When the forest dress shade of red

I have seen palash or Flame of forest a lot and when walking in jungle I came across tree with scarlet flower with pointed shape, I would somehow confuse with Palash. People who know Botany would laugh as how can you be confused with any other tree with Flame of forest. Ya I realized I was a late “wildlifer” when I got confused male Koel with Crow !

The Indian Coral tree is called Tiger’s Claw too. It is referred as Mandara in research paper on Indian Vedic scriptures and hence it is called a paradise tree (one of the five tree of Indra garden). The wood of this tree is offered in religious ceremonies in Hawan and flower to Indian God Shiva. While Palash is said to be originated from Yama’s body and sometime myth says its origin is due to fallen feathers of a falcon carrying Somarasa, it has much importance in Hinduism because of its trifoliate leaf. The middle leaf of palash is said to refer to Vishnu , left one as Brahma and right one as Shiva.

Coral tree in Nandhour, Uttarakhand
Parakeet is common sight on Coral tree

Both tree are significant in mythology and culture, but for me looking at the bright flower when its coloring the drab background is more fascinating. When winters starts declining both Flame of Forest and Tiger’s Claw show us somewhat similar color on jungle roof.

Parakeet during feeding on Semul tree in New Delhi. Although a beautiful tree which attract lot of bird, its called yamadruma in sanskrit and is associated with Lord Yama. Does not get very high auspicious place in mythology.
Semul alongwith Palash/ Tesu coloring
Parakeet feeding on Palash flower

A lot of people had been using these flowers in medicine apart from rituals. Apart from the significance in various fields, from a bird lover perspective, whenever you see them flowering do observe for the fluttering beauties. You will get a peace observing someone else doing work in such a lovely environment!

Photo and concept are copyright of author.

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COVID infection in Carnivore

Since the start of the pandemic, reports of Covid infection in big cats in zoos have surfaced. The other carnivores are also reported to be affected by the virus wherein the first case of infection in hyena was reported in Denver Zoo and then in Colorado zoo again, spotted hyena reported COVID. In the US, a report of the death of snow leopard came from Lincoln Children’s Zoo while infection was reported in snow leopards from Louisville and San Diego, and St. Loius Zoos. Spain, Singapore, Estonia, Sweden, India reported of virus in Lion while the US, Indonesia, Sweden reported virus infection in tiger. The white tiger was reported virus positive in Lahore Zoo, Pakistan.

Like humans, the best prevention against the COVID-19 is vaccination, and Russia is claimed to be the first country to develop vaccines for animals. The vaccine is called Karnivak-Kov developed for carnivores after clinical trials on arctic foxes, cats, dogs, and mink. The pandemic has affected greatly the fur industry and mink have been found to be severely infected; a tipping point being mink culling in large numbers in Denmark.

The strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is not only affecting the respiratory system of humans but wild carnivores are susceptible to it too. It’s of a public health concern as the virus is infecting animals through humans. Although these are happening when humans are in close contact with the captive animals and hence is easily controlled by quarantine. The case of COVID-positive animals infecting humans in return is minimalistic. However, the theory that the virus can “jump” from an infected animal to a human is not ruled out and if so happens, it can have serious consequences.

(Author view are not related with any organization)

Forest Education Institutes in India

The Directorate of Forest Education identifies various institutes for providing training in forestry education. These include Academies as well as accredited institutes as per the Ministry’s website. The Central Academy for State Forest Services at Dehradun, The Central Academy of Forest Education college, Kurseong, CASFOS at Burniaghat and CASFOS at Coimbatore are important training centres for forest officers. Apart from this, the website suggests eight accredited institutes that invest in the education and training of forest officers pan India.

