Sunday, March 8, 2009


Last week all of sudden I had to visit the Deharadun on an official duty, the Garhwal region is the most picturesque place on earth, which is closely associated with the legendry heroes of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Though beautiful place but is full of hard working poor, the daily struggle of these hill people is some thing remarkable. Once the famous author of children books Mr. Ruskin Bond had asked a local that they got beautiful scenery to live in, the local retorted back saying “true but we can not eat scenery”. The money order economy by the soldiers of the region is most prevalent in many villages.
I found some time during my official work to visit the much talked about conservation area of the country, the Corbett tiger reserve, the lower shivalik region of the Himalayas, interspersed with the parallel ridges, deep valleys and open flat-bottomed river beds locally known as “Raos.” After a arduous journey and a overnight stay at cozy Glycol India rest house of Kashipur . I reached the starting point of Corbett reserve i.e. Ramnagar . At the reception point of the reserve I had to negotiate the vulture like middle men who are all around the park to cheat the casual tourists and serious nature lovers .
The person at the reception desk was far from friendly. I tried to tell him that I also belonged to the community of the foresters ...looking for some discount in the charges ,which went to deaf ears and he told me that my reservation at Dikala chour is confirmed and I had to pay around rupees 3500 for my vehicle and stay, I was baffled as the guest house charges at my state are nominal like Rs 20 to 50 nevertheless ,I called up the deputy director of the park and explained my plight in the hands of this human vulture ( not to disrespect this beautiful scavenger !) the point here is not about the money , what I am trying to tell is the so called conservation areas of the country like Corbett,Periyar and our own Nagar hole are all catering to the needs of the white skinned foreigners and affluent class of the society by keeping the charges very high which are not affordable to the lower middle class people which is some thing not desirable as it not a commercial venture by the state .

After all this initial hiccups I proceeded to the Dhangadi gate, after check up I went inside the park this was my second visit after ten years nothing changed much. This is the first tiger reserve and national park of the country. The siwalik sandstone boulders ,conglomerates and other deposits forms the ridges while the softer shale are eroded to form gullies and rivulets creating natural Terrai and Bhabar habitat for the wild animals .

The river Ramaganga flows through the park in wider ramification which is beneficial to the variety of flora and fauna. the much of the vegetation is Sal forests and its associates( 70%), the grass lands have been reduced to greater extent now a days due to the construction of the dam . the river Ramganga is home to the endangered golden Mahsheer , great fish of snow fed rivers of higher Himalayas ,despite the dams, pollution and other harmful practices mahsheer still lives in this river . the pebbles ,stones and fine sand of the Ramaganga river is the ideal spawning ground for the Mahsheer and other fish like Goonch,chila etc .The park authorities are running a project called Ramaganga Mahasheer conservation project with the help of the local communities and private angling agencies in buffer zone of the Corbett. this project is taking up activities in conservation of Mahsheer ,issue permits for angling etc

This tiger reserve is comprises of Corbett national park (520.82 sq km) Sonanadi wild life sanctuary ( 301.18 sq km) and adjacent reserve forest of Ramnagar ( 496 sq km ) making it nearly 1400 sq km . As per the camera trap studies of the wild life institute if India this tiger reserve supports around 145 tigers, making this as highest tiger density area of the country.

But the sad thing which I witnessed while I was there was, killing these beasts by declaring them as man eaters. They trapped one tiger and sent him to Nainital Zoo as it was supposed to be man eater. One tiger skin was recovered in Ramnagar , and one more tiger was shot at in Philibhit . The point here is it had happened in a week’s time ,though the three incidents were unconnected but a sad thing for the conservation efforts of the country .the Heads of the project tiger should put a break to all these mindless interventions of the local authorities.

The road to Dhikala chour was refreshing found many birds and photographed few of them near Gairali guest house .The fig tree near the guest house was full of berries and was swarmed by many Himalayan beauties, While on move after this photo session,heard shrill voice of Khaleej Pheasant near jirna jari point. As I was waiting for the bird to come out, families of 4 pheasants were on the road unperturbed by my presence and stood within the minimum focusing distance of my lens. Phew ..I made many futile efforts in Khaziranga to photo graph this beauty, here they are near my butt. Each PA is unique the best place for khaleej is Corbett!!

Few lazy Gharials were basking at crocodile point, corrected a Mom who was telling her kid as they are Alligators, of which we do not have a single soul in India,in alligator the tooth is within the mouth,not exposed out side. she was quite annoyed by my questioning of her knowledge in wild life matters. we some time teach wrong things to our kids because of our poor knowledge of nature similar incident I witnessed While I was in Dandeli, one person was identifying horn bill as toucan , the problem here is our education system , I always find the exotic birds and animals in our kids book ,the china made education tools!!! . One gentle man came with few ladies, peeped down to sight the crocs and yelled “they are very dirty yaar...” dirty mind set of a very dirty Homo sepian!! These things are not to complain.But there is an urgent need to make our country men to be better educated in natural world, I went once with a European family who had complete Salim ali book to tick off, their aim was to see as many birds in their visa period. These things though may not be possible in India but we can try to do better in coming days .as we are aping many unwanted things of the west why not these good things?

