Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Karvi species blooms en mass in Chorla Ghats.

The Chorla Ghats are once again draped with another mass flowering- this time of yet another species of karvi, locally known as Rann karvi or Patri karvi and scientifaclly known as Strobilanthus ixiocephala.
A perinial shrub growing rarely more than a meter in height, this floral wonder can now be witnessed all across the Chorla Ghats at a height between 600-800 meters and is yet again a once in a seven-year wonder. Just like the Common karvi (Strobilanthus callosa), this species blooms in a 7-year cycle in en mass and is a sight to behold especially against the backdrop of the mixed moist deciduous and semi evergreen slopes of the Chorla Ghats. The plant has thin branches and the flowers are in clusters. The plant flowers have spikes, which have a strong scent, and the leaves are opposite to each other. Though reported to be occasionally found elsewhere in the Sahyadris, many of the hill slopes of the Chorla Ghats and the surrounds of the Mhadei Bio region are now covered with flowering shrubs of this species. A special place to observe these flowers however is the Sacred Groves of Surla and the slopes of the Ladki falls, besides which the shrubs line the Goa Karnataka road near the state borders.
The flowering of this species not only goes to prove the rich floral biodiversity of the Chorla Ghats which is threatened due irreversible damage of prime natural habitats such as monoculture plantations but is also an eye opener for the state Governmet to accord protection to this important region by creating awareness about its natural wonders as well as ecological significance for water security for the people of the state being accorded by these forests.
Right now the single largest threat to the region is the Karnataka Governments Damming and Diversion projects on the Mhadei River and her tributaries, which will spell doom to the natural flora as well as fauna of the region.
While ecologists and wildlife activists from across the country have raised serious concern about the continuation of work on the Kalsa project despite a Court order, the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyaan is leading a movement at the grass roots level and networking Goans at large to understand the importance of the region.
While the Mass Patri Karvi flowering is a natural wonder, and a visit to the area is a must to watch in awe at these beautiful flowers in bloom, it is the need of the hour to also raise a united voice and support the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyaan in their initiative to conserve the River Mhadei and her forests of which the Chorla Ghats are an integral part.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Snake Rescue Volunteers In Goa

The WILDGOA SNAKE HANDLERS LIST compiled by Clinton VAz is real handy and hence this post.

Don't panic if you see a snake. As you know now, not all of them are poisonous.
If you cannot identify it, don't kill it. Instead, call one of the volunteers listed
below. There are over 40 volunteers all over Goa that will that will come
immediately, catch the snake and release it back into the wild. Some of these
volunteers will request for a small fee to cover fuel expenses.
Volunteer N GO Area Contact
Sainath Shirodkar GFD All Goa 9422062880/ 2265772
RFO - Campal GFD North Goa 2228772/ 2229701
Aaron Fernandes GCR North Goa 9850560560
Sanket Naik VEA Pernem 9421239791
Amrut Singh ARS Bicholim 9422062503/ 2363803
Anand Dalvi ARS Bicholim 9923528080
Vivek Parodkar VEA Sattari, Bicholim 9423600333/ 2369387
Deepak Gawas VEA Satteri, Bicholim 9421248643
Kedar Kanekar ARS Satteri, Bicholim 9324857453
Chandrakant Shinde VEA Sattari, Bicholim 9420159497
Sagar Kambli GCR Bardez, Tiswadi 9823937930
Mario Fernandes GCR Bardez, Tiswadi 9923667665
Anand Melekar ARS Satteri 9764681913
Sunil Korajkar GCR Bardez 9822123042/ 2253715
Rahul Alvares --- Bardez 9326115883/ 2278740
Nitin Sawant WWF Bardez 9822483535/ 9823915208/ 2414278
Oldrin Pereira NNC Bardez 9850450120
Arnold Noronha VEA Bardez 9420685641
Ramesh Zamekar VEA Bardez 9923306455
Sharad Chari NNC Bardez 2293193
Mario Cavallari ARS Bardez 9822166175
RFO - Bondla GFD Ponda 2610022
Surel Tilve ARS Ponda 9422058590/ 2335078
Dilip Naik --- Ponda 9823229378/ 2316492
Kamlakant Parab PFA Ponda 9822130598/ 3207920
Dilesh Hazare ARS Ponda 9422453437/ 2340609
RFO - Margao GFD South Goa 2750246
Julio Quadros --- South Goa 9822152010
Sudan Naik ARS Mormugao, Salcete 9822387347/ 2550898
Pankaj Lad VEA Salcete 9372109987/ 2751308
Neelam Khomarpant GCR Salcete 9822123868/ 9822123042
Philip Fernandes --- Salcete 9822986505
Clinton Vaz WLG Salcete 9890936828/ 2736828
RFO Mollem GFD Sanguem 2612211
Satish Poinguinkar ARS Canacona 9421244555/ 9823134465/ 2641510
Paresh Porob GFD Canacona 9822157139
GFD: Goa Forest Department, VEB: Vivekananda Environmental Awareness Brigade, ARS:
Animal Rescue Squad, GCR: Green Cross, PFA: People for Animals, WWF: World Wildlife Fund,
NNC: Nisarga Nature Club, WLG: WildGoa
Version 3.0, Updated on 26.11.2007 Volunteer names and numbers verified, checked & compiled by Clinton Vaz klintvaz@gmail.com for
WildGoa, a nonprofit e-group of Wildlife enthusiasts in Goa. Join the group for free at http://groups.yahoo.com/groups/wildgoa

Whose wildlife anyway?

I usually maintain a strict silence in the forest, talking only in whispers, when signs and signals are insufficient…as every patch in the forest floor is a treasure trove of biodiversity and there is drama unfolding at every niche, which I for one care not to disturb or miss!
But today was a different trail, as I was walking the forest with two pals, Rajesh from an urban setting in Goa and Siddhu from the village on the periphery of the forest that we were walking through. Both were Goans, and in their late 20’s like me, friends who had shared the wilds and their wonders with me on numerous occasions, and nature lovers as good as can be! The difference today however was that today, we were talking more than listening, thinking more than observing…not the forests in our surrounds, but about the state and the wildlife scenario at large.
Siddu had started the conversation as Gaur had raided his crops yet again, and this time it was a tough situation, as hand loans had been taken. He opined that the Forest Department should take care of its own animals and see to it that they don’t stray into human habitats, and Rajesh vociferously supported his stand, as fresh memories of a leopard sighting in his town brought back certain truths…even though he loved nature and its wild denizens, the thought of a leopard prowling his neighborhood made him more than just uncomfortable! I too was concerned and spoke out my reservations about Bonnet macaques raiding homes in cityscapes. It was a common factor- wildlife of various sorts was coming in conflict with humans in both urban as well as forest dominated landscapes and though the magnitudes were different the problem was the same.
But at the same time it was necessary for us all to understand certain aspects of these problems and the reasons of their occurrence, as we now are aware that such phenomenon was here to stay.
Firstly, the very thought of people considering wildlife as state Government property as and when they feel fit worries me, as this is often done when wildlife is in conflict and not when creatures like the Indian Bull frog are in danger, of being persecuted for the dinner table. We need to understand that wildlife, whether it be large mammals like the Indian Gaur, bonnet macaques, leopard or elephants to snakes, frogs and the flock of egrets in our backyard are protected by various laws that are implemented by the State authorities, and in very simple terms, the Forest Department and its various agencies are custodians of our forests and its denizens, for our sake, for the sake of our country and its people!
And hence these creatures are as good a responsibility for us as they are for the official agencies that try to protect them. We need to be aware that the Indian Constitution confers upon us a duty to protect our countries natural resources, lakes and rivers and wildlife (mentioned specifically) and yet, many individuals I meet somehow seems to think that the Government is solely responsible to curb and control human animal conflicts. Let me tell you it is not an easy task. And without the support of the public, a seemingly impossible task. When I say this, I do not mean to suggest that my brethren in Goa have not risen to the occasion on countless man animal conflict issues in the past, but what I mean to specifically suggest is that the need of the hour is to understand the problem on a larger perspective. We need to understand that mammals like elephants, leopards, Gaur, wild boar, Langur and reptiles like rock pythons King cobras, marsh crocodiles, Russell’s vipers etc besides other wildlife are entering into human dominated landscapes for various reasons and these need to be distinctively looked into not only by wildlife biologists and researchers but also by development planners, politicians and policy makers as most importantly by us common people who need to act proactively and contribute by way of our suggestions and comments to the Draft Regional Plan. We need to remember very clearly that all factors that drive wildlife into conflict with humans are related in one way or the other to issues related to changes and alterations of natural habitats and this we know is the crux of the matter.
So it is time for us all firstly to accept that the problem is not one that is cannot be solved as with sound scientific applications and proper urban and rural landscape planning, monitoring and research issues like human animal conflicts can be surely minimized if not solved completely. We also need to accept the fact that all wildlife, whether urban or in our Protected areas is our natural heritage and is our collective responsibility. For this we need to act strongly on issues related to our land use planning, our river network conservation on our issues related to irreversible destruction of habitats like mining and large scale development projects like the Mhadei diversion scheme across the state. We need to realize that our natural resources and our Protected areas are the green lungs of this state and life support systems of scores of creatures including us. Hence every Goan has an urgent role to play, just like every wild creature plays in the web of life. Keep the faith.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Montane Trinket snake documented in Virdi forests

