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Will the frogs disappear?

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

The most known household amphibian may very soon disappear from earth. Sounds unbelievable, but it is likely to occur soon if we don’t take some immediate action.  This amphibian extinction crisis is supposed to be the worst species conservation challenge in the history of humanity. The extinction is not about only one or two species, but about a complete class of animals, thousands of species!  It can be compared to extinction of dinosaurs only.

 

Infected Frog – courtesy brian.gratwicke @flickr

 

The main threat of this crisis is not any of the general threats like shrinking of habitat, global warming, pollution, killing of the species, etc. , but a parasitic chytrid fungus –Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. It is believed that the fungus started spreading around the world many decades ago, but unfortunately it was discovered only in ’90s. In last 30 years or so, the fungus has swept away more than 150 species of amphibians, mostly frogs.  Another 2000 species are already on the verse of extinction due to the same infection. It is said to be the worst infectious disease ever recorded among vertebrates in terms of the number of species impacted, and it’s propensity to drive them to extinction. The fungus infects cells of the outer skin layers of the amphibians that contain large amounts of a protein called “keratin”. The fungus feeds on this Kertain. Researchers aren’t yet sure of exactly how the fungus kills the frogs.

The most shocking thing in this process is that Human race will have to bear another blame on their shoulders for the mass extinction.  Its only humans who spread the fungus across all continents. Scientists believe that this fungus came from African clawed frogs that are actually immune to this fungus infection, one of the few amphibians resistant to the Chytric fungus. These frogs have spread far beyond their native habitat, carrying the fungus with them, due to global trade. Scientists around the world have used these frogs for research and, from the 1930s to the 50s, to conduct pregnancy tests.

There are many efforts amongst the researchers to save the amphibians from mass extinction. The most powerful among them is Amphibian Ark project powered by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), theIUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), and the IUCN/SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (ASG).

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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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Expert Mimics in Reptile World

Posted on 29 May 2012 by RE Team

Mimicking other people or personality is considered as one of the popular comedy act by us. It may look like an intelligent act for human, but nature has already adopted this intelligence for some other reasons. In this article we are covering the expert mimics in the Reptile world.
Milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) found in both Northern and Southern American continents are harmless snake. This snake has similar banded appearance like coral snake. This is a form of mimicry and happens only those regions where milk snake and coral snake are found together. In other regions, milk snake doesn’t look like the coral snake. As coral snake is poisonous, this mimicry is to scare any enemies. There is a difference in the band pattern of the both snakes, so it can be identified by human. There are sayings like this to identify the actual poisonous snake: ” Red next to black, you can pat him on the back; red next to yellow, he can kill a fellow.”

 

Milk Snake(Left) mimicking Coral Snake(right) - courtesy kingsnake.com

 

Similar to Milk Snake, Scarlet King Snake also mimics Coral Snake . Scarlet King Snake is also non-poisonous. They are born with white bands. The juveniles develop the yellow, apricot, or tangerine colored banding slowly.

The above two are example of snake mimicry where the harmless snakes mimic like a poisonous snake to keep their enemies away. This characteristic is called Batesian Mimicry. It was discovered by scientist H.W. Bate over a hundred years back and named after him only.

Some blind legless lizards that live under the ground trick their enemies by showing their tails. The under side of the tail is usually red or yellow that looks like an open mouth. The enemy attacks the tail mistaking it for head. The tail can withstand much more injury that the head and so the life of the lizard is saved.

Many Lizards have a tail differently coloured from rest of their body. When the enemy attacks them, they break off their tail. The tail jumps about on the ground that confuses the enemy. The Lizard makes a good escape during this confusion.

Another Lizard(Eremias lugubris) in Souther Africa mimics notorious and noxious ‘oogpister’ beetles when young. The adults are cryptically coloured and blend with the red-tan colours of the Kalahari semi-desert.  However,  the juveniles are jet-black and white and very conspicuous and move with stiff, jerky movements with their backs strongly arched and with the paler-coloured tails pressed to the ground. They actually just mimic the Oogpister beetles found in the region and predators avoid the threat of the pungent, acidic fluid sprayed by these beetles when threatened.

A Lizard(anguid) of northeastern Brazil shows striking similarities in color, pattern, size, behavior to the noxious millipede, Rhinocricus albidolimbatus,  when it is juvenile. This is also believed to be a Batesian Mimicry.

