Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Sunday, August 24, 2014
|The main temple complex of Angkor Wat|
Only when we reached the main temple complex did we find out that the ticket center is 5km back towards the city. The check post was located in such a way that we couldn't even get a peek at the worlds largest temple complex!
|Sunrise at Angkor Wat|
|Bhagya at the South Gate of Angkor Thom|
|One of the hundreds of temples scattered over the 3000 sq km of the Angkor landscape.|
|The forest reclaiming what was theirs|
|Marathon participants on their acclimatization run|
|Bhagya and I at the finsh line|
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Why it Matters What your Neighbors Think is a blog published by the Snow Leopard Trust about some of our recent research on the attitudes of local pastoral people towards the snow leopards and wolves
|Kee Monastery in the snow leopard and wolf habitat of the Spiti Valley|
Saturday, July 12, 2014
I was in the South Gobi province of Mongolia working with Jens karlsson and Gustaf Samelius on a project to safe guard livestock stocking corrals from snow leopards and wolves. Jens has more experience fencing out large carnivores than any other wildlife biologist that I know.
|A fence that we build around Burran's corral in the Gobi Desert. The dark soil is actually a meter deep goat poop!|
|Jens, Burran and Burran's kid|
|Burran shows Jens the petroglyphs near his corral. Its a horseman with bow and arrow hunting what appears to be a male red-deer.|
Petroglyphs of red deer are common in the Gobi, alongside that of ibex, snow leopards and wolves. The petroglyphs of red deer indicate that the Gobi was not so dry always. It had the red-deer which occupies relatively wetter areas. No red deer in the gobi any more.
I spent the winter of 2011-12 in the Gobi. One evening this dog just walked up to me and started playing, When I inquired around the herders said that he just walked up from the one day and has been hanging around. He guarded my camp that winter. This time I was happy to see that the dog had adopted a neighboring herder. He was delighted to see me. So was I. After an hours play he led me to this well.
The idea of building fences around livestock corral is to keep the livestock killing by carnivores to the minimum. Thus removing the herders motivation for killing the predator. Of course we will have to follow-up with the herders to make sure that support carnivore conservation.
|The first thing that comes to mind when we hear Mongolia is Chinggis Khan and horses.|
I haven't been so fortunate to be able to ride horses in the Gobi but should I get a chance I would rather do it bare-back. The Mongolian saddles are made of wood and extremely hard.
|Watering a horse|
Gobi has a lot of livestock; goat, sheep, horses, camels, cattle. They all depend on these wells which are barely a thirty or forty feet deep. These well were dug up during the communism time. Now, with the big mines (coal and copper) digger has led to a lowering of ground water table in the region threatening this age-old form of life.
|The dog form the west|
|A white wagtail. There is a good chance that this guy flew in from India only a couple of hours ago. Well he must have left a while ago but reached only now.|
|Off-roading in the grassland seems like fun but not for the ecology of the region. Its fun because it is negotiable and offers a long view|
After we were done putting up two trial fences we were ready to get back to Ulan Baatar and head back to India. Call it a stroke of luck, but we did not get seats on the flight from Ovoot to Ulaan Baatar. The good news was that we would be driving all the way from Gurvantes, which is near the Chinese border in the south, to Ulan Baatar. A drive of 900km and estimated time was two days!
Miji and Sumbee drove the entire distance. The big russian van was the ideal vehicle for such a journey. Of course the Mongolians would disagree because they prefer the LandRover.
The road was littered with Isabaline Shrikes and Voles and feeding on them were the Upland Buzzards. I never imagined that a land could support so many raptors. The sky was full of Black Vultures, the pastures laden with buzzard, the occasional falcon flew across flocks of larks and the eagles were perched on the electric poles. The migration was in full swing. Even small ponds were full of Swans and Geese and Gulls.
