Friday, December 31, 2010

‘The Goan Jungle Book’- a collection of articles by Nirmal Kulkarni.

About the book

The Goan Jungle Book is Nirmal Kulkarni’s attempt to bring together a collection of some articles and notes he has written for local newspapers and publications, which detail his several sojourns through the forests in and around Goa, and reflect his concerns as an ecologist and activist. The essays offer just a tiny glimpse of the teeming jungles of Goa - where creatures big and small thrive in habitats that are unexplored and seldom appreciated - through the eyes of a passionate ecologist and wildlife photographer. If you want to discover and appreciate the rarely explored wild side of Goa, this book is right up your alley.

About the Author

Nirmal Kulkarni is a Goa based herpetologist, wildlife photographer and Director (Ecology) of Wildernest Nature Resort, an eco-tel in the Chorla Ghats, and co-founder of Goa-based eco-store Earthworm.

Though he largely trawls the surviving wild outback of the Western Ghats in Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra in search of his subjects of study, research and photography, Nirmal has also worked on research projects that looked into the contentious human-nature relationship and the increasing conflict between human, nature and the wild world in Gujarat, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. He was part of a team that discovered two new species of legless amphibians, the caecilians - Goan caecilian (Gegeneophis goaensis) and Mhadei caecilian (Gegeneophis mhadeiensis). As a trainer, he has helped shape young nature enthusiasts into foot soldiers for India’s wildlife research and conservation movement - particularly reptile conservation.

Nirmal trained as an Applied Artist with photography as specialisation, before opting to do a Masters degree in Environment and Ecology. He has spent years documenting and photographing natural heritage, folk culture and wildlife, particularly the lesser-known species in his home state, Goa, and in the other forests and urban areas where he works as an ecologist and researcher.

‘The Goan Jungle Book’ is aimed at creating awareness amongst the Goan public at large about the lesser known biodiversity of Goa and its forests and is available at all major book stores across the state.

Nirmal Kulkarni

For details contact-

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Distribution of compost created from Nirmalya of Ganesh chaturthi.

It will be recalled that the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations in Vasco City took on a very interesting direction this year wherein the whole city participated in an eco-friendly initiative. The Citizens of Vasco City gave their nirmalya (offerings of garlands and Prasad) at 4 visarjan sites to willing volunteers who graciously collected it at Baina Beach, Kharviwado, Vaddem lake and Chicalim. Nirmalya was taken from the devotees and segregated in paper, plastic and flowers at site in an effort to create less pollution at rivers, nullahs and beaches.

This could be made possible with the collaboration of MMC with Chairperson, Shekhar Khadapkar, the enthused volunteers were a mix of concerned citizens and organizations such as Bharat Swabhiman, Vinayak Kala Sangh, Rotary Club of Dabolim and MES College with Daji Salkar, Mrs. Lalita Joshi, Namdeo Chopdekar, Mr. Kevin Dsilva, Pallavi Shirodkar, Jayant Jadhav , Alka Damle, Neelima Parulekar, Renu Rao, Dinesh Heda, Amit Tapadia, Amit Bandekar and Charuta Mehta, Roshan Gunjal, Shami Salkar and Roopa Bandekar of Earthworm Ecostore.

MES college had taken the responsibility of composting 2,500 kilos of nirmalya collected over 3 days of four sites. And after over 2 months of of making 200 kilos of vermicompost and 100 kilos of EM (effective microorganisms) making a total of 350 kilos of compost.

A first lot of 100 plus kilos is now ready and the volunteers have decided that it should be distributed free to the citizens who made this green venture possible.

The 19th of December is Goa Liberation Day. The compost will be distributed at three sites in Vasco, At the Goa River Marathon organized by Vasco Sports Club at Baina Beach at 11 a.m., The Mini Marathon, “Run for Unity” near MMC Garden Baina by Vinayak Kala Sangh at 9.30 a.m and at the Flag Hoisting Ceremony at MMC Office Building. For more information please contact 9766358343 or 9822980599.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

TOOLS OF THE TRADE workshop for reptile enthusiasts.

Reptiles and amphibians draw considerable interest and awe amongst the mind of nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts of today, especially about snakes, turtles and lizards.

In recent times this interest has been fueled by television programs as well hands on work being carried out by various snake handlers and rescue workers in the state.

At HERPACTIVE, we aim to channel this interest to serious conservation by introducing budding herp fans to the use of modern techniques and basic equipment that is used in the field of herpetology.

A daylong workshop titled ‘TOOLS OF THE TRADE’ will be held in collaboration with the Mhadei Research Center in the Chorla Ghats for this purpose on the 17th of October 2010.

Participants will understand and get to use field gear as well get a first hand experience of work that goes into the study of snakes and other creepy crawlies (its called Herpetology).

Besides which the basics of reptile identification, first aid and legal aspects of studying wildlife will be familiarized for the participants.

Nirmal Kulkarni and his team will conduct the workshop. A trained herpetologist and self confessed snake fan, Nirmal Kulkarni has to his credit a series of research papers, new discoveries and more than a decade of field experience in the study of reptiles and amphibians.


WORKSHOP TIMINGS- 9.30am to 4.00pm. (Pick up from Panjim Bus stop at 8.00am and drop at Panjim Bus stop at 6.00pm

AGE- 18 years to 60 years.


