25 July 2013

Indian Owls vs Black Magic

How Black Magic is Threatening India's Owl Population

owl for salePhoto: © Abrar Ahmed
A round head, flat face, forward-facing eyes with some feathers around and the ability to rotate the head as much as 270 degrees in either direction. These are the distinguishing features that make owls instantly recognizable. But today, we humans are taking the lead in their habitat destruction by unprecedented tree cutting and illegal trading, according to a recent wildlife report. What is wrong with the human race? Do we have to destroy everything?
Dyed Owls 
Photo: © Abrar AhmedSpotted Owlet, Dyed Spotted Owlet with coloured eyes, and Dyed Spotted Owlet
For sale 
Photo: © Abrar Ahmed Spotted Owlet offered at Nakhas market, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
Owls are trapped and traded illegally in India because they are of great importance in many superstitious beliefs. Thus, these cute birds are used in black magic and sorcery. Referred to as ‘tantriks’, the black magic practitioners use owls and their various body parts in rituals and sacred ceremonies.
Body parts prescribed by a shaman (or tantrik) are the skull, bones, blood, claws, eyes, beak, liver, kidney, meat and eggshells. Some owl species with false “ear tufts” are supposed to bestow great magical powers and are therefore in great demand.
Owls parts for sale 
Photo: © Abrar Ahmed Owl parts for sale for folk medicinal use / black magic
Performance with owls' eggs 
Photo: © Girish V. JatharA tribal man performing using owl’s eggs in Maharasthra, India
The darkest time for owls in India is between mid-October and mid-November. This is the period when the great festival Diwali is celebrated and more owls disappear than at any other time. In this festival, the goddess of wealth and wisdom, Laxmi, is worshiped. The owl is regarded as the vehicle of Laxmi. Because owls are associated with wealth, the animals are sacrificed that day in the misguided belief that it will bring good luck, wealth and wisdom. The way this innocent wild animal is plundered to feed ignorant superstition is totally unacceptable.
Owl Trappers 
Photo: © Abrar AhmedOwl trappers
Photo: © George WangzhiyongTrapped owls
With the owls caught using bamboo poles, nets and various traps, their population is in serious danger. Bird catchers earn a lot and, getting paid up to 10,000 INR (USD 200-250), and thus try to catch this bird by any means. Out of 30 known species, 15 species are caught up in the trade: the spot-bellied eagle owl, spotted owlet, barn owl, Asian barred owlet, dusky eagle owl, collared owl, oriental scops owl, tawny fish owl, rock eagle owl, eastern grass owl, jungle owlet, brown fish owl, mottled wood owl, collared scops owl and the brown wood owl.
Photo: © Abrar AhmedOwls and owl parts confiscated from various sources (Kalander means street performers)
Photo: © Abrar Ahmed
Recently, a report titled 'Imperilled Custodians of the Night: A Study on Illegal Trade, Trapping and Use of Owls in India', written by Abrar Ahmed, was published by Traffic India, the wildlife trade-monitoring network of the WWF and IUCN. The report, based on various investigations and detailed studies, revealed how owl species are facing extinction because of black magic and the illegal trade. Even though the hunting and trading of Indian owl species is banned under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India, still they are highly sought after by traders.
Perhaps we are not fully aware of the ecological importance of owls. As a natural form of pest control, these natural predators control rodent populations and maintain and balance the food chain.
Street show 
Photo: © Abrar AhmedA street performer (kalander) with an owl
Owls are birds of prey, as they hunt other living things for food. Their excellent night vision and superb hearing play an important role in locating and attacking prey silently in darkness. We should not hunt them or sacrifice them as the totems of clairvoyants and mystics. It is sad to learn how some non-essential traditions in India are conflicting with an enlightened modern life style.
Though based on religious superstition, this issue is quite difficult to wipe out, but to raise awareness, one does not need to be a part of an NGO. The most practical approach would be to inform the local authorities right away of any of such trading taking place in front of your eyes. Let this unfortunate bird not to be the victim of superstition any longer.
Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owl

Courtesy: http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/news-black-magic-and-illegal-wildlife-trading-causing-dwindling-owl-population-india

23 July 2013

Indus River dolphin calves successfully rescued in eastern Pakistan

© WWF pakistan
© WWF Pakistan
© WWF Pakistan
Sukkur, Pakistan: A joint team of WWF-Pakistan and the Sindh Wildlife Department recently rescued two stray Indus River dolphin calves caught in a canal in eastern Pakistan.

The calves, a male and female, were stranded in the Dehar Wah canal for two hours before the successful rescue saw them released 80 km downstream.

Joint rescue teams from WWF-Pakistan and the Sindh Wildlife Department regularly carry out these operations. The stranded dolphins are carefully captured, placed on a stretcher, kept moist with water and wet towels, and transported in a sound-proof vehicle and released in the main stream of the Indus River.

The stranding of Indus River dolphins in irrigation canals is a potential threat to their existing population. Dolphins regularly travel back and forth into irrigation canals when canal gates are open and during canal closure the water level drops and dolphins become trapped in small pools with depleting fish supply.

Intensive fishing in canals during closure period also aggravates the risk of net entanglements of these endangered dolphins.

Since January 2013, four successful rescue operations have been carried out resulting in the rescue of five dolphins.

