Saturday, December 12, 2009

Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade Everywhere.. 4 stories in one

BHUBANESWAR: Wildlife officials have seized 96 live fresh water turtles from a town in Orissa and arrested one person on charges of smuggling them, police said Saturday.

Acting on a tip off, a police team caught the man with the reptiles at Pipili town, some 20 km away, here Friday evening, inspector in charge of the Pipili police station Amulya Kumar Champatiray said.

"They were live turtles of different shapes and sizes. They were kept in three bags," he said. "We caught the man when he was waiting for a bus."

The arrested man, Durgasankar Mana, is a resident of Midnapore area of West Bengal and wanted to take the turtles to his state, Champatiray said.


LUCKNOW: Three people have been arrested with the skins of four spotted deer in an Uttar Pradesh district bordering Nepal, a forest official said on Wednesday.

"The three men, who are in their late 30s, were nabbed Tuesday night from their hideout in a village adjoining the Motipur forest of Sohelwa
wildlife sanctuary," Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) V.P. Singh told IANS over the phone from Balrampur, some 200 km from Lucknow.

According to officials, the three men have admitted that they were in the poaching trade for the last two years and worked for a Nepal-based wildlife poaching gang.

The three men also admitted to having clients in Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other states of the country.

Under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972, killing a spotted deer is a criminal offence.

Spotted deer, popularly known as chital in Hindi, is the most common deer species in India's forests. Its coat is reddish fawn, marked with white spots.

BERHAMPUR: Orissa's famed blue lagoon, the Chilika Lake, which becomes home to hundreds of migratory birds in winter, is failing to curb poaching despite a strong security net.

Wildlife officials registered four cases and arrested two persons allegedly for poaching recently. The lake hosts over four lakh migratory birds during winter. The latest incident of poaching was reported from Sorana on Friday night. Forest officials and police seized 16 different birds, one pintail and 15 Indian moorhens, from a person.

"The poacher, identified as Anwar Khan, was caught red handed by the staff when he was returning to his village after poaching in Chilika," said divisional forest officer B P Acharya. Khan was identified as a habitual bird poacher and was arrested by wildlife officials.

Although wildlife and police officials have seized 15 different birds from poachers on three occasions, only one person was arrested. The other three, however, have managed to escape, the DFO said.

"While poaching was reported from Sorana and Kalupadaghata, no poaching was reported from the Nalabana
Bird Sanctuary, where most migratory waterfowls congregate," he said.

Wildlife authorities have set up 21 camps, including two mobile camps, to guard the avian guests. "Several local youths have also engaged to protect the birds," the DFO said.

The birds concentrate in the 1,150 sq km Chilika Lake, mainly in Bhusandapur, Sorana and Mangalajodi areas. Flocks of migratory birds arrive from the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, remote parts of Russia, central and south East Asia, Ladakh and the Himalayas for feeding and roosting. The lake is recognized as the wintering zone for the largest congregation of waterfowls in the country. They start arriving in mid-October and roost here till the first week of March. But the peak congregation period is between mid-December and mid-January.

NEW DELHI: Minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh, while inaugurating a media workshop on wildlife conservation here today confessed that 17 out of 38 tiger reserves are in an unstable condition.

Ramesh said then state of affairs around the tiger reserves would be improved and assured to develop and irrigate the barren areas around the reserves.

"Wildlife Management is very much an integral part of my ministry's priority. It may not get the headlines as much as
global warming does, but I hope after Copenhagen, this global warming madness will subside. 2010 is the year of biodiversity. In 2010, we have a summit in October on biodiversity in Nagoya (Japan). And now we all need to focus on biodiversity, which is far more fundamental than many of these things we are talking about in relation to Copenhagen," he said.

The Minister of State for Environment and Forests said that in the next Budget session, a
WildlifeConservation and Management Amendment Bill would be introduced, adding that strict actions will be taken against all those violating the forestry laws.

Ramesh also eyed upon strengthening the policing across the international borders.

"The year 2010 is the year of Tiger in China, that will put more pressure on poaching in China. But India also has to control illegal trade and needs to strengthen policing on the India-Nepal, India-Myanmar border. We have talked to a large number of international organisations including the World Bank, and they are also talking to the Chinese that China must phase out Tiger farms," he said.

Tiger suspected to be poached in Tiroda range, Gondia

This is from The Times of India, Nagpur. You can find the article online at :

NAGPUR: While the dust is yet to settle on the seizure of two tiger skins at Nagpur railway station, one more case of suspected Tiger poaching in Tiroda forest range in Gondia district has come to the fore. The spot is five kms away from Nagzira wildlife sanctuary and falls in the territorial area.

This is perhaps the 14th tiger death in last one-and-half years since May 2008. Five deaths were that of cubs after their mothers went missing in Adhyalmendha & Mendki villages in Brahmapuri forest division and Chiroli in Sindewahi. Similarly, two tigresses went missing from Junona and Dhaba in Chandrapur district. Eight deaths have been officially recorded by the forest department.

