Riding the Tons

'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

The water in the Tons River wasn’t just cold, it was numbing. Last month I regaled everyone with my introduction to international whitewater adventure. This month completes that wild ride, that breathless ride, down the Tons. We launched ourselves into the river high in the Har-ki-Doon Valley, not far from the glacial source of the Tons, the mountain named Brandarpunch. Each day we paddled, shivered, and survived. Each day our guide Kumar urged us to dump the raft in the smaller rapids. We continued to refuse. Finally, on the second to last day, in a rapid I think was named the ‘horn of the Tons’ Kumar got his wish, and he flipped us. I fought my way out of the river and lay heaving on the bank under an enormous tree. It smelled like a cedar tree and kind of looked like one. I lay on my back letting my body warm while I watched the sky through the branches of the ancient tree. The deliberate incident in the river left me ready to end the trip and go on to something else. Eventually, we were all united with the raft and the next day ended our adventure.

Seventeen years later, or the time it would take for one drop of water to fall on Brandarpunch, find its way into the Tons, down to the Indian Ocean, dissipate up into a cloud, and return to Brandarpunch; I was walking in a botanical garden in Singapore, a long way from the Indian Himal, to be sure. Each plant had a sign explaining where the plant was from, its ecology, and range. I sat for a bit on a metal bench under a tree. I looked up through the branches into the sky, in the sky rode fluffy cotton, moisture carrying, clouds. The branches, the tree, seemed familiar. I turned and read the sign. The tree was a deodar, one of four species of cedar extant on our planet. It went on to state; deodar is derived from the Sanskrit devadaru or literally ‘the tree of the gods.’ I also read that the largest deodars in the world are found in the Har-ki-Doon. I sat wondering if I had crawled from the Tons on my own that day or had been plucked from the glacial water by the tree and the will of god. I sat for a long time, under those spreading limbs and contemplated my existence, my worth.

The Tons is easy to reach from Delhi. The Ichhari dam has changed some of the river, but there is still a wild white water descent to be had. The valley itself is cool and pleasant, worth visiting on its own merits, especially when contrasting with the rushing and crushing of Delhi. I hope you find yourself compelled to go there and I also hope you find time to sit under the spreading branches of an ancient deodar. Remember to watch the clouds and wonder where you will be in seventeen years!

Visit or call NumBum Adventurers at 406-777-2228

Answers To Quiz Of The Month

Answers to quiz on Asiatic Lions

This month no one has given all right answers, but, have given 9 right answers

Right Answers toAsiatic Lions
1.Asiatic lions can be found today in
  • The Sukma Wit Forest of Thailand
  • The Gir Forest of India
  • Both the above  
  • 2.Gir National Park is sppread over an area of
  • 1100
  • 259 sq.  
  • 3.Radio telemetry studies show that the home range of a male Asiatic Lion is,
  • 12
  • 110
  • 50  
  • 4.In Gir Forest, the lions share their habitat with a pastoral population called
  • Maldharis
  • Gujjars
  • Todas  
  • 5.Till just 200 years ago, the Asiatic lion ranged from ………… to the plains of North West India.
  • S.Korea
  • Syria
  • Siberia  
  • 6.To spread out the highly vulnerable population of lions in Gir, the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun recommended tranlocation of some lions to,
  • Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, in NW of Madhya Pradesh
  • Mithiyala in Areili District of Gujarat
  • Nagarjuna Sagar Reserve, Andhra Pradesh  
  • 7.The name of the local ruler who banned lion hunting in 1910 is
  • Nawab of Jamnagar
  • Nawab of Junagadh
  • Nawab of Rajkot  
  • 8.The major problem facing Gir National Park is,
  • Human animal conflict
  • in breeding
  • Drought conditions  
  • 9.Current poulation estimates of lions in Gir are,
  • 2000
  • 1300
  • 320  
  • 10.The award winning documentary " Lions of the Gir " was made by ,
  • Mike H. Pandey
  • Rajesh Bedi
  • Nikhil and Niret Alva   
  • Please try our quiz for the current month on Sea Turtles


    Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus Impeyanus)

    By Dr. Susan Sharma

    The beautiful monal pheasant , 'the bird of nine colours', is the state bird for both Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal. It is also the national bird of Nepal. The Himalayan monal, an endangered species as per the IUCN Red Data Book, is included in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It is found in all the Himalayan states, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

    Generally found in the forested areas between 2,000m and 3,500 meters, the monal inhabits alpine and sub-alpine tracts during summer and descends to lower altitudes in winter, specially during heavy snow fall. The birds dig for tubers and roots with their powerful beaks. Their main diet, apart from tubers and roots is seeds, berries and insects.

    Males are normally seen with more than one female. The main call of the male bird is like a flute whistle, heard often at dawn during the breeding season.

    The male monal displays gorgeous plumage and has a prominent crest on its head. The crest and head of intensely brilliant, burnished green colour; back of the neck is burnished copper red/golden green depending on light conditions. The upper part of the back is bronze green, the lower, is silver white, concealed by metallic purple wings. During courtship, the cock fans and raises his rufous tail, droops his wings to reveal the white back patch, and fluffs out brilliant iridescent neck feathers.

    The female is mottled light brown with a short tuft on the head and a white throat. The bare skin around the eye is bluish. Eggs are laid in rudimentary nests on the ground or under boulders during May -June. Incubation period is about 28 days.

    The main threat to monal as well as other ground nesting pheasants is the occurrence of forest fires. Hunting and trapping for local consumption/ plumage is the other major threat. .

    ( Photograph of monal by Dr.Susan Sharma)

    Members Speak

    Some Letters

    Message from GVK Unnithan about quiz on Mangroves

    gvk unnithan

    To :

    Subject :
    RE: Indian wild life club

    Sent :
    Tuesday, March 30, 2004 8:50:55 PM

    Sir, I have gone through the right answers of the quiz. I am afraid the question on the Indo Sri Lanka bridge itself is wrong. The proposed bridge will not repeat not cause any damage to any mangrove as there are none on the way. Except in the islands of the gulf, there are no mangroves on the Dhanushkodi cape (of Rameswaram island) from where the bridge is supposed to take off.


    GVK Unnithan.

    Request for information from Arpit Deomurari

    Respected Madam,

    I'm amateur bird watcher from Gujarat state of India. and i live at Jamnagar distict.
    As you might be aware of the huge numbers of migratory birds visit Jamnagar cost line areas and really it's very much diverse too. we have here India's first Marine National Park also. I would like you to invite here and explore the untouched area of here in birding point of view.
    Last year we ( Me with some other bird watchers and local forest official) found India's largest breeding colony of Caspian Tern. And i think it's only second record of caspian tern's breeding in India after J.K. Tiwari's search in Kutch district of Gujarat.


    Waiting for your favourable reply.

    Reply Soon


    -Arpit Deomurari

    Network And System Administrator
    K-Link, Kutch Nav Nirman Abhiyan
    Dr. Rajaram Campus, Nr. St. Xavier's School

    Phone No.:-(O.): 02832-226564
    Mobile No.:- 9824080990

    News and Views

    News & Views


    In the year 2002, held a photo exhibition of nature & wildlife photographs at Habitat Centre New Delhi which was well received. In keeping with our endeavour to network wildlife photographers and bring their work to every man's drawing room we are organizing a five day exhibition at Habitat Centre, New Delhi this year too. The dates are 8th May to 12 th May, 2004. Here is an occasion to view some amazing wildlife shots from the hearts of Ranthambhore and Corbett National Park. Also on display will be some lyrically beautiful landscape shots.

    The exhibition will also mark the launch of "" our online photostore.

    Our online chat of the month was on " Conservation of sea turtles". The moderator was Dr. Kartik Shanker. Kartik started working on sea turtles over 15 years ago, and currently work on sea turtle conservation genetics both on the mainland coast as well as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.He started the Kachhapa newsletter for sea turtle conservation for the Indian ocean and South Asia. He is also currently serving as the regional vice chair of the Marine Turtle Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. To read a transcript of the chat session please click here.

