The Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT) recently launched a website and released a report titled "A Policy Framework for Connectivity Conservation and Smart Green Linear Infrastructure in the Central Indian and Eastern Ghats Tiger Landscape." According to Milind Pariwakam, a wildlife biologist at WCT, while several reports, studies, and guidelines aim to address the issue of mitigating the negative impacts of such linear infrastructure on natural landscapes and conserving the connectivity that they offer to small populations of endangered species of wildlife, there is a lack of timely information on whether a particular project is likely to affect corridor/s.
Pariwakam further states that this report primarily seeks to address this specific lacuna by leveraging on earlier work by other entities and presents a way forward for better planning of linear infrastructure without compromising on the connectivity needs of wildlife. The same framework with improvements can be adopted by the statutory agencies for the other three important tiger landscapes in India, namely, the Western Ghats, Shivalik-Gangetic Landscape and the North East Indian Landscape by incorporating information on the corridors and proposed projects in the respective landscapes. Work is in progress on the other three reports.
MSc student, University of Delhi
Kanha Tiger Reserve, a popular tiger tourism destination, is a mixed forest characterised by
patches of sal, bamboo and beautiful vast grasslands. These different habitats support a large
population of ungulates - a diverse group of hoofed mammals. Ungulates like chital, chinkara, wild buffalo and many others form a major part of tiger diet. In fact, survival of large carnivores such as tigers depends directly on the prey base or the ungulate density. Understanding specific requirements of different ungulates is hence crucial for maintaining a healthy and diverse ungulate population and in turn high tiger numbers.
In a recent study, researchers from Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Madhya Pradesh
Forest Department, Mandla, documented the effect of human use, season and habitat on
ungulate density in Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Researchers walked on 200
pre-determined paths covering 1200 sq km for estimating densities of six species of ungulates
which were barasingha, barking deer, chital, gaur, sambar and wild pig for each management
area and habitat type. Kanha Tiger Reserve (KTR) contains two management areas, first is
the core area which contains no human settlement and second is the buffer zone which is a
multiple use area with human settlements and is often comparatively more disturbed. The
study considered 4 different habitat types in KTR which were grassland, pure sal forest,
miscellaneous forest and bamboo mixed forest.
The study finds that the ungulate biomass in the core area is much higher, almost 4.8 times, in the core area compared to the buffer zone. Among all ungulates studied, chital was the most abundant with higher density in the core area compared to the buffer zone. A consistent result was obtained for both gaur and sambar. Barking deer and wild pig densities showed no marked difference in the two management areas. Nilgai was the only ungulate with higher densities in the buffer zone compared to the core area whereas barasingha and chousingha had no records from the buffer zone in this study. Absence of these two rare and endangered species from the buffer zone which has moderate to heavy human disturbance and their restricted presence in the core area highlights the need to maintain intact core areas which provide critical habitats for threatened species. To put simply, ungulates don’t like humans except maybe nilgai.
Senior Research Associate, Columbia University, New York, USA
Post updated on 4/25/2018
Are you interested in science, art, and sloth bear? Then you must check out this wonderful pictorial handbook published by The Corbett Foundation, and authored by NCCI members Aniruddha Dhamorikar, Kedar Gore, and Harendra Singh Bargali. The handbook is one of the outcomes from a project titled "Dynamics of Human–Sloth Bear Conflict in the Kanha-Pench Corridor, Madhya Pradesh, India" funded by the DeFries-Bajpai Foundation.
This handbook utilizes beautiful easy-to-understand illustrations to explain DOs and DON'Ts in case of an encounter with Sloth Bears (Melursus ursinus), locally called bhaloo or reech. Sloth Bear is legally protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 along with the tiger and the leopard. However, they are threatened because of merciless killing and habitat destruction. The content of this handbook is based on the findings from a study on human-sloth bear conflicts in Balaghat, Seoni, and Mandla districts of Madhya Pradesh.
This handbook has been endorsed by Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, and is being made freely available among the local communities. A Hindi version of this handbook was also prepared for a wider outreach in the Kanha-Pench Corridor as well as other conflict-affected areas of Central India. It was officially released on April 23, 2018 at Bandhavgarh National Park (Madhya Pradesh) celebrating 50 years of the park.
Dhamorikar, A. H., Mehta, P., Bargali, H., Gore, K. (2017). Characteristics of human - sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) encounters and the resulting human casualties in the Kanha-Pench corridor, Madhya Pradesh, India. PLoS ONE 12(4): e0176612.
PhD student, National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India
‘Sunday ho ya Monday… Roz khao ande!!’ says the tagline of National Egg Co-ordination Committee. Loosely translated it means ‘doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, have an egg every day!’ It was also made into a television commercial which became hugely popular in the 1990s in India. It is difficult to say how much that advertisement contributed to the demand, but egg production has been increasing steadily over the last 4 decades at around 6-8% every year. Not just eggs, the demand for chicken meat has also been increasing. This has transformed the once unorganized backyard poultry farming into a commercial production system.
