Monday, December 31, 2012

I Nirmal Kulkarni aged 34 saw this last sunset of 2012 from the Western Ghats of Goa. I hope the new year 2013 helps us all in conserving these forests and getting them declared as UNESCO World heritage sites- a title that they truly deserve.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Celebrating a Green Christmas.
Its Christmas time again and the spirit of the season has transformed our state into a hub of joy, love and of course festivities that are unlike any other festive season. It is also a time when one can consider a bit about our immediate environs and begin with our homes itself- as it is a season of good tidings and new beginnings. I take the liberty of jotting ten simple points that can make this Chirstmas special for you as well the environment.
1.     Plant a small tree together as a family as symbolizes the value of nature and giving back to our environment. Better still spend an hour cleaning up a natural area and recognize nature as the source of our well being.
2.     Go natural and healthy this Christmas. Switch over to organic foods that are now available at many green stores and select super markets. Grow your own vegetable patch in your backyard and yes, do begin composting your biodegradable waste. Celebrate this Christmas by supporting local traditional sweet makers too and live up the Goan Christmas spirit.
3.     Buy a live Christmas tree this season. Plastic trees are made of petroleum products (PVC), and use up resources in both the manufacture and shipping. If you buy a small tree in a large pot, you may be able to reuse the tree for 2- 3 years without having to plant or re-pot the tree.
4.     Christmas cards purchased from commercial stores are rich, elegant and expensive. They also consume a huge amount of natural resources for time bound item. Try to make home made cards They may not be as professional, but they are more personal and are appreciated more by one and all. Making the cards is also a fun activity for the family.
5.     Car pool if possible while visiting friends and family. The earth’s natural resources are dwindling at a fast rate and petroleum products are one of them. Car-pooling also helps reduce traffic congestion and lessens the impact on the environment too.
6.     Do reduce the size of outdoor lighting displays wherever possible. A smaller presentation of lights can still be attractive, and more appropriate in the 'season of giving'. Use LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights for house and Christmas tree lighting as they use up to 95% less energy than larger, traditional bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours when used indoors.
7.     Promote and patronize locally made gifts. The impact of transportation contributes significantly to greenhouse emissions and global warming. If possible choose eco friendly and traditional gifts over plastic and other non-bio degradable ones. Avoid children’s toys that use batteries, as these are not recyclable and are toxic to the earth when disposed off.
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. Instead promote local talent. Sing together and maintain sound levels as prescribed by the law.
9.     Please refuse to accept plastic bags from shops and malls, as alternatives are now available. Better still carry your own cloth shopping bags. Understand the need to curb the menace of plastic and reduce, recycle and reuse all non-biodegradable resources.
10.  And last but not the least, beginning this Christmas do resolve to act together on issues that concern our state and its environment. Together we all can keep Goa as a safe and environment friendly destination.

And while these are some thoughts that I have jotted down, do go out and accomplish more green doings this festive season. Wishing you all a merry Chirstmas and a Happy New Year 2013.Keep the faith.

By: - Nirmal U Kulkarni

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nirmal Kulkarni speaking to urban kids on conservation issues

One of my key objectives in 2013 will be to focus on reaching out to urban kids about conservation issues and their direct linkages with urban living and lifestyles. It is important that kids understand at every age that our natural resources are limited and are our heritage.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Solar lantern project- another school covered.

Our work for the Solar lanterns project continues. This recent image by Shrinivas Ananthanarayanan is from the village school of Evoli, which has 6 students and is part of the identified villages where we at the Hypnale Research Station wish to conduct long term conservation education programs with. The village and its forests have recently been included in the buffer area of Anshi Tiger Reserve, Karnataka.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Goa's APCCF RIchard Dsouza IFS receives prestigious Sanctuary Asia wildlife service award

Richard D'souza an IFS Officer of the 1980 batch of the AGMUT cadre and presently working as Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest was recently conferred the wildlife services award 2012 by Santuary Asia in a glittering ceremony in Mumbai. 