I took left turn from the main road and hit a small bridle path which was named after the great forester Mr. Champion, the man who classified the forest types of India on scientific lines. This path led to small rivulet. King vulture was hovering; suddenly some thing appeared in the stream. Closer look through the glass revealed a group of smooth coated otters. There were 12 in all. And found to be in great mood, they were quite unaware of my presence. They came out of the river and moved in a pack on the river bank all along the river after few yards again went down to waters, and floated through the current. they saw a mugger napping on the bank , some thing was communicated to the members of the troop, all went up to the bank where mugger was sleeping and all them started attacking the croc .two otters were piercing their sharp canine in to the tail, and few were attacking from the front . The croc caught off guard and was irritated by these creatures. This attack on a major predator of the water by this small otters with out any provocation was quite intriguing. After much drama these little beasts went again in to the water and moved down-stream .After few strokes they found one more croc on the river bank and the same drama was unveiled here too.
I wrapped up my equipments and reached back to main road towards Dhikala, after little drive in the thick woods heard a pooking sound of the sambar deer, told my driver to switch off the vehicle and remain still. Few vehicles passed by but the alarm call of the sambar was still there. Some time the tiger also imitate the sambar sound which is called as “titting” to confuse the sambar . I was expecting the tiger to come out of the thickets, but the time was ticking and the alarm sound kept increasing but no sign of the big cat

Tiger photo credit ; Rajiv Bhartari IFS

Tango of the 3 sambar deer was increased, their tail up and frontal left leg tapping the ground hard. Some thing moved in the fig tree left of the road just few meters away from my jeep. Alas!! It was this spotted beauty instead of striped diva of the jungle that was sitting right above my head this entire time .the leopard bolted off in a jiffy. All the way I was looking at the thickets instead of looking up that cost me dearly; the long cherished dream of photographing the leopard in wild went unfulfilled but a very important lesson of jungle craft learnt.

After break fast I thought of exploring the back waters of the Ramaganga reservoir as it is good place for elephants and full of tall grass mainly Eragrostis, Eleusine, Panicum,Chloris, Dicanthium, Hetropogon,Themeda etc.while driving I found a mother chital and a fawn of about 2-3 months old were standing on a road fork. My gypsy sound made them separated and fawn ran towards the near by woods while the mother vanished in to the grass thinking that the fawn would follow, but the fawn ran very fast and reached nullah . In few seconds I heard the frantic calls of the mother and returning call from the fawn. I heard a raptor dashing towards the tree on the nullah .it was changeable hawk eagle which sat on the tree and was looking down towards the separated fawn ,it just went down and closed down on the fawn , I heard the shrill cry of the fawn from the distance mother came rushing towards the fawn I slowly went up to the place where all these action was taking place.. on nullah bed . The bird loosened its grip and flew back to the tree. I cursed my self for disturbing the natural process. The mother and the cub were united, the fawn has got a bleeding eye probably the eagle tried to blind him before started feeding on him. This was an amazing moments of my wild days.

Rishad Naoroji records that the changeable hawk eagle can prey on larger mammals up to the size of hares and one recorded incidence of carrying monitor Lizard in Corbett .and an attempted predation on giant squirrel was also reported, it was also found to predate on not so dead jungle cat in Melghat sanctuary, but this attempt on chital fawn,I believe is the first ever recorded incidence, the field experts can through light on this

The invader Lanatana camara is chocking the greater part of the park. The park authorities have taken up an innovative technique under the guidance of professor Babu of Delhi. The technique here is to cut the lantana bush just few centimeters below the ground level, and thus cutting off the entire meristamatic region of growth. Then the cut bush should be turned upside down in order to reverse the polarity if the stem. As the lantana does not produce the root suckers the remaining root inside the soil gets decayed thus saving lots of cost from its unnecessary up rooting! This worked out to be great success and they have retrieved back a considerable extent of the area in Laldhang village to create a mosaic of grass lands and forest communities in order to enhance rich wild life.

The heavy influx of tourists in Corbett during last few years is a cause of concern in 2003-04 the total members visited was 97,000 while the same increased to 177399, almost double during 2007-08. Efforts were made to renovate the old rest houses and upgrade the house keeping. the other innovative efforts that is in place is running staff mess to cater to the food needs of the anti poaching camps, here ration and other cooking accessories were given to the staff from the park side, in order to ensure the better food supplies to the people working in the interiors .many of the places it is doing well but in some places it failed owing to the caste differences as told by the Rajiv Bhartari , then park director who made all these efforts. in order to ensure the better protection long term foot patrolling parties are in place which covers nook and corners of the park under the direction of the park directors and RO.