According to sources, the incident took place in compartment No.108 in Govindtola beat of Tiroda. The incident came to light on Thursday when forest staff, acting on a tip-off, found a bullock suspected to be killed by a tiger.
Sources said there was injury on the neck of the bullock and back portion of the carcass was eaten by the carnivore. Close to the bullock there is a nullah and the officials found stomach, heart and pieces of bones of the carnivore kept covered there. They suspect the parts to be of a tiger. They also found bunch of yellow and white hair near the spot and unclear pugmarks on the nullah bed.

Officials involved in panchnama and investigations at the spot suggest that the tiger might have been killed by poisoning. A patch shows the carnivore was dragged from near the bullock to the nullah and skinned. All the vital body parts like skin, paws, nails, teeth of the tiger are missing. The poachers dumped the unwanted parts at the spot and fled.

Sources said till now there are no claimants of the bullock. It is suspected to be a handiwork of local poachers who left evidence to suspect they were not thorough professionals. "If they would have been professionals, no evidence of the carnivore had been left behind," an official said. Senior officials suspect it may also be a case of revenge killing by villagers. They said field staff had record of tiger sightings in the area a couple of times in the past.

Mukesh Ganatra, deputy conservator of forests (DyCF), Gondia Forest Division, was in a protective mode. He did not respond to the repeated calls made to him. Poaching has increased in Gondia division. During the year there have been many instances of wildlife poaching. A few months ago two sloth bears were poached in the area.

Assistant conservator of forests (ACF) AS Khune said the culprits will be behind the bars in two days. "We have collected at least 10 samples of the carnivore and bullock meat. Those will be sent to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, or Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad," Khune said.

"It's 100% a carnivore but it will only be confirmed once we receive the reports. The spot is deep inside the forest and a power line passes through the area," Khune said.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Candidate

I dont know if this is because I've only been giving exams for the last 1.5 months, but the word "candidate" now has many different meanings when related to me and my life. Life is full of exams. They come every year, every month, every day actually! Some have to be written and graded and dreaded, while others are given without even being aware of their existence. Yet all of them have only two possible results. Passed or failed. However, the intensity of these results may vary from scale to scale; for example, "just passed", or "passed by 5 marks!", to "just failed" or "faaaailed!!" And the intensity in turn, determines the amplitude of the voice belonging to the person who has just been handed his/her result.
Of course, this is the standard exam-result combo. There's that other one I mentioned. The type that is invisible. Somehow, these exams seem to be harder, more common, and more frustrating than normal regular exams. The test of standing in one place watching other people do what you do best. The test of being silent through this procedure and the test of determining your own "pass or fail" result which in turn determines if you'll move on or not. Obviously then, you are the factor that can change your result drastically at any given point in time. On a positive note, the power to pass is in your hands. But on the other hand, this power appears minuscule when compared with what you're compromising.

In a flash of second you're a candidate who got tossed out of one frying pan into complete thin air.. and had to choose, while in mid air, whether you wanted to land in another frying pan or you wanted a swimming pool underneath. I like frying pans. They get your ass hot and get you on your toes to work for what you believe in, hardly ever giving you the chance to return to the "pan" to relax. You're the candidate who's witnessing your own life from up in the air and thinking that it sucks in that hot ass burning plate down below. Fortunately or unfortunately, you're ecologically adapted to those conditions and hence seasoned to having your ass being lit up. The air no longer seems like such a happening place to be and you decide to return to the world of constant burns. However, to keep your sanity, or whatever little of it is remaining, you choose a different frying pan, with less oil. No you're not health conscious. You're just starting all over. On your own. You have no company. None of the old mates that you had in your old pan. But you know, that if you persist long enough, and bear with the ass burns long enough, you'll soon have company.

I have no clue if any of that frying stuff made any sense but what I do know is, at every single step in your own life, you are a candidate. A candidate who is constantly being watched, judged, graded, criticized, apprehended, thrashed, whacked, pushed around, and yet, it is you who comes out unscathed. Not everyone would like to look at every day as an exam considering the word exam is quite a stinker but it pays to understand in your mind, that if today you're struggling with the a,b,c,.. , tomorrow you'll be reading a whole book. Even if this thought is put at the farthest corner in your mind, it is still good enough because at times when you think everything has ended for you, the only thing in your mind is this thought which you had folded and stashed away into that corner ages ago. It becomes your walking stick, it teaches you to get rid of the hunched back and stand straight. Respect yourself. Because if you don't, no one else will want to.

I have been reduced to just a candidate right now. Giving 4 back-to-back exams [the regular ones], and having my applications and myself graded by several universities across the globe to determine whether I am suitable for any of their programmes, today, I truely am, A Candidate.

