Sandalwood, tiger parts seized

Tirupur: The forest officials seized 40 kg of sandalwood, tiger teeth and claws, horns and antlers of deer and antelope from Mavadappu settlement in the Upper Aliyar area in the district on Friday evening. Five persons, including a trader from Kerala and a Siddha practitioner from Pollachi have been arrested.

District Forest Officer K. Rajkumar told TheHindu that on a tip-off, a special task force team apprehended the trader from Mannarkad in Kerala while he was loading sandalwood in his car. Three tribals who supplied the material were also arrested. A search of the car also resulted in the seizure of the tiger parts.

From THE HINDU

A fish species in missing evolutionary link traced

These have special features; they can live on land and in water

CUDDALORE: A rare fish species called “mudskippers” have been recorded by researchers of the Centre for Advanced Study in Marine Biology of Annamalai University at Parangipettai estuary near here.

A rare fish species found in the Vellar estuary at Parangipettai in Cuddalore district

These tiny species, measuring just 67 mm in length and weighing 22 mg, have got special features which enable them to live both on land and in water. Called ‘vaetti uluvai’ in Tamil, they are the missing link between fishes and amphibians in the evolutionary ladder, according to T. Balasubramanian, Director of the Centre.

He told The Hindu that during the survey conducted recently in the Vellar estuary at Parangipettai near here under the University Grants Commission-supported project on gobiid fishes the researchers identified a mudskipper variety, Periophthalmus variabilis.

The Director said the species were aptly called mudskippers because they had mudflats as their habitat and had the habit of skipping or hopping around. The fish had got protruding rounded eyes that could move in all directions.

Its pectoral fins resembled more of the forelimbs of frogs, with which it attains mobility and climbs on to vegetations. Mr. Balasubramanian further said that the fish digs burrows in mudflats that have a gentle slope towards the sea and have a depth of up to one-and-half metre.

During high tide, the burrows would get filled with seawater and during low tide the waves would withdraw, allowing to make its appearance, he added.

Principal Investigator V.Ravi, also Assistant Professor in the Centre, said mudskippers played an important role in the food chain. They feed on fish eggs, nematodes, smaller crabs and insects, and, are, in turn, food for birds and otters. Mr. Ravi said mudskippers would lay eggs within the burrows and male fishes would oxygenate the eggs by blowing air. The eggs would not get washed away because they had an adhesive filament that made them stick to the walls of the burrows. This sensitive creature would swirl in the burrows at the very sight of a predator.

The mudskippers have medicinal quality and are being used as a remedy for anaemia and to prevent frequent urination in children.

Mr. Ravi observed that in China, South Korea and Japan the mudskippers were cultured extensively for food and the Centre would evolve a suitable strategy for its proliferation through captive breeding.

A.V. Ragunathan – From THE HINDU

WWF-India urges tourists traveling to the Himalayas to go green!

WWF- India’s Green Hiker campaign launched

New Delhi: In its efforts to encourage responsible tourism in the Himalayas, the World Wide Fund for Nature- India launched its Green Hiker Campaign today in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. The campaign aims at raising awareness about the vulnerability of the Himalayan ecosystem, by encouraging tourists and tour operators to adopt responsible practices towards reducing the impact of tourism on this fragile ecosystem. The campaign stands on the positive, direct message of Nature leaves a mark on you, don’t leave one behind. The campaign corresponds with the tourist season in the Himalayas and links with the Incredible India initiative of the Ministry of Tourism.

WWF's Green Hiker Campaign launched in Delhi by Mr. Sujit Banerjee, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism (3rd from left) - © Anil Cherukupalli/WWF-India

The launch saw the participation of various officials from the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India in addition to many other organizations and individuals. Arjun Vajpai, the youngest Indian to conquer Mount Everest at the age of 16 was also present to lend his support for this campaign. He also shared the overwhelming experience of his recent expedition and the importance of being a responsible hiker.

Mr. Maninder Singh Kohli, veteran Himalayan hiker, presented a short account of his experiences in the Himalayas, the problems and possible solutions. A Green Hiker Animation Film targeting the tourists and service providers in the industry and encouraging them to watch their footprint was released and screened at the launch.

Mr. Sujit Banerjee, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, while launching the campaign said, “…The Himalayas are the pride of our nation. The Ministry of Tourism is glad to support this campaign, since the conservation of the majestic Himalayan ecosystem is a common goal which we have to achieve together. It is important that we start now ….”

On the occasion, Mr. Ravi Singh, Secretary General & CEO, WWF-India said, “Irresponsible tourism is increasingly rendering the high altitude regions and its fragile wetlands vulnerable. Appropriate mechanisms need to be put in place so that tourism can carry on without negative consequences on this ecosystem. The impact of travel in the Himalayan region needs to be dealt with by the travelers themselves. They should be both responsible practitioners and delivery mechanisms of the conservation message. The Himalayas need our care and protection.”

