Friday, July 30, 2010

The Snake Escapade

Here are two different articles picked up about snake incidents. The respective links will direct you to the original articles.

Greedy snake catchers find a big catch: the public

Forest dept acts to provide free help to those in need of services of snake- and monkey-catchers

Posted On Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at 05:04:26 AM

THE FOREST department has stepped in to stop citizens from being cheated by unauthorised snake- and monkey-catchers.

Catching snakes and monkeys is profitable. Though volunteers must offer their services free, some demand steep fees.

Snakes enter houses and gardens and cause fear and panic, while monkeys often raid apartment complexes and become a nuisance.

According to sources in the forest department, 25 men are going around claiming to be authorised snake-catchers. Similarly, 10 groups of monkey-catchers claim official approval.

“For every snake they catch, they demand Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000. In the case of monkeys, the catchers demand between Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 from each apartment complex. We have been receiving complaints about such extortion,” explained B K Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife).

Some volunteers allegedly let snakes and monkeys into apartment complexes and gardens and later pretend to be catchers.
Singh said, “Some animals caught by them are protected under the Indian Wildlife Act of 1972. Protection of these species is the duty of our department and if unauthorised people catch them and release them somewhere, we can’t keep track of them.”

The department has so far rejected 15 applications from people who want permission to catch snakes and monkeys.

“Animals taken out of their natural habitat and released elsewhwere find it difficult to survive,” said Singh. Bannerghatta has a wildlife park, and the numbers of predators depend on the prey they have access to. When unauthorised catchers release animals in the park, they disrupt the food chain and the balance.

“If you keep on adding rescued species into the Bannerghatta forest, it will eventually affect the life cycle of our species. That is why we have banned the release of rescued animals here,” explained Yatish Kumar, Deputy Conservator of Forest (Wildlife).
Got a problem?The Bangalore Urban forest department has appealed to citizens to call 080-23343464 if they need help to catch snakes and monkeys.

“We send authorised volunteers who do the work free of cost. We neither pay them nor does anyone. They do it purely voluntarily as a service,” Singh said.

On call are 12 snake-catchers and six groups of monkey-catchers.

With more suburbs coming under the Bangalore civic administration, and real estate expanding, the problem of animals entering human habitats is higher than ever before.

“Several green areas have moved from local municipal council limits to the BBMP,” Singh explained.


A man has been arrested on suspicion of breaking wildlife laws after he was found with 43 snakes in his car, police in the Indian city of Jaipur have said.
Rajesh Kapoor was arrested with the snakes, including eight protected cobras, in a cotton bag, police said.
Mr Kapoor has previously been linked with idol smuggling and antiques theft, superintendent of police Hawa Singh Ghumariya said.
A snake rescue team was looking after the snakes.
The arrested man runs a fitness centre in Jaipur and told journalists that he hoped to sells the snakes on the international market.
Police say that he claimed to have got the snakes from snake charmers - but their investigations revealed this to be untrue and he was arrested on suspicion of various offences in contravention of India's wildlife laws.
A snake rescue team led by Piyush Shashtri has now been deployed by police to treat the serpents, some of which are suffering from injuries, police said.
They said that three species of snake were found, but only the cobras were poisonous. It is believed they were ill-treated and kept in cruel conditions.
''Snakes are in big demand on the international market for their skins and venom," Mr Shashtri said. "Body parts are also in demand to use in herbal medicine."
Mr Ghumariya said that the snakes will be released into the forest "after completing the legal process".

Big Cat numbers LOW in Pakke TR

[You'll have to scroll down to see the article on the original link pasted above]

Guwahati, July 29For tiger lovers in the Northeast who were on cloud nine after Kaziranga’s success, Pakke tiger reserve in Arunachal Pradesh is a bit of dampener.
Pakke has recorded a density of only 1.9 tigers per 100 square km compared to Kaziranga’s tiger density of 32 per 100 square km, the highest in the world.
Three months ago in April, Kaziranga had recorded the estimated highest density, overtaking the previous highest recorded density of 19.6 tigers per 100 square km found at Corbett Tiger Reserve.

