September 13, 2007
Corals added to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
For the first time in history, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species includes ocean corals in its annual report of wildlife going extinct.
A comprehensive study of marine life sponsored by Conservation International (CI) and implemented jointly with the IUCN (World Conservation Union) used data from the Galapagos-based Charles Darwin Research Station and other regional institutions to conclude
that three species of corals unique to the Galapagos Islands could soon disappear forever.
The Galapagos marine research was conducted by the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA), a joint initiative of IUCN and CI launched in 2005 with the support of dozens of experts and research institutions. The GMSA is studying a large portion of Earths
marine species to determine the threat of extinction. What is significant is that climate change and over-fishing two of the biggest threats to marine life are the likely causes in these cases.
Researchers blame climate change for more frequent and increasingly severe El Nio events that have caused dramatic rises in water temperatures and reduced nutrient availability around the Galapagos Islands in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean, off South
America. The warmer water harms corals and algae, both of which constitute the structural foundation of unique and diverse marine ecosystems.
Corals build reefs that are habitat for fish and other marine life, and also are a major attraction for divers in the Galapagos, where tourism makes a significant contribution to the local and national economy.
The recovery of algae species following strong El Nio events is harmed by over-fishing of the natural predators of sea urchins, which feed on the algae. Mushrooming urchin populations scour rocks clean of algae, depleting a major food source for other species
such as the Galapagos marine iguana.
Marine ecosystems are vulnerable to threats at all scales globally through climate change, regionally from El Nio events, and locally when over-fishing removes key ecosystem building blocks, said Jane Smart, head of the IUCN Species Program. We need more
effective solutions to manage marine resources in a more sustainable way in light of these increasing threats.
Source : http://www.conservation.org
September 12, 2007
Matari-Tale of a Peahen
The 29th day of August 2007, 6.30 PM witnessed an unusual event at IIC Annex - “Peafowl Nesting”, second in a series of events
organized by the newly formed Nature Group of IIC.
It was that time of the year when peahens lay their eggs and incubate them for about 29 days before the eggs hatch. The chicks are timed
to come out just as the monsoon arrives in North India. The peahens in Delhi’s Lodi Park, finding the Lodi lawns lacking in the privacy and security needed for egg hatching, started looking around for safer ground. The nearest large
green space happened to be the IIC Lawns! But here again the lawns are manicured and tended to by the ‘Malis’ all the time. So, where next?
A smart one flew right onto one of the ledges provided on each floor of IIC for keeping a pot of green ferns. Laid the eggs one by one and started incubating them.
The ledge happened to be next to the dining hall of IIC. But the peahen was lucky. The waiters at the dining hall ensured that the curtains were drawn all the time so that curious diners did not distract the peahen.
The nature group at IIC was informed. A slide presentation on the Blue peafowl and a screening of “Sarang the Peacock” was organized on 27 May 2007.
Rajesh Bedi (of Bedi Bros ) installed a close circuit TV in the dining hall so that the activities of the peahen, aptly called Matari, can be monitored.
By August, the chicks hatched and were busy eating and playing under the watchful eye of the peahen who gathered them under her wings at
the slightest sign of disturbance. It was time to meet and take stock and also to spread the story.
On the 29th of August 2007 Mr. Samar Singh (World Pheasants Association-India) welcomed the gathering emphasizing the event of
the year-a peahen nesting 30 feet above ground, a phenomenon not yet recorded in ornithology books.
Is it an act of desperation or a graceful adaptation to reality where green cover and safety are both scarce to come by for the peahen? Once widely seen in India, the peafowl is now limited to certain pockets in India.
Prof. M.G.K Menon, President IIC in his keynote address quoted Gandhi’s prophetic words “ Nature gives enough for man’s needs but not enough
for man’s greed".
The nesting of the peafowl might have been an insignificant event but for the nature group’s efforts to bring it to focus and put it in perspective.
