Sharing Space with Big Cats and Elephants — Lessons from Tea Gardens of North Bengal

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This article originally appeared in the Last Wilderness on 7th July 2016.

The morning siren at a tea estate factory ushers in a new day in the life of a tea garden worker in the duars region of northern West Bengal. The term ‘duar’ means gateway since this landscape is the foothills or the gateway to the ‘Himalayas’. Historically, the region comprised of prime moist deciduous and semi-evergreen forests in a Bombax (Silk Cotton) and Shorea (Sal) dominated forests. In … Read More

Unethical Bird Photographers Disgrace Wildlife Community in West Bengal

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“I will not harm my subject!”

Every nature photographer should willingly and happily follow this simple credo – even when no one else is watching.

The sad truth is, today, for every responsible photographer who respects nature and tries to minimize his or her impact, there are hordes of unruly, uncaring shutterbugs who’ve become a menace to wildlife, says CI’s A Guide to Ethical Wildlife Photography.

Bibhutibhusan Wildlife Sanctuary (formerly Parmadan Forest) is a small (0.68 sq km) wildlife … Read More

Himalayan Forest Thrush — New Bird Species discovered in India and China

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A new species of bird has been described from northeastern India and adjacent parts of China by a team of scientists from Sweden, India, China, the US, and Russia.

The bird has been named Himalayan Forest Thrush (Zoothera salimalii). The scientific name honours the great Indian ornithologist Dr Sálim Ali (1896–1987), in recognition of his huge contributions to the development of Indian ornithology and wildlife conservation. This is the first Indian bird named after Dr. Salim Ali.

Dr. Per … Read More

The Endangered Fishing Cat, Howrah, West Bengal

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The Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List, and is a unique example of the great abilities and diversities of the felid family. Recent studies have shown that they are strongly linked to marshlands. Unfortunately, marshlands are considered to be “wastelands” under Indian land-use policies and are thus subjected to degradation and conversion, especially outside protected areas.

In West Bengal alone, where this image was taken, there has been a 44% decline in marshlands … Read More

The Elephant Conflict Story from the Terai Region, West Bengal

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The conflict between humans and elephants is turning very grave, with many human and elephant casualties (numbers can be as high as 50-100/year both sides), and severe crop damage. The situation worsens with fragmented corridors on their migration routes and continuous denudation of forest patches. The added issue of the 17-km long fencing along the Nepal border cuts off their traditional migration routes, pushing them into small forest patches and adjoining forest lands (Terai).

A few days back I witnessed … Read More

Poaching in Rajarhat, Kolkata

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Rajarhat wetlands (a neighbourhood of Kolkata, in North 24 Parganas district) have become a poachers paradise with numerous trap nets being placed in strategic locations across water bodies, marshes and paddy fields. These nets are quite big (about 10-15 feet in length and about 4-5 feet in width) and strung across bamboo poles. The nets are made of strings so thin that they are not clearly visible from a distance unless viewed carefully. Birds fly into the nets and get … Read More

Hunters Celebrate World Environment Day in West Bengal

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Every year hunters congregate in different parts of East Medinipur in West Bengal for attending melas to mark the celebrations surrounding the worship of goddess Kali. These coincide with the new moon, or amavasya, which fell on June 5 this year, World Environment Day.

The perpetrators, over 5000 tribal hunters, were organised packs of men out for a day of pure destruction and drunken revelry. They had converged on railway stations such as Uluberia, Deulti, Panskura and Kirai, located … Read More

Swamp tiger, Sundarbans

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The Sundarbans is the largest single block of tidal halophytic (saline) mangrove forest in the world. The Sundarbans covers approximately 10,000 square kilometres, of which 60 percent is in Bangladesh, and the remainder in India. The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Like many species of the Sundarbans, its tigers too remain highly understudied. Though it is a known fact that the big cats love water, these mangrove specialists are a step ahead and are excellent swimmers. Sundarban … Read More

Ruddy Kingfisher, Sundarbans

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The Ruddy Kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda) is a poorly understood kingfisher species. An uncommon kingfisher in the subcontinent, it is found in the Eastern Himalaya, NE India and Bangladesh, from tropical and subtropical evergreen forests as well as mangroves. It was earlier concluded that this medium-sized, rufous-orange tree kingfisher, with bright red bill and legs, is a passage migrant to the mangrove forests of Sundarbans in West Bengal, and can be seen for only for a week’s time at the most. … Read More

Plastic in Lake, Santragachi, Kolkata

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Just a 20-minute drive from Kolkata lies this 13,75,000 sq feet lake, known as the Santragachi jheel or lake. The Santragachi lake is a great place for many migratory birds. Winter months (October to March) draw 4000 to 5000 ducks and waders to this safe haven. This season thousands of Lesser Whistling Ducks arrived along with Northern Pintails, Gadwalls, the endangered Ferruginous Pochard, Common Teal, Cotton Pygmy Goose and other waterfowl.

What is really the key feature of Santragachi is … Read More

Brutal hunting of birds, Baisha Bil, West Bengal

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On the morning of 5th September 2013, Sourav Mondal and I went to Baisha Bil (wetland) on a birding outing. There were hundreds of Baya Weavers, Zitting Cisticolas, and other birds in the wetland. We were shocked to see two people trapping many of these birds (mainly Baya Weavers) using nets. We heard from the local people that other birds, such as the Open-billed Stork, Little Egret, Pond Heron, and Lesser whistling Duck, are also trapped and killed in this … Read More

Crab-eating Mongoose in Gorumara – Chapramari, West Bengal

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The Crab-eating mongoose (Herpestes urva) is a member of the Herpestidae family which represents the mongooses. Within Indian limits it is found in northern West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and the Northeastern hill states. Though it is found in a variety of habitats, the Crab-eating Mongoose appears to prefer the vicinity of waterbodies. They eat crabs, but will also feed on fish, frogs, molluscs, insects and crayfish.

On 28 July 2013 I sighted and photographed a Crab-eating … Read More

Water monitor eating Jungle Babbler, Sundarbans

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While walking around at Sajnekhali, Sundarbans, on 12th March, I heard jungle babblers crying the world deaf. I went ahead to find this water monitor swallowing the last parts of a jungle babbler, while the other birds of the flock kept on chattering loudly in alarm, flying overhead and jumping on branches. I don’t know how the seemingly sluggish monitor managed to catch a timid jungle babbler. It could be that the monitor was lying somewhere unnoticed when the poor … Read More

A Satyr Tragopan From Neora Valley, North Bengal

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The male Satyr Tragopan (Tragopan satyra) is easily one of the most beautiful birds in India and also one of the rarest. The Satyr Tragopan is found in the Eastern Himalayas, besides Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. It is best seen in Neora Valley National Park in North Bengal. Male Satyr’s are 68cm and are a bright crimson red with white spots. Females are smaller and less conspicuous.

Tragopans are often called “horned pheasants” because they display horn-like projections … Read More

Rare Buffy Fish Owl Photographed In Sundarbans

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On 18th March 2012, we were on a boat riding into the salty waters of Sundarbans. The breeze was just warming us up for the long day ahead, when Mridul Kanti Kar, a young fellow birder with an amazing ability to spot birds, shouted out ‘Owl! Owl!’. We were near the famous Sajnekhali Watch Tower. We were clicking pictures furiously, not realizing the rarity we were looking at. Though initially mistaken for the common Brown Fish Owl, something about it … Read More