FEES- RS. 600 per participant. (Inclusive of simple field lunch, tea and transport)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Herpetofauna Data sheet workshop held

The Do Your Own Herpetofauna Data sheet workshop was conducted at Porvorim by Herpactive, an initiative started by herpetologist Nirmal Kulkarni with an endeavor to encourage the compilation of data on reptiles and amphibians in the state.

Participants from various walks of life including practicing vets, students of herpetology, eco tourism entrepreneurs, snake rescuers and wildlife enthusiasts participated in the 3-hour intense workshop and demonstration.

Nirmal Kulkarni, Goan herpetologist and ecologist emphasized the need to create and maintain data sheets, interpret data and use it for conservation purpose. He stressed upon the need for wildlife workers as well as enthusiasts to ensure that data collected reached the right channels for collation and interpretation, as this was as essential as collecting data.

Participants used various instruments like GPS systems, temperature and humidity meters, distance finders, etc and were also exposed to various forms of data sheets that are used by herpetologists for species and habitat surveys. A simple demonstration of a taxonomic data collection sheet as an Amphibian survey in a pond was also given.

According to Nirmal, Herpactive aims to promote the science of field herpetology by conducting walks, surveys, training workshops and field technique sessions for budding reptile- enthusiasts as well as laypersons who are in awe of these fascinating and yet lesser known creatures.

He further informed that a 3-hour ‘Tools of the Trade’ workshop will shortly be announced for reptile and amphibian enthusiasts that will teach and demonstrate the use of modern day tools and equipments used by herpetologists in research and studies.

For details contact-

Nirmal Kulkarni.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Nirmalya Transformation project



The Nirmalya Collection project began as an intention a month prior to the Ganesh festival with a vision of making a holistic approach to an ecofriendly Ganesh Chaturthi a reality. Roopa Bandekar of Earthworm Ecostore introduced 100% ecofriendly Clay Ganesh idols in Goa for the first time that were painted with natural colours like multani mitti, turmeric and kumkum from Eco-exist Pune and conceptualized the NIRMALYA TRANSFORMATION PROJECT for the Port Town of Vasco.

Although collection of Nirmalya is not in itself new to Goa, but it was felt that there existed great gap between the devotees and the supposed ‘few’ who were concerned about the environmental damage caused during the immersion of nirmalya (such as garlands, flowers, coconuts, plastic and thermacole. The Germ of Vasco ‘I’dea was to ALWAYS keep the in mind the religious sentiments of the people AND include them in the process of change. The method: to make it a people’s movement; to do away with bins at immersion sites and replace them with the welcoming presence of enthusiastic volunteers.

When this ‘I’dea was first sounded off to Mrs. Lalita Joshi, a environmental catalyst and Director of BBA Dept of MES college Zuarinagar, it was accepted with such great enthusiasm that the ‘I’ of that idea quickly dropped and turned into WE….everybody who gave a ear to the idea absorbed it as their own. MES college Team Mr. Kevin Dsilva and Ms Pallavi Shirodkar took on the task of composting the collected nirmalya;

Mr. Shekhar Khadapkar, Chairperson MMC willingly supported us with funding for promotional material and workers at immerison sites.

Our enthused team consisted of Daji Salkar, Namdeo Chopdekar of Bharat Swabhiman , Jayant Jadhav of Vinayak Kala Kendra, Alka Damle, Neelima Parulekar, Renu Rao, Dinesh Heda, Amit Tapadia, Amit Bandekar and Charuta Mehta of Rotary Club, Roshan Gunjal, Shammi Salkar and J C Shalaka and many many more volunteers


We created posters and Flexes “ Ganpati Bappa Morya, Nirmalyacha roop badluya’ in marathi and Ganpati Bappa Morya, lets Transform our Nirmalya’ in English. And put them up a week before the Festival at Key sites in Vasco, shops, temples, market areas, bagayatdar, at points of traffic movement and relevant shopping sites. The message was spread personally from Temple gurujis, Sarvajanik mandals, house-to-house visits, through institutions, organizations, Banks, offices and articles in local publication Vasco Watch.

Pandals were erected keeping in mind high visibility and accessibility to all at the immersion sites of Khariwado, Vaddem Lake, two at Baina beach and one site at Chicalim with the Panchayat.

Two volunteers at each site along with MMC workers collected nirmalya from the people and most sites segregated at SOURCE from 8:30 p.m. to 2.30 a.m. in shifts or some of them were present throughout the time. The MMC vehicle took the Nirmalya to MES college the next morning for final segregation and composting.


· This WAS A PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN and did not leave the sense of responsibility in the hands on the Government body or a single “NGO”/ organization.

· We consciously kept away from the ‘people versus environment’ approach.

· All Promotional material was printed in two languages Marathi and English languages keeping in mind its target audience.

· The campaign reached from household to household at a personal level.

· The campaign was carried out with minimum costs with a few baskets and enthusiastic volunteers. This helped us not only to understand how many people willingly gave their nirmalya, how many needed to be requested and what were the reservations of the unwilling but also to make recordings for the future.

· Different sites have different volumes of nirmalya collection on different days; we learnt that in some places 10 bags are not enough at all and in some areas a few suffice. It gave us information to plan for the future.

· The effort of being present and receiving the the Nirmalya at immersion sites was a trust building exercise which propelled more people to give

· Dinner can be Prasad! Prasad IS dinner!… the sharing of Prasad between the devotees and the volunteers and the quantities consumed by each volunteer, itself suggests that this was a project that sent great vibrations back to the earth!

