Thar Desert

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

At 120 degrees in the shade, the Thar Desert in northwest India is no place to be in May, June, or July. However, from late October through early March the weather is suitable for an adventure to Jaisalmer. Set in the province of Rajasthan at the edge of this great desert, home to Thar Desert National Park and Wood Fossil National Park and one of the worlds great adventure opportunities; a camel safari! Think of gliding across shifting sands with enormous greater Indian bustards floating overhead, listen for the guttural ?rhonk? sound camels use to communicate, feel the history of caravan trade dating back to the beginning of civilization and become part of this ancient place. Before I, go further I want to issue a strong warning to all concerning travel via ?the ship of the desert.? I grew up around cattle and sitting on a horse. I have spent much of my adult childhood bouncing down the world?s rivers in a raft. None of those things prepared my bottom for the camel experience. I encourage one and all to take a pillow and ibuprofen for this adventure, but it is worth it.

Within the first hour of gliding across the stark terrain my whole being drifted into another time and another place. Sitting under the vast ink night sky, warming to the cooking fire and then eating fresh chapati and daal creates a truly unique adventure opportunity. On my five-day trip, I saw black buck and a desert fox. Each bush and shrub is the home to an amazing array of wrens and finches; surprisingly the Thar is great habitat for bird watching. Our caravan passed through small settlements carved out of the vast desert expanse. Here are sand dunes 500 feet tall and sunsets and sunrises as stunning as anywhere on earth. This is a large chunk of sparsely populated landscape within one of the world?s largest masses of humanity. The sands run from the Indus in the west, to the Aravalli Mountain Range in the east, to the plain of Punjab in the north and south to the Rann of Kutch; a vast salt marsh which once was part of the Arabian Sea. Go ahead, pronounce ?Rann of Kutch? out loud right now. I delight in how the name rolls off the tongue and conjures an exotic image.

If you are looking for Jaisalmer on a map, follow the only road north and west from Jodhpur. There are a number of tour operators here who offer camel adventures, be very careful in your choosing, price does not guarantee a great trip. Ask about the food, the cook, and how your meals will be prepared. Water is scarce in the desert and cleaning up is with sand. Shop as many vendors as you can, insist on cleanliness and watch your cook like a desert eagle. I really hope some of you go on this one. As always, take your time and take the time. Enjoy!

( Photograph: At Jaisalmer-from the family photoalbum, Susan Sharma)

Contributed by John H.Eickert

Num Bum Adventures or call 406-777-2228.

Amazing Facts About Wildlife

Some Facts

  • A starfish doesn't have a brain.
  • A gold fish's memory span is three seconds
  • The starfish is the only animal that can turn it's stomach inside out
  • A jellyfish is 95% water.
  • Starfish have eight eyes--one at the end of each leg.

Compiled by Priti Sawant

Answers To Quiz Of The Month

Right Answers to `Large Mammals`

This month no one has given all right answer only has given 8 right answers

Right Answer to Quiz on Large Mammals

1.In which of the four chambers of the stomach is a bovine's food digested?
  • The first
  • The second
  • The fourth.

  • 2.Which of the following does an elephant NOT use his trunk for?.
  • drinking
  • feeling
  • fighting

  • 3.Which is the largest of the tiger species?
  • The Javan tiger
  • The Royal Bengal tiger
  • The Siberian tiger

  • 4.Among the following reasons which one is most responsible for decline in tiger populations
  • poaching
  • scattered and small populations
  • loss of prey

  • 5.Which mammal's eye-lenses have no power of accommodation so that it has to move its head to focus?
  • The Camel
  • The Horse
  • The Aardwolf

  • 6.Which animal has greater endurance as a runner?
  • Cheetah
  • Horse
  • Mountain Goat

  • 7.What is the pecularity of the Gangetic Dolphin?
  • It is mostly vegetarian
  • It has no fins
  • It is blind

  • 8.The DNA similar to that of homo sapiens.
  • gibbons
  • chimpanzees
  • orangutans

  • 9.The largest primate is
  • gorilla
  • orangutan
  • chimpanzee

  • 10.Rhino usually produces one calf after a gestation period of ……….months
  • 9 months
  • 4 months
  • 18 months

  • Please try our quiz for the current month on Reptiles


    Member's Letter

    Here is a mail received from Sandeep Menon which is informative, with lots of useful links.