Prof. Menon was happy to see the group of nature lovers present in the hall, who braved the pulls of competing events around the neighborhood, to understand the problems faced by our National Bird. The hatching of the chicks in a precarious perch and
the subsequent care by the IIC staff on a call beyond duty shows the interdependence of man and nature. Taking inspiration from nature warriors of old like the "Chipko Women", the time has come for each one of us to become a nature warrior
in the situation he or she is placed in.
After the larger picture given by Prof. Menon, it was time to watch the story of Matari being documented as it is unfolding in the IIC lawns.
The story so far was superbly scripted and edited by the Bedi brothers in a short yet powerful film-‘Matari-Story of a Peahen’.
The delicate interaction of man and bird –the former wanting to protect and the latter accepting with grace help offered- was touching and thought provoking.
The future of our wildlife especially urban wildlife is dependent on man’s dispensations more and more.
September 12, 2007
A wild tusker from Jharkhand enacted a play of passion in the middle of the night, broke through the fence of a circus and eloped with a female circus elephant.
Drawn by calls of the four female elephants in the circus, the 26-year-old tusker raided the circus, broke the tin barricade and barged into the stable where the female elephants were kept, reports said.
It didn’t take long for Savitri, four years older than him, to give in to his wild charms. Despite entreaties from her keeper, the female elephant broke free of her shackles and went with him into the jungle where the residents spotted the two frolicking
near a pond.
The tale of love and passion has shocked Savitri’s manager Chandranath Banerjee, who has sought the forest department’s help to trace the female elephant. "I have never seen anything like this. Savitri’s loss could be huge as she was one of our prized elephants,"
The elephants were finally spotted moving from Badam Bagan to Nepali Para in Raniganj by a district forest officer in Durgapur, Kumar Bimal.
When a team of forest department officials along with her keeper Kalimuddin Sheikh tried cajoling Savitri to come back, she entwined her trunk around her lover’s leg in a show of defiance.
A crestfallen Kalimuddin said this was the first time she had disobeyed him.
Till late at night, the forest officials were seen trailing the pachyderms with flaming torches. They were last seen heading towards Mejia in Bankura district along the Ranigunj-Mejia Road.
Reported in Indian Express dated Aug.30, 2007
September 08, 2007
The Mandakini Magpie
Bird Watcher’s Camp!
Even as some of us sit in Delhi and discuss the intricacies of ecotourism and how it’s different from tourism, there are people all over this country who are practicing the former – in the real sense of the word (‘eco’-tourism). One such person
is Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi who runs a bird watching camp christened, ‘The Mandakini Magpie Bird Watchers Camp’.
Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi
One such person is Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi who runs a bird watching camp christened, ‘The Mandakini Magpie Bird Watchers Camp’. The camp is located in Kakragad on the bank of River Mandakini en route
to Sri Kedarnath, a few hours drive from Rudraprayag.
Mr. Negi is a wonderful person who is not only dedicated towards his work but also has in-depth knowledge about birds and the Himalayas. He has been running this camp for the past seven years which
is wonderfully exemplified by his experience and expertise.
Apart from bird watching, Mr. Negi also takes interest in collecting good books on orinthology. He even has a good collection of abandoned bird nests and also of some classic books on bird identification,
wildlife and Himalayan Biodiversity. Lately, he has also started making a herbarium of those plant species in which the birds make their nest or feed.
Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi may not know the difference between Tourism and Ecotourism.
He may not have even heard of ecotourism.
But how he runs his bird watchers camp can be a basic case study of ‘ecotourism in the Himalayas’.
He runs his camp all himself with some help from other people of the area. The tent houses are well maintained and are very inviting with names like ‘Woodpecker Tent, Sparrow Tent, etc!
In his camp, very little of ‘transmitted’ electricity is used. He has solar lanterns which are extensively used instead of the regular electricity.
Solar Lanterns at Mr. Negi’s Camp
All in all, a visit to the Mandakini Magpie Bird Watchers Camp is a must for every bird watcher, nature lover or for anyone who wants a lesson or two in Ecotourism!