Researchers working under the aegis of the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyaan have reported the documentation and photographic evidence of yet another forest species of snake- the Montane Trinket snake from the forests that surround the site of the Virdi Irrigation project in Maharashtra.
The Montane Trinket snake (Coelognathus helena monticollaris) is a non venomous species of forest snake that is endemic to India and has previously been documented in the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary and the Mollem National Park of Goa. Found in the Western Ghats of India, this species is found only in certain parts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka besides Maharashtra and Goa.
Being a slender bodied snake with a distinct coloration of a light olive brownish body and blackish spots accompanied by traverse stripes of white, the Montane Trinket snake prefers mixed moist deciduous and evergreen forest habitats and has on some occasions been observed to take residence in caves as well as abandoned man made structures. A diurnal snake which is also active at night, the behavior of this species is poorly studied and is acknowledged as an important species for reptile conservation. Viviparous in nature i.e. giving birth to live young, this species is feeds on small mammals, birds, amphibians and other snakes too. It catches its prey with the help of camouflage and stealth and kills by constriction.
Three specimens of this species were recorded in the forests that surround the proposed Irrigation project while on a survey trip by a team of field researchers including Nirmal Kulkarni who has been documenting the Herpetofauna of this region for the past decade. The Ornate Gliding snake (Chrysopelea ornata), the Boulengor’ Bronze back snake (Dendrelaphis bifrenalis), the Brown Vine snake ( Ahaetulla pulverulenta) and the Olive Forest snake ( Rhabdops olivaceus) have previously been recorded from this region which connects the forests of the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary on one side and the reserved forests of Karnataka on the other and the rate of endemism is high in this region which is collectively called the Mhadei Bio Region. Besides which the number of Globally threatened species of reptiles and amphibians is also significant in these forests
Besides reptiles and amphibians, the region is home to a diversity of wildlife including large mammals like the tiger and leopard, slender loris and rare birds like the Long Billed Vulture and the Sri Lankan Frogmouth.
The documentation of species like the Montane Trinket snake and other such species from the area which is slated for submergence and irreversible habitat destruction due to the Virdi Irrigation project is a cause for serious concern amongst ecologists and there is an urgent need to ascertain the impacts of the proposed project on the biodiversity of the region.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

the Ruby throated yellow bulbul or the Crimson throated bulbul showed up near my base, and as Goa's state bird was a treat to watch.Photographing it was tough though as the light was poor and the equipment i have very less adequate. But yes, observing this bird was a treat and am looking forward to some more good sighting soon.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Work by Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd to divert waters of Kalsa tributary of Mhadei river to the Malaprabha basin continues on a war
footing despite Karnataka government's assurance to the Supreme Court of maintaining status quo in the matter. Besides, the work has now extended into areas of private forest in Kankumbi. The project, envisaging excavation of a canal at Kankumbi to link the Kalsa tributary to Malaprabha river, had started two years ago. Presently, the work is allegedly damaging the reserve forest. "By dumping the massive quantities of mud in the reserve forest areas under survey No 59 and 60 at Kankumbi, Karnataka has grossly violated ForestConservation Act 1980 and Wildlife Protection Act 1972" Colonel Ravinder Kumar Saini, a representative of Paryavarani, a Belgaum-based organisation said. Goa government and Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan had filed two separate cases before the Supreme Court alleging illegalities in sensitive areas of the western ghats. The Karnataka government had assured that it would maintain status quo in the matter in connection with one of the Goa petitions. The matter filed by MBA is scheduled for hearing on January 15, 2009. Karnataka is also widening the course of Malaprabha river to divert the water to Bailhongal and other areas. "The diversion will cause grave harm to water security and ecological security of Goa" Nirmala Sawant, convenor, MBA said. The villagers of Kankumbi and surrounding villages are also agitated over the project, as their agricultural fields have been partly destroyed. They have also expressed their apprehension over the possible depletion of the water table in the area. Baban Dalvi, president of Mauli Devasthan Committee, Kankumbi said, "Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd, has commenced the project without our consent or without paying proper compensation." The villagers have brought the matter to the notice of concerned authorities, but alleged that no action has been initiated to sort it out. Karnataka's project is aimed at augmenting the deficit in Malaprabha Reservoir at Navalthirth, by diverting 3.56 TMC feet of water from Kalsa. This involves the construction of a dam at Kambarves across Kalasa nalla near Kankumbi. Karnataka had resumed work on canals at Kunmumbi and Talwadi villages in Belgaum district two years ago. For the construction of dam and canals, however, there is need of diversion of forest land admeasuring 258 hectares. But till date, Karnataka has not obtained permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Also in April 2002 the Central Water Resource Department had kept in abeyance the letter allowing Karnataka to divert 7.56 TMC feet of water. However, in spite of this, Karnataka has continued with it's illegalities, said Nirmala Sawant at Kankumbi in Karnataka. Various farmers bodies from Hubli-Dharwad region have been agitating in a bid to prevail upon the state government to expedite the work as they would be benefited from the project. Karnataka has adopted the stand that no clearance is needed from the Centre or Goa's opinion to be considered as the project cost was less than Rs. 50 crore. "Karnataka's approach and attitude in diverting Kalsa tributary is totally undemocratic and illegal since they require the permission of MOEF to utilise the reserve forest first and then to start the work" says Colonel Ravinder Kumar Saini.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I attempt to put limelight on the ten most vulnerable reptile species that are threatened in the state of Goa and hope to gather public as well as bureaucratic support for their survival.
1. The Marsh Crocodile-
Threats- Habitat destruction and poaching has drastically reduced the last surviving local populations of this magnificent reptile in earlier strongholds like the Kumbharjua canal and elsewhere. The added pressures of being killed for meat and captured for being kept as wild pets seem to fix the final nail in their coffins.
2. The Indian Rock Python-
Threats- Habitat destruction and alteration are taking their toll on this keystone species of Indian snakes and forcing individuals to enter human landscapes in search of prey thus causing conflicts. The results are death or displacement and both are taking a heavy toll on the numbers of this protected species.
3. The Indian Monitor Lizard-
Threats- Mass poaching for skins to be used on traditional Ghumat drums still continues despite efforts by several musical experts and wildlife conservationists to provide alternatives. The drastically reduced numbers are further endangered due to killing of the Indian Monitor lizard for blood which supposedly has cure for asthma in local medicine.
4. The Olive Ridley turtle-
Threats- Disturbance in vital habitats on the nesting sites as well as the coastal waters near our shoreline are responsible for reduced numbers in nesting females of the Olive Ridley Sea turtle. Besides which sporadic poaching of nests for eggs and female turtles continues in many coastal areas and is a cause of concern.
5. The King Cobra-
Threats- Habitat destruction and reduction of prey species, i.e. snakes and monitor lizards is causing this flagship species of the Western Ghats to enter into human dominated landscapes and is a cause of serious concern amongst ecologists. Besides Goa, only Agumbe in Karnataka is known to have the same problem and is worrisome as the King Cobra is a strictly forest species and does not frequent fringe forest areas like it does in Goa.
6. The Indian Flapshell turtle-
Threats- This once common species has been pushed to the brink of local extermination in the past decade by a combination of factors including extensive usage of pesticides and fertilizers in fields and pastures, filling of lakes and ponds for land purposes and poaching for meat which is a delicacy in many parts of Goa.
7. The Malabar Pit Viper-
Threats- Replacement of monoculture plantations and rapid deforestation of forests at higher altitudes in Goa’s hinterlands is forcing this endemic species into local extinction and very little study or documentation is available on the same. The disappearance of this species from certain earlier strongholds like Vagheri, Surla, and Netravali etc is sending alarm signals amongst the wildlife researchers in the state.
8. The Indian Draco or Gliding Lizard-
Threats- This significant and unique gliding lizard is losing out in some parts of its natural domains due to disturbance of its niche habitats and alterations due to plantation of monoculture plantations like Australian acacia and cashew.
9. The Indian Rat Snake-
Threats- Mercilessly killed due to ignorance and fear, this harmless snake species is also called the friend of the farmer for its ability to keep in check the rodent population in farms. But today, this species is killed upon sight and has caused considerable depletion in numbers all across the state. Besides which, reduction in green cover in urban and semi urban areas has taken a toll on this once common species of the Goan landscape.
10. The Banded Ground Gecko-
Threats- This relatively unknown Gecko inhabits the forest floor of our protected areas and is threatened due to changes in its niche habitats due to destruction of earth cuttings, forest fires, exotic tree plantations and weed infestation.

