Amazing Facts About Wildlife

Courtship in Birds

By Prashant Mahajan, BNHS

The ways by which birds find partners and mate is one of the most fascinating and colourful features of all animal life. Although divorce may be rare in birds, almost every other conceivable matrimonial arrangement exists somewhere in the bird world.

Having fought off other males, often by establishing a territory. Some males attract a single mate and remain faithful to her life, like the tallest Indian bird, Sarus Crane. At the other extreme, some males use their brilliant courtship plumage to attract a whole series of mates, deserting each one in favour of the next as soon as mating has taken place e.g. Weaver bird. Birds attract their mates by a combination of visible signals, which range from special plumage to brightly coloured legs and inflatable pouches, and by ritual movement. These signals vary from something as simple as a gull’s nod of the head to the bizarre display in the male Great Indian Bustard. The bustard throwback his wings and head, apparently turning his head inside out while the Lesser Bengal Florican continuously jump at one place, to make himself visible to the female among the tall grasses.

Peacocks are members of the pheasant family, a group of birds, which show some of the most spectacular and elaborate courtship plumage in the bird world. While the peacocks spread its tail feather, from the back, the upright feathers of peacock’s “true” tail can be seen. These brace the much longer and more brilliant tail coverts. Great crested grebes perform sequence bizarre dances during their courtship. The sequence often begins with a head-shaking dance, in which the birds face each other, jerking their heads from side to side, as if trying to avoid each other glance. Suddenly, they dive and reappear at the surface with beakful of waterweed. During the “penguin dance” both birds rear up out of the water, paddling furiously as they present the weed to each other. After several more set pieces, the birds mate.

It was only in the last century that naturalists penetrated the forests of New Guinea and saw how male birds used plumes of the Count Raggi’s bird of paradise. In displays, during which they hang upside down, the birds throw their plumes open. During display, the tail feathers are thrown open to produce a fountain of colour as the male bird swings upside down from a branch. The feathers being without barbules do not interlock, so appear lacy.

Answers To Quiz Of The Month

Answers to quiz on mammals

No all correct answers were received within the stipulated time.Please attempt this month's Quiz on Birds

Correct answers are written in red.

1. In which of the four chambers of the stomach is a bovine's food digested?
O The first. O The second. O The fourth.
2. What is a favourite food of the Indian Porcupine?
O The seed of the Jamun fruit. O The dropped horns of deer. O Snails.
3. Which creature's dung is characterized by hard white balls composed chiefly of crushed bone?
O Owl O Hyena O Mountain Goat
4. Which fruit is a special favourite of the jackal?
O Jackfruit O Ber O Jamun
5. Which mammal's eye-lenses have no power of accommodation so that it has to move its head to focus?
O The Camel O The Horse O The Aardwolf
6. Which animal has greater endurance as a runner?
O Cheetah O Horse O Mountain Goat
7. What is the pecularity of the Gangetic Dolphin?
O It is mostly vegetarian O It is black all over and has no fins O It is blind
8. How many known species of mammal are there?
O 4230 O 9800 O 7516
9. Which mammal has the longest hair of all?
O The Musk Ox O The Yak O The Mountain Goat
10. Can bears swim?
O Yes O No O Some bears can

News and Views


Susan Sharma Founder,

Screening of Films

World Wide Fund for Nature-India organized a screening of'To Corbett With Love' followed by a painting competition based on the film at India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi on 14th of April 2002.

The program began at 10.45 am. Mr. Nalin Sharma and Mr. Rajpal Singh of WWF-India welcomed the audience. Dr. Susan Sharma introduced the film explaining how the short film is the result of a 15 year old love story with Corbett National Park. The screening was followed by a painting competition for the children from the audience. They were given freedom to express their impressions about the film they had just seen. Many youngsters came out with interesting ideas and scripts to give voice to the paintings. WWF gave out prizes to best paintings in four age groups.

World Wide Fund for Nature-India is organizing a screening of 'Sarang-The Peacock' followed by a painting competition based on the film at India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi on 12th of May 2002.

Photography Exhibition-WildScapes in association with Fuji Films is organizing 'WILDSCAPES- Nature and Wildlife by Young Photographers' at the Convention Foyer of Habitat Centre on 11 and 12 May 2002. Five members of Jayant Deshpande, Saurav Ghosh, Rahul Dutta, Aditya Singh and Anantika Singh are exhibiting their photographs. This is a major event for the Delhi Chapter . All Delhi based members and all those who can make it to Delhi during that time are welcome to see the exhibition. Fuji is giving away the first prize and consolation prizes in addition to meeting part cost of the exhibition.

