Saturday, October 7, 2017

Simple and long-lasing scientific output for monitoring and bio-conservation?

I always feel, "Science" in the context of biodiversity monitoring and conservation should be such that local people who are consistently available at conservation sites over very long periods can understand, practice and implement it without physical presence of the "Scientist"(s). Conservation has survived not because of 'pure scientists' but because of local people. Most of our scientific interventions are 'project based' for small durations. So please think about such aspects.

Please make Science simple for grass root level staff and other persons because the future of biodiversity or a species depends strongly or entirely on inputs from local talent or muscle-power available readily.

In the name of science let us not jeopardise the local interests.

Fortunately, most of scientific outputs from Crocodile fraternity are simple and long-lasting.

Search 'science' and refine the existing traditional methods.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Remote working- sometimes good

I have always objected to certain field exercises under wildlife studies that evades personal attention, leaving everything to machines.

Today I saw some news-line about remote-working that obviously referred to companies and their young energetic employees. Some companies are probably thinking to stop remote working that may have been started with ample justifications. The thinking for closure also must be some wise forecasts. In this context, I thought to reflect about my own schedules after retirement.

I am retired from job since Dec 2010, but quite busy on my own research work from home since then. It is quite productive too. I get a lot of mail deserving attention. I also get a lot of professional phone calls and consultations. I do everything without charging a fee. Peole are grateful and sometime the gratitude appears as a media mention. For me, no waste of time in unnecessary conversation with visitors or guests or waiting for any boss or his mood.

Apart from these, for those who are on job (not retired),  day by day commuting to work place is a time-consuming and tiring exercise.  The tension also exists for timely preparations at home or return back to home. As an individual a sincere worker is never or seldom able to attend to his certain 'bound-to-do' duties like payment of electricity-revenue-water etc. bills or going to the bank, etc. In recent months I can do many things online.

So, where possible and where the employee is already 'tested and screened', why not add fun, efficiency and leisure to one's good working ethics.  So for a sincere worker as well as his employers remote working is good, effective, efficient and productive.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Students are the best medium to send conservation message

Students comprise the best medium to send conservation message. I realised this well when we organised nature camps in Similipal for different groups and got feed backs from the participants. It was always a delighful experience to teach or talk to young students about my life in the forests, the animals, their behaviour, and the conservation actions done to save them.

My interactions at Puri College on 17th of last month was not different. The students and the lecturers/readers all were very patient, enthusiastic and fully attentive during the two hours session about wildlife. I have received some feed backs on the same afternoon and also later.

Delighted, again!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Invitation to Talk at alma mater is a catalyst to medicines

A few days back I read a message: 'you have not completed the purpose of your life'. My last blog was certainly one of the low-moments in one of the many low-days. I cannot take it out. Let it be there. Today I feel a call back to continue doing something for the younger generation. I get a feeling that while approaching 65 after a long innings of strain, work and self-assumed responsibilities, a person needs some medicines as well as some catalysts to pull on. Medicines were alright but the relief and lightness for me is due to a catalyst-- an invitation to give a talk in SCS College, Puri on the occasion of annual seminar of the Zoology Department. SCS College is my Alma mater.

I was a student of SCS College, Puri during 1969-1972, while completing Pre-professional-- after Higher Secondary, and Graduation with Zoology Honours. The buildings of the College have expanded, I have seen these from outside as I drove along the boundary very often in the last 12-15 years.  I was born and educated in this holy city of Puri, with many childhood lessons and memories. For higher studies and professional research career I had to remain outside Puri, with occasional visits to home. A visit or two for marine turtle work on the sea beach with Dr Bustard in 1975-76 or to document the fate of turtle in the Railway Station, before the Sea Turtle Project was launched, is a different story.

I will be visiting my College first time as a Guest to speak from my experience, distribute prizes to the students and to spend time with the faculty. This invitation has put me back on wheel, in good spirit. I still feel, I am not yet finished in sharing my experience with young students, as a few of them may click for wildlife conservation in future. I am preparing to talk on "Wildlife conservation and planning population research". There will be Post-Graduate students, I wish a few get really inspired, and one or two pursue wildlife/biodiversity research.