And although these 10 species constitute a very small percentage of the number of species of reptiles and other lesser known life forms that are threatened due to reduction and disturbances in forest ecosystems, the fact that timely scientific intervention aided by strong conservation policy implementation can still conserve these species that are a vital link of the ecosystem they survive in.
It is but important for us all to understand that while the mega fauna like the leopard and Gaur are already facing a risk o local extinction, species like the Banded Ground Gecko, the Indian rat snake and the Gliding Draco may not even be heard of before they get extinct from our forests. It is the need of the hour to recognize that all life forms, whether big or small, have an important role to play in every ecosystem and are our natural heritage-something which we as a people should not take for granted.

this is a sample of a limited edition mug being promoted by me for raising funds for helping young researchers and wildlifers to take training on wildlife research. the mugs have various images of Goan wildlife and exquisite natural settings of Goa especially of the Mhadei region.
For details to purchase and support the cause please contact me on 09326107079 or mail me at ophidian_nirmal@yahoo.co.in

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Nature does not hurry and yet everything is accomplished' read this on a a Board in a sanctuary and is still etched in my mind.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Invitation for the Goa State Level Workshop on
Western Ghats/Sahyadri

Do the Western Ghats have a future?

The Save Western Ghats Campaign has faded into history. The pressure on Sahyadri Mountatin range is enormous, with a looming threat of destruction of the remaining greenery of this mountain range; we need to act with urgency to save the Western Ghats.

· Recognized as one of the 18 biodiversity hotspots in the world, the Western Ghats in south-western India is not only the most important and picturesque ecosystems but one that is gateway to the monsoons in the sub-continent. However, the manner in which this region has been exposed to unprecedented destruction in the recent past belies its ecological significance as also the social and economic lives of the people.

· Not long ago, however, the region had posted one of the greatest successes in ecological activism by restoring the Silent Valley to its pristine beauty. It had reflected the testimony of the people’s resilience and the effort to conserve the dwindling natural resources.

· The numerous actions on the ground as well as hundreds of academic papers produced on the Western Ghats are a clear indicator of the crucial role it plays in the lives of people in the region, and in sustaining the life-support system in the entire sub-continent. In Goa the remaining forests is threatened by mining and tourism lobby.

· Yet, in the present policy framework has restricted the ecological continuum to respective state boundaries, making it vulnerable to divisive actions and exploitation. The challenge therefore is to bring the Western Ghats into the mainstream of public policy agenda, for developing a holistic vision for conservation of the natural resources in the Western Ghats.

In order to discuss these and related issues, we have already organized a series of state level Tamil Nadu ,Kerala, Karnataka,and now plan to hold a
workshop in Goa.

Your presence as well as your suggestions will go a long way in helping us to evolve an action plan to save the Western Ghats. Please do come and participate in the workshop.

The objective of the meeting:

1 To discuss the issues which are threatening the Western Ghats in Goa

2 To evolve strategies for policy changes in favor of conservation of resources in Western Ghats in individual

3 To probe the possibilities for re-launching of the Save Western Ghats Campaig

4Evolving an Action Plan for future.

Date : December 17, 2008
Timings: 10 AM to 5 PM (Lunch will be provided at the venue)

Participants who are in need of travel expenses (bus fare) to attend the workshop will be reimbursed.
This meeting is organized by Appiko/Chipko Movement/ (Sirsi, Karnataka) with support from organizations working for Western Ghats.
Please confirm your participation by email or by phone to:

Pandurang Hegde Email: appiko@sancharnet.in or appiko@gamil.com

Mob 9448818099

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Vivekanand Environmentt Awareness Brigade is having a Nature Camp at Mollem national Park. Contact Pankaj Lad for details on 09372109987.
Illegal dynamite fishing-a grave cause of concern.
A few years ago I remember I sat alongside Assavri, my spouse under a Ficus tree on the banks of the Mhadei at a location frequented by Great Pied hornbills and White browed wagtails amongst other species. The serene settings had prompted us to take a break from our trail into these wilds and observe the mesmerizing beauty of this river and pristine forests. The very sounds of silence could thus be heard and even at twelve o’clock in the afternoon, we were enjoying every bit of the experience.
It was then that this young boy materialized with two others in tow on the other banks of this revered river, and as if to follow a set pattern, did a Reece of the banks and its depth…to decide on a spot to settle down…i.e., sit down and open a parcel. A parcel whose contents were not visible but mind boggling to the untrained eye like mine in these aspects.
A small hand movement, a plonk like sound in the waters near the vantage point where we sat and a shuddering explosion underwater made me sit up with anger and fright. Mindless and more importantly carefree about our presence and oblivious to our identity, the youth jumped into the waters to rummage through their kills, yes this was the illegal dynamite fishing trend that I had so often heard about from various quarters. This sequence of events happened repeatedly thrice over until the youth moved further with their catch…a few fish collected in a small cane basket hung over the shoulder.
Present day scenario. My mind raced back to this thought as I was participating in a seminar on Ecological Traditions of Goa organized jointly by the Biodiversity Cell of the Carmel college for Women and the CPR Environment Education Centre Chennai where Mr. Prakash Paryekar, a true son of the soil and a silent worker working in these parts had made a desperate plea on this issue to the delegates, the official agencies and more importantly to fellow workers, ecologists and nature lovers to put an end to this disastrous and dangerous method of fishing in fresh water lakes and rivers, especially in the hinterlands of Goa as besides the fact that it is replacing the ecological and traditional methods of fishing, it is an illegal act of killing indiscriminately and callously as Mr. Paryekar put it.
So far very little has happened and perhaps the plea has once again been forgotten. I for one admit that it was not a priority for me until I saw the catastrophic effects that this trend does to the immediate ecology where it is practiced. Not only is the river bed, the multitudes of organisms and the various other components lost and dismembered, but so is the surrounding vegetation. In fact many of the dead fish are not even collected due to the unclear waters that prevail for sometime and also because many species are small or unworthy for the table! Scars run deep in the earth cuttings and large fauna too are adversely affected. And that too for the sake of a handful of fish that some individuals need to nab, in short while by using short cuts that cause maximum negative impact by using minimum effort. Traditional methods are hence forsaken as they are deemed to be time consuming and strenuous, a result of which many a local are now taking to the use of dynamiting as it is called in all of Goa’s hinterlands.
I sometimes wonder from where the dynamite is procured as it is a cause of serious concern too, and given the recent spate of terror attacks on the country one wonders whether such channels of freely available dynamite need to be clamped upon as an immediate measure. There are rumors that the metal and stone quarries that operate provide the same for an amount and although this cannot be ruled out, it is not my job to investigate or even comment on this aspect. It is but necessary that official agencies including the Goa Police and the Goa Forest Department look into the issue as they are responsible for protection of life and property respectively. That the dynamiting in rivers happens in areas that are part of government forests and include Reserve Forests and even some parts of our sanctuaries is a fact that cannot be ignored.
Isn’t there a system that can secure our water bodies from the mindless onslaught from misguided youth and locals? Aren’t there social groups and NGO’s who can take up this cause? I wonder why not, as the practice is not only illegal and harmful to the environment but dangerous for those who practice it too. There have been unconfirmed and unproven reports of accidents that have happened whilst handling these explosives and there have been times when unexploded sticks of dynamite have detonated unexpectedly causing injury life and property including cattle. This has to stop, and the sooner our Government reacts the better, before it is too late and an accident occurs. Individuals have often raised their voices over the years chiefly amongst them being Rajendra Kerkar and Prakash Paryekar, but these have been brushed aside for reasons that I still cannot comprehend even today.
Our Rivers and its denizens are life support systems for all Goans, be it the fish that inhabit its streams and waters or the hill forests these waters support. That our ancestors have elaborately created rituals and practices to venerate the River is proof enough that the river ecology was considered as an important support system for sustaining life of all kinds. That we ruin and destroy this very support system for a handful of by catch in a manner that destroys an entire riverine ecology is not only illegal but unethical too. Keep the faith.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Human -leopard conflict in Goa