From WWF-INDIA

Noise levels affecting sea mammals

CHENNAI: “The underwater noise levels today are ten times more than they were a few decades ago, which is a serious worry for life on land and water because sustainable ocean space makes way for sustainable land space,” said S.K. Bhattacharya, Head, Department of Ocean Engineering, IIT Madras.

He was delivering a special lecture on ‘Acoustics’ for school students organised by the Tamil Nadu Science and Technology Centre in collaboration with Madras India Regional Chapter of the Acoustical Society of America and Acoustical Foundation here on Saturday.

S.K. Bhattacharya, Head, Department of Ocean Engineering, IIT-M, interacts with school students at a programme on acoustics in Chennai on Saturday. Founder of Acoustical Foundation H.S. Paul (second from right) is in the picture. — Photo: K..V.Srinivasan

Listing the various ill-effects of underwater noise pollution on marine mammals, Professor Bhattacharya said that anthropogenic noise due to activities like commercial shipping, Sound Navigation and Ranging (SONAR) activities and hydrocarbon-related engineering activities contributed a great deal in increasing the noise levels.

Marine mammals exposed to underwater noise pollution suffer from displacement, trauma, stranding, internal injuries, eye haemorrhaging, and sometimes even death, he added.

“The marine mammals exposed to Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) above a certain level can sometimes face mass extinction,” he said.

The other significant activities detrimental to the sustenance of a healthy marine system, he added, were dredging, drilling and exploration, near shore construction and military activities on the sea.

On the various statutory bodies of seawater regulation, regulatory mechanisms on water and other environmental issues, Professor Bhattacharya said that the ocean taxonomy needed to be documented better.

From THE HINDU

Human-animal conflict

Risky:The constant presence of a herd of elephants along the Coonoor-Mettupalayam National Highway has become a serious source of concern to motorists and forest officials.

From THE HINDU

Temple elephant develops intestinal problems

Medical care:Vellayammal, elephant of the Big Temple under treatment in Thanjavur. — Photo: M. Srinath

THANJAVUR: Vellayammal, elephant of the Big Temple here developed some intestinal problems due to excessive consumption of sand. Following complaint lodged by officials of Palace Devasthanam, P.N. Panicker, veterinary doctor from Thrissur and B. Saravanan, veterinary surgeon, treated the elephant on Wednesday. According to Panicker, the pachyderm got some obstruction in the intestine due to arrest of food materials caused by consumption of excessive sand. Intravenal fluids, anti-biotics have been given.

The animal is expected to recover within two days, Dr. Panciker said.

From THE HINDU

Stranding response programme for endangered marine species suggested

Wildlife Institute of India says this will strengthen cause of research

CHENNAI: The Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, has suggested to the Centre the initiation of a stranding response programme for endangered species of marine animals, WII scientist B.C. Choudhury said here on Thursday.

Addressing a two-day national consultation workshop for identification of research gaps in coastal and marine biodiversity conservation hosted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Prof. Choudhury said a stranding operation (involving rehabilitation of rare species that wash up on the shores sick or injured), provided scientists a unique opportunity to study these creatures out of their natural habitats.

Pointing out that many of the threatened species such as the dolphins, river terrapins and horse shoe crabs remained least studied specimens, Prof. Choudhury said a stranding programme could strengthen the cause of research in this direction.

Prof. Choudhury said India’s coastal and marine ecosystems were under increasing threat in spite of the great importance accorded to balancing livelihood issues and economic output to the national GDP along the 8,500-km coastline with ecology conservation. He advocated a multi-Ministry collaborative approach to the conservation agenda for the coastal and marine environment.

Prof. Choudhury pointed out that traditionally, the contribution of densely populated coastal regions to national wealth was much higher than that of land-locked systems. The coastal zone was home to half the world’s population, two-thirds of the largest cities and contributed half the tourism earnings.

Priorities

Prof. Choudhury spelt out as the priorities macro-level research in coastal and marine habitats, floral and faunal diversity values and identification of natural and anthropogenic threats. Some of the least-studied systems, in spite of their significant ecological importance, were sand dunes, estuaries, salt marshes, inter-tidal mud flats and sea grass beds, he said.

In her inaugural address, Aruna Basu Sarkar, Chief Conservator of Forests and Director of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve Trust, called for integration of policy framing, implementation, research and community engagement for an effective coastal and marine biodiversity conservation programme.

K. Siva Kumar, WII scientist, said the workshop was the starting point in the consultative process to evolve a roadmap for future research on coastal and marine biodiversity conservation in India.

The specifics of the workshop include identification of research gaps, prioritisation of research, mandating specific roles for partnering institutions.

From THE HINDU