Shri Richard D'souza is a wildlife defender, but he will be remembered by the people of Goa as the man who protected their water sources forever. A rare individual whose blood seems to flow even greener than Goa's tiger forest which he zealously protects. His passion for all things natural dates back to the 60's when as a student he first encountered a tiger in Billy Arjan Singh's Dudhwa Santuary in UP. He decided then and there that he would join the IFS a dream that came true in 1980 with a posting to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Since that day he has been stead fastly walking the narrow, the unbeaten wildlife conservation trail which has its own share of problems including two near death experiences.

As the Chief Wildlife Warden of the A&N Islands he quickly got Cuthbert bay declared as a scantuary for the Olive Ridley turtle, Rani Jhansi Marine Natural Park for the endangered Dugung and Galathea bay in Great Nicobar for the highly endangered Giant Leatherback turtle. Shielding these amazing creatures has not only guaranteed their future but that of million other life forms including ourselves all subtly intertwined in that fine web we call nature. He has also authored management plans fot many other regions in the Andaman's in the 16 long years he spent there. 

This life time experience stood him in good stead in Goa where he works as APCCF for a government that has given almost 63% of the total forest area of the state over to sanctuary or National park status. He has been protecting the wildlife of India all his life because of which his work has been recognised and has been awarded this coveted wildlife service award. 

The Sanctuary Wildlife Awards were instituted to recognise and draw national attention to the contribution of individuals working for the protection of wildlife and natural habitats in India. Since its inception in the year 2000, the awards have unearthed the inspirational work of hundreds across the country, and this year saw scores of nominations being sent in from all over the country for consideration to the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards 2012.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nirmal Kulkarni felicitated with the prestigious
‘Karmaveer Puraskar’

Nov 2012:
Nirmal U Kulkarni was felicitated with the coveted ‘Karmaveer Puraskar’ award on the 26th of November in New Delhi at an exclusive awards function which was a part of “iCONGO’s REX Conclave, organized on 25th, 26th and 27th .of November  2012.

REX ( )is Latin for KING and REX conclaves shall be the king of all good thought leadership for CHANGE conclaves (with an eclectic mix of “ROCKSTAR SPEAKERS”, cause related performers, short film screenings & awards) where ideas speak out to encourage proactive action to change our world. REX CONCLAVE is the scaled up new avatar of the RIGHT every WRONG conclave, which were knowledge forums that were pivotal for pioneering huge thought leadership for addressing various social issues ranging from Education to Healthcare & Poverty to Marginalization, Climate Change, Corruption, Environment, Electoral Reforms, CSR, Communalism, MDGs and Constitutional rights & duties awareness.

The CtrlS - iCONGO promoted “KARMAVEER PURASKAAR (KVP)” are the Global Awards for Social Justice and Citizen Action instituted by the people sector & civil society with various partner organizations, citizens at large and media supporters. Be the change you want to see in this world is what every KARMAVEER inherently believes and practices. 

The awards are given every year on the 26th day of November, our National Social Justice and Citizen Action Day, the day we adopted our constitutional pledge as a REPUBLIC and Indian Citizens in 1949. It is the first award of its kind from India, and probably around the globe, that has been held every year for the past 5 years, at a very austere, simple and dignified program in New Delhi. 

 The “KARMAVEER PURASKAAR” awards ceremony has over the years become a “MELTING POT” where People from India & Global Citizens that comprise individuals ranging from princes and princesses to global bestselling authors, young politicians, statesmen, bureaucrats, ambassadors, actors, singers, captains of industry, media professionals, development workers, young adults, students, school children, homemakers, academicians, slum workers and others who come “TOGETHER as ONE to RIGHT every WRONG”.  

 iCONGO, in association with CtrlS, VSO India and SOAP, has also launched Karmayuga-Right every Wrong Generation, an initiative that salutes and showcases the extra ordinary and inspiring work done by ordinary mortals, to Right a Wrong that they see around them.

The awards recognize and applaud the social commitment of concerned individuals, who have proactively and voluntarily worked for bringing a positive transformation in the society and the world we live in. In today’s world where there is huge apathy & indifference, we feel a paramount need for being not just a good person but also a good citizen who exercises her/ his rights, duties & responsibilities as a concerned, just and humane citizen. 