And as Daji put it “Now my whole car smells of Nirmalya.” makes this project one of its kind!


Most of our volunteers despite having their own household celebrations gave time, effort and enthusiasm to this project proving that where there is a will there the time.

All of us felt that much of the general public were concerned and ready for solutions.

Many devotees who had reservations were reassured by our presence and positive approach.

Our collections were almost 60% successful at all our locations.

Our immersion sites showed visible less damage the next morning.

We plan to continue the same awareness campaign with all the learnings of this one for the next years to come. And thank Each and every person who handed their sacred Nirmalya to us thus became a part of “We” project.


Friday, September 3, 2010

First Record of the Jerdon’s Red Spotted Pit Viper from the Republic of India.

First Record of the Jerdon’s Red Spotted Pit Viper (Protobothrops jerdoni xanthomelas) from the Republic of India.


conducting a Herpetofaunal survey of Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, West Kameng

district, Arunachal Pradesh, India, during 2006-2008, four Indian researchers reported the first record of the Jerdon’s Red Spotted Pit viper (Protobothrops jerdoni xanthomelas).

This venomous sub-species of Jerdon’s Pit viper is an addition to the 278 plus species of snakes documented in the country. With the addition of this species, the number of pit vipers found in India has risen to over 21 species.

The earlier records of this snake are from central and southern China, from Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Sichuan, Guizhou, Hubei and Guangxi Provinces. The current range record of this subspecies from Lama Camp (West Kameng district, Arunachal Pradesh, India) is a range extension of approximately 1,200 km southwest from Sichuan in China - the nearest area where the Jerdon’s Red Spotted Pit viper (P.j. xanthomelas) has been reported.

Four individuals of this snake were found by the team that included Amod Zambre from Pune, Chintan Sheth from Bangalore, Shashank Dalvi from Mumbai and Nirmal Kulkarni from Goa. All the individuals were found at 2,350 meters above sea level.

Pit vipers are highly evolved venomous snakes belonging to the sub family Crotalinae that have deep pit, or fossa, in the loreal area between the eye and the nostril on either side of the head. These loreal pits are the external openings to a pair of extremely sensitive infrared detecting organs, which in effect give the snakes a sixth sense that helps them to find and perhaps even judge the size of the small warm-blooded prey on which they feed

The Journal of Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, has accepted the research paper concerning this important find.

The team has thanked Ramana Athreya – Kaati Trust/Eagle-nest Biodiversity Project who provided funds to survey Eaglenest WLS, snake taxonomist Ashok Captain for editing and reviewing the manuscript; Indi ‘babu’ Glow for everything in Eaglenest. Kesang, Phurpa, Maila, Khandu, Jetha, Neema and Dorjee for their tireless help during field work. The team has also thanked the Arunachal Forest Department (especially P. Ringu and G. N. Sinha) for permissions to work in the area.


Amod Zambre

Chintan Sheth

Shashank Dalvi

Nirmal Kulkarni

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Earthworm Ecostore brings yet another offering in its endeavor to present options for celebrating Safe Festivals.

A TRULY eco friendly Ganesh idol is one that is made of clay and uses natural colours so that it does not contaminate the water bodies; this year we have collaborated with eCoexist, a social enterprise in Pune, to bring you truly eco-friendly Ganesh Idols made of Clay and painted with turmeric, geroo, and multani mitti.

The colors which were once used traditionally for these idols are lost to brightly coloured toxic paints that contaminate our seas, rivers, lakes and wells.

The need to create awareness and bring about a conscious change of using a truly eco friendly Clay Ganesh idols with natural colors prompted us to bring the idols from Pune.

A limited number of idols will be for sale as well as display at its store at Alto Porvorim from 4th September onwards. All are welcome to see how beautiful these 100 percent hand molded eco idols look.

Earthworm eco store is also promoting eco friendly decorations and garlands to replace those made out of plastic and other non biodegradable materials at its store in Alto Porvorim and at select outlets across the state.

Celebrating Ganesh festival at our store, we would host a clay idol making workshop by sculptor Sachin Madage on the 4th of Sept for children. And on 9th September Mr. Rajendra Kerkar would talk on the “Significance of Matoli during Ganesh Chaturthi” on the 9th of Sept.

Earthworm eco store is also part of an effort to recycle and compost the Nirmalya that is generated from the festival in Vasco city along with the Vasco municipality and other NGO’s and individuals in the city.

For information and inquiries please call us at 08322410871 or email at

Monday, August 16, 2010


A rare instance of a Green vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) preying upon a Large scaled shieldtail (Uropeltis macrolepis macrolepis) was recorded by herpetologist Nirmal Kulkarni and his team in the Chorla Ghats forests of the Mhadei Bio region on the 15th of August 2010.

Interestingly, the Green Vine snake is a partially arboreal species of snake while the large scaled shieldtail is an inoffensive burrowing forest species that is endemic to the Western Ghats of India.

This is the second report of a Green Vine snake feeding on a shieldtail snake in the Northern Western Ghats of India, the first report being from Maharashtra by herpetologist and Curator of the Bombay Natural History Society Mr. Varad Giri a few years ago.

The Green Vine snake is uncommonly seen on ground and feeds mainly on lizards, frogs and small birds. It is a mildly venomous snake and the venom is capable of paralyzing small prey.

