Tag Archives: wildlife

In memory of a Star on International Day of Forests


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Star breathed its last yesterday and it is certainly the most disheartening news to hear on the International Day of Forests. Star, also called as Sitara was actually one of the stars of the forests of Ranthambore National Park and Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan. As per news reports Star or Sitara, which was named T-28 in forest records died after being tranquillised. Perhaps a tranquilliser overdose took its life. He was tranquillised in attempts to rescue him from a village in Khandar area on the park’s periphery. It is said that this 13 year old male tiger had strayed close to a village where people had surrounded it. Forest officials reached there and in attempts to rescue, tried to tranquillise it.

Ironically, the theme of this year’s International Day of Forests is : Forests and Sustainable Cities and we probably lost Star because of this ever-increasing pressure on forests from the surrounding human settlements. The news of his death reminded me of the day, I had seen him on the safari. Just a short encounter of 11 minutes was enough to get etched in the memory for ever. That’s the reason that news of his death saddened me. Star was named so because it had a 5 point star mark over its left eye and also has bird shaped mark over the right. Rajbagh area of the park was his favourite place to give audience to curious, thrilled, overjoyed travellers from around the world.

It was cold winter day on January in the year 2011. Our morning safari  yielded no tiger sightings. Then came the afternoon safari. Normally in all tiger reserves across India, safari vehicles will have a specified route. There might be three-four or more different zones in the park and a safari vehicle is limited to a particular zone. That means, if you are in zone 2 for the morning safari, your route is limited to zone 2 only. Vehicles are not allowed to overlap the zones. This is done to manage the tourist traffic inside the park and ensure that a particular area or the wildlife in a particular area is not abused quite often because of any particular attraction and tourists are evenly distributed.

Also read: Some wild moments in Sariska!

But on that particular trip, we were guests of the district officials and hence we had a special number safari vehicle which has access to all zones. Although I am not at all fond of sighting sprints of safari vehicles inside the reserve, but that day our driver thought that he had the duty to give us a tiger sighting. Hence around 5.20 pm in the evening he received a call on his walkie-talkie about a tiger sighting and then for next ten minutes we had a bone-churning dash towards Rajbagh, which was quite a distance from that place. That’s where the T-28 or the Star male aka Sitara was on his evening stroll.

There were already hordes of safari vehicles there, might be more than 60 to 70 people around at that particular time. He was already spotted inside the jungle and everybody was waiting for him to come out in open, which he eventually did with full gusto fit for his stature.

Also read: Shh…Tiger is here!He than proceeded to make the marking. One of the favourite acts of tigers to mark their territory.

Have a look: Two cubs on play at Panna- A photo essay

It then cam to the road. Looked in a very playful mood. It was  very interesting to see how these big cats maintained their composure as well as indifference despite of being surrounded by so many humans. They were least afraid but equally attentive. I don’t think they would be unaware of any lurking danger. But they were quite sure of their territory and their command over it, where they were kings. Sitara has history of getting too close to safari vehicles.And, then relaxed itself giving full view to all safari vehicles.After few minutes, it again made the move. Kept playing in the mud.Looking for tiger? Read : Spot the tiger in this wild image!

And then Sitara decided that it was the time to end the day’s audience and it walked away. It crossed our way, moved to jungle on to the right. Even than it didn’t disappear immediately. It kept everybody interested, but didn’t return. After a couple of minutes, it went deep inside. In the fading light, it was soon impossible to keep track of its stripes.Love wild? Read: Dudhwa sans tigers!

It all ended in just 11 minutes- the royal show, but gave everybody around a plenty to cheer about for rest of their lives.

Changing colours? Read: White Tiger – When mutation becomes exhibit!

Star aka Sitara aka T-28 was a young tiger, full of life and glory as well. Having born to tigress T-27, it was first spotted in 2008 but it established itself very quickly among the ranks. Got the name and fame as well when it got the courage to challenge the great tigress Machali. It is being said that in 2009 Sitara and Machali had many territorial fights. Sitara controlled a large territory and despite fights with Machali, also mated her two daughters including Sundari.

But all will be tales now. Goodbye Star!!

Have you been fortunate to have sighting of this particular tiger? How was the experience? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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Ten wayward manatees rescued

Members of the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team at Florida, USA traveled to Charleston, S.C. recently, where in collaboration with multiple organisations and volunteers – they helped save 10 wayward manatees. The manatees were spotted in the upper reaches of the Cooper River, near a warm water outflow area. Historically, manatees move south into warmer waters when the water temperature drops below 68 degrees.  Due to rapidly dropping water temperatures in the river, the manatees remained close to the warm water outflow, instead of continuing to travel south. In doing so, they were isolated from adequate food sources and naturally warm waters.  Following close coordination with some members of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff decided that rescues and relocation of the animals by SeaWorld Orlando’s manatee rescue team were warranted.