    The monthly online quiz is on "Sea turtles" helping us get a further glimpse into the lives of these ancient animals. You can attempt the quiz by clicking here.

    Very soon we are planning to introduce an advanced search facility on, which will search our archives of more than three years. This feature will be available to "premium members" who will pay an annual fee for the facility.

    …………………..And Views

    Election Views

    7,700 metric tonnes of paper was used to print ballot papers in the 1998 election in India. That is equal to the weight of 6,519 elephants. Thanks to electronic voting machines being used in the current polls, we are saving that much paper- Our forests should be happy.
    ( courtesy Times of India).

    Transcript of chat online

    Conservation of seaturtles

    Conservation of seaturtles

    Susan Today we are meeting in the chat room to discuss" Conservation of sea turtles". The moderator is Dr. Kartik Shanker.

    Susan Kartik started working on sea turtles over 15 years ago and is currently working on sea turtle conservation genetics both on the mainland coast as well as the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

    kartik Hi Just logging on now

    Susan Hi Kartik, welcome

    Susan Hope you had no problem logging in

    kartik No problem at all. Thanks for the reminders. Though my father heard about this in the morning and called about it.

    kartik I also read a little bit of Ravi's interactions last week

    Susan Hope that an enthused crowd will come in today too.

    kartik Yes, sea turtles these days seem to attract almost as much attention as tigers and elephants

    Susan If you have to think of a flagship species for the sea, what will it be? be?

    kartik whales, dolphins, sea turtles - there is a book coming out in the next year or so talking about the use of sea turtles as flagships. I have written about this aspect in India

    Susan Are you a co-author?

    kartik it is an edited volume the editor is Jack Frazier of the Smithsonian, who has been working on sea turtles for more than 30 years.

    kartik Roshni kutty of Kalpavriksh and I have co-authored the chapter on sea turtles as flagships in India.

    nishant hi

    Susan Hi Nishant

    kartik hi nishant

    nishant are my messages visible to you two...

    kartik yes

    Susan When did we start getting concerned about sea turtles, what was the trigger?

    kartik from 1974, when Robert Bustard 'discovered' Gahirmatha. some years later, the extensive meat trade from Orissa to West Bengal was documented and became a major conservation issue

    nishant I have heard that Orissa has long beaches where sea turtles come each year and lay eggs... are these eggs are protected by government or some sort of agency...

    kartik all sea turtles and their eggs are protected by law since they are in schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife Act. In Orissa, Gahirmatha is part of the Bhitarkanika sanctuary.

    kartik the current major threat is that more than 10000 turtles die each year as incidental catch in trawl and gill net fisheries

    nishant so what is the solution to this -10000 in numbers each year...

    Susan Are there similar nesting sites in any other part of the world?

    kartik there are Turtle Excluder Devices (TED) for trawlers and area time closures for gill netters - but the fishermen have to be convinced to participate

    kartik susan, olive ridley mass nesting beaches are found in pacific costa Rica, pacific Mexico and in Orissa.

    nishant fishermen do not install these devices.. right? what is the reason for them not installing them...     

    kartik one, they believe that they will also lose a lot of their fish catch. now this is not true if the TED is used properly. but this is where education comes in. the issue has become very politically charged in Orissa       

    nishant ok

    Susan Do Mexico & Costa Rica face similar problems?   

    kartik yes, very much so. things very bad a couple of decades ago but Effective protection in Mexico has seen their nesting figures go up to Nearly a million per year

    nishant what are the other causes of decline in sea turtle's population in India... does production rate play some role in this...

    Susan The fishermen there are using TED?

    kartik there have been similar problems there getting fishermen to use TEDs but they have been at it for a couple of decades so there is some progress now kartik other major causes are loss of habitat (due to erosion, beachfront development, beach armouring), predation of eggs by feral animals, lighti

    nishant where do the turtles come in food chain... 

