Kullu: Himachal’s First Wilderness Emergency Rescue Course

Kullu: The Forest Department is becoming proactive in its ecotourism training especially in the Great Himalayan National Park. A 10 day first aid cum Wilderness Emergency Rescue course sponsored by the Great Himalayan National Park began on the 5th of December 2009. It consisted of 20 persons belonging to the Wildlife and Forest department, Ecotourism members of the Society for Biodiversity Tourism and Community Advancement (BTCA) and staff of Sunshine Himalayan Adventures (SHA). The course is being overlooked by Jiteder Lal Gupta and members of the Kullu Medical center.

Rescue Course

This emergency course was designed by Dr. J L Gupta ( head of Kullu Medical Center) and Mr. Ankit Sood ( Ecotourism Consultant GHNP) seeing various problems that may arise in trekking in the GHNP. The syllabus of the Wilderness Emergency Course covers everything from gradients, snow blindness, acute mountain sickness, first aid, surgical management, camp hygiene, water related diseases and their prevention, snake and animal bites, bandage, Splint Usage Dressing of wounds, general medication, first aid kits, cleanliness, Mountain rescue to CPR and Mountaineering Rescue. The training is done with practical sessions of theoretical classes.

Use of drama and actual scenario training along with audio visual aids including LCD projector, first hand interaction with foreigners and site visits to local hospitals is makes the course intensive. The first aid course uses theoretical sessions in first half, practical after lunch and evening sessions taken by foreign volunteers belonging to the Kullu Project.

From Himachal

Ramanathapuram: Mammoth marine animal washed ashore

There is no immediate information about the reasons for the death of the animal

RAMANATHAPURAM: A mammoth marine animal was washed ashore at Vannangundu near Thiruppullani on Monday.

The local fishermen, who spotted the animal, said that it could be a kind of whale.

DEAD AND GONE: The marine animal washed ashore at Vannangundu on Monday.— Photo: L. Balachandar.

The weight of it could be around 5.5 tonne.

It was around 32 feet length and 6 feet width. Though there was no immediate information about the reasons for the death of the animal, the fishermen said wounds were spotted in the body.

It might have been killed due to the wounds caused by the hit of vessel.

A large number of people, including women and children, gathered at Vannangundu to see the animal. Forest officials of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park also visited the spot.


Lessons in Ecotourism: Great Himalayan National Park

THE GHNP has been described as undoubtedly the most pristine mountain landscape in the Western Himalayas… and perhaps the planet. From the Andes to Nepal and Tibet, to the mountains of Eastern Europe and Western China – the pressures of a growing human population have left the landscape – even so-called “national parks’ – overgrazed, denuded of timber, devoid of wildlife and covered with signs of animals and their shepherds. Ironically, here in India, home to over a billion people, it is still possible to find vast virgin forests and endless fields of wildflowers and ranges of un-named, unclimbed summits. Blue sheep, Himalayan Thar, even bear and snow leopard abound.

At present, the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) comprises 750 sq km. It is naturally protected on the northern, eastern, and southern boundaries by areas under permanent snow or by impassable ridges. In addition, there are two wildlife sanctuaries adjacent to the Park: Sainj (90 sq.km.) and Tirthan (61 sq.km.). The total area under the National Park administration is 1,171 sq. km. The western boundary of the Park has historically supported communities that have had economic dependence on the designated area of the Park. Realizing the environmental pressures these villages would exert on the Park’s biodiversity, an area of over 250 square kilometers was set up as buffer zone. This Ecozone contains 160 small villages with a population of about 19,000 people. Almost 90% of the Ecozone is forest habitat which, when properly managed is leading to income generation of the locals without harming the environment. One such initiative is the community based ecotourism being practiced in the GHNP.

