Archive | June, 2012

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Indian Big Cats’ “Well” Fiasco

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

The big cats of India has been fighting with the increasing population in the country. There are regular incidents when Leopards or even Tigers stray into villages and create unexpected situations. We have here captured some of the examples where the big cat gets trapped in men dug  wells and struggles to get out of it. It creates nervousness and frustration in the animal and sometimes even injures people.

May 28, 2012

A wild leopard fell into a water reservoir tank at a tea estate in Sangatram, some 30 kms from Siliguri, in West Bengal, India. After various efforts by authorities, the Leopard finally escapes using a ladder put by the rescue team from Mahananda Wildlife sanctuary.


The Nervous Leopard struggling to climb the well - Diptendu Dutta / AFP



Leopard climbing a ladder - Diptendu Dutta / AFP


Feb 29, 2011

Within a span of 24 hours two big cats of India slipped into man made wells at different locations.

The first incident was reported from Chameli Forest are of Maharashtra, western India.

The tiger, a full grown adult around four years old, fell into the 40-feet-deep dry well, which was not protected by a wall. The tiger was probably chasing some prey and must have accidentally fallen into the well around dawn today. It spent around ten hours in the well without food or water.


The frightened Tiger in the well


The animal’s plight was detected almost five hours later when some tribals and forest officials heard its roar and alerted police and wildlife officials, who then mounted a rescue operation. The tiger was first tranquilized and then taken out of the 40 feet deep well. It took more than three hours for the authorities to complete the operation. Later the Big Cat was released to wild.

In another similar incident reported from central India, a one-and-a-half year-old leopard was Tuesday extricated from a well in after a six-hour rescue operation.

Villagers of Dewas district in Madhya Pradesh first heard roars of the Leopard in a well situated in the fields. They informed the forest department. The intital efforts from the villagers to rescue it failed.


Angry Leopard in Well


Later, the forest department workers used a cage and successfully took out the leopard from the well.  The leopard would be released in the Dewas forest area after a medical check-up.

These are not only the first reports of big cats falling into human structures. There are frequent reports of such incidents from all corners of India.

On Sep 6, 2010, a Leopard was rescued from a well by locals in Udupi, south India.

On March, 2009, an adult Leopard was rescued from Guwahati, eastern part of India.

These reports imply the shrinking habitat of these big cats.

In fact the sighting of tiger in that area surprised the authorities. The area  never reported a sighting in the past many years since it is not a thick forest region. This says how far the rare animal travelled into human settlements, where it is never safe!

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Where the birds commit suicide!

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

It is one of the unresolved mysteries of nature why this place named, Jatinga, in the North-East India region attracts birds from high sky to the ground on special weather conditions and the birds of various species fall prey to hunters and tribal villagers! Jatinga is a small village in the North-Cachar Hills of Assam where few thousands villagers of the Jayantia tribe live.


Jatinga Bird - Courtesy ZAHID AHMED TAPADAR @flickr


Jatinga was first inhabited by a tribe called Zeme Nagas in 1890 under the discretion of the Dimasa king who was the sovereign ruler. They were the first to witness the mystery when their camp fires attracted various birds. They considered this as the act of some evil spirits and the frightened tribes deserted the settlement. The Jaintias, who moved in around 1905 under their leader Lakhanbang Suchiang, tumbled upon the mystery while venturing into the valley at night with lightedtorches to round up stray cattle. The bamboo torches attracted showers of birds which the Jaintias regarded as a “gift of God”. The first mention of this mystery is found in the Wild Life of India (1957) by the British tea planter andorinthologist E.P. Gee. “The whole thing is extraordinary” Gee wrote. He notedthat the bird death took place only at this spot. Even when lights were put up in nearbyplaces, the phenomenon did not occur. He also noted that some conditions are necessary for the phenomenon to take place. In the following years, this phenomenon was referenced as “Birds committing suicide”.

This mysterious phenomenon takes place only in the later days of rainy season from September to November. During moonless and foggy dark nights between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., flying birds come crashing to the ground with no prior warning whatsoever. Curiously, most of the doomed birds do not attempt to fly away after they land near the lights. They look dazed and disheveled, perhaps due to the trauma of the whole shocking experience. This is not confined to a single species but around 50 birds species fall prey to this nature’s mystery. Tiger Bittern, Black Bittern, Little Egret, Pond Heron, Indian Pitta and Kingfishers are some of the species to name.
Another interesting point is that, this phenomenon does not occur in the whole valley but only in a well-defined strip, 1.5 km long and 200 mts. wide. Invariably the birds come in only from the north and attempts at placing the lights on the southern side of the ride to attract the birds have failed. Another fact is that no long distance migratory bird gets attracted to the light traps. Some common resident birds like grouse, hornbills and imperial pigeons do not get caught at Jatinga. The directionless, hapless birds fall prey to the villagers after they land into the ground.


