February 08, 2007
Trip to Dachigam National Park, Srinagar August 2006
- Susan Sharma
Just like Maharashtra has a national park right next to its capital Mumbai, Jammu and Kashmir has a national park within Srinagar, just a couple of km from the heart of Srinagar. Dachigam is famous for protecting
the last few numbers of Hangul deer in the wild. Seeing a wild hangul was on top of my list when I visited Srinagar in August 2006.
August 15, Independence Day, was just a day away. The Indian Army was out patrolling, with an armed gunman at almost every 100 meters or so. Going to Dachigam meant organizing passes and special permissions, which the owner of
the houseboat we stayed in gracefully organized. So we set off to see hangul and black bear both of which are famous residents of the Park. Just as we entered the park we saw a group of grey langurs, again endemic to this forest jumping about in the trees.
On closer look these langurs did look different from the langurs we see in Delhi; much bigger and indeed, grey. I was happy that no one including the forest guard and the army person who accompanied us objected to my using the video camera.
Next stop was an enclosure where the forest officials had rescued a baby black bear whose mother had been killed (probably by angry villagers whose crops the bear raid often). This small fellow was trying eat rotis and drink
milk provided in a pan. I could have taken a photo but did not. Somehow the idea of photographing a deprived baby black bear in a cage right inside a national park did not appeal to me. (My camera bag refused to open for the leopards caged inside the Sanjay
Gandhi National Park, Mumbai too).
Suddenly we were told to keep away all cameras as we were entering a high security zone- permission to enter this area was difficult to obtain-Mr. Chapri our host informed us. Our group consisted of my husband, son and a French
couple. ALL OF US WERE CURIOUS-MAY BE WE ARE GOING TO SEE THE PROTECTED HANGUL FINALLY!
Our ‘Qualis’ entered a huge gate to reveal a beautifully maintained villa and park-the winter residence of the erstwhile Prime Ministers of India. We were told this was the private house to which Indira Gandhi retreated when
she wanted privacy. The outside of the building was paneled with oak tree logs. The garden had huge trees. A very peaceful place –right inside the Dachigam National Park!
What about the hanguls we asked. The forest guard replied that one has to climb up to much higher altitudes to see them and all those areas are now out of bounds thanks to militancy. He assured us that in higher altitudes there
were black bears and Himalayan Monals in plenty- but the area is infested with militants and none is allowed to go trekking.
I had seen a documentary on the demilitarized zone of South and North Korea. The film showed how the DMZ protected highly endangered deer and antelope population of those areas thanks to heavy patrolling and some awareness among
the army personnel who helped feeding these animals in periods of extreme weather conditions. May be a similar miracle is happening in Dachigam too- or is that being too optimistic?
Our forest guard companion was very happy to talk about his experiences. He was a dedicated man –dedicated to saving the black bear in particular. He passionately believed that the Dachigam forest will survive only if the bear
population is healthy and thriving. The forest belonged to them and then only to man he told us. We did see glimpses of gurgling streams inside. The air and water inside is pure and one will never get ill if you stay inside the forest, another Kashmiri who
was working with the rainbow trout project explained.
Our next stop was the rainbow trout center. Here the trout are bred scientifically and the produce sold outside at reasonable prices-one person is allowed to buy only 2 kilos in a day. The scheme is so popular, that all the produce
is sold out in a couple of hours. The trout center was well maintained. I had never seen such large trouts before. Gulmarg has a trout centre where tourists can buy coupons for fishing - again in a rationed manner- one coupon entitles you to four catches.
But the rainbow trouts there were not so big.
Suddenly we were told our time inside the Park was up. We had seen all that was allowed to be seen by tourists.
I asked for some pamphlets on the Park. Our forest guard friend gave a moth eaten book produced by Sanctuary magazine for the Department of Wildlife Protection, J&K Government. It had obviously been written at a time when the
Park had seen better days. I thanked him and as was happening all too often during our trip to Kashmir, my eyes filled up, this time for the beautiful animals in a beautiful park.
I could not but admire the pride and faith of the forest guard who reaffirmed my own faith that you can never subdue nature. In that sense our visit to Dachigam had a silver lining.