My time in park was exhilarating; I had to come back for the grilling teaching classes at Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy Dehra Dun. The few very rare moments of Corbett will remain etched in my memory for days to come

Saturday, January 17, 2009


My mission of searching the details of Amruth mahal cattle ranch was started five months ago. After frantic search for the head quarter of this ranch in Ajjampura, a small township of Tarikere taluk ,I was landed in a rather gloomy looking office on the Ajjampura and Tarikere road. The board on the office read Amruth mahal cattle development centre, established in 1512. the head of the office was one Dr Ranganath who was away from the office, though he assured me over phone that he would come back and assist me in my quest for knowing the history of this old establishment, he did not turn up I had to return empty handed, after few days I opened the shelves of my office store room, there was the hidden treasure of information on this grazing lands……….
The Amruth Mahal literally means milk department. Is an establishment for the breeding of a race of cattle peculiar to the erstwhile state of Mysore and famous for it utility for military purpose. The establishment was founded some time during the Vijaya nagara dynasty during 1512, with special privileges as regards to grazing, but it’s maintenance for special purposes of supplying draught cattle for artillery is due to Hydher Ali. He reported to have introduced a breed of cattle from Trichy, he produced the Hallikar breed, by a cross between Trichy breed and the indigenous breed of Mysore, which is considered to be best in the whole establishment. The imported breed from Trichi was small Brahmani bulls which are noted for the endurance and fast trotting powers. It was this establishment which enabled Hyder Ali to march 100 miles in 2 days and half, and after every defeat to draw of his guns in the face of enemies, further these cattle also enabled Tippu sultan to cross the peninsula in one month for recovery of Bedanur, even the Duke of Wellington during peninsula war exclaimed that he regretted that he had not the assistance of Amruth Mahal Cattle. After death of Tippu and Hyder , the management taken over by the British. A commissioner Captain Harvey was placed in charge by the establishment. The Amruth Mahal was re established in December 1857 with the assistance of Maharaja of Mysore. The cattle were divided in to 30 herds containing from 200 to 700 head of cattle each; for grazing of which 208 kaavals or pasture grounds were allotted from various part of erstwhile Mysore State. They were divided in to hot weather, wet weather and Cold weather Kaavals according to the seasons of the year during which they are of most use. Hot weather kaavals are generally the beds of tanks in which grass springs up during hot month, and in which there are trees for affording shade to the cattle during heat waves. These are very valuable kaavals and are reserved solely for Government Cattle. Basur Amruth Mahal kaval is also one of such hot weather kaaval as it is a tank bed. A cold and wet weather kaval are those which during those seasons have plenty of grass and water, but during the hot weather dries up and are little useful for the department, here in this kaval cattle’s of farmers are also permitted to graze in certain fixed portions. The head of these kaval are permitted to sell some part of grazing, and from funds thus obtained the kavalgar or guards are paid and other expenses met.

The Amruth Mahal cattle comprises of 3 verities.Viz Hallikar, Hagalwadi, Chitraldoorg they seldom attains an extraordinary height but in proportion to the size are remarkably deep and wide in the chest, long and broad in the back round in the barrel, and have got strong shoulders and limb.
An absurd legend was there among the herdsmen of the department regarding the origins of Hallikar. They state that Hydher Ali after one of his trips to south brought back to the Mysore a number of cows of the small Brahmani caste these cows were let loose in to a kaaval. (In Tumkur Distrist) In which there were great numbers of antelope, the cross between the big black buck and Small brahmani cows gave the present the Hallikar breed, in support of the story they point to the small patch below the eye, common to the antelope and Hallikar breed.
These cattle are very active and walk faster than troops; the cattle of these herds were kept in the wild state, without shelter of any description and are very fiery, and cannot be approached by strangers without the protection of herdsmen. And employment is extremely difficult and dangerous. They are as wild as other inhabitants of the kaaval.

My next mission was to visit this small place called Baasur which is on Beerur Yegati road

This is grassland with an extent of 1719-10. Acres the owner of these forests is veterinary department these areas were set aside for the grazing of Amrth mahal cattle. There is a viable population of black bucks in this grass lands, people are religiously bound to this horned ungulate. But the visiting shikaris of chickmagalore town and camping nomads are the major threat to these animals.

This grass land has got its typical herbivore and carnivore populations, the herbivores are black bucks which are fleet footed and lives in groups as protection strategy , there are around 40 plus individuals in different groups. Other than this fleet footed animals viz black bucks , fox, hares this grass lands has got burrowing animals like gerbils which are the largest prey base for the lesser carnivores like fox , wolf and jackals . These grasslands are also home to enormous insect population thus attracting a large number of predatory animals, birds of prey like harriers, eagles, etc and lizards like fan throated lizards are very common in Baasur grass lands

there is slight density of tree cover in this grass lands, the trunks of the trees are stunted and twisted the canopy is often umbrella shaped. The leaves are small; most often they are pinnate or bi pinnate they produce abundant seeds, and are dispersed by animals and wind. These trees have been found entangled with highly endangered medicinal creepers like Tinospora cardifolia (amruth balli),Tylosopra indica ( aadu muttada balli) , Cardiospermum halicacabum, Centella asiatica etc . the tree layer includes Acacia chundra, Acacia nilotica, Acacia arabica, Acacia ferugenia , Acacia planifrons,Cordia dichotoma , Hardwickia binata , Albigia amara, Zyziphus mauritiana , Acacia leucophloea , Bauhinia bifida, Todalia viscosa , Neem, Aegle marmelos, Ficus bengalensis , Feronia limonia, etc Crustose and foliose lichens are abundant on these trees .the shrub layer includes sps like cassia auriculata , euphorbia sps , dodania viscosa, carissa carandas, etc
. herbaceous layers includes Flugia sps, Acanthu sps,members of compositae,Phyllanthus neruri, Canthium

sps,Boehra via, Achyranthes aspera,Tridax procumbens ,Celosia argentea , Euphorbia hirta, Leucas aspera,Ocimum basilicum etc . xerophytic Opuntia dillenii,Euphorbia antiquorum have colonized these grass lands and spread all over. The grass layer is continuous and well developed the grass sps includes Andropogon sps,Echinochloa sps which are the favourite food of the black bucks they avoid tall grass.

