White-cheeked macaque — A New Primate Species for India

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The White-cheeked Macaque (Macaca leucogenys) is a newly discovered species (in May 2015) of macaque from the Modog​ (Mêdog County), in Southeastern Tibet in China (Li et al; 2015). The species was distinguished from all potential sympatric macaques (species in the same geographic area) viz. Macaca mulatta, Macaca thibetana, Macaca assamensis and Macaca munzala by several characteristics including pelage ​(coat of a mammal), ​relatively uniform dorsal hair pattern, hairy ventral pelage, hairless short tail, prominent pale … Read More

Growing Oil Palm Threat to India’s Biodiversity

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Oil palm is one of the fastest growing agricultural crops in the world. Oil palm is a highly productive crop, and palm oil is not only cheap but also extremely versatile, and is put to diverse uses as biofuel, lubricant, cooking oil, and as an additive in the food and cosmetic industries. The amazingly rapid expansion of this crop, however, comes at an immense ecological cost – despite the availability of large tracts of unproductive land available for oil palm … Read More

Red Serow, Hmuifang, Mizoram

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Serow are medium-sized goat-antelopes of the genus Capricornis. The taxonomy of serows is not completely resolved; descriptions, range maps, and assessments of conservation status in the literature vary because sources differ on nomenclature and specific/subspecific status of the various taxa. There are six recognized species of Capricornis, of which two occur in India. The Himalayan serow (Capricornis thar) is found over most of the the entire Himalayan range and the Red Serow (C. rubidus) is confined to the … Read More

Swamp Francolin, Kaziranga

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I thought of sharing an image I made of Swamp Francolins from the western zone of Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve in Assam. The image was made in the afternoon safari during late December 2015. I was excited about spotting a rare species like this — we actually saw a family of six but I managed to capture only three in this frame.

As the name implies, this is a bird of swamps and damp areas, but it is … Read More

Dispersing tiger shot dead by villagers in Nagaland but there may be hope yet for conservation

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Nagaland threw up a surprise for wildlife conservationists, particularly those involved with tigers in the country. A dispersing tiger, which landed in Medziphema, a small village near Dimapur on the main highway to Kohima, was tragically shot dead by panicked villagers on February 29, 2016. Tigers have not been officially recorded from the area in over a decade.

The incident unfolded after the tiger killed two pigs and a cow the previous night forcing the villagers to launch a … Read More

Long-billed Plover and Dog, Sangti Valley, Arunachal Pradesh

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On 4th May, 2016 we were birding at Sangti Valley near Dirang, West Arunachal, mainly with the intent of seeing Long-billed Plovers (a rare bird in the subcontinent). This is one of the few locations in India where this bird can be seen. Upon reaching there we found a couple of birds in the fields along the bank of the river and not on the riverbed, where they are usually seen. More surprisingly, it seemed that they were being chased … Read More

Blue Pitta, Dampa Tiger Reserve, Mizoram

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Of the 30 species belonging to the family Pittidae, six are found in India. Of these six, the Blue Pitta is amongst the rarest, never having been photographed alive from India.

Although it’s expected distribution spans across all northeastern states except Sikkim, the bird is rarely sighted. In our recent publication in Indian BIRDS, ‘Records of Blue Pitta (Pitta cyanea) in Dampa Tiger Reserve, Mizoram, and a review of its status in north-eastern India’ by Singh and Macdonald, we report … Read More

New Species to Science? Well, Who Cares?

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Last week, I was travelling in Arunachal Pradesh with a few friends. On our way to Udayak Pass (in the Lohith Valley), we stopped to photograph some birds when a bike sped by us. On the bike was freshly killed bushmeat  – a macaque. The hunter’s house was just around the corner and we managed to get there just as he was hauling the macaque off the bike. A close look confirmed our worst fears – this was a White-cheeked … Read More

New Breed of Hunters in the Northeast

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When one is traveling in the Northeastern part of our country, a common sight is that of boys and men with catapult and guns on the way to their next hunt. Hunting in the Northeast is largely influenced by cultural practices, rituals and (perceived) medicinal values. It has also become an activity just to kill time. However, the situation is changing; steadily, though slowly, thanks to access to education, employment, and intervention by NGOs at many places. There has been … Read More

Himalayan Forest Thrush — New Bird Species discovered in India and China

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A new species of bird has been described from northeastern India and adjacent parts of China by a team of scientists from Sweden, India, China, the US, and Russia.

The bird has been named Himalayan Forest Thrush (Zoothera salimalii). The scientific name honours the great Indian ornithologist Dr Sálim Ali (1896–1987), in recognition of his huge contributions to the development of Indian ornithology and wildlife conservation. This is the first Indian bird named after Dr. Salim Ali.

Dr. Per … Read More

Tracking the Incredible Journey of the Amur Falcon

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Of the 69 species of raptors known from India, Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis) was one of the least talked about species till recently. Primarily recorded from northeast India, with a few scattered sight records in peninsular India, the species is generally considered rare. All that changed following a report by Conservation India in October 2012 of the massive large scale harvest of these falcons in Nagaland. Researchers estimated that between 120,000 and 140,000 individuals were being trapped and killed for … Read More

Flying Squirrels of Arunachal Pradesh

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There are about 46 species of Flying Squirrels found in the world and they are grouped under one tribe, i.e. the Petauristini tribe. Asia has the distinction of being home to most of the species. Flying Squirrels don’t actually fly, but glide from one tree to the other. They basically use their patagium, a membrane stretching from the wrist (forelegs) to the ankle (hind legs), to glide. Once airborne, these squirrels use their arms, legs, and tail to effectively navigate … Read More