 

Video on Lizard Mimicing Beetle

http://www.snotr.com/video/4732

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The True Orphanage of Asiatic Elephants

Posted on 19 May 2012 by RE Team

Yesterday, February 18th, 2011 has brought ome more cheer to the Pinnawela Elpephant Orphanage with fifty-fifth birth of baby elpehant in its existence of 40 years.

The Pinnawela Orphanage which is located in the town of Kegalle, Sri Lanka, is one of the most special orphanage in the world. Because it not only earth gives home to retired, abused, orphaned abd sick Elephants but also provides the breeding ground for the largest animal in Earth.

The Elephant Orphanage was originally started in 1972 in the Wilpattu National Park to support, protect and foster those baby elephants whose mothers were either poached or died in the jungle of Sri Lanka. In 1975 the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Sri Lanka relocated the orphanage to Pinnawela on a 25-acre (10 ha) coconut plantation on the Maha Oya river. At that time the orphanage had just five baby elephants. In 1982, the authorirites launch a breeding program in the Orphanage, which increased the number of elephants in Pinnawela gradually. Currently, the orphanage has 86 elephants including the cub borned yesterday. There are number of pregnant Elephants that are on wait to add more elephant population to the orphanage in coming months.

 

Elephants taking bath in river at Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

 

Asiatic Elephants are known for their intelligence , calmness and domesticating capabilities. They show emotions  like humans. They cry, play, have incredible memories, and laugh. In the Indian sub-continent Elephants has been playing important role in the social culture since ages. Sri Lanka is no different in that and the Panniwela Orphanage is a by-product of this culture. Though the Orphanage also has an tourism and monetary angle, it has survived for decades due to the local human bonding  with elephants.

Unfortuantely the lack resources felt by both parties, human and wild Elephants, the conflicts between the two has increased over the years. Sri Lanka , home to around 3,000 wild elephants, see around 150-200 deaaths of wild elephants every years due to this conflict, against around 60-80 human casualities. Apart from the conflicts the political volatility and civil war  in region injured and killed. The responsibilities of the orphanage is increasing with the increasing bad breaths between the two species. More number of  baby elephants are coming into the orphanage every year due to these killings.

There Elephant Orphanage witnessed many emotional stories of Elephants over the decades. ‘Sama’ a female Elephant and a victim of war, came to the orphanage in 1995.  She had her right front foot blown away by a landmine when she was a two year old baby. She was well cared for, and grew up using her three legs and has reached the age of thirteen. Though in fututre she may undergo severe complication for her unbalanced body, she is given all the possible care by the orphanage. ‘Raja’ who was born blind in wild is also taken special care in the orphanage. He is not taken to bath with other elephants for his inability and also given special love and treatment. The youngest orphan in the orphanage is just a year old baby taken into Pinnawela in December, 2010.

 

Sama who lost her one leg in a landmine blast in 1995

 

The Elephants at Pinnawela are provided as much natural condition as possible. They mostly roam freely in parkland, are ‘herded’ by their mahouts (keepers) just before being taken to feeding sheds. The elephants are taken to the near by Maha Oya river twice a day for bath. All the babies under three years of age are still bottle fed by the mahouts and volunteers. Each animal is also given around 76 kilograms (170 lb) of green food a day and around 2 kg (4.4 lb) from a food bag containing rice bran and maize and enough water from the river.  Jackfruit, coconut, kitul, tamarind, banana and grass form the bulk of the green food given to the elephants at Pinnawela.

The breeding program in the Orphanage was started in 1982. Initially the breeding animals consisted of males Vijaya and Neela and females Kumari, Anusha, Mathalie and Komali. Vijaya was the first father in the orphanage. He with Kumari, a female elephant, have produced three calves at intervals of five and four years. With the fifty-fifth birth yesterday, it has produced more than twenty second generation Elephants.

Pachyderm, another innovation from the orphanage, is producing industrially successful Elephant Dung Papers. More than just a novelty stationery item, pachyderm paper could prove an important source of income to the villagers – & thus a significant help in conservation measures.