Nirmal, a herpetologist and wildlife photographer has worked in the Western Ghats of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra and as a group team leader in Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Kerala. He is involved in data collection and consultancy services on eco-tourism and wildlife research projects across the country. His experience in setting up and running Wildernest Nature Resort, an eco-tel in the heart of Chorla Ghats, holds him in good stead. He was also part of a team that worked on conserving the forests of the Northern Western Ghats of India and led to the creation of the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary, and also helped declare the Mhadei Wildlife sanctuary as a Proposed Tiger reserve.

Among the significant discoveries to his credit are three new species of legless amphibians, the caecilians - Goan caecilian (Gegeneophis goaensis), Mahdei caecilian (Gegeneophis mhadeiensis), and the Chorla Giant striped Ichthyophis (Ichthyophis davidi). He was part of a team that reported new sub-species of the pit viper (Peotobothrops jerdonii xanthomelas) - the Jerdon’s Red spotted pit and ahs various other notes, articles and research papers to his credit on Indian herps (reptiles and amphibians).

 He has established the Mhadei region’s first independent field research station, the Mahdei Research Centre, which trains young naturalists, brings communities and wildlife enthusiasts on the same platform, and documents the biodiversity of the region. He has also authored a book titled ‘The Goan Jungle Book” which is aimed at educating students in particular and the Goan populace in general about Goa’s lesser known wildlife.

Nirmal has credited his family and team of volunteers and interns for this achievement without whose support it would be impossible to continue to work for over a decade.

Nirmal was congratulated for possessing the conviction and compassion to stand up, speak out and lead the change with his positive attitude for wildlife conservation! The Award selection panel of iCONGO, which has selected his nomination after thorough due diligence and said that they were glad to have found a true champion of social justice issues in Nirmal and wish that more and more citizens gave their time, involvement and humane feelings towards addressing issues related to conservation and wildlife protection and being the change and role models for other citizens to follow.

For more details contact

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Photo documenting amphibians as part of a basic survey

Photo documenting amphibians has always been a crucial step in rapidly understand the health of a forest. amphibians are an indicator species and thus are vital in documentation process of forest ecosystems.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Our Solar lanterns project.

Our solar lanterns project at Hypnale Research station. We have chosen schools around Castle Rock area that are part of the Ansi Tiger reserve as there is no electricity here. This local school at Kuveshi village with 10 children is one of the remotest and is near the Hypnale Research station. The solar lanterns are being provided so that children can study at night.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Searching for caecilians in a haystack.

Searching for caecilians in a decomposed haystack is like what some folks would say, searching for a needle in a haystack. it is true that the odds are against the one who is searching, but with good luck and a supportive monsoon pattern, finding these fossorial amphibians is fun. Also help and guidance from stalwarts like Dr K P Dinesh and Dr G K Bhatt has helped, and learning field skills from P Prashanth has been a boon. The Panja digger, as its called is handy and well always rewards with a sighting if one works hard enough.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

WIth team members during the biodiversity training workshop

Nirmal Kulkarni with team members during the biodiversity training workshop at Hypnale research station at Kuveshi Karnataka. This was the first of a series of workshops that were conducted to create an interest in data collection and documentation of biodiversity amongst enthusiasts.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wildlife week- a need to pledge to work for wildlife throughout the year.

Wildlife week is celebrated from the 1st of October to the 7th of October every year to create awareness and bring about an understanding of the threats our wild species face in the country. This year around, I jot down ten ways in which you can make a difference for conserving Goa’s wildlife.

