Saturday, December 4, 2010


05 March 2009 (Thursday) / updated 05 Dec 2010 (Sunday)

My personal library is the result of my own studentship (BSc Hons. 1970-1972, MSc 1972-1974) and research career in wildlife/environment/ecology (1975 to present). So, over 36 years…

Its uniqueness and strength lie in its variety, range and archaic to modern nature of wildlife / biodiversity-related titles and publications.

From my Graduation days I have nurtured an ambition to have my own library, so that I do not feel deficient for any reference anywhere anytime, even while staying for six years on the banks of Mahanadi or three in Chambal or sixteen in Similipal, or at such hours as the middle of the night, searching a reference with a kerosene lantern light.

And, my collections have proven that worth during my studentship and research career that is in its 4th decade from Graduation.

I have collected books from all over the country and during my studies overseas (six of the seven continents, spending ‘dollar’ in those very-difficult years).

To this collection, books of other faculties and modern scientific fields have been added when my daughter, instead of exactly taking to my field, chose to study/research in the fields in Biotechnology / Nanotechnology / Biochemistry / Immunology / Bioinformatics.

Similarly, my son added variety because of his background in Commerce, GNIIT, MCA (ICFAI) and MBA.

The resulting collection contains a very wide range of

(i) Books in Basic, Applied and Modern Sciences / Commerce / Computers, (About 800 titles)

(ii) Scientific Papers on Wildlife, Biodiversity, Environment, Ecology, Herpetology, etc. (About 3000 publications).

(iii) About 1500 reference cards with Author, Title, Journal, Abstract of contents.

(iv) National and International Scientific Journals, Magazines relating to Wildlife, Environment, Ecology, Herpetology, etc. More than 25 types in series, some series starting from 1976 till present, and

(v) Text books / teaching material / competition courses containing education material of eternal value (about 200 titles).

These are not catalogued. But I / we know what is where.

We have started facing the crunch for space and therefore, difficulty in accessibility at times of need. Situation got worse because of changing places from Puri (1972) to Utkal Univ to Tikarpada to Hyderabad to Chambal to Hyderabad to Jashipur-Similipal to Baripada-Similipal to Bhubaneswar (2003). We are yet to pack/unpack the last time to settle in our own house (now scheduled to Dec.2010). But who will use the collection?

And, I am ageing (or, already aged; nearing 58). Some say, life starts at 60! Well, let’s see.

I had thought that I can build a working team and thus in 2004 instituted an annual ‘Puspaswini Wildlife Prize’ (in the memory of my deceased wife for the best presentation / project work in wildlife at Utkal University). All dreams do not come true!

I still look forward to some means, some support and some compensation.

I estimate that two Research Fellows (One a Biologist and the other a student of Library Science, both having good computer knowledge) and working for three to four months can catalogue the collection. (Our collection of computers is equally interesting:-- from Cyrix-1 to Pentium Dual Core – 3 PCs in working order, on which students can work.)

We will shift to our house later this month. But I cannot accommodate or can put to better use all the collection, particularly the journals and papers.

Today (05 Dec 2010, Sunday) talked to Director, Nandankanan. He will be happy if he can receive the publications and journals and all such materials I can give for the library in Nandankanan Biological Park. It has the best wildlife collection in the state of Orissa, and there is a librarian to look after the collection. The number of users is slowly but steadily increasing.

As regards certain research data files from 1970s, I will give some of these to Nimain, a promising field worker in elephant and other wildlife.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


A few months back I was reviewing a paper about tiger in north West Bengal. It is a very good account, now published in Journal of Threatened Taxa, April 2010 Issue. In my editorial note I have appreciated the effort by NTCA/WII to identify Tiger landscapes in the country in their report-2008 based on the new method of monitoring started in 2005. Well the identified landscapes appear good, promising and offer may be the ‘last’ opportunity for development for tigers. But field practices depend on many other things than the satellite images.

In the context of the ‘new method’ with which I have never been happy or comfortable when I think of Forest Guards who collect information on a wide range of parameters whose overall dimension or impacts are well borne in their mind (or are asked info about vegetation as per Champion and Seth Classification!) or the managers who are to manage large carnivores known from statistical deductions.

Our people want wildlife status in terms of some hard number, their composition, young-mother(female)-male land-tenure system, their spatial distribution and the trend. To partially satisfy that need a company has chosen to put hoardings depicting the tiger numbers left in the country. It has attracted the attention of many. That is good! But again, it is the number which is able to arouse one’s concern, not a piece of data as xx-numbers per area. Let’s get back to some better sense of data for management!

While the results of 2005-monitoring is yet to be accepted in Orissa, on Friday (30 April 2010) The Times of India carried a news that staff of Sanjay Gandhi National Park are back to the park with tiger tracer, tracing sheets etc. for taking stock of leopard population. That has become necessary to ascertain how many leopards are there in an area. The report on results of new method is silent about such information on leopard.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Based on:
SINGH, L. A. K. (1999): Born Black: The Melanistic Tiger in India. WWF-India, New Delhi, 1999.66pp.
While talking about the body colour of Tiger, we normally mean the yellow or tawny body with black stripes. Variations within normal colouration are attributed to geographical regions, the forest-habitat, and perhaps the season, as well. In this context, the white Tigers are also discussed and admired as a variation. Tigers of other colouration are extremely rare and have not been discussed in as much detail as the white tigers have been. However, there are at least fourteen known types of body colouration in Tiger, and there could be a larger intermediary range within these (Fig.1).