Trek in Asola Sanctuary

Like we did last year is a participant in the 'Cathay Wilderness Program', the annual event organized by Cathay Pacific Airways to choose winning students for an all paid African Safari. Till last year the event was limited to Mumbai. This year Cathay is selecting two students from Mumbai and two from Delhi. Letters have already gone out to 15 high schools in Delhi inviting four students each in the age group 15-18 for taking part in a trek to Asola sanctuary ( part of the ridge forest of Delhi) being organized by with the help of the Delhi Forest Department. The trek is to take place on 3rd of May. ( Delhi temperatures are now in the range of 42 degrees centigrade!! So the trek is certainly not for the faint -hearted). The participating teams from colleges will be asked to prepare a project on related topics within ten days. On 13th the presentations on these topics will be arranged at WWF-India at Lodhi Road, New Delhi. The winners will be chosen from these presentations by a team of judges. These winners will then appear for interviews with the Cathay selectors who will decide on the two lucky winners.


Here is an excerpt taken from which is thought provoking

Excerpts From Chief Seattle's Famous Speech to President Franklin Pierce
In 1854, the United States Government aggressively offered to buy 2 million acres of land occupied by native people in the Northwest. Below is a translation of excerpts from Chief Seattle's (Chief Sealth) reply to President Franklin Pierce in December of that year. His speech has been described as one of the most beautiful and prophetic statements on the environment ever made.

"The Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. The Great Chief also sends us words of friendship and good will. This is kind of him, since we know he has little need of our friendship in return. But we will consider your offer.

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and sparkle of the water, how can you buy them ?

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and every humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man. So, when the Great Chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us..."

"This we know: All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. But we will consider your offer to go to the reservation you have for my people. We will live apart, and in peace...."

"If we agree, it will be to secure the reservation you have promised. There, perhaps, we may live out our brief days as we wish. When the last red man has vanished from the earth, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, these shores and forests will still hold the spirits of my people. For they love this earth as the newborn loves its mother's heartbeat. So, if we sell our land, love it as we've loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you take it. And preserve it for your children..."

Tips On Beauty Without Cruelty

Vegetable and fruit based cleansing masks

Deepika Vohra served as the head of the Department of Beauty Culture at the International Polytechnic for Women at New Delhi. She also ran a beauty clinic at Delhi's Vasant Kunj for some time from where she relocated to New York for five years. Exposure to the world capital of beauty and cosmetics gave her an opportunity to compare the Indian beauty industry with the razzle dazzle of the New World. Reading and researching beauty culture has always been a hobby with her. The tips for beauty given below were selected from her repertoire of nature based recipes which are time tested to deliver.

'Nature Never Did Betray the heart That Loved Her.'-Wordsworth

The present times herald a veritable victory over chemical cosmetics in the form of natural beauty aids. Joy, happiness and confidence for sure contribute vastly to your beautiful appearance. A smooth supple skin is of course an added bonus. So, here are some tips to care for your skin through the seasons.

Basic skin types may be classified into five broad categories- normal, dry, oily, combination and sensitive skin. The skin is made up of protective layers of cells supported by nerves, glands and blood vessels. Your skin lives and breathes. Cells move up to the surface where they are shed and replaced. This topmost layer is protected by the body's natural oil and moisture. It is essential to carefully plan out a beauty routine to attain a flawless, petal-soft complexion.

The first step to your beauty routine is cleansing your skin. Cleansers are formulated to remove surface grime and dirt as well as dissolve stale make up from the skin. A gentle massage will help to float out deep down make up and other impurities.

How do you recognize your skin type?

NORMAL SKIN --- is finely textured with no visible pores, spots, or blemishes, soft and velvety to the touch, and unwrinkled. Normal skin has to be treasured and preserved, as it is liable to change, if neglected.

OILY SKIN --- is caused by overactive sebaceous glands that give rise to large open pores. Larger pores, in turn, lead to blackheads, blemishes and acne. The appearance of blackheads and blemishes is due to clogged oil and dirt in the pores which is not removed instantly by cleansing. Oily skin begins to have an oily shine within a few minutes after wash or make-up. This makes it difficult to hold make-up. However, oily skin has an advantage of ageing very slowly, but deep cleansing must be thorough.