SeaWorld Assists with Rescue of Ten Manatees Stranded in South Carolina

Manatees are also called as sea cows. They are found in West Africa, Caribbean Sea and the Amazonian area. They are called as cows as they are slow plant eaters, peaceful and similar to cows on land. They often graze on water in tropical seas. Female manatees are called as cows, male are called bulls and their offsprings are called as calfs. But they are more closely related to elephants. Despite their size, they are graceful swimmers in coastal waters and rivers.

(Also Read: Melon Headed Whale Rescued in Florida)

In addition to SeaWorld Orlando’s team, support for the rescue effort included USFWS Ecological Services Office staff from Florida and South Carolina, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) – including staff from St. Petersburg, the Northeast Florida Field Lab in Jacksonville, and the East Central Field Lab in Melbourne along with volunteers and law enforcement, Sea to Shore Alliance, ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, NOAA National Ocean Services – Charleston, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Clearwater (FL) Marine Aquarium, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, Brevard Zoo, Brevard County Parks and Recreation, Florida Wildlife Hospital, and Waterfront Solutions. Sea to Shore Alliance and local businesses played an integral role in monitoring the manatees’ activity and condition in the weeks leading up to the rescue effort.

Florida manatee and calf {Trichchus manatus latirostris} Crystal River, Florida, USA. Image by © Doug Perrine/Nature Picture Library/Corbis

The rescue operation took place over three days.  From November 28-30, 2017, the interagency rescue team captured 10 manatees from the Cooper River including eight males and two females. Once captured, each manatee received an immediate health assessment by a veterinary medical team comprised of veterinarians from SeaWorld, Jacksonville Zoo and UF. Manatees were transported south and accompanied on their journey by veterinary and animal care staff.  Once in Florida, additional health assessments were conducted at the Jacksonville Zoo by vets from the Zoo and the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. FWC staff served as the lead on transports in Florida to the release site in Brevard County, FL. Nine manatees were deemed releasable.  One female was exhibiting mild cold stress and is being cared for by veterinarians and staff at the Jacksonville Zoo with support from SeaWorld and the Lowry Park Zoo. She is Jacksonville Zoo’s first critical care patient at their new facility and is doing well. The Sea to Shore Alliance tagged five of the manatees before release and will monitor these animals as part of their Atlantic Coast manatee study.

One of the rescued Manatees

Jon Peterson, SeaWorld’s rescue manager, helped with coordination of the multi-agency effort.  “It is particularly gratifying to be a part of such a large scale effort, with partners from all over the Southeast lending expertise and manpower,” he explained. “When you can give ten threatened animals another chance at life that is a great week.”

(Also Read: SeaWorld returns two more sea turtles to the ocean)

Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership

As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees. The MRP is a cooperative group of non-profit, private, state, and federal entities who work together to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees. The Florida manatee was recently reclassified from endangered to threatened but is still at risk from both natural and human causes of injury and mortality. Exposure to red tide, cold stress and disease are all natural problems that can affect manatees. Human-caused threats include boat strikes, crushing by floodgates or locks, and entanglement in or ingestion of fishing gear.  As part of the Manatee Rescue & Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP), SeaWorld Orlando is an acute care rehabilitation facility that provides life-saving medical care to rescued manatees.

SeaWorld’s Rescue Efforts

SeaWorld Assists with Rescue of Ten Manatees Stranded in South Carolina

Over the last five decades, SeaWorld has rescued more than 31,000 wild animals in need including those that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned. SeaWorld’s goal for every rescued animal is to rehabilitate and return them to their natural environment as soon as possible. This year alone, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued 47 manatees and returned 25 following successful rehabilitation. Guests to SeaWorld Orlando can learn more about the vital rescue work SeaWorld does for wildlife at the park’s behind-the-scenes Rescue Center used for rehabilitating wildlife that has been ill, injured or orphaned – including manatees, sea turtles, birds and other marine animals.

(Also read: Swim with sharks and feed the stingrays)

While a guided tour of the entire facility has been available for years, the park has now opened up one portion of this area for complimentary viewing to all park guests. Visitors are invited to step behind-the-scenes and catch a glimpse of SeaWorld’s working manatee rescue and rehabilitation facility to learn more about the plight of these vulnerable animals in the wild. See firsthand some of the top problems today’s manatee populations are facing and simple actions we can all take to help through digital medical charts, interactive displays, underwater camera viewing and rescue footage straight from the SeaWorld Animal Rescue Team.