    " Had a good chat in IWC about the elephants... then i think there is some mistakes in the quiz results.. when i attended the quiz `Elephants-Part IV` i did not knew all the right answers, so i made a guess on some and found that the answers i guessed were right but some which i thought to be right went wrong..
    The question no 6 - When does an elephant reach maturity? The right answer is some about 15 .. the cow elephants reaches maturity at about 14. and the bulls reach the state of musth between the age of 15-18 . U can read about it from

    The question no 7- Elephas maximus is the term used for….
    The question no 10- There are two types of African Elephants. One is the Forest elephant. What is the other one?
    The Asian elephants are known by the scientific name Elephas maximus and the African elephants are known by the scientific name Loxodanta Africana Africana.
    The Asian elephants can be classified as
    Elephus Maximus Indicus (India)
    Elephus Maximus Ceylonicus (Sri Lanka)
    Elephus Maximus Burmanicus (Burma)
    Elephus Maximus Sumatramus (Sumatra)
    Elephus Maximus Hirsutus (Malayan)
    The African elephants are classified as
    Loxodonta africana (Afrcan Savannah)
    Loxodonta cyclotis (African forest)
    You can read more about it from or

    In chat it was discussed that the elephants in captivity will live long than the wild ones.. but it depends. at the present situation i think that the bulls can live long in captivity because of the protection from the poachers... I have heard that the tuskers in the forest are very rare. As the number of tuskers in the forests have decreased the poachers have now tracking the tamed elephants. A elephant was killed on last month by some unknown people for its tusk by poisoning it with cyanide.. but they couldn't take away the tusk..
    But the tuskers if given proper protection will live longer in forests.. In the case of tamed elephants they will live longer only in the ideal condition i.e. proper food and medicines at proper time. I have seen it only at Guruvayoor temple which houses about 60 elephants. there i saw an aged elephant which was teeth less.. It was fed with grass while the other elephants were fed with palm leaves. But most of the elephants are owned by the private owners who want to make profit out of the elephant.. when the elephant become aged they will not be interested in looking after the elephant as it is a profit less job. so the elephant will not live long ..... So i believe that the elephants will live longer at its on natural habitat. For the long life of tamed elephants the govt must provide them some retirement homes...
    We were told that 40% of the tuskers used in Rajastan were blind ... do u know what is the reason for such a large number becoming blind.. is it due to the torture on the premises of eyes, the vitamin deficiency, or cataract..

    Have a nice day

    News and Views

    News & Views


    'WildBytes' for the month of March has got delayed. My apologies for that. Team members have been traveling, were down with change of weather flues etc. And of course, our graphic artist got married and was away on honeymoon. Surprisingly, words just flow when one has to give excuses.

    We had a fairly good response to the online story writing contest. But the good news is that two well known elephant lovers-Mike Pandey and Vivek Menon have just agreed to judge the best story among the entries received online. We will announce the winners soon.

    We are uploading another contest online on the same lines as the elephant story but with tigers as the subject this time. Some stunning pictures taken by Aditya Singh at Ranthambhore will form the movie clips. Hope all of you will enter the contest. Last time we had some teething problems entering the story online. But we promise that the contest is now absolutely user friendly.

    Our chat room is developing into a place where some fascinating conversation is happening! As well as information sharing by serious wildlife lovers! Do read the transcript of chat on 'Reptiles'.

    This month we are starting a new column by 'Yasser Arafat' who is researching and documenting pheasants in Uttaranchal, entirely on his own volition. We hope to bring you regular features from him.

    And Views…….

    Here is a forward I received which is bound to make you laugh!

    I wanna be a Bear!