I stand at that platform at Mumbai Central watching 2957 leave and I feel that wrenched feeling again but there is NOTHING I can do to help it go away [being helpless isn't something that goes down very well with me]. I watch the train pick up speed, and the familiar faces begin to vanish from before my face. I still don't lower my head. I turn around, unfold my stashed away thought, and look straight ahead and walk right out. I catch a cab back into my life and realize that I am nowhere lower than I was before. I am just the same. People around have changed. I realize that even though I have lost one frying pan, doesn't mean I have to be doused in a swimming pool. I am still burning. With enthusiasm, passion and the will to work. So I set up my own frying pan and while I'm working on making things better, other pans around hear of me and want me to join them. Once again I feel like finally I can do some good again on a larger scale. And immediately, I sign up.

Now, I am a more self-respecting, self-aware, dignified and the same skilful Candidate that I was before. Just that I found newer ways to make use of what I can give to Earth. And the best part is, the result on the marksheet is all mine. I don't have to share it with anyone because I built what I now am and what I am, is a successful candidate because today, what other people think of me, is none of my business. Since it's my frying pan [life] and my ass that's burning in it, the feeling of being the sole owner of the result is one helluva satisfying feeling!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tears, Blood, Bullets, and today, a Salute!

I do not live in Mumbai. I was not there to witness the 26/11 attack last year. Who am I to be writing about it? I am an angry, disturbed, and agitated Indian. I did not lose anyone I know in the attack. I lost a whole bunch of people I had never known or met. I lost a whole lot of fellow Indians. To what? To a group of misguided cowards who used violence against innocent Indians. A group of maniacs who left children orphaned, women widowed, people dead and bleeding on railway station platforms, on roads, in hospitals and hotels. A group of over-confident bastards who gunned down top-notch Police officials, and injured numerous others.
Police officers who fought valiantly but had no back up whatsoever. Police officers who did not even blink to think of their families in the face of a terror attack. And Mumbai may not be my home. Pune isn't my home either. My home is my country. And no random asshole from Pakistan or any other country can walk into my country and go on a killing spree.
A year after the incident that shook the world, the widowed wives want their sons to grow up to be loyal patriotic fighters like their dead fathers. They want their children educated and aware of their civic responsibility and they want them to become strong men who will not turn back when their country needs them. THAT is spirit. And it is trademark Mumbai! A city who has time and again been bombed, raided, painted red with blood, and yet, after all this, it still stands strong and sincere. It stands looking these anti-social elements in their face telling them to either give up and go or face the public rage. This remarkable regeneration property embedded in Mumbai does not come from a history or from the fact that it is our financial capital. It stems from the fact that each and every person who resides in this city, has it in his/her blood. And I don't mean to dilute the topic's intensity when I say this but, EVERY single person in Mumbai stood up to fight that day. And several of those were from Uttar Pradesh, or from Bihar, or from god-knows-where! The NSG commandos were sent from Delhi and one of them who lost his life, was from Bangalore. So, to anyone who thinks that Non-Maharashtrians don't have a place in Mumbai, kindly look inward first. The like Israel national, the child who lost his family to terrorists.
It is because of people like this, who live for states rather than country, that the image and strength of India weakens. People like this are an invitation for Pakistan to send across many more terrorists to cut through our country. And as far I know Indian history, we have one of the most strong and radiant glorious pasts. Why? Because back then it was not Hindu, Muslim or Sikh or Christian or Jew or whatever!! It was human, and Indian!
Losing that spirit, has cost us a lot and will continue to do so if we don't pick up from where we left off. Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Taliban, the LeT, the who-ever-else, will ALL be in a position to make us vulnerable.
We are the 2nd most populated country in the world. And somehow, we fail to use that to our advantage. If we make a chain and stand along our borders, there will STILL be a zillion of us left to replace those who make the chain weak. This chain is the force that binds us to each other. It is our blood. And THAT is why, when Mumbai or Kashmir get attacked, ALL of us feel the pain.
And I am really not sorry to say this and we have a right to freedom of speech so I WILL say what I want to - no matter how many ministers say that our ties with Pakistan need to be strengthened and that we are in a common battle against terrorism, I will STILL detest that country- Pakistan. I don't know how "common" this so called battle is, but what I DO know, is that Pakistan is providing shelter, food and training to those picked up people who are brainwashed to kill innocent lives. Pakistan IS the home of terrorism and what I have with Pakistan, IS war.
Let one more attack happen, let us spend another 31 Crore keeping captured (if at all they are captured) terrorists alive and let our ministers continue to say , "We are looking into the matter." let them keep looking. When we HAVE enough evidence to prove Pakistan's involvement, when we have names, WHY are we quiet and still vulnerable? If no one else is willing to fight, the public is and for the first time I know, that I am NOT alone in my statement. The people of this country are VERY strong. So terrorists, Pakistan and our own ministers, kindly do not push us to the extent that we turn democracy into rebellion and revolution. I could make this a personal war against Pakistan as well. I could want to avenge the death of a brother who got blasted into pieces because of a land-mine. But I would want anyone reading this to know, that this IS personal. Because I am an INDIAN and I will NOT continue to tolerate this endless volley of bloody attacks on my people and my countrymen no matter what state, city, town, village they are from. Also, the people of this country can be remarkably understanding if our politicians and police forces took us into confidence and answered the many floating doubts about WHY we are no better than we were when 26/11 gripped us last year? A country cannot function amicably if you leave out its people from its core issues.
I don't think the police needs to protect Kasab from anyone else but Indians who will have their blood boiling to get their hands on the boy who walked about with a thick-skinned, regretless grin and an AK-47.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hotchpotch and World War 3

