Are Himalayan Black Bears in the North Bengal Foothills a Product of a Bigger Ecological Disaster?

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Since November 2021, Himalayan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus laniger) have been spotted in the foothills of north Bengal, perplexing Forest Department personnel, wildlife biologists, and local inhabitants alike. The species is usually only found at altitudes between 1200-4300m above sea level in tropical, subtropical, and temperate broadleaved and conifer forests of the Himalayas. Ursus thibetanus laniger is easily identified by a cream-coloured, crescent-shaped patch on the chest, earning its other common name, ‘Moon Bear’. It is one of the four … Read More

Climate Resilience in the Sunderbans

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Cyclones Amphan and Yaas, which occurred in May 2020 and May 2021 respectively, severely impacted the Sundarbans. Local people who survived the immediate aftermath of these catastrophic weather events found themselves robbed of their self-sufficiency and livelihood as paddy fields and fish ponds were contaminated by extra-high salinity levels from the storm surges. Farmers believed that growing crops on their lands would be near impossible for at least 2-3 years. Life in the Sunderbans is tenuous at the best of … Read More

Killing Fields at Bortir Beel, near Kolkata, West Bengal

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A vast wetland near Kolkata was found to be killing fields for hundreds of birds every day, many of which fly in from thousands of kilometres away. Our team unearthed a large racket of commercial poachers operating in Bortir Beel near Neelgunj, North 24 Paraganas, North of Kolkata. The scale of bird trapping and sale in local markets here was much larger than other bird trapping activities we had experienced earlier.

Tipped off by one of our members, we first … Read More

Hunting Festivals of West Bengal — An Untold Story of Wildlife Massacre

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Ritualistic Hunting — The Silent Wildlife Killer of West Bengal

HEAL has been documenting South Bengal’s hunting festivals since 2016 and working with enforcement authorities to put an end to this indiscriminate mass killing of endangered wildlife.

This is the earlier documentation of their work on CI. 

All of us are acutely aware of the hunting of megafauna connected with the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade. Many of us also know of the problem of hunting that persists in the … Read More

Trade in Dolphin Oil and Body Parts in Central West Bengal

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South Asian River Dolphin, also known as Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista Gangetica) is an endangered species found in Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river systems in India and Bangladesh. It is listed as Endangered by IUCN and protected as Schedule I species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It is also the National Aquatic Animal of India and the focus of a number of conservation projects.

Around mid-2019, Human and Environment Alliance League (HEAL), a conservation focused NGO in Kolkata, started receiving news of … Read More

Bycatch Mortality and Poaching of Ganges River Dolphins in Malda District, West Bengal

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On the morning of November 3, 2019, I witnessed the bycatch mortality of a sub-adult Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica), measuring 2.75′ feet and about 22 kg, in a drift gillnet set for catching fish near Jotkasturi, Panchanandpur, Malda, West Bengal. A Wallago attu catfish was also caught in the gillnet. The fishermen who had landed the dolphin said that it might have got accidentally entangled. Usually, in such cases, fishermen fear penalties being imposed, and are not … Read More

Monitor gives dog the slip at Buxa Tiger Reserve

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Jayanti is a small village within Buxa Tiger Reserve in Alipurduar district of West Bengal. On the 7th of August, 2018, three of us had been out watching butterflies around there, and had started on our way back at around 2 pm. We were walking along the river Jayanti, when suddenly, something caught our attention. It was a feral dog, holding a water monitor in its mouth.

We noticed that they were both biting each other. The water monitor is … 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

Jackal and Domestic Dog Hybrid, Howrah, West Bengal

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On the evening of 30th September 2018, I was strolling near a village named Narit, Howrah, West Bengal, to try and get a glimpse of the fishing cat. Instead, I chanced upon a pack of 7-8 Golden Jackals (Canis aureus) that had suddenly appeared out of the darkness in dense bamboo forest.

Among the pack, two had a distinct coat of white and a tinge of orange. Initially I mistook them to be street or feral dogs, but unlike dogs, … Read More

West Bengal’s Gangetic Dolphins in Danger

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The Gangetic or South Asian River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica) or Shushuk, is an Endangered dolphin that lives in one of the most densely populated regions of the world – in the rivers of India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh (IUCN Red List; Braulik and Smith 2017).

While the primary threat to these blind river dolphins is fishing gear entanglement, the loss and fragmentation of riverine habitat and changes in water flow, due to the construction of dams … Read More

A Fishing Cat Kitten in the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve

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Sundarbans in West Bengal has become popular for increased tiger sightings. However, the sighting of lesser cats, like the Leopard Cat and the Fishing Cat, still remains rare due to their nocturnal habits. In fact, the latter is one of the least seen mammals in Indian Sundarbans.

I had a fleeting glimpse of an individual in Feb 2017 basking in the early morning sun during a foggy winter morning. In Feb 2019, a few of us got to see a … Read More

Let’s get to know the Fishing Cat in February!

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The Beautiful Baghrol – A Fascinating Feline

What is the state animal of West Bengal? Many of you may guess, Royal Bengal Tiger, because of the ‘Bengal’ in the name. Or you may remember Bengalis’ love for all things piscine, and say it is the fish! But you would be wrong again, for it is neither the tiger, nor the fish, but an animal associated with both – the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), locally known as Baghrol or MacchbaghaRead More

Poached Gangetic Dolphin, Malda, West Bengal

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This image of a poached Gangetic Dolphin was photographed yesterday in Bhabanathtola, Bhutni village, Malda district, West Bengal. The man was was probably carrying it from Hiranandapur towards Mathurapur.

The Forest Dept. and the police are visiting area today (30-Dec-2017). DFO Koushik Sarkar said, “We are taking the matter seriously and have also informed the police.”

Read TOI Kolkata report.

In Bengal the dolphin is called the Shushuk and is just another fish-like creature for them, and is consumed locally … Read More

A Community-based ‘Goat Bank’ for Fishing Cats in West Bengal

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A community-owned and managed seed goat bank – this was what a local NGO, Sarada Prasad Tirtha Janakalyan Samity, started last year to decrease loss of goats due to fishing cat depredation.

Go-Bagha is one of the local names for the fishing cat. Go is rooted in Goru meaning Cow. According to a local myth, if a cow gives birth to a still-born calf, then the calf will be re-born as Go-Bagha.

Black Bengal goats (small country goats) weighing around … Read More