Shieldtail snakes are strictly forest species of burrowing snakes that are usually encountered under humus or leaf litter in dense forest habitats of the Western Ghats forests and are known to be highly elusive in most of their range. Encountered in thickly forested areas or on the fringes of forest habitats and open patches, Shieldtail snakes can be observed and studied only in the 4 months of monsoon period in the field, after which they burrow under the forest floor, sometimes even 2-3 feet in the soil. The specie documented in the Mhadei Bioregion includes the large scaled shieldtail, the pied belly shieldtail and the Elliot’s shieldtail.

There is a lacuna of knowledge about these species whose ecology and habitat preference is lest known merely from a few observations and hence the current observations of predator prey relationships with a partially arboreal species are considered important by researchers.

The team observed the large scaled shieldtail being caught at mid body by the Green Vine snake and pulled up from the leaf litter to 1 foot above the ground to be swallowed head first followed by the complete snake. The entire time span of the incident was approx 40 minutes after which the Vine snake proceeded to a higher branch at 5 feet above the ground and remained there for 20 minutes before moving again.

The approx length of the Green vine snake was 3 feet while the large scaled shieldtail was approx 12 inches. Non-intrusive observations and photo documentation were carried out to document the behavior of the two species and the observations are being reported to the Center for Herpetology as well as the Indian Herpetological society for information.

The incident was recorded at 630 meters above sea level in secondary forest vegetation and the skies were partially cloudy. The humidity at the time was 78 percent and the temperature was 28 degrees Celsius. Other data including GPS locations and the dominant vegetation in the area was Makad limbu (Atlantia monophylla) and False guava (Catunaregam spinarum). The nearest water source to the area was approx 4 meters away from the incident.

The team consisted of Mr. Nirmal Kulkarni and Mr. Krishna Gawas affiliated to the Mhadei Research Center and Mr. Sunil Patil a volunteer.

Nirmal Kulkarni


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mhadei Herpetology Camp 2010



The Chorla Ghats forests lie on the tri state boundaries of Goa- Karnataka-Maharashtra states and are part of the Mhadei Bio region. Classified as a Mega Biodiversity hotspot and an Important Bird area, the region is acknowledged as a large cat corridor and an area of high endemism for lesser-known fauna.

The forests types predominantly include mixed moist deciduous and semi evergreen forests with intermediate canebrakes and riverine vegetation.

Heavy to medium rainfall, diverse vegetation and high humidity has led to creation of niche habitats for Herpetofauna that are unique to this region. Availability of a variety of prey base and minimal human disturbance has ensured sustained stability of small populations in certain pockets of these forests.


Climate- Heavy to medium showers with windy weather.

Temperature- 18 degrees Celsius to 22 degrees Celsius.

Humidity- 85 percent and above.


The Herpetofauna of this region has been overlooked by serious workers and researchers in the past and the only work carried out by team leader Nirmal Kulkarni and his colleagues have resulted in documentation of 2 new caecilian species besides other range extensions of endemic and rare reptiles and amphibians. The team will help compile a basic checklist of the Herpetofauna in identified areas of interest and lay foundations of further work in the region.


The Mhadei Herpetology camp has been specifically designed keeping in mind the unique Monsoon Herpetofauna of the Northern Western Ghats of India of which the Mhadei Bio-region is a part.

During this camp we will explore High altitude plateaus, monsoonal stream eco-systems and fringe forest environments. The program will also include an orientation on basics in Snake taxonomy, Reptile rescue, and Snake Bite protocol and wildlife photography.

Participants will also get to learn techniques of field surveys and scientific documentation of Herpetofauna with the help of field equipment.


The Monsoons offer opportunities rare opportunity to observe and study Herpetofauna that are otherwise inactive for the rest of the year.

Participants will be able to document over 20 rare, endemic and uncommon species of Herpetofauna. Some species include-

1. Malabar Gliding Frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus)

2. Pied belly shield Tail snake. (Melanophidium punctatum)

3. Beddome’e keelback snake. (Amphiesma beddomei)

4. Malabar Pit viper. (Trimeresurus malabaricus)

5. Mhadei caecilian. (Gegeneophis mhadeiensis)

6. Malabar Night frog. (Nyctibatrachus major)


Nirmal Kulkarni

A qualified field ecologist and herpetologist, Nirmal Kulkarni has to credit the discovery of 2 new species of legless amphibians (caecilians), a host of research papers and an experience of over 15 years in the forests of the Western Ghats of India. He is also a wildlife photographer and specializes in photographing lesser-known fauna. He currently works on pit vipers and amphibians in the Northern Western Ghats of India.


Herpactive is an initiative by Nirmal Kulkarni, herpetologist and wildlife photographer to create awareness and instill appreciation for Herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians) of Goa in particular and the country in general.

Herpactive aims to promote the science of field herpetology by conducting walks, surveys, training workshops and field technique sessions for budding herp- enthusiasts as well as serious students of main-stream science.

DATES- 25th 26th and 27th August 2010.


Participants will stay in Shared accommodation at Swapnagandha Resort Chorla Ghats.

Participants will also visit and work at the Mhadei Research Center.

Food will include Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian options.


1. Fast drying earth colored field clothes.

2. Gumboots or good walking shoes fit for rainy weather.

3. Powerful Torch or Headlight- with extra batteries.

4. Rainwear (Raincoats or Ponchos).

5. Field Note Pad and Pen/pencil.

6. Personal medical kit if any.

7. Back pack for field.

8. Water bottle or container for Field.

9. Sleeping bag or blanket and sheet.

10. Camera.

11. Personal toiletries.

CAMP FEES- RS. 7000/- (Seven Thousand only) including Pick up and drop from Panjim, all meals, course fee and stay at shared accommodation at Swapnagandha Resort.