Black bucks;

Scientific classification: The black buck is a member of the family Bovidae. It is classified as Antilope cervicapra.
The Black Buck, common name for an antelope, mainly found in India. The black buck has ringed horns that have a moderate spiral twist of three to four turns and are up to 70 cm (28 in) long. The adult male stands about 80 cm (about 32 in) at the shoulder and weighs 32 to 43 kg (71 to 95 lb). The body's upperparts are black; the under parts and a ring around the eyes are white. The light-brown female is usually hornless. Males are dark brown. Black bucks frequent the open plains in herds. When the rut (mating season) reaches a peak, one male establishes dominance. After six months the mated females each bear one fawn, which joins the herd with its mother about two weeks later and remains with her for more than a year. The fastest of the Indian antelopes, black bucks have been over hunted and are in danger of becoming extinct. This area supports a viable population of black bucks. This is highly endangered and listed in schedule 1 of the wild life protection Act

Indian wolf; (Canis lupus)
The Indian wolf (peninsular lineage) inhabits semi-arid agro-pastoral landscapes and scrub forests. It is considered endangered with its numbers believed to range between 2000-3000 individuals in entire India and around 550 in entire state of Karnataka, author has found 2 different pairs in this kaaval. Intensive radio-telemetry studies on 10 wolf packs at three sites differing in habitat, prey composition, and socio-economies has shown that undisturbed habitat patches of 6-12 Sq Km , that offer good cover and water are critical for successful breeding in established packs (Jhala). Wolf territories range between 150 to 250 km2 and are a function of prey and denning habitat availability. Indian wolves whelp in December-January in an underground den excavated by the alpha pair. Mean litter size was 4.8 pups. Juvenile wolves can disperse from their natal pack after the age of 8 months. Predation on blackbuck by wolves and jackals was found to have a regulatory role in the ecosystem. Majority of the wolf populations in India survive outside of protected areas and subsist primarily on livestock. In one day one hunting pair killed 4 sheeps in Basur kaaval . Human-wolf conflicts are of serious magnitude over much of the wolf’s range in India. Wolves are persecuted by smoking pups in their dens, sometimes by shooting and recently by poisoning. , but wolf populations were found to be resilient to diseases and normal human persecution (without the use of poison). Major threat to the continued survival of wolves in India is persecution by poison, and loss of denning habitat to intensive agriculture, development, and industry. This is also highly endangered and listed in schedule 1 of the wild life protection Act

Other mammals and birds found in the area

1. Slender loris-loris lyddekerianus malabaricus
2. Bonnet macaque-macaca radiata.
3. Blackbuck-antilope cervicapra.
4. Pig-sus scrofa.
5. sloth bear-melursus ursinus.
6. jackal-canis aureus.
7. Striped hyena-hyaena hyaena.
8. wolf-canis lupus.
9. Indian fox-vulpes bengalensis.
10. Common leopard-panthera pardus.
11. Jungle cat-felis chaus.
12. Leopard cat-prionailurus bengalensis.
13. Rusty spotted cat-prionailurus rubiginosus.
14. Small Indian civet-viverricula indica.
15. Grey mongoose-herpestes edwardsii.
16. Ruddy mongoose-herpestes smithii.
17. Stripe necked mongoose-herpestes vitticollis.
18. Indian pangolin-manis crassicaudata.
19. Indian hare-lepus nigricollis.
20. Grey musk shrew-suncus murinus.
21. Indian porcupine-hystrix indica.
22. Three striped squirrel-funambulus palmarum.
23. Indian gerbil-tatera indica.
24. Mice and rats
25. fruit bats-indian flying fox-pteropus giganteus.
26. Pipistrelles