SeaWorld returns two more Sea turtles to the Ocean

Two loggerhead sea turtles are back home in the wild thanks to SeaWorld Orlando’s Rescue Team. In partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the turtles were returned to the ocean at Pineda Beach Park on Wednesday morning.

Rescued in December 2016, a juvenile loggerhead sea turtle was transported to SeaWorld Orlando from Massachusetts, where the animal received initial treatment from the New England Aquarium. Upon intake, the turtle had a dangerously low body temperature and a large wound under its right flipper. As a part of the turtle’s wound care, SeaWorld utilized radiographs, antibiotics, and laser therapy to heal the injury.

The second turtle released, a sub-adult loggerhead, came to SeaWorld in March after it was found upside down in the surf at Port Canaveral. The animal was covered in barnacles, emaciated, and lethargic. At SeaWorld, the veterinary team discovered blockage in the turtle’s digestive track caused from seashells. Through fluid therapy, the team helped the animal pass the impaction and gain 28 healthy pounds.

With two more sea turtles back in the ocean, SeaWorld has now returned 14 total turtles this year. In partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued nearly 2,000 sea turtles since 1980.

It is critical that beachgoers are mindful of the impact they leave on Florida coastlines as sea turtle nesting season is in full swing now through October. Debris and trash left on beaches can threaten the survival of sea turtles during this vulnerable time of year.

The successful rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles is another great example of SeaWorld’s commitment to protecting sea life. For more than 50 years, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has helped animals in need – ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. More than 30,000 animals have been rescued by the expert animal rescue team that is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 30,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

Want to see the video of the release? Please click to link below on my YouTube channel-

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

A gigantic support for India’s elephants from Treadright

The TreadRight Foundation, created as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) family of brands has announced that it will support TreadRight Heritage Initiative partner Wildlife SOS – India this coming Earth Day. For every booking made on Saturday, April 22, 2017 with TTC’s family of award winning brands around the world including Contiki, Insight Vacations and Trafalgar, The TreadRight Foundation will donate US$1 to Wildlife SOS – India to help save elephants in abusive or harmful situations.

Each dollar donated by TreadRight to Wildlife SOS as part of the Earth Day campaign will go directly towards supporting the organization’s land fund for the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in Mathura, India with the goal of expanding the existing rescue centre in order to provide space to house 50 more elephants that are in need of rescue.

“Working with Wildlife SOS in India as one of our TreadRight Wildlife Initiative partners, we’ve had the tremendous opportunity to fully appreciate the remarkable effort and care their entire organization commits to saving elephants,” says Brett Tollman, Chief Executive, TTC and Founder, TreadRight Foundation. “That is why our travel brands across the planet are participating in this important Earth Day campaign, helping Wildlife SOS secure the land required to care for elephants still desperately in need of rescuing from harmful situations.”

Asian elephants in India suffer from a lack of elephant welfare awareness and public awareness, which sadly results in the exploitation of elephants for street begging, circus performances / entertainment and temple processions. Wildlife SOS in India aims to help rescue and rehabilitate elephants in distress, including those being used illegally under deprived conditions.

Wildlife SOS currently offer medical services to elephants in need, and train their handlers on humane treatment and management. They also run two elephant conservation and rehabilitation centres in India.

“Wildlife SOS is dedicated to the protection and conservation of the Asian Elephant in India, which remains the last stronghold of these magnificent mammals in the wild,” said Kartick Satyanarayan, Co-Founder and CEO, Wildlife SOS – India. “Awareness and training workshops for law enforcement, elephant owners and caretakers are vital to changing age old mindsets and policies that have allowed elephants to continue to be harvested from the wild and held in cruel captivity. We are grateful to The TreadRight Foundation for extending their support to Wildlife SOS to help save the Asian Elephant.”

In addition, TTC, TreadRight, and Wildlife SOS will publish “A Guide to Ethical Elephant Experiences” featuring important tips to help responsible travellers know what to avoid, to ensure their elephant experiences are rewarding for people and elephants alike.

Some wild moments in Sariska!

SO finally the cliché of the visit. Earlier four accounts- Bhangarh, Kankwari, Neelkanth and the Birds were quite fascinating and actually different from usual routines of visit to the national park. But then what about the wild inside you? Bhangarh might not haunt you but not sighting a tiger in the tiger reserve is certainly going to haunt you to a certain degree for a considerable duration of time. Purely on that terms Sariska has been third time lucky for me. My first trip to Sariska was almost thirty years ago when tiger safari was not a fancy idea, and second one 17 years ago when tiger was always second in my thought. (What was the first?)