OR CALL ON 09326107079 (Nirmal) OR 09822586918 (Glenda).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Click a Croak Photography contest.

Click a Croak Photography Contest.

Earthworm organizes the first ever ‘Click a Croak’ amphibian photography competition for anybody who has a camera or who can get their hands on one.

This contest is truly open to all….to zoom into frogs, their egg spawn and tadpoles, in their natural habitats, be it in forests, rice fields, village ponds, puddles, your backyard or even your bathroom ( if that is what it has chosen for its habitat!).

So please go ahead and click and encourage your kids, your aunt, your neighbor to click click away..the purpose of this contest is to get people to get a closer look at frogs…it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what its called.

There are prizes for the oldest entrant, and the youngest one. Besides three best images will of course receive prizes.

The few rules are:

Only images from the state of Goa and taken in natural environs will be eligible.

Every entrant can submit two 8x10 matt images along with a duly filled form to Earthworm eco-store or to any of the collection centers.

All images must be in color and photographers must hold full copyrights of the images.

A duly filled form that will provide details of the image and the photographer must accompany all images.

Identification of species photographed is not compulsory whilst submitting the entry.

Entry fee for the competition will be Rs 100 per participant for 2 images.

All entries received will be the property of Earthworm eco-store and an exhibition of the images will be held to create awareness amongst the people of Goa.

All copyrights of the images will rest with the respective photographers and they will be duly acknowledged.

Entries will be judged on the basis of subject matter, aesthetics and technical quality.

A panel of independent professional wildlife photographers and amphibian experts will judge the competition and the decision of the judges will be final.

The last date for submission of entries is 8th of August 2010 at 5.00 pm.

All entries to be submitted to Earthworm Eco store 264/79 (2) 1st Floor Green Valley Alto Porvorim Bardez Goa- 403521

Entry forms for the competition will be available at Earthworm Eco-store Alto Porvorim and at the following centers in Goa.

Regal Electronics St Inez Panjim.

Earthworm Eco store Alto Porvorim

Green Goa Works Mapusa.

For details contact- or call on 08322410871.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Conserve the Indian Bull Frog.

Another week and our state will receive the South West monsoons in their glory, bringing joy and abundance to both plant as well as animal life. And while, birds will don their monsoon plumage and butterflies will exhibit like never before, the early showers will also see activity amongst frogs, who will rise from their dormancy and frog catchers, who pull on their gumboots and torches for yet another systematic illegal massacre of Indian Bull frogs, across the state, now an almost annual event for past decade or so.

Indian Bull frogs, more commonly known by us Goans, as Jumping Chicken are on the verge of local extinction, and joint efforts by the Goa Forest Department and the Wild Goa run Save the Frogs campaign needs support for creating awareness as well as providing protection for these species.

Considered as a flagship species of all Indian amphibians, and an important link in any pond, river, and field or grassland ecosystem, the Indian Bull frog is a charismatic species for many Herpetofauna lovers.

Being the largest of its family, this species is distinguished by its large size and tiger like striped pattern on the body and limbs. During mating periods, the males turn bright yellow and the characteristic blue vocal sacs are a sight to see when they advertise their presence.

Once abundant in a variety of habitats that ranged from open grasslands and agriculture fields to ponds, lakes and streams, the Indian Bull frog is now declining in almost all its earlier locales due to the large scale indiscriminate slaughter of this species in the state. Change in land use patterns, indiscriminate usage of pesticides and of course loss of habitat due to development activity has taken its toll is a fact too and worth noting here.

The survival of the Indian Bull frog is essential for the survival of our neighborhood ecology and this needs to be understood by one and all. I fail to understand whether this fact is being deliberately ignored by those who do not have a control over their taste buds and continue to patronize the illegal trade of frog hunting and its meat, Jumping Chicken being served in Goan restaurants, despite an official Ban on the same. But this is a fact. The Indian Bull frog and its tadpole stage plays the role of a bio pest and insect controller due to it feeding habits and was once largely responsible for curbing the populations of mosquitoes and their larvae. Alas, not any more, as the systematic slaughter for the table and alteration of habitats due to rapid unplanned urbanization has taken its toll on this species and the results are for us to see now…epidemics like malaria and other water borne diseases are on the rise rapidly in many parts of the state as soon as the rains set in.

This monsoons, is perhaps a last chance, to reverse the process and begin afresh- by firstly identifying hotspots and then protecting the Indian Bull frogs and their habitats in all parts of the state. This requires every individual nature lover and sensible Goan amongst us to be vigilant and report instances of Frog poaching to the nearest Forest office or Police station for action. Write to the media whose vigilante role has now been established as far as environment protection goes in the state. Speak up to your elected representatives and convince those at the Panchayat and Ward level to create awareness about this issue.

The need for an integrated approach by our Government is crucial now, as its Departments of Environment, Education, Health, Forest and Police need to work together to bring about awareness and enforcement on this vital issue, which is threatening the local extinction of an important amphibian species from the state. I hope our Government takes note of this matter in a more effective manner and helps protect this important species in the state.