However, the good news at Pakke is that the density of tigers is up slightly from the 1.15 per 100 square km recorded in 2006. Besides, a clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) has been captured on camera for the first time in the reserve.

However, Jimmy Borah, senior project officer, Tiger Programme, North Bank Landscape, WWF-India, who carried out the camera trapping along with others, said, “Looking at the terrain and the habitat, the density of 1.9 tigers can be considered good enough”.
He said the density at Pakke was similar to other tropical semi-evergreen forests in Southeast Asia. The usual density of tigers varies from 3-12 tigers per 100 square km in the tiger reserves in the country.

The WWF-India carried out the tiger census in collaboration with Arunachal forest department. Automated cameras were used to capture the photographs of wild animals.
The effectively sampled area for camera trapping was 261.81 square km of the reserve’s total area of 862 square km. The camera trap was laid at 30 locations in both Sijusa and Tipi ranges. The census was carried out from February 4 to March 30 this year. “Large areas of the park have still not been covered as they are inaccessible,” an official of Pakke tiger reserve said.

On the camera trapping of the clouded leopard at the reserve, a WWF report stated, “This very beautiful and elusive cat is reported in the landscape from various places of Arunachal Pradesh but its status is not well documented. Change in land use, encroachment into forest areas and hunting of the animal for its pelt, are the main threats to the survival of the species. There is a need to design a long-term conservation plan before its population reaches a critical level.”

The Pakke tiger reserve lies in the foothills of eastern Himalayas in East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. It is home to over 2,000 species of plants, 300 species of birds, 40 species of mammals, 30 species of amphibians and 36 species of reptiles. It is one of the last remaining strongholds for many globally threatened species of flora and fauna.
Pakke (earlier Pakhui) was declared a reserve forest in 1962, a wildlife sanctuary in 2001 and a tiger reserve in 2002. The Centre had sanctioned Rs 210.35 lakh under Project Tiger in the 2009-10 fiscal to improve infrastructure in the reserve.

Tiger numbers on Rise in Nepal?

KATHMANDU, July 29 (Reuters Life !) - The number of rare tigers in a national park in Nepal has increased by more than one third in the last two years, a study has shown, after authorities set aside more land for the animals.

Experts riding elephants placed cameras in the jungles of the Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal for three months and counted 125 adult tigers, up from 91 two years ago, officials said on Thursday.

"We have sampled more area in Chitwan that is why we have come across more tigers," said Bivash Pandav, tiger coordinator at the Nepal office of the WWF conservation group that helped the count.

Authorities attributed the rise to mainly the expansion of the park area to the neighboring Churia hills hailed as "extremely good habitat" for tiger conservation.
"It is very much possible to double the number of tigers in Nepal and the presence of 125 tigers in Chitwan is an indication to this," Pandav, who coordinates tiger protection activities in 13 countries, said.

These countries include Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, ChinaIndia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam - all have made a commitment to double the number of tigers by 2022.
Nepali officials said with the latest count in Chitwan the total number of tigers in the Himalayan nation stood at 155.

According to experts barely 3,500 tigers are estimated to be still roaming in the wild in these countries compared with about 100,000 a century ago.
The declining numbers are attributed by experts mainly to poaching and the destruction of their natural habitat by deforestation and encroachment by human beings.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Sanjeev Miglani)