Jatinga Hills - Courtesy ZAHID AHMED TAPADAR @flickr


Various studies have been conducted to unravel the causes behind this phenomenon. But the root cause of this mysterious behaviour of the birds is not yet determined. Conservation groups and wildlife officials in India have taken steps to prevent this wanton killing of the birds, creating awareness in the illiterate villagers. Since then, the amount of birds killed have decreased by about 40 percent. However, there is still need of more research to unravel the real cause behind this un-natural phenomenon.

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Saola – The Discovery and Threats

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

In May 1992, Vietnamese and Foreign Biologists were taken by surprise by the discovery of three pairs of horns. These were horns of trophies killed by the local people of central Vietnam’s Vu Quang Nature reserve. The biologists were on field survey in the area. The size of the horns suggested about the existence of a large animal completely unknown to the outside world.


Saola - courtesy WWF


This discovery took the science community by shock. It was believed that after centuries of exploration by explorers across deserts, rainforests of the planet with even high technology left no place or large species unkown to the science.

After this discovery, scientists did extensive research in the area. In next few years this research led to the discovery of 20 partial specimen of this species, including three complete skin and several photos. Researchers were also able to trap the species in remotely set camera in the rain forests. With all these evidences, scientists came to the conclusion that this is a completely new species and it was named as Saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis).

Saola was name already local people have been referring to this animal .  Sao means Spindle and La means post. The generic name Pseudoryx , of the species refers to slightly curved, backward-sweeping horns, resembling to those Oryxes found in Africa and Arabia. Saola is very distantly related to these arid-adapted antelopes though. The specific name of the scientific name   refers to efers to the two Vietnamese provinces Nghe An and Ha Tinh close to where it was found.

The saola stands about 85 cm at the shoulder and weighs approximately 90-100 kg.   The coat is a dark brown with a black stripe along the back. Its legs are darkish and there are white patches on the feet, and white stripes vertically across the cheeks, on the eyebrows and splotches on the nose and chin. All saolas have slightly backward-curved horns, which grow to half a meter in length. The genetic analysis reveals that it is a primitive member of the cattle family.

All known locations for the species are mountainous with steep river valleys, covered by evergreen or semideciduous forests between 300 – 1800 m (1000 – 6000′), with low human disturbance.  It is only found in the foothill of the Tuong Son range. Its distribution within this known ranges is uneven and fragmented in small patches. This range occurs in the border between Laos and Vietnam. It stays in the higher elevations during the wetter summer season, when streams at these altitudes have plenty of water, and moves down to the lowlands during the winter, when the mountain streams dry up.

Even after two decades of discovery, very little known about this large mammal. In the discovery article of Saola, the team proposed  a three months survey to observe the living animal. But Even after intense efforts, scientists have not been able to see a Saola in wild in its natural setting yet! Most of the information on the Saola is gathered from photos and local people’ knowledge.

Local people have reported having seen saola traveling in groups of two or three, rarely more.  Villagers say that the ox eats the leaves of fig trees and other bushes along riverbanks. Saola mark their territories by opening up a fleshy flap on their snout to reveal scent glands. They subsequently rub the underside against objects leaving a musky, pungent paste. The saolas’ colossal scent glands are thought to be the largest of any living mammal.

Though very little known about Saola, one thing is certain that its in a very critically threatened state. In 1994 IUCN listed the species as “Endangered”. But in 2006 its given “Critically Endangered” status due to reducing population.  The animal can’t survive in captivity. All efforts to keep in captivity have failed, the latest being late August 2010.  A Saola was captured by villagers in Laos but died in captivity before government conservationists could arrange for it to be released back in to the wild.

The actual size of the remaining population is unknown and its rarity, distinctiveness and vulnerability make it one of the greatest priorities for conservation in the region. The current population is thought to be a few hundred at maximum and possibly only a few dozen at a minimum.

In April 2011, a reserve was declared to help protect saolas. The Quang Nam’s People Committee inaugurated the Quang Nam Saola Nature Reserve in the Annamite mountains along the border of Vietnam and Laos.  This recent development has created hope for this extremely rare mammal in the world.

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Photos of Nature