And for those who wish to join the larger movement, join Save Goa, a network of nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts whose sustained efforts for the last 5 years have showed results in some areas. Remember, every voice matters and would go a long way in conserving this important urban wildlife species.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Talk held on Odonata at Earthworm ecostoreies

A talk on Odonata (damselflies and dragonflies) was taken by Parag Rangnekar. Parag is the State co-oridnator for Goa Bird Conservation network and also the author of the book 'Butterflies of Goa'
His recent additions to the Odonata of Goa as a research paper are being widely acknowledged as a stepping step to conservation in this regard.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lesser known Winged wonders- Dragonflies and Damselflies

Lesser known Winged wonders- Dragonflies and Damselflies

The Southwest monsoons will soon sweep across our parched landscapes draping the lands with carpets of greens and browns. An explosion of life forms will thus erupt bringing to life a myriad of lesser-known creatures including frogs, beetles, moths and their kind and will be a part of our urban lives as long as the Rain God blesses us with his showers.

We at Earthworm wish to welcome the Monsoons with Worm trails and talks on urban wildlife and eco campaigns through the rains and begin with Dragonflies and Damselflies- fabled creatures of the Insect world.

Dragonflies and Damselflies, the much-ignored ‘cousins’ of butterflies are as important as any other insects in our immediate surroundings and are indicators of a healthy environment. Their role as pest controllers in keeping in check flies, mosquitoes and smaller moths is vital in the ecological chain.

Brightly colored and intrinsically different they are a treat to watch and photograph but are seldom admired like butterflies. Threatened due to insecticides and loss of breeding water bodies many species that were once common in our neighborhoods have been lost locally and are now found in small patches. At Earthworm, we aim to create awareness and appreciation for these winged wonders amongst nature lovers as well as laypersons.

We begin with a talk and presentation on ‘Damselflies and Dragonflies’ by Mr. Parag Rangnekar, author of the widely popular field guide of Butterflies of Goa. Besides being an established birder (he is the state co-coordinator of the Goa bird Conservation network), Parag Rangnekar has recently catalogued the Damselflies and Dragonflies of Goa and has been working on the subject for over 5 years. A committed naturalist and wildlife photographer, Parag has been instrumental in popularizing the hobby of butterfly and Dragonfly watching in the state of Goa.

Date: - 23rd May Sunday, 2010.

Time: - 5.30 pm to 7.00 pm.

Venue: - Earthworm Eco store, Green valley, Alto Porvorim Goa.

For details contact- or call 08322410871.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Earth Day

The images of a wild male Gaur bolting across the forest path into the thick undergrowth and the take of a crested serpent eagle from the undergrowth linger in my mind. At 800 msl, near a waterhole, I clock in my observations on a data sheet, and a second glance at the date makes it seemingly obvious that in a few days is is Earth Day- a day celebrated to highlight the various problems that our planet faces today including loss of biodiversity, loss of habitat and of course, climate change or global warming as many know about now.

Climate change has now become a topic of mainstream discussion. All of us know by now that the accumulation of green house gases such as carbon dioxide caused by burning fossil fuels, CFC’s, methane and etc have irreversibly affected our climate and directly led to Global warming.

What we as global citizens do not know however is that one of the most important factor that affects climate change is Deforestation, which results in large scale release of Carbon Dioxide and is ranked 2nd in the scheme of things that affect our climate change crises, only next to the energy sector.

The much renowned and respected Oxford based Global Canopy Programme, an alliance of the most distinguished of the worlds rainforest scientists have stated time and again that the burning, slashing and rampant hacking of the world’s forests results in over 25 percent of global emissions while transport and industry account for a mere 14 percent each. This is startling I know, but is the stark truth.

The system is simple. Photosynthesis and respiration are vital mechanisms by which forests store and release carbon. The forests that we often take for granted store carbon by absorbing carbon dioxide and, through the process of photosynthesis, use solar energy to store carbon in their network of roots, stems and branches. While some carbon, as we all know is released back into the atmosphere as Carbon doxide, a living tree will always store more carbon than it releases and continues to do so until it reaches maturity. When a tree is thus burnt or felled the stored carbon escapes into the air causing grave unseen damage to our living environment. This is a reality.

While afforestation and restoration are seen as the next best options and tradable carbon credits are beneficial, there is a strong need to understand that fallacy to attempt to restore biodiversity rich forests like the Western Ghats by resorting to monoculture plantations is more suicidal then remedial to put it bluntly. Monoculture plantations as we all know mature at a maximum lifespan of 20-25 years after which they have to be cut down and end up releasing Carbon dioxide gases that cause much more damage than good.

Thus a STEM report on Climate Change states that “it would be substantially cheaper to take action and protect existing forests from deforestation compared to other types of mitigation and this will happen only if the right policies and institutions are in place” It is a know fact amongst the academia as well as the field workers of wildlife that curbing deforestation is a highly cost effective way to reduce green house gas emissions.

But the magnitude of the problem is enormous. World wide about 13 million ha of forests are lost every year. A study in the Western Ghats showed that between 1973 and 1995, there was a 19.5 per cent loss in forest cover. This is alarming and as age old eco systems like the Western Ghats, often termed as ‘Rainmakers” succumb; our problems on issues like Climate change will worsen.

Temperature rises, shift in monsoon patterns, loss of biodiversity and irreversible changes in soil and air conditions are aspects that are now not alien but part of our set of backyard problems that stare at us in the face.

