Thursday, December 31, 2009

Threat to Herpetofaunal diversity if Mahdei is diverted.






Herpetologist Nirmal Kulkarni has expressed concern and hopes that the Goa Government will seek for an EIA (environment impact assessment) on the forests of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary after its waters are diverted by Karnataka state to the Mahdei Water Tribunal as soon as it is appointed.
The area of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary that would be irrevocably affected would include the forests surrounding the village of Surla in Sattari taluka and the border forests of Chorla Ghats. These forests, according to Nirmal Kulkarni, are home to several endangered species of Herpetofauna that are data deficient and threatened due to habitat fragmentation and alteration.
Some of these lesser-known endemic species of snakes documented in the region till date include the Malabar Pit Viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus), Pied Belly Shieldtail snake( Melanophidium punctatum), Olive Forest Snake (Rhabdops olivaceus), Striped Coral Snake (Calliophis melanrus nigrescens) Beddome’s keelback (Amphiesma beddomei) and Montane Trinket snake amongst others.
Amongst lizards, the Draco of Flying Lizard (Draco dussumieri), goan day Gecko (Cnemaspis goaensis), Prashad’s Gecko ( Hemidactylus prashadi) and Banded Ground gecko ( Hemidactylus albofasciatus), all endemic and uncommon species are found in the area.
With regards to amphibians, the Beddome’s Indian frog (Indirana beddomei), Maharashtra Bush frog (Philautus bombayensis), Marbled Ramanella (Ramanella moromorata), Malabar Gliding frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus) are some of the endemic species documented from the area
Some species like the Mahdei caecilian, described from this region are highly endemic and found only in this region till date. It is a species of legless amphibian of which very little is known of and needs special conservation measures. Besides which the Goan caecilian, another rare and recently described species has been reported in the forests that are part of this region.
It is an urgent need to assess the impacts of diversion of water to these forests of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary and its surrounding forests as these waters nurture and sustain this region of high endemism and create niche specialized habitats that are essential for the survival of these species of Herpetofauna.
A demand for an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) to study and gauge the impacts on wildlife of the sanctuary should be urgently placed as soon as the Mahdei Tribunal is formally announced with its committee of members.
Any form of alteration to the habitats, including loss of ground water and drying of streams and riverine vegetation due to change in course of water or restricted flow could spell disaster to the biodiversity of this region especially with regards to reptiles and amphibians as their life cycle and breeding biology depends on the rivulets and streams of the Mahdei river.
I appeal to the Goa Government to ensure that the course of the Mhadei rive that supports and sustains the forests of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary be protected and not allowed to be diverted under any circumstance as this will cause irreversible long term damage to the delicate ecology of the region.
A strong case to this case has to be made to the Mhadei Tribunal underlining the need for conservation of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary and its ensuring its water security as this is also directly related to the water security of the people of Sattari and Bicholim talukas of Goa state besides the forests of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

ECHO AWARDS PRESENTED TO GOAN NATURALISTS BY MIKE PANDEY




World-renowned Indian Wildlife Film maker Mr. Mike Pandey at a function in the city presented the 1st Echo Awards 09, instituted by ECHO-Environment Culture and Heritage Organization recently.
The awards have been constituted to boost the morale of Goans silently working in the field of wildlife and nature conservation and to recognize the contribution made by various individuals in this field. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Gurudas Kamat, Convener of ECHO, emphasized the need of field conservation and introduced the awardees as well as the dignitaries present on the occasion including Mr. Mike Pandey and Mr. Rajendra Kerkar.
In his speech, Mr. Mike Pandey highlighted the need for the youth of our country to unite and address conservation related issues that concern us in our daily lives. He pointed out to various facts in nature that are integral to human survival and sustenance and lamented the manner in which we as a race were plundering natural resources without thinking of the future. By giving various examples including human elephant conflicts, climate change and flooding and the extinction of species, Mr. Mike Pandey pointed out the need to conserve our rivers and their ecosystems, particularly in the Western Ghats of India. He categorically pointed out that the rise in sea level would surely affect coastal states like Goa in India in the near future
Mr Rajendra Kerkar in his speech thanked Mr. Mike Pandey for making the time and effort to be present at the function despite a tight schedule and enlightened the gathering about the relationships between ‘Jal, Jungle and Jameen’. He stressed on the need for young Goans across the state to join hands to conserve the Mhadei River and its forests for the future generations of our state.
The awardees included Nirmal Kulkarni for the Best naturalist award for his work in wildlife research and conservation, Parag Rangnekar as Best Green Author for his book on ‘Butterflies of Goa’, Arnold Noronha for Best Upcoming Wildlife Photographer and Sadguru Patil for Best Wildlife reporter.
All awardees as well as those present got an opportunity to interact and converse with Mike Pandey on this occasion and this led to a series of discussion on issues that concern our state and its diversity.
The award ceremony was well attended by nature lovers and conservationists, media persons and members of ECHO Goa.World-renowned Indian Wildlife Film maker Mr. Mike Pandey at a function in the city presented the 1st Echo Awards 09, instituted by ECHO-Environment Culture and Heritage Organization recently.
The awards have been constituted to boost the morale of Goans silently working in the field of wildlife and nature conservation and to recognize the contribution made by various individuals in this field. Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Gurudas Kamat, Convener of ECHO, emphasized the need of field conservation and introduced the awardees as well as the dignitaries present on the occasion including Mr. Mike Pandey and Mr. Rajendra Kerkar.
In his speech, Mr. Mike Pandey highlighted the need for the youth of our country to unite and address conservation related issues that concern us in our daily lives. He pointed out to various facts in nature that are integral to human survival and sustenance and lamented the manner in which we as a race were plundering natural resources without thinking of the future. By giving various examples including human elephant conflicts, climate change and flooding and the extinction of species, Mr. Mike Pandey pointed out the need to conserve our rivers and their ecosystems, particularly in the Western Ghats of India. He categorically pointed out that the rise in sea level would surely affect coastal states like Goa in India in the near future
Mr Rajendra Kerkar in his speech thanked Mr. Mike Pandey for making the time and effort to be present at the function despite a tight schedule and enlightened the gathering about the relationships between ‘Jal, Jungle and Jameen’. He stressed on the need for young Goans across the state to join hands to conserve the Mhadei River and its forests for the future generations of our state.
The awardees included Nirmal Kulkarni for the Best naturalist award for his work in wildlife research and conservation, Parag Rangnekar as Best Green Author for his book on ‘Butterflies of Goa’, Arnold Noronha for Best Upcoming Wildlife Photographer and Sadguru Patil for Best Wildlife reporter.
All awardees as well as those present got an opportunity to interact and converse with Mike Pandey on this occasion and this led to a series of discussion on issues that concern our state and its diversity.
The award ceremony was well attended by nature lovers and conservationists, media persons and members of ECHO Goa.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mission Green’s tips for a green Christmas:

Decorate a tree in your garden instead of an artificial one or a tree cutting placed indoors. Go
traditional. You can keep using garden trees for years.
If you haven’t bought one, invest in a potted one. Don’t buy a plastic tree, get a natural one instead that
you can keep indoors and reuse for a few years and then can be planted in a garden. If you do not have
space, you can gift it to someone who has a green space.
If you have an artificial one, use it and reuse every year. Please don’t throw it away, it’ll only add to the
pile in landfills.
Buy eco products, local crafts, books, saplings, abandoned kittens or puppies to gift your loved ones. Buy
gifts only if necessary, for example kids matter the most, older relatives and friends understand that
Christmas is not just about receiving gifts! Present gifts that are non material, like a trip to a wildlife
Sanctuary, membership to a local library, etc.
Wrap your gifts in cloth or old present papers or even news paper
How about solar powered Christmas string lights?
Avoid plastic, thermacol decorations as these are non biodegradable. Use eco friendly decorations made
from paper, bamboo and cloth.
Send e-cards and save paper. If you need to use cards, source those made by NGO’s, self help groups,
etc. Make your own cards too like a collage from old photos, news papers, recycled material, etc
Beeswax candles are so natural, use if required. Use instead of artificial lights.
Celebrate this Christmas in as ethical and non material way as possible. Family, friends and the
environment are more important. Enjoy in a way that benefits our world.
Get Christmas sweets made locally. Plan in advance so that your requirement is taken care of.
Please reduce on the use of fireworks this Christmas. Go for smoke less and less noisy ones. Encourage
your ward or housing colony to buy fireworks rather than each family buying in bulk. It also promotes
the idea of sharing and communal harmony.
Make cribs out of natural material like mud and grow grass naturally. Also use terracotta statues instead
of plastic ones. Even for professional cribs or competitions follow this practice. Avoid the use of nonbiodegradable
items. Support local crafts and potters.
Make sure that you or others in your area do not place any wild animals like pythons or civets in the
cribs to attract the attention of the crowd. If you come across this practice please contact us
immediately.
HAVE A MERRY GREEN CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Green Xmas


Jingle bells jingle bells
Jingle all the way,
Oh what fun it is to
Rejoice this Xmas in
A Green and natural way!
Earthworm Ecostore believes in celebrating festivals for the planet and its people…
We strive to bring to you products that are not only towards the sensitive to the environment but also support families that have little adding the value of your spirit of giving.
This year, adorn your breathing Christmas tree with beautifully created crochet decorations made by Earthworm in collaboration with Lacy Webs – a collective of under privileged women from Vasco. These delicate decorations are not designed to dumped after use and pay the women in the spirit of fair trade. We also have with us natural Beeswax Candles to light up your alter and your festivities!
Gifting exotic handmade and community supporting gifts is also an option you can explore at Earthworm which brings you products from across our country be it carved out pumpkin lamps, to our elephant dung stationary, to our earthen jewelry to sheep wool bags, to organic cotton tees. to palm crafted toys …to just name a few. You could even treat your Christmas tree with some vermin-compost available with us…
….With Earthworm, find new ways of giving!

