Tuesday, March 17, 2009

KEOLADEO GHANA..... truly an avian paradise!

Offering a break from the hectic city life, the park is a wonderful relaxing place. With its tree lined paths and refreshing lakes which are a cool respite from the arid landscape all around, the park is located in the heart
of the district of Rajasthan, Bharatpur.

The park has a wide diversity of habitats ranging from marshes, woodlands, grasslands to denuded saline patches of land and perhaps this is the reason behind the incredible diversity of avifauna found here.
It is almost unbelievable that more than 400 species of birds are found in this small park of 29 sq. km. of which 11sq. km. are marshes and the rest comprises of scrubland and grassland. It is much more surprising that this unique ecosystem is manmade. The avifauna, includes a large variety of herons, kingfishers, pelicans, storks, birds of prey and ducks. Moreover, it is the only known wintering site of the rare and endangered Siberian crane, which flies around 8,050km (5,000 miles) to get here.

Really! It deserves to be called as the ‘bird’s paradise’.

Each bird species here has fascinatingly distinct characteristics, sure to astound you. The natural mosaic of colorations and unique plumage pattern of each species seems amusing to every bird watcher. What makes them more fascinating is their incredible diversity!
In fact, it is much more interesting to spend some time near the waterfront and explore the largely untold story of the bird life- their activities and interactions; the black-headed ibis necks down into the water to find a good catch with its curved pointed black beak; snakebirds drying their wings in leisure at the treetops; groups of ducks swimming gracefully in the cold murky water and a profusion of colored, white-breasted water hens, grey & purple herons, multi colored kingfishers and painted storks occupied in their own discussions. Their chirping calls and communications actually make the place alive. The morning praises the euphony of these feathered friends, while the evening pulsates with the loud calls of jackals and hyenas.

The Flying Mystery of Siberian Cranes - the VIP's of the migratory list…
Around October, the avian population increases with the arrival of wintering migratory birds which stay in the park until the end of February. Among these birds are the highly endangered Siberian cranes, who commit a week of perilous flight to reach the Keoladeo Park. They truly are magnificent creatures, with bills and faces colored a deep blood red, a plumage of pristine white and black wingtips. This rare and endangered bird flies around 8,050km (5,000 miles) to get here its single known wintering site. The great combination of energy and vigor with which these small creatures cover such long distances, is really admirable and inspirational.

Another major attractants which definitely, would not fail to grab your attention are the iridescent delicate butterflies which hover noiselessly over the colorful pretty flowers; some are shy and some are quite visitor-friendly, get easily captured in the cameras. To the date, around 35-40 species of butterflies have been recorded to visit the park.

Perhaps it is because we belong to the order ourselves that we find mammals to be one of the most charismatic of all fauna. While visiting Keoladeo did not give an opportunity to watch many of the mammal species, but still it offered some unforgettable glimpses of mammals like, spotted deer, sambar deer, nilgai -India’s largest antelope, wild boar and rhesus macaque.

Blue bulls are seen in groups, feeding on the sprouting grasses of the dry land patches. They are not just confined to the upland but they are equally at home in wet land; while the Sambar deer prefers a companionship of dry land and upland, the Axis deer(Chital) does not like water and hence remains confined to the upland areas of the park.

Another part of the park which is largely a boggy woodland, offers ideal habitat for the reptiles like rock python and monitor lizard. One can watch them basking in the sun on high lands. Pythons are very sensual creatures, they can detect the vibrations of any movement from much distance but the Indian monitor lizard prefers to lie down in the same position for hours and responds less to any such stimulus.

One of the most mesmerizing moments of the visit was the early morning exploration of the beautiful wetland- NEEL TAL. The rolling mist over the silent waters of the marsh and the sweet melody of the birds lend some memorable moments; it sways you to some other world where nature is the sole dictator and we humans are just visitors.

Visiting keoladeo is a must for every bird watcher and even if you do not have much interest in bird watching, then for sure, it would awaken the bird watcher in you…..!

Monday, February 9, 2009

DATED: 29 JAN, 2009


River Yamuna is the life supporting system of Delhi. As the frantic haste of man to convert hostile natural habitats to hospitable havens gained momentum, the river soon started facing high biotic and abiotic pressures. Today the river has considerably lost its potential to support much of the life it previously supported and even its ability to revive itself.
Along with the severely affected water quality, the floodplains of the river Yamuna suffered major ecological changes. Recognizing the fact, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems (CEMDE), University of Delhi, initiated a joint collaboration project which primarily aimed at the ecological restoration of the floodplains of the river Yamuna. In the year 2002, the Yamuna Biodiversity Park was established- a park spread in an area of about 475 acres, acting as a repository of the ecological and cultural heritage of the biological diversity associated with the floodplains of the river Yamuna.

Taking out time from the busy weekdays schedules, the faculty members Dr. S.K. Das and Dr. Pamposh with the students of M. Sc. Biodiversity and Conservation, planned a visit to the Yamuna Biodiversity Park, located at the fringes of river Yamuna, near Wazirabad.