    In this life I'm a woman. In my next life, I'd like to come back as a bear. When you're a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months. I could deal with that. Before you hibernate, you're supposed to eat yourself stupid. I could deal with that, too. When you're a girl bear, you birth your children (who are the size of walnuts) while you're sleeping and wake to partially grown, cute cuddly cubs. I could definitely deal with that. If you're a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too. I could deal with that. If you're a bear, your mate EXPECTS you to wake up growling. He EXPECTS that you will have hairy legs and body fat. Yup...gonna be a bear.


    Poem on the Gujarat Earthquake

    When a mother gets even
    In the land of the Mahatma,
    Where people also saw
    The rare solar spectacle and
    The disaster that jolted the millennium
    Porbandhar, Bhuj and Ahmedabad
    Has united the country's hearts.

    Gujarat has weathered many a storm,
    But this quake it seems, is too much for her.
    Shaking and sobbing from deep within,
    She swallows her children 'midst her hungry dance.

    How can a mother become so cruel
    Or what was the torture she did face
    That she has to get so gory,
    To slash, maim and kill
    All her children - young and old?

    Was it to teach us all a lesson
    That such a harsh game she was forced to play?
    When her quaking innards brought crumbling down
    All man-made creations - shaking and killing?

    What was it you wanted to say
    By ravaging thus you cruel mother?
    "Tampered with me enough; stay off and away", or
    "Stop meddling will you, with my lands and seas,
    Greens and plains, hills and rivers, air and water."

    Why do you have to wait so long
    To tell your children to lessen their numbers
    To build simpler houses and not to be greedy?
    Why were you so patient, to tell your people
    To cut lesser trees? Today they have reached a point when
    They don't want to cut, even to cremate their beloved dead.

    What did you do when your children were busy
    Stacking brick on brick and
    Filling with concrete their multiple storeys?

    Why the silence, when in avarice they grabbed,
    Acres upon acres of your sylvan lands?

    Why the patience, when they unmindfully chopped
    The loving branches of your verdant country?

    What for you were quiet, when your children paved
    Your brown body with hot tar and concrete?

    Should you have remained still when they hammered so long
    To build those mighty structures that gave them such pride?

    What for the calmness when they stopped the course
    Of your sweet waterways, damming it to be damned?

    Now your children are crying,
    You who have failed in your duty to chide
    Your innocent wards, even when they began
    To play very dangerous games.

    Where went your warning when your kith and kin
    Spewed chemicals and poured fertilisers
    Choking your breath, poisoning your food?

    Tell me, should you be so patient,
    Till you have to get so angry
    And swallow your children
    In such a violent upheaval?

    But dear mother, at least now
    You taught us your lesson
    When man and woman was on the road,
    Fighting about Christ or Mohammed,
    You have now told them what it means
    To simply love each other.

    When man went about burning mosques and raping nuns,
    You couldn't but find, another way to stop him.

    When your leaders were blabbering
    About Rama or Babur
    Your violent protest did shut their mouth.

    When your business folks were busy
    Exporting all their wealth abroad,
    Whitening the blue sea with their gallons of white milk
    For, they said their prices were too low,
    Your silent struggle in poverty
    Is killing them all at one go now.

    They did not listen to your cry,
    When they built room upon unnecessary room
    Shutting their hearts to their fellow humans.

    Today you gave their 10-th floor complacence a gruesome shake
    And from that height they all fall down
    To be humbled in line with their jhopdi brethren.

    But tell me mother, what harm your tiny children did do,
    All the 400 and many more buried,
    Their innocent hearts crushing with the debris?
    For this alone, I will forgive you not.

    But better late than never at all
    For atleast now you taught your children
    How to get together and lend a shoulder.

    At least now, they learnt a lesson,
    That with calamity comes unity.

    At least with this it has struck them
    Not to tamper too much with you.

    At least at this point we realise
    The rich and the poor, we are all one and the same.