Have a joyous Christmas and please! do reduce the packaging of your gifts.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wormtrails…Butterfly Watching with Parag Rangnekar.



Butterfly watching with Parag Rangnekar began at 8:00 a.m. sharp from Earthworm Eco store with the participation of 30 butterfly enthusiasts.
In the two hour walk to Pilerne Lake, Parag led us through various aspects of butterfly watching: shared field skills for field identification of butterflies; their preference for certain garden and forest plants as host and food plants and their various life cycle stages. Participants were able to observe varied behavior of butterflies like basking, mimicry and feeding of nectar on food plants. A total of 22 species were sighted by during the walk that culminated at Earthworm Eco store.
In his power point presentation, Parag ran through some unique forest species of butterflies and explained basics of butterfly biology and their behavior sharing the butterfly diversity of Goa with the help of excellent photographs. He stressed upon the fact that in and around places like Green Valley where natural forests are turning into housing areas, the need to plant butterfly attracting plants in one’s garden and neighborhood is vital for their conservation.. The session ended with many curious questions of enthused participants.
All in all, the first in the series of ‘Wormtrails’ received a fantastic response. Please look forward to such monthly thematic interactions that aim to help us understand nature and its myriad wonders in our immediate neighborhoods.
We have to say a huge thank you to all our participants who made this event bigger and more exciting that we even imagined it would be.
Checklist of Butterflies sighted: -
1. Southern Birdwing
2. Common Mormon (male and female)
3. Great Eggfly
4. Crimson Rose
5. Common Grass yellow.
6. Small Grass yellow.
7. Sailor
8. Common crow
9. Gull.
10. Angled Castor
11. Skipper (unidentified)
12. Wanderer
13. Dark Grass blue.
14. Common Five ring.
15. Bush hopper
16. Common Bush brown
17. Commander
18. Yam Fly
19. Plain Tiger.
20. Angled Pierrot
21. Common Pierrot.
22. Red Pierrot.

Friday, November 13, 2009

WormTrails .......with Butterflies and Parag Rangnekar


It is the month of November and misty cool mornings are here to stay. Earthworm ecostore kicks off WormTrails…our monthly thematic walks to observe, understand and appreciate nature and its myriad wonders in our very own neighbourhood. The trails have been designed for adults and children alike who would love to learn a bit more about the plant and animal life they have always noticed and formed many curious questions about in their mind.
We all have always appreciated butterflies and know that they are important pollinators of plants and thus play an important role in our environment. but there is more….
What is a 'host' plant?, how does a butterfly find its way to one? what species of butterflies are common and which ones are not? how does a butterfly protect itself from its predators?how do we affect butterfly populations in our own neighbourhoods? ....…Earthworm invites you to look beyond the fluttering fragile beauty of a butterfly to understand its tenacious role in ecology.
Parag Rangnekar is the author of the widely popular field guide of Butterflies of Goa and also the state co-coordinator of the Goa Bird Conservation Network. He is also known amongst academic as well as conservation circles as a committed naturalist and wildlife photographer and has been instrumental in popularizing the hobby of butterfly watching in the state of Goa.
Parag will lead a trail that would start at Earthworm, the eco store at 8.00 am sharp and would culminate at 10.00 am after a walk in and around Green valley, a haven for butterflies. A talk and power point presentation on the Butterflies of Goa will also be taken for the participants at Earthworm from 10.30 am to 12.00 pm.
Date: 22nd November, 2009
Participation fee would be Rs. 100/-
Please register prior to the event either by email at earthwormgoa@gmail.com or call us 08322410871.
We would request all participants to arrive 10 minutes before time for the walk. Do bring along your breakfast, Earthworm would provide tea and its famous kokum juice.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Talyacho Sado, karnataka.


Talyacho Sado, a vast expanse of Plateau at Chorla Ghats Karnataka

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Spotted Supple Skink- another reptilian wonder.



Moonlight filters through the close-knit canopy and illuminates the forest path that leads to nowhere. A gurgling stream meanders through the roots of trees and twines that provide niche habitats to a myriad of creatures, big and small. With a cacophony of bush frogs and crickets to give me the ultimate company, and a sheet of dark clouds that promise to bring down a torrential downpour, I start my search in the maze of the undergrowth- a systematic and yet tangled web of ferns, shrubs buttresses and earth cuttings that seem to have life pouring out of every nook and cranny. In the depths of the forests, an alarm call goes off, a sambar first and then hooting langurs. It is night and yet these sentinels of the forest seem to have been alert-I make a mental note to watch my back, as it could be a large cat. In the Mhadei area, from where I work, large cats like the tiger and the leopard are increasingly being sighted and most reason it to the overpopulation of these important mammals in the neighboring Anshi Dandeli reserves due to which they are pushed to our forests in search of prey and habitat. Butt I will not dwell into this topic as it is too in depth to address and understand-for now that is.
I am here to try and find the “Yellow color form” of the Malabar Pit Viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus) with Lid, a colleague and Luma, my Man Friday in these parts and we are interested in documenting this uncommon color variation and understanding the reasons of its occurrence.
It is over an hour through our search that something snake like moves from under a rotting tree stump that Lid has just lifted along with Luma and I am bewildered for a moment… dazed too as Luma shine his head torch momentarily into my eyes, as he looks in my direction for possible help. Scurrying along the rock crevice that has earlier yielded a tiger coral centipede, I reach in time to scoop up the find for the night- a snake like lizard with limbs as small as a pea! This is a lizard, exclaims Lid, leaving little room for me to say, as that is all that we seem to know of this reptile.
Excited and exhausted, we decide to take a break and key the species, and a night halt is planned. While Luma goes to on to find a good spot to rest for the remaining part of the night, Lid dives into her seemingly bottomless haversack for a copy of the “Smith’s volume” on Lizards and we sit to key the specimen.
Amidst a backdrop of silhouetted vegetation and aromatic smells of a flowering tree, we go on our knees and take a scale count of our find. It is tricky, and a delicate affair, and after close up shots and satisfied counts, the reptile is released by Luma in the same location as it was found. I know from past experience in Mollem National park and elsewhere that this is a skink and yet there is a shadow of doubt lurking in the corners of my now seemingly over saturated brain. I let the thought stay and seek refuge in my sleeping bag for the night.
Dawn is just moment away and Lid is awake as always, still pouring into her “Smith’s” volume of Lizards. I have been thinking too and attempt to connect to pals on phone and our wireless net who discuss the possibility and later confirm it to be the same creature that I thought it was- the Spotted Supple Skink (Lygosoma punctata).
A secretive species of skink, this was earlier also referred by researchers as the Indian Snake skink, and yet is known from few locations in our state, which include the Bhagvan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, the Netravli Wildlife sanctuary. There have been reports of this reptile from the plateaus of Goa University, Thivim and Verna besides other locations and there is a need to confirm the same. Its distribution is restricted to the hilly regions of India and Sri Lanka and some reports in parts of South East Asia need confirmation, we learnt later.
It is a diurnal skink and is observed under leaf litter or in rotting green matter in forest habitats that range from semi evergreen and mixed moist deciduous forests to laterite plateaus. Young skinks of this species have a distinctive red tail, but this color is lost in adults. Small spots replace the red tail and these spots coalesce to form continuous lines as the individual ages. The dots are present on the head and extend to the snout. It grows up to 85 mm in length from head to tail and resembles a worm snake at first sight due to the cylindrical snake like body and highly ad pressed limbs that are almost indistinguishable to the untrained eye.
In the depths of the forests of the Mhadei, and elsewhere in our state, many such small jewels need appreciation and conservation. It is a fact that we know very little about our vast array of diversity and this fact needs to change. With the National Wildlife Week just around the corner from 2nd Oct to 8th Oct, I hope that every fellow Goan attempts to understand and recognize the value of our Protected Areas and the biodiversity they support.
While we wind up our survey, amidst discussion and several thought processes of the regions worth as a repository of Herpetofauna wealth, I hear an exclaimed shout from Luma once again and off we are again to an earth cutting where he is seated. But that is another tale…of snakes and tails for another time, till then Keep the faith.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vazra Sakla waterfalls


The Vazra Sakla waterfalls are on the Goa-Karnataka-Maharashtra border in the Chorla Ghats region and are part of the Swapnagandha valley. The height of the waterfalls is 143 meters and the forests they support and sustain are home to a diversity of flora and fauna, some of which is endemic to the region. The entire region of which the Chorla Ghats is a part is called the Mhadei Bio region.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009



Malabar Pit Viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus).

Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary.Goa India.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Researchers observe rare Herpetofauna behavior in Mhadei region.


A partially cloudy June 20th morning saw researchers documenting Herpetofauna of the Mhadei region, observe a rare behavior at 750 meters above sea level of a Boulenger’s Bronzeback tree snake (Dendrelaphis bifrenalis) eat a Malabar Gliding (Rhacophorus malabaricus) female frog in broad daylight at 11.00 am in the morning.
The Boulenger’s Bronzeback tree snake is a rare species with taxonomic nomenclature still being under uncertainty and is known from a handful of locations in the Western Ghats of India including Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa, Anshi National Park in Karnataka and forests of Amboli and Matheran in Maharashtra in India so far. Elsewhere it has been reported from the island country of Sri Lanka. Very little is known of the taxonomy, behavior and biology of this elusive and shy tree snake and the observations made by the duo of researchers Nirmal Kulkarni and his assistant Namdeo Gaonkar are an addition to the understanding of the selective seasonal prey base of this species.
The Malabar Gliding frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus) is an endemic flagship species of the Western Ghats of India and has been listed as NT (Near Threatened) by the IUCN Listing of 2002. It is threatened due to habitat loss and exotic monoculture plantation in its range.
The Boulenger’s Bronzeback tree snake was observed stalking a foam nest of a Malabar gliding frog and subsequently capturing a female frog on a wild Jamun tree at a height of approx 14 feet above the ground near a water body.
The tree snake swallowed the Gliding frog head first and feet last and the entire process took 1 hour 10 minutes during which field observations and photo documentary evidences were collected by the duo for further study. Climate data recorded humidity at 82 percent and temperature at 28 degrees centigrade.
Images and other information on this observation were subsequently sent to various scientific institutions for identification and included the Indian Herpetological Society and the Madras Crocodile Bank besides various independent researchers and confirmation of the species was received a week ago on Sept 1st 09. A research note communication is now being prepared for the same.
The Mhadei region encompasses the states of Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka is home to an array of lesser known and yet important Herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) found in the Western Ghats of India. Many rare and endemic species have been reported from this region before and is acknowledged as a hotspot for lesser-known wildlife by researchers in the country.




Friday, August 21, 2009

a robber fly....


welll, i think this a robber fly, so called for its unique behavior to steal larvae o f butterflies and moths for its young....not sure and would require scientific help for correct id!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Vazra falls-another angle


This is the now famous vazra fals in the chorla ghats....but another angle...mesmerizing to say the least!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Leaf Insects- marvel of nature in Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary


The forests of the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary are part of the Western Ghats forests and are teaming with wildlife especially in the monsoons.
Most of this biodiversity of life forms is either ignored or goes unappreciated by visitors as well as nature lovers. From the forest floor to the undergrowth vegetation and the tree canopy, the multitudes of insects, some of which are unique and exceptional are found in these dense forests and need to be valued for their contribution to our ecological, aesthetic and economical factors.
In fact a small walk or nature trail can reveal these natural wonders and every single life form is a treat to watch and observe for hours on end.
The Leaf Insect is one such life form that is distinctive and exceptional in its shape and behavior too! Fondly also referred to as walking leafs they are closely related to Stick insects and are found in forest habitats in the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary. They belong to the Class Insecta and Family Phyllidae of which there are 35 plus known species so far to the world of science and all these are found in the tropical region of our planet. Scientists studying these insects have stated that these creatures have not significantly changed for the last 50 million years ever since they have first evolved!
Completely herbivorous and nocturnal in nature, these insects are normally found at eye level in undisturbed forest habitats as well as fringe forests near human habitation. During the day, they rest on leaves of plants that match their body patterns and some species have reached a remarkable degree of camouflage, making them highly indistinguishable for the untrained eye. Excellent mimics, the leaf insect has been observed to sway along with the leaves that it rests, especially when approached by a predator.
The specimen in the photograph was documented in the forests of Surla in the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary and is an uncommon species to come across due to its excellent camouflage and low numbers. Very little is known of the ecology and breeding behavior of these creatures and more studies in this aspect are the need of the hour. Species like the leaf insect are the true marvels of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Barred Wolf snake.


It has been a busy monsoon. Yes, accepted that the rains have been late this year around in the coastal areas of our state, but up here in the Ghats and beyond, the Rains Gods have blessed the land with a barrage of rain clouds, thanks to which a carpet of greens now surrounds my campsite and life forms seem to burst out of every nook and cranny! Leeches are at their very active best and accompanied by snails and centipedes have taken over the forest floor. Bush frogs and tree frogs, and a myriad form of insect life including cicadas, crickets and various sizes of beetles and bugs, all vying for territory and mates, rule the tree canopy while below the earths surface another world awakens from its slumber! These are my favorites…shieldtail snakes, burrowing frogs and of course caecilians, wonders of the amphibian world!
The monsoons are a herpetologists delight, and a time to work without rest, especially in the Western Ghats as these are times when reptiles and amphibians showcase themselves in their true sense…and can thus be documented and studied, observed and watched, for a period of 90 plus days, i.e. during the monsoons.
A bad back thanks to a 12 kilos backpack and an even worse cold has ensured that I am half my usual self on this particular night trail, but a break in the continuous deluge seems to get the better of my reasoning and we set out for a trail. Armed with a rubber waterproof bag holds a camera, a GPS and a notepad, I head out with Vaibhav to look for subjects for photo documentation as well study-this is the Mhadei region and documenting its diversity is more of a cause now.
Its been more than a decade, and after having trodden many paths and off beat trails, and lessons learnt include carrying out searches for reptiles, especially snakes in fringe forest areas, i.e. areas where the plantations end and forest habitats meet…as these are areas that time and again reveal hidden gems that sometimes have escaped our attention. We start searching near an abandoned cow shed, near a plantation and after just 20 minutes of rummaging into a interesting mixture of compost and hay, we stumble upon our first find…a Wolf snake. I carefully focus my torch to check out the species, with some rattling field identification methods in mind and voila… my subject rolls itself into a ball of black coils and tucks its head in between these coils! I almost scream in excitement while Vaibhav prepares to take readings. This is undoubtedly an addition to the list of snakes in this region…I say aloud…this is the Barred Wolf Snake (Lycodon striatus).
A slender bodied snake with a flattened head and a glossy black back inter spread with a series of white bars across its body, which diminishes towards the tail. This species has interesting faint yellow colored mid spots that resemble the shape of diamonds when observed from close and are a key to its field identification along with the characteristic white lip scales that this species possess!
Shy and nocturnal, this is of course a non venomous species of wolf snake with a very mild temperament and is known to hide its head under its own coils when provoked or disturbed, thereby turning itself into a peculiar ball of coils, unlike other wolf snakes which are known to have a rather furious temperament. Known to inhabit semi dry and fringe forest areas, the Barred Wolf snake has been reported in Goa earlier from the Mollem National Park by the then RFO Mr. Prakash Salelkar a few years ago along with many other reptilian wonders that he had brought to the notice of the Indian Herpetological Society then. Though known to be common in the country, there have been very few records of this species otherwise in this region and was for us an important step in the right direction to conserve and document Goa’s ophidian diversity.
And while the documentation of this species in the Chorla Ghats makes the number of wolf snake species found in this region to three, which includes the Common Wolf snake, the Travancore Wolf snake and the Barred Wolf snake, it is but important to understand that this diversity needs to be conserved at all costs. While the Chorla Ghats area in particular and the Mhadei Bio Region in general is being increasingly recognized by wildlife researchers as a hotspot for lesser known biodiversity, the documentation of this species has reconfirmed the need to extensively study and conserve this area for posterity!
With a hope to find the strength and time to document more species in this region and a silent prayer to Brahmini Maya, the local folk deity of snakes, we complete our data sheet and watch our subject melt into the leaf litter near a patch of grass. We have taken images and marked a GPS location, and are about to call it a night when Vaibhav whistles aloud again…another interesting find. But that is another story…for another day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Birds of the Western Ghats-an audio visual cd



This Cd is a first of its kind Audio Visual kit of bird calls recorded by Mr Sharad Apte, bird song recordist and birder from Nasik.This CD is available in English and Marathi and is available at Earthworm. for details contact earthwormgoa@gmail.com