I toured Chandor and the surrounding areas a few days ago without revealing my identity…not in search of secondary evidence of the presence of leopards which includes scats, animal lifting incidences, etc but to ascertain facts about the awareness that exists amongst the residents of this area of the Indian leopard,(Panthera pardus) , and came back stunned and disturbed to say the least.
To most the leopards that were sighted were a nuisance that needed to be silenced and thought it was the duty of either the Forest Dept or the Police Dept to do so, while to some, it was a matter of time when they would themselves do the needful as one local resident put it. A small minority, especially the youth, however agreed that the animals needed to be relocated as has been done in the past in some parts of Goa, and well, no body that I met, concurred that the Indian leopard has conventionally been a species of fringe forests not only in the state but also our country at that and should continue to share the greater landscape with humans.
I know my opinion that we have to share our landscape with “fierce” predators like the Indian leopard would be met with strong resistance from many a Goan voice, but let us accept this fact- leopards have been and are still a part of our landscapes all across the hinterlands and trapping and relocating them would only aggravate the problem rather than solving it as far as sound wildlife science norms are concerned. We need to realize that loss of prey species coupled with shrinkage of corridors and forest habitats leaves little choice for this master of adaptation to resort to eking out an existence on livestock- and as areas get opened sightings increase causing panic amongst the people at large.
Today it is Chandor, tomorrow it will be Bicholim and Pernem, Ponda and parts of Sattari too. As researchers we know that these areas have sizeable populations of leopards that inhabit disturbed forests. We know and have been repeatedly ascertaining that conflict situations in areas like these can be the order of the day and the Government needs to take steps to consult experts dealing with human-leopard conflict issues before it is too late. We also know that the Indian leopard is now a Schedule 1 animal under the Wildlife Protection act and is an endangered mammal in the country. Every year leopard numbers are dwindling throughout the country due to which it has recently been included in the IUCN Red Data category as a Near Threatened species. While the actual numbers are not available, rough estimates by conservationists peg them at between 7,000- 15,000 in the country. In Goa, the magic figure varies from 21-41 but in my personal opinion, these are all estimates and there needs to be a proper census count which documents actual numbers not only in every Protected Forest but even outside protected areas. This is essential to understand the biology of the animals and their preference for local forest habitat amongst other aspects, and would provide wildlife personnel enough details to plan strategies to reduce the conflicts if not stop them.
I realized that the people at large need to be made to understand too that that haphazard trapping any leopard in conflict areas is not going to solve the problem and would in fact backfire as vacant territories will be taken over by the floater population of leopards. This would increase the conflict solutions rather than solving it. That the media has a vital role to play here in educating the public about the way to deal with conflict situations like these in coordination with the Forest Department ahs long been the need of the hour and has not even been attempted till date. And cant the Information and Publicity department of the Government come out with a series of posters on man- animal conflicts including leopards, elephants, monkeys and snakes, etc and educate the public of the causes, the precautions to be taken and the authorities to be contacted, etc to address this issue. Or is it that all and sundry are merely interested in waiting and watching the image of a majestic animal get tarnished as a nuisance just because some individual leopard sightings?
Yes, not all leopards are problem animals. Identification and scientific monitoring is the need of the hour at a local level as well as at the State level, which brings us to another issue- that a team of national wildlife experts and researchers needs to be urgently formed to address the issue for human animal conflicts in the state for providing technical, ecological and logical long term solutions for man-leopard conflicts.
It is high time fellow Goans that we as citizens understand that disturbance to habitats, especially forests would give rise a myriad of conflict issues of which this the human leopard conflict is an example and the need of the hour is to help conserve this large cat by applying sound principles of science and experiences of the past to reach to a solution. Silencing an individual leopard or in simple terms killing it as someone put it would never solve the problem…it would be a crime.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Whitaker's earth boa

The whitaker's earth boa ( E whitakeri) is a favorite species, more so as this snake is found almost in all of our habitats, from the coastal beaches to dense forests, and is harmless in nature. This close up shot was taken in Chorla, where we found this individual in an earth cutting in the evening.
A sub adult like this individual has excellent markings which is why many mistake it for a russells viper or even a python!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

the brahmniy skink

one of our more commonly found skinks,the brahminy skink (Mabuya carinata) is found in the swapnagandha area and some large specimens are a treat to watch and photograpgh.this individual was foraging in the leaf litter and i was fortunate to observe it for almost an hour,before it slid away under a boulder. Skinks are indicators of good healthy ecosystems and are an important link in the forest ecosystem too.

face to face with a green vine snake

the Green vine snake is by far the most commonly sighted snake by us herp guys in the wilds and yet, every time i see an individual I am not only fascinated but intrigued by this species. A good eyesight with what some say a binoculor like vision, a master at camoflauge and an amazing

rear fanged apparatus, this species is a made for the wilds. this sub adult had adapted the wait and watch approach for prey until it saw me, and yes, looked at me straight in the eye!

And well, thank God that pecking in the eye myth has by far been abolished and laid to rest, or else this image would have been considered as a proof by many a Goan. One of my favourite species the Green Vine snake is often misunderstood by many to borea hole in the head etc etc and is wantonly killed. the need of the hour is to create awareness especially amongst the younger generation and help conserve herpetofauna in the state as well as the country.

