Conversation on Climate Change

Conversation on Climate Change
-Susan Sharma

Anukriti Sud Hittle works in the state government of Hawaii's Climate Change Commission and as a Research Fellow at East-West Centre. Before Hawaii, she was a climate change researcher with World Resources Institute, Washington DC, an activist at Greenpeace and a professor at Washington University of St Louis, where she co-led delegations to International Climate Control Conferences ( COPs 20,21,22).  Anu has done her Masters in International Relations from Columbia University and a Masters in Forest Resource Management from Duke University with focus on economics, policy and law.  

Shashi Sharma from IndianWildlifeClub interviewed Anukriti when she visited India. In her first video, she explains why she believes that climate change is "REAL".  She believes that the scientific language used by climate scientis ts can be confusing to common people and politicians tend to take advantage of this confusion.

Leave aside hurricanes and floods ravaging the world, climate change is observable in your own garden plants. 

Relating climate change to the lay person in his language is the need of the hour. 

Climate Change--Is it for Real? Hear what Anukriti Sud Hittle has to say

In the second part Anukriiti talks about the economic impact of the fast way climate change is happening -not in an immediate life threatening way-but slowly and surely.

India is going to be one of the worst hit.  But it is one planet and collective action is needed.

She thinks people need to be made aware at the level where they are affected personally.  Messaging has to happen at different levels.  

Climate Change-Climate Action Conversation with Anukriti Sud Hittle

In the third part, Anukriti feels that a lot of climate change orientation needs to happen at the institutional level by private companies.
Individual actions like avoiding plastics etc needs to be linked in to organizations to have impact.  Mahatma Gandhi is our example for what organized action can achieve.

Organizing for Climate Action-Conversation with Anukriti Sud Hittle                            

Bird Watching


When I first saw a migratory bird in Visakhapatnam near the airport, the excitement grew and I was inquisitive to have a closer look. The world of bird migration is fascinating. And reading about what our ancestors did to understand the sudden absence and sudden presence of the birds is even more intriguing. 
Point Calimere-or Nagapattinum is one such place in Tamil Naidu which is a meeting place for many types of migratory water birds in India.  In October, these water birds or pelagic birds arrive from the Rann of Kutch, Eastern Siberia, Northern Russia, Central Asia and parts of Europe for their breeding season and begin their journey back in January.
Far from the concrete jungles, honking, regular hustle-bustle, polluted air,  and boredom of city life style we planned to make a visit to the hub of migratory birds i.e. Point Calimere  Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary in Nagapattinam district  in Southern India.
What could be more exciting than travelling in your car all the way to your destination,Point Calimere.  The most important of all the decision was to take my beloved wife Shakti Bishnoi,  who was 7 months pregnant. She agreed to be part of the trip.  We both are ornithologists and wildlife photographers.
The journey commenced early morning driving through the Eastern Ghats.   Followed by the fascinating stretches of paddy fields, villages, some vibrantly active  and some serene amidst tranquility of nature. We were crossing the then Andhra Pradesh. We reached our destination after 3 days  with  halts at Rajamundry, Chennai,  Pondicherry and straight  to Bombay Natural History Society Centre for Migratory Birds study, Pt. Calimere (Vedaranyam)  . We start at dawn and stop at dusk making our journey more fulfilling and not tiring.
Nagapattinum-Point Calimere