DRY SKIN --- is a sensitive skin type which comes in blotches, tends to peel off easily and feels tight after a wash. Lack of moisture results in dry skin and this skin type is more prominent around the eyes, mouth, lips, sides of mouth, and forehead. Cleansing, toning, moisturizing form an integral routine of this type of skin. Dry skin is highly susceptible to diet, extremes in weather and harsh perfumed skin care products. Dry skin also has another disadvantage. Wrinkles appear faster giving you a prematurely aged look. A generous application of moisturizer will produce a skin which would be on par with the 'enviable' peaches and cream complexion.

COMBINATION SKIN--- As the word 'combination' suggests it is mix of two different skin types on one face. More often this skin type is the result of a badly cleansed and neglected skin. It is easily recognizable as it is oily down the T panel, that is the forehead, nose, chin. The skin gets this oily look down the T panel while the rest of the face appear and feel dry. Combination skin needs scrupulous cleansing. It is a good idea to use a face mask for oily skin down the T panel and a mask for dry skin for the rest of the face. This method of treating the combination skin works ideally to give a perfect, balanced effect.

SENSITIVE SKIN---- This type of skin is extremely delicate and vulnerable. It is easily susceptible to freckles, itchy spots and blotches. Dermatitis and allergies caused by chemical cosmetics are common problems of a sensitive skin. It is best to discontinue the usage of strong and harsh skin care products as well as perfumed creams and moisturizers.

Masks are excellent beauty revivers that lend a smooth complexion to the user.

Vegetable and fruit based cleansing masks

  • Extract the juice of potato and add Fuller's Earth to make a thick paste. Apply on face and rinse off.
  • Cucumber juice combined with Fuller's Earth also helps to cleanse deep down dirt and grime from your skin.
  • Mashed strawberries have excellent cleansing properties.
  • Ripe, mashed papaya, leaves skin clean, smooth and shining.
  • Boiled and mashed turnips combined with a little yogurt also cleanses the skin.
  • Other natural cleansers include aloe, lemon and ginseng.

    CUCUMBER MASK - (for sluggish and tired face)


    2 cup mashed cucumber
    1 white of egg
    2 teaspoon skimmed milk powder

    Mix well to a smooth paste. Apply all over the face and leave for 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water. Use chilled water for the final rinse. Blot dry.


    1 tablespoon Fuller's earth
    1 tablespoon honey
    1 tablespoon rose water
    10 drops orange juice

    Mix all the ingredients together. Application Apply on face and wash off after 15 minutes.

  • Deepika Vohra can be contacted

    Understand The Animals

    Poisonous Snakes of India

    Inputs from Arpit Deomurari


    Krait-- Family: Elaphidae (Subfamily: Elapinae)

    Kraits are found only in Asia. This snake is of special concern toman. It is deadly-about 10 times more deadly than the common cobra. It is active at night and relatively passive during their habitats. The krait has a tendency to seek shelter in sleeping bags, boots, and tents. Its venom is a powerful neurotoxin that causes respiratory failure.

    Habitat: Open fields, human settlements, and dense jungle.

    Length: Average 90 centimeters, maximum 1.5 meters.

    Distribution: India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.


    Some of the major differences between the two kinds of Kraits found in India are as under:

    Common Krait

    Banded Krait

    A glossy, steely blue black to faded bluish grey krait the head is rounded and distinct from the neck

    A sleek snake, it is conspicuous because of its yellow and black banded pattern. The head is round and distinct from the neck and the tail is blunt.

    The Common krait occurs over most of India

    Banded kraits are found mostly in eastern India

    Kraits are confirmed nocturnal creatures, becoming sluggish during the day. The days are usually spent sleeping in rat holes

    They are nocturnal snakes, with feeding habits similar to the Common krait. They kill their prey by envenomating as well as suffocating.

    Most bites to humans occur at night, when villagers return to their homes from the neighbouring fields

    Banded kraits are fairly common in their range, but because of their reclusive and nocturnal habits they are seldom sighted.

    The females lay 8 12 eggs between March May. The eggs take about 3 months to hatch and the mother spends this entire period with them.

    The female lays about 12 eggs around April. These take approximately 2 months to hatch.