Sometimes the sihouttes and shadows are cast in the air than the ground and well it does inspir

e us human beings to look up and gaze un awe! althoughi do not have the best of equipment to shoot birds, and espcially raptors, yes those kinights of the skies...i could not resist the temptation and tried giving my best shot for this Crested serrpent eagle...the location was of course the swapnagandha valley in the Chorla Ghats.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wildlife crime- a cause of concern.
An incident of a recent raid and recovery of wild pig meat at Karapur, Bicholim has once again raised questions about the continued illegal trade and consumption of wild meat and is a reminder that the illegal trade in wild life is still alive in most parts of the state despite a ban under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
That a large number of such instances of trade in wild meat and animal parts, endangered plants, live animals as pets, trophies, etc go unnoticed is a bare fact and needs to be taken seriously by our law enforcement agencies including the Goa Forest Department, the Goa Police and the Food and Drugs Department too!
We need to now accept the reality that this is an organized and yet decentralized trade with a few key players involved in every taluka of Goa who maybe part of a network that ensures continuous supply of wild animals in illegal trade including wild pig, sambar, crocodiles, porcupine, barking deer, mouse deer, etc not only to the rich and famous but to certain commercial establishments as well by channels that need to be detected and crushed before it becomes too late.
Let’s face it. Poaching still goes unabated in most of our protected areas, and while levels vary according to the commitment and zeal of local field staff, it is the sheer inadequateness of logistical support and manpower that takes it toll on our men in the forests, i.e. the field staff of the Forest Department. And whilst an intelligence network is negligible in areas like Mahdei wildlife sanctuary and Netravali wildlife sanctuary to report and inform of incidents related to any type of wildlife crime, it is the sheer gap of communication between officers in uniform and the masses that is of concern- as rarely does one find anyone report wildlife related crimes to either the Police or the Forest Department.
There is thus an urgent need to address this issue in a two fold manner. Firstly, the long pending demand of establishing a separate Wildlife Crime cell on the basis of the Narcotics cell of the Police Department needs to be addressed at a Policy level and implemented at the earliest. We as a state need to realize that we are custodians of a rich biodiversity that includes coastal habitats, mangrove habitats, the Western Ghats and scores of flora and fauna that inhabit them, many of which have a price in the local as well as international black market of wildlife trade. The only way to monitor and protect this diversity is to create a dedicated team of trained professionals for dealing with wildlife crimes and having experts for detection, testing, law and above all prevention and awareness creation about the issue. This will not only curb matters related to wildlife poaching for consumption and trade but will also help curtail trade in illegal animal parts from peacock feathers to monitor skins and more. In fact it is also the need of the hour for the State Police force to realize that wildlife crime gets related to the narcotics and arms trade sooner or later as the linkages have long been established in neighboring states of Karnataka and Maharashtra. That this issue of every Tom Dick and Harry possessing country made guns and crude bombs, establishing camps for the purpose of poaching in the hinterlands and trading in wildlife parts in an organized nexus is a serious law and order issue, which need attention of the top brass on an urgent level.
Secondly, appointments of Honorary Wildlife Wardens is now essential as these individuals, often chosen due to their work in conservation as well as with the people are apt at performing the role of the eyes and ears of the official agencies. They will not only act as grassroots conservationists but will convey the role of the Forest Department as a custodian of our forests to the masses in a better way than official agencies. Without common people to support and inform, believe me, the cause of wildlife conservation is a lost cause. The need to chose nature lovers from the masses itself and empower them with powers under the Wildlife Protection Act by appointing them as Honorary Wildlife Wardens is necessary if we have to create awareness and protect our wildlife from the illegal wildlife trade.
And lastly, we as a people also need to realize that the illegal wildlife trade flourishes because there is a demand from us, yes us. As the popular saying goes, “when the buying stops, the killing will too!” We need to understand that the rapidly depleting numbers of endangered species, both plant and animal will have a direct impact on our ecosystems as well as our own race, a fact that is as bare as can be. Being aware and conscious of our duty to protect our wildlife and its habitats is as crucial as being vigilant and reporting instances of wildlife crime to authorities in the state. Together, with our official agencies and our support, we will have to curb wildlife crime and its related perils from affecting our state’s rich biodiversity. Keep the faith.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

International Union for Conservation of Nature launches RED DATA List for 2008.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has launched its Red Data List of 2008 on the 10th of Oct 2008 and includes amongst other, a total of 49 species of Indian mammals that have been incorporated as those facing extreme levels of danger from problems ranging from poaching, habitat destruction and alteration and pollution.
The systematic list includes over 124 Indian mammals that have placed under various categories of which 10 have been included as Critically Endangered, 39 species as Endangered, 48 species are Vulnerable for extinction and 29 species are showing sharp decline in population. Almost 16 species of mammals included in the list are from the Western Ghats of India which includes the protected areas and forests of Goa. The List includes mammals like the Tiger, leopard, Dhole (wild dog) and Sambar amongst other, all of which have a presence in the states forests.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species has been established as the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plant and animal species and is based on an objective system of assessing the risk of extinction of a species. The species are thus listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable and are collectively known as Threatened.
The Red List of Threatened Species is compiled by some of the world’s leading scientists and the 2008 List has assessed almost 44,837 species of which over 38 percent have been acknowledged as Threatened under one or the other categories mentioned above.
The main objectives of the IUCN List are to identify and document those species most in need of conservation attention for reduction in global extinction rates and to provide a global index of state of change of biodiversity
Besides being a Wake Up call for Governments across the world, The Red Data list is also used by the scientific community and policy makers alike for conservation related issues and policy making.
The 2008 List is of great significance on a local level for the state of Goa as species like the Leopard (Panthera pardus) found in the state has been included as a Near Threatened species, while the Sambar ( Rusa unicolor) found across all our Protected areas has been included as a Vulnerable species besides other species. There is thus a need to for the State Government to identify and protect habitats of these species on a urgent basis and create awareness about their presence in the state as these species are not only a state or national treasure but part of a global heritage along with the forests they inhabit i.e. the Western Ghats. The Red List also acknowledges the fact that most of the land mammals identified are from the Western Ghats that have high rate of endemism and a rich biodiversity but are threatened due to various forms of human activity.
For more details log on to www.iucn.org/redlist

some species of birds captivate the being and even thoh i dont click birds, nor have the right
equipment to do so...it means a lot when a malabar pied hornbill flies just above ones head and settles barely a feet above the head, one has to clicke an image. this individual has been clicked near Bhai Kerkar's house in keri, sattari and a pair is often sighted in the area.it is but natural to be in awe of such a majestic bird and i hope to see this one around for many more years to come...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Creating appreciation for lesser known life forms is now more than a hobby for me...it is a cause and insects, reptiles and arcachnids feature mostly on my must see list every time i ramble into some forests either in the Western Ghats or in my backyard of nerul and betim near the coast of Goa. it is this journey and its various natural facets, of discovering smaller creatures with myriad hues and colors, shapes and habits that fascinate my being and continue to inspire me to freeze images of the biodiversity that we inherit from our older genration, and have to conserve for our future one. The need of the hour is to create appreciation for all life forms, big and small and bring about a change in one's way of thinking towards fellow creatures and their habitats. This will not only help us realize that we are a small part of the web of life but will also help us reach out to wildlife and their habitats that are today in grave danger of being altered or irreversibly destroyed in the name of development and economic progress.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Monday, October 20, 2008

Ladkyacho falls, Mahdei WLS endangered!

The Ladkyacho falls in Surla village forests of the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary stand endangered due to the threats of dammaing and diversion being proposed by the Karnataka Government. the waters of this falls not only sustain and support a myriad species of endemic and threatened plant and animal forms in the Mahdei Wildlife Sanctuary but are also vital for small farmers and plantation owners downstream in the taluka of Sattari in Goa.