( Hangul stag by Joanna van Gruisen taken from the Sanctuary publication)
More photographs of nature/wildlife in Kashmir Female musk deer in a deer sanctuary on the way to
Aaaroo Ghorals in the sanctuary
Gulmarg slopes Lidder River which runs through Kashmir
Note: Our trip was organized by Discovery Journeys, Gurgaon. For customised and personalised trips/tours contact them at
February 07, 2007
HIGHLIGHTNING TOURISM’S ROLE IN CLIMATE RESPONSE
"There is now
unequivocal proof from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
and the Stern report that climate challenge is real and that we must
all play our part in its resolution. Tourism is an important sector
of the global economy and a vital link in human communications,
cultural interface and development. Like other key sectors, we play a
part in the problem and we have to be responsive and responsible as
temperatures, sea levels and other climactic conditions evolve. We
will work even more closely with UNEP and other sister agencies like
the International Civil Aviation Organization, as well as the private
sector, in exploring new patterns of consumption and conservation, as
well as fast track strategies for adaptation", Mr. Frangialli, UNWTO Secretary-General, said.
There will be two overriding considerations for UNWTO, the Secretary-
General added. "First, promoting responsible growth of tourism to
advance global trade, as well as strengthening the links between
people and cultures which foster mutual understanding. This will mean
innovative adaptation across the sector using all the tools and
technologies as they become available. Second, ensuring that tourism
remains a key tool to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and
helping poor nations lift themselves out of the poverty trap.
represents 40% of services exports and the world’s poorest countries
have comparative advantage in this area which must be encouraged as a
part of responsible climate change strategies."
UNWTO and UNEP have agreed to strengthen their cooperation in a
number of ways – most immediately, UNWTO will join the billion tree
planting campaign of UNEP and the environment agency will strengthen
its support for UNWTO’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism to upbeat
the sustainability and climate response components. The organizations
will collaborate on the Tourism Climate Change Summits.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - BillionTree Campaign
Mohamed Sheik Ravuthar
February 07, 2007
M MOHAMED SHEIK RAVUTHAR
Forests and wildlife of Nagapattinam district
Other animals of the sanctuary include the jackal, spotted deer, jungle cat,
feral horses, black napped hare, etc. including a variety of reptiles.
From October to January nearly 90 species of migratory water birds
visit the sanctuary and its surroundings. They include Flamingoes, Painted storks,
Pelicans, Spoonbills, ducks, teals and a variety of shore birds. The best time to visit
the sanctuary for bird watching is November-December. The sanctuary is open to
visitors throughout the year.
A Forest Rest House at Kodiakkarai is available for visitors to the sanctuary.
Visitors may contact Wildlife Warden at 04365- 253092 or
Ranger, Kodiakkarai at 04369-272424
Blackbuck- the most important herbivore
Olive Ridley turtles nests in the sanctuary beach from Jan-March
On 14th November, 2000 a 35 ft long Bryde’s whale was rescued
from mud about 10 km west of Kodiakkarai. The rescue operation was
carried out with the active support of district administration. Pic: Top: A full grown Bryde’s whale. Bottom: Diagram showing padding of whale for towing during rescue.The sanctuary is now declared
as a Ramsar site
Tropical dry-evergreen forest covers nearly 15 sq.kms of Pt. Calimere
Wildlife sanctuary. The forests are mostly of the nature of scrubland that
stands on low sand dunes located on the western half of the sanctuary.
Manilkara hexandra, locally called Palai is the most important evergreen
species of the sanctuary forest. In the sanctuary grasslands the dominant
graminoid is Aeluropus lagopoides followed by Sporobulu tremulus and
Cressa cretica. The forest is home to 154 species of medicinal plants
like Mucuna pruriens, Solanum trilobatum, Tinospora cordifolia Randia
dumatorum and Cissus quadrangularis
February 06, 2007
IPCC Report on Global Warming
The most authoritative scientific report on climate change says with
90% certainty that the burning of fossil fuels and other human
activities are driving climate change.
The report, from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC) says the rise in global temperatures could be as high as 6.4°C
by 2100. The report also predicts sea level rises and increases in hurricanes.
The new IPCC report is the work of 3750 climate experts, who have
spent six years reviewing all the available climate research. It was
released in Paris, France, on Friday.
Considering the human role in causing climate change, the IPCC report is damning: "The understanding of [human] influences
on climate has improved since the  report, leading to a very high confidence that human activities" are responsible for most of the warming seen since 1950, says the report’s summary for policymakers. “Very high confidence” is described as “at least
a 9 out of 10 chance of being correct”.
Before the industrial revolution, human greenhouse gas emissions were small, and the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas – was about 280 parts per million (ppm).
