India’s Conservation Challenges

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Wildlife conservation at crossroads

An interview with Dr. K. Ullas Karanth

Dr Ullas Karanth, a Senior Scientist with the international NGO, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), is a world-renowned wildlife biologist.  In a wide-ranging interview with wildlife and conservation filmmaker, Shekar Dattatri, he outlines the basic problems that beset wildlife conservation in India’s human dominated landscape, and shares his views on preserving these last wild places.

(This is an updated version of an interview that was first published under the title Read More

A Roadmap for Dhole Conservation in India

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Country-level species conservation plans serve as a blueprint for identifying important areas, prioritizing management actions and judicious use of conservation funds. India is a biologically megadiverse country, yet many threatened and endangered species do not have science-based conservation plans. In a new study, scientists from Wildlife Conservation Society–India (WCS-India), University of Florida, Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), and National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) propose a detailed framework for conserving the endangered dhole in India using a combination of ecological, social, … Read More

Voice your rejection of the Hubballi Ankola Railway Line Project (HARP) in Uttara Kannada

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The Western Ghats are among the most important biodiversity hotspots in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The controversial Hubballi-Ankola Railway Line Project (HARP) will destroy some of the last remaining primary forests of the Western Ghats in Uttara Kannada and result in massive, irreversible ecological destruction. This region has already lost 3300 sq km of pristine forests, and stands to lose more if HARP becomes a reality. No amount of mitigation will compensate for the loss of … Read More

Vedanthangal, India’s Oldest Bird Sanctuary, in Danger

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Background

Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary is a small, but important, protected area in Chengalpattu district, South of Chennai. It is the oldest waterfowl sanctuary in India and is home to more than 40,000 birds every winter, including many migrants and numerous rare species. A 1998 Government Order (GO MS 199) declared this lake area (73 acres / 29 ha) and a five-kilometre radius surrounding it a wildlife sanctuary under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

In March this year, the Tamil Nadu … Read More

Sightings of Adult Gharial in Mirzapur stretch of River Ganga in Uttar Pradesh

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A Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) has been sighted on multiple occasions at different locations in the Mirzapur stretch of the Ganges in Uttar Pradesh. It was first reported by two fishermen (Naresh Sahni and Ravindra Sahni) at Shitladham ghat, Adalpura (Chunar) while they were fishing around 4 pm on 26th February, 2020. According to them, the Gharial was old, and may weigh approximately 200 kgs.

In another sighting, on 29th February 2020 near Shastri Bridge, Mirzapur, it was basking on a … Read More

An Electrocuted Fishing Cat, Howrah, West Bengal

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A Fishing Cat was partially electrocuted at a pond in Baikunthapur village, of Haora (Howrah) district in West Bengal. The pond owner, along with some others, then killed the cat and sold off the meat. They then tried to destroy evidence by throwing away the head and skin of the cat in a nearby canal.

When informed of the incident, the Forest department carried out an investigation, which led to the recovery of the head of the cat. An … Read More

Conservation Status of Dholes (Asiatic Wild Dogs) in Northeast India

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Dholes or Asiatic wild dogs (Cuon alpinis) are among the least-studied large carnivores in the world. The IUCN Red List assessment (2015) categorizes the dhole as an Endangered species. With fewer than 2,500 mature individuals remaining in the wild – across 11 countries in South and Southeast Asia – the dhole may be facing a crisis far more severe than the tiger or elephant. India has the highest dhole population in the world, in three key landscapes: the Western Ghats, … Read More

Bird Deaths in Sambhar Lake, Rajasthan, Attributed to Avian Botulism

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UPDATE 2 – 21-Nov-2019: The deaths of over 18,000 birds in Sambhar Lake have been attributed to Avian botulism. Attached is the detailed report by the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Bareilly. The initial cause of the deaths was suspected to be avian flu, but that has been ruled out. Botulism has been recognised as a major cause of mortality in wild birds since the 1900s. A potential cause of the presence of the bacteria could be toxicity of … Read More

Kashmir Grey Langur, Dachigam National Park, Jammu & Kashmir

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On a recent trip to Dachigam National Park, I encountered a large troupe of these langurs (~50) crossing the main road. I was intrigued with the morphology of the monkey and was keen to understand more. This note is a summary of some of the research studies on the animal.

Kashmir (or Dark-eyed Himalayan) Grey Langur (Semnopithecus ajax) is a species of leaf-eating monkey formerly considered as a subspecies of S. entellus. However, recent studies have confirmed its status … Read More

Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins off Mumbai Coast

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To be able to observe dolphins from one’s balcony or from shore is a possibility for most of us in Mumbai. There must have been a time when Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins (Sousa plumbea) roamed this coastal stretch in large numbers. Today they are scattered in small pockets, one of which is the bay off Raj Bhavan, Malabar Hill.

Other locations in Bombay, where these dolphins are seen is Worli, off Chowpatty in South Mumbai, Marine Drive, Sassoon Docks, and … Read More

Indian Wolf, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

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The Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), is an endangered species in Schedule I of Indian wildlife according to the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. It is also in appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Despite the highest level of protection accorded to the wolves in India, hunting remains rampant and is a major cause of concern. Killing of adult wolves and pups by local sheepherders is common … Read More

Rusty spotted cat family in Tadoba, Maharashtra

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I had the good fortune of this sighting in the summer of 2017 at Tadoba Tiger reserve. On a morning safari, while driving from a waterhole in anticipation of a tiger, we encountered some movement in the bushes. As we turned off our engine, we saw a small cat appear out of the bush. Initially we thought it to be a jungle cat kitten, but later realized we had just spotted one of the most elusive members of the cat … 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

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

Endangered Lesser Floricans give MP a miss

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Western Madhya Pradesh is witnessing a bad year with respect to the arrival of the endangered Lesser Floricans (Sypheotides indicus) in the area.

There are primarily three areas where the floricans used to arrive for the breeding season in western M.P. These are Sailana sanctuary in Ratlam District, Petlawad in Jhabua District and Sardarpur sanctuary in Dhar District. No birds have arrived in M.P. this year until the 31st of July. in earlier years they used to arrive … Read More