Nepal -India on Illegal Wildlife Trade

Nepal and India today inked a key pact to conserve biodiversity and combat illegal trade in wild animals coinciding with the first International Tiger Conservation Day.
"As Nepal and India are facing similar challenges in conserving the biodiversity, including the tiger, the signing of the joint resolutions gives us the responsibility to take the lead role in protecting tigers and showcasing to the world that together we can make a huge difference," said inister for forest Dipak Bohara, who was present at the function in the capital.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which aims to conserve biodiversity and strengthening ecological security in the trans-boundary region, was signed by Gopal Prasad Upadhyaya, director general, department of national parks and wildlife conservation, Nepal and SPYadav, DIG and joint director, national tiger conservation authority, ministry of environment and Forest, India.
"After signing the MoU with China in June to control illegal trade we expect to enter into a similar agreement with India in the near future," Bohara said.
Besides having a common boundary, Nepal and India are facing similar challenges of tiger conservation, joint director Yadav pointed out.
India and Nepal had excellent working relations in the past and the formalisation of this relation is another milestone, he said.
As the combined population of tigers in Nepal and India is more than half of the world population, joint efforts are essential for the conservation of tigers, he pointed out.
The bilateral pact was an outcome of the 4th Nepal-India Consultative Meeting on trans-boundary Biodiversity Conservation at the ministry of forest in Kathmandu, according to a statement issued by the ministry.
The signing of the pact is a step forward towards strengthening bilateral cooperation and trans-boundary conservation, said Upadhyaya.
India's three national parks and conservation areas Dudhwa Katrnighat, Balmiki and Sohelwa with the combined tiger population of 150 have been connected to Nepal's national parks. Thus joint efforts between the two neighbouring countries are essential for better conservation of tigers and checking illegal trade in tiger parts, accoding to experts.
The pact is a key step towards the signing of the MoU on biodiversity conservation between the two countries, according to experts.
The pact stresses on bilateral and regional cooperation including establishing a joint monitoring mechanism for interaction and intelligence sharing and exploring funding opportunities with special focus on the protected areas of the Terai Arc Landscape in both Nepal and India.

Dhaka and Delhi Join hands to Save Tiger

Bangladesh and India, home to the famous Royal Bengal tiger, will attend the 13-nation Tiger Conservation Summit in St. Petersburg in September to plan out urgent measures to save the species.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina may attend the meeting of the Tiger Range Countries (TRC) - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India,Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam, The Daily Star reported Friday.
Currently, half of the entire Royal Bengal tiger population of over 2,000 is in 56 forest areas in India.

The tiger is treated as one of the most critically endangered animals fast disappearing from the world. If all the six sub-species are taken togther, there are estimated to be just about 3,200 tigers left, down from around 100,000 in 1900. Experts, however, predict tigers will be extinct in the next century if strong measures are not taken to save them.
The Balinese tiger, Javanese tiger and Caspian tiger have already become extinct. Now there are six sub-species: Amur, Indochinese, Malayan, Royal Bengal, South China and Sumatran.

Despite frequent natural calamities, worsening environment and growing salinity in the Sundarbans, Bangladesh is the only country now that claims the number of tigers has recently risen in the forests.

The Bangladesh part of the Sundarbans, a stretch of 6,017 sq km of forest, is officially home to 450 tigers.

The last pugmark survey by the forest department and UN Development Programme (UNDP) in 2004 estimated the number to be around 440, including 21 cubs.
Since 2000, tigers have killed 193 people, while 29 tigers were lynched and some others were found dead in Bangladesh's forests, according to official records of the forest department.

Cheetah to Make a come-back in India

Cheetah to return to India as part of wildlife sanctuary plan

THE LITHE and graceful cheetah is poised to sprint once again in India nearly half a century after it became extinct.
The fastest mammal on Earth and the only one whose name has been derived from Sanskrit was last seen in central India in the 1960s.
Centuries earlier, cheetahs abounded across India with numerous folk and hunting tales woven around their speed, ferocity and cunning. But a proposal cleared this week by India’s federal environment ministry aims to rectify this inadequacy over the next three or four years.
Under the planned $6 million rehabilitation scheme, environment minister Jairam Ramesh aims to induct 18 cheetahs acquired from Iran, Namibia and South Africa into three specified sites in adjoining Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan provinces in central and western India.
Functioning under the joint expertise of the Wildlife Trust of India and the Wildlife Institute of India, these sanctuaries would be readied by stocking them with sufficient prey for the cheetahs.
“The way tigers restore the forest ecosystem, snow leopards the mountain ecosystem and the Gangetic dolphin restores waters in the rivers, the cheetah will eventually restore India’s grasslands,” said Mr Ramesh.
Some of these areas where this extinct mammal would be established could emerge as the only places where the tiger, lion and cheetah survive together, the minister added.
The return of the cheetah also promises to resurrect grassland and open spaces in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh encroached upon over decades by humans. Experts estimate that about 100 communities, involving tens of thousands of people, would need to be relocated to make way for the cheetah.
Wildlife experts, however, remain cautious as repopulating regions with “delicate” animals like the cheetah is demanding and arduous. “It is very complicated because the cheetah is a very fragile, precious predator. You have to look after it very well. It has to have lot of grasslands and prey species,” said Valmik Thapar, India’s foremost tiger expert and environmentalist.
Meanwhile, the Rajasthan government has announced the establishment of a sloth bear sanctuary in the province, spread across 4468sq km.
The provincial forest department has decided to rehabilitate hundreds of sloth bears, the majority of them rescued over the past decade by animal rights activists.
Some 600 of these bears dragooned into performing on highways across several north Indian cities in a custom dating back to Mughal times were liberated from their cruel masters who treated them viciously.
They forced these bears to put on impressive performances by threading a rope roughly through their snouts and a mere tug on it was sufficiently painful to force the animal on to its hind legs, giving the impression of dancing.
As a consequence the bears were in constant agony, their mouths raw and bleeding and their toothless gums foaming. Their wounds were never allowed to heal and scores of them danced for foreign tourists along highways in northern India.