Villager Cooking Langur, Wunstubong, E Nagaland

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As part of a state-wide biodiversity survey in May-June 2011, Shashank Dalvi and Anup BP (post-graduate students of M.Sc wildlife biology and conservation, WCS-India & NCBS) encountered this scene in Wunstubong, E Nagaland. Led by a child who was seen holding a langur (likely Capped) tail, the students saw a woman cook the entire langur for dinner. Nagaland has lost almost all of its wildlife in similar fashion thanks to large-scale traditional hunting practices coupled with poor enforcement of wildlife … Read More

Northern Pig-tailed Macaque, Tripura

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Northern Pig-tailed Macaque (Macaca leonina) is a terrestrial species of primate. However, when needed, they can climb trees with ease. They are silent in nature and keep themselves strictly to the dense evergreen forests making them difficult to observe. They are locally known as Kangh by Nagas (may be because of their call which sounds like Kang). Studies have shown that a third of their diet comprises of insects and they are more closely related to the western ghats endemic … Read More

Phayre’s Leaf Monkey, Tripura

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Phayre’s Leaf Monkey (Trachypithecus phayrei) is known for its beautiful ‘spectacled’ looks and was once widely distributed in Southeast Asia from eastern Bangladesh, southwestern China (southern, western and central Yunnan), northeastern India (Assam, Mizoram, and Tripura), Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand (north of the peninsular zone) and northern Vietnam. However, this species is listed as endangered as it has lost more than 50% of its population in the last 35 years. This is mainly because of loss of habitat due to … Read More

Resurrection of a Montane Snake from Northeast India

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Amphiesma clerki was described as a species new to science by Frank Wall in 1925, based on a single snake collected by a Mr. Clerk from Sinlumkaba in Kachin State, Myanmar the previous year. 18 years later, Malcom Smith in his Fauna of British India, Volume III, identified that specimen as a different species, Amphiesma parallelum without any comment. This rendered Amphiesma clerki invalid, and was presumably due to the superficial similarity between both species as well as lack of … Read More

Leaf Deer, Nagaland

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Leaf Deer, Leaf Muntjac or Putao muntjac (Muntiacus putaoensis) is not very well known in India. In a biodiversity survey in Thanamir (base of Mt. Saramati, 3840 m), Eastern Nagaland (May 2011), post-graduate students of M.Sc wildlife biology and conservation, WCS-India & NCBS, Bangalore discovered the presence of skulls of this deer. Subsequent genetic testing on skin samples corroborated the finding. This finding is very significant as it will enhance the deer’s geographical range by 1.5 times. 

The … Read More

Naga Wren-Babbler, Nagaland

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Here is an image of the Naga Wren-Babbler or Long-tailed Wren-Babbler (Spelaeornis chocolatinus) which I photographed in Nagaland in Jan 2014.

This species is Near Threatened and dwells in montane broadleaf forest with thick undergrowth of Nagaland and North Manipur, in NE India. A very active species, usually foraging close to the ground, but not as exclusively ground-dwelling like the Pnoepyga Wren-Babblers.

Originally described as “Pnoepyga chocolatina” by Godwin-Austen and Walden in Ibis p.252, 1875, from Kedimai, Manipur, … Read More

Amur Falcon Campaign Update

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Campaign Update 30th October 2013

Great news! The peak migration of Amur Falcons is on, and there have been absolutely no killings reported so far! This remarkable outcome has been the result of a full year of painstaking effort from the Nagaland government (especially the forest department), NGO groups, and most importantly, the local communities who were determined to end the killings.

Camera-trapping Mammals in Pakke Tiger Reserve

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Photographs by Forest Department staff of Pakke Tiger Reserve.

Intensive camera trapping by state forest departments (as per Phase-IV of NTCA) to monitor tiger populations, is now being done on a yearly basis in tiger reserves across India. This was done for the first time in Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. Here are some stunning images of fabulous mammals captured during this season’s monitoring exercise. This effort has been mainly undertaken by the forest department staff of Pakke … Read More

Yellow-bellied Weasel, Mishmi Hills, Arunachal Pradesh

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We found this huge rodent lying on the road, dying. We stopped to check what it was. We assumed that a biker who was going ahead had knocked it down, but weren’t sure. As we were discussing this, we saw a tiny animal pop out from a nullah, which was covered by dense vegetation next to the road. It immediately disappeared into the shrubs.

We initially mistook it to be a young Yellow-throated Marten. But then, out it popped again … Read More

Trapped Slow Loris for Sale, Nagaland

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I visited Nagaland for a butterfly and moth survey from 6 to 14 April 2013.

While on the Dimapur – Kohima highway, just before Zubza, there were 3 people on the road holding a long bamboo pole with an animal tied at the end of the pole. We stopped to see what it was and we were shocked to see a Slow Loris (Nycticebus bengalensis) tied with a string trap. We asked him what he was doing with it. He … Read More

Joy as migratory Amur Falcon reaches its wintering grounds again in South Africa

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Raptor enthusiasts across the world were overjoyed and relieved to learn that a migratory adult female Amur Falcon (Falco amurensis) finally reached her wintering grounds at Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal again on the 10th of January 2013 after an eventful 14,500km journey from the species’ breeding grounds in north-eastern China which started in mid-October last year.

This bird was fitted by Prof. Bernd Meyburg of WWGBP, the World Working Group on Birds of Prey, with a solar-powered satellite transmitter … Read More

Tokay Gecko — The Million-rupee Reptile

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The Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) is one of the largest geckos in the country and the world; at about 15 inches the males are gigantic! This is a nocturnal arboreal gecko, ranging from northeast India, to Nepal and Bangladesh, throughout Southeast Asia, Philippines to Indonesia and western New Guinea. They are very colourful lizards too.

Occurring in the rainforests, it is primarily a tree-dweller. However, they have adapted well to human habitations where they can be seen on … Read More