Tag Archives: Habitat destruction

Human Callousness Causes 7 Elephant Deaths in India

Irrespective of where a child lives one question most kids can answer is “which is the largest land animal?” and you will get the answer “Elephant”.

India is home to around 25,000 elephants who are in an eternal struggle for existence; courtesy the habitat encroachment from the growing population. Early this month India’s ministry for Environment and Forestry declared the Elephant as a “National Heritage Animal“!

Fast forward to the 23rd of September – Imagine a train hitting and killing 7 elephants and the driver claiming he was going slow and did not see the elephants! Believable right?

Elephants are gentle giants, left to themselves they are like most other animals who really don’t want anything to do with us humans. In the largest fatality of its kind 7 elephants were mowed down by a goods train in the District of Jaipalguri in West Bengal. Since 1987 Trains have killed 118 elephants and this region of West Bengal had another elephant death 3 months back.

The Indian railways has this track smack in the middle of an elephant corridor and for some distance where the region is protected the trains are supposed to maintain a slow speed between 2o-40 kilometers per hour. Wild life officials who have seen the carnage put the speed anywhere above 90 kilometers an hour, and they find it preposterous that the driver could not see the elephants on a moonlit night in an open area without trees. The dead elephants were three adult females, two young elephants, an adult tusker and a calf.

Photo Credit - Stringer Reuters

The reality is the sheer callous attitude of people involved who seem to think “the elephants should have known better” they crossed where “it was not a protected zone”. As if Elephants should be reading the railways memo’s and cautionary boards before walking a path their ancestors have walked for centuries…

I can’t imagine what goes on in people’s minds to excuse such inhumane behavior. To be blatantly ignorant about us encroaching on their natural habitats and creating survival issues for them and then justifying it by saying the Elephants were in the wrong place, it’s a shame.

What can be done?

IMMEDIATE SOLUTION – All Wild life activists and experts in India say the solution right now is to Stop Goods trains after dark through that route and to keep the speeds really low.

Long term Possible Solution

9 years back the Wild Life trust of India had formed a tie-up with forest officials and the railways in Rajaji national Park in the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh where trains had killed 11 elephants in 14 years. They formed a wireless monitoring network comprising of forest guards who monitored the railway tracks, who would be in touch with the railways motormen who were sensitized towards the elephants and their right to stay alive. The project is a resounding success and may be, something along the same lines might work for the Doaar Elephants too… After the project went live there has not been a single elephant death by train in the Rajaji National Park. The Doaar protected area is much larger and has tea estates in the midst, it will definitely be a much larger undertaking. According to sources, WWF has decided to file a case in Supreme Court to stop train movement on the NJP-Alipurduar Junction route.

Hope this kind of incident never happens again (in someways I feel it is wishful thinking until some concrete step is taken).

It is this kind of accidents which will be happening if and when the highway through the Serengeti becomes a reality. I shudder at the thought of what might be… Sign the petition to stop the Serengeti Highway if you have not already done it, we need to start a petition for the elephants of Doaar soon.

Like Everything else in life what we do is what counts more than what we say…

Sources:
Times of India
BBC

Are We Triggering A New Epoch?

Mass Extinctions have been part and parcel of millions of years of history of our earth. From the Dinosaurs to the Woolly mammoth have all disappeared as part of mass extinctions in the past. Today morning I read an article by Jeremy Hsu titled “Mass Extinction Threat: Earth on Verge of Huge Reset Button?

Some scientists have speculated that effects of humans — from hunting to climate change — are fueling another great mass extinction. A few go so far as to say we are entering a new geologic epoch, leaving the 10,000-year-old Holocene Epoch behind and entering the Anthropocene Epoch, marked by major changes to global temperatures and ocean chemistry, increased sediment erosion, and changes in biology that range from altered flowering times to shifts in migration patterns of birds and mammals and potential die-offs of tiny organisms that support the entire marine food chain.

Imagining that we might be the beginning of a new epoch because of our actions is beyond belief to me. But I can see how it could be, as we are seeing several species disappearing before our very eyes.

The write up is based on an analysis by John Alroy a Paleobiologist from Macquarie University Sydney, Australia. His analysis is detailed in the Sept. 3 issue of the journal Science, is based on almost 100,000 fossil collections in the Paleobiology Database (PaleoDB)

In the past, researchers have typically counted species in the fossil record by randomly drawing a set number of samples from each time period – a method that can leave out less common species. In fact two studies using the PaleoDB used this approach.

Instead, Alroy used a new approach called shareholder sampling, in which he tracked how frequently certain groups appeared in the fossil record, and then counted enough samples until he hit a target number representative of the proportion for each group.

“In some sense the older methods are a little like the American voting system – the first-past-the-post-winner method basically makes minority views invisible,” said Charles Marshall, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who did not take part in the study. “However, with proportional systems, minority views still get seats in parliament.”