Mr. Yashpal Singh Negi can be contacted at the following number: 09412909399
September 07, 2007
Travelogue: A Visit to the
Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary!
Visited in: Feb-March, 2007
While words may fail...pictures never!
1. Sonprayag Township: The Base Camp. While it is difficult to find a place to step a foot during the warm season (of the Sri Kedarnath
yatra), the town is lazy and ghostly during the rest of the year.
2. Sonprayag: Concfluence of Songanga (on the left) and Mandakini (seen in the middle) Rivers
3. Entry bridge to the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary - just above Sonprayag.
4. Gaurikund: The last motorable town en route to Sri Kedarnath. Steps lead to the entry-gate of the 14 Km. trek to Sri Kedarnath.
5. and 6. Poly-bag menace at Gaurikund
7. To Sri Kedarnath
8. and 9. An interesting fungus and the HIMALAYAN TAHR!!
10. and 11. Leopard Pug marks..apparently not alone!! (Verified by Dr. Sinha of the WII)
12. Jangal Chatti
13. Nature is kind enough to the wildlife - to prevent people from going above Jangal Chatti (owing to avalanches, snow, etc.) Am glad it is! So, the best view of Sri Kedarnath that I got.
14. Back to Sonprayag - to make the long journey back home.
15 . A View of the Chaukhamba peak several kilometers away from where it is (zoomed into focus)! Just a reminder of the glorious glory of the Himalayas. Reminded me of a poem I had read long back in my Hindi class.."Giriraj Himalaya
ka Bharat se kuch aisa hi naata hai...."
P.S. The above was a University of Delhi Research trip. Unless one has a permission (at times not even then), it is not possible to go beyond Gaurikund during off-season.
The images can be used for any socially useful purpose after proper citation.
August 30, 2007
Out of adventure for a long time, I decided to cycle from Mysore to Waynad, through Bandipur. Took my cycle from BLR to MYS by bus and began cycling. The road was plain and flat did not cause much trouble(except for head wind). I knew Bandipur linked Banerghata
and cauvery range. The locals assured me that the elephants were less dangerous when compared to their presence in Banerghata(many factors for this).
Well as I entered Bandipur (No gaurds at their post, luckily) a huge hoarding welcomed me, it read "WELCOME TO BANDIPUR, PART OF PROJECT TIGER". A huge lump in my throat, but pressed on faster never taking a break even to leak. As I cycled, I became part
of nature & enjoyed it thoroughly. Also realised the animals are as scared of humans like we are about them. It took me just a day to cycle about 125 km (Fear, Exitement all combined).
August 23, 2007
Singapore’s government is encouraging the city-state’s hotels to go green. Under a new scheme run by the National Environment Agency (NEA), energy-efficient hotels can compete for an “Energy Smart” label. To gain this distinction, they must measure themselves
against a set of energy benchmarks devised by the NEA and the National University of Singapore.
The NEA is also helping to fund the energy audits. The winners of the inaugural award in August were the Regent, the Shangri-La, the Intercontinental and Changi Village. But much work still needs doing: hotels currently account for a whopping 2% of Singapore’s
greenhouse gas emissions.
August 23, 2007
Singapore is getting hotter and wetter. According to the National Environment Agency, average temperatures in the city-state have risen by between 1º and 1.5º Celsius over the past 50 years. The agency, which suggests that global warming may be the culprit,
also reported an increase in rainfall, noting that December 2006 was the wettest on record.
The agency is expected to publish a larger study on Singapore’s future weather conditions sometime next year.
August 21, 2007
"Most of bird identification is based on a sort of subjective impression- the way a bird moves and little instantaneous appearances at different angles and sequences of different appearances, and as it turns its head and as it flies and as it turns around,
you see sequences of different shapes and angles," David Sibley says. "All that combines to create a unique impression of a bird that can’t really be taken apart and described in words. When it comes down to being in the field and looking at a bird, you
don’t take the time to analyze and say it shows this, this, and this; therefore it must be this species. It is more natural andinstinctive. After a lot of practice, you look at the bird, and it triggers little switches in your brain. It looks right. "You
know what it is at a glance."