There are criticisms on the topics like chained Elephants, or forcing baby elephants to pose in tourists’ photo shots. But these can be neglected compared to the good work done by the orphanage. There is also need of chaining some of the Elephants coming fresh into the orphanage for the security of other elephants and mahuts, until they are tamed. Whatever may be the arguments, one thing to be agreed is that this small place in Sri Lanka is more home than a wild to many elephants. They are born, grown up in this world and may not be able to survive in wild. They now carry special bond with the mahuts and other workers in the orphanage. Its really wonderful to see innocent and cute baby elephants playing and enjoying life after losing their motherly love. They find love and security in the hands of the people.

We hope the orphahnge will keep doing the holisitc job and help more innocent and wild animals in future.

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The World of the Reptiles

Posted on 19 May 2012 by RE Team

One of the most successful life form of the Earth is Reptile. Reptiles were the initial rulers of Earth. Though their throne was overthrown by catastrophic events  few million years ago, yet reptiles are considered very powerful genre of animals till date.

The reptiles first appeared in Earth around 340 million years ago. They evolved from their ancestors amphibians, but they became stronger than the amphibians in two ways, a scaly outer skin that provided better protection and amniotic eggs that is independent of water. This helped them to increase the boundary from water to land. The reptiles flourished and diversified in wide variety types and soon became more dominant from the rest in the planet. They not only limit themselves to water and land, they started exploring the sky too. The reptiles started ruling the planet with power and intelligence. They evolved themselves to gigantic size known today as dinosaurs. They ruled land and sky for more than hundred million years until some exactly unknown catastrophic events. Their dynasty came to an end.

 

The Tuatara - Surviving for 220 million years now

 

Millions of years ago, Earth was dominated by 20 groups of reptiles. But 16 of them lost the game of survival over the course of time. These 16 groups includes some magnificent animals that we can just imagine now.

There are only four groups of reptiles that are surviving today.

The largest surviving reptile group is the Squamata. The squamata includes lizards and snakes. There are around 6000 known living species of squamata.

The second group of today’s reptiles is the Crocodilians. It includes crocodiles, alligators and caimans. There are 23 species of Crocodiles are surviving. They are the largest of all present days reptiles. The Crocodilians first appeared about 84 million years ago and they are the closest living relatives of the birds.

The third groups is the Turtles. They are the oldest of the living reptiles.  The turtles have changed little since they first appeared some 220 million years ago. They have a protective shell that encloses their body and provides protection and camouflage. There are 294 known species of turtles.

The fourth and the last surviving among the reptiles is called Tuataras. It is in fact the smallest group of reptiles. There is only kind of animal that represents this groups, named same as the group Tuatara. They are surviving on remote islands of New Zealand today. They are lizard-like in appearance but the fundamental difference is that their skull is not jointed.  They first appeared around 220 million years ago and considered as living fossil by the researchers!

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Kashmir Stag : A Long Struggle For Survival

Posted on 19 May 2012 by RE Team

The Kashmir Stag (Cervus elaphus hanglu) popularly known as Hangul, is the only surviving subspecies of Red deer in the whole of Asia.

In early 20th century, the Hangul population was believed to be around 5000 spreading across the highland region of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal pradesh of India.  In 1940, a survey revealed the population to be around 3000. The cultivation and hunting was believed to be reason for the population decline for this magnificant deer species at that time. But in the post independence (1947) era of India, the population declined steeply.

A survey published by E. P. Gee in 1957 revealed that only 400 specimens of the Kashmir Stag is surviving in the region. This survey placed the rare deer species as one of the most endangered species of the Indian subcontinent along with Indian Rhino and Asiatic Lion.

 

Kashmir Stag - Struggling in the Survival Battle for half a century

 

In 1967, George B. Schaller , in his study of Kasmir Stag, estimated the population as 180 only. It was based on 88 deer observed in the region. So, despite identified as a rare animal a decade back, the population of this beautiful deer continued to decline.

In 1970, as per Wildlife Journal December issue authored by another naturalist Dr Holloway the population of Kashmiri Stag estimated as mere 140. Holloway also wrote that Hangul’s territory shrunk to an area of 65 kms wide. He said the area seemed to be overgrazed, with erosion becoming apparent due to grazing by thousands of cattle of Gujjars. This created red alarm among the wildlife organizations across the globe. The same year Government of India and Jammu and Kashmir along with IUCN and WWF launched a major conservation project named “Project Hangul”. Both the wildlife organizations along with the government, the project slowly showed results in later years.

