1 Tahrcountry Musings: 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sunda leopard

Pic Credit: Danau Girang Field Centre. 
Sunda leopard (Neofelis diardi) is Borneo's largest predator, but very little is known about the animal. It is well camouflaged and mostly nocturnal. It was only 8 years back that the animal was discovered.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

4th edition of Global Reintroduction Perspectives

Re-introduction is acquiring an increasingly important role in conservation. This latest edition of Global Reintroduction Perspectives from IUCN provides 52 fascinating case studies in reintroduction. It is very useful to conservation professionals and the wildlife managers. Read the report HERE

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Powerful software Carnegie Landsat Analysis System developed by the Carnegie Institution for Science is now available at no cost

Hi guys,
             Here is a golden opportunity for you to get to know and become proficient in the use of use Landsat Analysis System developed by the Carnegie Institution for Science. The free online course called CLASlite Classroom trains users how to monitor the extent and condition of the world's forests using satellite imagery. It is designed for both expert and entry-level users. 
John Mitchell, vice provost for online learning at Stanford said "CLASlite Classroom represents a new model of collaborative online learning," "It's a perfect example of how the open source online learning platform, OpenEdX, can be used to support scholarship and teaching that has real-world impact, and help the scientific community enlarge the field of engaged citizenry. People everywhere who want to gain knowledge can take this course and also contribute to an important scientific effort."

For more information and to register for the course, visit the CLASlite course webpage.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Wildlife Comeback in Europe study


The Eurasian beaver, European bison and White-tailed eagle are among the species that have made remarkable comeback in Europe. The report ‘Wildlife Comeback in Europe’, describes how, why and where 37 mammal and bird species have recovered over the past 50 years. The report gives lessons for the conservation of these and other species.
Professor Jonathan Baillie, Director Zoological Society of London (ZSL), says: “It is essential that we both celebrate and learn from major successes in conservation.  This study helps us understand the interventions and conditions necessary for a broad range of species to experience similar recoveries”
Read the report HERE

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A new book for protected area professionals

Social and Economic Benefits of Protected Areas
An Assessment Guide
Edited by Marianne Kettunen, Patrick ten Brink
Routledge – 2013 – 368 pages
340 pages, 58 b/w illustrations, 34 tables
Paperback | Aug 2013 | #207183 | ISBN-13: 9780415632843

Marianne Kettunen is Senior Policy Analyst at the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and Guest Researcher at the Finnish Environment Institute, Helsinki, Finland.
Patrick ten Brink is Senior Fellow and Head of Office at the Institute for European Environmental Policy in Brussels, Belgium. He is also the editor of the book: "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in National and International Policy Making", developed within "The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity" (TEEB) project, administered by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Publishers description
Protected areas (PAs) contain biodiversity and ecosystems of high conservation value. In addition, these areas provide a range of benefits, both direct and indirect, to our societies and economies, i.e. so called ecosystem services. These services include, for example, an ecosystem's ability to regulate floods and climate, purify water, secure the pollination of crops, and create opportunities for recreation, culture and tourism.
This book offers a comprehensive introduction to the socio-economic benefits of PAs and PA networks and provides step-by-step practical guidance on identifying, assessing and valuing the various ecosystem services and related benefits provided by PAs. It also aims to improve the communication of PA benefits to different stakeholders and the general public. It is shown that identifying and valuing the socio-economic benefits of PAs can be beneficial for several reasons. Demonstrating socio-economic importance of a protected site can significantly increase political and stakeholder support for the site and resolve conflicts between different interest groups. This can lead to positive changes in policies and decision-making. Insights on PA benefits are also needed to identify a combination of actions and land use practices that best support the sustainable and equitable utilisation of these benefits, while retaining a site’s conservation goals. Finally, demonstrating different benefits can help to discover alternative and sustainable sources for financing the management of PAs.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Message from IUCN - Masters in Conservation Leadership - Applications and scholarship support for October 2014

Masters in Conservation Leadership Applications and scholarship support for October 2014

This course is a full-time, one year Masters, aimed at graduates of leadership potential with at least three to five years of experience relevant to biodiversity conservation. The unique feature of the course is its delivery by a collaboration between six University of Cambridge departments and nine leading conservation organisations based around Cambridge, and its focus on issues of management and leadership. A key aim of the course is to build the capacity of conservation leaders from tropical countries. As a result, the first two cohorts have attracted post-experience students from around the world.

IUCN have scholarship funding available for the academic year beginning in October 2014. All applications for October entry and scholarships must be received by the 3 December 2013. Further details of the course and scholarships can be found at:

IUCN also encourage applicants to seek scholarship support locally, for example the Chevening Scholarship schemes run by the British Council in their home countries.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Novelist Thomas Pynchon shows that science and art can mesh beautifully

Novelist Thomas Pynchon, in his latest book Bleeding Edge (Penguin) underlines the fact that science and art can mesh with mutually beneficial results. There are few novelists who can claim to successfully unite the two cultures, but Pynchon does it with panache. Pynchon turns to science and engineering as sources of imagery and symbolism
The novel centres on Maxine Tarnow, a mother of two boys and self-described "paid up member of Yentas with Attitude,”. Maxine runs a fraud investigation business called "Tail 'Em and Nail 'Em’. She gets deeply involved in the investigation of a computer-security firm called Hashlingerz. The mysterious techno geek CEO of the firm seems to rake in lot of unaccountable money. The  investigation of Maxine leads her deeper and deeper into the Internet underworld, to a Second Life-like "deep Web" world called DeepArcher, then on to a mysterious underground bunker in Montauk, a drug-smuggling boat on the Hudson, and lot of other places  in Manhattan. Meanwhile September 11 is round the corner and Hashlingerz's activities points to some kind of connection to terrorist groups.
The book is beautifully written and is receiving rave reviews.
 Here is a sample of the description of uptown Manhattan in the rain: “What might only be a simple point on the workday cycle . . . becomes a million pedestrian dramas, each one charged with mystery, more intense than high-barometer daylight can ever allow. Everything changes. There’s that clean, rained-on smell. The traffic noise gets liquefied. Reflections from the street into the windows of city buses fill the bus interiors with unreadable 3-D images, as surface unaccountably transforms to volume. Average pushy Manhattan schmucks crowding the sidewalks also pick up some depth, some purpose — they smile, they slow down, even with a cellular phone stuck in their ear they are more apt to be singing to somebody than yakking. Some are observed taking houseplants for walks in the rain. Even the lightest umbrella-to-umbrella contact can be erotic.”