Quote From ’BLINK’ by Malcolm Gladwell
August 19, 2007
Robert Shapiro rose to the top of Monsanto Corp. with a powerful vision for transforming the company from a chemical manufacturer to a life sciences company using genetic engineering to produce "Food,Health and Hope." His logic seemed impeccable: use science,
specifically genetics, to engineer plants that were resistant to disease, drought, and insects and that produced better yields per acre using less energy and pesticides. Monsanto spent millions of dollars developing the technology and several billion to acquire
the seed companies and distributors it needed to make Shapiro’s vision a reality. Wall street applauded Monsanto’s pioneering efforts. The stock price even rose after the company slashed its dividend to help cover its heavy spending.
Monsanto’s genetically engineered products were a hit with big American agricultural companies. The soybean, corn, cotton, and other seeds, while more expensive to purchase than unmodified seeds, fulfilled Monsanto’s promise of better yields. Cultivation
of genetically modified crops in the United States soared from 18 million acres in 1997 to 58 million acres in 1998. By the end of that year Monsanto was on a path to generate $10 billion in annual revenue from a pipeline of new products to be introduced over
the next few years.
Then the problems began. A farmer in Canada reported that some canola seeds, genetically modified to be pesticide resistant, had escaped and cross pollinated with a related type of weed on the fringes of his field, creating, in effect, a "super weed" that
couldn’t be controlled by existing pesticides. A rival seed company introduced genes from a from a Brazil nut into a soybean to make it more nutritious as animal feed. But soybeans are a big source of protein for human consumption too, and some people are
fatally allergic to Brazil nuts. The product never made it to the market, but news accounts speculating that modified soybeans could kill people allergic to Brazil nuts got plenty of attention. And then there was the Terminator gene. Monsanto bought a seed
company that had patented the technology to insert a gene in crops that effectively sterilized new seeds when the crop was harvested. The idea was to prevent farmers from saving the seeds from a portion of their crop to plant the next year, in effect, protecting
the seed company’s proprietary genetic modification technology. Farmers would have to buy new seeds each year.
Everything came to a head when Monsanto applied to sell its genetically modified seed in Europe. Europeans were already reeling from a decade of health scares related to food, including Britain’s terrifying encounter with "mad cow" disease. Although the
European Union’s regulators gave Monsanto permission to sell its modified products, consumer reaction on the Continent verged on hysteria. Environmental groups and the media led the charge against Monsanto, labeling its products "Frankenstein Foods". Prince
Charles weighed in with the opinion that "I happen to believe that this kind of genetic modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God, and to God alone." The German subsidiaries of both Nestle` and Unilever said they would not use Monsanto’s genetically
modified soybeans. Polls showed huge majorities of Europeans firmly against altered foods. Monsanto’s efforts to counter the critics-a $5million advertising campaign that told Europeans that while they were new to biotechnology, Monsanto has been researching
the subject for twenty years-instead inflamed public opinion as being condescending.
Shapiro wasn’t swayed by the furor. "This is the single most successful introduction of technology in the history of agriculture, including the plow," he proclaimed. He acknowledged the opposition, but contended that "eventually, scientific proof should
win over reluctant and skeptical consumers."
But science had never been the real issue. Public opinion was what counted. A consultant whom Monsanto brought in to mediate with the company’s growing number of critics gave up, claiming that Monsanto just didn’t get it. "There is a barrier to really
listening to what people are saying." he said of the company. In the United States, where small farmers were becoming increasingly incensed over Monsanto’s efforts to collect fees and put restrictions on their use of modified seeds, Agriculture Secretary
Dan Glickman got straight to the point, warning Shapiro to keep quiet because" every time he opens his mouth, U.S. agriculture loses millions more bushels of agriculture exports." Monsanto’s stock price fell 35 percent even as the overall market rallied 30
percent in 1999.
( Source Know-How by Ram Charan)