Point Calimere
The Point Calimere sanctuary is situated in Nagapattinum District of Tamil Naidu and  is the only Ramsar site in the state, owing to its status of wetland of global importance. The habitat of sanctuary is a unique mix of grasslands, mudflats, backwaters, sand dunes and tropical dry evergreen forests. It has also salt  pans spread across huge area. It is unique in attracting and harboring a large variety of birds, for feeding and breeding purpose not only local resident birds but also migratory birds. Gaining knowledge and developing awareness about wildlife particularly  colourful birds is not only entertaining but also helps in motivating people towards conservation.
We reached late in the night, after braving  the storm Neelam which just touched the BNHS study centre amidst heavy rainfall. We were tired and slept like dead. Next day we were fresh and ate steamy South Indian tiffin and then  proceeded to see  Point Calimere Wildlife sanctuary with due permission from Forest officials.  We saw a herd of deer and jungle birds enroute our journey. .  
The weather was clear and our team leader Dr Balachandran Renowed Ornithologists and scientist took us towards wilderness looking for migrants in the vicinity. We were ever vigilant not to miss out on any bird species.  The birds in the Point Calimere include threatened species such as Spot Billed Pelican, Nordmann’s Greenshank, Spoon-Bill Sandipiper and Black Necked Stork.  Near threatened species include Black Headed Ibis, Asian Dowitcher, lesser Flamingo, Darter etc. we were educated on birds and their habitat by our ever smiling guru, Dr Balachandran. He is a living encyclopedia on birds. We were fortunate to be in his presence.  We were walking in mud, in water, in rain joyously. Everyone present there could not complain as Dr Balachandran was leading us everywhere. 

birdwatching enthusiasts

Bird Ringing
Third day onwards, we started observing the ringing phenomena carried out by Dr Balachandran, who has been doing this for past three decades. Noted ornithologist and working with BNHS since 1980s.  We could capture migratory birds i.e Black tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank etc and resident birds viz, Indian Pitta, Common tailor bird, Asian paradise flycatcher and saw Ringing/banding.  Captured birds are fitted with BNHS metals rings and biometric of birds are recorded. Ringing help to study their population, their lifespan, the breeding origin, migratory routes and stopover sites of select long distance migratory birds.  The migration data collected for birds is interesting and educating.  As part of birds  ringing we learned bird trapping using mist net, clap trap and also how to remove birds from mist nets while holding them without injuring them.  All birds have different kinds of bands/rings depending upon their tarsus bone and accordingly we use to select the band to fix while holding them safely. We were also taught about sexing and ageing by looking at the morphological features or by examining the cloacae. Most important of all,  we learned  molting and taking morph metric measurements viz wing, bill, tarsus and tail using measuring devices and then making data entry in a sheet for records.  Birds after ringing were released at the place of capture but not in front of  predators like Brahminy kite/Black kite etc.  The BNHS has captured, ringed and released over, 2,00,000,birds during the course of several years and is still continuing. The serious problem faced by migratory birds is that of poaching and hunting on their stop- overs. For example, the population of Siberian Cranes declined due to hunting when they cross Afghanistan and Central Asia. 


At the Beach
 In the evening as the clouds were swaying away, the sky became clear and we marched toward quaint  beach.  It was  fun to see Heuglin’s Gull, Brown Headed Gull, Caspian tern, Lesser Crested Tern, Large Crested Tern, Whiskered Tern and many other pelagic birds.  We were glued to our binoculars for at least one hour.   And Dr Balachandran  constantly guiding us and helping us to identify them, as during their flight they didn’t stop.   So we were attentive enough to capture the image in mind and refer the Field guide for understanding.  “A field guide to the birds of Pt Calimere” by Dr Balachandran is an excellent hand book . 
In the evening, we all  had fun to witness Terns catching fishes.  We came back contented and had nice dinner prepared by the dedicated staff of BNHS.  We had wonderful discussion post dinner and also elaborate discussion on various current topics related to birds conservations and various initiative undertaken by BNHS. Entire course got benefitted as participants were from various field of expertise and they shared their experiences to update each other.  With heavy heart we all started departing towards our  destination post successful completion of course early morning.  Some preferred to stay one more day. And why not,  given an opportunity a avian lover would definitely prefer to stay more as the place itself is so enthralling and enchanting and above all it is a Birds Paradise. 
 Pt Calimere is one of the mandatory  tour for qualifying Basic Ornithology course conducted by BNHS. The  course covers all the aspects concerned with Birds viz. external and internal features, behavioural ecology, birds behavior, breeding, migration, birds classification etc.
Point Calimere, the traditional and famous wintering ground of waders and other waterfowl, has certainly undergone tremendous changes, which is evident from the salt water intrusion.  The increase in salt content is primarily caused by extensive salt works, both edible and industrial salts, excessive pumping of groundwater by villagers, heavy/significant decline in annual rainfall;  blocking of feeding channels to the swamp by extensive bunds raised for salt works. The degradation in soil quality is indicated by changes in traditional livelihood practices—rain fed agriculture replaced by salt works and fishing. This has affected the microhabitat diversity and therefore the bird population.