27-1.Cattle egret-bubulcus ibis.
28-.Black ibis-pseudibis papillosa.
29-3.Oriental honey buzzard-pernis ptilorhynchus.
30-4.Black shouldered kite-elanus caeruleus.
31-5.Shikra-accipiter badius.
32-6.White eyed buzzard-butastur teesa.
33-7.Booted hawk eagle-hieraaetus pennatus.
34-8.Tawny eagle-aquila rapax.
35-9.Egyptian vulture-neophron percnopterus.
36-10.White rumped vulture-gyps bengalensis.
37-11.Pallid harrier-circus macrourus.
38-12.Montagu’s harrier-circus pygargus.
39-13.Marsh harrier-circus aeruginosus.
40-14.Short toed snake eagle-circaetus gallicus.
41-15.Common kestrel-falco tinnunculus.
42-16.Red spurfowl-galloperdix spadicea.
43-17.Grey francolin-francolinus pondicerianus.
44-18.Jungle bush quail-perdicula asiatica.
45-19.Rock bush quail-perdicula argoondah.
46-20.Blue breasted quail-coturnix chinensis.
47-21.Rain quail-coturnix coromandelica.
48-22.Small button quail-turnix sylvatica.
49-23.Yellow legged button quail-turnix tanki.
50-24.Barred button quail-turnix suscitator.
51-25.Indian peafowl-pavo cristatus.
52-26.Eurasian thick knee-burhinus oedicnemus.
53-27.Indian courser-cursorius coromandelicus.
54-28.Yellow wattled lapwing-vanellus malabaricus.
55-29.Chestnut bellied sandgrouse-pterocles exustus.
56-30.Painted sandgrouse-pterocles indicus.
57-31.Red collared dove-streptopelia tranquebarica.
58-32.Eurasian collared dove-streptopelia decaocto.
59-33.Laughing dove-streptopelia senegalensis.
60-34.Spotted dove-streptopelia chinensis.
61-35.Rock pigeon-columba livia.
62-36.Plum headed parakeet-psittacula cyanocephala.
63-37.Rose ringed parakeet-psittacula krameri.
64-38.Sirkeer cuckoo-phaenicophaeus leschenaultia.
65-39.Pied cuckoo-clamator jacobinus.
66-40.Asian koel-eudynamys scolopacea.
67-41.Greater coucal-centropus sinensis.
68-42.Indian nightjar-caprimulgus asiaticus.
69-43.Savanna nightjar-caprimulgus affinis.
70-44.Grey nightjar-caprimulgus indicus.
71-45.Barn owl-tyto alba.
72-46.Eurasian eagle owl-bubo bubo.
73-47.Collared scops owl-otus bakkamoena.
74-48.Spotted owlet-athene brama.
75-49.White rumped needletail-zoonavena sylvatica.
76-50.Asian palm swift-cypsiurus balasiensis.
77-51.House swift-apus affinis.
78-52.Indian roller-coracias benghalensis.
79-53.White throated kingfisher-halcyon smyrnensis.
80-54.Green bee eater-merops orientalis.
81-55.Chestnut headed bee eater-merops leschenaulti.
82-56.White cheeked barbet-megalaima viridis.
83-57.Common hoopoe-upupa epops.
84-58.Indian grey hornbill-ocyceros birostris.
85-59.Streak throated woodpecker-picus xanthopygaeus.
86-60.Lesser yellownape-picus chlorolophus.
87-61.Black rumped flameback-dinopium benghalense.
88-62.Eurasian wryneck-jynx torquilla.
89-63.Common iora-aegithina tiphia.
90-64.Ashy crowned sparrow lark-eremopterix grisea.
91-65.Rufous tailed lark-ammomanes phoenicurus.
92-66.Oriental skylark-alauda gulgula.
93-67.Malabar crested lark-galerida malabarica.
94-68.Dusky crag martin-hirundo concolor.
95-69.Barn swallow-hirundo rustica.
96-70.Wire tailed swallow-hirundo smithii.
97-71.Red rumped swallow-hirundo daurica.
98-72.Black drongo-dicrurus macrocercus.
99-73.Whitebellied drongo-dicrurus caerulescens.
100-74.Southern grey shrike-lanius meridionalis.
101-75.Long tailed shrike-lanius schach.
102-76.Bay backed shrike-lanius vittatus.
103-77.Brown shrike-lanius cristatus.
104-78Chestnut tailed starling-sturnus malabaricus.
105-79.Brahminy starling-sturnus pagodarum.
106-80.Rosy starling-sturnus roseus.
107-81.Common myna-acridotheres tristis.
108-82.Jungle myna-acridotheres fuscus.
109-83.Rufous treepie-dendrocitta vagabunda.
110-84.House crow-corvus splendens.
111-85.Large billed crow-corvus macrorhynchos.
112-86.Black headed cuckoo shrike-coracina melanoptera.
113-87.Small minivet-pricrocotus cinnamomeus.
114-88.Red vented bulbul-pycnonotus cafer.
115-89.Red whiskered bulbul-pycnonotus jocosus.
116-90.White browed bulbul-pycnonotus luteolus.
117-91.Yellow eyed babbler-chrysomma sinense.
118-92.Jungle babler-turdoides striatus.
119-93.Large grey babbler-turdoides malcolmi.
120-94.White browed fantail-rhipidura aureola.
121-95.Ashy prinia-prinia socialis.
122-96.Common tailorbird-orthotomus sutorius.
123-97.Oriental magpie robin-copsychus saularis.
124-98.Indian robin-saxicoloides fulicata.
125-99.Common stonechat-saxicola torquata.
126-100.Pied bushchat-saxicola caprata.
127-101.Great tit-parus major.
128-102.Black lored tit-parus xanthogenys.
129-103.Velvet fronted nuthatch-sitta frontalis.
130-104.Paddyfield pipit-anthus rufulus.
131-105.White browed wagtail-motacilla maderaspatensis.
132-106.Grey wagtail-motacilla cinerea.
133-107.White wagtail-motacilla alba.
134-108.Yellow wagtail-motacilla flava.
135-109.Citrine wagtail-motacilla citreola.
136-110.Oriental white eye-zosterops palpebrosus.
137-111.Purple rumped sunbird-nectarinia zeylonica.
138-112.Loten’s sunbird-nectarinia lotenia.
139-113.Purple sunbird-nectarinia asiatica.
140-114.Thick billed flowerpecker-dicaeum agile.
141-115.Red avadavat-amandava amandava.
142-116.Indian silverbill-lonchura malabarica.
143-117.White rumped munia-lonchura striata.
144-118.Scaly breasted munia-lonchura punctulata.
145-119.House sparrow-passer domesticus.
146-120.Baya weaver-ploceus philippinus.
147-121.Common rosefinch-carpodacus erythrinus
148-122.Black headed bunting-emberiza melanocephala.