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Revisiting Surla

Its that time of the year again. When it rains...and the forests of Chorla Ghats respond. Everything changes. Endless layers of slate gray clouds form over thick dense forests and incessant sheets of rain come crashing down on us feeble beings. Yes its that time of the year again when nature lovers and herpetologists alike done their gum boots and rainwear and go wildlife watching out in the rains.
We chose Surla.817 meters above sea level, Goa’s remotest village and a hotspot for herps, i.e. reptiles and amphibians. Having surveyed the area 7 years ago as part of a project on Man-Reptile interactions, this was familiar territory. And yet I knew things must have changed now! Being part of the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary the forests that surrounded Surla were typical of the Western Ghats landscape and thus a repository of an array of biodiversity.
9.00 pm on a night devoid of any stars so far as the rainclouds seemed to have taken over. Kishore drops us in the middle of nowhere at Dhavlemandnecho Sado and heads for home for a hot water bath. Standing in knee-deep water, our headlights illuminate the chocolate brown forest floor and the wet green forests seem to herald our arrival. Vaibhav flashes his trademark smile and I grin back in return-we’re back. Armed with huge umbrellas, a snake hook, bags, and the works and a gap of 7 long years seem like a lifetime away from this place.
As cascading sheets of water thrash our rainwear, we drain out all the noises and listen in awe at the innumerable calls of frogs that seemed to fill the misty air of Dhavlemandnecho Sado almost as if to welcome our arrival. Mycrohilids, Indiranas and Philatus I say to myself, bothering little to go to the species level and yet keen to view some of the elusive species in these parts, including the now famous Malabar Gliding Frog, which I had first reported from this area to the wildlife community of Goa!
With every passing moment, we uncover species after species of herps some of which are new to our eyes and need expert identifications. Scanning the forest floor, amidst leaf litter and at eye level amongst branches and shrubs, we for once abandon our formal survey techniques and enjoy the rains and its subjects. Looking at an ‘Indirana’ species of frog camouflaged on a laterite plateau we wonder whether this is an addition to the existing checklist or not, while my subject quietly gives me the slip and moves away!
With Vaibhav by my side and the Rain God as my inspiration we wade across puddles, squat amongst flowing streams and climb rock faces to search for herps .Its been over 3 hours now and we are not finished. Juggling between an umbrella, a white LED Maglite and my trusted Canon SLR,I have managed to freeze images of herps in this side of the wilderness. But amongst frogs, lizards and 3 species of snakes (including the Pied belly shieldtail and the Travancore Wolf snake) we’ve found plastic, broken glass bottles, empty gutka packets and discarded food plates…remnants of a stark reality-all is not well at Surla. With crowds of visitors coming from Karnataka as well as Goa in search of a picnic spot and local liquor on weekends to revel in the rains, the unique habitats of the picturesque village of Surla are deteriorating at a fast pace. In fact some of the damage done is irreversible as far as niche habitats are concerned and even in the darkness of the night we see areas where visitors have lit fires and in the process burnt trees and undergrowth, littered in small caves and under large tree canopies and left their marks on rock faces and streams. It is regretful that we do not realize the importance of specialized habitats like these and conserve them for posterity!
Yet all is not lost. With help from the Vivekanand Environment Awareness brigade, local youth are creating awareness in a small way. The Goa Forest Department too seems to be helping this initiative and I hope this brings about a change before it is too late.
And this is true for every wilderness area in the state. As responsible citizens we all need to understand that visiting any forests whether for adventure or study or just fun, is acceptable only when minimal impact is done to the area and this is a social responsibility of us all. The sooner we realize this the better this would be for us all as well as for our wild habitats that span across the state.
As we head back, crossing gushing streams and peeping inside a cave, a sambhar calls in the valley below even as a combination of mist and fog assault our vision in a patch of thick undergrowth of mixed moist deciduous forest. It is 1.35 in the night. With each passing second we are convinced that this is a special place and needs to be conserved. With a commitment to return once again and to spread awareness about Surla’s forests, we trudge along the offbeat path and into the village where an anxious Kishore transports us back to civilization once again.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Vanamahotsav week program at Earthworm.

Plants play an important role not only in our ecosystem, but also in our daily lives. It is commonly understood that plants provide of oxygen, food to all life forms, and absorb pollutants. Little however is known about the ecological importance of indigenous species and the benefits of planting them not only to people but also to our local fauna. Planting exotic species in many urban as well as forest habitats in the state has resulted in alteration of habitats and loss of primary green cover.
On July the 5th, we welcome all nature lovers, tree huggers and green thinkers to our burrow at Green valley for a talk by Shri Rajendra Kerkar on ‘Indigenous Plants and Trees- their cultural and ecological significance’.
Shri Rajendra Kerkar, environmentalist and historian has written extensively on the role of plants and trees in our culture and ecology and has advocated plantation of local species across the state for over a decade. We at Earthworm want to carry this thought forward by organizing a talk of his knowledge and experiences on the subject.
The talk cum power point presentation is arranged at 5.00 pm -7.00pm at Earthworm, Green Valley, Alto Porvorim Goa and a limited number of indigenous plant saplings will be for sale.
For details contact- earthwormgoa@gmail.com or call on 083224107871.

Monday, June 29, 2009

An uncommon species of snake documented in Chorla Ghats area.



The Chorla Ghats area of the Mhadei Bio region has yielded an addition to the number of ‘Wolf snake’ species found in this region with the documentation of an uncommon species by name of ‘Barred Wolf Snake’ (Lycodon striatus).
A slender bodied snake with a flattened head and a glossy black back inter spread with a series of white bars across its body, which diminishes towards the tail. This species has interesting faint yellow colored mid spots that resemble the shape of diamonds when observed from close and are a key to its field identification along with the characteristic white lip scales that this species possess!
The Barred wolf snake is a shy nocturnal non venomous species of wolf snake with a very mild temperament and is known to hide its head under its own coils when provoked or disturbed, thereby turning itself into a peculiar ball of coils!
Growing up to a length of 43 cms maximum this species is known to display parental care of its eggs and its clutches include anything from 2-4 eggs which are laid in July and August. It is known to feed on geckos and skinks and
Known to inhabit semi dry and fringe forest areas, the Barred Wolf snake has been reported in Goa earlier from the Mollem National Park by the then RFO Mr. Prakash Salelkar a few years ago. This specimen however was recorded from a grass patch near a human settlement in the Chorla Ghats area and was observed to be foraging in search of prey in the night.
Though known to be common in the country, there have been very few records of this species in this region. The documentation of this species in the Chorla Ghats makes the number of wolf snake species found in this region to three, which includes the Common Wolf snake, the Travancore Wolf snake and the Barred Wolf snake. The Chorla Ghats area in particular and the Mhadei Bio Region in general is being increasingly recognized by wildlife researchers as a hotspot for lesser known biodiversity and the documentation of this species has reconfirmed the need to conserve the niche habitats of this region.
Documented at a height of 400 meters above sea level by Nirmal Kulkarni, a herpetologist working in the area under the aegis of the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyaan, the ‘Barred Wolf Snake’ and many other reptilian wonders await appreciation and protection in this region that is threatened by the Mhadei Diversion Project which aims to irreversibly alter large tracts of rich Western Ghats habitats and threaten the very existence of many lesser known species in the process!

Frogs in Goa: Frequently Asked Questions

Are frog populations in Goa really on the decline?
Yes they are. Frog populations can be assumed to be declining in Goa, just as it they are in the rest of the world. Globally, frog species are disappearing at an increasingly rapid rate, faster than they have ever done in the past 65 million years.
In India, studies in 1999 and 2002 have been conducted by amphibian specialists in coordination with International agencies like the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Moreover basic surveys and compilation of checklists on different frog species have also been carried out by researchers at the Goa University’s Department of Zoology, the Goa Forest Department in conjunction with local individual herpetologists that indicate their depleting numbers.
There is however, a serious need for long term monitoring of Goan frog populations existing in Goa.

What are the reasons for this decline?
There are a number of threats to the existence of frog species, however in Goa the chief threats are:
Poaching and consumption of frogs without allowing them to breed. At the onset of the monsoons frogs end their aestivation and come out to breed. Selective poaching of the mature bigger adult frogs before the frog can breed, will defiantly lead to a catastrophic decline, drastically reducing the number for a future frog population.
The toxic effects of use chemical fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture. Flooded paddy fields are ideal habitat for frogs. Frogs absorb water through their skin, and thus are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of residual chemicals that concentrate in ponds and low lying fields.
Habitat destruction. Rampant filling of fields and clearing of forest cover, besides encroachment on forests by human activities such as mining, construction, etc have possibly caused entire resident populations to dramatically decline within a short period.
Human interference in ecological balance. A significant global trend that is threatening frog populations as a whole worldwide include climate change, global warming, introduction of invasive species and the transfer of disease from farmed to wild frog populations.