The Lessons
We are at a location geographically where we are given opportunity and responsibility  to host such beautiful species.  As host we must ensure their safety and security with regard to the food and shelter we provide. We must keep the area clean for their better health.  Mother earth is mother to all of us, even the smallest living being is precious to her. Humans should not dominate the mother earth and exploit it for personal gains, rather learn to co-exist nicely. Birds contribute to the beauty of the natural world in their own incomparable way. They command our instant attention whether seen close by or soaring high up in the air radiating their joy of inner and outer well-being. A world without birds is unthinkable, yet most of us take them for granted and pay scarce attention to their valuable ecological role as saviors of other life forms on earth. The statement “If birds die, we die” sums up this ecological truth with utmost brevity. It is therefore the paramount duty of everyone interested in birds to save them and their habitat, not only for their good but for the good of our own selves and of generations to come.   
On completion of course we headed towards  Chennai had one day halt near Gundy National Park(IIT Madras). Next day with heavy heart we started our return journey, en-route halt at Pulicat lake that is also one of the stop over site for migratory birds. We spotted good numbers of Flamingoes. Later my wife took over the command of the car and gave me opportunity to explore the tempting scenery post Neelam Toophan.  It was an incredible and unforgettable experience watching the gathering of avian world at Pt Calimere.                       . 
( Mrs Shakti Bishnoi
  & Mr A S Bishnoi)

Common Birds of India


-Mrs Shakti Bishnoi
  Mr A S Bishnoi

Human beings are forced to stay in their homes due to the covid-19 pandemic, leading to no pollution and long awaited healing of mother earth.  The corona virus pandemic is very strange for all of us.  It’s mostly horrific. But there is a silver lining due to the human activity put on hold purifying the planet and giving it a chance to recuperate.  The birds which were hiding in the few remnants of green cover around our cities moved inside the city on the trees around our houses. Birds have excellent genetic memory and they are aware of cages and traps, but they were in for a surprise when they  found humans trapped in their houses peeping out from the triple security grills and railings created for their safety. Hopeless humans looked at the flying birds with admiration and got reminded of their own once free life.  But human being doesn’t learn so easily as they have gone through such deadly diseases earlier and knows not to stop their hunger for more.

We are fortunate to stay within the secluded and protected establishment MILIT, Pune, as my husband is in Armed Forces and is posted here. I started exploring the avian world within the campus from my window and nearby places. The melodies of birds did exist before the onset of COVID 19 lockdown, but the sound of silence due to COVID-19, I started enjoying and recognizing them on the basis of Bird calls.  I introduced my daughter to  bird watching from the window and she was overwhelmed with the mere sight of the birds in close proximity.  

Slowly and gradually, I started putting grains especially jawar and bajra as birds are health conscious unlike humans.  Putting water for them was done with lot of planning as some of the birds love to bathe and few just drink and fly. The water and food area became the most happening place for birds. We learn from our surroundings, and now its the wild birds around us to make us learn so much more than we can assimilate.  Everything has prana and  is designed to serve a purpose.  Humans, while advancing in the name of development and technology, is yet to learn some important natural laws.  COVID-19 gave us that opportunity to look at our ever growing demand lists and we need to stop this meham of earth exploitation. Intelligent segment of people will learn from our mistakes and learn to coexist, but other segment I m not sure how they will employ their intelligence. We need to be aware of the animals and birds and their raison d’etre, for they are here to teach us the real joy of life. The Earth has an immense possibility. I started taking out time early morning and evening to click them and appreciate them. Daily I watch them from other side of the window eating grains, bathing, drinking water and sometimes having important discussions during their meals.  My daughter used to first secretly feed the birds whatever she relished and then disclosed about how the birds loved cooked rice, corn flakes, chapatis and cooked poha.  As a mother smiles in contentment when her child enjoys her food,  our daughter donned the same smile when birds ate what she offered them.  