Sariska Safari1
Foggy entry through the Sariska gate to the tiger reserve

But then as I have always said that though its always fascinating to watch a tiger in the wild, but not watching it doesn’t creates a sort of disappointment until I have given full time to the jungle. I thoroughly enjoy the jungles sans tiger too, as the most true wildlife enthusiasts will actually do. In that sense as well, safari in Sariska was quite satisfying.

Sariska Safari2
Reflections!

Jungle was as beautiful as always. But interesting part is that no two jungles and no two visits to the same jungle look the same. The  three hour safari had its moments of joy, admiration, awe and pure love. I am revisiting the safari only on those moments, and they are absolutely not in any particular order.

Well, we had the tiger sighting within first 25 minutes into safari, so once we had it, it made the rest of safari time relaxing and anxiety free. Tiger sighting was close but not from front as he chose to just walk in front of the cavalcade of the safari vehicles.

So here are the few glimpses of the mighty cat-

But this sighting was not without a drama and slightly unpleasant one. I always believe that one should enjoy the wildlife that comes their way during safari. It can be and it should be your luck to see an animal, not your right. There has been long debate about use of radio collars on tigers. Still they were accepted as way to track them and save them from poaching. But to use radio collars to help tiger sighting in safari is a bit ugly practice. Here too, while we were waiting for the tiger at a nullah, a supposedly VIP came on another safari vehicle along with a radio tracker, who kept on tracking the exact location of tiger and thus the whole group of six safari vehicles kept following the tiger guided by radio tracker. Look for yourself-

Talking about cats, I have not been so far fortunate to see them hunting in the wild. But we got to see a kill of a leopard who hunted a sambhar and then dragged him up on a tree. Leopard was not there but the kill was still hanging up on the tree-

As per numbers, it is the deer family which rules the jungles. You can find them everywhere and actually observing their behaviour patiently is also very interesting-

Another scene worth remembering from the safari was the cheetal-monkey play. Deer-monkey friendship is always take about in jungle tales. It was so warming to see them play and then drink water together from the same pond-

I had already written in earlier posts about the number of peahens and peacocks in the region. Same was here inside the park. They were everywhere- playing and dancing. How beautiful this bird is!

Talking about birds, here is another one, a Jungle Babbler that I will not forget for its sheer sharpness, alertness and daring behaviour-

And while returning see, who was there to see off from the park after the end of the safari-

These forests always remind us of what we are and what we are supposed to be.

Sariska Safari46

Birding in a tiger reserve

I am not a birder specifically, but being interested in wildlife I love bird watching as much as I love sighting tigers. Both give you equal chance to play with your camera. All the tiger reserves and national parks per say (other than specific bird sanctuaries) too have rivers, lakes, ponds and other water holes which are shelter for waterfowls and migratory birds. Jungle themselves are best places to see the birds. Having been to few bird sanctuaries, this was first time I specifically kept time to see birds in a tiger reserve and I was certainly not disappointed. Hence, comes this fourth post from Sariska visit.

Kankwari Lake surrounded by hills of Rajaurgarh
Kankwari Lake surrounded by hills of Rajaurgarh

Sariska is a big national park and has many perennial sources of water which in turn become good harbouring ground form birds. Hence, when you are close to a water body, it makes easy for you to locate birds, rather than when you are in jungle as then you are always moving in a safari and desperately looking for bigger animals. It is tough to locate birds while on move, unless you are an expert in movement and sounds of birds. I am neither. Hence I tried to give some time close to lakes to see birds. One is the Kankwari lake, which is right at the base of the hillock on which Kankwari fort is built. Other lake is close to Sariska gate on right side of the main road leading to Pandupole.

The lakes or the water bodies of the Sariska Tiger Reserve also have many crocodiles, as is normal with this region. Ranthambore too has man crocodiles and Sariska and Ranthambore share the same topography.

Sariska Tiger Reserve has almost 225 recorded bird species which makes it ethereal for bird watchers. Among them are many rare species as well. Few are even endangered ones. While there is a large number of resident species, it is also a good wintering ground for many migratory species of central Asia. I was delighted to see a big colony of Bar Headed Goose at Kankwari Lake. This bird migrates from Central Asia and is said to one of the world’s highest flying birds. It is distinguishable by two black bars on back of its head.

There were also Brahminy ducks, as they are commonly known in India. This Ruddy shelduck also migrates from southeastern Europe and central Asia. This is quite distinctive due to its colour.

A Brahminy duck
A Brahminy duck

At Kankwari lake, I was also able to see a group of Black headed ibis on the other side of he lake as they probably didn’t want to get disturbed.

Black Headed Ibis
Black Headed Ibis

There were also painted storks and a black-necked stork high up on a far tree. Clicking storks in flight is very fascinating because of their size and amazing flight.