One of the few consistent patterns is that growth spurts in diversity can apparently happen at any time, according to Alroy. He added that the background extinction of individual species has also remained consistent – the average species lasts just a few million years.

This means today’s species matter for environments around the world, and so humans can’t simply expect replacements from the diverse species of the future.

“If we lose all the reef builders, we may not get back the physical reefs for millions of years no matter how fast we get back all the species diversity in a simple sense,” Alroy said.

Read the entire article here

And check out the lists of Mammals and Birds which have gone extinct.

Highly endangered list of 10 which are going Extinct

Check out the video of animals which went extinct in the 20th century:

The Disappearing Stripes In The Year Of The Tiger IV: Sumatran Tiger

I have been writing about tigers in a series of posts titled “The Disappearing Stripes in the Year of The Tiger. The previous 3 can be found at the following links:

Part I – The Disappearing Stripes

Part II – The Amur Tiger

Part III – The Bengal Tiger

This is the 4th part of “The Disappearing Stripes in the year of the Tiger” getting to know the Sumatran Tiger this week. The Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is the smallest of the 5 surviving species of tigers today. They are critically endangered due to habitat destruction and poaching.

Courtesy Bricmak under Creative Commons Attribution

Picture Courtesy Brian Mckay

The Sumatran Tiger has lived exclusively, for over a million years, in the once extensive moist tropical jungles of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Their population in the wild is now heavily fragmented and is estimated to range between 400 and 500 individuals. Groups of between a few and several dozen tigers can be found principally in and around Sumatra’s national parks.

What makes the Sumatran Tiger even more special as it has been genetically isolated in its unique environment which is an island, away from all the other species of tigers in Asia.

Interesting facts about the Sumatran Tiger:

  • Sumatran male tigers average around 8’ in length and weigh around 265pounds.
  • The Sumatran tigers have narrower stripes which make it easier for them to move in the jungle.
  • Male Sumatran tigers have a more bearded and maned appearance.
  • Webbing between their toes, when spread, enables the Sumatran tiger to be very fast swimmer.
  • Less than 500 Sumatran tigers live in the wild in Sumatra.
  • The largest population of about 110 Sumatran tigers lives in Gunung Leuser National Park.
  • Indonesia has 65 captive Sumatran tigers living in zoos, 85 in European zoos and 20 in Australian zoos. There are 70 tigers managed by North American zoos.
  • Loss of their natural habitat often leads tigers to move into settled areas in search of food, where they then encounter problems.
  • The Sumatran has the darkest coat of all the tigers ranging from reddish-yellow through to deep orange, its broad black stripes are closely spaced and often doubled this helps them hide in the forest.
  • Their Nocturnal vision is 6times as sharp as ours!

You can do your bit by helping save tigers HERE

Help Save the Tiger, it is our responsibility.

Info on Sumatran Tigers Sources:

Honolulu Zoo

The Tiger Trust

Tiger world

BP’s Deep Water Horizon Leaves Behind a 22mile Long Oil Plume

Deep Water Horizon Oil spill has been officially not leaking since July 15th 2010. Now after a month scientists confirm the presence of a 22 mile long oil plume in the bottom of the ocean and the oil had been confirmed to have come from the Deep Water Horizon well.

The Associated Press reported “A 22-mile-long invisible mist of oil is meandering far below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, where it will probably loiter for months or more, scientists reported Thursday in the first conclusive evidence of an underwater plume from the BP spill.”

The Christian Science Monitor says the plume is 700 feet thick and 22 miles long. This was found by US and Australian scientists who were on a cruise to study the impact of Deep Water Horizon. Their findings represent the most detailed picture yet of undersea plumes of oil and methane from the Gulf oil spill. The researchers were surprised by the plume’s relative stability as well as by an apparent lack of activity on the part of microbes to break down the oil.

Experts believe the plume will take longer than 4 months to dissipate, government agencies have all but given BP a clean chit.

The oil is at depths of 3,000 to 4,000 feet, far below the environment of the most popular Gulf fish like red snapper, tuna and mackerel. But it is not harmless. These depths are where small fish and crustaceans live. And one of the biggest migrations on Earth involves small fish that go from deep water to more shallow areas, taking nutrients from the ocean depths up to the large fish and mammals.

“This is a highly sensitive ecosystem,” agreed Steve Murawski, chief fisheries scientist for the federal agency NOAA. “The animals down at 3,300 to 3,400 feet grow slowly.” The oil not only has toxic components but could cause genetic problems even at low concentrations, he said.

Read the entire AP article HERE

Latest Video from the NOAA and FWS:

What will be the effect of the oil spill and the resulting clean up?

Another thing that still worries me is the aftermath of using Corexit – the Toxic Dispersant. Earth Justice says more than 1.8million gallons of dispersants were used in the Gulf of Mexico! Dispersants were used in the Gulf in unprecedented ways and amounts, turning the Gulf into a massive experiment largely keeping the public in the dark as to the risks these dispersants pose.