Two things have been annoying my head over the last week - the MNS and Pakistan.
First - the MNS.. these guys really need a life. They seem to think they have been bestowed with the official authority of being God. Someone please go open their eyes. They're a bunch of good for nothing violent adrenaline pumped jackasses. Someone from the MNS recently, after that ridiculous incident in the assembly, said, about the person who got punched, that "He should know Marathi".. Boss- get real. Who asked you to decide what someone else "should" know or not? Everyday, these guys are in the news. And strangely, or not so strangely, the only method they know how to use, to resolve an issue, is violence. They seriously need a reality check.
Im a Maharashtrian and I dont care a damn about that. I don't intend to sound patriotic at all, but I'm an Indian. I'm terrible at Marathi compared to a lot of people around me. I speak English for a major part of my communication with people. When anyone complains about their conduct, their behaviour etc, all they can do is resort to violence, burn buses, stone vehicles, and use brute force. I feel terrible writing this because all I see, is an image of my India crumbling under pressure from goons and geeks like these. I see my India, becoming a Pakistan - burning, drifting, crumbling, and slowly, being poisoned into irreparable death. If you want to fight for a Marathi cause, then advocate the spread of education, and non-corrupt educational systems. Introduce the language in schools, dont force it upon them. The only thing you achieve with force is hatred and criticism. If you want respect, dont snatch it, earn it you fool. These fat-headed politicians who eat half of the country's money and food, should be sent to military school because it looks like they are the ones who need the most discipline. In a democratic system, people have the right to freedom of speech, and whether you are fighting for Marathi people or Bengali people, you cannot take that away. And quite frankly, ditch this whole "Marathi manoos" bullshit because all you get by doing that is divisions of a country known to be united by its many cultures, faiths, and traditions. Stop encouraging monoculture. This is one party I am never voting for. As terrible as the others are, these guys are top notch when it comes to being undeserving to the core. MNS - you STINK. Now come fight against me. Hopeless masses of protoplasm. What else can you do anyway? Illiterate and unruly bunch of road-side self-proclaimers.
Moving on- Pakistan. I really am not someone who would say such things unless pushed to utter frustration. If every single Indian stands up and even pees on Pakistan, the whole country will get washed off. They should realize their worth and make amends now or just get flooded. Giving shelter terrorists, training them, and then, above all, defending them! I feel very very sorry for those innocent lives trapped in that damn country for the amount of torture they must be enduring. Had I been living in Pakistan, I'd have moved to the Sahara Desert. There are more chances of surviving with dignity there. Im honestly SO fed up of reading about and watching the news telecasting the terror attacks. One attack happens somewhere everyday! Yes we have a population problem, but the solution is not to bomb away to excess population!

We've just gotten so used to these things.. ministers say, we will look into it.. you sit and look. What will you do at the age of 67 anyway?! Just sit and look into things. Dont get up and do something about it. Just watch more people die. It is so sad that our lives have come down to this. We've accepted terrorism! That's like inviting destruction and death to our people's homes. We've become hardened insensitive citizens. We just dont care. We see, we scream, we forget. What has time come down to for us? Mankind is pitched against mankind in the name of religion and caste and country. Im starting to believe more and more strongly with each passing day, that the evolution of man to what he is today, really IS a mistake. A big mistake.

No wonder people keep saying we're years close to having a World War 3. And guess who's going to win that war- the terrorists.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hydro Power v/s Gharial Power

Disclaimer: I am putting up an email I sent as a reply to a certain person who wanted to know more about the dangers that power plant projects pose to Gharials and the Chambal. I chose to put up the email just as it is, with no changes, because that's how I wanted it to be and as I see it, no one should have any objection to the content of the mail, including the receiver. This is in pure interest of the Gharial. Thank you. [As an intro, I'm starting with excerpts from the mail that I got from this person and then my reply].