While returning from the Kankwari fort, we also got to see few spot billed ducks distinctive due to  a yellow spot on the tip of the beak and orange-red spots at the base of the beak.

Also were fortunate to locate a Golden-backed woodpecker on a tree. This bird is so agile that it is tough to click it, still I was able to. Although it is quite common but too beautiful, not to click a photograph.

Golden-backed woodpecker
Golden-backed woodpecker

At the other lake, I was also able to see Eurasian Spoonbill. This migratory birds is identified with its spoon shaped bill.

Eurasian Spoonbill
Eurasian Spoonbill

Another interesting sight was of Yellow footed green pigeon. They get so camouflaged with the colour of the trees that it is tough to spot them, but they really look beautiful. These common green pigeons are residents of Sariska.

Overall it turned out to be a good sightings in limited time and was quite enjoyable. There were few more like cattle egrets and command pond herons and others.

SO, next time you are in Sariska, keep your eyes open for birds as well. Mansarovar Dam near Tehla gate is also a big wintering ground for migratory birds. So when, you go to Neelkanth Temple, you can keep some time to visit this dam also for a bit of birding. There is a also a lake at Karnakawas.

Any question? Please write me and I will be pleased to answer to best of my knowledge.

 

Kankwari : A fort and a history in deep jungle!

Between visits to Bhangarh and Kankwari forts, I had other three notable experiences. All are worth independent posts, that would certainly be in coming days. But, to me it seemed rather more appropriate to write about Kankwari fort immediately after Bhangarh. It helps more in drawing comparisons and parallels.

Kankwadi Fort1
Kankwari fort as seen from the Kankwari village

Although the visit to Bhangarh fort had its worth because of all the stories attached to it and I was impressed by the fortress city as a whole, but I was largely disappointed by upkeep and ruins of the Bhangarh fort. In that context, visit to Kankwari fort right next day was a huge surprise… a pleasant one.

Kankawari Fort as seen from the lakeside
Kankwari Fort as seen from the lakeside

I had read about Kankwari Fort sometime back but never had chance to visit it in my earlier trips to Sariska Tiger Reserve. Even the information available about fort has been too little, too less, baring one critical historical fact that this fort was used by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to imprison his brother Dara Shikoh in 17th century. This has been always the selling point to popularise this fort. Another known fact is that the fort was built by Raja Jai Singh I of Amber who was a senior general in Aurangzeb’s army and grandson of Raja Man Singh, one of the nine jewels of Akbar’s court.

Closer look of Kankwari Fort from outside
Closer look of Kankwari Fort from outside

Now, the locational facts and present situation: Kankwari fort is located right deep inside the Sariska National Park and Tiger Reserve. Its alone on a hillock in the middle of the jungle, with just a handful of families to its company, who live in the Kankwari village at the base of the hillock. Obviously, the fort is located in an area with no other human access, this being a protected forest in reins of a Tiger Reserve. The fort was also a point of contention some six years back when there was a plan to open the fort for eco-tourism, which was opposed tooth & nail by the then central environment & forest ministry. Probably the plan was shelved as a result. On the other hand, Kankwari village below had to be relocated out of the core tiger area to make the critical tiger area as ‘inviolate’ i.e. out of bounds for human use. But few families are still there living in the Kankwari village.

Front view of the Kankwari Fort
Front view of the Kankwari Fort

So, under these conditions, when we finally managed to reach to the Kankwari Fort, it was a big surprise for us. Going there is tough as you hardly get a proper guidance and direction to move into the restricted forest. Only way to reach Kankwari fort is through a safari in tiger reserve.

A welcome gate in the jungle, many kms before the actual fort
A welcome gate in the jungle, many kms before the actual fort

Fort is on a hillock and once you reach on the top of the hillock, there is a gate to enter the fort, which leads to another gate through a big fortified passage on the cliff. See the images-

As soon as you enter the main gate is a lounge (locally this structure is called as tibara or तिबारा in Hindi, a hall or shelter with three open arch gates, image below) which looks refurbished recently. Perhaps this was the renovation going on some years back to promote tourism to this fort, before this was halted.

Entering inside the fort
Entering inside the fort

Then on the right side are stairs to go up the fort.  After one enters the inside gate, there is a huge fortified compound on all sides. Stairs from the front strangely look very small to enter a fort.

