Saturday, August 20, 2005

Urgent: Langur Needed

If anyone knows how to contact a "langur handler" in Delhi--the men who hire out their langurs by the day, week or month in order to scare away the more aggressive urban monkey troops--please let me know through the comments section as soon as possible.
The old band of monkey brothers who used to drop by were never a hassle; they'd sleep in the branches of the tree, do the occasional raid on dog food, but that was about it. A few days back, a new bunch drove out the first band; this one is composed largely of teenage males and adults fighting for dominance and babies, which makes for a very aggressive combination.
So if you know of langurs who're willing to work Sundays--get in touch. As soon as possible; these rhesus macaques are picking on my kittens.

Friday, August 19, 2005

You Can't Be Coldblooded

An interview with Ullas Karanth in the NYT:
Q. Have you ever gotten emotionally involved with the animals you were observing?

A. Objective scientists aren't supposed to, but I have. During the early 1990's, I was putting radio collars on tigers and leopards at Nagarahole reserve in southern India and then tracking their behavior.

With time, this one leopard got really quite habituated to me. For two years, I'd follow him at night. I had a little laboratory in the middle of the forest, and this leopard used to come around at midnight frequently and I'd hear his call.

Even half asleep, I'd turn on my receiver and when I'd pick up his signals, I felt, oh, O.K., there's my leopard. But one morning, his signal read as if he was lying inactive somewhere in the forest and I really got worried.

When I finally located him, he was strung up like a lynching victim. The leopard had walked into a snare some poacher had set up for deer. Yes, I know, leopards have high mortality rates, and I'm not supposed to feel emotion. But when this happens to a creature you know, you can't be coldblooded.

Incidents like this happen every day and their toll on animal life is cumulative. The killers are usually local people trying to get some protein.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

R.I.P. Hobra

This crossbreed of a horse and a zebra had originally been rescued from a circus and was kept in a small room at the Byculla Zoo for most of his life. While CZA rules do not permit public displays of crossbreeds, activists have been trying to move the animal to a more spacious environment.
Animal activists feel that many circuses illegally cross-breed species for added public attraction. "There are cross-breeds like tigon (male tiger with female lion) or liger (male lion with female tiger) that are created for scientific study. But in circuses, such cross breeding like the hobra should never be allowed as it is unlawful and unnatural," said secretary of Bombay SPCA J C Khanna.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Its beak can hold more than its bellycan

Think of it as an Independence Day present.
The Independence Day horticultural show at Lalbagh in Bangalore has a new attraction this year: five spot-billed Pelicans, deemed an endangered species, were sighted at the Lalbagh lake. The birds were spotted on Friday by Mr J Ramesh, wildlife photographer and artist, who has been engaged in bird-watching at Lalbagh since 1993. “This is a pleasant surprise,” he says. The attraction for the birds, he adds, could be the fish in the recently-desilted lake.

Grisly evidence

I'm trying to figure out how many slaughtered snow bears and wild pigs it takes to fill nine cartons with animal hair. Something tells me I really don't want to know.

From The Kolkata Telegraph:
A consignment of nine cartons of animal hair, seized at the Tatanagar railway station last week, has been traced to Nepal and adjoining areas of north Bihar.
The state forest department officials said the hairs, 8 to 10 centimetres long belonged to wild animals, namely snow bears and wild pigs.

College fests: garbage pail kids?

A bunch of students who got together to form the Green Festival Initiative would like college fests to clean up their act:
The GFI team collected over 63,000 branded Pepsi and Nestle cups. Pet bottles totalled 2,700, along with 43,000 plastic spoons and forks.
The banner audit showed that 16,459 sq feet of banners made of PVC or other plastic material were put up by 23 sponsors. Hutch, Nokia and Sunsilk accounted for 14,400 sq ft, or 91 percent of the non-biodegradable banners.

That was generated by the hugely popular IIT Madras festival, which is right near a wildlife sanctuary:
The sanctuary has about 3,000 spotted deer (about 300 of them roaming in the IIT area itself) and about 700 blackbucks, besides monkeys, foxes, pangolins and a variety of birds.
Supervisor of IIT's civic team, K.S. Pannerselvam said, "Attracted by the sweet residues in disposable cups, monkeys and deer often consume the entire container and sometime they die."

Given the intelligence and creativity of the average IIT student, I'm pretty sure they can come up with a solution--perhaps one that could be exported to other college fests across the country.

The tiger doesn't get a cut

Peter Foster reports in The Standard:
Tourists who pay up to 30,000 rupees to watch Indian tigers from luxurious eco-lodge hotels are contributing almost nothing to the animals' well-being or their parks, according to a new conservation report.
Its findings will astonish tourists who visit parks such as Ranthambore Reserve in Rajasthan and leave convinced that, with their patronage, they are helping to save the species.

The report he's quoted from, Joining the Dots, is controversial. Valmik Thapar doesn't agree with the conclusions of the Tiger Task Force, while Sunita Narain defends their position.
In absolute terms, you've got to agree with Valmik, who's seen attempts at conservation and resettling humans around tiger sanctuaries come up against realpolitik time after time--and the ones who pay the price are the animals we're supposed to be protecting. Sunita Narain's platform is pragmatism, which is another way of saying that there isn't much you can do about a situation where humans encroach on sanctuary space except try and handle it, since it's going to happen anyway.
And you can't get a soundbyte from a tiger; so the focus always stays on the sufferings of humans, with the sufferings of the animals who are forced to live with us on our terms blanketed in silence.