The major inputs to the Project Hangul in the earlier stages were research and monitoring. Kahmir Stag’s habitat, terrotoriality, population dynamics and predotors, etc studied very closely. In 1977, there was a report of increase in Hanglu population. But a disease killed over 50 Hanguls in 1978. Dr Fred Kurt, who studied Hangul in Dachigam until 1979 gave some tips to J-K government over protection of Hangul and its habitat. Some intense conservation steps were taken in the Dachigam Sanctuary following these tips. Strict patrolling was started, the poaching of the stag reduced sgnificantly. Deforestation was banned and most of the Gujjars and Bakerwals living near the sanctuary were shifted by the government. The Dachigam was upgraded to National Park status in 1981. Also the project took special care for diseases amonng the haguls, wild fire, etc. All these hard work byt the project team started giving result when in 1980 the population for the Hanguls were reported as around 550. In 1987 it increased to around 800. In September-October 1988, the census conducted by department in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of Dehradun and Centre for Wildlife and Ornithology, Aligarh had put the population of Hangul in the area as high as 918 animals with 48:52 as male-female ratio. This was a real positive sign for the survival of the species.

But 1988 marks as the end of positive trend for Kasmir stag population. The same year, the political imbalance broke out in the sate Jammu and Kashmir. It was a big blow to the project Hangul and conservation of the Kashmir Stag. The cross border terrorism in the state affected the wildlife too along with many human lives. Militants killed Hanguls for meat and also poaching increased in the park due to loosen security measures. And the Hnguls suffered the most due to all these. There were disturbances in breeding grounds and final verdict was out when a 1996 survey revealed the hungul population to be just 110, the lowest ever recorded in the history!

The cross border terrorism is still an issue int the region, so the kashmir Stags are also continuing the struggle of survival. The census of 2004 estimated the population of Hangul at 197 while in 2008 it reduced to 127. The current a population of Kashmir Stag is estimated just around 220 (survey 2011). This means a slight rise from the last survey done in 2009 when the estimated population was near 170. The 2009 census indicated that for every 100 females, there are 27 males and 28 fawns as compared to 23 and 9 respectively in 2008.

Four decades past now, conservationists finding it difficult to grow the Kashmir Stag’s population from  150 in 1970 till date. It is now identified as critically endangered species in the red list of IUCN.

The Ministry of Environments and Forestry, India has already approved Rs 22 crores Species Recovery Plan for Hangul for a period of five years under the Species Recovery Programme of the “Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats”. This is a good hope for the rare species. But until the political stability is achieved the Hangul’s are in the mouth of great danger.

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Amazing Cave Story

Posted on 19 May 2012 by RE Team

Human race spent thousands of years inside caves in the process of evolution. The caves not only provides shelter to lives, but also home to various unique species till now. There are number of gigantic caves around the earth that have self sustaining ecosystem and create a different world inside themselves. In the modern world, the discovery of such cave is always a thrilling story, as they are normally hidden in the remote jungles or mountains lying unknowingly to humans preserving a world inside it untouched for thousands, may be millions of years.

 

The gigantic Hang Son Doong Cave - Coutesy NationalGeographic

 

Almost a year back such a spectecular cave was discovered in the Annamite Mountains of Vietnam. This cave is so huge in size that it contains a river, a  complete jungle and even its own thin clouds making the other side of the cave out of sight at times. It is large enough to accomodate a whole city with skyscrapper inside it. In fact we are talking about the largest cave passage in the world here, named as Hang Son Doong.  For decades, geologists have doubted that Vietnam could be home to some of the world’s most spectacular caves. But a large number of them were unexlored. British scientists from the British Cave Research Association, led by Howard and Deb Limbert, are the first to explore the cave. The cave is named as Hang Son Doong, means mountain river cave. Though credit of bringing the largest cave to the outside world goes to Howard and Limbert, yet the actual discovery credit of the cave goes to a local man named Hồ-Khanh.

Ho Khanh’s family lived in a nearby village and he has long story to tell about the discovery of the cave.

“I was born into a poor family. My father died, and my family had no rice fields, so I had to go to the jungle for work to support my family. Over a period of 13 years, I learnt the location of many caves in the areas I passed through.

