The Goechala (Sikkim) Trek Part I

The Goechala (Sikkim) Trek-Part I


Day 1    14km
Yuksom(5600ft) to Bhakim(8636ft)

Day 2    12km
Bhakim(8638ft) to Dzongri(12981ft)

Day 3
Dzongri(12981ft) to Dzongri top (13676ft)and

back to Dzongri

Day 4    10km
Dzongri(12981ft) to Thansing (12894ft)

Day 5    10km
Thansing(12894ft to Lamuney(13600ft)to Samiti

Lake(14100ft) and back to Lamuney

Day 6    20km
Lamuney(13600ft)to Zemathang(16000ft)and back to


Day 7    15km
Phedang(12068ft) to Yuksom (5600ft)

The map

Flags Yuksom


Yuksom is a historical town in west Sikkim.  It was the first capital of Sikkim established in 1642 A.D.  Yuksom literally means the "meeting place of the three learned monks".  The three monks came from Tibet and selected Phuntsog Namgyal as the first king of Sikkim, as they met in Yuksom.

Yuksom has a small monastery which we visited in the evening.  The kids on the premises were glad to have us over and posed enthusiastically for our photographs.

And they threw attitude. And a hint of mischief. And innocence.

The pretty little town has enough to offer for even a week long peaceful stay. Choose a nook in a restaurant, grab the locally brewed beer, have steaming hot momos, and admire the sight of the locals carrying out their daily chores, and pretty little children in their bright red uniforms returning from school.

Yuksom kid


A day of rest at Dzongri gives you a chance to slow down, talk to the locals and enjoy their stories while relishing the delicious food.  Of course with no electricity, the
sun streaming in through the window is the only source of light during the day.  At night, everyone sleeps off early ad candles and lamps form the sources of light.

There is usually a fire burning through the day, also used to boil water for making food and for day to day uses.   The locals stay there for the better part of the year, leaving for Yuksom for 3-4 months during the winters.  That is when they get reunited with their families.  After all, they stay in Dzongri to make a living providing food nad saleable items to the trekkers. 

Wai wai noodles is a specialty here, and often cooked in different styles and mixed with vegetables or chicken pieces to yield different types of what they called Thukpa.  And then there are momos, again of different varieties. They are best had steaming hot, but be careful.  They can get spicy at times! And lastly, what goes along well at any time of the day is the local aromatic tea-ready to rejuvenate tired trekkers and add a spark to a thousand discussions.     


Dzongri trekkers

Dzongri peak

To be contd.

*The names of photographers are: Deepak Maloo, Piyish Rathore, N. Abhinav, Harmohit Singh Toor and Rahul De.
The text was a joint effort of the team. Apart from the above photographers, the members of the team included Sandeep and Lapcha (Guides)

Burning Issues

Battle with Cattle in Bharatpur-Part II

Battle with Cattle in Bharatpur-Part II

Priya Phadtare

The presence of cattle in the national parks has always drawn the ire of the ecologists and has led to several debates in India. The Indian Wildlife Board in its recommendations on the wildlife sanctuaries in 1965 wrote that, “as far as possible grazing of domestic animals in sanctuaries should be prohibited”. 

In 1967, George Schaller, a world-famous ecologist and the author of the best-selling discussions on the gorilla and the African lion, was very critical in his discussion of cattle in The Deer and the Tiger, his landmark book based on his research in India. His anger with the cattle population in the country is evident from the following excerpt from the book: 'A great scourge of India's land is the vast numbers of domestic animals which are undernourished, diseased, and unproductive, yet are permitted to exist for religious reasons'. But he did not completely condemn the idea of having cattle in a park as it served as prey for the carnivores such as tigers and lions. His consolation was the fact that at least the cattle played an essential aspect in the conservation of tigers. He was also of the opinion that wildlife sanctuaries should exclusively support a population of the animals meant to survive in the wild, that way these protected areas could be developed into natural heritages.

Juan Spillet, a PhD student, whose research was funded by the Johns Hopkins University, arrived in the country to carry out his research in collaboration with the Bombay Natural History Society on the menace of cattle. Spillet toured the nation and expressed his views in his article titled ‘General Wildlife Conservation Problems in India, in which he stated that the country was confronted with two major problems: Too many people and a large population of livestock.  He clearly linked the poor in the country to cattle and also went to the extent of calling cattle as a cancer that were responsible for the destruction of ecology. He further said, ‘It is a historical fact that more nations have fallen because of land abuse, such as overgrazing by domestic livestock, than by all other factors combined’. Vasant Saberwal vehemently opposed this notion by stating that there was no direct correlation between overgrazing and desertification and added that it was easier for people to blame the cattle for the destruction of ecology than to imagine that climate change was the real reason instead. The misconception was undesirable but what was more unfortunate was the fact that based on the views of Juan Spillet according to whom cattle were as good as any criminals vandalizing public property, the Indian Wildlife Board and Indira Gandhi made the decision to exclude grazing from Bharatpur by force. Subsequently in 1967, the Government of India established a Parliamentary Committee 'to investigate the implications of a total ban on the slaughter of the cow and its progeny'. 