For wildlife, the mud roads of the desert were great. We saw a few herds of Black-tailed Gazzelle. A lone spoonbill stranded in the sand.
|As we drove north the grass became greener|
|Miji and the big Russian van|
|Desert gave way to tar roads|
|Herders on their horse with wood pole lasso. This is the traditional way of livestock herding.|
|I am not sure what that JCB is doing in the pasture|
|The scenery changed rapidly as we approached Ulan Baatar|
|Ulan Baatar holds a juxtaposition of the old communist/Soviet grandeur and modern western briskness with its Braodway Pizzas|
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Zambre et al. 2014) The spitians have always known of a scorpion that inhibits their houses and livestock sheds. It lives a almost completely subterranean life. Thus they are mainly sighted when demolishing an old building or digging rocky areas for new buildings. Some of us who have worked here often thought that this was a yet undescribed species.It was June 2011 when I went to Spiti with Mayank Kohli and Ashwin Vishwanathan that we got to collecting a few specimens. Thanks to our friends Amod Zambre, Zeeshan Mirza and Rajesh Sanap who are experts of the taxonomy of scorpions and spiders our scorpion turned out to be a species new to science. The specimens have been deposited in the museum of the Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai. The original paper describing the species can be found here.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
A blog published by the Snow Leopard Trust.
Thanks to Matthias Fiechter for help with the article
Thanks to Matthias Fiechter for help with the article
Saturday, November 30, 2013
|Horses grazing in the pastures around Tost mountains in the Gobi desert|
Of course life in deserts revolves around the oases and waterholes. Almost every animal and bird has to visit one of these for a drink. However, the cold deserts of the Trans-Himalayan region tend to be a little different. The animals here depend on the snow in winter and glacier and snow melts in summer for their water requirements.
The Gobi desert in Mongolia is a weird mix of both! Summer temperatures here reach a maximum of 35 Degrees Celcius and winters freeze at 25 degrees below zero. Come summer, life revolves around waterholes and oases which are the only source of water. As winter approaches these sources of water freeze over and a new source of water is delivered: snow! Although most animals here are adapted to the a desert life, there little requirement for water is met through eating snow.
This year was different. I arrived in the Gobi on the 28th October. The autumn was giving way to winter. This year the winter was predicted to hit hard and hit early. But something didn't go as predicted. The snow never arrived. Well into November and all life still revolved around waterholes; some natural, others man-made. As the cold hardened the smaller and more exposed of the waterholes started to freeze. The few that still had water were attracting more and more visitors. Some of us decided to spend time at these waterholes and observe what came there during the day. We were not equipped to spend nights out in the cold so we ignore the nights.
|Asiatic ibex searching for water|
We picked a waterhole near our camp. It was a busy place. Right at first light a large herd of about forty ibex ware at it. This waterhole had started also started to freeze over but a small gap in the ice allowed them access to water. But a small opening meant that only one animal could drink at one time. There was a long waiting for the young and smaller ibex. They had to also maintain a vigil for wolves and snow leopards.
The birds had it tough too. Since the sun rise birds kept flocking in and out of the small valley where the waterhole is tucked in. They too took turns but it worked quicker for them. A flock of passerines or partridges would come in the sand next to the waterhole, a few quick bill fulls of water and they would fly off. I saw more species of birds at this water hole in day than what I had seen in two months of field work!
And just around mid-day it happened. A single medium sized bird flew into the valley and instead of heading to the waterhole, it perched about thirty meters from it on a boulder. It was dull grayish-brownish. Once it was on the boulder it was hard for me to see it clearly. A few minutes later three common redpolls (Carduelis flammea), a very small finch like bird, came and dived straight for the waterhole. And the mystery bird which was perched on the rock a little distance away dived after them but missed. The redpolls scattered away but the mystery bird had chosen its prey and kept close in hot pursuit. At first it was like a two fighter planes locked in combat. They flew fast and turned rapidly. Soon the smaller bird changed strategy. It tried to gain height over the bird in pursuit. Now they were just hovering at the same spot going higher and higher. It was like to choppers battling it out. As they moved higher in the sky their silluettes became smaller and just before they would disappear they smaller bird dived fast and disappear. The mystery bird returned to its perch. This time I got a better look and later identified it as the Northern shrike (Lanius excubitor). In the days that followed we often saw peregrine and saker falcons, golden eagles ambushing their prey at this waterhole.
|Redpoll eating ice to get water|
And one day without warning the waterhole froze over completely. We would see ibex come to it and turn back without quenching their thirst. A few days later a colleague found a healthy looking ibex female lying dead only a few meters from the frozen waterhole. There were no external injuries. Its health didn't suggest any disease either. It seemed like she had died of thirst. I was left wondering how far she had traveled in the hope of water. And then her hopes shattered so hard that she died right there, perhaps more out of disappointment than out of thirst.
|Mongolian ground jay|