1.     A simple way to protect vital wildlife hotspots like the Western Ghats is by being aware of your local surroundings. Understand the fact that Goa’s Protected Areas harbors wildlife that is unique and threatened. Knowing this itself is the first step towards conservation.
2.     Support the field staff of the Forest Department. Remember, the Forest Department is a custodian of our forests. The need to support them in their work and ensure that the goal for wildlife protection is met with is our duty as well.
3.     Be proactive. Raise your voice wherever necessary and lobby for conservation in your own backyard environment to begin with. Spread the message.
4.     Reduce your consumption of natural resources by making a conscious effort to sustainably use depleting natural resources. Wherever possible return to green and clean technologies. This will help conserve wildlife habitats in a long way.
5.     Curb the menace of plastic and reduce, recycle and reuse all non-biodegradable resources. This itself will help wildlife conservation to a large extent.
6.     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.
7.     Promote local diversity-plant indigenous tree species and support local open pollinated seeds. Grow a tree yourself and help increase the green cover of our state.
8.     Avoid the usage of pesticides and insecticides in gardens and farms. Lobby for a chemical free environment as this will help conserve lesser-known wildlife and directly enrich soil composition over a period of time.
9.     Join a wildlife cause. Volunteer time or resources for a local wildlife organization or an individual working in the field of conservation.
10.  Help raise awareness amongst children and youth- start from your own child and ensure that children understand the value of wildlife and respect it.

Celebrate this year’s Wildlife week by addressing key issues that connect urban living with wildlife and habitat conservation. Remember, every natural resource you use is derived from a forest or allied source. The sooner we understand the better it would be for our wild denizens and us. Keep the faith.
By Nirmal U Kulkarni

Saturday, September 22, 2012


A high altitude mixed moist deciduous and semi evergreen region, with altitudes ranging from 517- 800 msl, the forests around Castle Rock and Kuveshi village are a wildlifers paradise and a researcher’s dream area to work in.
 Our base is at Kuveshi village, a small hamlet situated in the heart of rainforests and 12 kilometers away from Castle Rock. The motor able dirt track that leads to Kuveshi passes through some of the most exquisite forests of the region and includes a criss cross network of streams and rivulets that meander through these forests.
The forests that surround Kuveshi fall in the buffer areas of the Dandeli Tiger Reserve and are home to gaur, tigers, leopards, sambar, spotted deer, mouse deer, barking deer, sloth bear, slender loris to name but a few. The Herpetofauna includes King cobra, Indian Rock Python, Hump nosed and Malabar Pit vipers, Draco and Indian Monitor lizard, Malabar gliding frog and Maharashtra Bush frog amongst others.
The fabled Dudhsagar falls are located in tranquil dense tropical forest criss-crossed with small streams which all merge into the Dudhsagar falls. The view from the crown of the falls is spectacular, offering a panorama of the Mollem National Park, the Devil’s Canyon at its foot (a popular picnic spot with locals and tourists), and the little railway bridge that crosses the canyon.
The Base
The research base at Kuveshi is named Hypnale after the Latin name of the Hump nosed pit viper (Hypnale hypnale). The forest that surrounds the villages of Castle Rock and Kuveshi are the type locality of this species that is endemic to the forests of South India and Sri Lanka. The research station is a part of the Wildlife Research Station network that we are trying to establish across the Northern Western Ghats of India and is focused towards study of lesser-known fauna in the region.

Climate- Pleasant climate with windy weather.
Temperature- 28 degrees Celsius to 35 degrees Celsius.
Humidity- 60 percent and above.

The workshop will include opportunistic surveys, lectures on field data collection and in situ photography of Western Ghats biodiversity.
Field identification techniques of micro fauna, demonstrations of basic bird surveys, training in use of field equipment and discussion of natural history will also be a part of the workshop.
Participants will also get to use basic and advance field equipment, learn observation skills as naturalists and work alongside qualified researchers in the field.

A rainforest eco system that is unique and offers vast prospects for
a.    Learning to observe, photograph and document uncommon and endemic bio diversity the right way.
b.    Trekking and participation in field surveys.
c.    Learning use of field equipment as well as field skills alongside ecologists.
And more…

DATES- 25THOCT 2012 TO 28TH OCT (7.00 am departure from Panjim on 25th and reaching on 28th at 4.00pm at Panjim)
CONTRIBUTION FEES- Rs 9500/- per participant  (this includes all meals and snacks, usage of equipment, resource person fees and transportation from Panjim to Hypnale base station at Kuveshi and back.)


