Declaring Wildlife as Vermin — Legalising Hunting?

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Uttarakhand, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh have had – in recent months – notifications issued by the Central Government stating that select species of wildlife have been declared as vermin in specified areas. In other words for a specified period, in these areas, the wild pig in Uttarakhand, wild pig and Nilgai in Bihar and Rhesus Macaque in Himachal Pradesh are shifted to schedule five of the Wildlife Protection Act. Besides, Maharashtra and Telangana have had culling orders issued by the … Read More

Declining Indian Fisheries: Perceptions of Fisher Folk from Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu

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Although over four million people worldwide are dependent on wild-caught fish as a source of protein, marine fish are not at the top of the conservation radar. Although fish are among the most important components of marine ecosystems after plankton, they are most seriously threatened by human activities in the sea. In recognition of this fact, fisheries across the world are being managed based on estimates of sustainable harvest rates for each population of fish. However this requires intensive data … Read More

Something Fishy — Emptying India’s Seas

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Marine organisms are frequently seen as resources that can be used or extracted seemingly limitlessly. They certainly do not come to mind as wildlife, which are in need of as much protection as terrestrial creatures, if not more. Mindless fishing or harvesting, combined with unsustainable methods, have wreaked havoc on marine systems. Seafood encompasses any sea life that is fit for consumption by humans, and additionally marine organisms are used as ‘resources’ in a variety of ways – as pets, … Read More

Palm Civet Roadkill, Bhimashankar, Maharashtra

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This haunting image of a dead Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) was taken on the main road to Bhimashankar temple. We sighted this otherwise nocturnal creature first thing in the morning in this sad state, likely killed by a speeding vehicle at night. Bhimashankar Temple is a Jyotirling shrine (a major site of worship for Lord Shiva; one of 12 in the country) located in the Sahyadri hills near Pune, in Maharashtra.

Also a wildlife sanctuary, Bhimashankar gets very crowded seasonally … Read More

Human — Leopard Conflict; Lessons from Junnar, Maharashtra

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In many parts of India, leopards live in close proximity to human habitations with surprisingly low levels of conflict.  They are capable of living and breeding even in degraded forests, plantations and croplands, and manage to survive on a variety of small wild prey, domestic dogs, livestock and feral animals. Rural folk in many of these areas are often remarkably tolerant to the presence of these wild and potentially dangerous predators; but the threat to human lives even if rare Read More

Living in Mumbai with Leopards

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This 7-minute video ‘Living with Leopards’ showcases ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP’ (MfSGNP), a project that was initiated by the Maharashtra Forest Department to manage human-leopard encounters in a novel way. This group engages a variety of stakeholders like scientists, apartment dwellers, tribal colonies, police force and journalists, working with them in tandem to alleviate fear among people. This approach has worked well for both humans and leopards and, since 2013, no leopards have been captured and removed from the area.… Read More

Black Baza — First Record From Tadoba Tiger Reserve

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Tiger reserves are not just about spotting and photographing tigers, but also a standing testimony to the preservation of larger landscapes and the biodiversity they support. As the saying goes, the jungle is full of surprises and animals or birds can make their appearance when you least expect them. Such was one of our early morning drives on 9th April, 2015 in the Kolsa range of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. We were driving through dense bamboo at Shivanzari when I … Read More

Lessons from Leopards — Uncovering the Real Conflicts in Sanjay Gandhi National Park

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This article is condensed from ‘Cities, Towns, and the Places of Nature’ (A. Rademacher, K. Sivaramakrishnan ed., Hong Kong University Press, In Press). The study in question was conducted by Frédéric Landy, Professor of Geography, University Paris Ouest-Nanterre, France, in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SNGP) in Mumbai, and documents the dangerous and sometimes deadly presence of leopards in and around the park. It also focuses on the fact that leopards in Mumbai are not only a matter of human-nonhuman … Read More

Spot-billed Pelican Record for Maharashtra

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A birding group that I was part of sighted the Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) on 13th February 2016 at 6:35 PM during an evening boat ride at Kumbhargaon, Bhigwan, Maharashtra. The sun had just set, when we sighted a single Spot-billed Pelican circling in the sky. The Pelican circled around 4-5 times before it flew along the river and disappeared in to the horizon.

