Most viewed photos of 2008

December 28, 2008

Among National Geographic’s top ten most viewed photos of 2008 is this image of the snowstorm leopard in India’s Hemis National Park:


Stalking India’s Hemis National Park, an extremely rare snow leopard lives up to its name in U.S. photographer Steve Winter’s award-winning National Geographic magazine image.

On October 30, 2008, “Snowstorm Leopard” was named best overall photo in the 2008 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, organized by the Natural History Museum of London and BBC Wildlife Magazine.

Click here for more of the best photos of 2008

India’s elephants in peril

December 18, 2008

Sankar Roy at Asia Sentinel:

india-elephantAlthough the world’s concern has risen over the fate of India’s tigers, the descending numbers of India’s elephants have not caused alarm. They are not listed as endangered species. The Federal Ministry of Environment and Forests estimated the population of wild elephants at 26,413 in 2002, the last figure available. Although officials say the population has risen, the World Wildlife Fund believes that India’s elephant population has fallen by 50 percent over the last two decades. Statistical estimation on either tigers or elephants is not sound.

Obviously, as man encroaches, the elephant population faces problems, not least because they love to break into human settlements and poach not only crops but vats of homemade liquor. An Indian elephant needs some 500 square miles to roam, consumes 250 kilograms of leaves and wild fruits and drinks as much as 180 liters of water a day. Indiscriminate felling of trees and development projects cuts their habitat. Although the federal government has written and passed laws, implementation is in the hands of state governments, which often look the other way when poachers strike.


Man-eaters rule in a land of widows

October 28, 2008

West Bengal’s villagers are increasingly the prey of tigers driven out of Bangladesh by flooding. Gethin Chamberlain in the Obserever:

In the remote village of Deulbari, everyone knows someone who has been attacked by a tiger. Until now, humans and tigers have coexisted uneasily in this outpost in the Sundarbans area of West Bengal, where 274 tigers were counted in the last census in 2004. This year has been different.

Approached through vivid green paddy fields dotted with pink water lilies, Deulbari is a village of roughly constructed houses, some with corrugated iron roofs, others just straw, bleached by the sun. It sits on the Indian shores of the mangrove forests that straddle the border between India and Bangladesh. After a cyclone last winter led to rising water levels and forced tigers from the Bangladeshi side over the border into India, the number of documented tiger attacks has soared. According to villagers, there have been 15 already this year, six of them fatal. The ranks of the tiger widows are swelling, and the horrifying tales are multiplying.


One last stand: a new strategy to save the tiger

October 27, 2008

Sequestering tigers in nature reserves may doom them to a slow, genetic death. To save them, conservationists want to give them freedom to roam. Lily Huang in Newsweek:

Alan Rabinowitz has spent nearly three decades in a pitched battle to save the world’s few remaining havens for predator cats. He’s turned the Coxcombe Basin in Belize into the world’s first jaguar preserve, and built the largest nature reserve in Taiwan, the first national park in the Himalayas, and the world’s largest tiger reserve in Burma. Nevertheless, he knows he is losing.

The problem, Rabinowitz and other leading biologists now know, is that the classic conservation strategy of preserving habitat is in fact no defense against extinction. Twenty years ago, the devastation of natural forest was a visible danger. What went unseen was the damage sustained on a larger field of battle: the gene pool. A reserve may be a refuge for wildlife, but it is also a genetic sink. When a population of large predators is confined to pristine island of wilderness over time, they fall to inbreeding, leaving the species with weaker young and fewer defenses in an environment increasingly distorted by climate change. This is the deepening lesson of wildlife conservation from the post-industrial age to the genomic age: you can’t save animals without saving their homes, and you can’t save species without saving their genes.


The pleasure of watching birds

October 10, 2008

John James Audubon was a naturalist and a brilliant wildlife artist. But some ornithologists, like Salim Ali, believed that illustrations are meant to be functional. Malavika Karlekar in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Tropical Birding

Blue-throated Barbet / Photo: Tropical Birding

A few years later, as the civil-servant-cum-ornithologist, Allan Octavian Hume, was settling into retirement in England, Sálim Moizuddin Abdul Ali was born to Zeenat-un-Nissa and Moizuddin, one of nine children. This was in Bombay in November 1896. On being orphaned, the brood “grew up under the loving care of a maternal uncle, Amiruddin Tyabji, and his childless wife, Hamida Begam”. Amiruddin was one of the earliest Indian members of the Bombay Natural History Society, and after an unusual sparrow with a yellow patch on its throat had fallen prey to young Salim’s airgun, he sent him off to meet Walter Samuel Millard, a British entrepreneur and naturalist who was honorary secretary of the Society and editor of the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society.

It was in 1908 that a nervous adolescent entered the “quaint old single-storeyed building through its solid teakwood portal”. He need not have been so fearful at the thought of “meeting a full-grown sahib face to face”, as Millard not only identified the bird as a Yellowthroated Sparrow, but also took Salim on a conducted tour of many reference cabinets full of stuffed specimens. “The fortuitous incident with the Yellowthroated Sparrow,” wrote Salim Ali in his autobiography, aptly named The Fall of a Sparrow, “opened up undreamt of vistas for me”. In fact, it was the beginning of a long life of dedication to and involvement with Indian birds and ornithological experiences.


Grand trunk show

August 6, 2008

Now showing: 13 life-sized topiary elephants are touring the UK and Ireland in a bid to raise awareness for the need for protecting the natural habitat of their grey cousins in India. Organised by British charity, Elephant Family, the survival tour is supported by several leading designers including Ralph Lauren and Diane Von Furstenberg, each of whom has designed a blanket to keep the elephants in the pinnacle of style.

For more pictures in The Guardian click here

On the trail of the ‘Indian yeti’

June 19, 2008

By Alastair Lawson, BBC News, Meghalaya

In the US it’s known as bigfoot, in Canada as sasquatch, in Brazil as mapinguary, in Australia as a yowie, in Indonesia as sajarang gigi and, most famously of all, in Nepal as a yeti.

The little known Indian version of this legendary ape-like creature is called mande barung – or forest man – and is reputed to live in the remote West Garo hills of the north-eastern state of Meghalaya.

I was invited by passionate yeti believer Dipu Marak to travel throughout the area to hear for myself what he says is compelling evidence of the existence of a black and grey ape-like animal which stands about 3m (nearly 10ft) tall.


Previously in AW: Is the Yeti for real?


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