The fundamental metric that we need for assessing and monitoring the status of threatened or endangered species is the population size, i.e., we are typically interested in finding out how many individuals of a species currently exist. Unfortunately, estimating these numbers is a daunting task because most endangered animals– especially those that live in dense tropical forests– are rare, secretive and elusive. For animals that have individual markings (like the stripes of a tiger, spots of a cheetah, rosettes of … Read More
Monk’s patience, Owl’s wisdom – How a Fishing Cat Hunts
Domestic cats may love to eat fish, but they certainly won’t venture into the water to catch one. Among their wild cousins, however, the flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps), which is endemic to Southeast Asia, is known to catch fish both from the shore and by fully submerging its head into the water. Closer home, we have a cat that is even more adept in the wetlands, with its water repellent fur and partially webbed feet – the fishing cat … Read More
Forest Birds Decline in Response to Land Use Change in the Western Himalaya
The Western Himalaya is a biologically diverse region, harboring rich flora and fauna, including numerous regional endemics. At a time of expanding threats from infrastructure development, over-exploitation and vegetation changes, it is necessary to study human impacts at micro and landscape scales. Currently, there are very few systematic studies that attempt to understand how native Himalayan fauna respond to human-caused habitat changes.
My colleagues and I have been studying birds in the banj oak-dominated (Quercus leucotrichophora) forests in … Read More
Counting Dholes: A First For India
India hosts a wide diversity of carnivores in a relatively small fraction of the global land area. Unfortunately, a lot of these carnivores are at risk of extinction with barely any information on their populations, nor methods available to monitor them. The Asiatic wild dog or dhole (cuon alpinus) ranks among the most threatened carnivores in the world. Till date, monitoring their populations has proven to be a challenge because dholes do not have visible distinguishing features such as stripes … Read More
How the tiger can regain its stripes
This article was written for/first published in The Hindu, OpEd page, August 13, 2020, titled “How the tiger can regain its stripes”.
Tiger conservation needs a reboot to match the scale of India’s aspirations in other domains.
On International Tiger Day, July 29, authorities proudly declared that India should “celebrate” the increase in tigers from about 2,000 in 1970 to about 3,000 now. This is an annual growth rate lower than 1% after 50 years of incredible, sometimes heroic, efforts. … Read More
A Flawed Vision — Demystifying India’s Tiger Counts
This article was originally published in The Telegraph.
For some reason, reports on India’s ‘tiger numbers’ get a lot of people excited. This was the case on July 28, 2020 when a report on the country’s tiger numbers from 2018 was released accompanied by profuse self-laudatory statements. The fact is there is nothing new in this report because the same results were released by the prime minister a year earlier. Perhaps everyone was bedazzled by the beautiful tiger photos and … Read More
The Ethics of Utilising Drones in Wildlife Conservation and Monitoring
Applications of Drones in Ecology Research
Conservation technology is a growing field, and right up in the forefront are drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, which are either operated by a remote controller or programmed to fly unaided. Drones have had a long history of use in the military and by large tech companies in mapping roadways, and their applications in conservation and ecology are growing.
Drones have various uses in wildlife conservation and monitoring, especially given the smaller sizes and … Read More
Polling for Pakke 2020 — Please help Pakke Tiger Reserve Pick its Best Images!
We are in our fourth year of Polling for Pakke, an initiative where people vote for their favourite camera trapping images based on which forest department staff are then given prizes. So far more than 1000 voters have helped pick the best camera trap images from Pakke Tiger Reserve. Our voters have included the head of Arunachal Forest Department Force, scientists such as Dr. George Schaller and the widow of Karo Tayem, who won the 1st prize in the first … Read More
Conservation Status of Dholes (Asiatic Wild Dogs) in Northeast India
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
Uttar Pradesh’s first Sloth Bear Conservation Reserve Proposed in Mirzapur Forest Division
A first of its kind, and Uttar Pradesh’s first Protected Area dedicated to Sloth Bear may come in Mirzapur Forest Division. The proposal for 408 sq.km. Conservation Reserve is backed by the first ever wildlife inventory using camera trap survey conducted in three forest ranges- Marihan, Sukrit and Chunar under Mirzapur Forest Division, Uttar Pradesh. The report titled “Wildlife Inventory and Proposal for Sloth Bear Conservation Reserve” published in July 2019 is authored by Vindhyan Ecology and Natural … Read More
Conserving the Dhole in Karnataka’s Western Ghats
The Asiatic wild dog or dhole (Cuon alpinus) is pack-living apex predator found in south and southeast Asia, currently threatened with endangerment. Dholes are generally restricted to protected forest habitats, but also occur in reserve forests and production agroforests (like tea and coffee plantations). The recent IUCN Red List assessment suggests that there may be 1000–2000 adult, mature dholes left in the wild. Despite its precarious status, the dhole remains one of the least studied large carnivores in the world. … Read More
Friends in Wrong Places: Assessing the Impacts of Domestic Dogs on Wildlife in India
In human-populated landscapes, domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the most abundant terrestrial carnivore, with a global population close to a billion. In India, total dog population is estimated to be about 60 million. Dogs interact with wildlife at multiple levels and despite their controversial effects, global ubiquity and significant ecological roles they remain poorly understood. Although there has been growing evidence of threats posed by free-ranging dogs, very few attempts have been made to understand the impact of free-roaming … Read More
The Importance of Woodlands in Tropical Agricultural Landscapes
Agricultural expansion continues to be a major cause of forest loss and degradation in the tropics. It often results in negative impacts on the resident floral and faunal communities inhabiting the forests. These communities have so far best been safeguarded by preventing forest loss and degradation through the establishment of Protected Areas (PAs)—legal conservation frameworks such as National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Community Reserves. However, the social and political realities of today make the further establishment and expansion of PAs … Read More
Hornbill Watch: A Citizen Science Initiative for Indian Hornbills
This is a summary of the paper originally published in INDIAN BIRDS Vol. 14 No. 3 (Publ. 25 July 2018).
Hornbills are called the ‘farmers of the forest’ as they play a very important role in dispersal of seeds that grow into trees. These long-lived birds are slow breeders, with larger hornbills usually raising a single chick every year. Hornbills face significant threats from hunting in parts of India and from habitat loss across their range in India. The information … Read More
The Forgotten Wild Cats of the Eastern Ghats
The Northern parts of the Eastern Ghats in Andhra Pradesh are isolated hill ranges with elevations of up to 1500 metres altitude. This landscape complex, with its associated habitats such as dry deciduous forests, riparian buffers, inland freshwater bodies, tropical mangroves, and open scrub, spans across four districts in North Coastal Andhra. Apart from the well-known big cat species like the Tiger and Leopard, these forests are also home to lesser known and often neglected small wild cat species. The … Read More