This is not a ‘usual environmental problem’. It is an issue that will decide our food and water security, and to a much larger extent our economic security too. On Earth day, and on every other day we cannot and should not carry on business as usual, and try to be blissfully unaware of the rise in temperatures, of the loss of fisheries and sudden change in water levels…we should know that we are at the threshold of an impending danger that looms large over us.

Thus the need of the hour is to protect vital habitats like the Western Ghats, our riverine ecosystems and our plains, which are being pillaged and destroyed in the name of development by our planners. The need to return to green and clean technologies in whichever way possible is now a necessity. It is but important that at the very least, our citizens know the climatic catastrophe that threatens not only their livelihoods but their lives as well. The need to be aware is of paramount importance now. That in itself would help in addressing this issue of Climate change head on.

A different approach needs to be taken and Earth day would be right occasion to do so. Conserving our forests and biodiversity is an investment with long-term benefits. States like Himachal Pradesh have gone a step ahead and evaluated the real value of their forests and even the Finance Commission has taken cognizance of the need to compensate forest rich states in return of their conservation of natural forests.

We as individuals too need to be aware, of our strain on the natural resources and act as responsible citizens of this planet by practicing the principles of reusing, recycling and reducing resources at all levels. This would be a start…for Earth Day.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

10 Ways in which you can help towards conservation of the Mhadei River.

The Mhadei river and its tributaries are threatened due to the diversion Project of the Karnataka State Government which is playing the ‘Big Brother’ game with Goa due to its strength both in the Political arena and otherwise.
We as a people, in Goa can and must do our bit to help our elected representatives and those fighting the cause of conservation of the Mahdei River in whichever way we can. On the occasion of World Water Day and upcoming Earth Hour I attempt to list some of the means that can make a difference in this fight to protect our Mother River, the Mhadei.
1. Be aware- Be conscious of the issue of the Diversion project envisaged by the Karnataka Government and its impacts on the Goan ecology and economy. Being aware is the key to action and the more we are updated on this issue that threatens the water security of our state, the better it is for the Goan society at large.
2. Help create awareness- arrange talks, slide shows and field visits for schools and other institutions across the state and beyond as people’s support is vital for petitioning both the state and central government on the peoples stand on this issue.
3. Take action- Volunteer time and resources to organizations like the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan that have been relentlessly pursuing the matter in the Supreme Court as well as creating awareness at the grass roots level in the states of Goa and Karnataka.
4. Write to the Prime Minister of India seeking his personal attention to the delay in action to address the issue be it the Tribunal or the continuation of work at the Dam site despite a stay on the same.
5. Write to the Forest Minister of India and raise your concerns regarding the impacts of the diversion project on the biodiversity of adjoining Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary of Goa and the Bhimgad Wildlife sanctuary of Karnataka. It is a given that areas in the submergence and dam area are forest areas too and these will irreversibly damaged in the process of diversion.
6. Petition the court- petition the Central Empowered Committee on Wildlife and seek attention on the depletion of water sources,
7. Pass a resolution at your Village Gramsabha demanding the immediate intervention and attention of the Hon Supreme Court of India as well as the Central Empowered committee on Wildlife of the Supreme Court for the immediate stoppage of work at the dam site at Kankumbi as it is violating existing orders of Status quo by these law bodies.
8. Conserve forests- Jal, Jamin aur Jungle are connected. The conservation of green areas whether it is wetland or forest ecosystems, mangroves or city forests, requires protection. Habitat alteration is the single largest threat to catchment areas of our water bodies and these can only be protected by your active intervention at the grass roots levels.
9. Conserve Water-whether it is in your home or office environment, the need of the hour is to conserve fresh water and its sources-lakes, rivers wells, springs etc across the state. This must go hand in hand with protection of the Mhadei River and her tributaries.
10. Reach out- it is important to reach out and lobby for the conservation of water as a natural resource in the State. The Mhadei and its tributaries are Goa’s lifelines and it is our individual responsibility to safeguard and actively participate in planning and decision making in any program and project that involves the use or alteration of this resource. Give time and efforts to this issue, as it will decide the future of the state and its people. Keep the faith.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New species get raw deal in Goa.