    Despite their short fangs these snakes have a bulldog's grip. Their venom is extremely toxic, inducing nerve paralysis. A dangerous feature is that there are no local symptoms, such as pain or swelling for several hours the onset may be sudden and rapid. Severe stomach and joint pains occur after 6 to 12 hrs. Krait venom is rated 6 to 8 times as toxic as that of a Cobra's.

    Similar to the Common krait and very toxic. It induces nerve paralysis. However, the snakes are mild tempered and rarely bite. As a result very few deaths from its bite have been reported. No anti-venom for its bite is produced within India.

    Common Krait found in almost all Wild Life Parks

    Banded Krait found in the following Wild Life Parks

    Buxa Tiger Reserve Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary

    Kaziranga National Park Simlipal National Park

    Sunderbans National Park




    Wanted A Bride-Japanese origin Preferred

    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!

    There were far too many bachelor boys around. This was very disturbing. My job was there to see that the tribe increased and it applied to all animals including the Hippo. But it was slightly difficult to do that with only Mani the male 'Ippoppo' from Trivandrum among us. 'Ippoppo' was my son's name for the Hippo and he would drag me around to see his friend every day without fail.

    Our prayers for daily bread were not unheeded but after long last we were indeed very excited to be told that a brand new bride would arrive from Japan soon. Her home was scrubbed clean and her own private swimming pool was emptied out, cleaned and all the "furniture" set in order.

    We left for Calcutta and soon 'Kaaba' made her appearance on board the Japanese vessel in the Calcutta docks. She was made comfortable in a huge iron crate with a strong wooden floor and as I went on board to receive and welcome her to India she deigned to let me scratch her neck. The captain entertained me lavishly so much so that I thought that I would have to be lowered onto the dock instead of Kaaba via the crane. Well this was not to be and finally the crate with Hippo and her huge drinking bowl was slowly lowered on to the wharf. All went well except when the crate was a foot from the concrete wharf. Without warning the steel wire rope holding up the crate cracked and with an ominous thud Kaaba and her temporary home crashed down to terra firma.

    This literally shook us all up and we all rushed to see whether madame was any worse for her resounding entry into our great land! Everything was well and although she was shaken up she soon got up and stirred herself around to show that she was none the worse for the crash. The Captain's faced white as chalk and I thought I saw his hand stealing towards his sword.

    All however was well and there was no human bloodshed and the nearest was the oozing of the red liquid from the Hippo's skin which has the function of keeping her real cool.

    Phone calls went to the Railway Ministry to ensure that Kaaba had a comfortable train journey. Kaaba and crate were loaded aboard an eight wheeler wagon which was attached to the Howrah Express bound for Delhi.

    Thanks to all the telephone calls, we were treated to what I called "the cooling machine" at every station that the train touched.

    The "machine" consisted of 40-50 red coated coolies armed with fire buckets full of cool water and as soon as the door to Kaaba's cabin was opened and word given they would throw the water in, dousing her completely. I nearly drowned on a pair of swimming trunks in the process.

    One of the requirements of transporting animals, especially huge herbivores is that plenty of food has to be procured for breakfast, lunch and dinner all rolled into one continuous eating process. All though we had bales of hay on board, madame seemed to have had enough and wanted or rather showed preference for more sweeter food. I understood that far too well as I have a very very sweet tooth. Well, all the bananas and water melons on the station were procured to cater to "Her Sweetness" and these were dispatched with great speed into her innards. This did cause great glee among the fruit vendors.

    We got a royal reception at Delhi Station and soon Kaaba and her home were taken over by the hugely muscled "block and tackle' crew who transported her on-of all the vehicles- a bullock cart, to be released in her enclosure at the Zoo.

    Kaaba was separated from Mani by only a wooden sliding door. Though Mani danced around , threw up huge splashes of water and grunted and called to her, we did not put them together fearing violent expressions of passion. They banged at the door from either side and kissed passionately over the door but none of this melted my heart!

    Finally in a week's time Kaaba came into heat and the calls and grunts became music to our ears. In the presence of a large number of keepers armed with crackers and sticks she was let into Mani's enclosure which had a much larger pool. All went well and though Mani had to endure a number of wicked gashes( love bites of the Hippo variety) they certainly proved to be a couple who lived happily ever after- producing male babies year after year - an effect I believe of the Indian psyche!

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