Indeed, the work of motivating others from own biographical accounts can never end in my life. 

Wildlife studies or simple observations can be a pleasant and rewarding hobby for all, but a profession for just one or two, although scope is vast and unused yet.

Good feeling!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

In coming Years(?) for me

After a long gap, I am using my blog to write something purely personal. These days things are not as spirited or enthusiastic as they used to be. Tasks seem to never end for me. Entire day busy. Tired in the evening. More tired; giving a feeling that years gone by have really taken the best and most out of me, these are gone and will not be repeated. Friends who admired and relied on my writing have requested time and again but I ma not able to settle down for any creative writing. There are piles of unfinished writings-- literary, popular, semi-technical, research-result. There are many ideas but nothing seem to click or nothing seem to be powerful enough to keep me glued to pen-paper or the keyboard. In spite of several friendly requests I am unable to get enthused or have the urge to go to Koraput and talk to students about my work, about wildlife, about management issues, and so on. I cannot oblige my long time friend a write up for his publication. If someone starts to talk with me it continues with no sign of ending. Interest in life, interest in subject seem to be shifting, or slowing down, but the past work, past friends, and previous well wishers have made so much impact, that I cannot get out of the shoes and the history! As I type, I get an optimistic feeling that may be today is a day for return to my creating literary work of 1960s and 70s. Perhaps this is going to take me through the coming days, months or years. I do not know when I will sit with this page again, and with what in my mind. Until then, I will also be keen to know about me and my mood.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

CAMERA TRAPS HAVE HELPED RAISE IMAGE OF SIMILIPAL -- in recent context

Visitors to Similipal, in spite of its designation as Tiger Reserve in 1973, have always remained sceptical about the presence of tiger in this 'very-rich forest' of Odisha.  Perhaps that seclusion which Similipal provided to Similipal enabled tiger to survive even today as the single largest population in the state.

Thick ground vegetation have rarely rewarded a glimpse of tiger in Similipal. Visitors and some wildlife enthusiasts are loud about their frustrations but the truth is they were (are) not oriented to the science of wildlife signs on the ground.

The truth is--, a tiger is territorial-- its male, female and cub have different dimensions of pugs; when they move they will after all walk on the ground; if the ground is suitable they will leave their pugmarks; and if we have the correct orientation we will observe the pugmarks and only the pugmarks to tell about the composition and spatial distribution of tiger population!

Back in 1975 I didn't have a refined orientation about tiger pug-tracking when I started my crocodile work from river Mahanadi at Satkosia Gorge surrounded by the forests later designated as gharial sanctuary and then Tiger Reserve. Even I had a laugh when Dr H R Bustard showed me a cartoon published in Science Today sometime in 1975/76 where a tiger cub was saying to its mother something like this-- 'I have fooled the enumerators by walking 3 times up and down the road, and they think I have siblings!'.

In 1979 I was a part of the large cat census work in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary. The field data and evidences in the form of tracing sheets and plaster casts were carried by Mr B. P Das, the Wildlife Warden to Mr Saroj Raj Choudhury - the Field Director of Similipal and the 'guru' of pugmark tracking.



Pugmark tracking was first used in 1972 to determine tiger population in the country. The entire process was designed and coordinated by Mr S R Choudhury who was then Senior Research Officer at Wildlife Division of Forest Research Institute- Dehradun. 

During my stay in Similipal from 1987 the method got refined over many respects. WWF-India head quarters in New Delhi took notice of the work in Similipal and published the pugmark tracking guideline and pocketbook in 1999 and 2000. Before publication these work were reviewed with inputs of a number of "field scientists" from India and neighbouring countries. After the publications were released they were widely followed within India and in the neighbouring countries whose reports are still available.