Conservation problems and strategies

The maidan areas in Karnataka supports s only scrub and degraded forests, owing to its generally dry climatic conditions , more and more areas of this kind are brought under plough resulting in shrinkage of remaining degraded forests which can not support wild life ( Maadav Gadgil) . Maintenance of the integrity of these habitats is must if we want to conserve the biodiversity of the area.

Small and fragmented habitat in long run will not be sustainable; hence we should aim at conserving large chunks of scrub lands like Baasur, in Deccan plateau to restock the wild life of this ecosystem. As per the study the rare and endangered Indian wolf has disappeared in great deal in southern plains, as there are only about 550 animals in entire state (H.N. Kumara) which is an estimated figure, the number could be still lesser. As there are many wolves in this area (4 wolves in one sighting), this patch of forests needs attention and proper protection to build up these numbers. Black bucks are the natural prey of these wolves, as there is viable population of black bucks in this grass lands they can definitely breed further and sustain if proper protection is ensured. Hence this calls for declaring this area as conservation reserve

The existence of grass land fauna like wolf, black bucks, fox etc depends on conservation of extensive grass lands like Basur kaaval where human interference is negligible , artificial planting around the kaaval in one way checked the further encroachment but reckless planting of fast growing sps in this ecosystem has got its detrimental effects , Intensive fast growing plantations in grass lands poses threat to the existence of black bucks and other ground birds as they are adapted to the open country such conversion leads to replacing black bucks and wolf with leopard and spotted deer ( Neginhal)
these areas needs to be closed for grazing of cattle’s other than the Amruth mahal cattle and
Providing some effective legal status like conservation reserve, etc

Nomadic herd’s men like kurubas of the plains, camp in these areas and some time hunt the black bucks, and even poach the much endangered Indian wolf some time identify the dens of wolf to smoke the pups to death , these camps and sheep grazing should be controlled.

Some of the tribes living around the area are indulging in trapping the ground dwelling gerbils and black naped hares which are the main prey base for the lesser predators like jackals ,Indian fox etc. Theses should be controlled

These areas are supporting very sparse scrub vegetation. hacking by villagers for their firewood needs is depleting this biomass in a very rapid way these things also be checked properly by providing sustainable alternatives like LPG connection, bio gas connection
activity like proposed Kedigere –Arehalli road that cut across this grass lands at middle and fragment and brings in more problems to this already threatened fragile ecosystem
augmentation of depleting root stock by effective area closure by way of rotation grazing of the amruth mahal cattle , may be like practice of grass exclosures by erecting chain link mesh fence in growing season to relieve pressure of grazing in one season, would help this area to recuperate and results in rich growth of heterogeneous grass species .
during 1956 , a total of 92801 acres of land out of 165000 acres of kaaval lands in the entire state were taken back for distributing them to landless agriculturist and other developmental works, in the process this kaaval has also lost 360 acres for the agriculture usage this trend of land conversion is still going on in Govt level which needs to be stopped forthwith , as theses are unique ecosystems supporting an array of endangered flora and fauna

some of the most obnoxious weeds that are infesting the grass land are Dodania viscosa, cassia tora, lantana camara and recently Parthenium they will hamper the habitat if not controlled
there are 3 water holes at present , which are being used by all stake holders of the kaaval , that is amruth mahal cattles,wild animals, village domestic cattle this will contaminate the water points and brings the risk of disease transmission to the wild animals there should be exclusive water points for the cattle
Acacia chundra is the dominant sps of this grass lands which has got thorny spines, the farmers of the surrounding villages are hacking these trees for their fencing needs. This along with the illegal browsing of leguminous trees of the kaaval by the nomadic tribes are depleting the already scarce biomass of this area which results in lack of much needed hide to the animals of this place this has to be strictly controlled .

Monday, November 17, 2008

Trip report of Arunachal Pradesh

Trip report of Arunachal Pradesh

After reading the book “Himalayan blunder” by Brigadier John P Dhalvi translated to Kannada by my journalist friend Ravi Belegere my interest on Arunachal Pradesh and its landscape grew. After further reading and web browsing I have collected wealth of information on Arunachal Pradesh and its forests. Then I planned a solo trip to Arunachal Pradesh. My plan for the trip was to start from Tezpur, then to Sessa, Bomdi La, and to reach finally Tawang , Which is after 15000 feet altitude (Sela pass)

I reached the capital of Assam , Gouhati by king fisher Air lines from Bangalore which took almost 7 hours to reach Gouhati , then I took a cab to reach place called Nagoan where my friend Shivakumar lives and he is DFO of that place .The country side of Assam is beautiful and it is hard to believe the usual perception of Assam being a turbulent state, torn apart by ULFA etc, as reported widely in the press. in fact what I observed was that only the VIPs are having security threat, the common man is peaceful and contended , the majority bamboo thatched houses of Assam are having a minimum of one or two fish ponds , locally called as pisaadis and I was informed by my friend Shiva that these are the indicators of the economic status of a person during matrimonial alliance.