This Forest calotes (Calotes rouxi) was documented in Mahdei WLS, surprisingly still exibiting mating colorations, and was also observed to dsiplay head bobbing, a behaviour exhibited to show territorial traits...on close observation another calotes (sex unknown) was noticed in a peculiar position. the forest ecosystem was mixed mosit decidous and it was 12.30 in the afternoon!there has been a marked change in behaviour pattern in herps especially due to the extended monsoons in the Mahdei WLS and perhaps this was a case of the same phenomenon.Further observation in this regard is required to confirm the same.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Found this Indian Gliding Snake (C ornata) under a rock on a moss laden sheet rock again. was a juvenile and being early morning...mist and dew and all, appeared listless for some time.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Striped Necked Mongoose documented in Virdi Village.
Two individuals of Stripe- Necked mongooses ( Herpestes vittcollis) were sighted and photo documented in the moist deciduous forests of Virdi village of Dodamarg taluka in Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. This area is contiguous to the Mahdei Wildlife Sanctuary of Goa and the Proposed Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary of Karnataka.
The Stripe necked mongoose is a stocky mammal and is considered one of the largest mongooses in Asia. While specimens from South India are a darker rufous color, while those sighted in the Virdi forests were yellowish grey in color. The field identification for this large mongoose is the tail- which is three fourths of the body length and has a black tip which is pointed upwards. The prominent brownish black stripe running from the ear to the shoulder gives it the name the Stripe Necked Mongoose.
It feeds on small mammals and young ones of other creatures including birds and crabs, etc and is a shy elusive creature.
The individuals were seen foraging for smaller life forms in a clearing in the forests and one individual was photographed in the process by me.
The species has earlier been recorded from the Mahdei Wildlife sanctuary and the Cotigao Wildlife sanctuaries of Goa and the forests around the Bhimgad fort by various researchers.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sheet web spider.

perhaps seen by many in lawns and grasses across the state of Goa, this sheet web spider symbolizes the arrival of the much awaited winters too with sheet webs being covered with dew all over the contryside. the winter is of course here and smaller life forms are now responding to the changes of this phase in the natural cycle just like us humans. this sheet web spider has been adding layers to his web to insulate the heat perhaps or to make the web moisture proof....a behavior aspect that needs more observation and merits more study...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Concern over receding densities of Malabar Pit Vipers in parts of Mahdei Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Malabar Pit Viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus) is an endemic forest species of venomous snake documented in almost all the Protected areas of the state and is known to inhibit, mixed moist deciduous and wet semi evergreen forest ecosystems.
Being endemic to India, i.e. Found only in the country, there have been documented records of almost 6 color variations of this species in the Mahdei region ranging from green to blackish brown and yellow and almost all individuals sport the faint kidney shaped markings on the head region. A nocturnal species, the Malabar Pit viper is encountered in the day only during the monsoons and is known as a sit and watch predator, often lying in one position for hours until a potential prey is in striking distance. Possessing mild venom that causes pain and swelling, this species is capable of fast strikes and feeds on frogs, geckos, small rodents and birds.
The Mahdei Wildlife Sanctuary has been known to offer a favorable habitat for this species in the past but in the recent years, the density of this species in these forests is dropping at an alarming rate. The encounter ratio for this species in the wild has drastically reduced in the last three years, and field records, sightings by wildlife workers and locals, etc are on the decline even as herpetologists are baffled over the issue. With populations of this particular species showing a marked decrease in forest areas like Satre, Zarme, Surla, Hivre Khurd, Chorla Ghats, Coppardem, etc, there are indications that other potential areas too might have the same problem.
Having been documenting the Herpetofauna of the Mahdei Bio Region for almost a decade now, Nirmal Kulkarni, a herpetologist working in the field attributes this to various factors including loss and alteration of forest cover and conversion of forest land to monoculture plantations of Acacia and cashew, etc in several niche habitats of this species in the region.
Another factor that could have resulted in a steady decline of this species in certain areas like the Chorla Ghats include the hard release of other species of rescued snakes, particularly Russell’s vipers and Indian cobras, from urban areas as these species compete for the food base of the Malabar Pit viper and succeed in taking over the food chain, and as such steps to reduce this activity of release of rescued snakes from city habitats needs to be stopped on an urgent basis.
Besides which forest fires, road kills and erratic monsoon patterns could be factors that are influencing the fall in densities according to Nirmal Kulkarni who feels that there is an urgent need to undertake a survey of all endemic species of Herpetofauna in the Mahdei region and map the same along with threats to their habitats on an urgent basis as species like the Malabar Pit viper are flagship species of the Western Ghats and require conservation efforts on all fronts.
Nirmal Kulkarni appeals to the Wildlife Division of the Goa Forest Department to take urgent steps to conserve habitats of the Malabar Pit Viper and curb deforestation and alteration of habitats in the region, besides creating awareness for the conservation of this species.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Amphibian decline in the Mahdei-a cause of concern.

The monsoons have abruptly ended early without a sign off note…and this may sound weird but yes, nature and its varied systems, its unique faunal indicators and floral signs prove that the rains will be back with a bang or rather a torrential shower which would then proceed to begin another spell of rains. Though unconventional in nature, weather forecasts and climate studies show that these patterns are now here to stay and well, we better get used to it as a coastal state to say the least.

And while I am at it, the reasons of my concern as an herpetologist were more so as this is creating an adverse impact on the amphibian populations as well as the densities and I am not talking about the world view in general for now, but our very own species are in decline due this varied pattern of the rains, and the subsequent effects on the niche ecosystem in the forests of the Mahdei region, my area of study and interest.

And while various climatic factors may lead to this decline I have witnessed the failure of specific species like burrowing frogs, tree frogs and bush frog species that have been affected due to non-availability of seasonal pools of water (that either dries up due to the long gaps in rainfall) or the complete wash out of frog spawn (eggs) and even tadpoles due to the incessant heavy spells that occurred in last month. Extremities in rainfall patterns thus have had a drastic effect in certain areas of the Mahdei region, and while these are all on field observations that need to be further analyzed (for which I have collected data and is currently under review), it is the decline of amphibians for other human induced reasons in these parts of the Mahdei that are a cause of concern and need attention.

The most obvious cause is habitat destruction. Like all other lesser forms of flora and fauna, amphibians are threatened and pushed to the brink of local extinction when habitats are altered to practice shifting agriculture or carry monoculture plantations like cashew, areca nut and banana. Clearing of forests for timber and firewood is also an important factor for amphibian decline and life forms like caecilians are the most affected amphibians in these cases.

Likewise mass clearing of forest habitats for development projects like irrigation projects, dam sites and various small and medium clearings for industrial and commercial activity are taking their toll especially in plateaus of the Mahdei region.

It is necessary here to also note that changes in farming practices and the usage of enormously drastic quantities of pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers for ensuring better farm yield have had severe impacts on ground dwelling species of frogs and toads. I have observed many forest species of amphibians, which are found on the fringes of plantations and forest habitats have been affected by use of certain fertilizer usage and have already become locally extinct in such niche habitats.

I am also of the opinion that the introduction of certain species of exotic species of flora including the Australian acacia and the eupatorium weed and their mass propagation have had long term effects on amphibian populations and need to be addressed on a priority by curbing these exotic species in a systematic manner.

New trends in human consumption especially of selective species like the Indian bull frog (locally known as Jumping chicken) and its organized hunting nexus have forced these species into the threatened category not only in the Mahdei region but also in the state as a whole.

Another important factor that I have observed is road kills and this has definitely gone up in the Mahdei region after a criss-cross network of roads, both metal and mud paths have been increasingly upgraded for the use of vehicles, which have taken a toll on selective species of amphibians. The need to monitor ponds, lakes and streams is crucial too and while I have personally not aware of any contamination of water sources, this aspect too can lead to disappearance of certain key species of amphibians from the region.

And while researchers working on the issue of declining amphibian species in the country acknowledge global warming, unknown parasitic infections and increase in ultraviolet-B radiations as important causes of decline in amphibian species on a global scale, we in the state need to realize that our local diversity of amphibians are also on the decline, and the Mahdei forests are just a case study to prove that similar problems exist in other habitats of the state and need urgent attention.

Unless we don’t understand that the survival of lesser known species like amphibians and reptiles are essential for our survival in the long run, we will continue to ignore the problems of local conservation issues and in the end fail to understand the global ones…until the next monsoon fails…and the tap goes dry.

