Friday, December 31, 2010

Asiatic Elephants

Asiatic Elephant
(Elephas maximus)

  • Discription : The Asian Elephant is slightly smaller than its African relatives; the easiest way to distinguish the two is that the Asian elephant has smaller Ears. The Asian Elephant tends to grow to around 2 to 3.6 metres (6.6 to 11.8 ft) in height and 3,000–5,000 kilograms (6,600–11,000 lb) in weight. The Asian Elephant has other differences from its African relatives, including a more arched back than the African, one semi-prehensile "finger" at the tip of its trunk as opposed to two, four nails on each hind foot instead of three, and 19 pairs of ribs instead of 21. Also, unlike the African Elephant, the female Asian Elephant usually lacks tusks; if tusks — in that case called "tushes" — are present, they are barely visible, and only seen when the female opens her mouth. Asian elephants are highly intelligent and self-aware, and they have a very large and highly convoluted neocortex, a trait also shared by humans, apes and certain dolphin species. The sizes of elephants in the wild have been exaggerated in the past. However, record elephants may have measured as high as 3.7 metres (12 ft) at the shoulder.
  • Distribution and population: The Asian Elephant population is officially listed as highly endangered and is under threat across the whole of its current range. The situation is so serious that the elephant is in real danger of being extinct within three generations.

    Six thousand years ago the Asian elephant ranged over a vast area spreading from what is now modern day Iraq and Syria, across the whole swathe of the Indian sub continent, southeast Asia and up into central China. Large populations were also found on the islands of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Borneo. It is reasonable to assume that elephant numbered in the millions. As human populations increased the elephant came under pressure and its range began to reduce but even in the 17th century the numbers of elephants were vast. We know for a fact that the Moghul Emperor Jehangir had 113,000 captive elephants in his Empire.

    No accurate figure are available for a hundred years ago but in Thailand alone it is estimated that there were over 100,000 elephants so extrapolating by taking Thailand’s current percentage of the population we can estimate that in 1900 there were as many as a million elephants across Asia. Today the total stand at between 38,534 and 52,566 wild elephants and 14,535 and 15,300 domesticated elephants in Asia with perhaps another 1,000 scattered around zoos in the rest of the world.

Asian elephant population figures

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr
(Nilgiritragus hylocrius)

  • Discription: The Nilgiri Tahrs are stocky goats with short, coarse fur and a bristly mane. Males are larger than the females, and have a darker color when mature. Both sexes have curved horns, which are larger in the males, reaching up to 40 cm for males and 30 cm for females. Adult males weigh 80–100 kg and stand about 100 cm tall at the shoulder. Adult males develop a light grey area or "saddle" on their backs and are hence called "saddlebacks".

  • Distribution: Nilgiri tahr is endemic to the Nilgiri Hills and the Southern portion of Western Ghats in the state of Tamilnadu and Kerala in Southern India. It is the state animal of Tamil Nadu.

  • Habitat: These tahrs inhabit the open montane grasslands habitat of the South Western Ghats montane rain forests ecoregion. At elevations from 1200 to 2600 m (generally above 2000 m), the forests open into grasslands interspersed with pockets of stunted forests, known as Sholas. These grassland habitats are surrounded by dense forests at the lower elevations. The Nilgiri Tahrs formerly ranged over these grasslands in large herds, but hunting and poaching in the nineteenth century reduced their population to as few as 100 animals by the early 20th century. Since that time their populations have increased somewhat, and presently number about 2000 individuals. Their range extends over 400 km from north to south, and Eravikulam National Park is home to the largest population. The other significant concentration is in the Nilgiri Hills, with smaller populations in the Anamalai Hills,Periyar National Park, Palni Hills and other pockets in the Western Ghats south of Eravikulam, almost to India's southern tip.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cinereous Vulture

Cinereous Vulture 
(Aegypius monachus)

  • The  Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus) is also known as the Black Vulture, Monk Vulture, or Eurasian Black Vulture. It is a member of the family Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as Kites, buzzards and harriers.
  • Huge, broad-winged vulture, short, often slightly wedge-shaped tail; all dark brown. Juveniles are blackish. One of the largest Old World vultures. Bare skin of head and neck bluish grey; head covered with blackish down. Massive beak. Sexes alike. Voice Little used and quite unspecialised. Calls include croaks, grunts, and hisses when feeding at carcasses; also querulous mewing, loud squalling or roaring during breeding season.
  •  It inhabits forested areas in hills and mountains at 300-1,400 m in Spain, but higher in Asia, where it also occupies scrub and arid and semi-arid alpine steppe and grasslands up to 4,500m5. It forages over many kinds of open terrain, including forest, bare mountains, steppe and open grasslands. Nests are built in trees or on rocks (the latter extremely rarely in Europe but more frequently in parts of Asia), often aggregated in very loose colonies or nuclei. Its diet consists mainly of carrion from medium-sized or large mammal carcasses, although snakes and insects have been recorded as food items. Live prey is rarely taken. 
  • The two main threats to the species are direct mortality caused by humans (either accidentally or deliberately) and decreasing availability of food. The main cause of unnatural death is the use of poisoned baits for predator extermination, although shooting and destruction of nests also occur, Shooting and poisoning are increasing in Mongolia, and many birds are trapped or shot in China for their feathers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Indian Desert Cat

Desert Cat
(Felis Silvestris)

  • Asiatic Wildcat (Felis Silvestris Ornata), also known as the Asian Steppe Wildcat or Indian Desert Cat, is a subspecies of Wildcat that primarily inhabits the Rajasthan Desert and in Rann of Kutch in India. It is about the size of a Domestic Cat with a pale yellowish body marked with black spots.

