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Newsletter of nature conservation foundation

BushChat Summer '17


The Shen Story: 

How a women-led handicraft enterprise in a remote valley in Himachal Pradesh is helping in the conservation of snow leopards

Women in Spiti valley do have more free time in winter, but how many projects are started at -20°C, often with road blockages and avalanches?

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My first good photograph of a wild tiger

 "Then it reached a patch of light, and, anticipating that I would be able to get a better picture, I whistled. The tiger stopped dead and with a puzzled expression looked in my direction." 

Photographing wild tigers wasn't as easy back in the 1970s as it is today! Dr AJT Johnsingh tells us how he got around to taking this photo from atop a mango tree on a summer's day in 1978.

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The fall of a squirrel

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by Suhel Quader (from our column in The Hindu in School)

I was in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, named after the beautiful river that flows through it. In October, the trees in the forest were already beginning to shed their leaves, and the landscape looked brown and drab. Except, that is, the part of the sanctuary through which the river flows. The silver ribbon of water was flanked on both sides by riverine trees that remain evergreeen through the year, unlike their deciduous cousins on the hill slopes. 

 Crocodiles calling 

 It was in this green strip along the Cauvery that I had spent the past couple of days, admiring the river, marvelling at the forest and looking for its wildlife. The water was clear and cool as it danced among the rapids, then dark and still as it settled in deeper pools underneath the riverbank trees. 

 Fish occasionally splashed out of the surface, watched closely by the fish-eagles soaring above. Half-hidden crocodiles swam lazily from one bank to the other. In the early mornings and late evenings, the crocodiles gained fresh energy, slapping their tails against the water as they showed off to each other. 

 Very early one morning, at sunrise, a crocodile emerged directly in front of me, in the middle of the river. It raised half of its body out of the water, puffed up its massive pale throat and growled loudly, twice, before sinking back. I caught my fingers trembling, although I was a safe 30 metres away, on the bank. The trees along the river were mostly towering Arjunas, broad trunks rising pale and smooth, higher and higher, until the first branches appeared. 

 On a morning walk I saw sets of dark red vertical cuts, gouged deep into the trunk of an Arjuna tree. I was told that sloth bears regularly climb the trees; not for their hard and inedible fruits, but rather to raid beehives for their precious honey. I can still scarcely believe that big shaggy bears climb 15 metres of entirely smooth, entirely vertical tree trunks, as routinely as they snuffle for termites on the ground. 

 Squirrel surprise 

 At midday one day, I was idling in the shade of a tamarind, watching a pair of grizzled giant squirrels chasing each other among the branches of a neighbouring Arjuna tree. For all I knew, they might have been rivals in a territorial battle, or perhaps just playing in sheer joy. 

 Then, before I was fully aware of it, one of the squirrels lost its grip and fell ten metres to the ground. The thud was sickening. 

 Frozen to the spot, I watched anxiously, certain that the animal must either be severely crippled or dead. After a few seconds, it rose hesitantly to its feet, and looked slowly to the left and the right, its comrade watching from a branch as high as a three-storey house. 

 For a moment it looked like it would collapse. Then it hobbled painfully and slowly around the trunk of the tree from which it fell, past a neighbouring Arjuna, and stopped at the base of the next tree, a tamarind. It looked up the trunk, as though considering its options, as I held my breath. Then, claws gripping the corrugated bark, it bounded up the tree–and in a flash it had disappeared into the canopy. 

 As my breath came back, time began to flow once more, and sound returned—of the river, the jumping fish, the breeze in the leaves, and the worried calls of the other squirrel above me.

Sing me a folktale

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Kadar tribes in southern Western Ghats believe that when elders die they are reborn as Malabar Whistling Thrushes. When in the forest, they listen for their ancestor’s voice and when they hear the thrush, they know that they are not alone. 

Indian folklore is rich with many such stories about the distinctive calls of birds, P Jeganathan narrates a few of them.

(From our column in The Hindu in School)  

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World Wildlife Day Special

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A fungus with 28 thousand different sexes, a spider with hunting techniques that seem straight out of a horror movie, and other news!

For this World Wildlife Day, we asked our staff for their favourite underappreciated species and why they deserve some of the limelight as well. 

Here’s what they had to say!

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