Monday, July 30, 2012

Indian flapshell turtle- a locally threatened species

The Indian Flapshell turtle is a locally threatened species in Goa as it is in high illegal demand for meat. Local populations in some areas have been completely wiped off and there is a dire need to survey and protect existing strong holds of this silent fresh water turtle species that is crucial for any pond or stream ecosystem.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Devadatta naik at Pit viper expedition 2012

Devadatta naik explains use of GPS at the Pit Viper expedition 2012. The expedition is an annual event organized by Herpactive and aims at documentation and monitoring of crucial pit viper habitats in the Northern Western Ghats of India. 

View of Mollem National Park from Anmod Ghats

This is the view of the Mollem national park from Anmod Ghats. The Mollem national Park and Bhagvan Mahaveer Wildlife sanctuary in Goa are home to large cats like the tiger and the leopard, wild dogs and of course the Indian Guar, Goa's state mammal. The park also boasts of the famous Dudhsagar waterfalls that cascades into evergreen forests of this protected area of Goa. It is part of the Western Ghats landscape of India and is a recognized Mega Biodiversity hotspot.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pit Viper expedition 2012 team at Hypnale Research station

The Pit Viper Expedition 2012 team at Hypnale Research station Kuveshi Karnataka during a discussion on data sheets and how to document and compile data. The expedition covered the states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra part of the Northern Western Ghats of India.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A forest snail feeds on a leaf.

Documenting lesser known biodiversity is a challenging affair and yet exciting too. On one of my trails I observed this forest snail (species unconfirmed) feeding on a leaf. Lesser known biodiversity of the Western Ghats has not been studied and behavior and ecology aspects need more fieldworkers to contribute to the same.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nagpanchami and snake bite protocol.
The festival of Nagpanchami will be celebrated on the 23rd of July throughout the state with much reverence and worship.
And as someone who is perpetually in awe of snakes and anything related to their kind, I will join in with other snake devotees to celebrate the relationship of this captivating Indian symbol of nature worship-the Cobra with the Mother Earth.
Amidst offerings of fresh grass blades offered to the clay replica of a hooded cobra and relishing the customary ‘patolyo’ sweets wrapped in turmeric leaves, I wish to absorb traditional knowledge too of the relationship between snakes and humans in today’s changing times.
I will also visit as many people as possible to seek to address issues relating to proper awareness of ‘First aid’ for venomous snake-bite amongst my extended family, friends and acquaintances and with a able team of snake handlers, research associates and well-wishers, will surely contribute in a small way.
Please do your bit too- spread awareness about the below mentioned latest Snake bite protocol amongst friends and family.

“First aid treatment is carried out immediately or very soon after the bite, before the patient reaches a dispensary or hospital.
Unfortunately, most of the traditional, popular, available and affordable first aid methods have proved to be useless or even frankly dangerous. These methods include: making local incisions or pricks/punctures at the site of the bite or in the bitten limb, attempts to suck the venom out of the wound, use of (black) snake stones, tying tight tourniquets around the limb, electric shock and even application of chemicals, herbs or ice packs. While most of these methods/cures have been proved wrong and in fact put the patient at a greater risk than before. So please do not attempt any of these above-mentioned methods in case of a bite.
I have sadly seen many local people have great confidence in traditional (herbal) treatments, but they must not be allowed to delay medical treatment or to do harm.

The recommended First Aid protocol for Snake bite as practiced today follows the below mentioned points
• Reassure the victim who may be very anxious and scared.
• Immobilize the bitten limb with a splint or sling (any movement or muscular contraction increases absorption of venom into the bloodstream.
• Consider Pressure immobilization for bites by elapid snakes only like the Indian Cobra and the Indian krait including sea snakes but should not be used for viper bites because of the danger of increasing the local effects of the necrotic venom. There is considerable debate of which technique to be used and I have personally found the use of a local compression pad applied over the wound pressure bandaging of the entire limb to be very effective.
• Avoid any interference with the bite wound as this may introduce infection, increase absorption of the venom and increase local bleeding.
·      The patient must be transported to a place where they can receive medical care (dispensary or hospital) as quickly, but as safely and comfortably as possible. Any movement, especially of the bitten limb, must be reduced to an absolute minimum to avoid increasing the systemic absorption of venom. If possible the patient should not be allowed to walk and carried with the help of a stretcher or bed or sitting on a chair, etc.

And lastly remember, Polyvalent Anti Snake venom Serum is the only effective remedy for a venomous snakebite in India.

