Archive | May, 2011

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Himalayan Wolf:Conservation Thought

Posted on 30 May 2011 by RE Team

If a list of the most endangered mammals of Indian Subcontinent is made today, one species that should get a higher position, that is the Himalayan Wolf. Unfortunately this beautiful animal is getting much less attention than its required.

Himalayan Wolf was believed to be a subspecies of gray wolf called the Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus chanco). But recent studies on Himalayan Wolf by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has revealed some very interesting biological aspect of the animal. The extensive research suggested that the Himalayan Wolf should be considered as a distinct species and it is given the name Canis himalayensis. This scientific name was proposed as nomenclature and taxonomic change for Himalayan Wolf by the Nomenclature Specialist on the CITES Animals Committee in April 2009.

Unfortunately the status of the new species claim of the Himalayan wolf is still uncertain, but it is now widely considered as a distinct species. In today’s explored world, it is indeed a rare event to discover a new species of mammal, especially that of a large carnivore. The wolf is considered to be the most studied of Carnivores in the world and this the discovery is as thrilling as it is surprising. Another interesting face of the Himalayan Wolf is that unlike Gray Wolves, they are completely distinct from domestic dogs. It might be the the most ancient representative of the animals anywhere in the world. The Analysis done on genetic material from one of the wolves showed that its lineage stems back around 800,000 years.

Despite all these very important aspects of the Himalayan Wolf, the animal yet to get the status and attention it deserves. There is only ~350 Himalayan Wolves surviving in the trans-Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir in northern India. The conservation of this animal is becoming urgent now.

Global Acceptance

The first hurdle in the conservation of the Himalayan Wolf is the older concept about the species. Till a decade back it was considered as a subspecies of Tibetian Wolf found in the high mountain regions of the Himalayan range. The Tibetain Wolf is a subspecies of Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus), one of the widely distributed mammal in the planet. The gray wolf is given “Least Concern” status by the IUCN Red List and so the Tibetian Wolf. Still being considered a variety of Tibetian Wolf by many, the Himalayan Wolf getting the least concern signal from many conservationists. The stand from IUCN Red List to declare this as a separate species and put in the critically endangered status is uncertain.

Education, Conflict & Compensation

The major threat to the Himalayan Wolf is it’s conflict with the local villagers in the region of its habitat. The wolf locally known as Shanku, is considered as the key threat to the livestock of the villagers. There is a strained relationship existed between the villagers and the wildlife of the region, specially the carnivores like Himalayan Wolf. The Himalayan Wolf is a big menace to the local people as every year it is accountable for at least 100 livestock killings in the region. The amount of damage caused by this animal force the villagers to take drastic steps as killing them or poison them. Adding more to their agony, the government or any organization have come up to support these people.

With shrinking habitat for the wolves, the conflict and preying on livestock is increasing resulting in more killings of this rare wolf. Now it requires a full fledged campaign to educate the local people about the importance of Himalayan Wolf for eco balance. There are organization like “Snow Leopard Conservancy” and project like “Muse” that focuses on the Sustainable development, education among the local by linking their economical growth to the wildlife. The organizations are doing good job by bringing revenues to the villages via eco-tourism. The new generation is becoming aware of the wildlife due to these efforts. But this is not enough to save the species like Himalayan Wolf whose territory is wide covering more than 70000 sq km. More involvement from the government is expected to bring a huge change. There should be proper compensation for the loss of livestock which brings down anger of the people against the wolves. Also the process to get the compensation should be made easier for the villagers. A tedious process will not be fruitful.

Special Protection Zone

Another major problem with the conservation of the Himalayan Wolf is protected area. There is no protected area declared by Indian Government till now for this rare mammal species. The increasing agriculture and population in the villages slowly shrinking the habitat of the Himalayan Wolves. This is a grave concern for the species. When the breeding ground of a species is affected, the survival of the species comes under a question! There should be initiative from the government to make sure that outsiders don’t disturb or pollute the habitat of the Himalayan Wolves. The probable places will be Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh where groups of Himalayan wolves are sighted frequently.

Global Climate Change

One major threat that is affecting the whole wildlife in the Himalayan region is the climate change. The global warming or the increasing temperature is causing glacier melt in the region. The Himalayan wolf who survives in this low temperature region are facing habitat issue due to the glacier melts. This is one global issue and if special care not taken to the Himalayan Wolf, they can be one of the initial victims of the global warming.