WWF-Pakistan launched the first phase of the “Indus River Dolphin Conservation Project” (IRDCP) in 2004 with the goal of preserving the dolphin’s genetic variability, conserving the biological diversity of the lower Indus River eco-system, ensuring sustainable use of river biological diversity and promoting actions to ease pollution and wasteful extraction of river resources, the second phase was launched in 2007.

The Indus River Dolphin Conservation Project focuses on the root causes of biodiversity loss by linking the protection of the Indus River Dolphin with measures in the agricultural and fisheries sectors.

Eco-tourism is also part of the project with dolphin watching tours and the new Indus Dolphin Conservation Centre in Sukkur. The project combines conservation work with the improvement of the livelihood of local communities.

The Indus River dolphin is one of the world's rarest mammal and most endangered cetaceans. A 2011 dolphin population survey estimated the population to be 1,297 individuals.

Courtesy: http://wwf.panda.org/?209334%2FIndus-River-dolphin-calves-successfully-rescued-in-eastern-Pakistan

21 July 2013

Thol to be thrilled

Publication: The Times Of India Ahmedabad; Date: Jul 20, 2013; Section: Front Page; Page: 1

Guj govt to kill Thol with rly track Allows Freight Corridor Close To Sanctuary Himanshu Kaushik | TNN

Ahmedabad: A Gujarat government decision allowing railway tracks within 700 metres of Thol bird sanctuary has ruffled many feathers.

    The state forest department has recently approved a proposal to allow tracks for a dedicated freight corridor, a move environment activists say will disturb the safe haven for winged visitors that throng the lake from across the globe. Officials say the decision is a violation of Supreme Court order and a notification of Union ministry of forests and environment. As per a SC judgment, no new infrastructure projects can be allowed within 10 km of a sanctuary till the state government earmarks an eco-sensitive zone.

    The state government has in-principle decided to have an area of 2 km around the sanctuary marked as eco-sensitive zone. Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) Corporation of India has undertaken the project to create additional rail infrastructure to provide an efficient, cost-effective transport system. The DFC will significantly reduce freight costs and with the shifting of freight trains on DFC it would generate line capacity for additional passenger trains.

    A member of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) Prerna Bindra has in her report pointed out that the land use around Thol is changing rapidly with large residential and commercial complexes coming up in the vicinity. Bindra has suggested that eco-sensitive zone under the Environment Protection Act must be demarcated for the sanctuary prior to sanctioning the project.

    A study commissioned by NBWL was carried out recently to gauge the nature of threat and disturbance that the project might cause to the birds in Thol. Every year the sanctuary hosts cranes, geese, flamingos, pelicans, egrets, herons, spoonbills, ducks and whistling teals.

17 July 2013

Wildlife Institute of India to study tigers in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve

To know about density, abundance and demographic ratio of tigers, the wildlife wing of the forest department for the first time will implement a research project titled 'Long-term monitoring of tigers, co-predators and prey species in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) and adjoining landscapes'.
On June 25, the state government gave its go ahead to the Rs1.64 crore project which will be implemented by Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, on 70:30 cost sharing basis between the state government and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
The project, submitted by WII tiger scientist Bilal Habib, is for a five-year period and will be intensively implemented in five protected areas (PAs) and its corridors soon.
The PAs include TATR, Navegaon National Park, Nagzira, Bor and Chaprala wildlife sanctuaries. The study, to be conducted in two phases, will include capacity building of local staff for managing man-animal conflict.
"The memorandum of understanding (MoU) is ready and it will sent to the WII this week. Of the Rs1.64 crore, Rs46 lakh will be given by the state while remaining funds will come from the NTCA," said Virendra Tiwari, chief conservator of forests (CCF) & field director, TATR. In a letter to chief wildlife warden SWH Naqvi, the government has authorized field director to sign the MOU.
Tiwari told TOI that TATR landscape is one of the most important landscapes in Central India and is crucial for long-term conservation of tigers in the region. The area has witnessed highest number of conflict cases in the recent past. The study would investigate dynamics of tigers, co-predators and their prey.
TATR has been extensively mapped. Hence, in the first year, mapping of current land-use pattern, infrastructure, mining areas, villages, roads, power transmission lines, demographic profile, livestock population, dispersal corridors, prey and predator occupancy etc in the landscape surrounding TATR will be done.
The first year of the project will evaluate these factors to provide crucial information about surrounding landscape in terms of capability to sustain tiger dispersal or act as corridor for tigers dispersing from TATR.
The WII researchers will also study population density apart from abundance and demographic structure of tigers. Capture-recapture, distance sampling method and spatially explicit approaches will be used to achieve the objective.
"The exercise will be carried out on an annual basis and hence there will be no need to carry the Phase IV exercise to monitor tigers during the duration of the project," officials told TOI.
Officials informed that as part of the exercise, five tigers and as many leopards will be fixed with satellite radio-collars within TATR. Monitoring of village relocation sites will also be done as these will provide the impact of relocation. In TATR, first relocation happened in 1975 followed by 2007 and 2013.
During the entire monitoring programme, two-three such cycles will be carried out. Besides, socio-economic aspects of tiger and leopard conflict and village surveys once in three years will also be conducted. Food habits of tigers and co-predators will also be part of the study.

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN Jul 16, 2013, 01.09AM IST

- See more at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/category/thesaurus/wildlife#sthash.UuUGABG5.dpuf

- See more at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/category/thesaurus/wildlife#sthash.UuUGABG5.dpuf