The road to Tezpur is having Sal and Teak plantations on either side .Khonuru and Ghamari timbers are widely hacked and transported in the state for domestic purpose, I really don’t know whether any government regulation are there in place . The flowers of Ghamari trees are used in country side as vegetables. After good dinner prepared by Mrs. Shiva we called it a day and this happened to be my last good food for next 9 days!!

Early in the morning I started towards Bhallukpong which is the foot hill town of the Arunachal Pradesh and here one has to get the in land permit to get in side the Arunachal Pradesh. thanks to Shiva and my other service mate Mahesh kumar shambu who served in Bomdi La and Tawang as DFO , they made all arrangement for me to get this permit but I don’t see any problem to get these permit even without any connection, as these are routine passes issued at entry points. From Bhallukpang,the west Kemang district starts. The ruins of the fort at Bhalukpong on the right bank of the river Bhareli is the home of the king Bhaluka , grandson of raja Bana , who was defeated according to purana by Krishna at Tezpur.

My first stop was Tipi orchid centre at Tipi .I was surprised to know that this orchidarium was developed by one kannadiga named Hegde who reside now in Bangalore. Though there was no much flowering I could see Dendrobium nobile, Dendrobium fimbriatum , Phelonopsis, Tipi buluboi (endemic), Acanthopippium( ground orchid) and another bamboo type orchid known as orundina graminifolia. There is one maali by name A.K. Sikia who is well informed about the orchids of this area .
Then I moved to another orchid nursery at Sessa here there are hybrids like Cymbidium Showgirl cookbridge,C,slandsunset etc. Another endemic plant of these hills which is being cultivated in this nursery is pitcher plant.

On the way it is vast stretches of tropical wet evergreen forests. shifting cultivation is very rampant as these are not under the Govt control, all these forests belongs to different tribal communities, the term used in the Govt for these forests is un classified state forests (USF) .I failed understand what is this unclassified state forests, even the local foresters also revealed that they hardly have any control over these forests. White crowned laughing thrush was found wallowing in all the streams that passed by on the way. I found big deployment of the Indian army as these areas are prone to china- India conflicts . These army men are one of the reasons for depletion of Galliformes of this region, besides road workers of BRO

When I reached Bomdi La which is at 9000 feet, the highest administrative centre of the country, it was around 8 pm the forests guest house was cozy, fitted with Bhukari that is local heating system which runs by combustion, the fire wood has to be fed once in 2to 3 hours .Use of these bhukaris has resulted in destruction of pine forest of the region, but in this freezing temperature they have to keep the place hot.

As I was worried about my dinner , the ranger was nagging me about the treatment of his bedridden wife in Bangalore , I gave advise to him about the best hospitals of Bangalore and assured him that I would take care of his logistics in Bangalore whenever he comes down to Bangalore for treatment. After all I had to be in his care for another 5 days! The whole town was in full festive mood .I enquired abut the festival, the ranger informed me that this was mopin festival of majority aadi tribes of this district and both DC and DFO belongs to this tribe and they were very busy in the festival and. The DFO sent his message like that to me, and I was least bothered to meet him as well.

The festival here means celebration for continuous one month, they congregate in one place of the town and there is flooding of the local brew called kala apung with the community feast of mithun’s meat, the dance and songs were in full swing. They are really fun loving guys. But the celebrations are tribe specific other tribes are not invited. Other tribes of the state do have their own festivals like lossar festival of monpas where the “chang” flows like water .These people doesn’t know about rice, curd for which I was craving! I ate whatever was given and rested

Morning I started my day early as the sun rises here at5 o clock. My plan of the day was to spend the next two days at Eagle nest sanctuary and lama camp and to look for the Ramana Atreys’s bugun leo sechla. on the way there is small town ship Tenga from here at about 15 km eagle nest sanctuary starts from the place called lamacamp .the goats of this region are different they have got pot belly and Chengis Khan beard and legs are very short may be adaptation for steep hilly terrain

In Tenga market as per my research I should look for one gentleman named Indi glow who runs nature camp at eagle nest, I went in search of him he resides in a modest house in Tenga market and belongs to bugun tribe, and is well known in this small town. His elder brother is local MLA, here MLA’s are like our members of local bodies the total vote Mr Glow got to become MLA was around 2500!. After meeting Glow, who was bed ridden because of an accident, I took the route to eagle nest, it was the old indo china war route, having lots of Indian army camps on the way , but the jawans of the camps were ignorant of the geography of the area as these personnel are shifted quite often. On the way Rhododendron and magnolias were in blooming. The moss clad trees were magnificent. birds encountered on the way included pale blue flycatcher, striated laughing thrush, grey headed canary flycatcher ,Kashmir nuthatch, white capped water redstart , black bulbul, Blyth’s pipit etc

At lama camp a pleasant surprise was waiting for me Mr Atreya who lives in Pune had come to eagle nest on that day, he was the first person to document the biodiversity of this area and identified and described for the first time to science the new bird bugun leo cichla , which is named after the tribes of this region with whose help the bird was identified . There are around 2000 individuals of this tribe in this valley, as per the popular belief the aakas of the Arunachal have climbed down using golden ladder from the heaven, and buguns have used the bamboo ladder. Hence they are the servants of aakas . These tribes construct their houses by using bamboo; they sacrifice Blyths Trogopan after construction of their houses, and smear the blood of this Trogopan to the main post of the house. The sago palm flour is still being used for their sustenance, kids get lion share of the meat of the birds and animals hunted by the elders. They preserve the dead bodies of the children in wooden boxes and hung them to branches of trees in the forests.