"hi Apoorva,
Thanks for your quick resaponse. You would be happy to know that your articles -'Once upon a time A ghariyal lived' & 'Headed the Dino way' have not only been published in Twinkle Magazine Oct 31 issue but your story has been publishd as cover story. The issue raised by you has also found place in the editorial of the magazine. I really appreciate your concern for the Gharials & other wild life. I am a civil engineer and work as an Executive Engineer for MP Power Genrating Co. Ltd. I look after Survey, Investigation and planning of Hydro Power projects. As you may be aware that Hydro Power is one of the most pollution free forms of energy.Once built no fuel is required to run the plant. Moreover the hydro power plants are capable of running as peaking power plants because of its ability to start and stop quickly unlike a thermal power plant. As such it is considered ideal to have a optimal mix of thermal and hydro power project capacities around 60:40. In our country this ratio is far below the desired one and Govt. is giving lot of thrust for adding hydro power capacity. However construction of hydro power requires building of dams and diverting water to power house which certainly changes the natural regieme of the water and also results in submergence of large area of land running sometimes into several sq. kms. As such many environmental issues on this account crop up while plnning a hydro power project based on reservoir or even based on run off the river. You would also appreciate that producing any form of electical energy - hydel, thermal or atomic has some kind of environmental impact and/ or risk. As we know that electrical energy is one of the most important and convinient energy sources and has become almost indispensible with rise in its demand every day. Being a public and poilictical issue ther is a large pressure on public utilities to build more and more power projects.Further increasing sale rates of energy and chnges in electricity regulations are attracting lot of private playesr to build power plants. Any kind of power plant requires consumptive use of water and the same is to be drawn from the river by creating a storage. Thus the need (or compulsion) of constructing more and more dams and reservoirs is growing which is creating a kind of conflict among the Environmetalist, Power utilities, Public and Govenment. Certianly ways and means have to be found out keeping in view the ground relaities to preserve the nature/ environment along with building new projects. In this direction what I feel stongly that the technocrates and environmentalist should work together like a team and not like enimeis. There is a greater need to reach an understanding of each others views and issues. Otherwise aletrnative convinient ways of fullfilling the need of electricity like - using inverters, diesel/ petrol generators, kerosine, fuel wood etc. would also harm the environment which would in turn directly or indirectly affect the wild life. Your article on Ghariyals drawn my attention as I am associated with Surveys, invetigation and planning of a series of projects on Chambal River in which issues of Ghariyals sanctury is a major one. The National Board for Wild Life has rejected the proposal recently..."


Several issues need to be addressed as regards your email. Firstly, "Environmentalist" is a term I do not prefer to be associated. I am more of a practical conservationist. And just because I want to see the wildlife conserved, does not mean that I am against development. None of us are against development. We live in the same country. We face the same issues. So we understand what needs the people of this country have and what can be done to fulfil those needs.
As far as energy goes, I have studied Environmental Science, and a major portion of that was energy, conventional and non-conventional sources, and power generation. I understand the details involved in issues that have conservationists, politicians, developers and the Government at war-heads with each other.
As regards the articles being published in magazines and the editorial coverage, I am pleased that an important point such as this got across to several people. The main point behind all these articles is awareness. However, awareness does not mean merely KNOWING about a problem. It also means knowing why it exists and what can be done to stop it from aggravating.
The problem in Chambal is not something that can be solved with one deal or one meeting. It is very clear, and hence, has a very obvious solution. I will come to that once I explain to you WHY there is just one solution.

We need power for a country that is the 2nd most populated country in the world. We have many mouths to feed, many things to achieve. We have a brilliant culture and strong traditions. Yet somehow, we have forgotten to value what is more important than all of this. The one thing that sustains all life. Water.
97% of the world's water is sea water. Of the remaining 3%, only 1% is available to us in the form of fresh water. That 1% does not belong to anyone. And that brings us to the fact that most of us overlook - we share our resources with all other living beings. This includes the Gharials in Chambal, the Gangetic Dolphin, the Otters, the Mahseer and several more. These species depend entirely on fresh water for their survival.
We have more evolved brains. We are more intelligent apparently. Thus, we have the technology to invent and discover. This is why I need you to understand that I am not someone against technology. I respect the upcoming techno field but at the same time, I feel that it is mis-applied. It is used more towards mankind's destruction that its advantage.
The Sun provide 10 raised to 16 quantity of Solar energy. The entire Earth's requirement of energy put together comes to 10 raised to 13. That means we have 1000 times more energy coming in from the Sun than all of mankind would need to function. We have a massive coastline. We have mountains, hills, and ravines. Tidal energy and Wind energy can easily be harvested from these resources if the right amount of dedication, enthusiasm, and technology is used. EVERY year our country spends ridiculous amounts of money on absolutely useless things. All that could be wisely used to develop these non-conventional sources of energy.
Why we still don't have a system in place for these new sources, is because we just simply don't want to let go of our conventional thermal, and hydro power. We still want petroleum and diesel to burn instead of CNG and other alternatives.
So, please dont expect me to believe that what we NEED today, is a hydro power project. That too, coming up in the Chambal area, or any other area which is ecologically sensitive. Try and realize, that today, most of India is ecologically sensitive because we MADE it that way.
You were asking about a solution. There is only one solution. Whether we meet, speak or email, that wont change. The National Board for Wildlife and the MoEF have been very correct in passing their decision.
If you understood my article on Gharials and the Chambal and the threats they face, you will obviously be aware of the fact that it is not a pretty picture at all. The Gharials are not having a gala time in an ecosystem which is degrading day by day. The local people mine sand regularly for construction purposes, and they remove this from the nesting sites of the Crocs. That puts a huge dampner on their survival.
It has been observed over years that the water levels in Chambal are fluctuating erratically because of the erratic monsoon. Global warming has even changed and affected seasons. So at a time when we should all really be fighting to save our wildlife, we are fighting to set up power plants and telling each other that "there will obviously be environmental damage". That is a very escapist and ignorant way of looking at things.
Please understand that I do not mean to be arrogant. I mean to drive home my point which seems to have been left incomplete by the article. As far as rural areas go, villages are now happier with Biogas plants than they were with wood and coal burning energy means. So if they can adapt to ecologically safe methods, it is but natural that we, being educated, should also show the same concern.