Effective Captive Breeding

Captive Breeding programs are started for the Himalayan Wolves in four Zoos in India. These are Padmaja Naidu Himalayan, Zoological Park, Darjeeling; Himalayan Zoological Park, Gangtok; Himalayan Nature Park, Kufri; and Pt. Gobind Vallabh Pant High Altitude Zoo, Nainital. These are programs for Tibetian wolves and there is no special program for the Himalayan wolves. The captive breeding population is around 20. More funds and area to be put under these captive breeding programs to make it successful. A major challenge faced by animals bred in captivity is their struggle to adjust in the wild where they need to feed and protect themselves. Only Darjeeling Zoo is trying to solve this problem of the Himalayan endangered species by planning to set up an off display breeding centre. The primary objective of such an initiative is to release the zoo bred animals to the wild with the near wild environment of the proposed centre facilitating both breeding and honing of hunting skills of these animals. These kind of special facilities need to be started in all the Zoos for the Himalayan Wolves.

Please provide more thoughts and suggestion to Save the Himalayan Wolf!


Relivearth has identified Himalayan Wolf as one of the species that needs support and attention from public. Please view older articles on the species and support the cause of this research effort by commenting and providing ideas.

Tracing the lineages of Himalayan Wolves

New Research to Save Himalayan Wolf

Time to Act for Himalayan Wolf

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Chasing The Largest Elephant

Posted on 02 May 2011 by RE Team

Almost half a century back, in 1954, in the remotes and dense jungles of Angola, Jose (Joseph) Fenykovi first saw the track of largest animal ever recorded in human history. It was an unbelievably big elephant track by the muddy shore of a lake.

Joseph Fenykovi, Hungarian-born resident of Spain, was an engineer and big game hunter. Every Year, Fenykovi and his wife would abandon Europe and take off for their 1,000-acre ranch in Angola to start their big-game sport spanning for three months.

It was Fenykovi’s sixth expedition to Africa when he first discovered the huge elephant track. When he measured the track, it came out to be 3 feet, a foot bigger than the largest elephant trophy recorded till date. At that moment he knew I knew that he was looking at the spoor of probably the biggest animal living on the surface of the earth. But due to lack of inventory and other resources he left that expendition without chasing that big monster.

On Novemeber 1955, Jose Fenykovi returned to Angola with all inventory to chase the never before-hunt game. On November 9, Fenykovi reached the same lake where he had seen the footprints last year. On 12th of November, they found a real big track around three feet in diameter. Thery were lucky to trace the elephant exactly a year later at the same place.

Finding the track of the biggest living land animal in the planet, Fenykovi didn’t delay chasing the same. Within hours his team chased the Elephant along with another large bull.

In Fenykovi’s word, “They were quite calm, lolling under some tall trees, slowly moving their huge ears in a fanlike motion. The smaller was an enormous beast, but my elephant was beyond my imagination. A real monster.”

In no time the hunters charged both the bulls. Six bullets from .416 Rigby was not enough to submit the largest elephant. Both the elephants ran away in moments from the view of the hunters.


Jose Fenykovi after killing the Largest Elephant


Fenykovi penned down these last moments of falling his elephant like this: “Before the echo of our shots died away, pandemonium started in the jungle. The crash and cracking of broken trees and branches sounded like an artillery battle. We did not stop to listen, but turned and ran as hard as we could for open country. Deep in a jungle was no place to be with two injured elephants you could not see and with a variable wind that could give our position away at any moment.

When we got 50 yards outside the thicket, we turned and waited for the chase. The wind by now was at our backs, carrying our scent straight to the great beasts. But the attack did not come. Inside the jungle the crash and tear of trees continued. We started to run around the thicket, which was fortunately small- about a mile and a half in circumference—keeping a good 50 or 60 yards from the edge of the forest.

This way we reached the place where we had left our jeep. I saw, to my astonishment, not 10 feet from the jeep the bloody tracks of the big elephant. He had passed the jeep only a few seconds before.

A little way from the jeep we found the tracks of the smaller beast who had taken off in the opposite direction from his larger companion. Fortunately for us, the two monsters had separated and now the job was not quite so dangerous. We had only one elephant at a time to worry about and he (the big one) had six .416 bullets and one from the .375 in his vitals.