Community Based Ecotourism – Lessons 2005-2010

GHNP is also one of the major sites for studying community based ecotourism enterprise in the Western Himalayas. For over five years a private ecotourism company styled Sunshine Himalayan Adventures have been advocating and practicing ecotourism initiative along with a local NGO called BTCA (Society for Biodiversity Tourism & Community advancement). This initiative has increased awareness about the park and specifically ecotourism among ecozone residents themselves or those living near the zone providing balance in educating these important stakeholders realizing that the local community is going to be providing tourism services.

For More Information – My Himachal

273 animals die in four months at Bannerghatta zoo

Authorities blame inadequate infrastructure, lack of vets

BANGALORE: At first glance things appear to be going well for the sprawling Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP), where exotic and endangered wildlife draw lakhs of tourists every year. But a closer look reveals an alarming statistic: in the last four months alone, 273 animals have died there.

Zoo authorities attribute this to inadequate infrastructure, lack of veterinary personnel and unscientific enclosures, among other factors. The casualties, recorded between July and October, include 27 spotted deer that died of haemorrhagic septicaemia, 60 star tortoises (dehydration), 52 red-eared slider turtles (hepatitis), a lioness (infectious peritonitis), a sloth bear (dehydration), neelgai calf (tick fever) and a month-old tiger cub.

The BBP is situated adjacent to the Bannerghatta National Park and comprises enclosures, safaris and a rescue centre.

MUTE WITNESS: Sources say that the Rs. 10-crore master plan chalked out in 2006 has essentially been used to make the tourist experience better. — PHOTO: MURALI KUMAR K.

14 per cent

The mortality figure of 273 accounts for 14 per cent of the biological park’s total animal population of 1,929, which is seven times the internationally acceptable mortality rate of 2 per cent for a zoo. While some of these casualties could reflect the condition of animals when they were seized or rescued, the mortality figure is nevertheless high, says B.C. Chittiappa, assistant director, Veterinary Services, at the zoo.

He adds that the zoo is in dire need of wildlife vets and infrastructure as basic as a functional operation theatre. “I have one retired vet who works on contract. We need at least one qualified vet of a veterinary officer’s cadre on a permanent basis,” says Dr. Chittiappa.

The death toll was high in the previous quarter too (April to June) when 151 animals died, including three flying squirrels (enteritis and streptococci infection) and a leopard (pasteurellosis).

Many of the enclosures need to be upgraded. “The one for flying squirrels for instance is completely inappropriate. The animals are arboreal, essentially nocturnal and clearly need more space than they have.”

The hippopotamus enclosure, reminiscent of a giant washbasin, is overcrowded and needs to be improved, says Dr. Chittiappa. As for the endangered king cobras, their tiny enclosure gives them no room to reproduce.

According to sources, the Rs. 10-crore “master plan” chalked out for the zoo in 2006 has essentially been used to make the tourist experience better with a new entrance, car park, a road and landscaped environs. So, four years after the money was sanctioned from the Central Zoo Authority and the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC), there has been no substantial improvement in conditions for the captive animals.

Milo Tago, BBP director, told The Hindu the park is now in the process of floating tenders for upgrading the enclosures.

Divya Gandhi – From THE HINDU

Palakkad: Monsoons shower a bounty on Silent Valley

The national park records one of the highest rainfall levels in Western Ghats

PALAKKAD: The Silent Valley National Park, one of the few remaining rainforests in the country, gets one of the highest — or even the highest — average annual rainfall in the Western Ghats, data for the past 10 years show.

The highest average annual rainfall received in the valley was 8,361.9 mm in 2001. In 2000, the figure was 7,788.8 mm; in 2002, 4,262.5 mm; in 2003, 3,499.65 mm; in 2004, 6,521.27 mm; in 2005, 6,919.38 mm; in 2006, 6,845.05 mm; in 2007, 6,009.35 mm; and in 2008, 4386.5 mm. The figure till October this year is 5,477.4 mm.

