West Bengal’s Gangetic Dolphins in Danger

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The Gangetic or South Asian River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica) or Shushuk, is an Endangered dolphin that lives in one of the most densely populated regions of the world – in the rivers of India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh (IUCN Red List; Braulik and Smith 2017).

While the primary threat to these blind river dolphins is fishing gear entanglement, the loss and fragmentation of riverine habitat and changes in water flow, due to the construction of dams … Read More

A Fishing Cat Kitten in the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

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Sundarbans in West Bengal has become popular for increased tiger sightings. However, the sighting of lesser cats, like the Leopard Cat and the Fishing Cat, still remains rare due to their nocturnal habits. In fact, the latter is one of the least seen mammals in Indian Sundarbans.

I had a fleeting glimpse of an individual in Feb 2017 basking in the early morning sun during a foggy winter morning. In Feb 2019, a few of us got to see a … Read More

Jackal and Domestic Dog Hybrid, Howrah, West Bengal

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On the evening of 30th September 2018, I was strolling near a village named Narit, Howrah, West Bengal, to try and get a glimpse of the fishing cat. Instead, I chanced upon a pack of 7-8 Golden Jackals (Canis aureus) that had suddenly appeared out of the darkness in dense bamboo forest.

Among the pack, two had a distinct coat of white and a tinge of orange. Initially I mistook them to be street or feral dogs, but unlike dogs, … Read More

Let’s get to know the Fishing Cat in February!

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The Beautiful Baghrol – A Fascinating Feline

What is the state animal of West Bengal? Many of you may guess, Royal Bengal Tiger, because of the ‘Bengal’ in the name. Or you may remember Bengalis’ love for all things piscine, and say it is the fish! But you would be wrong again, for it is neither the tiger, nor the fish, but an animal associated with both – the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), locally known as Baghrol or MacchbaghaRead More

Poached Gangetic Dolphin, Malda, West Bengal

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This image of a poached Gangetic Dolphin was photographed yesterday in Bhabanathtola, Bhutni village, Malda district, West Bengal. The man was was probably carrying it from Hiranandapur towards Mathurapur.

The Forest Dept. and the police are visiting area today (30-Dec-2017). DFO Koushik Sarkar said, “We are taking the matter seriously and have also informed the police.”

Read TOI Kolkata report.

In Bengal the dolphin is called the Shushuk and is just another fish-like creature for them, and is consumed locally … Read More

A Community-based ‘Goat Bank’ for Fishing Cats in West Bengal

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A community-owned and managed seed goat bank – this was what a local NGO, Sarada Prasad Tirtha Janakalyan Samity, started last year to decrease loss of goats due to fishing cat depredation.

Go-Bagha is one of the local names for the fishing cat. Go is rooted in Goru meaning Cow. According to a local myth, if a cow gives birth to a still-born calf, then the calf will be re-born as Go-Bagha.

Black Bengal goats (small country goats) weighing around … Read More

Red-breasted Merganser, Gajoldoba, West Bengal: A New Record for India

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The Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) is a polytypic species (ie has several variant forms) with a distribution range covering North America, Europe, Greenland and Asia. Through this note, we would like to establish the presence of the Red-breasted Merganser in the northern part of West Bengal, by presenting photographic evidence.

On the morning of 18th December 2016, we were coming down along the river Teesta towards Gajoldoba (teesta barrage) in North Bengal. At that time I saw a bird through … Read More

Addressing the Elephant in South Bengal

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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

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

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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

Unethical Bird Photographers Disgrace Wildlife Community in West Bengal

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“I will not harm my subject!”

Every nature photographer should willingly and happily follow this simple credo – even when no one else is watching.

The sad truth is, today, for every responsible photographer who respects nature and tries to minimize his or her impact, there are hordes of unruly, uncaring shutterbugs who’ve become a menace to wildlife, says CI’s A Guide to Ethical Wildlife Photography.

Bibhutibhusan Wildlife Sanctuary (formerly Parmadan Forest) is a small (0.68 sq km) wildlife … 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

The Endangered Fishing Cat, Howrah, West Bengal

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The Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List, and is a unique example of the great abilities and diversities of the felid family. Recent studies have shown that they are strongly linked to marshlands. Unfortunately, marshlands are considered to be “wastelands” under Indian land-use policies and are thus subjected to degradation and conversion, especially outside protected areas.

In West Bengal alone, where this image was taken, there has been a 44% decline in marshlands … Read More

The Elephant Conflict Story from the Terai Region, West Bengal

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The conflict between humans and elephants is turning very grave, with many human and elephant casualties (numbers can be as high as 50-100/year both sides), and severe crop damage. The situation worsens with fragmented corridors on their migration routes and continuous denudation of forest patches. The added issue of the 17-km long fencing along the Nepal border cuts off their traditional migration routes, pushing them into small forest patches and adjoining forest lands (Terai).

A few days back I witnessed … Read More

Poaching in Rajarhat, Kolkata

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Rajarhat wetlands (a neighbourhood of Kolkata, in North 24 Parganas district) have become a poachers paradise with numerous trap nets being placed in strategic locations across water bodies, marshes and paddy fields. These nets are quite big (about 10-15 feet in length and about 4-5 feet in width) and strung across bamboo poles. The nets are made of strings so thin that they are not clearly visible from a distance unless viewed carefully. Birds fly into the nets and get … Read More

Hunters Celebrate World Environment Day in West Bengal

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Every year hunters congregate in different parts of East Medinipur in West Bengal for attending melas to mark the celebrations surrounding the worship of goddess Kali. These coincide with the new moon, or amavasya, which fell on June 5 this year, World Environment Day.