After Exxon Valdez disaster Congress enacted a new law calling for advance study and approval of dispersants as part of oil spill response planning. No measures if any were taken while using Corexit and for quite sometime the ingredients  in Corexit was not even available. The secret ingredients were identified only after congressional demands, media outcry and a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Earthjustice.

The only studies submitted to EPA for Corexit were acute toxicity studies (which tell you what concentration of the chemical kills 50 percent of the test subjects) for one species of shrimp and one species of fish. EPA requires no other toxicity, environmental or health studies before it makes a dispersant eligible for use.

Corexit is banned in UK, Japan, Australia, Canada and China , but it is okie to use it in the US? Does it make any sense?

Read the Write up in its entirety on Earth Justice

Watch the video on Corexit use in the Gulf of Mexico :

It will quite sometime before we understand the real impact of the oil spill on the environment. Is there a long term hazard out there which we can’t envision? Only time will tell.  There is not much we can do in the Gulf other than keeping fingers crossed and hoping for the best. But we can make sure this does not repeat itself by reducing our dependence on Fossil fuels. Live Green!

Sources and more information can be found in the below links:

Christian Science Monitor

Oil Plumes writeup in CSM

NYTimes

Associated Press

On Bloomberg

BP Corexit Connection

A Highway Through The Serengeti: Will The Gnu Survive?

Africa the continent in the 21st century is associated with chaos, War, Atrocities against women and Children, hunger, poverty etc… Africa is also where the early human made their first appearance, where people lived in harmony with nature, where nature still remains natural in many pockets, where wildlife once thrived and many a hunter changed his view on hunting to become conservationists, where many a writer found his mojo, where the largest annual migration on earth still happens – The migrations of the Gnu (not the open source software but that which is its namesake – Commonly called the Wildebeest) antelopes etc… it is the land where every nature lover feels a connection to whether one has been there or not and feels drawn to. It is the one place on earth if given a chance I would love to visit – The Serengeti national park if only just to see the amazing Gnu migration, to hear the millions of hooves as they make the ground tremble, to see the stretch of antelopes as far as eye can see under the blue endless African skies.

Growing up one kind of romanticizes Africa and the endless skies with the abundant wildlife. I had only read about and imagined Africa until I saw it on the Large screen as a kid in The King Elephant which was later known as “the African Elephant” then “God’s Must be Crazy” etc.. to the Blood Diamond and others… My earlier films and the books I read made me fall in love with Africa, which has never wavered in spite of the state much of the continent is. As I grew older that one place where I really wanted to go visit has always been and probably will always be the Serengeti – Where the plains and the skies extend far beyond the eyes can see, where the Wildebeest, zebra, antelopes, elephants and giraffes co-existed with their predators lions, hyenas, cheetahs and leopards.

THE SERENGETI

Serengeti comes from the word Serenget which means “land that goes on forever or Endless plains”.

The Serengeti ecosystem is one of the oldest on earth. The essential features of climate, vegetation and fauna have barely changed in the past million years. Early man himself made an appearance in Olduvai Gorge about two million years ago. Some patterns of life, death, adaptation and migration are as old as the hills themselves.

More than a million Wildebeest traverse the plains of the Serengeti and the Masai mara(Kenya) along with 200,000 Zebras and gazelles following the rains. They are known to travel distances of 1300 miles a year! They move from the northern hills to the southern plains for the short rains every October and November, and then swirl west and north after the long rains in April, May and June. So strong is the ancient instinct to move that no drought, gorge or crocodile infested river can hold them back.

Development?

In the 1960’s the Tanzanian government tried to stop the Gnu from migrating into the Ngorongoro with barbed wire fence, the migrating herds trampled it to the ground as they made their way along routes engraved in their memories for who knows how many generations…

The Serengeti is a UNESCO world heritage site in Tanzania and now the Government of Tanzania plans to build a highway right in the middle of it! The Tanzanian government is moving forward with plans to build a public road through Serengeti National Park, despite conservationists’ concerns that commercial traffic will disrupt the annual wildebeest migration and allow poachers better access into the park.

If you have watched a video of the Wildebeest migration (scroll down if you have not) you will see how breathtaking and awe inspiring it is and just how easily startled they are by any intrusion (normally what we see are the predators creating the stress when they attack one of them en-route). Just imagine what many automobiles could do?

If you live in North America you can kind of understand the number of road kills we see every year as a result of deer being hit by cars on the road… it can be fatal for animal and human. This is when there are a few animals crossing our highways which have been around for decades now. Just imagine it being in the middle of the world’s largest migration every year! The standard procedure to protect wildlife is building of fences along the road sides… imagine having to leap over hurdles to continue their annual migration which is a part of their very being. However one weaves it we know roads are catastrophic for wildlife; we see that in our own backyards…  And to think the Tanzanian Government swears it will not be affected at all!!