  • The mother chooses a secluded den for having her young. 2-3 Kittens are born after a 65 days gestation period. They nurse for about one month and then begin to follow mother on hunting trips. They are independent at six months, but litter mates may travel together longer.

  • The Indian Desert Cat primarily hunts rodents. Birds such as doves, partridges, peacocks and sparrows are also part of their diet. A mother was observed teaching her kittens to hunt by bringing them injured gerbils.

    • Indian Desert Cats can survive without drinking water, getting moisture from prey.
    • They are known to live near human settlements.
    • This species is so closely related to the Asian Wild Cat and the African Wild Cat, it is thought to be the same species.
    • It is fully protected only in India and Pakistan.The Indian Desert Cat has been poached extensively for its prized skin. In 1979, traders in India declared stocks of 41,845 pelts for an export amnesty. Currently, there is little international trade in these pelts.
    • There is some disagreement as to the status of this little cat. In India, the eastern limit of its range, the Wildlife Institute of India, considers that 90% of the species’ habitat in India has been lost. On the other hand another study in western Rajasthan, noted that the introduced mesquite tree, which provides favorable habitat for the wildcat, was spreading extensively in various regions of the Indian desert allowing for perfect habitat for it.
    • Hybridization with domestic cats has been reported from Pakistan and India. Hybrid offspring are often found near villages.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Animal Poaching in India

Problem Of Poaching In The Country And Illegal Trade In Wildlife Body Parts And Derivatives :

Increased human and cattle population in our country has led to pressure on forest resources which has ultimately caused fragmentation and degradation of wildlife habitats. This, along with the increase in wildlife population in Protected Areas have resulted in wildlife spilling over to other areas. Resultantly, increased man-animal conflicts leading to revenge killings and poaching are discernible. Though India is not a consumer of wildlife body parts, the demand from other countries for these with lucrative profits is a threat to wildlife. 

Reasons for man-animal conflict : 

Qualitative and quantitative decline of wildlife habitat including loss of prey base are main reasons for such a situation.

Poaching Of Major Wild Animals :

The wildlife products traded illegally from the country are Musk Deer for cosmetics, Bear for skin and bear bile, Elephant Tusk for ivory, Rhino horns for aphrodisiac, Tiger and Leopard skins for fashion products, oriental medicines and food, Snakes and Monitor Lizard skins for leather industry, Birds for pet trade and feather for decoration, Swiftlet nests for soups, Mongoose for bristles, Turtles for meat and soup, and Tibetan Antelope for shawls. It is estimated that quantum of trade in wildlife products is just next to narcotics, valued at nearly 20 billion dollars in the global market, of this more than one third is illegal.

Illicit tranboundary trade in tiger body parts has increased due to lucrative prices offered for tiger bones in particular. As per one estimate (1999) 10 gms. of tiger bones fetch a price of US$ 24.25 at the China-Vietnam border, i.e above Rs. 1 lakhs per kg. In Japan, trade in tiger parts and products was permitted till April, 2000. This has now been banned after persuasion by the global conservation community. Difficulties being faced by developing countries like India in controlling illicit trade in tiger parts and products, have been brought to the notice of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) time and again. The Convention has appealed to the International Community to support India in it's efforts for conserving tigers.

The list of poaching cases of major wild animals detected in various states during the last three years :

Reported cases of Tiger Poaching:

14383935  47  8

Reported cases of Leopard Poaching :

288020169 87 15

Friday, February 20, 2009

Endangered species - 1

Bengal Tiger

We all know that the survival of Tiger and other big cats in India is under threat. Elsewhere, some subspecies of tigers, such as the Caspian, the Java, and the Bali, are thought to be extinct already. At the beginning of the 20th century, about 40,000 tigers roamed India’s forests. Over the years their numbers have dwindled. This is because their habitat has progressively been destroyed and because they have been hunted for their skin and certain bones that are thought to have healing powers in Chinese medicine.

Concerning the effect of the lack of proper habitat on tigers, the book The Secret Life of Tigers says: “Populations of tigers can only increase when the area of forests that they live in increases. When this does not happen, tigers control their own population by fatal disputes among themselves over food and territory.”

How do other wild cats fare on Indian soil? At a zoo in Junagadh, Gujarat, a visitor came across an empty cage. The sign outside the cage had a picture of an Asiatic cheetah and a message written in Gujarati, which read: “The cheetah became extinct in India in the 1950’s.”

Asiatic cheetah are already vanished from Asian soil... at least we can save Tiger and Lion. Save them they are a very important link of wild life and food chain.