Our family became friends with all the visitors on our window and our daughter is excited to jump out of bed at dawn to do atithi satkar everyday.  From the early morning chirping and twittering throughout the day to the cacophony of sound at their return to the nests at dusk, there is music every where and they are free to explore the majestic earth in all possible ways. We are caged and short of choice to choose our visitors, but if our aim is to coexist then wilderness will welcome us with open arms and show us the miracles we have not imagined.  Human are now in self created personalised ZOO. 

 “Nature does not hurry, yet everything gets accomplished”.  We humans need to look around  and observe, and act upon if needed, otherwise nature has its own way. Embrace the abundance of universe waiting for us.  


Could conservation prevent pandemics?

Could conservation prevent pandemics?
Does human activity select from the environment? Does it act like a filter – but throwing out species that may do us – not harm, but no harm, and promoting those that are likely to carry disease?
Rory Gibb, David W. Redding, Kai Qing Chin, Christl A. Donnelly, Tim M. Blackburn, Tim Newbold and Kate E. Jones, from the departments of genetics, evolution and environment and public health, University College, London, department of Statistics, University of Oxford and the Zoological Society of London, report in the journal, Nature, that this is just what the conversion, by humans, of natural habitats to agriculture or urban settlement has done. The finding is uncannily relevant at a time when the world is battling a pathogen that has crossed over from animals to humans, even as the earth faces a bleak future arising from the injuries that humans have inflicted on the environment.
Many diseases come to humans from animal reservoirs and are then transmitted and spread by the high mobility and sociability of humans. Examples of bacterial diseases brought to us by animals or insects, zoonoses, as they are called, are anthrax, plague, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, Lyme disease. And examples of viral zoonoses are Zika, Dengue, Eastern Equine encephalitis, West Nile, Yellow Fever Chikungunya, Rift Valley Fever. And then there are fungi and parasitical diseases which come to humans from animal hosts.
Transfer of pathogens from animals to humans is a rare event. In the context of COVID-19, of the hundreds of viruses known as coronaviruses, that that are found in animals, there are just seven which have been able to cross over and infect humans. Pathogens, including viruses, evolve to co-exist with specific hosts. Infecting other species happens only when a virus, by mischance, develops a surface feature that enables its survival in cells of the other species. 
There is a general impression that new pathogens, against which humans often do not have effective defences, have been appearing more often. And the paper in Nature cites evidence that human encroachment that destroys natural habitats is associated with increase in zoonotic diseases in humans. How this comes about, however, has been unclear, the paper says.  One suggestion has been that the composition and diversity of animals, which are the reservoir of pathogens, may undergo a change when the animal habitat is disturbed. This could be because some species are more capable than others to resist the human invasion.  There has not been, however, the paper says, a study of just how human land use affects the diversity and composition of animal populations.

This is the analysis the team undertook, with the help of a massive database of information about how species on the earth respond to human pressures, collected from scientists, worldwide. The database is built up through a collaborative effort called ‘PREDICTS’ - Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems, and has over 2.5 million biodiversity records from over 21,000 sites, covering more than 38,000 species.

This database was used in combination with the Enhanced Infectious Diseases Database, a tabulation, created by the University of Liverpool, of the relationships between human and animal diseases and their hosts, pathogens that cause disease and how they are transmitted. And then, the Global Mammal Parasite Database, a compilation of records of parasites and their hosts, and other databases of different animals that were zoonotic reservoirs.

The databases were surveyed to identify instances of animal hosts that shared at least one pathogen that affected humans – to classify species as zoonotic hosts. “The PREDICTS data compiles more than 3.2 million species records from 666 published studies that sampled biodiversity across land use gradients using consistent protocols,” the paper says. A land use gradient is the path of increasing land use by humans, rising from natural environments, to mildly exploited forest, to cultivated land, to urbanised land.  “Records of 376 host species in a dataset of 6,801 survey sites from 184 studies across 6 continents,” the paper says, enabled a global comparison of how species diversity responded to the intensity of land use.