As we stepped into the park a narrow walkway surrounded by the mounted plantations paved our way towards the Nature interpretation Centre. Nature interpretation Centre- NIC is a beautiful classical building with elegant lighting, a red carpet floor, attractive interior designs, panels depicting various biodiversity levels, touch screens, and visual-aids that provide an insight into the basic concepts of biodiversity. Here we met Dr. Faisal, one of the team members at the park who welcomed us and guided us through the park.

Briefly outlining the challenges which their team had to face initially, to improve the poor conditions of the park, he took us across a fruit orchard, to a wetland- the Migratory Birds Wetland. The orchard supported a rich variety of fruit trees such as, cheeku, peach, khirni, mulberry, amla guava, imli, ber, pomegranate etc.
The soil in the Yamuna Biodiversity Park was initially highly alkaline, with pH up to 9.8, and even wild natives could not withstand such harsh conditions. Beginning with the topographical intervention and bioremediation programs, they planned to plant specific grass and legume species, like Sporobolus diander, Dichanthium, Chrysopogon, Vetiveria, and Bothriochloa to improve the soil quality. Successfully within few years, the pH reduced to nearly 8.3-7.6 and this permitted the plantation of trees like sal, teak, acacia species, bistendu, babool etc.

Praising the beauty of the orchard we soon reached the Migratory Birds Wetland- a man-made wetland constructed by topographical intervention. This wetland attracts over 15 species of wintering migratory birds from Siberia, including the Red Crested Pochard, but we got an opportunity to see only few of them.

•Little black cormorants
•Northern pintail
•Red- Wattled Lapwing

After admiring the beauty of the wetland and the associated biota, we quickly headed towards the butterfly conservatory. All along the way, magnificent trees of acacia, tamarix, babool, khirni, anjir, mahua, eucalyptus and many others, serving as the perching and roosting sites for birds like purple sunbird, yellow footed green pigeon, spotted dove, red cheeked bulbul, shikra etc, captured our attention.

Soon we reached the butterfly conservatory which presently attracts around 30-40 species of butterfly; a few of them which we sited are blue pansy, yellow pansy, common castor, painted lady, plain tiger, grass yellow and the common evening brown. Some of the butterflies’ larvae exclusively feed on specific plant species, for example, common castor larvae on the castor plant and plain tiger larvae on calotropis. The conservatory holds a variety of attractive and colorful flower plants of the tropics, to attract these butterflies.

From the butterfly conservatory we returned back to the NIC and thanking Dr. Faisal, for his guidance and cooperation, we finally left for the university campus.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Is biofuel production threatning the global food security?


Food vs fuel is the dilemma regarding the risk of diverting farmland or crops for biofuels production in detriment of the food supply on a global scale. The "food vs. fuel" or "food or fuel" debate is internationally controversial, with good-and-valid arguments on all sides of this ongoing debate. There is disagreement about how significant this is, what is causing it, what the impact is, and what can or should be done about it.Biofuel production has increased in recent years. Some commodities like maize, sugar cane or vegetable oil can be used either as food, feed or to make biofuels. For example, since 2006, land that was also formerly used to grow other crops in the United States is now used to grow maize for biofuels, and a larger share of maize is destined to ethanol production, reaching 25% in 2007. Since converting the entire grain harvest of the US would only produce 16% of its auto fuel needs, some experts believe that placing energy markets in competition with food markets for scarce arable land will inevitably result in higher food prices. A lot of R&D efforts are currently being put into the production of second generation biofuels from non-food crops, crop residues and waste. With global demand for biofuels on the increase due to the oil price increases taking place since 2003 and the desire to reduce oil dependency as well as reduce GHG emissions from transportation, there is also fear of the potential destruction of natural habitats by being converted into farmland. Environmental groups have raised concerns about this trade-off for several years, but now the debate reached a global scale due to the 2007–2008 world food price crisis. On the other hand, several studies do show that biofuel production can be significantly increased without increased acreage, therefore stating that the crisis in hand relies on the food scarcity.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Habitat and Distribution:
The preferred habitat of Indian rhinoceros is alluvial floodplains and areas containing tall grasslands along the foothills of the Himalayas. Formerly, extensively distributed in the Gangetic plains, today the species is restricted to small habitats in Indo-Nepal terai and North Bengal, and Assam. In India rhinos are found in Kaziranga, Orang, Pobitora, Jaldapara, Dudhwa.
Unique Characteristics:
Largest of the Asian rhinos and most amphibious of all the rhino species, Indian rhino is an excellent swimmer. it has a single horn present both in males and females.
  • Running speed: 55km/hr
  • Senses: excellent hearing & smelling power but poor eyesight
  • Weight: 2000- 2500kg(adult male); around 1600kg(adult female)
  • Gestation period: 16 months
Conservation Challenge:
For years rhinos have been wildly slaughtered for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines. destruction of their habitats over the years, has brought the rhinos to the brink of extinction. These animals are among the world's most endangered species. The great one horned rhino could once be found from Pakistan from all the way through India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar. By the turn of the century, this species had vanished from much of its range, and today only about 2500 survive in India and Nepal. Throughout their range their habitat continues to dwindle fast due to conversion of grassland habitats to agricultural fields and other human pressures. The threat of poaching continues to be ever present.