Pangolin Poaching Racket Busted

Thousands of scaly anteaters killed last month to meet demand
Pangolin poaching racket busted
Subhash Chandra N S, July 29, Bangalore:

Wildlife enthusiasts of Bellary have helped the police unearth an organised racket in wildlife trade involving hunting and trading of pangolin - the scaly ant eater in the Kamalapur area of the district.

Over a thousand pangolins are said to have been caught and killed by the poachers over the last one month alone, due to the demand for the harmless anteater in the international illicit market. Pangolin scales are believed to have medicinal properties, including a cure for venereal diseases.

Members of the Society for Wildlife and Nature (Swan) busted a ring engaged in illegal trade of pangolin trade on Thursday, helping police arrest a man identified as Babu, who has named persons from Sandur, Kurugod and Gangavathi, who are said to be a part of the organised crime.

“According to our information, at least a thousand of these creatures have been killed,” said Santosh Martin of Swan.  “This is just the tip of the iceberg as many more are involved in this crime not only in Bellary district but also in Bangalore and Delhi,” he said.
A complete ban on international pangolin trade, was adopted by Parties to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in 2000. Pangolin is an endangered mammal placed in schedule I of of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

This ground-dwelling, scaled animal measures close to one metre in length and weighs about two kg. Completely covered from the neck to the tip of the tail with hard armour-like scales, this unusual creature closely resembles the new-world armadillo. B K Singh, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden said he had deputed ACF Ranebennur to the spot to report on the incident.
DH News Service

Wildlife Beyond Boundaries : the clue lies in corridors

The elephants stood at the stream's edge. As the adults drank in measured trunkfuls, calves gambolled in the water. Just above them, on the slope, a large sambar stag emerged silently from the undergrowth. From a cluster of trees above came the scolding call of a giant squirrel, as a troop of Nilgiri langur foraged in the canopy. 

Just as we were slipping into a reverie, imagining ourselves in pristine wilderness, a woman called loudly to her children playing nearby as she washed clothes outside a neat row of houses, a mere hundred metres upslope of the elephants. 

This vignette, from the Anamalai Hills of southern India, is not all that unusual. Across large parts of our country, a wide range of species still occur outside the confines of wildlife reserves, and even in the middle of busy, human-dominated landscapes. This is possible because a variety of natural and human-modified habitats - forest fragments, coffee plantations, orchards, paddy fields, marshes and lakes – still exist outside our reserves. These habitats may offer permanent residence for smaller creatures, whereas larger species may use them as passageways to move between wildlife reserves. 

But the size, location and status of these habitats that lie outside reserves often belie their importance to the survival of endangered animals. This is so for many reasons. 

Firstly, our wildlife reserves, crafted more by circumstance than by design, look like islands when seen on a map. But not long ago, wild animals occupied vast unbroken stretches of habitat – the Western Ghats that run across five states is a good example – and have evolved to move and migrate across such large landscapes. 