Read an excellent review that appeared in Nature HERE

Thursday, September 19, 2013

2013 Champions of the Earth award winners

Here is the list of, UN's flagship environmental award winners
Ms. Izabella Teixeira, Minister of Environment, Brazil is recognized for her key role in reversing deforestation in the Amazon and her role on high-level UN panels on sustainable development
Janez Poto─Źnik, European Commissioner for the Environment is recognized for his work advocating a shift from the current global model of intensive resource consumption,
Brian McClendon, co-founder and VP of Google Earth is recognized for providing a powerful tool to monitor the state of the environment, allowing researchers to detect deforestation, classify land cover and estimate forest biomass and carbon and thus demonstrate the scale of problems and illustrate solutions.
Jack Dangermond, Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) is recognized for his commitment to ensuring that international, research, education, and nonprofit organizations working in the fields of conservation and development have access to the best geospatial analytical and visualization technology.
Veerabhadran Ramanathan, Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD was recognized for his pioneering work on black carbon, which included leading a team that first discovered widespread Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABCs) and research into how cutting black carbon can significantly mitigate climate change India.
Carlo Petrini, Founder of the Slow Food movement is recognized for his visionary work to improve the efficiency and sustainability of the world's agriculture and food supply "one bite at a time".

Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo, Director of Grupo Ecol├│gico Sierra Gorda is recognized for her work in the Sierra Gorda region of Central Mexico, which demonstrates how a broad range of advocacy, public education and income-generation approaches, can produce support healthy ecosystems and alleviate poverty.

List and details provided by UNEP

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The urgent need for transportation biologists in India

In India when a new road or bridge project is planned, there is only perfunctory reference to impact on wildlife. An EIA (Environmental impact analysis), might be done in some cases to meet the needs of the statute books, but there is absolutely no proviso for making the roads and bridges wildlife friendly in its true sense. In several European countries, US, and Canada, in house transportation biologists are an integral part of the whole process of roads and bridges building. They see to it that roads and bridges projects avoid or circumvent sensitive wildlife habitat and help minimize and mitigate environmental impacts to streams, wetlands, and other prime wildlife habitats. Sometime exclusive wildlife bridges (ecoduct) are also built. These wildlife bridges guarantee safe crossing for wildlife in the maze of heavy traffic and cacophony of highways.

In the Netherlands, which has taken a leading role in the field of wildlife friendly roads, there are 600 tunnels to direct wildlife away from highways. Fencing is also resorted to in concert with tunnels, as good option in guiding wildlife to safe crossing structures and prevent crossing in vulnerable areas. In wildlifers’ parlance this practice is called funnelling. Animals’ use of these passages can be optimised by providing plant cover near the entrances. Reducing the plant cover along road curves and increasing it along level stretches has been found to be very effective in bringing down road kills.

I was thrilled to read recently about what Sarah Piecuch,a transportation biologist working with  New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT)  did for otters. While involved in a road a project at Melvin Brook in Clyde, New York, early in the project’s development, Sarah noticed an otter (Lontra canadensis) kill, at a project site. Her inquisitiveness led her to a large culvert in the area which was constantly filled with water. This culvert was interrupting the scent trail of the otters. Scent trail is very important in the biology of otter. The lack of an upland area forced the otters to come out of the water and travel over the road embankment to leave a scent trail. This upland travel made them vulnerable to road traffic and many were inadvertently getting killed. Sarah explained the need and ideal parameters for an upland bench to the engineers. The project engineers were delighted to take up the challenge and came up with an ingenious upland bench below the culvert. It was fruition of great team work of biologists and engineers.  Sarah identified the need and the engineers found a perfect solution. This kind of teamwork is what is needed for our roads and bridges projects and not hastily sewn up EIA.

The transportation biologists have to be involved right from the planning stages. It is easy to find solutions at the early stages.  Providing enough culverts for wildlife, to use as underpasses, could come in very handy, as topography has the greatest impact on road kills. Studies by University of Calgary researchers have found that, small animals were far less likely to get killed on sections of roads that were raised than on sections that were level with the surrounding terrain. Engineers and biologists working as a close knit team could come up with perfect solutions.

Even existing structures can be made wildlife friendly with innovative planning. Species like barn owls and cormorants very effectively use the bridges in urban scenarios. Many other birds use the bridges for perching, nesting and roosting. A transportation biologist can advise the engineer, how to take in to account the needs of the birds while repairing or painting the structures. Bridges can provide suitable day and night roosting habitat for bats.

The avenues of transportation biologists and engineers working hand in hand are multifarious. Road ecology has become an important new branch of science and has made great strides abroad. It is high time we did something along these lines in India also. The time to act is ripe, as India is on a fast track of infrastructure developments. India should not lag behind is this sphere. Mitigating interactions between roads and wildlife is going to be very important in the years to come.

New Avatar

            After several months break, I am back on this blog. I will be blogging on all related matters of wildlife conservation, instead of concentrating on scientific papers alone. I seek your continued support.

Have a nice day