Perceiving Animal: A Human Question

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How would we treat beings differently if we granted them ‘selves’? I live life with the experience that I possess a self and navigate interactions with other humans with the assumption that they too have ‘selves’. Is it possible that there are communities and cultures in this world that relate to the non-human beings around them with the belief that these beings have ‘selves’, and can this make communities more willing to negotiate rather than dictate space with them? As … Read More

Birds, Forests and Development in Himalayan Oak Forests: A Study in Progress

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The Himalayas are a biologically diverse region within India owing to their elevational range and geographic location. Apart from essential ecosystem services that they provide to the Gangetic Plains, Himalayan forests protect a large number of endemic species and support extensive tourism activities.

During the last few decades, however, Himalayan forests have become degraded and fragmented due to various economic pressures. It is necessary to understand how human-created disturbance is impacting Himalayan fauna, given the recent spurt in road-widening, construction, … Read More

Polling for Pakke — Please help Pakke Tiger Reserve pick its best images!

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Every year the Pakke Tiger Reserve Forest Department holds a prize distribution ceremony for the best camera trap images and also gives prizes to the most sincere staff in the reserve. For this we team up with Conservation India to hold this public voting contest as a unique form of outreach to help motivate our staff on the ground. This year as well our team has compiled notable camera trap photographs where staff patrolled the forests and never left their … Read More

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

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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 Forgotten Wild Cats of the Eastern Ghats

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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

Dholes in the Western Ghats

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Large carnivores across the world face several threats even as they continue to decline in numbers. Understanding where these species occur, how they use their habitats and what factors influence these patterns are important for their conservation. The Asiatic wild dog or dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a unique endangered predator. It is the only social, wild canid that almost exclusively inhabits forest areas in Asia. Historically treated as ‘vermin’, dholes were bounty-hunted across the India until they were protected under … Read More

Otters in a Famous Tourist Destination

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Beaches and sunsets are what come to mind when most people think of Goa. This small state in western India has earned its reputation as one of the most favoured top tourist destinations. But very few know that Goa also has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Much of the eastern rim of Goa falls within the Western Ghats (a global biodiversity hotspot). Goa has an area of 3,702 sq.km with several rivers spread across the state, all of … Read More

Striped Hyena Persistence in India — Insights from Kumbhalgarh and Esrana in Rajasthan

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A threatened but poorly understood species, the Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is thought to occur in arid ecosystems across India. It is found in human-dominated landscapes in Rajasthan, a region with 4.3 percent of land area protected under nature reserves. This large carnivore predominantly scavenges on domestic and wild ungulate carcasses. At present, we lack robust estimates of hyena densities and understanding of factors that influence their persistence and distribution.

Authors Priya Singh, Arjun M. Gopalaswamy, and K. Read More

Western Ghats Coffee Plantations Sustain High Bird Diversity in India

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In a recent study, scientists have found that the coffee, rubber and areca agroforests in Karnataka support 204 bird species including 13 bird species found exclusively in the Western Ghats, highlighting the supplementary role of agroforests in conserving wildlife.

Highlights:

  1. One of largest scientific assessments of tropical birds in the world, covering an area of 30,000 sq km in Karnataka
  2. Coffee, rubber and areca agroforests found to support 204 bird species, including 13 endemic birds of the Western Ghats
  3. Coffee
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Tracking Leatherback Turtle Migration

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The Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the only existing species of the family Dermochelyidae. They are the largest of living sea turtles, growing up to 2 metres and weighing as much as 900 kg. Guided by the earth’s geomagnetic field to navigate, leatherback turtles can migrate more than 10,000 kilometres across oceans from breeding to feeding grounds. Unlike other marine turtles, leatherbacks can regulate their body temperature by a combination of their large size, insulation, and a blood … Read More

The Elusive Leopard Cats of India

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Small felids, like jungle cats, leopard cats, fishing cats and marbled cats (among others) constitute more than 60% of all cat species in the world. But most of these small cats remain understudied because they are generally secretive, elusive and difficult to observe and monitor. In this aspect, the leopard cat presents a fascinating case study.

Leopard cats are among the world’s most widely occurring small cat species. There have been substantial studies of their ecology in Southeast Asia. In … Read More

Understanding Sloth Bears — An Interview With Dr. K. Yoganand

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CI: Tell us about your research on sloth bears

I conducted intensive field research on sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) between 1996 and 2000 in Panna National Park (Madhya Pradesh), a partly degraded, dry deciduous forest habitat in Madhya Pradesh, central India. I captured and fitted radio-collars on several sloth bears and followed them to observe their behaviour and learn more about their secretive lives, such as, when did they sleep, what did they eat, how far did they … Read More

Polling for Pakke — Vote for the Best Camera Trap Image

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As we have been doing in the past, this year we will be giving three prizes to our frontline staff for the best camera trap images. We fondly remember Late Koro Tayem, a forest guard who was killed by an elephant who won the first ever prize for his growling camera trap photograph.

Please vote for your best photograph.

Gharial Population Estimation in the Chambal and Conservation Implications

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India’s Chambal River hosts the largest population of the critically endangered Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). In the 1970s, the total population of the Gharial was estimated at less than 200, following which conservation programmes involving the creation of protected areas and rear-and-release programmes were established. But, despite the release of over 5000 gharials into various Indian rivers over the past few decades, only about 200 breeding adults reportedly still survive. These programmes were poorly monitored and their outcome never … Read More

Leopards in Crisis — Learnings for Uttarakhand

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Not a month goes by without newspaper reports about the attack by a leopard or a tiger on humans in Uttarakhand, followed by days of reporting of the hunt for the cat, and invariably, ending with the capture or death of the unfortunate animal. In December 2016, the Uttarakhand High Court passed an order that leopards and tigers that have been declared man-eaters should not be killed, but should, instead, be tranquilized and translocated to another forest. While the order … Read More

Tourist Photographs Aid Tiger Research and Monitoring

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Conservation India carried a photograph on 9th November 2016 of a tigress making a wild pig kill in Nagarahole. All tigers have stripes that are unique, just like human finger prints. To identify this tigress and trace its history, a WCS team of researchers working under my guidance rapidly matched patterns of this tigress against 850 other wild tigers, whose images are in our long-term camera trap database, maintained as part of a long-term monitoring of tiger populations in the … Read More

Mammals in the Jeypore-Dehing forests, Assam

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The Jeypore-Dehing Landscape is located in eastern or Upper Assam. It comprises three large blocks of forest (Jeypore, Upper Dehing West Block and Upper Dehing East Block) and several forest fragments. The reserve forests lie within a mosaic of oil and coal mining grants, tea plantations, agriculture and settlements. The forest type is lowland Assam Valley Tropical Wet Evergreen forest (Dipterocarpus-Mesua) and together stretch over roughly 600 sq km. The landscape is part of the Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve and 111 … Read More

Large Trees are Critical for Conserving Woodpecker Abundance and Diversity in Sub-Himalayan Forests

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Study: Habitat determinants of woodpecker abundance and species richness in sub-Himalayan dipterocarp forests of northwest India.

Authors: Raman Kumar, Ghazala Shahabuddin & Ajith Kumar Journal: Acta Ornithologica 49: 243-256. Published 2014.

Summary

Birds are highly sensitive to changes in habitat caused by human activity. Habitat change may be manifested in the structural elements of habitat (such as density and size of both live and dead trees), or its composition (i.e. tree species profile), which may translate into alteration in quality … Read More

Large Carnivores in Human Dominated Landscapes

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The conservation of large carnivores like wolves, bears, tigers and lions is always a challenging task in our modern and crowded world. Humans have modified and fragmented habitats and often experience a diversity of conflicts with large predatory neighbours. There is currently a major debate going on among conservationists about how to best go about achieving large carnivore conservation. Alternatives range from a focus on fencing carnivores into protected areas to allowing them to reoccupy shared landscapes where they must … Read More

Understanding the Distribution and Occurrence of India’s Smallest Bovid: The Chousingha

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Endemic to the Indian sub-continent, the four-horned antelope (FHA) or Chousingha is listed as Vulnerable (C2a (i)) in the IUCN Red list. In 2008, there were an estimated 10,000 adults in the wild in Nepal and India. Being a low-density species, FHA are particularly sensitive to changing habitat conditions and anthropogenic pressures. In India, the species is protected under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

At present, there is little scientific information available on the four-horned antelope, and the … Read More

Tiger vs. Cow: Risk Models Help Beat the Odds

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A tiger and a cow meet in a jungle. The scenario is tragically predictable: tiger kills cow, cow’s owner kills tiger. Yet in India, where repeated conflict can amount to sizeable livelihood losses and tiger declines, predicting where the scenario plays out is far from easy. However, a simple statistical method applied to mapping human-carnivore conflict could up the odds by helping people anticipate high-risk hotspots.

Our study, published in Ecology and Evolution, explored a technique that could be … Read More

Science-based Approach to Promote Human-Elephant Coexistence — Lessons from Valparai

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Understanding human-elephant interactions is critical for conservation of elephants outside Protected Areas. One of the intriguing questions is how can a person weighing 50kg and a 5000kg animal coexist with no barrier between them?

Conflict incidents frequently lead to use of reactive measures such as chasing elephants, capture and translocation, or retaliatory persecution, but these often fail to resolve conflicts on a sustained basis, empower communities to implement solutions, or help conservation of elephants. Long-term research on behavioural and ecological … Read More

Mapping Sloth Bear Distribution in India and in Western Ghats of Karnataka

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Endemic to the Indian subcontinent, the Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus) inhabits tropical and sub-tropical habitats across India, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Being the most common among the four species of bears in India, it is widely distributed from the foothills of the Himalayas to the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. With sloth bear populations in the Himalayan foothills and northeast India becoming isolated, the Western Ghats and central Indian landscapes now possibly harbor the largest populations.

Despite their … 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

Help Pakke Pick its Best Images and Keep up Koro Tayem’s Legacy

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In 2013, Koro Tayem, a forest guard in Pakke Tiger Reserve for more than a decade, was the first awardee for the best camera trap photograph competition. Now in its fourth year, ‘Tayem babu’ is no longer with us. On Christmas day in 2014, he was in Pakke doing his duty, and on his way back he was killed by a wild elephant. He is remembered fondly, and in 2013 we carried out a photo-feature of photographs which included his … Read More