The survey resulted in a first estimation of the effect of human land use on two measures – the richness, i.e. diversity of the host species, and hence the diversity of the pathogens that affected humans, and then the numbers of these species.  The remarkable discovery was that both the measures increased when land use increased – in contrast to declining diversity and numbers of species that were not hosts of pathogens that affected humans.  What this amounts to is that the proportion of species that harbour pathogens that affect humans increases, and the risk of humans catching zoonotic infections, increases with more intense land use.  Coming to specifics, it was found that host species in perching songbirds (about half of all birds), bats and rodents increased, respectively by 14 to 96%, by 45% and 52%, while non-host species declined by 28% to 43%, 13% and 53%.
And what could be the reason for this? One suggestion is that smaller and short lived animals, like rats and smaller birds, can afford less investment in the immune system- and thus harbour more pathogens. In contrast, longer lived and larger animals, the rhino, for instance, need to keep pathogens away and are a smaller threat to humans. The smaller animals, were also more resilient and able to cope with habitat change and thrived in habitat change.

That SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the current pandemic was of animal origin has created the apprehension that there is reservoir of unknown disease lurking the wild.  The results of the study are different – that disease carrying animal life is concentrated in the spaces where humans have cleared the forest, for planting crops or building cities. The message is two-fold. First, that encroaching on virgin land to grow more food carries the price-tag of rising health care costs. Second, that it is in our immediate surroundings, not the deep woods, that we should expect new pathogens to arise.
[the writer can be contacted at]


World Animal Protection launches report to increase awareness on Rabies elimination

World Animal Protection launches report to increase awareness on Rabies elimination  

 Titled “All Eyes on Dogs”, the report has been launched on the occasion of World Rabies Day, and shares successful programmes from around the world to eliminate rabies
The All eyes on Dogs report has been launched by World Animal Protection on the occasion of World Rabies Day. 

 Photo credit – World Animal Protection

New Delhi (28th September, 2020) –  International animals welfare organisation, World Animal Protection has launched an important report titled “All Eyes on Dogs” which provides the first trajectory with actions needed to eliminate dog mediated rabies by 2030. The report also demonstrates how humane rabies control can contribute to One Health implementation and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The report also provides various success stories and methods adopted to eliminate rabies through interventions like mass dog vaccination, education, responsible dog ownership and humane dog population management.
Launched on the occasion of World Rabies Day, the report provides successful examples of Mexico, which has been declared a country free of rabies transmitted by dog bites and pilot project in Kenya named ‘Makueni County Rabies Elimination Pilot Project’.

The theme of the 14th World Rabies Day is “End Rabies: Collaborate, Vaccinate”. It is a day to inform and educate people on the need for collective action to eradicate rabies and achieve zero deaths by 2030.

“Rabies is entirely preventable and can be eliminated if and only if we focus on dogs. The importance of focussing on animal health, human health and environmental health cannot be overstated. Without swift treatment, this disease is fatal, yet unlike many diseases, is preventable with the right course of action. Culling dogs will not eradicate rabies, but vaccinations will,” said Gajender K Sharma, Country Director, World Animal Protection India.

Educative session for students

Commemorating World Rabies Day, Volunteer network team of World Animal Protection also organised a webinar on 26th September, 2020 to sensitize students from National Service Scheme (NSS) units of Delhi College of Arts and Commerce and Bharti College, both of Delhi University on rabies elimination, dog population management and the role of youth in ensuring better lives for dogs.

You can also get an answer to all your animal welfare related queries here -

More than 80 students attended the session and were provided guidance on administrative mechanisms available to resolve any issues or conflicts relating to pets or stray dogs. Students were told about platforms where they can go and take collective action. We would like to thank all our volunteers for helping us in making a difference in the lives of animals.

Vaccination Drive

Today, World Animal Protection and Veterinary Services Department of North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) also organised anti-rabies vaccination drives for stray dogs in different zones in North Delhi. We would like to thank all the officials involved in these vaccination drives for conducting field activities even during this pandemic in order to protect dogs from rabies. 