Will the giants meet ?- snow leopard and tiger in Himalayas

Whenever a researcher meets a non-wildlife researcher , the topic twist and automatically orient itself towards climate change. The coastal metros are getting flooded, flash floods and landslides in mountains and pandemic to add to grievances. Its good that common public is talking about consequences as we see today is because of climate change. The public opinion matters as it is major driver of policy changes and implementation. However, many times the climate change concept turns bizarre when we don’t get the words right and if we don’t get the words right, we can never convince the policymakers. So instead of suggesting that the plains which is now turning so hot that poor tiger it has started moving to colder places and saying that so much landslide and natural calamities that snow leopard is coming down, one should explain the indirect effects on the habitats and sampling design which is highlighting these records of tiger at higher elevation and snow leopard at lower elevation. Climate change is definitely a trigger/ reason for many visible changes observed around us. But how it might be affecting the tigers? The drastic changes in temperature and precipitation in across Himalayas along with land-use changes which is affecting the habitat and especially flora (plants/vegetation). Since forage quality and quantity as well as spatial presence is getting affected it will affect the ungulates AKA prey of predators. Like “No man is an Island” similarly no habitat is independent and exclusive especially in Himalayas where movement of animals is influenced and connected by river system. The change in habitat in one district of Himalayan region will affect a far off district too, perhaps with a gap in time.

Tiger in India is already exploring various habitats which is an example to many south east Asian countries. We have tiger reserves in terai where most of the Himalayan rivers drain and start their journey through plains. We have tiger reserves in dense forest and hilly terrain of north east hills and Western Ghats and Sahyadri’s. Dry areas which are neighbor to deserts and sands in Rajasthan and in mangroves of Sundarban delta. So when the tigers are so well adjusted, its not surprising to talk about “hermit tigers” enjoying the cold hills of Himalayas. We had only 3 tiger states overlapping with Himalayas till some years back and the tiger presence was also recorded in outer Himalayas/ Shiwalikh. The tiger presence was reported but not scientifically recorded in higher reaches of Himalayas.

Throughout tiger states in India, the census for tiger is conducted through cameratraps. The design of survey was such as to maximize the tiger captures and get the other mammals records as “by-product”. But Himalayas presented another stories. Most of the tiger capture in Himalayas were a by-product of another research. Recently in 2020, in Eastern Nepal the tiger was captured in Ilam district while doing survey for red pandashttps://kathmandupost.com/climate-environment/2020/12/11/tiger-spotted-at-a-record-altitude-of-3-165-metres-in-eastern-nepal . But tiger might have been moving vertically and horizontally across the borders of state and countries in Himalayas since long. Being a large sized animal and a hunter which stalks its prey to attack , will it invade territories of snow leopard? I dont think so. Ecologically snow leopard and tiger niche is different. Snow leopard can criss-cross the mountain terrain while pursuing its prey which is next to impossible for large biomass tiger (approx 8 times the size of snow leopard). The areas where tiger and snow leopard might be co-occurring since long might be buffers of treeline.

snow leopard and tiger overlap in Central Himalayas
snow leopard and tiger overlap in eastern Himalayas

The tiger capture 1, 5,6,7 : Status of Tiger Habitats in High Altitude Ecosystems of Bhutan, India and Nepal
(Situation Analysis). Global Tiger Forum. 2019.http://globaltigerforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Final-HAT-VERSION-28-AUGUST-20191.pdf

The tiger capture 2: Bhattacharya, Ankita & Habib, Bilal. (2016). Highest elevation record of tiger presence from India. CATnews. 64. 24.

The tiger capture 3,4: Nepal Forest Department https://kathmandupost.com/climate-environment/2020/04/13/tiger-sighted-at-a-record-altitude-of-2-500-metres-in-dadeldhura-forest

The tiger capture 8: Bhutan Forest Department https://theconversation.com/tall-tales-misrepresent-the-real-story-behind-bhutans-high-altitude-tigers-8963

The tiger capture 9: Gopi, G.V., Q. Qureshi & Y.V. Jhala (2014). A rapid field survey of tigers and prey in Dibang Valley District, Arunachal Pradesh. Technical Report. National Tiger Conservation Authority, New Delhi, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Department of Environment and Forest, Government of Arunachal Pradesh. TR- 2014/001, 32pp.

Although Bhutan had record of tiger at higher elevation since long, the national census revealed that the tiger resides in most of the high altitude protected areas and biological corridors in their country. Post study by Global tiger Forum, Sikkim confirmed to be a new state which has tiger presence. In Uttarakhand tiger presence was mainly recorded in Shiwalik until it was spotted in cameratrap in Askot. The record from kedarnath confirmed the movement of tiger in higher ranges of Himalayas. Nepal had all tiger conservation efforts in terai regions until they got a confirmed record of tiger in eastern and western sides of the country from higher reaches. The connectivity with Uttarakhand and Sikkim for tiger movement cannot be ruled out after this confirmation. In Arunachal Pradesh, Dibang valley has been presenting tiger records till now. However, other unexplored areas might reveal many more records.