Thanks largely to the burning of fossil fuels and changes in land use, such as agricultural exploitation and deforestation, the atmospheric
concentration of carbon dioxide reached 379 ppm in 2005
Read the full story here:
February 04, 2007
A picture story sent in by a friend was so moving I thought we must have a blog topic exclusively for "anthromorphism". Anthropomorphism, also called personification, is the attribution of human characteristics and qualities to nonhuman beings.
Scientists at one time used to look down upon such stories-as figments of human imagination. But as human beings are observing and flming more deeply into the private lives of animals, realisation is slowly dawning that we were probably too egoistic to acknowledge
that animals have intelligence and emotions!
Read the story at this link
February 01, 2007
I travelled to the lesser known Daroji Bear Sanctuary a few days back. with atleast 22 sightings of the Sloth bears, the trip was very succesful.
View Trip report
January 31, 2007
Maharashtra all set to induct women foresters
CHANDRAPUR: For 21-year-old Yogita Madavi, the steep climb of Tipagarh hills in the naxal-hit Gadchiroli last month was no mean feat. Physically challenged, this tribal girl wanted to prove a point. "My friends used to taunt by calling me a langdi. Every
time they did so, I got more determined to prove my mettle some day. And I think I’ve done it," she says.
Yogita is one of the 11 successful girls who were recruited by the Maharashtra Forest Department last April after a written and physical test. She and her co-mates literally walked into what was hitherto a male bastion. "We walked 16 km in four hours on
the trot to pass the physical test. All of us here passed the test at ease," the gutsy recruit says. “This is the first batch of women foresters in Maharashtra. And it’s doing very well,” said S P Wadaskar, principal of Rangers Training College. Though a
few other states have already recruited women cadres before, this is the first time in Maharashtra, he said. After a two-month training, the 11 women foresters would join work, the principal said.
Their responsibilities include everything from joint forest management to catching poachers and safeguarding wildlife. They have to lead separate teams of guards to monitor the depleting jungle wealth.
Three of the 11 female recruits are married. Motivated by their husbands, all of them decided to join the department as foresters post-marriage. "It was my husband who motivated me to go for the test," said Seema Sherki nee Gore.
Last year, the forest department received 47,000 applications, including 7,000-odd from female aspirants for 36 vacant posts. Of them, 36,000 got short-listed for the preliminary examination.
About 520 got through for the mains, and finally only 33, including 11 women were selected, Wadaskar said. Amrapali Khobragade, one of the women recruits, says: "We are no less than men. And we are extremely anxious to prove that women can work even harder
than men. This was, perhaps, the only field without women. There is no field left now where women haven’t countered risks and challenges successfully."
Source: DNA, January 21, 2007
January 31, 2007
Sustainable management of natural resources at grass roots-Foundation for Ecological Security
Many of the human activities that modify or destroy natural ecosystems cause deterioration of ecological services whose value, in the long run, far outweigh the short term economic benefits that human society seeks to gain. As ecosystems remain at great
jeopardy so do the livelihoods and continued well being of communities everywhere. Poor communities are particularly vulnerable since they rely more on natural resources for subsistence and income and are less likely to share in property rights that give them
legal control over these resources.
In this context, FES promotes the conservation and sustainable management of natural resources, forests and water in particular, through local self governance institutions.The crux of their efforts lie in locating forests and other natural resources within
the prevailing economic, social and ecological demands at the level of villages and village conglomerates and in intertwining principles of conservation and local self governance for the safeguard of the natural surroundings and improvement in the living conditions
of the poor.
They aim to integrate forests in the overall land use planning by highlighting the critical role that forests play in terms of sustaining agriculture, animal husbandry and rural livelihoods in general, and also position community based forest governance
in the larger unfolding of decentralisation of governance in India.
January 30, 2007
An amazing treetop walk through the dense forests of Naduvathumoozhy, near Konni, is likely to become a reality soon. And God’s Own Country will be able to offer tourists one more major attraction.
"The idea is to set up the facility at Naduvathumoozhy, on the banks of the Achencoil river, near Konni, in cooperation with the Forest Department and the Tourism Department,’’ District Collector of Pathanamthitta Ashok Kumar Singh, who is the chairman of
the District Tourism Promotion Council, told The Hindu .
Mr. Singh, a former Additional Director of Tourism, said the treetop walk would be similar to those in Australia and many southeast African countries.
He said the project was part of the council’s efforts to provide a range of recreational amenities to visitors with different interests and varying levels of trekking and hiking experience. The proposed facility would be the first of its kind in the whole
country, he said. What made the project unique was its structure. The walkway would be made of light-weight steel trusses built on steel pylons to form a secure ramp, he said.