By: - Nirmal Kulkarni


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Acacia saplinsg been left by Karnataka Forest Dept in the Mahdei region on the Goa-Karnataka border. Despite of various pleas and requests....these saplings were planted in forest habitats and on plateaus which in themselves are unique eco systems. The mass plantations of Acacia not only irrreversibly damages an existing ecosystem, it ruins the groundwater levels, renders almost every other green useless and does not contribute to any natural cycle in the forests where they are planted.and yet in all callousness, the plantatiosn go on...year after year....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi

I joined the hundreds of my Goan brethren in celebrating the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi last week, and offered my prayers to the God of Ecology and Knowledge.
Whilst Goan Ganesh Chaturthi is also symbolic of the display of traditional and seasonal biodiversity and its veneration in various forms, in recent years the whole festival has like in other parts of the country, taken a more commercial garb.
And while I don’t consider myself an authority to talk in this subject, it was the unnecessary usage of fireworks and crackers that pained my being to no end. The very thought of funds being wasted for creating noise, smoke and toxic gases does not seem essential especially when in some other part of our country is facing a National calamity in Bihar, and folks there are in crucial need of all sorts of help-in kind and funds too.
It is essential that we start thinking as a country now, and to do that we need to start from our own backyards and neighborhoods. This Ganesh Chaturthi, I was able to convince at least a few relatives and folks about the ill effects of thermocol, plaster of Paris idols and of course firecrackers. The response was not exactly positive but I know there were attempts to rectify and even avoid doing mistakes that have happened in the past.
Hoping all celebrate the festival in its true sense and create awareness about environmental consciousness along with religious values in the state of Goa as well as the country.

Friday, September 5, 2008

10 Eco Friendly ways for Ganesh Chaturthi.

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi is just around the corner and is an important festival for Goans all across the state. While Lord Ganesha is also often described as the Reigning Deity of Ecology, in recent times the festivities that accompany this symbolic celebration and reverence for the Lord of Knowledge and Ecology is affected due to new trends that are being driven more by market forces than by religious conviction.
There is dire need to understand and practice simple ways and means by which we can minimize the impacts of our celebrations during this Ganesh Chaturthi, and I list ten simple points which can be put to practice in our environs for a safer and eco friendly Ganesh festival.
1. Do not buy Ganesh murti made of Plaster of Paris (POP); instead opt for natural, non-polluting material so that after immersions it does not pollute the water. Refrain from purchase of Ganesh murthis which are painted with oil paints and acrylic colors, as these are toxic in nature. Create awareness about this aspect especially amongst the youth and also the adults.

2. Refrain from purchase of new ‘Ghumats’, i.e. local musical instruments that are made from Monitor Lizard skins. Remember, the Indian Monitor Lizard is an endangered reptile and capture, sale and possession of the reptile or any of its body parts is illegal according to the Wildlife Protection Act. Instead opt for those, which use synthetic skins for making the same drums.

3. Say a Strict 'NO' to Thermocol, which is non-biodegradable & cause of soil, water pollution. The same goes for plastic sheets and wrappers, cellophane papers and all such material that is often used for decorations especially in Sarvajanik Ganesh mandals.

4. Do not use disposable, non-biodegradable cups & plates for giving Prasad during pujas, offerings and buffets. Instead propagate the use of areca nut plates or the traditional leaves that have been traditionally used in the past. Try & avoid generating garbage of all sorts.

5. Always use safe colors like turmeric, mehandi, rice powder, etc. for making Rangolis. Synthetic colors are not only toxic and harmful to pets and smaller creatures in the soil; they also remain in the environment after being disposed off- either in the soil or the water bodies where they end up in the last part of the festivities.

6. Switch on decorative lights during pooja and evenings only when necessary. Switch them off when not required. Use energy efficient CFL tubes instead of bulbs to save electricity. The need to realize the acute shortage of Power in the state and the country is utmost necessary and as responsible citizens we need to wisely use power even during the festivities.

7. Refrain from bursting firecrackers. It not only causes air & noise pollution, but also contaminates the soil and immediate surroundings in places where they are used in large quantities. Firecrackers that emit smoke and fumes are also harmful for many folk, especially children and elders and hence abstain the use of these types for a safer and healthier Ganesh festival.

8. Take care not to create noise pollution due to loud speakers. This practice not only creates noise pollution but also has a severe impact on the local wildlife including birds and small mammals.

9. Take care and ensure that the Ganesh murthi Immersion is non-polluting to water as far as possible. The material immersed should not be harmful to the life forms existing in the water. Refrain from disposing plastic decorations, synthetic matter and residue of garlands, etc in water bodies and rivers.

10.Understand the concepts of Ganesh Chaturthi in its true sense, especially the usage and display of the local biodiversity- in the ‘Matoli’, the cuisine and the social message of harmony and love for nature that is expressed through the hymns and bhajans that are sung during Ganesh festival.

Let us celebrate Ganesh festival in an eco-friendly manner & help keep our environment clean & green. Though difficult to start with, these steps will ensure that the festival not only has a minimal impact on our surrounding environment but will also make sure that our future generations understand the true concept of the festival so that they inherit it with respect & love towards our God of Knowledge and Ecology.

photo documented this Robber fly pin down a Cicada and thought it was a good opportunity to look at how small predators in the wild function...decided not to go too close and photograph the same as it would have got disturbed.

Monday, September 1, 2008

butterfly pupa and ants

Documented this image in the field where i witnesssed this Blue mormon pupa (?) being eaten by a species of tree ants (?). dont have the field guides here as the rains are heavy and well will id the same when in the confines of my warm home! hopin that someone takes the initiative to id it too!

am in the field and for a long time at that so have not been able to upload anything.well am now writing from a shaky connection and hope this goes..though this find of the Pied Belly shieldtail was a boomer for us out here, it seems the Brown vine snake is making headline back in mainstream Goa.well, to say the least wildlfie enthusiasts have documented the species in almost all of Goa's protected areas and it is definately not a rare snake for our forests.anyways....hope to catch up on filing more stuff soon.

Monday, August 11, 2008

this species of Painted grasshopper was obviously not affeceted by the heavy downpour in the last few days as it sat on a shrub in an open patch of grassland in the mahdei forests. I risked my camera equipment in the rains to take this image, as the hues and shades on this individual were amazing. I really dont know the exact species of this grasshopper though, but lesser known creatures like these go on to suggest the vast diversity of lifeforms that the Western Ghats forests support and sustain.

Nagpanchami at keri

this year like every year, i celebrated or rathar attended the nagpanchami festival at Rajendra kerkar(Bhai's) pla

ce.The only difference being the fact that this time around i was asked, actually ordered to perform the puja to the snake motiff and idol by Bhai's mother 'Aai', something which i could not say no to...

for someone who does not believe in idol worship and rituals, this was a diffcult situation, but well, the cobra is known as the flagship species of snakes, and i went ahead and did the puja- was helped alot by the family on a step by step basis as i had never done this before!

and well, it was worth every effort as the post puja lunch was fabulous, and amidst discussions ranging from conservation to folk culture and history, Bhai being the treasure trove of knowledge...i had one of the best Nagpanchami pujas ever. this image was taken by sonal, who not only gave good company but helpedd freeze images of the festival in the villages of keri and morlem too!

Saw this cicada being attacked and then dismembered by a few hundred ants of some species (which i still have to identify-the book on Ants will help for sure). Cicadas are nocturnal creatures of the forest and are ocassionaly seen in the day.the ants seemed to overpower the cicada despite its frequent attempts of flying.The whole drama took almost an hour to finish.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Conserve the Indian Bull Frog

Almost everyone in Goa can recognize frogs and toads, to put it in a better way those that can be eaten and that cannot be…and we all know by now that certain species of amphibians are locally declining in most parts of the state and is a cause of concern not only for herpetologists like me but also for Health officials and medical practitioners as they all know that the frog species in question, i.e. the Indian Bull frog and some other species are primarily responsible for the curbing and keeping in check the larvae of mosquitoes and other invertebrates that transmit water borne diseases especially during the monsoons.