Yes it is true. Species that have been described from the state of Goa by scientists and ecologists get a raw deal, and hardly a handful seem to know about these lesser known creatures and the people behind these contributions to the field of international science.
To begin with, the new descriptions of wild creatures from Goa are mostly lesser known fauna- i.e. in simple terms, smaller wildlife that is for many not of any significant economical, cultural and ecological value- and hence do not figure in any way in the scheme of things as far as awareness or appreciation for these living beings of the land.
Take for example the Goan Day Gecko (Nemespis goanensis), one of our early descriptions from the state, perhaps in the 70’s, a small and yet spectacular species of day lizards whose singular image does not even exist today and very little is known of the same as far as its description or even ecology is concerned. Many more have followed since and in the same manner have been lost in time and space, only to be known by a handful for academicians and researchers interested in the subject.
And sadly it is the same fact even with the new species described from the state in recent times. The species of caecilian (legless burrowing amphibians) described from Bondla Wildlife sanctuary i.e. the Nadkarni’s caecilian (Gegeneophis nadkarnii) in 2004 and the one described from Keri, Sattari Goan caecilian (Gegeneophis goaensis) in 2007 by Dr G. K. Bhatt and his team have not only been forgotten but even ignored for their conservation value by the concerned Departments. The same goes with the newly described scorpion species ‘Thaicharmus lowei’ described from the Netravali wildlife sanctuary in 2007 by Frantisek Kovarik and his team, and there is already another new description in acceptance for a spider species Ctenus goanensis (common name yet to be given) by well known Goan entomologist and scientist Dr Manoj Borkar…all from Goa where the exquisite forests remain unexplored for smaller wildlife and thus present a challenging task for conservation as well as research in terms of wildlife documentation and study.
But this study is tedious, meticulous and back breaking, and let me admit, as I know first hand… frustrating at times too as the recognition and encouragement for the work done is minimal, thanks to the low interest for subjects like ecology and wildlife biology amongst the masses as well as the classes.
However, I earnestly feel it is the need of the hour for our Forest Department to realize that these species descriptions from the state of Goa are not only important species as far as the state or country is concerned but have international significance as well and have succeeded in bringing Goa and its unique wilderness areas on the world map of wildlife and science as well. They need to be given their due recognition and the Department needs to take steps to ensure that at least the locals as well as tourists visiting these sites of discovery like Bondla, Mahdei and Netravali sanctuaries be made aware of the existence of these rare creatures.
That none of our Environment textbooks, Biology journals or even reference periodicals, etc have ever featured or included any of these described species from Goa is not only a sad fact but a shameful one at that. Isn’t it of utmost importance that our student community is aware of these unknown wonders, that have now been described and discovered for the first time from a small state like ours- should not they be appreciated and acknowledge just like other events and in field of sports or development are? It is but high time that the Education department and the Science and Technology department takes note of this lacuna and takes steps to ensure that information of these species and many others including flora and fauna (which I too may have missed) be compiled in the form of a booklet for distribution to libraries of educational institutions for creating awareness about these forgotten species whose knowledge the world community acknowledges time and again. As far as the media is concerned, their role is vital as researchers can only do their bit of documenting and bringing to light new aspects related to science and ecology, but it is the media who has to take the initiative for spreading awareness and creating interest amongst the masses so that this awareness leads to conservation and action for the protection of our wild habitats and their known as well as unknown denizens!
That the State Biodiversity Board needs to wake up from its slumber and bring out publications regarding new descriptions from the state, endemic species of plants and animals as well as threatened species, by way of children’s books, posters and other literature, is as of today the need of the hour.
And while ecologists and wildlife scientists continue to work and report new species and range extensions, endemic and rare species of flora and fauna from our exquisite forests, the least we as a people can do is support them in mind and spirit… and appreciate their work in every way possible. Keep the faith.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Top 10 ways to help frogs the cool way.

Declining numbers in Amphibian species is a cause of concern for all conservationists and wildlife researchers across the globe as well as the country. And while the issues that aggravate this decline are many, we in Goa are faced with some specific problems that need to be addressed firstly at an individual level by each and everyone of us and then as a conscious society. I list below 10 simple ways to conserve frog and other amphibian populations in the state and help conserve this much neglected group of creatures of our environs.
1. Observe, appreciate and educate yourself, your friends and your family about amphibians and their kind. Read about them on the Internet or from a book in your local library. Or better still attend a talk or discussion being organized by wildlife lovers on frogs in the state.
2. Create amphibian safe environs in your backyard and neighborhood by saying no to frog poaching for meat and creating niche habitats like small artificial ponds, cool undergrowth and leaf litter to attract frogs of various species.
3. Do not pollute your immediate surroundings including gardens, farmlands and backyards by disposing non-biodegradable waste recklessly. Refrain from using chemical fertilizers and pesticides as they have severe impacts on local populations of amphibians and irreversibly damage habitats that are then beyond repair.
4. Voice your opinion in the right forums to garner support for amphibians and their kind. Start from your local Panchayat and Gramsabha and seek the attention of your Range Forest officer as well as your neighborhood Police Beat officer too. Collectively, everyone can contribute in their own way to ensure that frogs and toads are protected in their breeding season.
5. Convince and educate those who have relished “ Jumping chicken” in the past that it is illegal to hunt, capture and serve or consume Frog meat now under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. Make your local restaurant as well as
6. Conserve all natural resources including water and soil. Rainwater harvesting not only helps the soil and helps maximize the usage of water for the earth, it also ensures that most species of amphibians benefit from such clean collected rainwater. Preventing the run off of soil also helps conserve frog habitats.
7. Be active and participate in drives, talks and workshops that address issues relating to amphibian decline, curbing of poaching of certain species and habitat conservation. Every individual’s support will surely go a long way towards conservation of amphibians in our ecosystems.
8. Reduce the use of fossil fuels and other substances that you know are damaging to the planet and induce Climate change. Remember, one of the single largest reasons for drastic decline in amphibian populations worldwide is Climate change. Buy CFL bulbs and use renewable energy systems like solar panels etc to help slow the rate of climate change.
9. Drive slowly and carefully in the monsoons. Road kills of certain species are on the rise in the state and a cause of concern. You surely have a right on the road as a drive but these creatures to have a right to live and need your respect!
10. Participate in the planning and decision making process of Land use development of your neighborhood. Appropriate care and sustainable planning can go a long way in ensuring that natural habitats are conserved and managed properly for posterity.
And while we as individuals can make a notable difference if any or all of these ways are practiced and accomplished in our everyday lives, it is up to Government agencies too, to pledge their support and provide it as and when required to conserve Amphibian populations in the state for posterity. Keep the faith.

By- Nirmal U Kulkarni