Stairs to go up the fort
Stairs to go up the fort

Once you enter the small gate after climbing through these stairs, you reach to a intricately designed compound which looks like a garden. There is a small but deep tub in the centre. Initially it looks like a place to take bath, but it is very deep and has no stairs to go down. It might be place to store water. The intricate designs in this compound look like carved out of white marble but actually they are made of limestone. Too beautiful indeed. See for yourself-

Looks like a beautiful designed terrace garden
Looks like a beautiful designed terrace garden

Then there are another stairs to go up to next level-

Stairs on the right to go the fort from the seemingly terrace garden
Stairs on the right to go the fort from the seemingly terrace garden

In the image above you can see a set of rooms on this floor. These all rooms are interconnected. There is another staircase on the left minaret to go up. There are another two levels once you move up with two areas on the lower level- front and back and one front area on the upper level.

The rooms are well designed and seemingly in good condition, even the designs. What is also there, like other forts, is the number of stairs and passages, connecting one part to another and one level to other. Also overwhelming is the view from the top of the fort. It provides a 360 degree view of the jungle below, and believe me, its most fascinating part of the fort. See for yourself (click the image for full view)-

Hardly anybody comes to the fort, but few empty bottles and cartons were testimony of some odd liquor parties held here away from the eyes of the world.

Only guard to this fort high up!
Only guard to this fort high up!

Another interesting part is the back portion of the fort. Earlier I told about small stairs going up the fort from the front. But then there is another stairs from the lower level that takes one to the backside of the fort. Towards the back, when one thinks that it is the end of the fort, there is another area not visible from front.

Another stairs leading to the back
Another stairs leading to the back

From an opening in the wall towards both sides is the way to go to backside. There are some hidden rooms in the wall and then there is a huge baoli sort of pond, which locals say was the place to punish the rebels. Some people say that Dara Shikoh was kept here. To me it looked like a huge water reservoir. But it was interestingly designed-

There was a separate way for the horse army to enter the fort. There was a way upto the fort from the side of the lake-

Wall on the lakeside is actually the way for the horse army to come uphill to the fort
Wall on the lakeside is actually the way for the horse army to come uphill to the fort
Horses used to enter the fort through this gate
Horses used to enter the fort through this gate

Most Important things to take care off:

As I said earlier, this fort is right deep inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve, hence it falls under restricted area. Only way to go to fort is by taking a safari for tiger reserve, along with a guide. One has to pay full safari fees and the guide fees for that. To reach the fort, you have  to pass through safari zone 2 of the reserve. Since you have to take a safari to go to the fort, you can only enter the jungle, hence the fort on designated safari timings, i.e. 7 am to 10 am and then 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm. These are the times to enter and exit the jungle, so one has to reach the fort, see it and come back to the exit gate- all in three hours. Its a tough task because of the distance of the fort from the entry gate, which is around 25 kms of tough bumpy jungle track. SO, considering the time strain it is not possible to see animals and fort, in single safari. But you can still be lucky to see plenty of wildlife on the way, as one passes through the thick of the wild. Well, this all is from the main Sariska gate of the reserve. There is also another gate towards Tehla, which is called Tehla Gate of the reserve. This fort is slightly closer to the Tehla gate. But then, tourists coming from Delhi mostly prefer Sariska gate. Tourists coming from Dausa side will prefer Tehla gate.

Another thing to note is that this fort is not under ASI or the tourism department. Being inside the jungle, the fort comes under the control of forest department. However, if any maintenance work has to be done to the fort, than that is done under the supervision of the ASI. So, one should hope that when you reach the fort, the forest officials have left the gate open to enter. When we reached to the fort, there was absolutely nobody at the fort. Gate was not locked and our guide led us inside the fort. As per information I gathered at the booking office, very few (less than five percent) tourists coming for the safari in Sariska, go to the Kankawari fort.

So next time you are in Sariska, keep time for a separate safari to the Kankwari Fort.

Any questions? Write me, I will be more than happy to reply with best of my knowledge.

Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary : A gem yet to be polished

Honestly, I had high hopes when I went to Kadalundi. It was one of the places which I had planned to visit during a very small leisure window on my visit to Kozhikode (erstwhile Calicut). It was late November and I could not have missed watching and photographing a few migratory birds. But, it was a disappointing outing.

Kadalundi1

Spread over a cluster of islands, this sanctuary is said to be the abode for more than a hundred species of native birds and 60 species of migratory birds. The area where Kadalundi river flows into the Arabian sea  is surrounded by hillocks. These hillocks besides creating a scenic environment also give a splendid view of the sanctuary, river mouth and the sea. Even the  main railway line to Trivandrum passes through the sanctuary.

Kadalundi2

Kadalundi also has a mangrove vegetation which is said to shelter otters and jackals. It is also known for a wide variety of fish, mussels and crabs.

Kadalundi3

Among the migratory birds which are supposed to abode here are seagulls, terns, sandpipers, sandplovers, red and greenshanks, turnstones etc. But when I reached the sanctuary, I was the only tourist to have come there. The office there was closed. There was nobody to give any information. After a while a person supposedly from the office came and I was barely able to communicate with him because of his poor English and my poor (??) Malayalam. He told me that there were no birds at that time because they have not yet arrived because of ‘climate change’.