Zafar Futehally, nephew to Salim Ali, Secretary of the BNHS, and soon to be a leader of WWF, India was skeptical of George Schaller and Juan Spillet’s views on the cattle situation and the haste with which the Indian Government was acting upon their scientific findings. He was determined to carry out a study which could be used by the Parliamentary Committee before the submission of its report by the year end. Unfortunately they never received monetary support from the Indian government or from funding agencies like the Smithsonian to carry out any study of such nature.

In 1969, a team of students studying ecology, funded by the Smithsonian, conducted the kind of study Zafar Futehally had been pushing for in the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. They were to present the results of which at the meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in New Delhi. The findings of the study were nothing less than an absolute shocker as they were the complete opposite of the general understanding. The report said that the diet of the cattle was completely different from that of the other wild ungulates and that even if all the livestock was removed, deer and the antelopes would not still feed on the newly available grass. The study also clearly stated that the presence of the livestock was in no way harmful to the existence of the other ungulates of the park and that there was hardly a trace of competition between the two. This particular finding negated the claims made by the earlier researchers who vehemently opposed the idea of the presence of cattle in the parks.  The study of course concluded with the fact that if the livestock were abruptly removed from the sanctuary then it would directly affect the carrying capacity of the lions and that the population would be reduced to a mere twenty five percent of the existing number, this was the only remark which pacified the enraged participants of the meeting . As was expected, the report was harshly criticized at the meeting as it was a classic case in which science did not confirm the conventional wisdom of the policy makers. 

Bias against the cattle

Most of the conservationists and policy makers believe that cattle are not wild animals per say and have been known to create an ecological misbalance only in rainforest biomes, the exclusion of cattle from the grasslands remains objectionable. There is also the factor of ‘familiarity’ working against them. After all who would be thrilled to see cattle in a national park anyway? The bias does not end at this; time and again we have blamed the cattle for desertification and soil erosion. 
Ecologists have unanimously argued that the forest area should be exclusively reserved only for the “wild” animals which cannot be domesticated and are often threatened to extinction. Then comes the question of the carrying capacity of a park; in a study conducted in the Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh it was found out that the park could handle only a limited number of cattle, beyond which the other herbivores like the swamp deer saw a decline in their population. 
This idea of carrying capacity combined with the lack of enchantment elicited by the familiar and mundane beasts of the world resulted in prejudice against livestock grazing in national parks. For obvious reasons the policy makers overlooked the findings of the study carried out in the Gir Forest where the carrying capacity was hardly a problem and the livestock existed with the other herbivores without exerting biotic stress on the forest’s ecosystem. 

-To be Continued

Part I of this article can be read at

About the author:

Priya Phadtare has done biochemistry from Sri Venkateaswara College, Delhi.  She is an avid reader with a keen interest in wildlife.  She can be contacted at


1.Adams, Alexander (1962), 'How it Began,' in Alexander Adams (ed), First World Conference on National Parks, Seattle, Washington, June 30-July 7, 1962, pp. xxxii. Washington D.C.: National Park Service.  
2.Ali, Salim (1985), The Fall of a Sparrow. Delhi: Oxford University Press.      
3.Futehally, Zafar (1967), 'Misuse of Nature: Some Ecological Facts,' The Times of India’, 11 June (1992).
4.The Wildlife of India. New Delhi: Harper Collins.    

Call For Submissions To The Indian Wildlife Club

Online 3D Photo Gallery

Susan Sharma

In this digital age where “everyone is  a photographer”  is it becoming more and more difficult to take a great picture? We don’t think so. There are more good pictures,  but the great ones still stand out. The digital age has brought scores of new people to the photography industry. With all the advanced technology and automation it has made the industry very appealing to thousands of newcomers.  Photography is now more meaningful and images do speak the proverbial 1000 words. 

Photographers have so many other associations to their images, i.e. the experience they had when taking the photo. The important information is what can be taken from the image itself – everything else is supplementary. It helps to trust someone else who has a more neutral response to select your best images.   Hence we curate your photos to a theme so that the photos tell a story, with an underlying theme.

We look forward to IWC members coming forward with their best photos on nature and wildlife.  Send about 30 pictures-in low resolution; you can upload them on picasa and send the link too- for us to choose from.   The photos must have captions and also details about when and where taken.  Send a two line write-up about you-the photographer along with a link to your own web page.   Those who want to buy high resolution images from you will contact you directly.  IWC will expect you to give link to the phtogallery once the photos are uploaded.