Are some species more vulnerable than others?
Yes. In Goa, the two largest species; the Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus) and the Jerdon’s Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus crassus), are selectively poached for their large fleshy legs, the most prized anatomy of the frog. The Indian Pond Frog, Grass Frog and the Common Indian Toad are also occasionally poached.
An insatiable demand at restaurants for illegal frog meat has ensured a lucrative return to the poacher for a pair of frog legs.
Noticing the dramatic decrease in numbers of these two species; the Indian Bullfrog and the Jerdon’s Bullfrog, are now listed as threatened species that require protection against hunting or harvesting in the Schedule-I List of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 set up by the Government of India, as well the IUCN Red List recognized internationally.

What is the law?
The Government of India in 1985 declared a blanket ban on the catching and the killing of frogs under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. This implies that any individual or restaurant detected to be catching, killing, selling, serving or even eating frog meat violates the provisions of the Act. This would attract stringent punishment with a fine of Rs 25,000 and/or imprisonment upto 3 years. In 2008, 10 persons were detained and fined under this act. Repeated offenders can get even more stringent punishment by possibly revoking their commercial licenses.

Ok, but why do I have to stop eating frog? How will it affect me?
A lot more than you realize…
Eating frog meat can jeopardize human health to the toxic chemicals absorbed by frogs from the environment. Due to the massive toxic pesticide residues that accumulate in the fat deposits of frog meat, consumption of frogs can trigger paralytic strokes, cancer, kidney failures and other deformities. Frog meat is contraband and usually processed in unsanitary conditions, with no regulation what so ever.
Frogs are the pulse of Goa’s environment, a very unsung yet crucial component of the ecosystem bridging a vital link as predator and prey in the food chain. Their impending extinction will have a ripple effect on the ecosystem, which we have not yet fully foreseen, by throwing a delicate ecological balance out of gear.
Frogs and tadpoles are voracious eaters, and consume millions of mosquitoes and mosquito larvae every year. One of the suspected reasons for the recent increase in recorded cases of malaria and other vector borne diseases in Goa, can be attributed to the decline in the numbers of frogs.
In Goan mythology frogs are believed to bring prosperity and good rainfall.

How can I help to save our frogs?
Firstly, discourage others, if not yourself from consuming frog meat. If there is no demand for frog legs, frog-poachers simply won’t catch them. Secondly, if you come across people poaching frogs or restaurants serving frog meat, report it to the police (100/108) or any of these Forest Department official’s, preferably at the location closest to you –

NORTH GOA – 2228 772
9422 437 137 (DCF North Goa M K Shambhu)
9822 587 607 (ACF Maupsa Anil Shetgaokar)
2374 406 (FTS Valpoi)
9423 316 280, 2220736 (RFO Campal Amar Heblekar)

EAST GOA – 2312 095
9423 314 824, 2935800 (RFO Bondla Deepak Betqikar)
9423 055 919, 2612211 (RFO Mollem S. Gawas)

SOUTH GOA – 2750 246
9422 437 037 (DCF South Goa M K Bidi)
9822 157 139, 2965601 (RFO Cotigao Paresh Parab)

ALL GOA
9422 439 953 (CCF Dr. Sashi Kumar)
9423 889 890 (DCF Panjim Devendra Dalai)
9422 437 333 (CCF Richard D'Souza)
9422 388 188 (ACF Dr. Francis Coelho)
9422 437 237 (CF Yogesh)


After reporting to the authorities, it would be appreciated if you can contact a WildGoa volunteers at NORTH GOA: 9011-051-950 (Luis Dias) or 9822-522-119 (Arati Das) and SOUTH GOA: 9823-171-312 (Sandeep Azrenkar) or 9890-936-828 (Clinton Vaz) who will record and follow up your complaint with the Forest Officials.

About this Campaign
Save the Frog Campaign 2009 is coordinated by WildGoa, a Goa related network of Wildlife enthusiasts and NGOs. Volunteers have put in time and effort to create informative and educative content which is then distributed through local networks, press, radio and local television. This awareness and enforcement campaign has been on for the last 4 consecutive years and is actively supported by the Goa Forest Department a number of local as well as International organizations including Amphibian Ark, SAVE THE FROGS!, Botanical Society of Goa, Organic Farming Association of India, GOACAN, Earthworm, Green Essentials, WWF-Goa, Nisarga Nature Club, Vivekananda Environmental Awareness Brigade, & Mitra. For more information do visit www.savegoafrogs.org or email info@safegoafrogs.org To contact us, you may call any of the WildGoa volunteers mentioned above.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Big Goenkar Awards distributed

Rajendra Kerkar is Big Goenkar 2009: Environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar, who is vying to save the Mhadei river and to have tiger corridor in Goa, has won the Gera Big Goenkar Award 2009, for his work towards environment. In the business category Blaise Costabir received the award for initiating router-modelling business in Goa. The Gera Concerned Citizen away was bagged by Prajal Sakardande for his contribution in the field of history and also for voicing out concerns of Goa. Ecologist and wild life photographer, Nirmal Kulkarni, for is work towards discovering the unknown wild side of Goa and protecting it, won the Big Green Champion Award. Student Natalie D’Silva won the Gera Big Innovation Award for discovering bacteria that can generate electricity

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Green Valley Clean up








After a very interesting and informative talk on Garbage management by the Waste
Consultant, Clinton Vaz, organized at Earthworm, your neighborhood ecostore, on 21st
May at 7: 00 p.m., the actual cleanup was undertaken by a small but enthusiastic group on Sunday 24th May.

The Group comprising of residents and non residents of Green Valley met at 8: a.m., put
on their yellow cleanup gloves, picked up cartons and sacks to collect garbage in and set
off to start collection.
The areas/street outside Rochelle’s home were tackled by Rochelle, Rashmi and Rhea;
the areas around Bhobhe Residency was covered by Kenneth and young Christopher (who did a fantastic job of picking and carrying heavily laden carton of junk) and Amit; The
Vergese kids, Ethan and Amanda (despite their late arrival the night before from their
holiday, jumped in to help) along with Devdatta and Madhura took on the far end of
Green Valley.
Roopa cleaned up around Earthworm area and Nirmal helped some and then
photographed, delegated and strolled everywhere surveying the area and preparing the
next plan of action! Ahmed the garbage contractor of Panaji municipality and his helper
came from Panaji to go into the deeper parts to collect garbage, segregated it and
packed off the garbage collected.

We found
Loads of plastic…unlike popular notion that ‘someone from outside dumps the stuff’ we realized that most of the garbage came from the residents itself.
Thermacole, plastic bags, plastic bottles were found and surprisingly each group found loads of dumped broken/unbroken glass bottles.
Loads of Garbage was seen dumped at the corners of roads.. under the bridge was littered so heavily and so deep that it would take a whole 2 weekends to make it look even a bit more presentable.
MOSTLY, We all realized that the TWO HOURS WERE NOT SUFFICIENT to clean up Green Valley. We decided that a task well started should not be left half done!
So……We would like to continue our clean up for the next 3 consecutive Sundays too. And then on a monthly basis. The Timings remain the same 8:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. Please do join in … More hands make clean work.

Please do not forget to thank Kenneth, Rochelle, the Vergese kids and Christopher for giving you a cleaner surrounding!! Thanks to Rhea, Devdatta, Madhura, Amit, and Rashmi who do not live in Green Valley but have helped clean it up for us.

How you can contribute to Keeping Your Valley Clean

Do not litter around your residential area (in particular) and Green Valley(in general) and please do not be passive if you see anybody else littering and request them to pick up their garbage.

Pick up any garbage you see lying around whist going for walks. Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Worst still, do not tolerate or get used to seeing it around you. ( you can come and pick up a set of gloves from earthworm for this exercise)

Separate your wet (biodegradable) waste from your dry waste (non biodegradable) that is paper, plastic, thermacole, tetra pack, glass. All these can be separated AT SOURCE that is in your home right at the time of discarding itself. The good news is even the smallest bit of plastic, paper etc. can be sent for recycling if put away neatly.

Do not burn your waste (biodegradable or non biodegradable) especially plastics as they release toxins which we all inhale.

Compost your biodegradable waste. There are many ways of doing this. You can visit Earthworm for solutions/suggestions for composting.

Sensitize your hired help not to throw your household garbage in the valley. Tell them about the Green Valley Residents Cleanup.

To know how to send your dry waste for recycling please call earthworm, we can give you telephone numbers of waste collectors to come and collect your separated dry garbage from your home on a weekly/monthly basis.

Join us in our clean up whenever you can. It keeps the spirits up and keeps all of us motivated, especially the kids who have jumped to the cause.

