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
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.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nirmal Kulkarni sweeps both awards in Wildlife Week Photography competition.
Nirmal Kulkarni, a known ecologist and wildlife photographer has bagged the first place in both categories i.e. 1. Wildlife Photography competition for General Public and the Nature Photography Competition that was organized by the Wildlife wing of the Goa Forest Department on the occasion of Wildlife Week celebrations in the state.
The awards were presented by the Chief Minister of Goa Mr. Digambar Kamat in the presence of the Forest Minister Mr. Philip Neri Rodrigues , Mr. Rajeev Yaduvanshi Forest Secretary and the Chief Conservator of Forests, Mr. Shashi Kumar at the concluding function held at Ana Font Garden Margao.
Nirmal Kulkarni, besides being a trained ecologist and a herpetology expert is also an alumnus of the Goa College of Art having specialized in Applied Art and Advertising Photography before switching over to his passion-Wildlife photography.
He has to his credit various exhibitions on nature and Goan wildlife and has also participated at the national level with entries on Goa’s lesser known fauna. Nirmal’s Wildlife Photography portfolio spans over a decade of dedicated work in the Western Ghats of Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka besides North East India including Arunachal Pradesh and Assam and includes rare natural history images on reptiles, amphibians and insects. His images also feature in the Goa State official Calendar of 2009 and various other publications including Fish Curry and Rice, Best of Goa, Goa, Sweet land of Mine, etc.
Besides wildlife photography, Nirmal Kulkarni is also involved in field research on herpetofauna and has to his credit various research papers and notes in reputed journals.
Part of a research team that discovered that discovered two new species of caecilians, i.e. legless amphibians, the Goan caecilian and the Mhadei caecilian, his work also helped in reporting range extensions of many species of small mammals and reptiles from Goa’s Protected Areas including the Slender Loris, Stripe neck mongoose, Olive Forest Snake, etc.
His philosophy of popularizing and integrating field based grassroots basic research amongst the local youth to conserve wildlife habitats has helped create a network on young naturalists all across the state and the country.
A prolific writer on ecology and wildlife issues, Nirmal contributes articles and images to local and national newspapers and magazines and believes that creating awareness through communicative nature photographs is the need of the hour.
A member of the Goa State Wildlife Advisory Board and recipient of several awards including the State Nehru Yuva Kendra award, the ECHO Ecologist of the Year award and the Sarpamitra award by the Indian Herpetological Society for contribution to herpetology research and awareness, he is currently the Director, Ecology of Wildernest Nature resort and a member of the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyaan.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chorla Ghats- the new land of the tiger.
The Chorla Ghats area, a part of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in North Goa can now truly be christened as “the land of the tiger” as a confirmed kill of a female domestic buffalo by an adult male tiger has been reported from the region besides numerous sightings reported by locals, vehicle drivers and researchers.
Confirmation of the presence of a male tiger came to light after villagers from Chorla and surrounding areas reported sightings and images of pugmarks were being collected by members of the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyaan since Jan 2009 from various locations in the Chorla Ghats, in the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary area as well as the reserved forest area of adjoining Karnataka state.
On 4th Feb 2009, 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. Nirmal Kulkarni and his team documented the same and informed the Dy. Conservator, Wildlife who promptly dispatched a team to ascertain the facts.
Part of the carcass was eaten and Wildlife officials have 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. Pugmarks were also found in the vicinity of the kill and Glass tracings and photographic documentation was carried out of the same in a scientific manner by the Range Forest Officer, Wildlife Campal.
The presence of a large male in the area since last many months authenticates the repeated claims of researchers that the Mhadei region harbors resident tigers and not transit tigers like previously thought to be as the present individuals seen in the area have been active throughout the year. Transit tigers on the other hand visit the forests of Goa in the summer months of April and May from adjoining Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary and Anshi national park. Anshi has recently been declared as a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger.
Tiger sightings have been on the rise for a long time now and these have been reported to various agencies including the Goa and Karnataka Forest Departments as well as environmentalists like Mr. Rajendra Kerkar, Secretary of the Mhadei Bacaho Abhiyan, who has been relentlessly campaigning for better protection for this mega biodiversity region of the Mhadei valley.
While another female tigress with a cub has been reported from the area known as ‘Zambhlikade’ and if the lone tiger sightings from the Chigule area in Karnataka are to be added, brings the number of individuals to 3 adults and 1 cub, the highest density in this region from such a small area.
It is important now that the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary gets its due recognition from the State as well as the Central Government as an important large mammal corridor and large cat habitat. The Karnataka Government needs to reconsider its decision to submerge large tracts of prime tiger habitat by implementing the Mahdei diversion scheme and declare the proposed Bhimgad Wildlife sanctuary as a sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act.
While wildlife researchers and nature enthusiasts are upbeat with the sightings and vital secondary evidences obtained in the last two months, wildlife officials are monitoring the situation and collecting evidence of the movement of these individuals with the assistance of locals and wildlife researchers active in the area.
The Mhadei Bachao Abhiyaan plans to write to the Tiger Conservation Authority to bring to its notice the need to conserve the Mhadei region as a whole for the conservation of our national animal and its habitat.