The other people with me were Bhavesh Rathod, Ranjan Pendharkar, Urvi Shah, Kavita Trivedi, Saumitra Newalkar, … Read More

Native Grasslands Matter for Denning Indian Foxes

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Habitats of many species are rapidly getting fragmented and human-modified today; therefore assessing how species respond to such changes in native habitats is an important precursor for any conservation strategy. The tropical short grasslands in India are heavily human-modified landscapes, but are still home to a diverse array of species, including the widely distributed Indian fox (Vulpes benghalensis). Even though commonly seen, Indian fox populations appear to be declining in most parts of its range, and this decline … Read More

Re-sighting of Collared Bar-headed Geese at Veer Dam, Maharashtra

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It was indeed exciting when a collared Bar-Headed Goose bearing a dark orange collar “RT” was sighted and photographed at Veer dam in Maharashtra on 01 January 2015. This was the only bird with a collar amongst 193 individuals present. Apart from Bar-headed Goose, one Ruddy Shelduck had a collar but could not be photographed. Mumbai birder Adesh Shivkar and team also recorded a collared Bar-headed Goose (C6) on 13 Jan 2008 from Veer Dam.

The information was mailed to … Read More

Forest Owlet, Tansa, Maharashtra

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To start the New Year with a bang, Saurabh Sawant, Rujuta Phadke and myself went to Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary near Mumbai where Sunil Laad — a naturalist associated with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) — had sighted and photographed the Critically Endangered Forest Owlet in November 2014.

We had just parked our car to stop and search when, to our incredulity, we heard a Forest Owlet calling. It took us just 10 more minutes to locate a beautiful pair … Read More

Road Killed

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Anything and everything in excess destabilizes the balance of nature. Wind energy is considered to be green but unfortunately there is no policy regulation on how many windmills a landscape can sustain. This might turn out to be hazardous in future and definitely raises a question on its sustainability. Windmills have changed the area around Satara in Maharashtra dramatically. Asia’s largest wind farm is located in and around the Chalkewadi plateau in the northern Western Ghats. The lateritic rocks of … Read More

Destruction of Grasslands, Pune

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This is a scene from a hill in Baner, Pune city, Maharashtra. The photo shows a globally threatened bird, the migrant Eurasian Roller (Coracias garrulus) taking off in front of some heavy earthmoving equipment that are destroying its grassland habitat.

Like in the rest of India, grasslands all over Pune district that are not under the control of the forest department are fast disappearing. These grasslands host some threatened fauna. Unfortunately, development will take over and there won’t be habitat … Read More

How Green is Our Green Energy?

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Undoubtedly, power from the wind is one of the cleanest and most sustainable ways to generate electricity, as it produces no toxic pollution or global warming emissions. However, it has a variety of environmental, social and economic impacts. It has both temporary as well as permanent impacts on land use. Along with this, the impact of wind turbines on wildlife, most notably birds and bats, has been widely studied and documented in other countries. Surveys in the U.S. have shown … Read More

New species of gecko from Northern Western Ghats

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A new species of the gekkonid genus Cnemaspis has been described from the lateritic plateau of the northern Western Ghats of Maharashtra, western India. The discovery of Cnemaspis girii from the Kaas plateau in Satara district, Maharashtra, highlights the diversity of herpetofauna of this region and adds to the growing knowledge of the diversity of the Western Ghats. The lateritic plateaus of the northern Western Ghats support endemic herpetofauna and are in need of protection owing to their narrow distribution … Read More

A new species of gecko from the lateritic plateaus of Northern Western Ghats

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Researchers from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore and Centre for Ecological Sciences, IISc, Bangalore have described a new species of gecko belonging to the genus Cnemaspis from Kaas plateau in Satara district of Maharashtra. The new species is named after Dr. Varad Giri of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) who has extensively worked to document the herpetofauna of India. The research paper was published on 17th of June in the journal Zootaxa (read summary) … Read More

Free Ranging Dogs with Indian Hare inside Mayureshwar Sanctuary, Maharashtra

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I took these pictures of a free ranging dog feasting on an Indian Hare inside Mayureshwar Sanctuary on 21st April 2014 around 7.00 A.M. Free ranging dogs in protected areas and grasslands is a big issue across India, including in Maharashtra, and the forest department needs to address this on priority.