I was able to get  boat for ride inside the water, but it would take me only to the mangrove side as the other side with presumable some birds had very shallow water and boat couldn’t have transversed that. So, what could I manage to see were some Ibis-

Some herons- white and grey, some common egrets and few other birds-

It was also pleasing to capture some of them in their flight-

 

More pleasing for me was to capture the Brahminy Kite in its full glory-

Where: Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary is around 20 kms from Kozhikode town. You can either take buses from Kozhkode to Kadalundi (near railway station) and then walk to sanctuary near by. Otherwise you can take auto rickshaw or a taxi as well from Kozhikode to Kadalundi. Kadalundi also has a railway station where only passenger trains halt. On normal days boats should be available to take you inside the sanctuary for closer bird and mangrove watching. One might have to bargain for boat rates. It can be some 500 INR for half  hour to 45 minutes.

Nice place to be but need to check pre-hand if migratory birds are there. Best time to visit is from November to April.

No nearby places to stay and accommodation has to be managed in Kozhikode itself. There are few other things to be seen on the way from Kozhikode to Kadalundi including famous Beypore port.

Four great apes on verge of extinction

Its not a good news for al nature lovers.  We are constantly pushing more and more species towards extinction- animals as well as plants. The Eastern Gorilla – the largest living primate – has been listed as Critically Endangered due to illegal hunting, according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species released on Sunday at the IUCN World Conservation Congress taking place in Hawaiʻi.  Eastern Gorilla is considered to be one of our closest cousins.  Actually four out of six great ape species are now Critically Endangered – only one step away from going extinct – with the remaining two also under considerable threat of extinction. IUCN Red List update makes us realize just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating. Conservation action does work and we have increasing evidence of it.

Eastern Gorilla.  Critically Endangered. Photo: Intu Boedhihartono
Eastern Gorilla. Critically Endangered. Photo: Intu Boedhihartono

IUCN Red List update also reports the decline of the Plains Zebra due to illegal hunting, and the growing extinction threat to Hawaiian plants posed by invasive species. Thirty eight of the 415 endemic Hawaiian plant species assessed for this update are listed as Extinct and four other species have been listed as Extinct in the Wild, meaning they only occur in cultivation. The IUCN Red List now includes 82,954 species of which 23,928 are threatened with extinction.

Sumatran Orangutan. Photo: worldwildlife.org
Sumatran Orangutan. Photo: worldwildlife.org

Mammals threatened by illegal hunting
The Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei) – which is made up of two subspecies – has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered due to a devastating population decline of more than 70% in 20 years. Its population is now estimated to be fewer than 5,000. Grauer’s Gorilla (G. b. graueri), one subspecies of Eastern Gorilla – has lost 77% of its population since 1994, declining from 16,900 individuals to just 3,800 in 2015. Killing or capture of great apes is illegal; yet hunting represents the greatest threat to Grauer’s Gorillas. The second subspecies of Eastern Gorilla – the Mountain Gorilla (G. b. beringei) –is faring better and has increased in number to around 880 individuals. Four of the six great apes – Eastern Gorilla, Western Gorilla, Bornean Orangutan and Sumatran Orangutan – are now listed as Critically Endangered, whilst the Chimpanzee and Bonobo are listed as Endangered.

Plains Zebra is Near Threatened. Photo: Jean-Christophe Vié
Plains Zebra is Near Threatened. Photo: Jean-Christophe Vié

The once widespread and abundant Plains Zebra (Equus quagga) has moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened. The population has reduced by 24% in the past 14 years from around 660,000 to a current estimate of just over 500,000 animals. In many countries Plains Zebra are only found in protected areas, yet population reductions have been recorded in 10 out of the 17 range states since 1992. The Plains Zebra is threatened by hunting for bushmeat and skins, especially when they move out of protected areas.

Bay Duiker is Near Threatened. Photo: Brent Huffman
Bay Duiker is Near Threatened. Photo: Brent Huffman

Three species of antelope found in Africa – Bay Duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis), White-bellied Duiker (Cephalophus leucogaster) and Yellow-backed Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor) – have moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened. Whilst the populations of these species within protected areas are relatively stable, those found in other areas are decreasing due to continued illegal hunting and habitat loss.

Good news for Giant Panda and Tibetan Antelope
This update of The IUCN Red List also brings some good news and shows that conservation action is delivering positive results.

