sanctuaries and national parks, was a great step in this direction.

    Of late we have had instances of the Nation's scenic treasures becoming monuments to administrative chaos. Scattered for support among various Government departments and chronically short of staff and funds, we have had ugly incidents happening in Ranthambhore National Park, to quote a recent event. Though legally banned, poaching of wildlife by shortsighted groups continue.

    NGOs and concerned private citizens/organizations have but limited roles to play in a subject which is as vast as the country itself - the subject of protecting our bio-diversity.

    This is an appeal to you, as District Collector of, ( Prime Minister of India), (Chief Minister of ) to boldly implement the law of the land.

    The millions on this country will ever be grateful to you.

    And VIEWS…………..

    " I didn't know a tiger's skin was worth anything".

    " It is worth more than our skins,' said Ramu knowingly. "It will fetch six hundred rupees. Who would pay that much for one of us?"

    "Our fathers would."

    "True--if they had the money."

    "If my father sold his fields, he would get more than six hundred rupees."

    "True-but if he sold his fields, none of you would have anything to eat. A man needs land as much as a tiger needs a jungle."

    Excerpt from Page 108, “PANTHER'S MOON and Other Stories”


    A puffin Book


    Ants On Trail


    Tiny ants are on the trail,
    One by one they follow,
    without fail! Tiny,
    yet busiest among all creatures,
    'Standing & staring' is just not their feature! As the Workers,
    Soldiers, and a Queen, of the bees,
    So are the ants, categorized in three!
    Don’t you forget, they live in a colony?
    Without ever losing the smooth harmony!

    They do their jobs every day and night,
    And use their strength with all the might!
    The workers go out in search of food grains,
    Soldiers stay back to collect-n-chop them!

    No, No, Queen is not lazy,
    please do not blame,
    She too helps by keeping an eye on grains!
    They don't have time to share the gossip,
    All they do is little bit of magic!

    Never do they speak with mouth or hands,
    But simply release the 'pheromones' secreted from the glands!
    With marvelous sense of smelling,
    they do sort of identification,
    That helps them to find their destination!

    People call them busy and always make their fun,
    But Ants are probably,
    the one, Who knows the value of minutes and seconds!
    And this, perhaps, is the most important lesson,
    That we humans should certainly try to learn!

    Composed by Priti Sawant
    © Copyright reserved.

    Understand The Animals

    Nine-banded Armadillo

    Dasypus novemcinctus


    The Nine-banded Armadillo is a cat-sized, armored, insect-eating mammal. Similar in form to an anteater, the bony, scaled shell of the armadillo protects it from attacks by predators. Unfortunately, armadillos often fall victim to automobiles and are frequently found dead on roadsides.

    A prolific digger, armadillos dig many burrows, as well as dig for food. Distribution is often determined by soil conditions, since the animal will not survive in areas where the soil is too hard to dig. Many other wildlife species use and benefit from these abandoned burrows.

    Although occasionally considered a nuisance by home owners, the armadillo's habit of digging up lawns is driven by its appetite for grubs, which can also harm lawns.

    Life History

    Eats insects and other invertebrates. Skilled at digging for grubs. Occasionally eats berries and bird eggs.

    Although breeding occurs in July, the embryo remains in a dormant state until November. Four young are born in a burrow in March. All four young, always of the same sex, are identical quadruplets and developed from the same egg. They even share a single placenta while in the womb. Armadillos are the only mammals in which multiple young form from a single egg with any regularity.

    Habitat and Distribution

    The armadillo is the state mammal of Texas. Originally native to South America, the armadillo now ranges as far north as Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Louisiana. Found in all but the western Trans-Pecos portion of Texas in a variety of habitats; brush, woods, scrub and grasslands.

    All types of armadillos are in the endangered list.  The Asian wild armadillo is found in Southwestern and central Asia. 

    James Rockaway, member has these additional comments to offer. 

    Check out this armadillo.

