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.