Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The turtle twixt plated decks...

It's been a strange year for turtles, especially the endangered Olive Ridleys. The Indian government has signed an MoU that might protect them... but Greenpeace India warns that a new port project at Dhamra poses a potentially deadly threat to thousands of turtles. They're running a "Don't Say Tata to the Turtles" campaign:
"The proposed port is to be located close to the Bhitarkanika National Park, a major nesting ground for the endangered Olive Ridleys (1). In recent years, as many as 250,000 turtles have been known to nest at the Gahirmatha beach in one season, making it the world's largest rookery...
"The huge and prolonged construction activity that a port of this size will require will severely disturb the ecosystem. Once the port is functional, the increased volumes of shipping traffic will wreak havoc in the offshore turtle congregation zones. Moreover, the resulting pollution from oil spills and chemical leaks will pollute the waters and eventually drive off the Ridleys" said Sanjiv Gopal, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace India."

And this is kind of sad, but the tsunami that destroyed the lives of so many people and crippled sections of the fishing industry actually did turtles a good turn, according to this report by Harsh Kabra:

"The highly endangered Olive Ridley turtles have had a safe breeding season this year along the coast of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Large numbers of the Lepidochelys oliveacea turtles are normally killed when they get entangled in trawler fishing nets.
But fishing activity in 2005 was significantly reduced because of last December's tsunami. Fishermen lost their equipment in the disaster and were scared to venture out to sea. As a result, very few turtle deaths were reported during the November-April breeding and nesting period."

The lives of the Limuli

The horseshoe crab is one of the oldest species on the planet; I remember it only because it has a wonderfully lilting name, but Gautam Pandey has just done an important film on the small living fossil. S Radhika reports on Limulus Polyphemus in The Indian Express:

"Until about three years ago, Gautam Pandey hadn’t seen a horseshoe crab. So, when he came across a washed up crab, upturned, on the sands of Balasore, Orissa, he didn’t quite know the discovery he’d stumbled upon. The crew, his father Mike Pandey’s, was shooting turtles but the upstart shell got Gautam wondering.
...The humble living fossil became the hero of Timeless Traveller: The Horseshoe Crab—grabbing the spotlight at the International Wildlife Film Festival at France—and Gautam, the crab advocate.
Here was an ‘‘animal’’ that barely moved, had no impressive stripes or spots, not a sound but crawling on a stealer of a story—16 ice ages, 562 million years and not a change. A fossil carrying a veritable medical store, with documented medical value in countering osteoporosis and diabetes with research on for possible cures for AIDS, given the immunity powerhouse it is. But there was another story—the crab that successfully saw off dinosaurs and mammoths might just give up with man."

Waiter, there's an elephant in my soup

From The Times of India:
"Agriculture minister K. Sreenivasa Gowda truly had an elephantine problem in his hands on Saturday. A rampaging pachyderm got into his house, behind Shivananda Circle, and damaged the garden and a door.
Just moments earlier, it had uprooted a tree and damaged surroundings of Gowda's house. The hungry elephant was being paraded on the road when it saw greenery around the minister's house and made a dash for it.
The police diverted traffic and summoned forest department officials. But the giant creature could be pacified only by its regular mahout, who cajoled it with some food and dragged it away from more trouble. The elephant was being cared for by a stand-in mahout on Saturday, who could not control it."

It sounds pretty sensational, but then I guess "hungry elephant gets his greens in minister's garden" wouldn't have made a story at all. It had to be a "rampaging" "giant creature", just so that we could feel a sense of threat, instead of wondering why the poor thing was being paraded on an empty stomach and by a strange mahout--elephants tend to get very attached to their regular mahouts, and don't seem to enjoy changes in personnel.

Stephen Alter had a lovely passage in his book, Elephas Maximus:
"Both Rajappan and I saw the elephants at the same moment. They were swimming about fifty feet from shore, rolling over on the surface, almost like whales or porpoises. The water was not very deep, and when they stood, I could see the upper half of their bodies. Soon afterward, the elephants started to wade out on to the bank, their trunks waving and their black silhouettes like fluid shadows emerging from the lake. They were a small herd of six cows and two calves, the youngest of which was probably a year old. Standing in the shallows at the edge of the reservoir, they sprayed themselves and seemed reluctant to leave the water...
For half an hour we watched the herd before they started to move off.... The colours and contrasts in the landscape were muted now that the sun was directly overhead, but the elephants, still wet from their bath, stood out sharply against a backdrop of dense forest and scalloped hills. Their movements were graceful and unrestrained. No mahouts were seated on their backs. No human commands directed them. No chains or ropes held them in place. As the elephants made their way towards the trees, they moved not as in a procession or parade. Instead they seemed to drift through the grass with absolute freedom, guided only by the shared instincts of a herd, the companionship of their own kind."