Please contact us at Earthworm 9766358343/ 2410871 to find ways to contribute to Keeping Green Valley clean.
Or email us earthwormgoa@gmail.com
ecostore
264/79 (2) 1st Floor, Green Valley, Alto Porvorim, Bardez, Goa- 403521

Amphibians Road Kills poster


Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Russell’s Viper-a awe inspiring species

It is 11.30 in the night and I am standing against a mud wall of a small warm home in the village of Aldona. With a headlight on my forehead and a thumping heartbeat, I tune in to the environs. I must admit that it is very eerie to hear a pressure cooker whistle like sound at this hour, especially from under a wooden bed where stacks of Rice bags and large aluminum utensils seem to share space with one of the most commonly feared and revered of Indian reptiles that has crawled our world. I stoop down to and focus my headlight in the direction of the sound to reveal a breathtaking coiled wonder, one that sends a shiver of excitement down my spine- as here I am face to face with the Russell’s Viper (Daboia russellii), and a huge specimen at that.
Locally known as Kusdo or Ghonas, this large thick set ground dwelling viper is crepuscular in nature-i.e. active at dawn and dusk and is found near human habitation very often due to its fondness for rodents and their like. Besides which it has been known to feed on birds, lizards, frogs and even crabs on some occasions. A sluggish slow snake, capable of a fast strike when disturbed or threatened, the coloration of a Russell’s Viper varies from deep brown to brownish yellow with a set of three dark brown rows of spots that are lined with white edges and meet to form what is commonly known as ‘chain markings’, a sign that helps laypersons stay away from this snake when encountered in the neighborhood! The head is a triangular and broader than the neck, a sign of this species belonging to the Viper family while the tail is short and abrupt! While the skin is rough and the scales are strongly keeled, it is still in demand as the color patterns on the skin make it a target for skin dealers to be used for illegally manufacturing purses and shoes, a practice that has now ceased thanks to the inclusion of this species as a Scheduled species. But despite this, at a local level, Russell’s vipers are often killed as they are feared to cause death instantly according to the locals.
The individual I rescued from under the bed at Aldona measured a little less than a meter, and was definitely a female ( scalation proved that), and while the largest record for Goa is a 1.5 meter female, male Russell’s Vipers grow up to a meter in length.
Russell’s vipers are also unique in nature as they are viviparous which means they give birth to live young ones numbers ranging from anything between 8 to 60 individuals during the months of March- July.
Capable of fast strikes as mentioned earlier, the Russell’s vipers prefer to forewarn intruders and predators with their loud hissing and strike only as a last resort. The venom is a mixture of haemotoxic as well as neurotoxic venom and affects the blood vessels and to an extent the central nervous system, causing muscle pain and stiffness coupled with bleeding from the area of the bite. And while these are symptoms that appear for a Russell’s viper bite, the fact remains that the bite is cent percent curable with the administration of Anti venom serum provided it is treated with utmost urgency. Considered to be part of the Big 4- i.e. the 4 venomous common snakes of India, the Russell’s viper venom is also used in medical research today.
It is here that I would also like to mention that one of the beacons of Indian Snake venom and allied research, Dr. R C. Kankonkar passed away recently and was cremated at Sada in Vasco. His work on the venom and its local necrotizing of the Russell’s viper and the efficacy of the Haffkine Institute Poly venom on Indian snakes is considered as a path breaking scientific work for the country as far as modern day toxicology is concerned. I offer my silent prayers to this great scientist and guide for our generation and hope to receive his blessings through his pioneering work for the reptiles of our land as well as the human population that lives in harmony with them.
I leave the small Aldona home by expressing my gratitude to its residents for not having killed the snake and hope that this species will continue to help us keep the rodent population in check thereby rendering a yeoman service to the urban ecosystem at large.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Amphibians in decline- the national and state scenario.

The Save our Frogs Campaign in Goa is gathering momentum with support from all quarters and while nature lovers ecologists and concerned citizens are joining hands with the Goa Forest Department to create awareness and conserve Indian Bull frogs in particular and all other frog species in general.
It is however important to look at the national scenario too so that we realize the seriousness of the issues at hand concerning Amphibian diversity and about the declining amphibian populations that are now in dire straits.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened species, at least 1,856 amphibian species are threatened with extinction, representing 32 percent of all known species worldwide

Scientists fear that more than 50 amphibian species worldwide have already become extinct over the last 15 years alone, which includes over 18 species from South Asia
alone. This high rate of decline of amphibian species across the world provides an indicator for the health of natural ecosystems in all regions and is a cause of concern.

Currently there are approx 427 species that are considered Critically Endangered (CR), 761 are Endangered (EN), and 668 species are Vulnerable (VU) worldwide. In India an Assessment of Amphibians under the Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (CAMP) workshop conducted by Biodiversity Conservation Prioritization Project, India has listed 32 species as Critically Endangered, 71 species as Endangered, 52 species as Vulnerable and 9 species as Near Threatened species. Over 63 species were listed as Data deficient as no research data was available on them.

While 63 percent of Indian amphibians are endemic to India, i.e. found only in the country 37 percent are considered non-endemics and are found across the world besides the country. The Western Ghats is considered as one of the richest areas of endemism as far as amphibian diversity is concerned followed by North East India and Sri Lanka. Goa’s forests are part of the Western Ghats landscape and the need of the hour is to conserve and protect these forests for amphibian conservation.

Threats for amphibian species in India include habitat destruction, fragmentation, and agricultural practices like shifting cultivation, pollution, pesticides and human consumption for meat. The laws that protect amphibian populations include the Wildlife Protection Act, the Biodiversity Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act besides others.

The Jerdon’s Bullfrog, poached for its meat in Goa is listed as Near Threatened while the Indian Bull frog, another victim of large-scale hunting is listed as Vulnerable. The Malabar Gliding Frog, an endemic species of South Asia found in Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mollem National Park is listed as a Near Threatened species. Amongst other species found in Goa the Beddome’s Leaping frog is listed as Vulnerable while the Jerdon’s Narrow mouthed frog is listed as Near Threatened on a global scale.

The need to intensify policing as well as create awareness amongst the masses of the state as well as national scenario with regards to declining amphibian populations is the need of the hour. It is now a known fact that these lesser known life forms play an important role in every ecosystem and are key indicators of monsoonal patterns, climate change and habitat quality besides a host of other dynamics that influence our environment. It is important that we thus aware that our survival depends on their survival and this is the only way forward.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

FROG HUNTING IS BANNED




HUNTING,CAPTURING AND KILLING OF ANY FROG SPECIES IS BANNED IN THE STATE OF GOA AND THE COUNTRY UNER THE WILDLIFE PROTECTION ACT OF 1972.


SIMILARLY SERVING OF FROG MEAT IN RESTAURANTS AS WELL AS AS IN OTHER PUBLIC OR PRIVATE ESTABLISHMENTS IS ILLEGAL AND CAN ATTRACT A FINE AND IMPRISONMENT AS WELL.

The International Day of the Frog celebrated at ‘Earthworm’



The International Day of the Frog was celebrated at ‘Earthworm’ on the 28th of April as a part of the ‘Save our Frogs’ campaign 09. A Photo exhibition of based on the theme ‘ Amphibians of Goa’ was organized in the display area of Earthworm from 10.00 am to 9.00 pm to create awareness of the diversity of amphibian species that have been documented in the state of Goa so far. A section of exhibition space was also dedicated to visitor’s views and suggestions on the ‘Save Our Frogs’ campaign and this elicited a good response from the guests.
In the evening, a Power Point presentation cum talk was delivered by Nirmal Kulkarni on the topic ‘Amphibian Diversity of Goa’. He highlighted the key species that were threatened due to illegal hunting and trade as well due to loss of habitat especially in the state of Goa. The highly interactive 2-hour session saw an attendance of students, wildlife enthusiasts and media persons who also participated various issues related to amphibian conservation and biology.
The refreshment break saw visitors speak intensely about various issues including garbage management, habitat destruction in the Pilerne lake area and the role of the Forest Dept in the ‘Save our Frogs’ campaign. The need to come up with a planned campaign with the support of the media and official agencies was unanimously agreed amidst sips of natural Kokum juice and cake.
A Quiz on Amphibians was later conducted by Rajiv and Tallulah D’silva and received an overwhelming response from the guests. The informal event saw participants learn many previously unknown facts about frogs and toads in general.
Earthworm plans to continue the ‘ Save our Frog’ campaign along with other like-minded groups and individuals in the state and hopes to make a difference by doing so. We also plan to organize various small events and talks before the monsoons to strengthen the ‘Save our Frogs’ campaign.
Believing in the ripple effect, Earthworm also hopes that more groups and organizations across the state organize unique events to create awareness of this important issue and help stabilize amphibian populations across the state of Goa.
For more information contact Earthworm at- earthwormgoa@gmail.com

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earthworm is celebrating the international ‘Save Our Frogs Day’ on the 28th April at our store...in Porvorim.

Earthworm is celebrating the international ‘Save Our Frogs Day’ on the 28th April at our store...in Porvorim.
A frog overdose has been planned and it goes like this.

Exhibition on Frogs of Goa- Open from 10 am to 8pm.
The floor is also open during the same time for writing your own personal slogan for the ‘save the bull frog campaign’ . The best slogan gets to kiss the frog.


