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

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

Engagement with Media Change the Way Human-wildlife Interactions are Reported

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Mass media plays an important role in shaping public perception of human-wildlife interactions. In India, sensational and horrific imagery is often used to portray encounters between the two, even though most of them are neutral.

Media reports on human-leopard interactions are usually focussed on either attacks on people by leopards, or leopards being killed by people. The area in and around Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai, India, is a leopard hotspot, and witnessed many leopard attacks on people in … Read More

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

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

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

Something Fishy — Emptying India’s Seas

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Marine organisms are frequently seen as resources that can be used or extracted seemingly limitlessly. They certainly do not come to mind as wildlife, which are in need of as much protection as terrestrial creatures, if not more. Mindless fishing or harvesting, combined with unsustainable methods, have wreaked havoc on marine systems. Seafood encompasses any sea life that is fit for consumption by humans, and additionally marine organisms are used as ‘resources’ in a variety of ways – as pets, … Read More

Living in Mumbai with Leopards

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This 7-minute video ‘Living with Leopards’ showcases ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP’ (MfSGNP), a project that was initiated by the Maharashtra Forest Department to manage human-leopard encounters in a novel way. This group engages a variety of stakeholders like scientists, apartment dwellers, tribal colonies, police force and journalists, working with them in tandem to alleviate fear among people. This approach has worked well for both humans and leopards and, since 2013, no leopards have been captured and removed from the area.… 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

Whose Forest is it Anyway?

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Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a gift to Mumbai. Often labelled as Mumbai city’s only green lungs, this is one of the very few protected areas in the world to fall within the limits of a metropolitan city. The forest also supplies a portion of the city’s fresh water through its lakes, Tulsi and Vihar.

However, Mumbai is mushrooming at a rapid, and its suburbs are ever increasing in size, as a lot of pressure is on them to fulfil … Read More

Plover Drenched in Oil, Navi Mumbai

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In August 2010, two cargo ships collided off the coast of Mumbai spilling around 400 tonnes of oil into the Arabian Sea.

This image from the mangroves of Navi Mumbai shows the plight of an oil-bathed Kentish Plover in an oil-soaked habitat that was the aftermath of the incident. Oil penetrates the plumage of birds, reducing its insulating and waterproofing properties. As a result, oil-soaked birds are more vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and are much less buoyant in the water. … Read More

Catalysing Awareness — How Mumbai’s Media Represents its Leopards

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The common leopard (Panthera pardus) is a highly adaptable species that is found throughout the country (and beyond) in a variety of habitats, from the pristine rainforests to human-modified and dominated landscapes. Despite its ability to survive on a wide range of prey species including the wild and the domestic, the leopard population is on a downward spiral owing to intense persecution and pressures of illegal wildlife trade.

Authors Saloni Bhatia, Vidya Athreya, Richard Grenyer and … Read More

A Red-wattled Lapwing Nesting on a Roof, Mumbai

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While Red-wattled lapwings are very often seen near human habitation, their nesting is primarily carried out only on the ground. But there have been growing records of their roof-nesting habit (Saxena 1974; Reeves 1975; Tehsin & Lokhandwala 1983; Mundkur 1985; Koshy 1989; Kumar & Sharma 2011). I have been observing this roof-nesting pair for the last 5 years and feel that this is an important case-study to be shared with the rest of the community. At no point, did I … Read More

Flamingos of Sewri get a respite

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Mumbai. A March afternoon. The din of cars, and the hot cloying air of the city. And then, we reach the mudflats of Sewri in South Mumbai. We are, suddenly and unexpectedly, looking at a lattice of pink, scarlet and white. 10,000 Lesser Flamingos, feeding calmly. Like ballerinas, they shift their wings and legs, suffusing the air with elegance.

The noise of the city becomes distant. At the mudflats of Sewri in South Mumbai, this Spring, the Lesser and Greater … Read More