"The walkway can be erected, linking giant trees in the forests. A boardwalk meandering through the thick forests and that too at a height of 50 to 60 metres will be really amazing to the visitors.’’
The length of the walkway can be from 1 to 1.5 km. The visitors can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the forest canopy from the hanging walkway. It will be a peaceful experience with quiet spots to sit and reflect on the special nature of the forest. The walk
under the canopy of thousands of stars will provide the opportunity to see nocturnal wild creatures.
Mr. Singh said the council’s proposal was to protect native flora and fauna, while allowing the public access to certain areas of the reserve forests for recreation. The exact location of the project would be chosen with much care, ensuring that no tree
felling was required, he said.
He said it was better if the Forest Department ran the proposed eco-tourism project funded by the Tourism Department. He had already moved the proposal to the Government.
SOURCE : The Hindu, Tuesday, January 30, 2007
January 30, 2007
The number of sick birds, both wild and domesticated, continues to mount at the Sukhna lake in Chandigarh, with the UT wildlife department rescuing a large egret and a domesticated goose on Monday. While the egret showed signs of weak legs and was unable
to fly, the goose was on the verge of collapse displaying sign of shivering and a drooping neck.
With Monday’s rescue operation, the number of sick domesticated geese which live near the Lake Club has gone up to four. Twelve migratory wild birds have died since January 13 out of which the UT Wildlife department has managed to recover only nine, with two
Spotbill ducks and a likely wood sandpiper going missing within hours of their discovery in the Sukhna marshes on January 13.
Along with the rescue operations, a team of expert bird trappers of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) netted a Greylag goose, a Coot and a Northern Shovellor for blood sampling. The samples from a Ruddy Shelduck (Brahminny duck) trapped on Monday by
Ali Hussain have been sent to the Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratary at Jalandhar.
BNHS veterinarian Dr Debojit Das, who examined the sick geese, said, "The birds were displaying symptoms of a nervine disorder that is common to avian diseases like botulisim and cholera. This means the birds’ functioning is affected by a nervous disorder that
reveals itself in symptoms like it going in circles or trying to look skywards.
Water pollution in Sukhna could be a possible cause. Dead storage level and pollution level in the Lake has been rising.
UT Wildlife Department might have acted fast in the matter concerning the death of migratory birds, but it is yet to explore the role of Sukhna’s water in the rising mortality of birds. Water quality of the Lake, experts in water conservation area say, might
have solutions to the mystery behind the death and sickness among the flocking birds. Very often, fall in the levels of dissolved oxygen in water has been found to cause bird mortality.
In case of Sukhna, therefore, testing of water samples is an absolute necessity. Over the past, pollution levels in the Lake have raised rapidly on account of several reasons, main being the rise in dead storage level of the Lake. Dead storage level is the
level below which water cannot be drained out of the Lake. Water present below this level is always highly polluted because it gets saturated with toxic elements and gets devoid of dissolved oxygen present in water.
The same might be true in case of Sukhna Lake where dead storage level currently stands at elevation -- EL 1151 feet. There was a time when the level was 1148 feet, but the same has risen over the past due to increase in water level of the Lake by three
feet. Naturally, more and more water under the dead storage level would have become concentrated, making it unhealthy for aquatic life.
Another reason why Sukhna’s water has become highly polluted is that the Lake’s spill away gates were last opened in the monsoon season of 2005. That is more than one and a half years earlier. During 2006, there was no escape of water from the Lake at all.
This has led to increased level of toxicity in the water and this toxicity, in turn, could cause sickness and death among birds, unless detected otherwise.
Admitting to the possibility of water pollution behind the death of birds, Mr G.S. Dhillon, water resources expert, said a similar problem had once arisen in Harike Lake. "In certain pockets of the Lake, migratory birds were found dying without apparent
symptoms. We sampled the waters from those pockets and sent them to Irrigation and Power Research Institute at Amritsar for testing. We found that water was so toxic and so deprived of oxygen that no aquatic or any other form of life could exist. For years,
decaying organic matter had caused the absence of dissolved oxygen in water, leading to death of birds. Finally, water had to be pumped out of the Lake and fresh water introduced."
The same institute can be asked to conduct water sample testing of Sukhna.
SOURCE : The Tribune, Monday, January 29, 2007 and Times of India, Tuesday, January 30, 2007