At 5:30 p.m., all are invited to a Power Point Presentation on the Amphibian Diversity of Goa given by Nirmal Kulkarni. This will be followed by a Quizzing session by Rajiv D'silva.. We will conclude by discussion and planning the way ahead for the campaign.

Kids are invited too as we have something planned for them as well.!!

We would love all come and celebrate frogs!! Please do confirm participation especially if you have kids.
You can email us at earthwormgoa@gmail.com, or call us on
2410871, 9326107079, 9766358343.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Earthworm opens...







Earthworm, an eco store conceptualized and created by two Goan entrepreneurs who believe in bridging the gap between thinking and living a sustainable lifestyle and promoting nature friendly ways for a greener environment opens on the 18th of April onwards from 10.00 am to 8.00 pm at Green Valley Porvorim Goa.

Roopa Bandekar, a sensitive nature lover, traveler and dog lover beyond compare, has spent time as a nature educator, environment research associate and ad person of yesteryears is one half of Earthworm, while Nirmal Kulkarni, widely known in wildlife circles as an ecologist is also a nature photographer and Applied artist and is the other half of the first of its kind store in Goa.
Together, they have conceptualized and started Earthworm, a green store that aims to provide environment friendly products and promote local crafts under one roof. The store also envisions itself spreading awareness on sustainable living practices in day to day living, besides bringing forth pertinent environmental concerns and the importance of sound conservation practices to general public through various activities and events.

Earthworm derives its name from the humble earthworm that we all know…a living being that lives beneath the soil and toils tirelessly for the earth’s benefit by churning good soil to great soil!
Here, at Earthworm, the concepts are similar…to start a silent and focused trend of helping consumers choose from a range of low impact, organic, recycled products that cause minimal impacts on our environs as well as help the local communities or individuals directly.

With an ambitious list of products up their sleeves, the duo has established a network of suppliers in self help groups products, local community craftsmen, grassroots innovators, hobbyists that create exclusive products, cottage industries, natural products, water and energy conservation products, sustainable foods, organic clothing, furniture, books, toys, films, basically everything underlining the theme sustainability for the love of our planet.

Earthworm does not limit itself to being only a store, it envisions itself to be a space for opinions, discussions, a knowledge hub with a small library of reference books on nature, and a recycling station as a part of its store space too.

Like our hero the earthworm, this is our small endeavor towards creating better soil for future generations.
For details contact- Ph- 08322410871 or email- earthwormgoa@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Manifesto on Western Ghats

A citizen’s manifesto on Western Ghats is released by the Save Western Ghat Campaign. Considering the importance of this mountain region as a “gateway to monsoons and hotspot of biodiversity” it gives an overall strategy to address the burning issues of the region. They are:
· Protect the natural forests to maintain the water security of south India, especially the Rivers like Cavery, Tungabhadra and Krishna. This will help in attaining the power security for the region to generate more hydro power.
· Regenerate the forests by indigenous species rather than exotic species.
· Forest dwellers should not be resettled for establishing National Park, Forest Right Act and community right to collect forest produce should be given to local people.
· Dam building across the Rivers in Western Ghats needs to be stopped and a review of existing dams need to be done at the earliest.
· National Rural Employment Guarantee Act should be implemented specifically for ecological rehabilitation in Western Ghats.
· Western Ghats needs to be declared as GM free zone. As it is on the centers of biodiversity for numerous plants, agricultural crops, and wild products that provide food security, genetic manipulation will pollute the biodiversity hotspot threatening the food security.
· A series of mega thermal power plants are being established in Konkan and west coast. This will lead to increased climate change causing changes in micro climate affecting the cultivation of famous “Alphosno” mangoes.

There are 32 parliamentary constituencies coming under Wesern Ghats region from Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The activists of Save Western Ghats will campaign in these constituencies impressing upon major political parties as well as candidates to work towards meeting these demands.

The activists will also meet the prospective candidates and get the letter singed form them assuring their support to work towards holistic policies to conserve the Western Ghats and to give voice to the voiceless Sahyadri Mountains. Once elected they would help to form a lobbying group called MPs Forum for Western Ghats in Lok Sabha and for reforming the polices that impact the region.

This is the first time a people’s manifesto is being issued on ecologically important mountain range like Westen Ghats. This was prepared after consulting 85 organisations, and 8000 people from five states. We hope to get support form all the major political parties contesting from this region.

Convener, Save Western Ghats Campaign
Press Release issued on behalf of Save Western Ghat Camaign
April, 2009, Bangalore

Sunday, April 5, 2009

MoEF approves Mining in areas near Mollem NP

PANAJI: Despite a Supreme Court ban and a state government task forcerecommendation, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest has approved mining leases within a one-km range of Bhagwan Mahavir wildlifesanctuary at Molem based on applications filed by three miningcompanies. The task force had recommended a one-km safety zone aroundnational parks and sanctuaries as eco-sensitive zones -1.The environment ministry cleared the proposals based on thecontentions of the chief wildlife warden (chief conservator offorests), Goa that these were old leases of Portuguese period, andalso that the lease operators had ensured enough safeguards to preventadverse impacts on environment in the area.The three firms, Hede Groups, Achuta V S Velingkar and V M Salgaocarand Brother Pvt Ltd had sought to expand within the one-km zone of thewildlife sanctuary, which forms part of a mega biodiversity hot-spotof the country. The lease sought to be operated by Hede is barely 650metres from the limits of the Molem national park and requires thefelling of 2,128 trees in nine hectares of land. In the case ofVelingkar, the lease is located within 160-400 metres from thesanctuary limits while the third one is just 550 metres from thesanctuary, seeking to mine in 8.627 hectares of area in addition to49.735 already mined.The Supreme Court had earlier referred the matter to the NationalBoard for Wildlife (NBWL), but its non-official members had opposedthe proposals in view of the apex court ruling which banned mining inprotected areas. The twin sanctuaries in Molem form part of themajestic Sahyadri range of hills and are endangered bio diversityhot-spots with rare species of flora and fauna.The Task Force had also recommended that the one-km zone (marked ondraft RP 2021) be treated as ESZ-1, taking note that a number of minesare located close to such zones. The final report on forests submittedby the state level expert committee had also revealed that a total of1110.81 hectares of forest land has been diverted for mining purposeand 547 hectares more as a buffer for mining activity.The Task Force had recommended that all mines operating in ESZ -1 or 2be mandatorily phased out within five years.Meanwhile, Claude Alvares of Goa Foundation said the decisions wouldbe challenged before the apex court.http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Goa/Nod-to-mining-leases-despite-apex-court-ban/articleshow/4352361.cms

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A conscious filled World Forestry Day.


here's wishing one and all a conscious filled World Forestry day and hoping all of us play our roles to conserve the World's last remaining forest landscapes and habitats and create awareness about the same amongst our fellow beings.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Parag at Lila's


Lila's, Apoorva Kulkarni's brainchild and a haven for thoughts, ideas and exchanges on topics ranging from art to women's issues and flim reviews has opened again, this time at 'Sunaparanta', a space dedicated to nurturing Art and artists at Altinho.
This time around it is Parag Rangnekar, friend and fellow wildlifer on the 18th of March with his favorite and well studied subject-the Butterflies of Goa and it will surely be a talk worth attending on a Wednesday evening at 6.00 pm. Hope to see all nature lovers there!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Mhadei Conservation Facility

The Mhadei Conservation Facility is being established to provide a platform for wildlife researchers to document and study the biodiversity of the Mhadei Bio region that encompasses the states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra. The region has been acknowledged as a Mega Biodiversity Hotspot as it is a part of the Western Ghats Range and has also been recognized as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International. The region is a recognized Tiger Conservation Unit (Mark II) and is also known for the discovery of the Mhadei Caecilian, a legless amphibian that is new to science.
The first of its kind in this region, the Mhadei Conservation Facility aims to fill the lacuna of wildlife research on lesser known species of this region including lesser known mammals, reptiles and amphibians and medicinal plant species amongst others. It seeks to document people’s knowledge of the biodiversity, build bridges between modern day scientific techniques and traditional knowledge and bring about an awareness of the Mhadei region and its unique biodiversity.
With just ove two months of completion time left for this dream to come true, the progress of the work is on schedule and with great enthusiasm and vigor, our efforts to welcome the Rain Gods from this facility will surely be successful.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Asiatic jackals- endangered mammals of our countryside.