To quote Shekhar Dattatri, the well-known film maker
"While pictures of nature and wildlife are valuable when contributed to conservation causes, images that depict the destruction of nature are vital for creating change. Unfortunately, most nature photographers in India do not even consider taking “conservation photographs” such as road kills, mined slopes, deforested hillsides, ugly constructions within forests, or other man-made disasters inflicted on nature. Yet, pictures like these, with a record of the location, date and time, can help conservation immensely. ...The advantage with conservation photography is that, unlike nature photography, it is not dependent on sophisticated and expensive equipment, or great technical skill......."

So, send in your conservation photos on a theme and we will publish them in our 3D gallery.

To see the current online exhibition, click on the link


How to Photograph Birds in India-Part II

How to Photograph Birds in India-Part II

Vijay Cavale

B.Know Your Subject

It is best to begin bird photography by knowing a bit about birds. If you spend some time as a ‘Bird Watcher’ your endeavors as a ‘Bird Photographer’ will be far more fruitful. 

You will notice many things when you are out in the field studying birds:

1.Apart from a few birds, most disappear upon approach by humans.
2.Many a bird’s survival tactic is to remain unnoticed. 
3.Birds are varied in size. From as small as a human thumb to as tall as a human!
4.Bird habitats vary. Some live up in the sky, and some rarely leave the ground.
5.Bird calls are highly specific. You can soon learn to recognize birds by their call alone.
6.Some Birds nest several times a year. And most nest at least once a year. 
7.If humans interact with the nest in any way, the chance of it being robbed by other predators is doubled.
8.Most birds are approachable while they have young to feed.
9.Most adult birds give out a distinct alarm call if they sense danger (the normal call is different).
10.If a bird is carrying feed/nesting material, it usually means it is nesting in the area.
11.While some birds have stunning and varied colors, others are plain.
12.The male of the species is more attractively colored than the female in many species.
13.Many birds change color and grow extra feathers while breeding.
14.A young bird often looks different from the adult.
15.While both sexes look alike in many species, in others the male looks completely different from the female. 
16.Some birds do not move much, while others rarely stop moving.
17.Birds are more active and more vocal during their breeding season.
18.Migratory birds, obviously, will be seen only during some part of the year, in a region.
19.Many birds fly out to feed and roost back at the same place, day after day.
20.Many birds are nocturnal and may never be seen in daytime.
21.Some birds can be identified easily, but others require minute details for their identification.
22.The food of birds is most varied: insects, seeds, fruits, berries, parts of flowers and their nectar, rodents, reptiles, fish and other aquatic insects, scorpions and snakes, dead animals…and other birds too! 

C. Nest Photography

By this time you would have learnt that the easiest way to photograph a bird is to find its nest. If you visit any ‘Bird Sanctuary’ you will find plenty of birds like Egrets, Herons and Storks nesting on trees near water. The nests will be open (platform) and the parents will come repeatedly to the nest carrying food for the young. It’s a delightful opportunity for any bird photographer and a very good beginning too!

A good bird photographer must understand that while some birds can defend their nests from natural predation, most cannot. Several species like Lapwings and Plovers rely entirely on camouflage to counter natural predation. 

For a large number of birds the most vulnerable time in their life is when they are in the nest or have just fledged. There are number of predators that these nesting birds have to outwit in order to succeed in raising their young. Mongooses, Monitor Lizards, Snakes, and other birds like Crows and Coucals are all constantly on the lookout to pillage a nest. The biggest challenge for these predators is to find a nest, and the biggest challenge for the bird is to remain unnoticed! A bird photographer may unknowingly provide a clue for these vigilant predators to find an easy meal.

It is for this reason that photographing nests is not encouraged by the community of birders. It is a fine convention to avoid this temptation to go after a vulnerable nesting bird that allows easy approach, and instead use other techniques to get a successful image. Remember that it is not good practice to put the birds in distress or danger just to get a great image. 

Common Kingfisher

About the author:

Vijay Cavale has been a nature addict since birth. He lives in Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka State in South India. After almost two decades of a successful career in the Indian IT Industry, he decided to quit his corporate career at the age of 40 and follow his dream. For the last seven years Vijay Cavale has been traveling to several parts of India photographing its rich wildlife with a focus on birdlife. He has photographed close to 400 species of birds found in India, and gladly shares them on his homepage below. His work in this area is entirely non-commercial and is aimed at creating awareness and sharing the joy. He hopes his work will contribute in some way towards nature conservation. Although he does not offer any of his images for commercial use, he is glad to collaborate and discourse with like-minded people from around the world.
Homepage:   Email:
Vijay Cavale, Jan 2007.


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