But mass hunting in their niche habitats, fields, lakes, plateaus, etc locals has taken a heavy toll on frog populations especially in the last 5 years as the demand for Jumping chicken has drastically increased all across the state.

That their habitats are also being wantonly altered and destroyed at a rapid pace is another fact and this is further pushing this flagship amphibian species to the brink of local extinction in many areas of the state.

The need of the hour is to understand the importance of the amphibian species like the Indian Bull frogs in our ecosystem and conserve them and their habitats in whatever way possible.

While Frog hunting and serving of frog meat as Jumping chicken is illegal and banned in the state, there is very little enforcement of this ban and the authorities responsible for implementation, i.e. the Goa Forest Department and the Goa Police need to work in unison for the execution of this ban on a war footing.

As for NGO’s and activists are concerned, the networking has died down and so has the interest for this issue, thus making it difficult o reach out to the masses for creating awareness about the practice of illegal hunting.

The initial thrust of the campaign has now died down resulting in Indian Bull frogs being poached all across the state and what now needs to be seen is whether the Goa Government through its various agencies is able to implement the ban on frog hunting and truly celebrate 2008 as the year of Frog till the very end of the monsoons, as declared by international agencies and herpetologists across the world or let hundreds of frogs be slaughtered to satisfy our taste buds and ignore the imbalance it causes to the local ecosystem as well as our lives.

forest tree crab

took this image of a forest tree crab( exact species unknown to me) in the chorla ghats, though i have seen this species in almost all protected areas of Goa. it usually is seen in the monsoons and takes residence in tree hollows, i have observed individuals as high as 15 feet in the tree canopy too! locals believe that this crab can cause food poisoning when consumed and well, i have not tried it out to say the least! also seen larger individuals feed on slugs and frogs of Philatus species.(tree frogs).
Sometimes these crabss are seen foraging in the leaf litter on the forest floor and this specimen was photographed at about 12.50 in the afternoon.

In praise of the Cobra

To a Goan the word Cobra or Nag in a conversation instantaneously draws a response which varies amongst people right from fascination and awe for this reptile to veneration and respect granted to it not only by Hindu mythology and religion, but the Goan Society at large. The Cobra, although venomous in nature, is loved, revered and respected by all in our state and beyond.
While 3 subspecies of the Cobra are found in India- that is, the spectacled cobra, the monocled cobra and the black cobra, we in Goa come across the widely distributed Indian spectacled or Binocellete Cobra (Naja naja) and are locally known as Nag, Parro, Pandhro, Sorop, Vodhlo, Motelo, etc. in local vernacular language.
Distinguished unmistakably for its unique ability to raise the anterior quarter of the body together with the spreading of the ribs in the neck region into a well described hood to display those exquisite markings, when exited or disturbed, it is perhaps this quality of the Cobra which has been the source of the fascination and reverence for ages together.
We, Goans, by large do not venture out purposefully to attack or kill a Cobra as the belief of Zagekar (territorial Cobra) is firmly rooted in Goan society and almost every neighborhood has a Cobra and a special place or tree dedicated to the species, which is often worshiped and given respect especially in the villages and hinterlands.
And while Goans firmly believe in the majesty of this snake, there exist traditions in the Talukas of Sattari, Sangeuem, Quepem, Canacona etc. where the Cobra is venerated with great respect as one of the folk deities, the Goddesses Brahmani Maya is depicted holding 2 hooded Cobras which serve as her weapons and flank her on both the sides. Similarly the guardian spirit deity of Vetal has a hooded cobra on his headgear, which is why the cobra is offered a sacred seat in the temple worship system. And many villages like Coppaddem in Sattari are known for their strict laws pertaining to the protection of the Cobra, other villages like Vaddem and Netravali in Sanguem believe of the ability of the cobra to be in the disguise of their ancestors, thus never harming a Cobra in the process.
The festival of Nagpanchami is celebrated in Goa by praying to brightly painted clay idols or drawings depicting the snake and Prasad is offered to the same. This year this festival of paying homage to the Snake God will be celebrated throughout the State on the 6th of August, and rituals often include keeping a fast for the day and abstinence from working in the fields. The day is also marked with favored snake habitats like termite mounds, banyan and peepal trees, etc being offered sweets, made exclusively by the women folk of the house. While it is believed to be the symbol of fertility by Goans in the Talukas of Sattari and Quepem, Goans at large attribute the snake with Lord Shiva and so take care not to harm this reptile.
Today however, this relationship appears cracking as in urban areas, despite religious taboos, cobras are often wantonly killed without realizing the importance in the modern society as a rodent controller in our environment and thus working for the human benefit. That Cobras venom is used as an effective pain killer like Cobroxin etc. against diseases like neural leprosy, epilepsy and arthritis is not know to the average Goan who thinks some time that the poor snake is more often nuisance than a boon to the human race. And while other religious protection is still offered in many a Goan neighborhood, the common cobra is now also protected under the Wild Life Protection Act of 1972, thus giving this reptile the highest form of protection- one that is offered to a reptile known for its cultural as well as its biological importance. There is thus an urgent need to understand the role of this important flagship species of snakes in our ecosystem and give it its rightful respect and protection in the state. Keep the faith.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Came across this nest of wasps under a leaf on one of my jaunts in the wilderness yesterday, its been pouring heavily here, in the chorla ghats, and having taken the risk of puuling out my camera for this image was worth the efffort.
being territorial in nature, these wasps were alert after i froze a few frames and i hope to get some time to identify the species properly, soon!
It is these smaller wonders in nature that keep me in awe of the forests of the Western Ghats, no wonder the region has been identifed as a Mega Bio diversity Hotspot of the world!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

July- meeting up with wildlife pals.

The month of July was well spent, the highlights being various outdoor trips with pals, acquaintances and fellow researchers in the field.That the monsoons around this of the wilds, the Mahdei region in particular and the state of Goa in general helped me and my fellow wildlifer friends see the diversity of this region at its peak was not only a blessing but a signal as well, that these forests were under constant threat and required serious work in terms of wildlife research as well as creating awareness amongst the masses.
July was a time when Jerry Martin and his group of herp speccialists drove down to Chorla, from agumbe, and amidst pit vipers and travancore wolf snakes and caecilians, we spoke of long term cconservation initiatives that would transcend into a sound foundation for our upcoming Conservation and Research facility in the chorla ghats.
With Prerna singh bindra, acclaimed wildlife journalist and close friend dropping by for monsoonal vist of the Mahdei region and a trip to Cotigao-had me all rambling into some of the best wlidlfe locales in the state. Paresh was at his best-as usual!his work in Cotigao with the communities as well for the sanctuary is amazing to say the least and it does speak for itself. our trip to the Kuske waterfalls was a stark reminder that places like these exist in our forests that are unique and yet very delicate in nature....places that need the efforts of officers like paresh and journalists like prerna to come together for their protection and conservation.
July also saw the visit of S Karthikeyan i.e. karthik to us all, an iconic researcher and naturalist for all those who love small things in the wild...butterflies, beetles, spiders etc. A visit to Bondla and then to the Mahdei with Karthik revealed species of insects and arachnidae that i had never ever observed before and made me stare in awe at natures rich tapestry of colors and shapes. alongwith his wife Priya, we not only managed to get a staggering diversity of plant hoppers and bettles, we also caught up on activities related to eco tourism and need for proper documentation!
And with chance meetings with Parag Rangnekar, the author of Butterflies of Goa and a dear pal, with Ajay Gramopadhaye (ex education officer of WWF Goa) and Bhai Kerkar, July was a month of intense discussion, lots of learning experiance and of course field trips where I was not only able to marvel at the creatures of the Western ghats but also note and document their importance in our lives.
With the beginning of August, and Nagapanchami just around the corner, I hope this month too is packed with fieldwork and research oreineted visits....keep the faith.