We followed his trail through low bushes for a good three miles. Two or three times we got close enough to see him, but not in time for another shot. Finally the bloody trail entered another wooded thicket. Now we could not miss it even if we were blind. It was 4:30 p.m. Mario and I stopped with the jeep at the edge of the jungle. Francisco and Kukuya lunged into the thicket like a couple of bloodhounds on the scent. They had orders to locate the beast and call us. Mario and I both thought that with seven heavy-caliber bullets in him, losing blood and winded from a hard six-mile run in terrific heat, our elephant could not last much longer.

We waited for 20 minutes, and there was no word from Francisco and Kukuya. Mario asked me if he could go in to look for them. I hesitated. I thought we should both go. I like to finish off my trophies myself. But I was at the end of my endurance, after having been on the go since 5 a.m. Mario, who is 20 years younger than I am, argued that if we did not finish him off quickly it would soon be too dark to follow him, and then we might lose him altogether. I told Mario to go ahead. He disappeared like a cat into the jungle. Taking up a stand by the jeep facing the trees, I prepared to defend myself if the elephant should charge.

I waited a little over half an hour, growing ever more impatient but knowing it would be folly for me to go into the jungle alone. This was probably the hardest part of the whole thing – the waiting. All of a sudden I heard a shot from the .416, followed by another, and then two more: altogether four shots in rapid-fire succession. Afterward there was complete silence.

It did not surprise me that Mario had used four shots to finish off the beast. A fallen elephant can be one of the most dangerous animals in the world. There are many cases recorded in the history of big-game hunting when an elephant, knocked down and apparently dead, has suddenly got to his feet, or even without rising has killed the unwary hunter with a convulsive sweep of his trunk.

I awaited the arrival of one of the trackers with news. Instead, after about five minutes, I heard two more shots from the .416 and three from the smaller rifle. That surprised me, and I began to worry over having let Mario go in alone. I could hardly believe that the elephant, with six bullets of 400 grains each from the .416 and one 300-grain bullet from the .375 in him, had needed six more from the big gun and three from the smaller one to finish him off.

Finally, Kukuya burst out of the jungle running and, as he got within earshot, he gave voice to the brief but electrifying announcement:


There the enormous elephant lay on his side, amidst the carnage of blood, broken trees and trampled brush that had marked his last struggles. When I let my eyes roam over his vast expanse I could hardly believe that any animal could be so big, and I understood why it had taken so many heavy-caliber bullets to finish him off.I must confess the shock we got when I put the tape across my elephant’s foot and found that it measured, instead of the three feet of the spoor we had been following all day, only a little over two feet. The measurement was still a world record, but it was a foot short of the track size I had first noted a year before beside the lake. When we began to examine the body, we soon understood why: Besides the 16 bullets from our own rifles, we found a strange slug embedded in the left front leg. It was not a modern bullet, but a piece of iron shot, the kind used in old muzzle-loading flintlock rifles. It had crippled him in the left front leg, so that the step he took with that foot was shorter than normal. As the animal ran, the left hind foot partially superimposed its print over the front one, making it look much bigger than it actually was. ”

Fenykovi’s record of the Elephant which broke the previous record of Lawrence G. Thaw was like this:

Height From ground to withers, 13 feet 2 inches. (Thaw’s elephant: 12 feet 2 inches.)

Length From trunk tip to tail tip in straight line, 27 feet 6 inches; whole skin from trunk tip to tail tip, 33 feet 2 inches.

Length of feet Front, 2 feet; rear, 2 feet 1 inches. (Thaw’s elephant: one foot 9 inches, which foot not specified.)

Circumference of feet Front, 5 feet 7 inches; rear 5 feet 2 inches.

Circumference of body At widest point, 19 feet 8 inches.


Fenykovi's kill still preserved in the National History Museum


On March 6, 1959, Joseph J. Fenykovi gifted the elephant parts to the National Museum of Natural History. it is still in the display and is the land animal ever hunted.

At that time, Fenykovi probably never realized that within few years this animal will become endangered. None would like to kill such a gigantic gift of nature in today’s date. Its so precious to keep such wonders alive!

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Photos of Nature