AGE GROUP- 16 years to 60 years. (Participants have to be physically fit and prepared for the outdoors)

Essentials for the workshop.
1.    Fast drying earth colored field clothes.
2.    Good walking shoes fit for rough terrain.
3.    Tick Socks (if don’t have a pair, buy one from us.)
4.    Cap or Hat and Sweater or jacket (it is cold)
5.    Field Note Pad and Pen/pencil.
6.    Back pack for field.
7.    Water bottle or container for Field.
8.    Camera.
9.     Sleeping bag.
10. Personal identification papers (Car License or Election card)

Please note-
1.    There is very little cell phone coverage in the areas where the workshop will travel. Please note the same.
2.    Alcohol consumption is not allowed at any point of time during the workshop. This is not a picnic.
3.    Please carry personal identification papers i.e. Election card or Driving license for the expedition.
4.    The success of this workshop will depend on time management, discipline and ethical wildlife protocol. Please stick to the guidelines and suggestions of the Team Leader.
5.    The workshop will operate in dusty and strong windy areas. Please note that electronic equipment and other personal belongings are protected against the elements.
6.    HRS or its Team Leaders and service providers will not responsible for the loss of equipment or belongings.
7.    Medical emergencies and health issues will be given priority and changes in itinerary due to such reasons will be at the discretion of the Team Leader.

8.    The Team Leader reserves the right to shorten/call off the workshop in event of concerns for the security/health/climate/accident and any such eventuality that may put life at risk for the team.

Friday, August 24, 2012

On work with Madras Crocodile bank trust participants

documenting fossorial species under humus with participants.
Nirmal Kulkarni and young team observes a travancore wolf snake. It is an endemic species to the Western Ghats of India.

Nirmal Kulkarni outlines target species for the program along with Dr Gowri Mallapur of the Madras Crocodile bank Trust.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Camera Trap sessions and use

Setting camera traps with interns/participants. This exercise helps wildlife enthusiasts help the need for long term research and highlights the use of such equipment in small mammal studies too.
 Setting of a camera trap is as essential as knowing how it functions. It is also an important tool to keep a track on poachers and illegal timber/firewood collectors. Camera traps are thus like eyes in a forest and help record data in areas where there is a shortage of field staff too.
Once set, the camera trap triggers on a heat sensor mechanism in this case and helps document the mammal that has caused it to trigger.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Glimpses of 3rd Pit Viper Expedition 2012

Nirmal explains aims and objectives of the expedition.

Amey Salvi  a member crossing a stream.

Mittal Gala, Resource person shows use of Weather meter

Nirmal explains plateau ecology and its use by herpetofauna

All images courtesy- Mittal Gala

Ariel root and water droplet

Monday, July 30, 2012

Indian flapshell turtle- a locally threatened species

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

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Devadatta naik at Pit viper expedition 2012

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

View of Mollem National Park from Anmod Ghats

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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pit Viper expedition 2012 team at Hypnale Research station

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A forest snail feeds on a leaf.

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

Monday, July 23, 2012

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

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

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

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

(Image courtesy- Devadatta Naik)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Vagheri hills in Chorla Ghats.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Working on unique plateau ecosystems called "Sadas"

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

The 100 solar lanterns project

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

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Coral fungi of the Western Ghats-monsoonal wonders

Endemic Snake feeding of Endemic tree frog

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

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Illegal garbage being dumped in Chorla Ghats, Mhadei WLS.

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

Friday, June 29, 2012

On the tiger's trail in Goa.