The Himalayas which is synonym to snow leopard and wolf when it comes to large predators, is now being understood as provider of path to tiger movement too. This opens new conversation regarding policy affecting larger habitats. The habitat will not restrict adhere to exclusive policies for conserving snow leopard habitat (mainly glaciers and wetland) and for conserving tiger habitat (which was mainly terai). The overlapping ranges bring in new dimensions which insist us to demarcate what we call “Himalayan landscape for carnivore conservation”. From this overlapping range, tiger would travel southward, towards the forests and snow leopard northwards, towards the glaciers. The conservation efforts are highlighting these two species what we call as flagship. To conserve and protect the forests -tiger is the custodian and to conserve high mountain ecosystem and glaciers- snow leopard is the custodian. The two carnivores tiger and snow leopard are the relay racers who are proffering new concepts of Himalayan ecosystem conservation at different cross-sectional levels. If they win, maybe our fight against time to conserve and protect biodiversity hotspots would get a prototype.

The concept and views are personal.

Career in Biodiversity (Part I)

I loved Zoology but coming from a small town of Uttar Pradesh, I was never exposed to career counselling. So the path I was treading was either Medical or UPSC. But Zoology was where my heart was and more fun/ updated/ application based field I wanted to enter. I wanted to be a writer then was interested in forensic then was interested in bird watching then scientist and sometime research! I didn’t know there was a word called “inter-disciplinary” which allows people from different background investing time, energy and innovation into development of common field. I started from Zoology went for forestry and then Wildlife Sciences. After a decade of working in this field I realized there is so much work which people from different background can help in Biodiversity Management and Conservation. Nature protection is a common passion and need of hour with which everyone can relate to. With climate changing everyday and natural catastrophes knocking on our door, every working individual is investing time and energy to find solution for the pressing issues. All the more reason why we should be updated how every individual can contribute to biodiversity.

A lot of people on LinkedIn ask me I would like to go on this path of nature conservation, guide me where to start. To answer this, I am compiling some background and career paths in the Biodiversity conservation. Although my role is very streamlined with tiger conservation till now, yet I would like to share my network and information about career option in this field. For this, the first goes with background i.e. majorly in which field you have graduated/ post graduated. Many students in class 12th only want to invest in this field. Its a great thing to be directed specifically and passionately in one field but I would personally suggest to start thinking post your graduation. As then you will have exposure for various subjects and you can figure out where your interest and ability lies. As a student , you can be a part of biodiversity and nature campaigns but full fledged career option can be attempted through various interdisciplinary subject expertise in Biodiversity conservation and management.

Inter-disciplinary background requirement for the Biodiversity conservation and Management

Direct fields of masters and graduation in forestry, wildlife sciences, environmental sciences, forensic, earth sciences, anthropology, social sciences, bioinformatics, biochemistry, biotechnology, natural resource management etc. Many university like Allahabad, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Kolkatta, Lucknow, Banares Hindu University, Aligarh Muslim University , North Eastern Hill University and more provide these courses and also private and deemed universities/Colleges like Amity, Government Arts College (Ooty), Manipal university, Dolphin Institute , Forest Research Institute , SHIATS (AAI) and many more are example of colleges which provide basic courses at graduation and post graduation level. the inter-disciplinary subjects which find way into biodiversity management is not only engineering especially related to software and artificial intelligence and GIS but also journalism , filmmaking, art, illustration and graphic design, statistics, architecture, law background.

The specialists of these background find way into biodiversity and wildlife research and conservation. The team is conglomeration of the various subjects where experts enter at different stage of the project execution.

In the next part, I will explain where and how these experts can contribute and career options.

Did Sherni open YOUR mind?

In recent time , every now and then I would find a person coming up to me or telephoning me asking “have you watched Sherni?” and answering themselves “YOU should watch, its something about your own field” . Now I have been friends with majority of people who have limited knowledge about wildlife and environment in India . That is the primary reason that I took it as a responsibility to make them aware about actual problems in nature and not looking answer of Kaun Baneyga Karorepati questions like how many heart octopus has. Its high time that we shift our conscience, knowledge and effort in understanding conservation , which require to see from a holistic angle including both natural resources and urban development” rather than just remembering evolution, taxonomy and interesting facts. I am not judging anyone, but its sad truth that my friends and families have been so molded in urban environment that Asola Bhatti is a forest according to them and Okhla wetland is a bird sanctuary. They are no doubt, but it might never occurs to my friends without their fault, the immense pressure of human induced development and the fact that it has reduced the entity of these protected area to backyard urban parks and lakes in actual sense.