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

"A choice between kindness and cruelty"

From this profile of Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA:

"The people who get really, really angry, Newkirk responds, are those "who have businesses that test [cosmetics and medical procedures] on animals, that kill animals for food, depend on caging animals for the fur trade. Those people are very anxious to demonize me so that will scare people away from listening to the message," which is that you do have a choice between kindness and cruelty."
That's the theme of her chatty, emotional new book, "Making Kind Choices." There's more sorrow than anger in its 472 pages, which show how the world around us - of food, fashion, cosmetics - is filled with unbearable pain for animals that cannot speak, except through their torment and misery. The book brims with ideas about how to make consumer choices that are friendly to animals and the environment.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Vishakha SPCA

Dogs have been wedged into the cage by vindictive methods...strangling their necks by a hook, which cuts down their guts and most often subjects them to the cruellest of deaths by being beaten with iron rubber rods on the forehead.
Dogs collected from different places are crammed into a small container...This three-month-old puppy could not defend against the pressure of the big dogs, and was strangled in between the grill till it died.
There were already more than twenty-three dogs crushed. One dog kept trying to rise to his feet but could not. He struggled before collapsing under the scorching sun, blood oozing out of his nose, legs and neck broken.
These are a few extracts from a report compiled on the condition of animals at Visakhapatnam rural. Says the Vishakha SPCA, the solution lies in updating animal welfare laws. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 is exhaustive but the deterrents are ridiculously inadequate: it imposes a fine of Rs 50 for any violation. VSPCA has been conducting an Animal Birth Control Programme in the Visakhapatnam Municipality limits since February 1999, in place of gruesome killings by electric current.

Visit the site of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights to learn about a visit by their team in May 2005 to two animal shelters assisted by AVAR in the aftermath of the tsunami.
Bachman and Bannasch worked side by side with Visakha SPCA President Pradeep Nath for more than 12 hours each day to improve the medical care offered to the approximately 700 animals (dogs, cats, cattle and other species) living at the shelter... The primary accomplishments of the visit include:

Improving anesthetic protocols for all animals sterilized by the Visakha SPCA. That included revamping the injectable anesthetic protocol to allow for quicker recovery of street dogs sterilized by the Visakha SPCA. (The VSPCA plans to start mobile spay/neuter operations in area villages.) The AVAR team also supplied and trained the Visakha SPCA staff in the use of a new gas anesthesia machine.

Developing better sanitation protocols for the entire shelter and improving animal intake/animal traffic flow to improve disease control and prevention. The AVAR team also worked with the Visakha SPCA to introduce a new vaccination program that will control the spread of distemper and parvo, both a major problem in the area.

Introducing diagnostic capabilities with the use of a microscope, centrifuge, and veterinary textbooks provided to the shelter. The shelter will now be able to differentiate between skin diseases and check for problems with various parasites.

Improving surgical aseptic techniques, including providing the shelter with a new autoclave.

Helping provide better surgical aftercare for the animals, including purchasing pads that the dogs can recover on, as opposed to lying on the cement floors after surgery.

Train runs over tigress at Dudhwa

This is the third instance of a big cat being run over in the national park, the only one in Uttar Pradesh, which has about 140 tigers, a forest officer said. Elephants have also met with a similar fate, he added, citing the running over of three cubs by a goods train last June.

Big cat lovers had made a big noise in 1987 after eight tigers were found poisoned in the Dudhwa park and two run over by trains. They had demanded that the tracks be removed as trains made it easier for poachers to access the park.

It is when they are crossing the tracks to drink water that the animals get run over. Says Billy Arjan Singh, rightly, if the tigers die, the forests will too.

96 elephants? Or 28?

Let's count again, say foresters at Dalma, where, according to this Telegraph report, the number of elephants has slipped to 28 from 96 two years ago.