Officials of the Silent Valley National Park, on patrol duty, crossing the Kunthi river on a rainy day. — Photo: N.P. Jayan

The average annual rainfall of the Western Ghats ranges from 6,000 mm at the crest of the ghats to as low as 600 mm in the valley portion, said a study conducted by B. Venkatesh and M. Bonne of the National Institute of Hydrology, Karnataka. The study was titled ‘Regional Analysis of Rainfall Extremes of Western Ghats.’

The area also accounts for one of the highest rainfall levels in India. Mawsynram in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya is known as the world’s wettest place, with an annual rainfall of 11,873 mm, said environmentalist L. Namasivayam. Cherrapunji held the record earlier.

S. Sivadas, Wildlife Warden of the Silent Valley National Park, told The Hindu here on Thursday that the Walakkad and the Poochippara areas had been recording the highest rainfall in the valley since 2000.

Up to October this year, Poochippara received a rainfall of 7,639 mm and Walakkad, 5,931 mm. But Walakkad received more rain than Poochippara in most of these nine years. In 2006, Walakkad received the highest ever rainfall of 9,569.6 mm. In 2000, the figure was 7,788 mm; in 2001, 8,351.9 mm; in 2004, 8465.3 mm; and in 2005, 9,347.8 mm.

In 2007, Poochippara received the highest ever rainfall of 8,093.7 mm. In 2004, the area received 7,020.1 mm; in 2005, 6,945.6 mm; and in 2006, 7650.8 mm.

The Sairandhri area, where a dam was proposed in the 1970s for the aborted Silent Valley hydroelectric project, also gets good rainfall. In 2004, the area received 5,005.2 mm; in 2005, 5,669 mm; in 2008, 4,507.9 mm; and up to October this year, 4,214.7 mm. The Neelikkal area received an annual rainfall of 5,715.1 mm in 2005;and 3,737.9 mm in 2008.

Saby Varghese, Range Officer of the park, said the Silent Valley got continuous rain for six to seven months a year. In the remaining months, mist shrouds the valley, which is estimated to yield 15 per cent of the water generated in the rainforest, with both the north-east and south-west monsoons blessing the valley.

G. Prabhakaran from THE HINDU

Assam – Kekjori tree triggering eco-tourism boom

RONGARA (TINSUKIA), Oct 18 – A unique species of tree – among the myriad resources of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park – is fuelling an eco-tourism boom in the area. Tourists visiting the eco-tourism camp set up here by the local youths under the banner of Wave Ecotourism have evinced a keen interest in a particular tree species which is locally known as the kekjori tree. Some tourists only want to see these trees and are paying handsomely adding to the earnings of the educated unemployed youths involved with Wave Ecotourism.

Kekjori Tree in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

Kekjori Tree in Dibru-Saikhowa National Park

What is so special about this tree is that one single tree covers an area of several bighas with branches spreading low and wide. With its majestic appearance as well as folk beliefs surrounding its existence, the kekjori tree has emerged as an important tourist attracting.

It needs to be mentioned here that Wave Ecotourism has identified three such kekjori trees, spreading over an area of half-a-bigha, two bighas and three bighas respectively, which are safely accessible to tourists.

“Only a short time back, we spotted these kekjori trees which are safe for the tourists to visit. We were a bit hesitant when we took the first group of tourists near one of the kekjori trees. We weren’t sure whether the tourists would appreciate the beauty of these trees,” said Niranta Gohain, a member of Wave Ecotourism.

The trees which local people believe are immortal instantly become a major attraction for the tourists. Over 20 groups of domestic and foreign backpackers have already visited the kekjori trees taking a boat ride.

“Boats are the only mode of transport to reach the kekjori trees,” informed Niranta, adding that when the tourists are near the trees, they forget their present and frolic around the trees reliving their childhood days. As branches spread out low and wide, it is easy for even a child to climb the trees.

“Eco-tourism which is thriving on diverse attractions of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park has thus provided an opportunity to backpackers, both domestic and foreign, a chance to relive their childhood and soothe their stressed souls,” Niranta said.