I have not watched the movie yet but its not I who should not miss it. I might be the first woman in my family to enter this field but the wildlife and environment field was never oblivious to the women. There have been women in this field working in various capacities. The men and women in the wildlife are facing such problems to balance the nature with incessant pressure from all sides that noone can fathom. We have been talking about it through various medium reports, PIL, answer to parliament query, outreach program, article in paper and magazines and through various channel possible. (Remember when I start talking about forest loss and human expansion, human population and some people find it a constant banter from my part?). Many of my friend did say yes the situation is grave but since we are not “inside this field” we forget about it. Its an alarm but our day to day life stress makes us forget about it sooner or latter. We in wildlife have seen people being killed for sand and boulder mining, tree smuggling. I mean the forest have rich natural resources and store house of many minerals like diamond also. But being shot dead for SAND??? A common man sitting in an urban setup like Delhi will find it funny. We protect the intact forest so that animal can move but then when you build road and railway irresponsibly and animal come in contact with human then common man comes and kill the animal as well as destroy properties of forest department too. We have heard so many cases where leopard and tiger conflict with human not only resulted in animal loss but human loss too (our wildlife protectors). We all need oil and the extraction happens mainly in forests. We research , write article, request that impact of such oil refinery would be huge but its never stopped. The support of local and citizen of our country is needed to bring out a policy. see example of Dongria Kondh?

However, as a society we should probably not talk and start taking small actions. Various campaign are available which you can relate and give your voice. the demand and fashion can change the perspective of Governments. After all how conservative China as a country have been but see they couldn’t stop Coca cola invasion in their country right? So probably movie shows you glimpse of few challenges men and women in Wildlife and Forest Conservation face, but I promise we have such Sherni as well as Sher who have been contributing and continue to contribute in this battle while sacrificing a lot. Be their voices and not just feel amazed by Vidya Balan’s (who is no doubt an amazing actress) acting skills. The movie would benefit much more if it can bring change in our society mind set rather than majorly focusing on brave women warrior and tiger as species.

Angria Bank

News:

Envis list 106 marine protected area in island mainly in Andaman and Nicobar Island and Lakwadweep. These protected area are mainly established long back. However, with recent focus being shifted on marine pollution and loss of coral reefs , there are more awareness to declare protected areas for coral protection.

Angria bank is a submerged plateau in Arabian Sea, 105 km approximately off the Sindhudurg District of Maharashtra. It is named after Maratha Admiral Kanhoji Angre, who is said to be first naval commander of India. Angria Bank has special habitat of coral reef and algae. The coral reef explored recently is said to be one of the largest (size equal to city Mumbai).The State Wildlife Board recommends this approximately 2000 sq km area to be a designated protected area. If it is approved by center then a large habitat would be protected for coral reef in exclusive economic zone.

However , many scientist debate that how would a protected area help in conserving corals as ocean are uniformly polluted and restricting that environment quality is difficult. But a study in Caribbean Island https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/5/eaao5493 suggest that actually Marine protected area help in protecting coral reef. The limitation to fishing would increase seaweed eating fish and which in turn limit harmful seaweed allowing increase in coral. Studies like these provide support to conservationists when they pitch in the idea of declaring an area for protected area category. India is focusing on marine conservation but still there is long way to go when last marine protected area in island was declared in 1977 and 2002 (ENVIS).

Air pollutants and innovations

Many innovators and companies are coming up with ideas to utilize pollutants. I compiled some of such interesting ideas. The article was published in a Newsletter (VoE) link 

No doubt about the grave concern regarding air pollution, scientists and innovators are working towards bringing in new technology to trap atmospheric pollutants and recycle it. The policymakers are working towards the reduction of atmospheric pollutants and still meet the product demands. In the last few years certain interesting innovations have come up which trapped the atmospheric pollutant, reduced health hazards for humans, brought awareness and helped in mitigating the effects of climate catastrophe. Here are few such examples:

  1. Like we filter our water why can’t we filter atmospheric pollutants by clothes we wear? All of us wear clothes and we are mobile. Hence all our human population can filter atmospheric pollutants too. Catalytic Clothing is a fashion initiative started by former fashion designer Helen Storey and the University of Sheffield Professor Anthony Ryan. The cloths can be coated with a nano-titania catalyst which can be developed as a detergent and can attach with cloths when one washes them. It is said that a city nano-titania is a powerful catalyst agent which can speed up the conversion of (for example) harmful NOx air pollutants to harmless byproducts that can be washed away with the rain.
  2. Prometheus founder and CEO, Rob McGinnis has a patent to the concept of making a big machine which can trap atmospheric carbon and transform it into usable fuel, gasoline. The concept aims at developing a carbon-neutral form of transportation.
  3. Graviky lab co-founder and inventor of Air-Ink, Anirudh Sharma developed a device that would arrests soot discharged from vehicle exhaust pipes. The collected soot undergoes a purification process to remove heavy metals. Along with purification, the soot is finally mixed with a solvent to develop into an ink that can be used for various painting purposes. The usefulness of the invention is calculated by the amount of carbon dioxide it is converting and hence the makers presented “more than 203 gallons (770 liters) of Air-Ink have been harvested to date, which is equivalent to CO2 emissions from driving a diesel vehicle for 2.3 years without a break”.
  4. Novomer has developed sustainable polymer which can be used commercially in coating, sealant, and elastomers. The polymer is developed by using carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide from the atmosphere in combustion with propylene oxide or ethylene oxide.
  5. 10XBeta CEO Marcel Botha developed a “Shoe without a footprint” whose sole is made out of converted carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide from heavy industries and power plants was captured and was the basis of developing the foam which is being used for the making of the sole of the shoe.
  6. Liquid Light co-founder Kyle Teamey aims at trapping and converting atmospheric carbon dioxide and developing raw material like ethylene glycol for polyester fiber, plastic bottles, and antifreeze. The invention is a set of the catalyst which can produce 60 carbon-based chemicals from carbon dioxide and electricity.

 

Of Teaks and Tigers

Kawal Tiger reserve was one of the field stations I was employed in. Since the camera-trapping for All India Tiger monitoring (according to the protocol) never happened in this tiger reserve, I was very apprehensive of the task in hand and managing in a state whose language was other than Hindi and English. However, the field was awesome and I fell in love with the place. I wrote a small piece in Saevus magazine and the link is shared.

My tryst with Forsyth’s forests was kindled long ago through the books of Rudyard Kipling. Visits to Kanha, Bandhavgarh, Pench, Tadoba, Palpur-Kuno and Panna forests had familiarised me with the central Indian plethora of biodiversity. I was on the field at the Nagarjunasagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR) in Andhra, when I got an opportunity to work in the 42nd tiger reserve of the country. NSTR was poles apart from Kawal Tiger Reserve (KTR) in terms of legacy, size and terrain. Anticipating new challenges, I grew both apprehensive and excited in equal measure.

of teak and tigers

The small "chirper"

It is very uncommon to see any sort of wildlife in hustling bustling Delhi. I find it very difficult to rush to observe birds by the cues of calls because the honking of vehicles suppress any “natural” sound. However when the balcony overlooks the drainage and associated greenary, the sound of “chip-chip-chip” is quite possible to fall in your ears.

The indian palm squirrel is probably most common species for urban habitat. Almost everyone might have tried to feed it “chana” in a tourist place or the local gardens. India has its name associated with Lord Ram who blessed the squirrel with the three white stripes on its back for its effort to help in building bridge on ocean. However, Rudyard Kipling who wrote many stories regarding “why the animal has certain pattern” , probably skipped to understand the story of this small fur ball.

The animal has gained a pest value for certain countries. It was introduced in Australia and has found to damage the ecology of the continent. It is one of the banned animal according to Bio-security Act of Australia. However, in the native country India, it is harmless and trying to adjust with whatever habitat it gets. Like the material for nest which were all natural for the animal are now being made by utilizing plastics as observed in Mysuru.

festival goes but prayer material stays especially when Indians throw it in river out of reverence. Indian palm squirrel nibbling on cloth used for prayer.
When mother dairy packet becomes nibbling toy of animals. How can we be so careless?

When we go in the details , the heart breaks to see how the smallest of animal and smallest of greenary and remnant of mother nature is trying to survive.