    Susan How long does the nesting season last normally?

    Susan Welcome Sadan

    kartik the nesting season for olive ridleys in Orissa is December to April. it differs for other species

    kartik to answer nishant, some turtles are complete herbivores, like green turtles, leatherbacks eat only jellyfish, while others like loggerheads and ridleys are omnivorous  

    sanjayan hai everybody

    nishant hi Sanjayan     

    Susan Sanjayan & Santosh, shoot your queries

    kartik hi all

    nishant where do the turtles get the market (as meat) ... 

    sanjayan I would like to know what are the practical problems that one manager will face while managing such a sensitive and fragile zones where turtle nests

    kartik there is very little meat trade in India now, mostly local in a few places like southern Tamil nadir, Kerala. and some consumption by local tribes in the Nicobar.

    kartik all over India, coastal development is a major problem. associated problems of sand mining, erosion and armouring are threats. and also lighting which disorients turtle hatchlings and prevents them from reaching the sea

    sanjayan I have been  to gahirmatha in Orissa and Cutbertbay sanctuary in Betapur, Andamans and on interacting with the local people it is known that a well netted mafia is running for long and the department and the government couldn't do much .I would like to know some of your suggestions regarding the turtle management 

    kartik mafia for what ?

    sanjayan I mean turtle traders I would say export to other countries

    kartik there is currently little trade in sea turtles in India at all, and almost certainly no export. perhaps you mean freshwater turtles and tortoises for which there is a widespread traffic throughout Southeast Asia

    sanjayan so u say that coastal department is a major problem then one of the possibility of remedy may be the the sensitive coastal zones may be governed by the department of forest

    kartik the forest department has its limitations, the coast is extensively inhabited by people. there has to be responsible coastal management amongst a wide group of stakeholders (industry, residents, fishing communities), more education and awareness for all ...

    sanjayan well how far the implementation of TED is successful or is it any substantial success story in the inclusion of TED        sanjayan what in your opinion will be best-suited management plan in these areas

    kartik the state institute of fisheries technology has been distributing TEDs in Vishakapatnam and Kakinada and fishers are supposedly using them in those areas. that's a big success. no success in Orissa though

    Susan Santosh & Sadan, are you there?

    kartik by the way, it is a TED indigenised by the Central Institute of   Fish. Tech. in Kochi

    sanjayan how in these areas the monitoring of TED can be done since we don't have facility to control all

    sanjayan is it any joint patrolling is done by the forest officials, coastal department and coast guards etc 

    kartik for resource poor countries, monitoring is almost impossible. even USA had trouble actually monitoring the use of TEDs. the fishermen need to be convinced that they will also benefit - the TED excludes all large bycatch and actually helps them get larger and better catches of their target species     

    sanjayan is the TED is supplied free of cost

    sanjayan why cant in India we can start a massive breeding progamme on lines with that of crocodile breeding started in mid 70s kartik as of now, yes

    kartik sea turtles are long lived species with complex life cycles that include long distance migrations thousands of km across oceans. most of the mortality occurs in the sea. so breeding programs may not be quite as effective

    kartik having said that, there are hatcheries all over the country (run by ngos and govt) that protect the eggs from poaching and predation

    sanjayan why can't we can have a model in situ breeding programme initially for at least research purpose

    kartik I wouldn't call them breeding programs, but there are already in situ and ex situ conservation and research programs on nesting beaches throughout the country

    kartik what would you want a breedng program to acheive?

    sanjayan what in your opinion should be our future strategy in achieving the overall objective of protection of turtles

    Susan The conservation approach here is in protecting the whole life cycle of the ridley, which spans many geographical areas and time zones.

    kartik I would agree with that. local and international cooperation is a must - sea turtles have been called the ocean's ambassadors of conservation

    kartik for conservation in general, I would advocate education and awareness and more education and awareness

    sanjayan my intension regarding the progarmme is to get maximum production of eggs such that we can a sustained viable population of turtles