    Now, this rather dismal looking creature is called a nine banded armadillo and there are many in my area, as kids we used to catch them ,and play with them, but always we let them go, because they eat insects, but unfortunately they also like to dig holes in the ground and even your garden and yard and you must be careful as not to step in their holes and break your ankle.  When it is hot, the armadillos sleep, but at dusk and night they crawl around like small army tanks. Their sight is not so good, so they are very easy to approach. To catch one all you do is grab his tail and hold on, but you must be careful  because they have sharp digging claws, and will scratch you if you handle them wrong, but once you rub an armadillos neck, he will just lay there docile and content.  I like them even though they are not the most charming mammals:)


    The P.M’s Hospitality

    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!

    Elephants in India, since time immemorial, have been associated with V.I.P.s. In times of war they have been used as huge battering rams tearing down mighty gates of forts, crushing puny foot soldiers underfoot. They have been acting as unassailable vehicles for kings and princes who went to war in the comforting safety of these huge animals. In olden times doors of forts were embossed with big pointed brass nails to deter the elephants from pushing these down with their heads.

    During peace they were decorated with richly coloured silk back coverings and golden head covers which we can see even in the present day temple processions of South India, and at times even in Republic Day Parades.

    Elephants being huge, require a lot of food and also a lot of care to keep them in good health. They would need 600-700 kgs of green fodder or sugar canes (indeed a very sweet tooth) 10-15 kgs of chapathis or rice, 30-40 litres of drinking water as their basic diet. In a zoo they would also be given nearly a dozen bananas and 4-5 kgs of jaggery. The bananas or jaggery are regularly given to act as vehicles for medicines like, say, 10-5gm sulphamezathine tablets which are given when they fall sick. These treats are also kept to be given as rewards for a continuing training process. In times of extreme cold like winter season of Delhi, the elephant would also be given a bottle of rum in half bucket of water to keep them warm on a cold night.

    Elephants also have to be given regular baths with a good scrubbing with coconut husks or pieces of granite stone. Nails on the feet have to be cut regularly to avoid in-growing.

    All these and many more were part of my duties as curator of the zoo but it was not all work and no play. One could bask in the reflected glory when these animals were taken to add to the gaiety of functions such as parties given by V.I.Ps.

    I was told one day that the then P.M Mrs Indira Gandhi was holding a part for the wives and children of the diplomats posted in Delhi and I was to take “RajLaxmi”, our gentlest female elephant with a couple of mahouts to give rides to the guests of this party at P.M’s house. Well, on the appointed day RajLaxmi was given an extra scrubbing and along with two mahouts dressed in well starched uniforms we reached the P.M’s residence. We were well received and proceeded to put the children and ladies on the ‘howdah’ tied on to the back of the elephant. They were given joy rides of about 100 yards each.

    As we were immersed in this procedure- which, without the fixed concrete ladder, could sometimes be a little tricky but which everyone was enjoying hugely- Mrs Gandhi with a few ADCs came in upon us. We were really pleasantly surprised and more so when she called me aside and told me-“ These mahouts are simple people and when you and they have completed giving joyrides, you are all welcome to join in the party and you make sure that the mahouts get plenty to eat and drink. They are shy people and would not like to take advantage of the food kept on the tables”. “ I would not be around but you must take over my role and see that they get enough to eat and drink”.

    Having said all this and thanking us for our pains in handling the joyrides, Madam went a few paces ahead and again called aside one of her A.D.Cs and told him(which I overheard) “See, I have told this man to join the party with his mahouts but as soon as the rides are over, he will take the elephants, mahouts and himself and quietly slip out without eating anything; so you must make sure that this will not happen. Please see that all of them are well taken care of”.

    It all happened as Madam had predicted and when the rides were over we tried to slip out of the gardens onto the main road, when all of a sudden the A.D.C accosted me and requested me to join the party. I told him Madam is the P.M how is she going to know that we have not joined the party. But he said, “ If she has told me this it is quite possible that she may have told someone else to see that I am doing my job but if you want that I should lose my job, you can go”. Well, we had to go back and soon we were enjoying all the goodies of the party.

    I even made friends with the magician who was entertaining the young guests. He turned out to be a good friend for a long time to come.

    When all had been done and it was time to return home the mahouts were given a packet of sweets each for their families also!

    Soon we were swinging on elephant back headed home after a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

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