The Politics of Promises with Power being the Ultimate Goal

The President of Tanzania came to power with the promise that he would build this road a 33 mile stretch which would connect Lake Victoria to the city of Arusha which is the tourist hot spot (base camp to Mount Kilimanjaro). What is interesting is the fact that a road through the park would “contravene the purpose of Tanzania’s accession to the World Heritage Convention,” according to the World Bank. The road would also “cause massive mortality of migratory species” and diminish the Serengeti’s value as a tourist attraction. The World Bank had in 1980’s rejected a similar proposal because of the negative ecological impact; I would think that should only have become more evident now than it was 3 decades ago.

There have been viability studies for the said road conducted by environmental groups which are independent (e.g. from Norway in 1997) which found it to be detrimental to the environment, and then the Government which stands by the road and the notion that it is “safe” did their own study in 2007 and came up with the response that “the effect on wildlife could be mitigated!” wonder how that will be accomplished when one really does not know how ecologically detrimental the road could be.

What is happening?

“Creating a commercial road through such a natural environment—where millions of wildebeest migrate annually—will be an intrusion in the natural habitat, so much so that the level of stress [among the animals] will be tremendous,” said Steven Kiruswa, the Maasai Steppe Heartland Director at the African Wildlife Foundation.

Poachers in Africa or any place where wild animals still survive and are protected in not news any more, But when Governments which are supposed to be protecting their own heritage turn a blind eye and cop up to vested interests dooming whatever is left protected, it makes me despondent. Why is it that there is still a market out there for animals and animal products? Why it is that man seems so unable to see what he is doing to what is left of the planet?

One thing is for sure like the Serengeti Park Management says “What we must face, all of us – poachers, tourists, farmers, conservationists and pastoralists – is the difficult truth that the land does not go on forever.”

Roads bring people and vehicles, development will encroach into the ecosystem of the Serengeti savannah. It will disrupt nature in ways we can’t imagine.

If you care PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION TO STOP THE ROAD SPLITTING THE SERENGETI

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Hoping that man’s greed and will-full ignorance does not make him blind enough to think that nature and its survival does not matter. Signing off with a quote from the from President of Tanzania Julius Nyerere who said “In accepting the trusteeship of our wildlife we solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children’s grand-children will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance.”

One reality that can’t be ignored is the fact that like every where else, unless the underlying issues are not taken care of these kind of band aids will appear more often than not. The only solution for environmental survival is not just education it is wiping out of poverty and the issues that come with it.

May be Tanzanians will remember Nyerere’s words, their tradition of conservation and act responsibly.

Possible Solution – A southern Route which won’t hamper the migratory path of the wildlife of the Plains that go on forever… May be the tour operators who bring in the tourists can make the Government listen and take action.

There are suggestions to build underground tunnels for the animals to migrate! This was done in places in India where elephants crossed over to their water sources when the government build rail tracks- problem they forgot to tell the elephants and there are still accidental deaths when an elephant is caught unaware on the track and meets its untimely death… Hopefully that is not where the Gnu and its ilk are headed.

Watch the Largest Migration in the World courtesy of National geographic :

Sources and Information:

National geographic

Stuart Pimm’s Blog Post

The Serengeti Website

Kristine Metzger’s Blog

Article in NYTimes by Olivia Judson

Relevant Videos and Books from Amazon:

Survival on the Serengeti

Africa: The Serengeti (IMAX) [Blu-ray]

Serengeti: Natural Order on the African Plain

National Geographic’s List Of 10 Things To Save The Ocean

National Geographic has a list of 10 things which each and everyone of us can adapt and which will help in saving our oceans!You can read the deatiled list HERE A pictorial representation of the tips is below 🙂

1. Mind our Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption

2. Make Sustainable Educated Seafood Choices

3. Use Fewer Plastic Products

4. Help keep Beaches Clean, the trash on the beach invariably makes it to the Ocean

5. Don’t purchase products that exploit Marine Life.

6. Be An Ocean Friendly Pet owner – choosing pet food and litter responsibly. Also being aware of what fish to buy for your aquarium.

7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean

8. Influence Change in Your Community. VOTE – GREEN

9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly

10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life
All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants.

Check out this Video from the BBC about the threat faced by the shallow waters and the Coral Reefs:

The Disappearing Stripes In the Year of The Tiger II

I am continuing from my last post in the “Meet an earthling” series catch up here In this post let us get to know the Amur tiger better.

Image Courtesy WCS website

Characteristics, Habitat and Adaptations

The Amur tiger previously called the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is now restricted to the Cold Boreal Forests in Eastern parts of Russia, northeastern China, northern regions of North Korea. They were called the Siberian tiger because they were found all over most of Siberia and now their range is restricted to the areas specified above which is one either side of the Amur river hence the name Amur tiger.