    Though 'tis the eleventh hour they have found
    That they should lend a ear to your whispers and warnings,
    What Mahatma Gandhi could not teach,
    What all the holy scriptures failed to impress,
    Your silent quake has shown them the need
    To work in harmony and with content be.

    By Akhilananda Bharati.

    from the site

    Understand The Animals

    Khalij Pheasant

    'My name is Yasser Arafat. Watching wild life is my hobby from the beginning. Recently I completed MBA but not interested in that type of work. I wanted to do something for the conservation of endangered wild animals and birds of Himalaya. I have started wild life photography and videography from last one year and have plenty of genuine knowledge of Pheasants and wild animals of Himalaya.'


    Khalij Pheasant – Lophura Leucomelanos

    By Yasser Arafat

    I think most common of all pheasants is the khalij pheasant. 65cm long, this bird is a resident of the Himalayas, North East India, Bangladesh and Nepal. Facial skin of both sexes is red. Female is dull brown to reddish brown in colour, whereas, the male is shining black above with steel blue gloss, ending in a glossy curved tale with variable amount of white on rump and under parts.

    Great ability to survive in various types of conditions. In Himalayas upto 3,500 mteres khalij can be seen every where, where there is a stream flowing with thick under growth. In winters they can be seen in flocks, birds upto 15-16 in numbers.

    Pairing starts from end of March. I have seen female with chicks on 17th April and same year I have seen female hatching eggs on 12th May. On nest I have found not more than eight eggs. Female makes nests in thick undergrowth, under a big rock or in the burrow made by roots of big trees.

    In the month of April and May females hatch their eggs while male roost in the tree near by. After the chicks come out of eggs female moves to another place and never remains in the same place. I have also seen eight males roosting on a tree on 3rd June without any female and chicks.

    From mid July chicks also started roosting on tree and small bushes.

    During breeding season males courting display is worth seeing . But fighting between two khalij males is also a wonderful sight to watch. I have documented these fights on video.

    Food consists of seeds, insects, fruit, and human excreta around habitation.

    Calls- chuckling calls mostly on being disturbed; otherwise much vocal communication occurs only during breeding season.


    The Punishment

    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!

    A number of my friends enjoy their drink and so do my elephants. This applies to a large number of my charges at the Delhi Zoo. When the weather gets really cold, animals other than elephants snuggle down in the warmth of their dens with large amounts of straw to warm them. Elephants stand in their huge and high stalls which, though have plenty of straw, are not very comfortable as they face drafts of cold winds.

    Well, in such weather the prescription is a bottle of rum in a bucket of water. This, drunk at night, keeps the animal nice and warm till morning.

    It is really a treat to see these huge animals drinking down this potent brew slowly but steadily to the accompaniment of a lot of gurgling noises and body swayings. They also would give the attending staff a good smelling over, perhaps to see whether he or she has had a swig too.

    To come back to my story- I had a friend, who was the U.N Ambassador to Russia as our lunch Guest. He was an old friend and we enjoyed many reminiscences together along with two or three bottles of strong beer. After lunch Mr. Mathur ( my friend) and I took a stroll through the zoo. His little grand daughter wanted to say hello to my gentle friend 'Raj Laxmi' who was the oldest of the Zoo elephants. Well, we went into the elephant enclosure and Raj Laxmi gave us a real good sniffing over. As usual, she behaved very well indeed with the little girl and my honoured guest. I stepped up close to her and patted her trunk and face and then gave her a juicy bit of sugar cane to munch on. She took all this very graciously. But while I was giving her the sugar cane, she gently sucked in my hand into her mouth and Ouch! Gave me a gentle bite! A reminder to me that we had not included her in the beer party. Well there was not much I could do because there was no more beer at home. This minor punishment to me by RajLaxmi went unnoticed , even by the mahout. I was relieved that the guests noticed only the best elephant behaviour and brought them quickly back home.

    I did not however forget my gentle giant of a friend. Though it was not very cold that night she was given a bucket of that potent mixture to make up for my misdemeanour.

    {Painting ( 2002) by Munna Lal of Salaam Balak Trust, New Delhi}

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