In the recent memory from Similipal Tiger Reserve, Orissa, aberrantly coloured tigers were first seen in early 1970s. However, most reports since then have been regarded as freaks or as the observer's imagination. Thus they remained ignored or undocumented. An incident of July 1993 in the valley of River Bhandan led to a detailed investigation about the occurrence of the phenomenon of aberrant colouration in the population gene pool of Panthera tigris as a species.

The incident
On the 21st July 1993 around 10 AM a young melanistic tigress was killed by a boy in “self-defense” with arrows. It occurred in the village Podagad in the western periphery of the Similipal Tiger Reserve. The major peculiarity in the body colou­ration was that on its back the black colour was preponderant.

The young tigress had injured "4-5 goats" during the previ­ous one week. Every time it injured a goat the victim was taken away by the villagers. On dt. 20.7.93 night the tigress entered into the cow shed of Sri Surai Besra, 67 years. On hearing some sound Surai went towards the cow shed. The tigress charged at and injured Surai on his face. In the mean time, other members of the family woke up and on shouting the tigress retreated away. The next morning at about 10 am Salku, Surai's son sighted the tigress in the adjoin­ing maize field. The tigress charged towards Salku who ran into his house and from there he aimed at and killed the tigress with three arrows. Later, there have been many reports of melanistic sightings in Similipal. In March 1997, a melanistic tiger was sighted in Satkoshia Gorge Sanctuary in the (former) Dhenkanal district in Orissa.

Earlier, the skin of a melanistic tiger was recovered from smugglers in October 1992 in south Delhi. The skin measured eight and a half foot (259cm) and was displayed at the National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi in February 1993. The source of the skin is not known.

Following the incident of July 1993, information on tigers having aberrant colouration were collected from Similipal and elsewhere. These were supported with data from tiger-rearing facilities in Florida, USA and additional information from published literature.

The colour of tiger

Normally, the tiger's coat displays a combination of three colours- white, yellow and black. The background colour of the body is controlled by a set of 'agouti' genes and their alleles. 'Tabby genes' and their alleles control stripes. Built within the two series (background and stripe) some genes determine the location-to-location and quantum of expression of three main skin colours white, yellow and black. The absence of any of these colours or genetic suppression (epistasis) of the effects of genes responsible for their expression lead to colour variation in tiger.

The various forms of colouration now known in Tiger are as follows, and these colours appear to occur in the pattern of a continuous distribution curve (Fig.1).
(1). Stripeless White Tiger
(2). Tigers with Reduced stripe on white background
(3). ‘Lighter’ White Tigers
(4). 'Darker' White Tigers
(5). Golden (Pallid)
(6). Normal (light yellow)
(7). Normal
(8). Normal (deep yellow)
(9). Rufous
(10). Brown with dark stripes
(11). Brown without stripes
(12). Melanistic
(13). Blue
(14). Black

Any species of patterned cat is more likely to produce colour aberration if the local population is 'evolutionary old' or its population has reduced in number to such an extent that it leads to inbreeding and encourages 'inbreeding depression.' The reports of aberrants are not many because of various reasons. While the dismissals of observations have discouraged fresh reporting, sighting of an aberrant Tiger is an extremely rare event, and there is early elimination of aberrants from the population of normal individuals.

The appearance of Tigers with aberrant colouration can be expected as a regular but extremely rare natural phenomenon. Only in populations where inbreeding has a longer and stronger influence, the appearance of aberrants would be more frequent.

Biological Implications
All colours other than the “normal” are considered to have inappropriate adaptive value in the wild state. Besides, colour appears related to the body-size. While the normal colour of a Tiger and its size are the best compromise for Panthera tigris in the wild and are evolution-tested through Natural Selection, the White Tigers have a large body while the Black Tigers are diminutive.

Following thousands of years of evolution, struggle for existence and natural selection, a species is not meant to be an aberrant. It is against the natural order. Therefore, natural elimination of aberrants from the population is effected through (a) unsuitable structural or physiological organisation, and/or (b) early separation from the mother. This phenomenon may not be clear in captivity where rearing conditions provide environment-enrichment and the living style is without competition or struggle. Adaptive values of soft features, like body colour, have little significance in captivity.

Conservation Implications
The normal colour of a Tiger and its size are not only best suited to the species in the wild but this combination has also the public appeal that has been so essential for Tiger Conservation. Tiger shall lose public appeal if 'inbreeding depression' and evolutionary processes lead the species at any time towards increased melanism or aberrant colouration. The discovery of polymorphism and increased possibility of 'inbreeding depression' calls for greater attention to tiger-conservation because evolution may be proceeding towards enhanced melanism in tiger, as it is seen for the black leopards. Such shift is likely to occur first with marginal populations which carry a lighter genetic load with a small number of lethals and heterozygosity.

Further, the threats to Tiger continues because of growing human population, and it is not known in what exact direction the evolution of Tiger is proceeding now. The possibilities of appearance of more numbers of aberrants cannot be ruled out if populations become small, fragmented and isolated. Therefore, large and contiguous patches of forest, if necessary with corridors, may improve 'genetic exchange' and reduce genetic erosion. Conservation of Tiger requires to be aimed at reducing the possibility of genetic erosion in the wild through habitat improve­ment.