Amur tigers live in harsh environments, where extremely cold temperatures and deep snow are common. They are the largest amongst cats and produce more heat in the cold climates. They have thicker fur for insulation and their body is well adapted to the cold climate. They also have a layer of fat on their flanks and belly which helps protect them from the elements.

Amur tigers have a more pronounced ruff of fur around their neck and they have extra fur on their paws to protect them from the cold. Coat is golden-orange with dark stripes, with all cats markings being different and distinctive like fingerprints. They also have some patches of white on their belly, chest, throat and muzzle. Amur tigers have more white and fewer stripes than other tiger sub-species. Colors help it hide in its environment: white is like snow, black like shadows and yellow like dead oak leaves.

Conservation

According to the WWF the Amur tiger was on the verge of extinction in the 1940’s with their numbers in the wild falling to around 40! Thanks to vigorous antipoaching and other conservation efforts by the Russians with support from many partners, including WWF, the Amur tiger population recovered and has remained stable throughout the last decade or so. Now yet again thanks to illegal poaching, destruction of habitat and killing of its prey the numbers have drastically dropped in the wild.

Conservation groups are working hard to create a conservation area in the Russian far east without roads crisscrossing the region. The people who are keeping tabs say tigers seem to mostly die by human hand than anything else in the Amur region.

What is being done? Check out the links below :

Wildlife Conservation Society

Article in today’s Live Science.com about creation of the world’s largest Tiger Preserve in Myanmar

Alternatives for  Chinese traditional medicines which use tiger bones

Amur Tiger at the Columbus Zoo

Interesting Facts:

  • It is estimated there are less than 400 Amur tigers in the wild.
  • A typical male Amur tiger, the largest of the tiger subspecies, may weigh more than 500 pounds and measure nearly nine feet from nose to tip of the tail. The males can be up to 11 feet long!
  • Females are smaller — up to nine feet long and about 370 pounds
  • Amur tigers depend on large antelopes etc for food.
  • Killing the prey – If it’s a small animal, they kill it with a bite to the back of the neck, breaking the spinal cord. If it’s a large animal, they kill it by suffocating it with a bite to the throat.
  • They are mostly solitary,except for mothers and their dependent young. Amur tigers generally live alone in their individual home range.
  • A male usually defends a large territory (up to 4,000 square miles!) that overlaps the ranges of multiple females.
  • They let each other know about their presence by scent markings and scratches etc on trees
  • It is the largest cat in the world.
  • Spoors (footprints) of a male are rounded and impressions of toe pads in front are blunter, females are elongated and toe pads are narrower and sharper shaped.
  • One tiger provides 13-26 pounds of powered tiger bone and in just Korea they use 3 to 4000 pounds a year.
  • Tigers are one of the four cats that roar, others are lion, leopard and jaguar.
  • Tigers are the only large wild cats with stripes.
  • The stripe patterns of a tiger are not symmetrical from one side of the animal to the other.
  • Tigers rarely climb trees — but they can!
  • For less than a dollar a day you can adopt a tiger through WWF

Watch a couple of videos about Save The tiger from the WWF

After being awed by its strength and magnificent beauty since I was a child I wonder if any one of us could really look a tiger in the eye and say

“We admired everything about you, except your very existence”

like the author of the video says… If we care about the tiger the time to act if now, support the organizations which are educating the public and trying to help put in stricter laws to stop the poaching. Educate ourselves with what we can help to protect this amazing earthling alive in its natural habitat not just in zoos… We owe it to the future generations and to the planet we call home. If we take action now i.e in 2010 the year of the Tiger, we may be able to double their numbers in the wild by 2022 the next year of the Tiger.

We have the stripes of the tiger immortalized in stories, in cartoons, in animal print clothing and what not… we all profess we love the tiger, it is time to act… I believe We owe it to the Tiger to keep it alive.

Next week we will look at the Beautiful Bengal Tiger, India’s national Animal Threatened by it’s own keepers…

After Gulf Of Mexico It is Dalian Now

Even a fortnight after a fire at an oil depot in Dalian, China is struggling to clean up the crude oil leaked into the sea.

Two weeks ago an explosions at an oil terminal near the northeastern city of Dalian set off a fire that raged for 15 hours and took 2,000 firefighters to extinguish.

BBC reports that , “an army of volunteers and fishermen has been mobilised to help clean up the pollution from the area around the port of Dalian, one of China’s most important strategic oil reserves.

But conditions are grim for those involved.

Photo: AP

The scene at a small harbour where they are collecting the oil is like something out of the 19th Century.”

According to Chinese officials, the oil slick is under control and has not reached international waters.

Dai Yulin, the deputy mayor of Dalian port in northeast China, said Monday that more than 8,000 fishing boats helped to keep the 435-square-kilometer slick from reaching the open sea.