One of the major challenges facing the poultry industry is controlling disease outbreaks. The birds are routinely pumped with antibiotics and vaccines. However, vaccines do not always ensure that the diseases are kept at bay. One such disease that can affect the birds despite regular vaccination against it is the Newcastle disease. It is named after the populous city in North Eastern England where it was first identified. It is a fatal disease caused by a virus that goes by the same name, the Newcastle disease virus. This disease is reported from across the globe and is caused by 18 known variants, numbered from I to XVIII, of the Newcastle disease virus (NDV). Some variants are highly virulent, causing severe, often fatal infection and some cause mild symptoms.
Five Newcastle disease outbreaks were reported from Nagpur region of central India between 2006 and 2012. Researchers from Nagpur Veterinary College and Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati carried out a study to investigate the outbreaks, examine the variant of Newcastle disease virus that was responsible for them and virulence (ability to cause severe infection) of the virus.
The researchers collected tissue samples from brain, lungs, liver and other organs of chickens that had died in each of the outbreaks. Additionally, they took blood from both ailing and dead chickens.
In order to examine the virulence, the researchers injected the virus obtained from the samples collected into the brain of healthy one day old chicks. These chicks were observed for 8 days and they were given a score based on the severity of disease symptoms. Higher the score, higher is the virulence. The average time to death of the chicks was also used as an indicator of virulence. If the virus is highly virulent, it causes severe infection leading to death within a few days. Researchers found that the virus variant responsible for the disease outbreaks in Nagpur region was highly virulent.
Furthermore, the researchers also identified the variant, among I to XVIII, of the virus that was responsible for the outbreaks. For this the researchers extracted the genetic material of the virus obtained from the samples collected. They compared the genetic data generated from the Nagpur samples with the known variants of NDV reported from around the world. Researchers identified the Nagpur variant as XIIIb.
Why is knowing the variant important? Similarity or ‘match’ between the virus variant and the vaccine is one of the main factors that determines the effectiveness of a vaccine to prevent disease.
By Aniruddha Dhamorikar
Featuring research supported by the DeFries-Bajpai Foundation
It is hard to tell if it is the same river you cross after every hill you descend. The jungle is new at every turn, and I might as well have crossed one-too-many. We were in the hills of Seoni, close to the Pench Tiger Reserve, the land Kipling adopted in The Jungle Book (1894-95), the land of many hills and rivers, and stories. One late afternoon, I halted at a large rock jutting out from a dry river, looking at tilting ribbons of light cast rippling shadows on the dusty bedrock. It was too early in the year for the rivers to turn into puddles.
At another time, along one such river, one late afternoon, the ‘Jungle People’ were gathering by the Peace Rock. The rains had failed, rivers shrunk, and trees and vines shrivelled and withered. “If I were alone,” mumbled Baloo, “I would change my hunting-grounds now, before the others began to think.” As a kid, Kipling’s narration of how fear came always made my hair stand on end. “And yet – hunting among strangers ends in fighting; and they might hurt the Man-cub. We must wait and see how the Mohwa blooms,” Baloo added.
Earlier than Kipling, James Forsyth in The Highlands of Central India (1872) writes that sloth bears “appear to lose their natural apprehensions of danger in some degree during the Mohwa season.”
Dunbar Brander in Wild Animals in Central India (1927) speaks of them as being “the most intelligent animal in the jungle, the primates excepted,” adding that “The time of plenty is when the fleshy calyx of the Mohwa tree is continually dropping, and it is an extraordinary sight to see the bears competing with each other so as to be first on the spot.”
Thus far, in my journeys through the Kanha-Pench landscape, sloth bears have always eluded me. A decade ago, in another landscape, on another bend on the hill, I had come face-to-face with an indolent bear loitering down a shallow dell. Needless to say, I was off in the opposite direction. To each his own fear, Baloo would have said. Forsyth describes sloth bears as “generally very harmless until attacked” adding darkly that “sometimes, however, a bear will attack savagely without provocation – generally, when they are come upon suddenly, and their road of escape is cut off”. Brander opined that, “a she-bear with cubs is a most dangerous animal to disturb” and “it is a jungle axiom that one never can say what a bear will do”.
Be that as it may, humans and sloth bears have coexisted more-or-less effortlessly for centuries.
Read more in the original article, published as a cover story on the February 2018 edition of Sanctuary Asia, where Aniruddha Dhamorikar writes of the changing landscape for sloth bears in their Central Indian strongholds and offers glimpses of solutions to human-bear conflicts that could determine the future of the species.
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