In the rainy season of 1991, I went with two others to look for the aloe wood, which is very precious and exists deep in the jungle. It is very hard to find. We separated and I went through Hang En. The next day was raining very hard, so I looked for somewhere to stay for the night. Fortunately I found the entrance of an unknown cave. After the trip I returned home, and gradually forgot about this cave.

Mr Khanh - The discoverer of the cave

In 2006 I met the British Caving Expedition and took them to the Doong area, where they explored many caves. In 2007 I took them to the Doong area again for further cave exploration. On this trip we found Ho Nui Cave. Before the end of the trip I talked with Mr. Howard. Although we can’t speak the same language I knew that he was looking for a cave to connect Hang En, with another cave Hang Thoong, in the Tra Anh area.

I had a memory of a cave in this area, which maybe had a wind, and fog blowing from the entrance, but I couldn’t remember the location. I went off for an extra day searching for this cave, but unfortunately failed.
I didn’t want to give in. Because of my great admiration for the explorers’ abilities and their friendship, I wanted to show them this cave. In January 2008, I spent my own time and money to return to the Doong area to look for the entrance. Relying on my memory and experience, I followed the stream from Hang En, and fortunately found the big cave entrance in about half a day. I cut down some wild saplings to reach the entrance. Finally using my knowledge of the jungle, I found the best path to take the cavers to the entrance, and made it as easy as possible. It was now 2pm on the third day, so I returned to Phong Nha and waited for the expedition to return.
In March 2009 the expedition returned to Son Trach. On the first trip I really wanted to take Mr. Howard to the new cave, but another team came. At that time I was worried in case the cave was dry and not very long. But thank god, in this trip the cave length was measured at about 5k, and there was a large subterranean river. The explorers realized that this could be the largest cave passage in the world.

I believe that I have made them all especially Mr. Howard very pleased, because this is an important cave which connects the Doong area with the Tra Anh area.”
-courtesy vietnamcaves.com

So is the story of discovery of the largest cave passage in the world. The Son Doong cave measures 262 feet by 262 feet (80 meters by 80 meters) and at least 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) deep. The biggest chamber of Son Doong is over five kilometers in length, 200 meters high and 150 meters wide. This discovery overtook the size of Deer Cave, which held the record of the largest cave passage previously. Deer Cave in Malaysia, is 300 feet by 300 feet (91 m by 91 m) in parts, but is only about a mile (1.6 km) long.

 

Hang Son Doong - Couresy NationaGeographic

 

The Son Doong cave is located in in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park of Vietnam, near the Laos-Vietnam border. Phong Nha-Ke Bang area is noted for its cave and grotto systems as it is composed of 300 caves and grottos with a total length of about 70 km, of which only 20 have been surveyed by Vietnamese and British scientists. It is currently a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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When Predator and Prey Become Friends

Posted on 13 May 2012 by RE Team

Nature is designed in a way to keep the balance of the eco-system properly.It has created Predator and Prey to keep the balance only. The Predator never hunts for just fun, it makes a kill only when needed. The exception is only human beings. They kill for just fun and the balance is completely lost now.  In this article we are putting some wonderful examples captured by photographers where predator is not harming the prey at all when the predator is not in need.

Photographer Michel Denis-Huot captured some amazing pictures on safari in Kenya’s Masai Mara in 2009. These pictures depict how three cheetah examined, licked and played around a young oryx and finally let it go. Cheetahs were not hungry and they simply didn’t harm the prey at their hands!

 

Cheetah and Oryx - Predator friendship with Prey

 

Cheetahs didn't harm the Oryx when not needed

 

Another example is of a Shoebill, a known predator bird. Photographer Mark Kay captured an unusual event in the Diego Wild Animal Park in the U.S. A small duck straying around a water hole suddenly picked up by a giant Shoebill. The Shoebill took the duck between its beak and surprisingly it just took the duck away from that area and released it. The bill didn’t harm the duck too. Probably the duck moved into the bill’s personal space and he didn’t like it. So just moved it. As it was necessary, he didn’t kill the duck and released to the nature!

 

In the mouth of death

 

Duck released without any harm

 

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MOST CONCERNED ENDANGERED SPECIES

Photos of Nature