The Disappearing Stripes In the Year of The Tiger

2010 according to the Chinese Lunar calendar is the “Year of the Tiger” , The Tiger is the third sign in the Chinese Zodiac cycle, and it is a sign of bravery. Yet the Tiger population in the wild is steadily declining… China is one of the major consumers of Tiger parts from bone to skin. Illegal poaching and logging is threatening to wipe out this magnificent being from the wilderness.

Mahatma Gandhi said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” by those standards I wonder how many nations could be considered as making progress, I believe most of us are regressing to levels unknown… Why is it that we human’s consider the suffering of animals as lesser than that of a fellow human? Is it because they don’t speak out language? Don’t they bleed when cut and don’t they cry when hurt… wonder when humanity will open its eyes to the reality that animals like humans  have a place on this earth all their own and they have a right to be here as much as we do.

This week in meet an earthling I thought we will look at one of my favorite cats – The Tiger Panthera tigris. Tigers were found all across Asia from Eastern Turkey to the Caspian Sea south of the Tibetan Plateau, Eastward to Manchuria and the Sea of Okhotsk, in Northern Iran, Indus valley of Pakistan, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and the  islands of Java and Bali. Now they are pretty much restricted to some parts of India, North eastern China, Korea, Indonesia, parts of Russian Siberia and the foothills of the Himalayas.

Tiger distribution map Courtesy wikipedia

There are eight recognized species of the Panthera tigris of which 3 are already extinct. The eight are as follows (the ones striked off are extinct and the ones in red are endangered.)

  1. Panthera tigris altaica – The Amur Tiger (earlier called the Siberian Tiger) EXTREMELY ENDANGERED 300 in the wild
  2. Panthers tigris tigris – Bengal Tiger ENDANGERED 1800 in the wild
  3. Panthera tigris corbetti – Indo-Chinese tiger CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  4. Panthera tigris amoyensis – South-central Chinese Tiger CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  5. Panthera tigris sumatrae – Sumatran Tiger CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
  6. Panthera tigris balica – Bali Tiger
  7. Panthera tigris sondaica – Javan Tiger
  8. Panthera tigris virgata – Trans Caucasus Tiger

Tigers are one of the 4 big cats of the family Panthera. They are one of the most exquisite cats around and one of the most identifiable. In the zoos they are a favorite with most of the visitors and yet in spite of all this attention their numbers in the wild have been dwindling drastically. Human encroachment on habitats and the use of tiger parts in ancient traditional medicine are the main reasons for their numbers dwindling in the wild.

Tigers are big cats, the length varies between 6’8″ (Sumatran) to 9′ plus (Siberian) and weigh between 170lbs (Sumatran) to 700 lbs (Amur).

Tigers have a reddish-orange coat with vertical black stripes along the flanks and shoulders that vary in size, length, and spacing. Some subspecies have paler fur and some are almost fully white with either black or dark brown stripes along the flanks and shoulders. The underside of the limbs and belly, chest, throat, and muzzle are white or light. White is found above the eyes and extends to the cheeks. A white spot is present on the back of each ear. The dark lines about the eyes tend to be symmetrical, but the marks on each side of the face are often asymmetrical. The tail is reddish-orange and ringed with several dark bands.

Tiger habitats include sufficient cover, proximity to water, and an abundance of prey sources. Bengal Tigers live in many types of forests, including wet; evergreen; the semi-evergreen of Assam and eastern Bengal; the mangrove forest of the Ganges Delta; the deciduous forest of Nepal, and the thorn forests of the Western Ghats. The tiger prefers denser vegetation, for which its camouflage coloring is ideally suited, and where a single predator is not at a disadvantage.

Fun facts:

  • Tigers are a Keystone species and are Apex Predators – i.e. they have no natural predators other than humans.
  • Tigers are the only big cats other than Jaguars which like to swim. It spends a lot of time in water when the temperature gets too warm and will also follow a prey into the water or carry dead prey across lakes.
  • Tigers can swim up to 4 miles!
  • Tigers are mostly solitary unless they are females with their litter.
  • The pattern of stripes is unique to each tiger, and thus could potentially be used to identify individuals like we use finger prints to identify people.
  • They are the heaviest cats in the wild with some Amur Tigers reaching a whopping 700pounds!
  • Retinal adaptation that reflects light back to the retina makes the night vision of tigers six times better than that of humans.
  • Bengal Tigers have the longest incisors  of any living cat; 3-4″ in length!!
  • Tigers are solitary and do not associate with mates except for mating.
  • Mothers and cubs stay together until the cubs are 2-3 years old i.e. ready to hunt and take care of themselves.
  • Longevity 8-10 years in the wild.
  • A Tiger roar (chuff) can be heard up to 2 miles away.
  • Around early 1900’s the number of Bengal tigers in India was approximated to be around 50,000; by 1972 it had dropped to 1800! through diligent efforts to conserve their habitat and protect the remaining tigers the numbers have climbed back to around 4000 by 2004… Even now there is poaching in the protected areas which is going un-punished and un-accounted which has resulted in the latest census of tigers at 1300-1500 tigers. . One example is the Jhurjhura tigress who had 3 cubs, was living in Bandhavgarh in India, a protected and well know Tiger Preserve and was mowed down by Government vehicles in the night check out this link and make yourself heard if you care.