Giant Panda has improved to Vulnerable. Photo: Martha de Jong-Lantink
Giant Panda has improved to Vulnerable. Photo: Martha de Jong-Lantink

Previously listed as Endangered, The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is now listed as Vulnerable, as its population has grown due to effective forest protection and reforestation. The improved status confirms that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective. However, climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35% of the Panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years and thus Panda population is projected to decline, reversing the gains made during the last two decades. To protect this iconic species, it is critical that the effective forest protection measures are continued and that emerging threats are addressed. The Chinese government’s plan to expand existing conservation policy for the species is a positive step and must be strongly supported to ensure its effective implementation.

Tibetan Antelope also improved to Near Threatened. Photo: Ahsup
Tibetan Antelope also improved to Near Threatened. Photo: Ahsup

Due to successful conservation actions, the Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii) has moved from Endangered to Near Threatened. The population underwent a severe decline from around one million to an estimated 65,000-72,500 in the 1980s and early 1990s. This was the result of commercial poaching for the valuable underfur – shahtoosh – which is used to make shawls. It takes 3-5 hides to make a single shawl, and as the wool cannot be sheared or combed, the animals are killed. Rigorous protection has been enforced since then, and the population is currently likely to be between 100,000 and 150,000.

Greater Stick-nest Rat is Near Threatened. Photo: Hj Aslin
Greater Stick-nest Rat is Near Threatened. Photo: Hj Aslin

Other conservation successes include the Greater Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus conditor), endemic to Australia, which has improved status, moving from Vulnerable to Near Threatened. This is due to a successful species recovery plan, which has involved reintroductions and introductions to predator-free areas. This unique nest-building rodent is the last of its kind, with its smaller relative the Lesser Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus apicalis) having died out in the Twentieth Century. The resin created by the rats to build their nests is so strong that they can last for thousands of years if they are not exposed to water.

(Source: IUCN)

Panna Tiger Reserve : Few images sans tigers!

This is last post from my visit to Panna Tiger Reserve and National Park last month. And this one is not about tigers. I had always enjoyed wild, whether there is sighting of a big cat or not. Wild is always beautiful. Wanna Tiger Reserve and National Park has a beautiful topography and it owes much to the beautiful Ken river flowing through the reserve. It works as a lifeline for the forest and the wildlife here as you can see in the image below.

Ken river at Panna

A pair of Nilgai, no jungle in India is complete without them!

Nilgai at Panna

A male sambhar crossing the road. This is one of the favourite foods of big cats.

Sambhar at Panna

Something I captured for the first time- a spotted deer making a mating call to his partner. Novices will often misjudge a deer’s mating call as an alarm call for the tiger sighting.  But it’s different from that.

Spotted Deer at Panna

Deer and monkeys resting together in summer heat. Jungles are well known for stories of friendship between deers and monkeys. And this is for real. Both of them will alert each other for an approaching hunting predator- mostly a big cat- a tiger or a leopard. All forest guides use their alarm calls to track the tigers and show them to tourists. A monkey has a very sharp sight, so it will climb up the tree and keep an eye on the tigers and once it notices any, it will raise an alarm call, apparently to alarm its deer friends. Similarly, a deer has a very sharp sense of smell. It can smell a big cat and not just that, it can also sense whether the tiger is in hunting mood. It will then raise an alarm call for monkeys to alert them. Beauty of nature! Isn’t it!!

Deer-Monkey friendship at Panna

This is another of my first time captures, an Indian nightjar. It was hard to locate despite being very close and guide pointing towards it, because it was so beautifully camouflaged between dry grass and stones, that one can’t notice it on a cursory glance. Then, it was also surprising for us to see that this bird was sitting so calmly in such a scorching morning sunlight. A wonderful sight though.

Nightjar at Panna

Kingfishers are always my favourite birds, hence I was delighted to see this stork-billed kingfisher enjoying its day in Panna.

Stork Billed Kingfisher at Panna

After Dandeli reserve in Karnataka, this was my second chance to encounter a woolly-necked stork. Looks so majestic.

Woolly-necked stork at Panna

Ken river also has a large number of crocodiles. After crossing Panna Tiger Reserve, Ken also has a crocodile and Gharial sanctuary. Here we can see a crocodile calmly swimming in Ken through the core area of Tiger Reserve. Though it is tough to locate crocs during summers as they like to remain inside the water to keep themselves cool. In winters we can easily see them lying on rocks alongside the river enjoying sunlight.

Crocodile at Panna

It is also possible to do a boat safari in Panna Tiger Reserve. This is a hard an hour safari at a very nominal price. On your luckier days, you can also get a chance to see some wildlife on both sides of river, and who knows… may be tiger too. There have been instances of tiger swimming across the river for either hunting or changing territories.

Boat safari at Panna