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

First record of Finsch’s Wheatear for India, Desert National Park, Rajasthan

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A Finsch’s Wheatear (Oenanthe finschii), observed and photographed between 20th and 26th December 2018 near Sudasri, Desert National Park by a team of birders including Mukul Balkrishna Wasnik, Surat Singh Poonia, Manoj Sharma, C. Abhinav, Atul Jain, Sudhir Garg and Antar Singh was the first record of the species from the country. The bird had a slim black bill; white coloration of the crown continuing onto the mantle, upper back, lower back and base of the tail; black throat … Read More

Parakeets Attacking Monitor Lizard, Bharatpur

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I photographed this sequence of a pair of Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) attacking a Monitor Lizard (Varanus bengalensis) in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan.

Parakeets use cavities in tree trunks to nest, and the parents diligently protect the eggs from predators, including snakes. Monitor lizards are egg thieves, and this one’s attempt to steal the parakeet’s eggs resulted in an aggressive attack by the parent birds. 

Monitor lizards are tropical reptiles that belong to the family Varanidae. Due to rampant … Read More

Save the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) from Extinction!

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Powerlines in GIB habitat should go underground. 

The critically endangered Great Indian Bustard has disappeared from over 90% of its former range due to habitat loss, hunting, disturbance and lack of protection in many ‘lekking’ and nesting sites (see 2013 CI campaign). Now, overhead power transmission lines that crisscross its habitat are sounding the death knell of this low-flying, ground-dwelling species (see attached map). According to a study by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), as many as … Read More

Jackals and porcupine, Bharatpur

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On 15th October 2016 at about noon in Bharatpur National Park in Rajasthan, three jackals were seen by us around a fresh carcass of a porcupine right on the edge of water. They fled, and, try as we could, they did not approach the carcass in our presence. The carcass had injury marks on the neck and foot and a small opening at the rear.

Later, at 5.40 the same evening we found the jackals tugging away and feeding on … 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

High tolerance towards wildlife from people living near Rajasthan reserves

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Communities living around wildlife reserves in Rajasthan show high tolerance to wildlife, a new study reports. This is despite them having experienced losses in crops and livestock due to interaction with wildlife like nilgai, jackal and wild pig, as well as larger carnivores such as leopard and wolves. In the long term, human–wildlife interactions affect people’s livelihoods, attitudes and tolerance towards wildlife and support for wildlife reserves. Therefore, understanding people’s attitudes towards wildlife is critical to informing park management policies … Read More

Bleeding the Chambal Dry

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Reckless water hoarding, diversion, sand mining and fishing are killing a pristine river that once used to recast its vast ravines every flood. Jay Mazoomdaar on the curse of the Chambal.

This article originally appeared in Tehelka, 8 March, 2013.

In a culture where rivers are worshipped, the Chambal, by all means mightier than the Yamuna, would be slighted as a tributary of the latter. Unsurprisingly, no great cities or shrines came up on its banks. This traditional isolation fostered … Read More

Feral Dog with Little Grebe Kill, Jodhpur, Rajasthan

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The menace that feral dogs pose to wildlife is once again seen in this picture, taken on 05/11/2017 near Jodhpur.
 
Feral dogs are fed by people here as a religious practice. Because of the easily available food, and the protection and care received by them in the city, their population has increased by several times in the last few years. The dogs are found just about everywhere. In several parts of the city, they have become quite a menace, and … Read More

Bustard, Wires, and the Flight to Extinction

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On behalf of the Bustard Conservation Team, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

This article is an outcome of Wildlife Institute of India’s ongoing research and conservation activities under the Great Indian Bustard Conservation Project investigated by Yadvendradev Jhala. The team members are, apart from the author, Sujit Narwade, Tushna Karkaria, Bipin C.M., Arjun Awasthi, Mohib Uddin, Devendradutta Pandey, Tanya Gupta, Sourav Supakar, Vineet Singh, Priyamvada Bagaria, Srinivas Y. and Shaheer Khan.

Much of India’s conservation movement has focused on forested … Read More

Desert Fox Pays the Price of a Smoother Road

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This Desert Fox (Vulpes vulpes pusilla) roadkill, was photographed on November 4, 2017, on the way to village Charwas, one km from the forest guest house of Tal Chhapar Blackbuck Sanctuary. This road was renovated a year back.

A healthy population exists of both desert and Indian foxes in the Guashala region of Chhapar. The desert fox, also known as the white-footed fox, can be identified by the dark upper-half behind the left ear and white-tipped tail. Many fox dens … 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

Pied Crow sighting at Jodhpur, Rajasthan

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The Pied Crow (Corvus albus) is a widely distributed African bird species of the crow genus. Presently its conservation status is Least Concern (LC).

On 13th August 2017, Mr. Vinod Puri Goswami, Mr. Digvijay Singh Rathore and I witnessed and photographed a single Pied Crow together with few Common Ravens (Corvus corax) and House Crows (Corvus splendens) at a cattle carcass dump about 20 kms from Jodhpur city. This sighting may be the first documented wild sighting from India. The … Read More

First record of Rusty Spotted Cat from Ramgarh-Vishdhari Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan, India

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The Rusty-spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) is the world’s smallest cat, found only in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It occurs in moist and dry deciduous forest types as well as in scrub and grassland. Rusty-spotted cats prefer dense vegetation and rocky areas (Worah 1991; Patel 2006) but have been found amidst agricultural areas and human settlements (Nowell & Jackson 1996; Mukherjee 1998; Kettle & Watson 2004). The Rusty-spotted Cat is listed as a Schedule I species under the Wildlife (Protection) … Read More

Great Indian Bustards near Desert National Park, Rajasthan

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On a trip to the Desert National Park in Nov 2014, I was fortunate to see 17 bustards in a fallow field just outside the park. The image captures seven of that flock.

The critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is amongst the heaviest of flying birds. Less than a hundred remain in the wild, with the most (~70) being in Rajasthan, in and around the Desert National Park.

Currently (March 17 to 25, 2017), the Rajasthan forest department … Read More

Lost Tigers, Plundered Forests: Tracing the Decline of the Tiger in Rajasthan

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One species of wild animal that has captivated human beings for time immemorial, is the tiger. Its popularity has however oscillated depending on the time-period in context. Until the 19th century, it was ‘the dangerous beast’; during the first half of the 20th century it became the royal quarry; the two decades post Indian independence it played the role of a mascot luring trophy hunters to India; and today, it is an unrivalled conservation emblem.

From the perspective of large … Read More

Great Indian Bustards and Wind Turbines, Desert National Park, Rajasthan

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With just about 150-200 surviving in the wild, the fate of the Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) already seems bleak. A significant population of these birds remain in Desert National Park, Rajasthan, the last stronghold for the critically endangered bird. The presence of wind turbines very close to the Great Indian Bustard enclosures near Sam Village in Desert National Park increase the bird’s potential life-threatening risks. Additionally, such enclosures (which form only about 4% of the park’s total area) are … Read More

WII Report: Status of Great Indian Bustard and Associated Wildlife in the Thar Desert Landscape

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The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the Rajasthan Forest Department have recently conducted a joint assessment of Great Indian Bustard status in Thar. The enclosed report describes the survey protocol and provides information on distribution, abundance and habitat of GIB and key associated wildlife in this crucial conservation landscape. We hope to replicate such surveys in other bustard landscapes with the kind cooperation of State Forest Departments so as to help managers in prioritizing and implementing site-specific actions.

The … Read More

Why Do Birds Preen?

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Birds have up to 25,000 feathers, and regular preening keeps each feather in top condition. Second only to feeding, preening is a common bird behaviour easily observed.

So, why do they preen? Here are some reasons:

  • Aligning feathers for optimum waterproofing and insulation
  • Aligning feathers into the most aerodynamic shape for easier, more efficient flight;
  • Removing feather parasites and body lice that can destroy feathers or carry disease
  • Removing tough sheaths from newly molted feathers; creating a healthier appearance to
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Tawny Eagle with a Spiny-tailed Lizard, Tal Chhapar

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The Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastyx hardwickii) is the only herbivorous lizard in India, and has a wide distribution in small fragmented populations in the dry areas of northwestern India. These lizards hibernate through the winter in their burrows and emerge in spring. In the arid landscapes they habitat, they form a significant prey base for predators especially raptors and small carnivores.

Things didn’t go as per plan for this unfortunate lizard emerging from winter migration in the grasslands of … Read More

The Vulnerable White-naped Tit, Rajasthan

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With little importance given to thorn-scrub forests, birds such as the globally threatened White-naped Tit (Parus nuchalis) are getting pushed towards extinction.

The vulnerable White-naped Tit is a 12cm bird endemic to India. It has two separate populations. One is found in the thorn forests of Gujarat and Rajasthan and the other in the states of Karnataka, Kerala & Tamil Nadu. Recent surveys have found the species to be scarce across its range, and absent from many intervening areas between … Read More

Steppe Eagle Shows Evidence of Diclofenac Toxicity

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Population of three Gyps vultures — white-backed, long-billed vulture and slender-billed — in South Asia decreased by about 90% in the 1990s due to contamination of their carrion food supply with the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac. Since 2006, the use of diclofenac has been banned in India. The IUCN Red Data Book has listed these vultures as ‘critically endangered’. Despite the ban, there is still some unauthorised (and illegal) veterinary misuse of diclofenac using multi-use vials meant for human consumption.

Shockingly, … Read More

Feral Dogs – A Growing Threat to Wildlife

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The grasslands of Tal Chhapar in Rajasthan are home to a rich variety of wildlife. Blackbuck dominate the park landscape and during winter, it’s a paradise for birdwatchers. Majestic raptors, fast-flying falcons, agile wheatears, spiny-tailed lizards, the list goes on. While the park has a well balanced ecosystem, wildlife does spill out of the park due to various reasons. Villagers often dump carcasses of their dead animals for open burials at the nearby Goshala. These carcasses attract scavengers, like Egyptian … Read More

Saving Demoiselle Cranes, Khichan, Rajasthan

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Every year, thousands of Demoiselle Cranes visit Khichan village in the Rajasthan desert during winter. They arrive by October-November and stay on till the end of March. Khichan and the areas around were filled with open high tension wires. Every time these beautiful cranes flew, they would come in contact with these high tension wires and die. The images show such electrocuted cranes.

A Khichan native — Sevaram Malli Parihar — took it upon himself to get these high tension … Read More

Spiny-tailed Lizard Poaching, Desert National Park

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38 half-dead Spiny-tailed lizards were seized from three poachers near Beermadera village in Pokhran subdivision of Jaisalmer district. The forest department received information of a poaching gang catching Spiny-tailed lizards from their burrows. The department team immediately reached the spot and caught the three poachers and recovered the lizards, which had their spines broken and were packed tightly in bags.

Department officials state that the poachers cook and eat these lizards (considered a delicacy) after extracting oil (by burning their … Read More