If we do not take a stand this magnificent animal will become extinct in our life time… I shudder just thinking about, I believe we owe it to the coming generations that we work together to clean up our messes and leave the earth as intact as possible with all the species diversity it possesses. I can’t understand how human’s think it is alright to use an animals skin… to me it is unthinkable using another living beings skin as a cover as I believe the animal has the skin to protect itself same like us.

Live Green, live aware… Help the organizations which work on our behalf to save these magnificent animals that I believe is the least we can do…

Something Hopeful to end today’s post with; The Global Tiger Initiative which will be meeting in St.Petersburg Russia from September 14th through September 18th.

The Website states their goal as ” We aspire to a world where, by 2020, wild tigers across Asia will no longer face the risk of extinction – and will live in healthy populations within high conservation value landscapes that are managed sustainably for present and future generations.”

So may be stronger measures will be taken and we will end up protecting the tiger…

Image Credits @ spisharam

A Foot Note – I will write about each species of Tiger in detail starting next week.

DeepWater Horizon Spill Threatens 8 National Parks

Today will be Day 75 of DeepWater Horizon Oil Spill. Even though the cap which is placed on top to capture oil is working day and night, the spill is still spewing oil into the Ocean. This week there was also the added pressure of Hurricane Alex stirring up things in the Gulf of Mexico. According to Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft “more oil than what would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool slipped by the cap on BP’s ruptured undersea well due to bad weather on Friday (1st of July)”. Bad weather has also resulted in the skimmers returning to the shores to sit out the wind in the high seas.

Newly retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen announced Friday that since June, the skimming capability in the Gulf has increased more than fivefold — from approximately 100 large skimmers to 550 skimming vessels of various sizes working to collect oil in all parts of the region now. To date, 28.2 million gallons of an oil-water mix has been skimmed from the Gulf’s surface.

Gulf of Mexico with its vast shore line and ocean wealth is also home to many national parks and 8 of them are in places which can be affected by the oil spill adversely. The reefs and marine ecology are in the impact zone and the effect of the Oil spill and the dispersant used will not be known for a long time.

These are the eight national parks that the U.S. National Park Service is monitoring for signs of damage from the Gulf oil spill:

1. Dry Tortugas National Park

Almost 70 miles west of Key West lies a cluster of seven islands, composed of coral reefs and sand, called the Dry Tortugas. Along with the surrounding shoals and waters, they make up Dry Tortugas National Park. The area is known for its famous bird and marine life, its legends of pirates and sunken gold, and its military past.

Coral reefs ring Fort Jefferson, a military fortress abandoned in 1907, now part of Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. Seven islands make up the Dry Tortugas, known for rich bird and marine life.
Dry Tortugas National Park has suffered no impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill thus far. The park remains open for visitation and all activities continue as scheduled. Nonetheless, the National Park Service continues to spend considerable time and effort in preparation for possible effects.

2. Big Cypress National Reserve

The freshwaters of the Big Cypress Swamp, essential to the health of the neighboring Everglades, support the rich marine estuaries along Florida’s southwest coast. Protecting over 720,000 acres of this vast swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities that are home to a diversity of wildlife, including the elusive Florida panther. In addition to panthers and alligators, the park’s swampy environment is also home to bobcats, black bears, herons, and egrets.

Though Big Cypress National Preserve is mostly inland, there are some coastal resources within the Preserve along the southern boundary. This estuary zone is protected by the Ten Thousand Islands of Everglades National Park.

At this time no closures have occurred in the Preserve in response to the oil spill. However, management personnel at the preserve are monitoring the situation in the Gulf closely.

3. The Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, boasts rare and endangered species. It has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance, significant to all people of the world.

The south Florida national parks continue to carefully monitor response efforts to the oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Though not an immediate threat, the ongoing movement and spread of oil in the region has the potential to impact the south Florida coast.

4. Gulf Islands National Seashore

One of the Parks affected by the oil Spill already – Birds fly over Park Service facility on Santa Rosa Island, parts of which fall within Florida’s Gulf Islands National Seashore (file photo). Oil from the Gulf spill has reached the national seashore, including parts of Santa Rosa Island. The refuge remains open, but visitors can see offshore oil booms intended to keep the oil at bay.