Better lives for Dogs
COVID19 has unveiled the risks associated with zoonotic diseases and catastrophic disruption they can bring.

It is evident that zoonotic viruses can cause pandemics, causing extensive human mortality and create a global crises. Rabies is also a zoonotic disease which takes thousands of lives, both humans as well as dogs every year.
Now is the time for India to implement a humane dog population management and rabies elimination programme.   

Comprehensive solutions can be executed through proper planning, multi-sectoral and timely coordination, structured implementation and surveillance.

It will reduce costs, enhance equitable access and improve lives of millions of people and dogs

Members Speak

Rambles in Indian Jungles I

Rambles in Indian Jungles I – Prosenjit Dasgupta

If you hear names like Mahuamilan, Chhipadohar, Beliakusum Ghati, or Suguasimar, you can be reasonably sure that you are somewhere near or at Palamau National Park, now a tiger reserve. These soft, sibilant titles of villages or spots in the jungle are reflective of the gentle, but hard, life of the Munda, Oraon and Khairwar tribals, inhabitants of the great swath of forests that once stretched from Garwa where the North Koel River joins up with the mighty Son, past Netarhat and Ranchi, practically up to Chakradharpur and Saranda. This is where in January 1972, I had my initiation into the ways of the Indian jungles.

There, in the lodge on the small hillock at Betla, where a thick iron chain blocked the way into the reserve, one could sit out in the evening on the veranda overlooking a water-hole some distance away, and be content with the braying rutting call of the chital stag, or the last clarion call of the peafowl coming to roost after a hard day’s work in searching for food and water. If one remained quiet – and there was little alternative as one was usually the sole occupant of the lodge, and there was no TV in the room - one would hear the deep rumbling of elephants as they came to the water-hole. Only seldom – but very seldom – deep into the night one would wake up to the squealing of a wild pig as it was caught in the plantation area some three hundred metres from the lodge, in the jaws of a tiger.

The mornings were usually spent out in the forest walking about with the local forest beat officer as he went about supervising the work of repairing roads, having the under-brush near the road cleared (as a fire-safety precaution),or having the water-holes cleaned up. He would point out the hoof-marks of chital, sambar and the gaur where they had dug into the earth next to a water-hole or the big, round foot-marks of an elephant group along the murram road and the occasional dung-heaps they had left behind.  We hardly spoke, in fact nobody really spoke at all, for the ears had at all times to be tuned to the sounds of the forest: the whooping of the langurs, the anxious call of a chital doe for its fawn , or, the rumbles of a passing elephant group. That was Lesson Number One. This was linked up with Lesson Number Two: to be still if one came upon an animal around a curve in the road, be it a chital, or sambar or a gaur. So still that the animal may look over you or through you, but should not feel disturbed or alarmed.

Then there would be the “classes” on grasses and trees – here is Sorghum halpense, a grass that is favourite of sambar, and there the Dendrocalamus strictus, the thorny bamboo, a favourite of the gaur and the elephant. All this led further on, deeper in to the jungle and deeper yet to the world of forest trees: Bombax malabaricum, Acacia catechu, Butea monosperma, Syzigium cumini, and last but not the least, Madhuca indica. Thus, a new world opened up.

And so this went on for the next thirteen years, up to 1985, sometimes once a year, sometimes twice. There was always exhilaration, a sense of repair and renewal, as one got down from the bus from Daltonganj and walked up the shallow staircase to the Betla lodge. One left the office and work far behind and was once more lost among the “simul” trees with their crimson flowers and the “palas” trees with the reddish-yellow bracts and throngs of drongo, parakeet and mynah  and the rutting bray of the chital stags beyond the water-hole.  

(The author, Prosenjit Dasgupta, has been a wildlife enthusiast for nearly fifty years. His book, “Walks in the Wild”, was published by Penguin Publishing in 2002. He has authored other books on the Sino-Indian Conflict and the Partition of India. He has regular posts at his blog-site -

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