    Susan breeding can protect the species from extinction for some time but the ridley so, protected will only be a shadow of the real one.

    kartik unfortunately, there is a lot of mortality at sea that we can't prevent . and susan is right, it's not a sustainable approach

    sanjayan Thanks for answering my queries patiently. Hope we I will get an another opportunity to interact with you on some other day. Wishing you and  your, I would say our, mission a very success. Bye

    Susan Kartik, it has been wonderful listening to you and I think all of us enjoyed the session.

    kartik thanks sanjayan, it was my pleasure. We have a newsletter called kachhapa that gives more information. you can get this and our sea turtle conservation manuals at   

    Susan If there are no more questions, shall we close the chat room?    

    kartik Thanks all. I will sign off now. Best wishes. 

    Susan Thanks Kartik, any more resource sites you would suggest- something from Costa Rica may be?

    kartik the Caribbean conservation corporation site is a good one - I think it is

    Susan Thank You and Bye!    



    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!

    Do wild animals have a sixth sense like some human beings? The answer is an emphatic ‘Yes’ as I have seen through my years of experience in working with wild animals.

    Let me illustrate one of my experiences. One of the most dramatic experience was with a leopard which was brought up by an American lady in Nizamuddin. She had got this animal as a youngster which was brought up in her first floor flat and was used to all sorts of exotic meats which would come in a variety of tins and cans – this was however in addition to the regular buffalo meat: mind you only undercuts. Well, the animal which had almost become full grown once escaped from the flat when the owner had gone on her normal holiday to the hills during the summer. We were roped in by the police to capture it from the top of a Prosopis (very thorny) tree. Without the benefit of any tranquilizer equipment, (we did not have any at that time) we did a good job with nets, ropes, sticks, other rough and ready equipment plus huge amounts of guts and muscle power. The animal was safely brought and kept in one of our holding cages. He (the leopard) was very quiet and would cower in one corner of his enclosure and was on hunger fast in protest against the capture operations. The next day he suddenly became quite active and was pacing up and down quite agitatedly; the reason was not very difficult to unravel –Madam (the owner) had been told of the leopard’s escape by some domestic and had rushed down to Delhi.

    She contacted the police and was trying to argue her way with the Sub- Inspector to try and get the animal released. Anyway she wanted to see her pet and brought a policeman-- she was about a furlong from the enclosure when the animal sensed her presence; I am quite sure that he could not have heard her but he was looking forward to seeing his beloved mistress.
    Madam got her son to get a court order to get the animal released. The interim period was however spent by the animal sitting on Madam’s lap in my drawing room as I could not afford to have her sit in the cage in full view of our visitors.

    You might wonder as to how Madam had got into the cage without my permission- well I am a softy towards feminine tears especially when an animal is involved and the lady requested me to just allow her to pet the animal for a few minutes inside the cage and I like a fool allowed her in but soon she showed her true colours and refused to come out without the leopard – I had to think fast as the number of visitors was growing around the cage; all curious to see the foreigner sitting inside. The only via media was to allow her to sit with her beloved pet in my drawing room where she would not be faced by hordes of zoo visitors. It certainly sent around rumours that we not only exhibited animals but also very special human beings too.

    The court, though it released the leopard for a short time, ordered that the animal should be sent back to the zoo and Madam’s pet became one of our long term guests. In spite of the fact that this leopard had started eating the plebeian fare at the zoo, Madam used to bring special treats for her pet like tinned chicken, ham, luncheon meat etc. It was indeed a wonder for me to notice the behaviour of the leopard the minute Madam’s car came into the main gate of the zoo; he would become very agitated and pace furiously even try to jump up at the vertical bars. The main gate was at least one and a half kilometre from its enclosure.

    Well, finally Madam got custody of the leopard and took it with her to America, as this occurrence was before the ‘Wild Life laws’ were passed.

    She did write a book on her experiences including photographs of my old drawing room playing host to her and her pet. She also wrote and told me that it had become quite difficult to maintain the leopard as meat was really expensive in her home land.

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