(Image courtesy- Devadatta Naik)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Vagheri hills in Chorla Ghats.

The Vagheri hills in Chorla Ghats is part of the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary. It is a proposed tiger reserve and the hill too is named after the tiger. 'Vagh' means tiger in local language. The road that leads to belgaum passes through Chorla Ghats and the Anjunem reservoir flanks the hills and valleys on one side. The entire region is a confirmed large cat habitat and is also part of the Western Ghats landscape. The forests here are the catchment area of the Valvanti and Haltar rivers amongst others and provide water to villages in Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
As an ecologist I have walked and driven in these parts for more than a decade now and yet every single time I do so I see and experience something new. It is truly a World heritage site and needs protection of the highest order.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Working on unique plateau ecosystems called "Sadas"

Our work has always been that of baseline documentation as I have always believed that documentation helps create awareness as well as aids in action. "Sadas" or laterite plateaus in the Northen Western Ghats have been categorized as stoney wastelands in the past and have come under scrutiny fo researchers in the last decade or so, thanks to pioneering work by the likes of Dr Janarthanam of Goa University and Dr Aparna Watave of Pune. My work and that of my colleagues and team focusses on herpetofauna and their relationship with these plateaus. While research continues, we also encourage others to join us and support our work in these lesser known plateau ecosystems of the Northern Western Ghats of India.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The 100 solar lanterns project

The 100 Solar Lanterns project aims to procure 100 solar lamps for the purpose of free distribution to school going children in the Castle Rock- Kuveshi region to enable them to study at night.
Here Vaibhav Kandalgaonkar explains to a parent at the Hypnale Research Base the functioning of the Solar lantern.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Coral fungi of the Western Ghats-monsoonal wonders

Endemic Snake feeding of Endemic tree frog

The Mhadei Research Center has been conducting studies on the Herpetofauna of the Chorla Ghats area since 2004.
The Chorla Ghats area is part of the Mhadei Bio region and covers the three states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
On 5th July 2012 night at 10.30 pm, a Malabar Pit Viper snake (Trimeresurus malabaricus) was observed approaching a foam nest of a Malabar Gliding frog
(Rhacophorus malabaricus) on a branch of a Kumbh tree( Careya arboreya) . A female of the Malabar Gliding frog (R malabaricus) was seen besides the foam nest in dormant state on a leaf of the same tree.
 At 11.05 pm the Malabar Pit Viper caught the female R malabaricus, at mid section of the body and proceeded to swallow it headfirst. The process took 40 minutes approx after which the snake moved across to another branch of the same tree.
Endemic to the Western Ghats of India, the Malabar Pit Viper has highly developed heat sensory thermo receptor pits between its nostrils and eyes, which enable it to locate and strike at a prey even at night. They also enable the viper to sense temperature changes of up to 0.001 degree Celsius and strike with pinpoint accuracy. That’s another reason why it is known as the pit viper.
The Malabar Pit Viper, which feeds exclusively on lesser life forms like lizards, geckos and juveniles of birds, occupies an important niche in the forest ecosystem and is rather shy in temperament unless it is threatened. Its venom is mildly toxic to humans and its bite has known to cause swelling and pain, for up to 48 hours in some cases.
Very little is known of the behavior and biology of this endemic pit viper and the observations made could be an addition to the understanding of the seasonal selective prey base of this species.
The Malabar Gliding frog is a flagship species of the Western Ghats. Its status is classified as NT (Near Threatened) by the IUCN Listing of 2002 and is threatened due to habitat alteration and exotic monoculture plantation all throughout its range.
Its red webbed feet, green coloration and other field identification details that were confirmed with photographic evidence identified the amphibian.
The area of the incident was above a water body where dominant vegetation included False Guava, Sting nettle, Citrus sp. and Bamboo. The vegetation surrounding this area is typical of a secondary forest ecosystem typical of the region.
The height of the tree from the ground where the snake caught gliding frog is 2.5 meters from the ground and the altitude of the place is 644 msl.
The lat/longitude, hygrometric data and other details were recorded along with a few record shots from a distance to avoid disturbing the pit viper
The skies were partially cloudy and the temperature was 28 degrees centigrade.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Illegal garbage being dumped in Chorla Ghats, Mhadei WLS.

There is an increase in illegal garbage being dumped in the Chorla Ghats area of the Mhadei WLS and is a matter of grave concern. A need to curb this menace is being voiced bye villagers as well as ecologists who fear that water sources including the Anjunem reservoir will get contaminated with this grabage that is dumped on hill slopes as well as on road sides.