Today, some of the bigger species such as elephants, marooned in small, insular reserves, still seek ways of moving between them. Smaller species like jackals and mongooses, once forest dwellers, now live rather successfully near agriculture and on the edges of villages and towns. 

Without this scraggly patchwork of habitats outside reserves, the movement of large animals, as well as the persistence of smaller species would be seriously hampered. Our wildlife would be restricted to the isolated reserves that occupy less than 4% of our country. Unable to move between these islands, they would be greatly affected by seasonal scarcities of food and water. Worse still, if a disease were to wipe out a species from one of these wildlife reserves, we might lose it forever. 

How have these slivers of habitat and the animals in them managed to persist? One of the key factors that allows our wildlife to roam fearlessly outside reserves is that Indian law protects the species, rather than just the places they live in. Thus, unlike elsewhere in the world, they cannot be hunted or killed even when they leave wildlife reserves. Beyond the law is the cultural willingness among many communities to coexist with wildlife. 

The survival of wildlife outside reserves often has more to do with the tolerance of local people than the exertions of our conservation agencies. Thirdly, our agriculture, often even for commercial crops, is practised without the creation of vast, sterile monocultures. A diverse matrix of crop species interspersed with forest remnants and fallow lands have ensured that many of our cultivated landscapes still remain wildlife-friendly. 

Conservation today continues to focus its efforts on wildlife reserves, but clearly, it is high time we embraced the ecological landscapes that animals recognize rather than imposing our administrative landscapes on them. And to secure a little more space for wildlife outside our reserves is but a beginning. 

Sniffer dogs to curb wildlife crime

Dogs, specially trained to sniff out illegal wildlife products like tiger skins and bones, joined the forest departments of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand Friday.
The dogs and their 10 handlers have completed a nine-month training programme which culminated Friday at a passing out ceremony held in the Dog Training Centre at the Special Armed Forces Academy, Bhopal.

The dogs have been trained to detect hidden wildlife articles like bones and skins of tigers and leopards and bear bile. Their procurement and training was funded and facilitated by TRAFFIC India, a joint programme of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

This is the second phase of TRAFFIC India's sniffer dog training programme. Earlier, two dogs were deployed by the forest departments of Haryana and Uttarakhand.
'In order to curb the growing menace of wildlife crimes, it is necessary to deploy the best enforcement practices available including the use of sniffer dogs, which have a proven track record in detecting crime and serving as a long-term deterrent,' said Samir Sinha, head, TRAFFIC India here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"WAT-E[ve]R" - are we drying ourselves up?

So is it true for everyone, every family, every city; that only when the worst is upon us, do we wake up and start the process of trying to find a solution? Shouldn't the "trying" part be done long before the problem reaches its peak? 
 You know, there are categories. Of people. You give everyone ONE common problem. Obviously, the way and intensity at which it affects those people is going to be very dynamic. But the point is not that there are people. the point is, that there IS a problem.  And no problem reaches its peak overnight. It, like most other processes that are either natural &/or political in context, is a gradual process. 
   So let's say the problem we're talking about is, the current water crisis. The lack of available safe drinking water. And the lack of enough water in general. This issue, has today, almost reached its ultimate ferocity. Maybe that's why our efforts to overcome this crisis are also, almost taking form. We always wait till even the red alert has become old news to take action. 
  Why?  - Is it our tendency to just ignore the magnitude of what is going to come down upon us? Or is it that we are simply too lazy to do anything ourselves? Why do we always wait for the civic administration to do something and step a step forward by designing some plan? Don't we also have the individual power to think? Or is it that the water crisis only affects the administration and not us? Aren't we all suffering from it? Aren't YOU? 
  Quite simply - if you ARE part of the problem [even if it's indirect involvement of the farthest kind], you HAVE to be part of the solution. 
   Or are we just not aware? Either that, or we're incredibly foolish by continuing to endanger the mere survival of our species, our planet and already existing future generations! 
   We HAVE TO start now! We must understand that the red alert was already old news last year when the monsoon ignored us and just went by! We disturbed the natural climate cycle. And we're paying for it. And you know what? It's not just us.
   Because of us, ALL of Earth's species are also paying for it. With THEIR lives. And if this doesn't induce even an iota of guilt, responsibility and humility in you, you need serious field biology counselling!
   You need to know that those poverty stricken, water-starved villages you see on news channels and in films, - that's going to be your situation, someday. Soon. If you want to continue living the royal life, you're going to have to pledge your royal support and make a royally significant contribution to the planet that put you on it! 
   Part of the solution, is said to be this whole new trend  in rain water harvesting [RWH]. Frankly, it should've been done years ago , if not decades! But at least some people are beginning to understand its importance and necessity at this point. Like I said, not that this technology or the [severely uncommon] common sense was unavailable to us before now, before today. It was all in place. We just thought it was a headache, a useless one at that. 
    Everyone seems to be assessing the pros of RWH to make it a big hit. The media, newspapers et al. have been going ga-ga about it. We, here, are going to list the cons. Yup. The cons. 
And I'll tell you exactly why too. Actually, I won't need to. You'll pretty much figure it out yourself if you're smart enough. 