The bugun leo cichala is a good songster, and quite active in April, but I was unlucky. While in search of the bird I found a man with recording equipments in the jungle after nearing him he happened to be Mr Pratap singh of wild life institute , who is having largest collection of voice recording of Indian birds, it was a nice surprise for me what is important is the biodiversity of this area which brings many stalwarts to here, after a brief interaction with with Pratatap singhji I returned to camp. My assistant in the jungle was one boy named Bharat, whose mother was killed while working in BRO road maintenance, in a land slide. BRO is the only employer of these poor people here. Schools are there only in foot hill towns, it is very difficult for the tribal children to reach to such schools, and ultimately they go without education

After Eaglenest my journey was towards Tawang the womenfolk of this area are very hard working, as Verrier Elwin in his book “a philosophy for NEFA” said “this region of the earth is full of jumping kids, hard working women and frolicking men” the men are real parasites on their women, they just booze and frolic. The houses found on the way were all having double storey and made of wood and bamboo, flowers pots of different orchids, wild flowers were arranged in almost all houses, they love decoration.
Next halt was Dhirang valley there are many Buddhist monasteries in this area which is known for kiwi and apple farming and there is a lake in Dhirang where the Siberian black necked stork visits every year, local ranger told me that the number of birds visiting the lake has came down drastically, this season there were only two birds, they were gone when I was there. Locals calls them Tung-Tung . Few km from Dhirang , thre is war memorial of 1962 war from this place towards right a road leads to National Yak Research Centre of ICAR, at a place called Nimadung, yak is the lifeline of these people. Three coat fur of the animal is put into different uses, coarser upper coat for the tent making middle coat for rope making and finer inner coat for blanket making even the hide makes the sweater for these people. The milk and butter are used for making drink called “ja”.

My next halt was the freezing Sela pass this is the highest point of the journey, altitude is around 15500. There is a belief that this mountain was broken in to two parts here to make way for guru Padmasmbhava to reach Tawang Gompa. The lake on the way was frozen, sighted snow partridges but could not photograph as they were quite far. After Sela there is small town called Jung there are many waterfalls here .and this valley is having steep slope and is full of kind of bamboo which I could not identify.

When I reached Tawang it was around 7’30 pm whole town was in deep sleep, I had difficulty in finding the forest IB . the range officer Mr Bhaku was not available on phone , at last got the IB ,Taaru reeku was in charge of the guest house , in very strange attire, looking like villain in some detective novels , eerie environment was prevailing in the frozen night, scolding myself for this solo adventure I crawled in to my sleeping bag after eating few sweets which was forcibly stuffed in my rucksack by my wife while starting the trip, I thanked her immensely in my mind, here the food is very scarce and un attractive .

My morning was quite busy, got up early and was mesmerized by the beauty of the place it is like the Shangri-La of the John Hilton. Here is 350 year old Bhuddist Gompa and the region is inhabited by the beautiful tribes called Monpas who are Bhuddists. Terrace agriculture, yak and sheep breeding, carpet weaving are the main occupation of these people. They wear a peculiar cap, the gompa in the hillock is like a fort, the ceiling of the gompa has got art work which tells the story of the lord Bhudda. There I found lamas in red robes, every third child of the family ends up in this gompa to become lama. There is a old museum in the gompa, the main attraction of this is the a book called Getompa which is lettered in gold. The wooden boxes in the gompa are full of wardrobe which will be used in lama dance once in year for various characters.

The influence of Tibet and Bhutan is strongly marked in the Monpa textiles and ornaments, architecture, funeralrites. I heard from my friends served there that these tribes cut the dead bodies in to pieces and wash them in the tawang-chu and namang chu rivers .I visited sangesoor lake,PT su lake which were frozen the local guide told me that these lakes are very beautiful in winter as the ice melts and the rhododendrons around the lakes blooms with different hues and colours. I tried the JA tea at Tawang town which was terrible they mix tea leaves, salt, yak butter. After an awful dinner in the night I rested to get back in the morning to main land Tezpur an arduous journey of 14 hours to reach so called civilized society from tribal country. My mind was full of thoughts about these areas of the country the words of Jawaharlal Nehru were very opt in managing these areas who said “…we can not allow matters to drift in the tribal areas or not just taking interest in them. In the world of today that is not possible or desirable. At the same time we should avoid over administering these areas and, in particular, sending too many outsiders in to tribal territory. It is between these two extreme positions that we have to function.” I was back to tezpur at late night but frames of this God forbidden country were lingering in my mind, I made a resolution that I would visit this place again in next year to learn more and explore further.. And I suggests to all of you that give a try, you will enjoy the sheer loneliness in this wilderness..