Whale and Dolphin Surprises in Goa

A group of us ventured out to sea off the coast of Goa on a fishing trawler for a full-day survey of pelagic birds. These birds spend most of their lives out at sea, living a solitary life, and visit certain islands only during breeding season. We started our explorations in Goan waters in 2017, but our last two trips, on 14th and 21st October, 2018 were exciting and memorable for a completely different reason.

We usually start off by … Read More

Addressing the Elephant in South Bengal

Harvest season has ceased to be a time of festivities for the rice-growing farming communities living in West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia districts of South Bengal. Due to their geographical location adjoining the dense forests of Jharkhand and Odisha, these districts attract herds of elephants that migrate during this season to raid crops after nightfall. These incidents threaten both life and livelihood. According to S. Kulandaivel, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Urban Recreation Forestry Division and a former Divisional Forest Officer, … Read More

Nepal Vulture Release Shows Removing Diclofenac is Key to Success

First release of captive-bred* vultures in Asia.

Nepal and Asia witnessed a further landmark for vulture conservation on 17th September 2018, when the Government of Nepal and national and international conservation organisations released 12 critically endangered White-rumped vultures (Gyps bengalensis), including the first eight birds actually hatched within the conservation breeding programme. Releases last year of birds reared (but not hatched) in the programme have so far shown very promising signs of survival and success, and in addition, … Read More

Sharing Space with Big Cats and Elephants — Lessons from Tea Gardens of North Bengal

This article originally appeared in the Last Wilderness on 7th July 2016.

The morning siren at a tea estate factory ushers in a new day in the life of a tea garden worker in the duars region of northern West Bengal. The term ‘duar’ means gateway since this landscape is the foothills or the gateway to the ‘Himalayas’. Historically, the region comprised of prime moist deciduous and semi-evergreen forests in a Bombax (Silk Cotton) and Shorea (Sal) dominated forests. In … Read More

The Fall of a Florican

The article was first published in The Hindu Magazine on 26 August 2018.

Spread before me was a grassland — golden grasses gently swaying in the wind, looking not unlike waves rising and falling to the rhythm of the wind. I scanned the seemingly desolate grassland, in vain for the bird I was here for. Just as I had given up hope a chicken-sized sized bird shot up in the air, descended, and then rose again — shimmering black body, … Read More

Friends in Wrong Places: Assessing the Impacts of Domestic Dogs on Wildlife in India

In human-populated landscapes, domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the most abundant terrestrial carnivore, with a global population close to a billion. In India, total dog population is estimated to be about 60 million. Dogs interact with wildlife at multiple levels and despite their controversial effects, global ubiquity and significant ecological roles they remain poorly understood. Although there has been growing evidence of threats posed by free-ranging dogs, very few attempts have been made to understand the impact of free-roaming … Read More

The Importance of Woodlands in Tropical Agricultural Landscapes

Agricultural expansion continues to be a major cause of forest loss and degradation in the tropics. It often results in negative impacts on the resident floral and faunal communities inhabiting the forests. These communities have so far best been safeguarded by preventing forest loss and degradation through the establishment of Protected Areas (PAs)—legal conservation frameworks such as National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Community Reserves. However, the social and political realities of today make the further establishment and expansion of PAs … Read More

Hornbill Watch: A Citizen Science Initiative for Indian Hornbills

This is a summary of the paper originally published in INDIAN BIRDS Vol. 14 No. 3 (Publ. 25 July 2018).

Hornbills are called the ‘farmers of the forest’ as they play a very important role in dispersal of seeds that grow into trees. These long-lived birds are slow breeders, with larger hornbills usually raising a single chick every year. Hornbills face significant threats from hunting in parts of India and from habitat loss across their range in India. The information … Read More

The Forgotten Wild Cats of the Eastern Ghats

The Northern parts of the Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh are isolated hill ranges with elevations of up to 1500 metres altitude. This landscape complex, with its associated habitats such as dry deciduous forests, riparian buffers, inland freshwater bodies, tropical mangroves, and open scrub, spans across four districts in North Coastal Andhra. Apart from the well-known big cat species like the Tiger and Leopard, these forests are also home to lesser known and often neglected small wild cat species. The … Read More

Missing the Grass for Trees — Planting Trees Where They Don’t Belong

It may not be an overstatement to say that grasses underpin much of human existence. From sustaining wildlife that fed early hunter-gatherers to eventually becoming food itself, grasses have contributed to the development and flourishing of human civilisations. From present day cereal crops, to even elegant furniture, grasses serve multiple uses in human societies, from the functional to the aesthetic. Yet, when it comes to judgement, the larger urban public and a range of government bodies tend to view grasses … Read More