Mornings arrive with it charismatic sambar calls and smells…a distant streak of light symbolizes the presence of the Sun God, that is yet to rise eastward of my position today. I could see a dense layer of cumulus clouds too stretching as far as the eye could see almost drawing a white sheet over the Mhadei valley. I watch with awe a crested serpent eagle scout the landscape by using the early morning thermals as even as I lift camp and move on for the day.
I intend to scout a dense primary forest patch today accompanied by Namdev, not with a particular agenda in mind, but to familiarize myself with this side of the wilds. Without much ado we set out, backpack laden with gadgets and goodies, and rainwear, just in case the Rain Gods decided to bless our beings.
Walking through one of Goa’s wildlife sanctuaries, the Mahdei is like literally living out of a dream…dark mystic forests, gushing clear waters of this Mother river, hidden trails marked by Gaur and Sloth bears and an verdant green tree canopy that is alive with who’s who of the bird world-hornbills, woodpeckers and paradise flycatchers to name a few! I caress the meter long buttress of a dipterocarp and am awed in its presence. Trees like these are ancient symbols of the Western Ghats forests and need to be revered I tell my self for their contribution to the ecosystems of which we too are a part.
I move on and a wisp of fresh air gives solace to my mind and legs, until I pick up a distinctive scent that whips me off my romantic self. My next few steps are taken unknowingly as I come face to face to a tell tale sign of one of India’s most revered and charismatic mammals on a wet earthy path created by a flowing stream. I kneel down in veneration and astonishment and pronounce my thoughts aloud- Sher Khan has returned. Yes, the Indian tiger has returned to its forests in the Mhadei valley. And this time he is going to stay.
The tiger has been revered in Goa since time immemorial. With places like Vagheri in Keri, Vagurmen near Ponda and Vagona in Canacona to name a few and with a strong presence in folk literature and songs this large feline also finds a place in the temples of the Goa including the Shantadurga temple of Vaghurme, the Ravalnath temple of mauxi in Sattari and the Paik Dev temple of Cortali Sanguem . In fact, the local folk deity of Vagro Dev or Vageshwar like the one in Bicholim is worshipped with veneration by one and all and is a unique example of human-nature relationship.
I have been following the trail of the tiger for a decade now, under the guidance of Shri Rajendra Kerkar in Goa and earlier as a volunteer with the Center for Wildlife Studies in Bangalore. Having participated in Censuses, camera trapping and scat collection surveys prior to choosing herpetology as a career, I have always been in awe of the lord of the jungle and have still not completely come full circle.
The trail has led me past the Mhadei WLS in areas like Surla, Hivre, Charavne, Anjunem reservoir and Ponsuli forests (where sightings and prey kills have been reported by Dhangars) through the Mollem National Park where pugmarks have accounted the presence of this large cats during past wildlife censuses and also reported by field staff from time to time. In Netravali WLS, it is another story. The locals have sighted the majestic feline and also reported cattle and Gaur kills in the past one year in areas ranging from Nrtravali, Salgini and Verle to name a few. In Cotigao WLS again the Forest Department field staff have accounted for the presence of this large cat in areas like Ravan Dongar and forests around Kuske while news from reserved forests in Quepem too needs thorough investigation.
At this stage, I must admit that I am not a large cat biologist and my interest lies only in the primary fact that Goa’s tigers need habitat and individual protection. The sensational killing of a tiger in Keri village of Sattari a few years ago has exposed the vulnerability of this national animal and steps taken towards creating awareness amongst people in areas that overlap with our prime tiger habitats is the need of the hour.
That the contiguous Protected areas network of Maharashtra-Goa-Karnataka that include Dodmarg forests, all of Goa’s wildlife sanctuaries and the Anshi tiger reserve areas have been acknowledged as a Tiger Conservation Unit (Mark II) by WWF International is a fact that cannot be ignored as is the demand by various conservation bodies, ecologists and wildlife activists to declare this region as an inter state Tiger reserve.
Several National Reports and Panel recommendations specifically state these areas need scientific study and that an enhanced amount of protection and restoration of prey base can easily sustain a breeding population of large cats in the region. The National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Western Ghats panel have also noted the facts that this is now tiger country.
We do have a long way to go…and the trail has just started…but the pugmarks are as clear as the writing on the wall and repeated sightings suggest that the tiger has finally returned home to Goa to stay. With Vagheri peak in sight and a silent prayer I hope this majestic cat gets the support and respect it deserved from us Goans for its survival. Keep the faith.
By- Nirmal U Kulkarni.