The perpetrators, over 5000 tribal hunters, were organised packs of men out for a day of pure destruction and drunken revelry. They had converged on railway stations such as Uluberia, Deulti, Panskura and Kirai, located … Read More

Swamp tiger, Sundarbans

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The Sundarbans is the largest single block of tidal halophytic (saline) mangrove forest in the world. The Sundarbans covers approximately 10,000 square kilometres, of which 60 percent is in Bangladesh, and the remainder in India. The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Like many species of the Sundarbans, its tigers too remain highly understudied. Though it is a known fact that the big cats love water, these mangrove specialists are a step ahead and are excellent swimmers. Sundarban … Read More

Ruddy Kingfisher, Sundarbans

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The Ruddy Kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda) is a poorly understood kingfisher species. An uncommon kingfisher in the subcontinent, it is found in the Eastern Himalaya, NE India and Bangladesh, from tropical and subtropical evergreen forests as well as mangroves. It was earlier concluded that this medium-sized, rufous-orange tree kingfisher, with bright red bill and legs, is a passage migrant to the mangrove forests of Sundarbans in West Bengal, and can be seen for only for a week’s time at the most. … Read More

Plastic in Lake, Santragachi, Kolkata

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Just a 20-minute drive from Kolkata lies this 13,75,000 sq feet lake, known as the Santragachi jheel or lake. The Santragachi lake is a great place for many migratory birds. Winter months (October to March) draw 4000 to 5000 ducks and waders to this safe haven. This season thousands of Lesser Whistling Ducks arrived along with Northern Pintails, Gadwalls, the endangered Ferruginous Pochard, Common Teal, Cotton Pygmy Goose and other waterfowl.

What is really the key feature of Santragachi is … Read More

Brutal hunting of birds, Baisha Bil, West Bengal

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On the morning of 5th September 2013, Sourav Mondal and I went to Baisha Bil (wetland) on a birding outing. There were hundreds of Baya Weavers, Zitting Cisticolas, and other birds in the wetland. We were shocked to see two people trapping many of these birds (mainly Baya Weavers) using nets. We heard from the local people that other birds, such as the Open-billed Stork, Little Egret, Pond Heron, and Lesser whistling Duck, are also trapped and killed in this … Read More

Crab-eating Mongoose in Gorumara – Chapramari, West Bengal

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The Crab-eating mongoose (Herpestes urva) is a member of the Herpestidae family which represents the mongooses. Within Indian limits it is found in northern West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and the Northeastern hill states. Though it is found in a variety of habitats, the Crab-eating Mongoose appears to prefer the vicinity of waterbodies. They eat crabs, but will also feed on fish, frogs, molluscs, insects and crayfish.

On 28 July 2013 I sighted and photographed a Crab-eating … Read More

Water monitor eating Jungle Babbler, Sundarbans

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While walking around at Sajnekhali, Sundarbans, on 12th March, I heard jungle babblers crying the world deaf. I went ahead to find this water monitor swallowing the last parts of a jungle babbler, while the other birds of the flock kept on chattering loudly in alarm, flying overhead and jumping on branches. I don’t know how the seemingly sluggish monitor managed to catch a timid jungle babbler. It could be that the monitor was lying somewhere unnoticed when the poor … Read More

A Satyr Tragopan From Neora Valley, North Bengal

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The male Satyr Tragopan (Tragopan satyra) is easily one of the most beautiful birds in India and also one of the rarest. The Satyr Tragopan is found in the Eastern Himalayas, besides Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. It is best seen in Neora Valley National Park in North Bengal. Male Satyr’s are 68cm and are a bright crimson red with white spots. Females are smaller and less conspicuous.

Tragopans are often called “horned pheasants” because they display horn-like projections … Read More

Rare Buffy Fish Owl Photographed In Sundarbans

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On 18th March 2012, we were on a boat riding into the salty waters of Sundarbans. The breeze was just warming us up for the long day ahead, when Mridul Kanti Kar, a young fellow birder with an amazing ability to spot birds, shouted out ‘Owl! Owl!’. We were near the famous Sajnekhali Watch Tower. We were clicking pictures furiously, not realizing the rarity we were looking at. Though initially mistaken for the common Brown Fish Owl, something about it … Read More

Yearly Tiger Census in Sunderbans

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Phase IV of the tiger estimation exercise will see Sunderbans gaining more sample sites and also yearly estimation of tigers. Currently, camera traps have been laid in only 100 sq kms. In the new format, three more sites covering upper, lower and middle Sundarbans have been suggested and the new protocol will use 25 pairs of double sided cameras per 100 square kilometres and a minimum trapping effort of 1000 trap nights per 100 sq km. Distance sampling protocols may … Read More

Mega World Bank Project to Conserve and Develop Sundarbans

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A mega project is being undertaken by the World Bank, to conserve the biodiversity of the Sundarbans and to develop the regio socio-economically. This is based on a recommendation from the planning commission of India. The project will be completed by the end of the year. The State minister for Sundarbans Affairs has said that steps will also be taken to develop the site as a major tourist destination. There is concern from environmentalists though that the region is already … Read More