People who were not oriented to the science of wildlife forensic signs continued to ask for photographic evidences of tiger. Their demand grew more when my study report of 1994-99 got published as research papers and a WWF-booklet to highlight occurrence of colour aberration in tiger over a range of at least 14 body colours including melanistic tigers of Similipal. 
During my wildlife studies in the USA in 1982 I got details about colleague Howard Hunt in Atlanta Zoo, USA (1970-80s) who used trip-cameras to detect predators visiting alligator nests in Georgia Swamps. Back in India in early part of 2000s interests were growing to use camera traps for tiger studies after initiations made by Mr Ullas Karanth in Nagarhole from mid-1990s. By the year 2005 industries were growing around camera trap, software and training of human resource to get and interpret photographic evidences. As the country that held 60-70% of world tiger population administration in India finally got inclined to use these modern development. As national bodies NTCA and WII could make it reach every state. But Similipal officers earlier this month quoted Mr Karanth saying that in Namdapha the staff see pugmarks but were unable to get photographs in camera trap! There is a long way to improve this science and go ahead.

In Odisha state after 12 years (2004-2016) of circumstantial neglect, pugmark tracking still says more about composition and spatial distribution of tiger/leopard population in any forest. 

However, one thing for sure, camera traps have lifted the image of Similipal as photos are now there of some of the tigers in colour range and location ranges. 

Let's not be complacent. Believe me, there are a few more tigers than our eyes or the cameras meet in the forest! We have to simply make the ground soft, keep walking, bent down at places, search the pugmarks, kneel down on the roads and bring these evidences as traces or plaster casts from field to analysis room. Yes, last word, please no goading to hurry up analysis in order to make an administrative announcement. 

Key: Tiger census, camera trap, pugmark tracking, Similipal


Friday, February 20, 2015

PROFESSOR B K BEHURA- IN HIS MEMORY

My Professor, Basanta Kumar Behura, passed away on 16 February 2015 at the age of 93+. When no one I knew was teaching Wildlife management or preaching their conservation, Professor Behura was asking all of us in his Post Graduation classes in Utkal University to take oath to conserve environment and wildlife....As a Zoologist he was better known as an entomologist and herpetologist.

Grief can be so hard, but our special memories help us cope. My “Professor” was an extraordinary person and he knew who can do what at his best.

Towards later part of 1974 I was yet to get my MSc results. Professor Behura asked me to extend my research of PG-Dissertation to seven species of Aphids as that could lead me to a PhD degree. That was the time when with Dr Murari Mohan Dash we gave my dissertation to five joint research papers. Professor Behura said, without publication results meant nothing for the education system. This exposure and training made me a full time researcher for rest of my life.

Early 1975, Professor Behura motivated me for research on crocodiles, saying that it was a new field of studies, and that I will have the opportunity of working with a “Gora Sahiba” (foreigner). Here he mentioned about his own trip out of the country to Edinburgh for higher studies and that I was getting the scope of ‘overseas guidance within my state’.   

Because of problems in getting Dr H R Bustard recognized as a Guide in Utkal University, Professor Behura rescued me by agreeing to be the official PhD guide. It is also very unusual of a PhD guide who allowed all my joint papers on crocodiles to be published with Dr Bustard as I was doing all field work with Dr Bustard. Although I have a range of non-entomological publications, there is just one review article on crocodile farming with Professor Behura. Very few PhD supervisors may fit to the mettle which I experienced in Prof Behura!

For me, Professor Behura is an untiring speaker and also a patient listener. Sometimes he appreciates me lavishly and at other times releases for me a sense of protective-warning. I have never forgotten the foundation he gave and his presence in my conscience whether I was working in Satkosia, or in Chambal or in Similipal.

One would never like a mentor like Professor Behura to physically disappear from us anytime ever. If any day I will want to see him again I will search him in my heart, I will look at my book-shelves, the CDs and the hard-disks, —all those places where I embrace his memories, where I store his work, citations and photographs.

Professor and Madam Behura came to us in Baripada and knew my family closely. My son and daughter came closer to the eldest couple they had experienced ever, when we shifted to Bhubaneswar after my wife’s death during our stay in Similipal. If not at any other time, on days of Kumar Purnima ‘Chanda Chakta’ or ‘Makara Chaula’ we meet the eldest couple whom we admire and revere the most.

Respected Professor!, that is how I used to address him in letters; you are gone to a different world. You and Madam Behura have given me and my children enough consolation and courage when we needed these the most. We will remember this always.

May YOU rest in peace in your chosen abode in the heaven!


KEY WORDS: Prof B K Behura, Odisha Wildlife, Utkal University, Zoology