The solution is, to not build any more dams and barrages on the Chambal as whatever little is left for the Gharials, is essential for their survival. The water levels fluctuate already due to the monsoon and stronger summers. With that, if more dams come up, things will go completely under the water. It is not just the Gharial that is endangered. The Gangetic River Dolphin, which has recently been declared as India's National Aquatic animal, and the River Otters, the Mahseer fish, etc, are ALL endangerd species. These species help to give the Chambal a protected area status, which in turn, protects not just the quality of the Chambal's waters, but also safeguards these animals from falling prey to habitat destruction and pollution. Nature has enough problems to give these animals as their survival rates are not that high anyway. Man is only blindly and cruelly adding to those. If these animals go extinct, the Chambal will become what the Yamuna is today. It will turn black with pollution, chemicals, sewage, industrial waste, human waste, and will be afloat with dead Gharials.

I am sorry to crush your hope but you must understand that when an animal is called Critically Endangered, it is one step from COMPLETE extinction.


Have refrained from adding the person's name on purpose. I think it's a good thing that engineers, and people who are connected with these projects actually want to know more about the threats to the wildlife they will be affecting, but also, like I said, awareness has more to it, than just merely knowing of the existence of a problem.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Living without Gharials in a Modern day Hell

Sometimes, you are just not satisfied. And then sometimes you're calm and ok with what you're doing. Well, I'm usually in category no.1 not because I have some ridiculous inferiority disease but because no matter what I do, I just don't end up doing enough to satisfy that damn ocean of "I want" in my head. And then there are these people who're doing just what you wanted to do, and are living where you would have loved to live and yet, you're stuck. Stuck in a cemented mass of polluted and crowded fast lanes called a City.
You mull over things.. and a lot of question-answer sessions happen in your mind but at the end of it all, you're still at same place you were yesterday. The frustration of living in Pune is suddenly hitting me hard all over again. It's winter. It's Gharial time technically. And yet, all I'm doing is reading GCA mails, reading news articles all over the place, doing MSc applications, studying for BSc exams and the MSc entrance.. and waiting.. waiting to go back to where I rightfully belong.
Conservation. There are so many ways to do it. Non-Co-operation not being one of them. It's shocking how people don't understand the importance of co-operation between conservationists, or how people feel they are bestowed with the sole authority and right to dictate to other's how they should live their life and how they should "conserve". To each his own, mate.
Everyday it hits me.. 6 months. Ive got 6months before I go off for my Masters. Whether Bangalore or the UK, I will be gone. And then, for a scarily long time, there will be no Gharials to look for and no Chambal to walk along.. And knowing that is one HECK of an irritating realization! I refuse to sit and rot in this hopeless place where people don't even care to be honest and genuine.
I will go back to the place I want to be in, even if I have to do it alone. And yes, I will conserve my way. I have age on my side, and that works out great coz it gives me a decent amount of time to learn and figure things out on my own. I don't need narrow minded shit from anyone. I don't need fake, egoistical classmates waiting to pull each other down and use someone else's experience and contacts for one's own benefit eventually back-stabbing a clueless helper. I don't need teachers who don't know jack shit about their subject. I don't need fair-weather friends. I don't need anyone else to tell me what I am worth and what I am capable of, no matter what kind of a big shot that person may be. I don't need a past that will always haunt me. So, without any option, I shall move on, to imbibing that which was good from the past, and use it to create a better future .. a brighter future.. hopefully more so for that poor Gharial.
And yes, I am not satisfied. Because if I had been, I would never have the urge to strive for a better tomorrow. Cribbing is one thing and actually stomping on the egos of those who give a shit about you and moving on, is another. Coz some folks fail to realize, the underlying motive behind our "tribe" is not one-another's downfall. It is conservation. And how you choose to go about it, is your choice and no one else's.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the Animals in my Life

I never really understood the significance of the stories Maa used to narrate about when I was a kid. "You wouldn't eat until I pointed at some animal. Crow, Horse, Pigeon.. anything. It just had to be an animal and you would open your mouth in astonishment. That was the moment I'd be waiting for and I'd thrust the spoon full of food in your mouth. You'd do this every day and you have no idea what a pain you've been!" Completely contrary to her purpose of these narrations, I would end up feeling rather proud upon hearing these blasts from the past.