Most of the oil that ends up on beaches arrives in coagulated clumps known as tarballs and moose patties, Park Service officials say. If these objects are spotted on the beach, a cleanup crew is dispatched to shovel them up.
PARKWIDE: Because oil can appear on park beaches at any given time, there is a National Park Service Public Health Advisory in effect until further notice parkwide.

Use caution, good judgment and stay informed:

• If you see or smell oil in the water or on the beach, avoid contact with water and report it to the nearest lifeguard or park ranger.
• Avoid direct skin contact with oil, oil-contaminated water, and tar balls.
• If you get oil or tar balls on your skin, wash with soap and water.
• If you get oil on clothing, launder as usual.
• Prevent pets from entering oil-contaminated areas.
• Do not fish in oil affected waters.
• Do not handle dead or dying fish, or wildlife.
• Leave the area if you experience difficulty breathing or any other symptoms. If needed, contact your doctor.

5. Padre island Seashore

Located along the south Texas coast, Padre Island National Seashore protects the longest undeveloped stretch of barrier island in the world. Here, you can enjoy 70 miles of sandy beaches.

As of now no oil has reached its shores and none is projected to reach its shores unless some major change occurs in status quo. It remains open starting yesterday after a short close down for Hurricane Alex. Check the website for any new info.

6. De Soto National Memorial

Gulf Coast waters are visible from this lookout point in Florida’s De Soto National Memorial, named for Hernando De Soto, the Spanish conquistador who explored much of the state in the early 1500s.The park, a popular fishing and kayaking spot, remains open and still appears to be unaffected by the Gulf oil spill.

Roughly 80 percent of the park is mangrove swamps, with the rest consisting of pine flatlands and mixed hardwood forests. Serving as nurseries for much of the fish in the Gulf, mangroves are crucial to the region’s ecological future—and to the fishing industry.

De Soto National Memorial has special living history presentations at specific times of the year. The Spanish encampment features daily presentations (weather permitting) from mid-December to the last weekend in April. The Last day of the living history encampment also includes a special reenactment of De Soto’s landing in 1539.

7. Jean LaFitte Historical national Park and Preserve
The six sites of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve represent a treasure trove of south Louisiana’s historical and cultural riches. People from nearly every country, ethnic group, language, and religion have come to the lower Mississippi River delta and left traces of their passing.

None of Jean Lafitte’s six sites are directly in the path of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The park’s Barataria Preserve is the most vulnerable site since it is linked to the Gulf of Mexico via waterways.

No oil from the spill has been observed in the preserve. Oil has fouled the shoreline of the Barataria Waterway about 12 miles south of the preserve boundary and has penetrated marshes on the north edge of Barataria Bay, about 15 miles south of the preserve. Booms are in place and cleanup is underway. Park staff continues to monitor the situation and work with experts to prepare defensive actions.
The park is home to songbirds, as well as swamp rabbits, mink, coyotes, and deer. So far, no animals that live in U.S. national parks have been affected by the Gulf oil spill, the Park Service’s Amzelmo said—but that could change.

8. Biscayne National Park
Within sight of downtown Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Here too is evidence of 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents. Outdoors enthusiasts can boat, snorkel, camp, watch wildlife…or simply relax in a rocking chair gazing out over the bay.
Biscayne National Park has suffered no impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill thus far. The park remains open for visitation and all activities continue as scheduled. Nonetheless, the National Park Service continues to spend considerable time and effort in preparation for possible effects.

National parks in the Gulf area are home to many amazing animals, habitats, and cultural resources. Here are just a few that could be affected by the oil spill:

  • Sea-grass beds are important nursery habitat for sea turtles, young fish, crabs, shrimp, and many other crustaceans. They also provide an important food source for manatees. Oil will kill sea-grasses on contact and this community is slow to recover.
  • Salt marshes, which occur in back bays, provide a buffer that protects the mainland during storm events. They also offer foraging sites for all kinds of birds. If oil kills these plants in the marsh, the soil will destabilize and erode.
  • Mangroves are similar to salt marshes in that they provide a buffer between the sea and the mainland, as well as providing wildlife habitat.
  • Shipwrecks, archeological sites, Civil War defenses, historic structures, and other cultural resources tell the stories of past inhabitants and key moments in our nations past. Damage from oil and cleanup operations is a concern for these treasures.

The ecosystems and wildlife represented in the parks could provide the biological and genetic diversity needed when the spill is over – they will be the well-springs of resurgence in wildlife populations.

In reality from experience what is known is that the real effects of an oil spill cannot be fathomed by looking at statistics of oil being spilled and wild life showing up oil covered on the shores etc…

Exxon-Valdez results are the ones we have at hand as reference and you can read it HERE makes for really interesting reading…

Note – Clicking on the name of the parks will take you to the respective parks pages on the web and will provide you with the latest update as to the effects of the oil spill if any.

Read this article in Newsweek to see the projected effect on underwater organisms and habitat.

Source for this article Data and Pictures:

National Geographic

National Parks Service