The local people do not know the exact age of these trees. They and their forefathers have seen the same trees exuding the same verdant beauty. Since they believe these trees cannot die, they revere these trees.

“People believe that they should not cut the kekjori trees as that will bode ill omen,” said Niranta, observing that oral tradition has helped greatly in protecting the resources of nature.

Kabita Duarah – From The Assam Tribune

Wildlife: 121 breeding tigers estimated to survive in Nepal

October 2009. The first ever overall nation-wide estimate of the tiger population brought a positive ray of hope among conservationists. The figures, announced by the Nepal Government’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), estimates the presence of 121 (Range 100 – 194) breeding tigers in the wild within the four protected areas of Nepal.

The 2008 nation-wide tiger population was initiated on 15 November 2009 in the Terai Arc Landscape (TAL) of Nepal both inside and outside the protected areas of Nepal. [TAL encompasses the Terai region of Nepal and into tiger range states across the border into India.]

This Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) was caught on a camera trap in Nepals Terai Arc Landscape as part of an estimate of tiger populations. Credit: Government of Nepal

This Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) was caught on a camera trap in Nepal's Terai Arc Landscape as part of an estimate of tiger populations. Credit: Government of Nepal

Simultaneous survey – Camera traps
“To obtain reliable population estimates of wide ranging species like the tiger, it is important to undertake the survey simultaneously in all potential habitats,” says Dr. Rinjan Shrestha, Conservation Biologist with WWF Nepal. Previous studies had been undertaken in different time periods and at different spatial scales. To derive information on both abundance and distribution of tigers, the current survey employed two methods – Camera Trapping method inside the protected areas and Habitat Occupancy survey both inside and outside the protected areas.”

40% decline in range – Poaching epidemic
According to WWF Global Tiger Network Initiative, the wild tiger population is at a tipping point. Tigers are experiencing a range collapse, occupying 40 per cent less habitat than was estimated just one decade ago. The estimated number of tigers in important range countries is frighteningly low, with a recent government census suggesting there may be as few as 1,300 tigers left in India, the species’ stronghold. And tigers are facing an epidemic of poaching and habitat loss across their range.

Tiger caught on a camera trap in Nepal. Credit Government of Nepal.

Tiger caught on a camera trap in Nepal. Credit Government of Nepal.

Main threats to tiger populations
The main reason for the decline of tiger populations has been attributed to poaching and illegal trade. This is linked to the illegal international trade in tiger parts and derivatives (skin, bones and even meat in some cases although not reported in Nepal) and use in traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM). Apart from these, sporadic cases of retaliatory killing from irate communities have been reported. Other important reasons of tiger population decline are habitat shrinkage and fragmentation due to human intervention, loss/decline of prey species.

Chitwan numbers are up, Bardia down
“The tiger numbers have increased in Chitwan National Park but decreased in Bardia and Shuklaphanta,” said Mr. Anil Manandhar, Country Representative, WWF Nepal. “In spite of the decade long insurgency, encroachment, poaching and illegal trade, the present numbers is a positive sign, but we can’t be complacent. The declining numbers in western Nepal has posed more challenges, needing a concerted effort to save this charismatic endangered species focusing on anti-poaching and illegal wildlife trade.”

‘Tiger conservation Action Plan 2008- 2012’
The Government of Nepal has approved and launched the ‘Tiger conservation Action Plan 2008- 2012’. A comprehensive management plan has been devised in which the target is to increase the population of tigers by 10 per cent within the first 5 year period of the plan implementation.

“Tigers can not be saved by the effort of a single individual or a single organization,” said Mr. Gopal Prasad Upadhyay, Director General, DNPWC. “The transboundary relation with India needs to be strengthened further and all organizations should work together to conserve tigers.”

The 2008 tiger population estimate was jointly implemented by the DNPWC, Department of Forests (DOF), WWF, National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) with support from Save The Tiger Fund (STF), WWF-US, WWF-UK, WWF International and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

From WildLifeExtra