Today, more than 20 years down the line from 23rd May 1989, I have so many more examples to add to this list of my obsession with animals. All obsessions are not necessarily bad by the way. During my school years, I would constantly arrive at my doorstep minus school bag and lunch box but plus kitten or puppy or frog or gecko. Maa would shriek and the poor animal in my hand would go temporarily deaf. Over the years, this continued and I think eventually she started bothering more about the missing school bag and lunch box than her daughter at the door with the random animal. I vividly remember one particular kitten who I had fondly named Milky at that time, due to the then undeveloped creativity. Well, she was white with black patches and really tiny. She was sitting at one corner of the garden where the tap is and I was smart enough to have learned from earlier experiences that all cats are instinctively not the friendliest of animals. This one, didn't even budge when I approached slowly. Odd. So I thought something had happened to her.. and as far as my naive 7yr old eyes could figure out, no external injury.

The maid lived in the outhouse downstairs and she was a Konkani so it goes without saying that she had an eternal supply of dried fish. Cat heaven! Innocent kids with animals are apparently hard to refuse so whenever I showed up at her door and asked for a dish of milk and some dried fish, she would promptly conjure it up within seconds! I made a cozy home for Milky in the garden itself because Maa and me have asthma and she is allergic to cat hair (and has tried to make me believe that I am allergic to it as well). So 3 days passed and all was normal. Oh yeah, no one threw a tantrum because Maa saw it as a good thing that I'd actually made arrangements for the "animal" without actually bringing "it" upstairs! We live in a bungalow which was built in 1940 so it is, yes, OLD! It has a ground floor, a 1st, 2nd floor and a terrace.

On day 4, Milky decided to follow me up when I got back from school and paid her usual "back from school-need to see the cat" my visit. I had no idea I was being followed so when after about 15minutes I heard Mom scream, I went running to see what had happened and saw Maa towering over tiny little Milky, who was looking up at Maa with the cutest expression ever!

And thank heavens for giving Mom's a heart! She lost the heart to yell and grabbing the chance, I scooped up the confused kitten and delivered her back into her "bed". Day 5, and Milky was gone. She was just gone. An extremely dejected me tried looking everywhere, including neighbouring houses to a point that my neighbours offered to file an FIR. Yeah, I wasn't smart enough to realize they were pulling my leg! At 7, all you care about is your lost cat! Ah well, she never returned but I always hoped she's fine. That evening, Maa couldn't stand seeing me all upset so she explained how keeping animals is a very thankless job. They just vanish someday. So I nodded and said, "she didn't even say bye!"

A little over 2 years ago, on the 2nd of September, I was just leaving the house for my shift at the hospital. Granny had suffered brain haemorrhage and so we all took turns staying there. For the record, I Hate hospitals and I hate doctors! (My mom's a doctor! And I avoid stepping inside her clinic at all costs!) So as I was shutting the gate, something squealed. A dog. For sure. But where? I looked around in desperation and just as the white car in front of me started to move, I realized, the puppy was stuck and if it didn't move immediately, it would be run over! The driver was a sadistic freak who could SEE the pup there and went ahead anyway, so in my seemingly heroic attempt to get the dog out from under the wheel, I leaped and what happened next took about a minute to register! My hand was bleeding and it felt like it was going to fall off any second. The dog was 8feet away from me and visibly safe. When I realized the pain in my hand, I instinctively showered every slang word I could think of upon that jerk of a driver. 6 people gathered to watch the scene and I explained in a way that made people feel very sorry for the pup, who was now in my non-bleeding hand. The car had gone over my hand instead of the dog.

In a flash, Maa was informed that I would not be doing my shift at the hospital, the vet in the next lane was amazed to see the pup n me walk in looking the way we were and my nieghbour was even more startled to have me at her door with the pup. She has a handsome Golden Retriever. So anyway, we cleaned this tiny 2-week old pup and she fell asleep wrapped in a towel and there was a long, "Awwwww".

Today, this same dog is Whiskey, my first and best Angel. The crackpot who made life worth every hurricane that had to be endured. Whiskey. A Labrador-stray cross-breed, who has grown into a beautiful chestnut coloured doggie and still has the same big round innocent captivating eyes. I miss her at times when life is at an all time low, like now. She would be hear my bike come in through the gate and sit up straight, and wait for me to show up. She had a limit though. A minute into the waiting, if I didn't show up, she'd bark her head off till I came from wherever I was. Nutcase. She would sit and give these "What you standing there for, rub my back" looks! And I think I spoiled her because she started this with everyone in the family. Eventually, Maa fell in love with her too.. and today when we go to see her, she gives more bhaav to Mom than she does to me n bhai. :)

Then in August this year, I got a call about 3 very unfortunate puppies who were abandoned by their owners and will konk off if not adopted on an urgent basis. Another "I dont care I want a dog" fight was out of the question. So, me being me, went and saw the puppies. A Boxer, a Rotweiller, and a Labrador. The only one who had not already been adopted, was the Lab. and she was the one I had clicked with. This one, was 5months old and looked 2months old. Completely malnourished, diseased, manged, and worst of all, her morale had been crushed. An animal who's spirit and confidence, who had still got boundless energy and who's eyes lit up the instant someone came towards her. I felt so sorry for her. I went home. I didn't say anything to anyone. 2 days passed. And the 3rd day, I could help it no more. I called a few friends to ask if they'd be able to help out in a few ways, and being the adorable folks they are, they agreed. So at 5pm that evening, 2 guys were at the door with a stinking diseased and dismal looking Lab puppy in their arms. She saw me, and again, went mad with the jumping.