  1. RWH means we actually have to GET involved in the process of setting it up. The RWH is very house specific if we want it to be. WE have to study, do our homework, assess, analyse, implement, maintain, and well.. WE have to take the initiative. No one else is going to come to your door to beg and plead. It's a decision YOU have to make. 
  2. Getting involved is just step 1. The next part means you have to REMAIN involved. Throughout. The system requires maintenance about twice a year and that doesn't cost too much either. Calling the people who take care of repairs, adjustments, etc. is up to us! It's a duty that has to be carried out from time to time. No else reminds you to call them and check your RWH system. You have to remember. 
  3. It means we have to break all our mental blocks about how it's okay to let someone else do their part for conserving water, but that it doesn't apply to us. It's apparently, okay to continue spending Rs.15 for a bottle of Kinley or Bisleri mineral water. It means understanding that you DON'T need to pay for a resource that would be abundantly available to you if you only used your head; and hence,
  4. It means you actually have to USE .... YOUR head. 
   Now, judging by the kind of society we live in, al of the above [though totally do-able], seem very far fetched for mankind to achieve going by its current creditable position. 
  •  So what if you're helping the environment progress from "near extinction" into "sustainability"? 
  •  So what if people (a small portion of us who put the environment before all else), will applaud your exemplary effort and give your name as a motivational example to hundreds and thousands of people of this country who will then, be forced to think that if YOU, a normal citizen, could do your part, why can't they?
  •  So what if you will be helping in putting an end to an omnipresent onslaught of excuses
  •  So what if YOU will contribute to bringing about a much needed positive change in mindset and lifestyle of our common citizens? 
  •  So what if you will be an inspiration?

Who wants THIS sorta satisfaction?? Right? 


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Environmental Activist - Amit Jethwa SHOT DEAD outside the Gujarat HIGH COURT!

Here's a glimpse at how environmental activists and whistle-blowers in this country get treated.

AHMEDABAD: A day after RTI activist Amit Jethwa was shot dead outside the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad after filing a recent PIL against illegal mining, the family of Amit Jethwa alleged that a BJP MP was behind his murder. Jethwa's family on Wednesday alleged foul play saying that BJP MP from Junagadh -- Dinu Solanki was behind the murder. 

Bhiku Jethwa, Amit's father said, "I strongly suspect that Dinu Solanki is behind my son's murder. Because he has threatened me on telephone. He also threatened Amit many times. Amit was threatened in Kodinar and Khamba towns in front of large crowds, a thousand strong. But nobody dared to report the matter." 

Amit Jethwa was killed by 2 unidentified assailants on a motorcycle as he was coming out of the court. Police say the assailants ran away from the spot after shooting Jethwa. 

He had recently filed a PIL in the Gujarat High Court against illegal mining in Gir forest. Following his PIL, the authorities had cracked down on the illegal mining activities in Gir forest and other areas on the Saurashtra coast.

Here are the links to all other news articles about the incident :

And a video:

Here is where you will find ALL links: