Living with Leopards – Conflict or Coexistence?

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Nayan Khanolkar first chanced upon Luna the leopardess in 2014 while monitoring the man-animal conflict in Mumbai. Back then she was an almost grown up leopard cub roaming in Aarey Colony with her mother. Over the years he and his team have trailed Luna and watched her become an adult, independent leopardess having grown and thrived in an urban landscape. She learnt and understood the human ways enough to manoeuvre around them.

She knew that where humans roamed during the … 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

The Hornbills of Malabar Hill, Mumbai

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It’s been over a year since the Indian Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros birostris) decided to make their presence conspicuous in the Malabar Hill area of South Mumbai, just as the peacocks of ‘Doongerwadi’ and the Raj Bhavan have made theirs for some time now.

These ‘urban hornbills’, as my friend and ace birder Shashank Dalvi calls them, are seen mostly at dawn and dusk flying around from tree to tree as they are mostly arboreal in nature.

The male has a … Read More

Carnivores as Co-owners of our Lands

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Among the range of attributes that represent India is the little-known, seldom-acknowledged diversity of carnivore species it harbors. The country has 23% of the world’s terrestrial carnivore species. While popular discourse typically links large carnivores to forested reserves or large inviolate spaces, many of India’s carnivore species have historically shared spaces and adapted to using human modified landscapes. A recent study by researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society-India, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Foundation for Ecological Research And Learning, University of … Read More

A Bullet to the Lungs: Mumbai Set to Lose More Forest to High-Speed Railway Line

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Will development once again take precedence over conserving India’s natural wealth?

India’s forests are quietly disappearing to accelerated infrastructure development. During the past three decades, approximately 15,000 sq km of forests have been diverted for development projects. Among them, 5000 sq km for mining, 1,600 sq km for defence projects and 1400 sq km for hydroelectric projects (http://data.gov.in). As of 2019, government data shows that 15,19,167.19 hectares of forest land have been diverted for non-forest use cumulatively across … Read More

Amboli Toad Roadkill, Amboli Ghat, Maharashtra

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One of the major factors affecting faunal survival is our road network. Road kills are documented widely and affect all taxonomic groups, especially in protected areas. Animals don’t recognise a road as a hazard. Often, the road might have cut through a continuous patch of forest, and animals will have to cross these man-made roads in search of food, mates and other resources, like water.

On a recent trip while driving on the Amboli ghat road, we came across this … 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

When Humans are Curious to Know the Spotted Cat

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Nashik district’s Niphad taluk is situated on the fertile banks of the Godavari River. Agriculture is the main occupation here, with sugarcane the major cash crop, grown along with food crops such as wheat, grapes, jowar and other vegetables. Livestock-rearing also contributes a major part to the local economy. In this productive landscape, where human density is fairly high, jackals, hyenas, jungle cats, civets, and leopards also co-exist, as there is water, prey, and shelter.

Some communities like Warali, Mahadeo … Read More

Indian Grey Mongoose with Indian Eagle Owl Kill, Maharashtra

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This photograph was taken in February 2015 at Hiraj-Solapur, Maharashtra, where Indian Eagle Owls are regularly seen near a canal.

I was surprised to see an Indian Eagle Owl in the clutches of an Indian Grey Mongoose (Herpestes edwardsii). When I came across the scene, the kill was pretty fresh and there were feathers lying around. I saw the mongoose dragging the kill from one end of the road to the other and then to a nearby mound.… Read More

A Dogged Problem

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Free-ranging dogs are unfavourable to wildlife, they are reservoirs of many diseases.

The word carnivore often conjures up images of large, dangerous predators such as lions and tigers. Few, however, realize that they spend most of their lives in the presence of the world’s most common carnivore — the domestic dog. Man’s so-called best friend is indeed the most numerous and widespread of the world’s carnivores.

In much of the developed world, dogs are generally confined to certain areas, but … Read More

Saswad Grasslands near Pune in Danger

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20 km to the Southeast of Pune lies the Purandar District with its headquarters at Saswad. As we leave the semi-urban environs of Saswad behind, we enter a unique habitat – a mosaic of grasslands interspersed with agricultural lands and human settlements. This human dominated semi-arid savannah landscape harbours unique and threatened faunal diversity.

These areas, historically labelled as ‘wastelands’, have long been ignored by environment policy makers due to the cryptic nature of diversity which they possess. As the … Read More

Connecting the Tigers — Mapping Habitat Connectivity for Tigers in Central India

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It turns out that – when it comes to protecting India’s tigers – size matters, just not in the way most people might think. Large protected areas are clearly important for such a wide-ranging, territorial species. But in what may be a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, new research also shows that small protected areas often play a disproportionate role in ensuring the long-term survival of tigers in Central India.

Over the last several years, India has been working to improve tiger … Read More

A Rare Sighting of the Indian Wolf at Tadoba, Maharashtra

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For several years now the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) has been in the limelight for its tigers. Tourists visit the park in hordes to fulfil their dream of seeing a wild tiger. However, this forest has much more to offer.

During a visit to TATR on 21st November 2016, I was very surprised to spot an Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes). It was early in the morning and light was low but I managed a few images.

Apparently … Read More

Empty Sea Syndrome

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Overfishing and unsustainable practices are causing fish to disappear from the world’s oceans at unprecedented rates. Pooja Rathod and Tiasa Adhya interact with fishermen in Malvan along the Maharashtra coast to learn about the impact of trawlers and the exploitation of dwindling marine resources.

“Pannas… don hazaar saahashe… paan she sattar!” The bidding calls started at Rs. 50 and reached Rs. 5,000. The monsoon month of July notwithstanding, trade was brisk inside the fish auction market in Malvan, a small Read More

Bor Tiger Reserve’s Dominant Male (T2) Road-killed on NH-6

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During the night of 29-Dec-2017, an adult male tiger T2 from Bor Tiger Reserve fell prey to the killer highway NH-6 that cuts the vital corridor between Bor and Melghat Tiger Reserves in Maharashtra. Despite repeated appeals by conservationists no mitigation structures were built on the highway. Read TOI Nagpur report on the incident. T2, King of Bor (affectionately known as Bajirao), was about 8-years old and in his prime. He often shuttled between Bor and Kalmeshwar, which is … Read More

Chousingha near Pune, Maharashtra

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We were out on our regular Sunday bird-watching trip, 70 kms outside Pune city when we stumbled on this Chousingha or Four-horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) on 22nd May 2016 at 6:50 AM.

Arriving at a road section where the hills were clothed in scrub jungle, we decided to explore the area on foot. We saw something like a Chinkara (Indian Gazelle) take a couple of jumps and run behind a small hill in a matter of seconds. Sandip was quick … Read More

The Enigma of the Forest Owlet

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The Forest Owlet (Heteroglaux blewitti) is a curious bird, both by name and nature. It has captured the imagination of many within and outside the country and for the right reasons.

The forest owlet has an interesting past associated with it. Let us travel back in time to the 19th century. It was in 1872 when an Irish officer, Mr. Francis Robert Blewitt (F. R. Blewitt) saw this different looking owl near Phooljhar in eastern Madhya Pradesh (now in Chhattisgarh). … Read More

The Wolf and the Sheep: Concerns about the Proposed Purandar Airport in Pune

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There are growing conservation concerns about the proposed greenfield International Airport in Purandar taluk, Pune. In addition to local people’s opposition, which led to arrests and subsequent talk of land compensation packages, there is little information on the status of environmental clearance for airport construction. Approved by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the airport is meant to be fully functional by 2020. Purandar was chosen by AAI after considering other sites in the Chakan-Rajgurunagar area. Various players including top … Read More

Janata Waghoba: A Story of People and Leopards in Rural Maharashtra

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The Northern Western Ghats, also known as the Sahyadris, are home to many species of flora and fauna. The area is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world, as well as the origin of important rivers like the Godavari, Kaveri, Krishna, Thamiraparani and Tungabhadra. The part of Maharashtra state which has been flanked by the Ghats on the west is known as Western Maharashtra.

Junnar and Sangamner talukas in Pune and Ahmednagar Districts respectively, which are interspersed with … Read More

Urgent — Help Safeguard the Western Ghats!

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Urgent! Time is short, so please act immediately – your appeal to the Central Government can help safeguard the Western Ghats.  Use the form below to write to the minister. 

I support the Government’s decision to declare 56,825 square kilometres of the Western Ghats as Eco Sensitive Area (see contents of the letter below the form). 


This campaign is now closed. We received support from more than 3500 concerned citizens. We are now sending a consolidated letter to the ministry, Read More

BNHS Flamingo Festival — Sewri Jetty, Mumbai, April 22, 2017

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The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has organized its annual flamingo festival on Earth Day this year, funded by Mangrove and Marine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation and supported by the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT).

A day-long event to enjoy these pink guests Mumbai receives every winter, the flamingo festival becomes a nature fair in its own way with a bevy of wetland birds to observe and over 20,000 flamingos as key attraction.

This festival is open for all and entry is … 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

Bioluminescent Phytoplankton, Juhu Beach, Mumbai

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We all saw this spectacle in ‘Life of Pi’ without realizing what it was! These are bioluminescent phytoplanktons called dinoflagellates. Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light (at night) by a living organism. Phytoplankton are photosynthesizing microscopic organisms that inhabit the upper sunlit layer of almost all oceans and fresh water bodies on Earth. They emit a protein called luciferase which helps them glow in the night.

There are several genera of dinoflagellates which are bioluminescent. Most of them … Read More

Caspian Plover – A Winter Rarity in India

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The mudflats near Panje village near Uran, Navi Mumbai are known to be a favourite stopover destination for many uncommon migratory birds, so we visited the place to try our luck.

Our day began with listening to the calls of Rain Quails and the sighting of a beautiful Jacobin Cuckoo followed by the usual sightings – Prinias, Bulbuls, Munias, and waders like Sandpipers, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Stints and Lapwings. Further on the trail, along the dry mudflats, we observed a few … Read More

Sunday with a Phalarope, Bhigwan, Maharashtra

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With winter drawing to a close and with it the peak birding season, the weekends are spent in trips to easily accessible birding spots around Mumbai. The last Sunday of March 2016 however brought different tidings – a Red Phalarope had been spotted in Bhigwan, around 250 kms away from Mumbai. A vagrant to beat all rare vagrants!

The Red or Grey Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius) is a small wader in the Sandpiper family. It breeds in the Arctic and winters … Read More