Maa freaked again. "This animal is NOT going to stay in this house. You do what you have to, and look for another place for her. I want her gone in 3 days." I wasn't a wee bit scared. Somehow, this "animal related confidence" is omnipresent! It's 27th October today and Ginny, the manged diseased nearly dead dog, looks like a 7month old pure bred Lab puppy should look. Her fur is back, the stink is gone, ALL the wounds have disappeared, and no ticks, no fleas. Just one hyperactive, jumpy, excited dog. And today, I turn to Maa and ask, "So is it still a thankless job?" And she has no answer for she knows, that if it hadn't been for us, Ginny would have probably not made it. She's sleeping with her head on my lap and her front paws on my face. As I look at her, peacefully dreaming, I feel good, that I took my decision and chose my calling as my career.

Today, when I've almost finished with graduation, and have applied for a Masters in Wildlife Conservation to 3 Universities across the globe, I look back at all the wild animals who have made a special place for themselves in my life. The first thing that comes to my mind are the Chambal Gharials. There is NOTHING like the pure delight of spotting and then observing Gharials after hours of having seen nothing while walking along the Chambal. There is honestly no feeling that can compare to that. It is like a reunion with people you love. Seeing them hale and hearty feels great. The two hours we spent on the rocks during the first Gharial expedition, watching a courtship display between a pair of Gharials, are unforgettable. Last December, sitting next to the dead Gharial felt like a piece of me was ripped out of my soul and stabbed. It hurt. It hurt knowing this beautiful animal had lost its life because of something like a fishing net. At that time, I didn't think "Critically endangered". I only thought.. Why her? And one tear formed. Just seeing her.. dragged onto the bank with a lot of delicate effort.. her visible jaw bones.. Sort of rekindled a burning desire to never give up trying for this species. These personal connections with animals aren't very describable. So I'll skip that part anyway.

Then there are the Berda cubs in Ranthambhore. On 23 May two years ago, I was lucky enough to spend a whole 45minutes with these two cartoons and their gorgeous beauty of a mother. What a way to turn 19! They were much younger then obviously and they were splashing about in the water, and playing with each other while their mother kept an eye on them and the other on us. We were the only people witnessing this sneak peek into Nature's beautiful ways. Honoured. Two years went by and this April, their mother died. One heck of a Tigress she was. Died. And yeah, mysterious circumstances. Everyone knows what the truth was. No one said it. And she was just gone. :( So this May when I saw the cubs again, they were larger, and looked ok. But they were sticking to the area where their mother had last left them. They hadn't gotten the hang of hunting prey yet. The male would snatch the female's share.. and again, we were the only people witnessing what happened.

6 of us in our gypsy. 2 of them (the cubs) sleeping soundly in their cave. The female woke up, yawned, nudged her brother. He ignored and kept sleeping. Harder nudge. Awake. Both stretched. They literally walked down a "ramp" and were 10 feet (max.) away from the gypsy. She came first. Looked. We were a little too close for comfort. She snarled. We respectfully backed up. She was satisfied. She sat. He came. He stretched again, against a tree this time. Then looked. Straight at us. I could feel those piercing eyes looking right at me. There is something about those two and the way they look at you. It's heart-warming. The less I say about this incident, the better because no words can describe these feelings. They're better felt than written.

The Siddhababa female in Bandhavgarh. She went to the extent of letting us have the honour of observing her every single ride during that camp. The kids in my gypsy all wanted an extravagant story about her .. and all I could say, seated beside the driver, was, "Just WATCH her.. forget story.. she's a Tigress!" She recently had a new litter of cubs. :)

Then the Leopard who had killed a Chital stag and dragged him up a tiny hillock and placed the kill on a fallen log. 103 minutes of Leopard sighting accounts for quite a story. It would have been 118 minutes but the rest of the time went in looking at the pair of Mottled Wood Owls sitting in the branches right above our heads!

The Elephant who stuck his tusk in the car in Nagarahole and gave me a "first time" experience I still shudder to think of. The Tigress with two cubs on the cliff in Nagarahole.. the Crocodile in Ranganthittu, the Skimmers in Chambal, the Muggers, the King Cobras in Agumbe, the Hump-nosed, the Malabar Pit Vipers in Amboli, the leeches even!!

There are endless such encounters.. and each and every one holds a very special place in the story of my life. The whole point of writing this article was the pure and endless love, admiration and respect that I have for all the animals who have, at any point in time, given me the honour of being in their vicinity and observing them. <3