Mayureshwar Sanctuary is 72 kms from Pune near a place called Supe. Its grassland ecosystem is home to Indian Gazelle (Chinkara), Indian Fox, Hyena, Wolf and Jackal.

Conservation India … Read More

Barn Owl Hunter, Maharashtra

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On 7th March, in rural Maharashtra, I came across a few young men coming out of the forests near Vajreshwar adjacent to the newly declared Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. We were a little off the road towards a tiny hamlet called Lendipara.

It was shocking to see they had come out with a dead barn owl which they had freshly hunted with a catapult. The young boy was more than happy to pose with his sick ‘trophy’, and when asked … Read More

Forest Owlet, Melghat Tiger Reserve

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This bird is almost as mythical as the Phoenix!

During a recent trip to Melghat, I had a memorable experience with this extremely rare bird. I saw three individuals, which helped me understand the differences between the sexes. It was fascinating to watch their bobbing heads and flicking tails!

The Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti) was first described in 1873 and last seen in the wild in 1884. Subsequently, it was considered extinct. The bird was rediscovered 113 years later … Read More

Woodchat Shrike — First record for India from Alibaug, Maharashtra

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I am a birdlover and amateur photographer from Mumbai. On September 7, 2013, between 11:00 to 12:00 hours in the vicinity of Alibaug, Maharshtra, I was traveling on my bike looking to photograph some butterflies when I encountered this unfamiliar bird. The bird was very accommodating and allowed me to slowly approach fairly close. I posted the record shots on India Nature Watch (INW) where birdwatchers readily identified it as a Woodchat Shrike.

The Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) … Read More

Dead Bonelli’s Eagle

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I came across this ghastly sight in Wai, in Satara district, Maharashtra, where I had gone birdwatching. Someone had tied this dead Bonelli’s Eagle to a tree. There was a deep wound on the body near the wing. My enquiries with the people nearby did not reveal who was responsible. I reported it to the forest department. The sight deeply saddened me.

Bonelli’s Eagle populations have declined drastically throughout their range. In addition to persecution by hunters and pigeon fanciers, … Read More

Failed to escape

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The Indian porcupine (Hystrix indica) is an elusive nocturnal rodent. It is covered in multiple layers of quills. The longest ones grow from its shoulders to about a third of its length. Its tail is covered in short, hollow quills that it rattles when threatened.  When attacked, it raises its quills and rattles the hollow tail quills. If the predator still persists, the porcupine launches a backwards assault, hoping to stab its attacker with its quills. It does … Read More

Macaque Eating Cookies, Pench Tiger Reserve

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Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta), although seen in urban and rural areas, deserve the same respect as any other wild animal. They are mostly herbivorous and are known to occasionally eat insects. Processed foods, like biscuits and chips, are not a part of their natural diet.

This image of a macaque, eating from a packet of Oreo cookies, exemplifies the pitfalls of unregulated wildlife tourism. In May 2013, we came across this macaque at Rukhad, Pench Tiger Reserve, eating … Read More

Q: I would like to understand why private vehicles are allowed in any sanctuary as it disturbs the ecosystem. One such example is Sanjay Gandhi National Park (Borivali, Mumbai). In such a densely populated concrete jungle we have such wonderful flora and fauna. Why is this getting ruined because the government is allowing private vehicles to access the sanctuary, where speed limit is not observed, people who use the park as their bar and litter the park with bottles and plastic? When we have strong NGOs in the city, why do we fail to stop these harmful activities? I would like to raise these concerns to the forest department but I am unaware of how to go about doing it, so would like CI to look into the matter and give me a solution on how I can give my inputs to conserve the amazing wildlife in my city.

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Answer from Debi Goenka, who heads Mumbai-based environmental NGO Conservation Action Trust (CAT):

Private vehicles are only allowed to ply from the main gate at Borivili to the Kanheri Caves, which are not part of the notified National Park. We have tried to get the forest dept. to introduce shuttle buses, but since these are not financially viable, the forest dept. is not interested.

Re alcohol, this is strictly prohibited, and complaints should be immediately made to the SGNP … Read More