Asiatic jackals- endangered mammals of our countryside.
It was a concerned comment by a fellow wildlife enthusiast that made me think about the Asiatic jackal, or ‘Kolho’ as it is locally known and every time I pondered about the same I grew restless and impatient as the feverish attempts to locate and observe this once common mammal yielded zero results all across the Goan countryside.
As the senior generation of Goans will agree and fondly remember, the Asiatic jackal was once an important feature of the Goan village landscape, along with peafowl, pariah kites and langurs and was the subject of tales, superstitions and even ridicule at times of local gatherings. The village of Saligao, amongst others I remember used to be known as the village of Jackals and Foxes (and as a school kid many of my classmates from Saligao used to scoff at the mention of the same).
The Asiatic jackal also known as the Golden jackal (Canis aureus), is a medium sized Canid and is considered by researchers as the most typical example of the Genus Canis as far as science is concerned. With a luxuriant coat whose color varies from golden brown to ashy grey and beyond, this mammal exhibits change in coat coloration on a seasonal basis. The underbelly is cream in color and the tail is busy with a visible tan to the characteristic black tip. Being generalists, they are used to adapting to a certain level and feed on rodents and birds, besides being scavengers as they devour left over carcasses both of domestic and wild mammals and birds. Occasionally, Asiatic jackals will also attack poultry and goats, and this leads to Man-aminal conflict in many areas of the country.
But in Goa, the past 2 decades saw the systematic decline of this species due to the rapid urbanization of our villages and the forest habitats that surround them. The alteration of vast tracts of forest lands that connected one village to another are now dotted with high rises and plateaus have been taken over for industrial and housing activity at a pace which is eerie to say the least. Besides which, the use of chemical pesticides have made their way into the prey of these mammals, due to which many local populations, I believe have vanished without a trace, mostly due to poisoning of rodents that have been consumed by Asiatic jackals and a host of other small mammals.
And then there is the question of scarcity natural dens for these mammals, as favored spots including hillsides and stream embankments, natural caves, etc were either frequented with human presence or modified for the purpose of human activity including tourism, irrigation and of course mining activity all of which have slowly but surely taken a toll on the local population of this non charismatic small mammal as some may like to put it.
Trapping and poaching by traveling communities of Pardhis, a hunter tribe has been responsible in circulating a few skins and tail parts of this mammal and traditional medicine use body parts too.
And while this aspect is of prime concern, the fact that the Asiatic jackal is now being targeted by plantation crop owners and farm owners is a growing form of apprehension for ecologists like me as the linkages between crop raiding and loss of habitat and prey are not being understood and hence result in conflict situations across the state.
My last sightings of an Asiatic jackal was 2 years ago in the abandoned garbage dump of Housing Board Colony at Mapusa., and the lone individual was foraging on some dead matter in the wee hours of dawn, and provided me a fleeting glimpse of this long forgotten mammal central to the village wildlife list not many years ago! Another road kill at Mulgao, Bicholim, and two others on separate occasions at Loutolim still confirmed that some individuals were holding on…but an overall study if conducted, or even an estimate will surely present a gloomy picture!
It is thus the need of the hour to comprehend the current losses as far as urban wildlife like Asiatic jackals, Black Faced langurs, White bellied sea eagles and other fauna are concerned and take steps towards their effective conservation, especially in areas where small populations are holding on.
The Forest Department now needs to get their act together, out of protected areas as our urban wildlife is in fact at the brink of systematic annihilation and the graph of man-nature conflicts is on the rise every single day, all across the state.
The fact that we as a people need to understand first that our natural resources including flora and fauna are vital to our local ecosystem is an urgent issue that needs to be tackled at all levels. And while I look forward to hearing some gleam of good news for the Asiatic jackal in the state, I ponder with a shadow of doubt, and pray hoping that it is not too late…

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Eco Friendly Holi colors to be promoted in Goa



With eco friendliness being the new age mantra of the youth as well as the alternative way of life for the conscious consumers of today, a move to promote eco friendly Holi colors in the state of Goa is welcomed by all.
The Rang Dulaar natural Holi colors were born out of a campaign by Kalpavriksh Pune to raise awareness and provide an alternative to the toxic colors used during the Rangapanchami or Holi festival celebrated across the country.
Made from a base of turmeric and devoid of any toxic chemicals, these colors are cent percent non-polluting and wash off easily. Available in five colors, Red, Yellow, Orange, Green and Black, these eco colors are soft on the skin and possess an aroma of turmeric too.
They are made by a group of women farmers that work with the Malnad Seed Collective in Karnataka and are then packaged by women prisoners of the Yerawada Central Prison, Pune. Thus the colors help both groups to earn a supplemental income and also help spread the message of an eco friendly and toxic free Holi.
Marketed throughout the country by eCoexist, an enterprise whose objective to encourage green initiatives in Indian festivals, the colors are being promoted in Goa by Earthworm, a new eco store that aims to promote green consumerism in the state.
The introduction of Rang Dulaar colors have been welcomed by all as it would cause minimal impact on the users as well as the immediate environment as they are totally made from natural material and thus are soil and plant friendly unlike the commercial Holi colors available in the market.
The Rang Dulaar Natural Holi colors are available on prior orders in packs of 250 gms and 500 gms.
For more details contact- Earthworm- 08322410871/09326107079 or email at earthwormgoa@gmail.com
In search of the Tiger….
Is it a tiger, Sir was the question asked to me by a group of eager youth who had taken a grainy image of a pugmark print on their cell phone off the road near their village of Chorla. I strained my eyes to reconfirm what I already knew, and amidst a prolonged silence and a skipped heartbeat, admitted that this was indeed a tiger pugmark print. This was just a fortnight ago, after sightings of yet another female tiger with a cub were reported to Rajendra (Bhai) Kerkar and the talk of the Ghats was the frequent detection of pugmarks by cattle herders, dhangars and interested youth.
And then the buffalo kill happened- on the 4th Feb, a female buffalo belonging to Mr. Gharo Fale was brought down by a tiger in the area near the Dhangar vadda in the wee hours of the morning and dragged in the undergrowth. After having ascertained the act myself, I informed the Dy. Conservator, Wildlife who promptly dispatched a team of Wildlife officials to document the facts and study the same.
A small part of the carcass was eaten and Wildlife officials confirmed that the kill was done by a tiger as evidence by way bite marks at the neck, typical of a tiger kill were observed. While pugmarks were also found in the vicinity of the kill, it was seemingly not possible to take plaster casts due to the uneven terrain. Instead Glass tracings were taken and photographic documentation was carried out in a scientific manner by the Range Forest Officer, Wildlife Campal.
The Chorla Ghats area in particular and the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary in general as always been the “Land of the Tiger” and many tales abound of the presence of this large cat in these biodiversity rich forests. With a peak Vagheri, named after the tiger and Vaghro Dev, a deity worshipped in praise of the Lord of Forest, there is no denial that this majestic cat has existed in these wild tracts for decades and the local communities are aware of its presence.
In the last few months however, these “tales” have had substantial evidences to prove that they are just not village tales. Secondary evidences like scats, pugmarks and kills have been observed right from Kankumbi, Chorla and Chiguli in Karnataka to Virdi in Maharashtra and Zambhlikade, Surla and Anjunem dam, Vagheri areas on the Goa Maharashtra border.
However our official Government machinery is still to determine whether these are transit tigers habitually crossing over from the Dandeli and adjoining forest areas or resident individuals which hold large territories that make sightings infrequent, thus considering them to be transits individuals or floaters as they are called.
While monitoring the movement of these individuals active in the Chorla Ghats area will help conclude this topic, the fact that the Mhadei region which encompasses the states of Goa Karnataka and Maharashtra is an important large cat corridor cannot be denied now.
The various medium and small dam projects planned in this region that envisage to submerge large tracts of prime tiger habitat need to be reconsidered and studied keeping this aspect in mind and the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyaan is seeking advice to approach the newly formed Tiger Conservation Authority on this front. The fact that the adjoining area of Anshi national park being included as a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger supports this reality and the collective efforts of Wildlife officials of all three states is vital if this tiger habitat is to be conserved. On a scientific front, the need to place camera traps to freeze images of these large cats is the best option to conduct long term studies and scat collection to determine age, sex and DNA sampling is the need of the hour. An exercise of joint monitoring with the help of locals, wildlife volunteers and wildlife officials is also vital as this will not only raise awareness amongst the communities in the region but also provide fundamental information of the movements and whereabouts of these large cats.
Ground reality is different- the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary still yearns to gets its due recognition from the State as well as the Central Government as a wildlife sanctuary as well as an important large mammal corridor and large cat habitat. The Karnataka Government is on its way to submerge huge tracts of forest land and divert waters of the Mahdei under it Mhadei Dam and diversion scheme and declaration of the proposed Bhimgad Wildlife sanctuary is still a far fetched dream. In Maharashtra, both private and reserved forest lands are being emptied due to monoculture plantation, poaching and encroachment. The future is bleak for “this land of the tiger” and there is ample possibility that the roar of this majestic cat might be silenced even before it is heard!
With a silent prayer, and a hope that the these large cats that have returned to their home in Goa’s Western Ghats will roam these wilds freely, I move ahead, again capturing another image of a pugmark near a water puddle as the sun sets and night takes over my home in the wilds…until next time. Keep the faith.