Monday, July 19, 2010

Kerala Wildlife Tourism

Kerala is India’s prime holiday destination. World famous has God’s own country the state offers much to holiday makers, The state has finest beach resorts and backwater canals that offer boating pleasure in house boats through vast stretch of cool blue waters.

The most popular forest types in Kerala are wet evergreen rain forests and highland deciduous. In the far recess of the state there are India’s finest forests the Western Ghats and Nilgiris. The Nilgiri forests or biosphere reserve at Nilgiri Plateau are well known for endemic mammals and birds found only here. Lion tailed macaque; Nilgiri langur and Nilgiri Tahr are found in these forests now protected by law. The protected area is known as Salim Ali Wildlife Sanctuary.

The best place to see the tiger in Kerala is the Periyar Tiger Reserve and Wynad Tiger Reserve. Home to many wild animals the parks are famous for tiger, leopards, bison and Indian wild Elephant. Similarly Western Ghats are home to large number of wild elephants and rare endemic birds. 

Other protected areas are Mudumalai National Park, Bandipur National Park, Nagarhole National Park, Mukurthi National Park and Silent Valley National Park. The major faunal elements are tiger, leopard, tahr, elephant, giant squirrel, flying squirrel, wild dogs, wild boar, sloth bear, bison and many dear species. 

There are number of bird species in the small state at wetlands and wet evergreen rainforests of Western Ghats and National Parks. Among the noted wetlands are Lake Sasthamkotta and Vembanad-Kol.

The major bird sanctuaries in the state are:

Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at Periyar River noted for the Ceylon frogmouth, Malabar trogon, Nilgiri Wren warbler and rose-billed roller.

The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary home to many migratory birds and wild duck.

Interesting birds found in the state are fairy blue-bird, orange minivet, Eurasian king fisher, Rufous bellied eagle, Amur falcon, Nilgiri wood pigeon, Indian hanging parrot, blue-winged parakeet, red-winged crested cuckoo, small green billed malkoha, sirkeer malkoha, red-faced malkoha, Oriental bay owl, Malabar grey hornbill, Nilgiri pipit, grey-headed bulbul, white-bellied short wing, Wynaad laughing thrush, Nilgiri laughing thrush, grey-breasted laughing thrush, Indian rufous babbler, broad-tailed grass bird, black-and-orange flycatcher, verditer flycatcher, Nilgiri flycatcher, white-bellied blue flycatcher, small sunbird, Loten's sunbird, white-bellied treepie and Syke's jungle crow.

Most of the birds named above are endemic. Many are rare and have limited geographical distribution. 

There are bewildering species of snakes and reptilians found in Kerala. King Cobra and spectacled cobra are found besides many other species.

A large number of tourists come for wildlife tours in Kerala state of India. The main attractions are the Indian elephant, gaur and the tiger. Kerala tour organizers offer wildlife safaris  combined with birding packages in Munnar, Thattekkad and Western Ghats. While Periyar and Western Ghats are most visited, tourism is substantial in other National Parks as well. 

The peak wildlife tourism season is during the holidays and winters. The weather is comfortable and movement is unobstructed by the rains.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Relocation: Kanha Villages

The center of attraction Kanha Tiger Reserves was once integral part of Kanha preserve. Due to requirement of inviolate space for endangered species and to reduce biotic pressure, relocation of villages became an imperative.

The spaces for agricultural land, live stock grazing pressure, firewood collection all were taking a heavy toll on the ecosystem. A badly shrunk and degraded ecosystem, could not afford such biotic pressure and destructive practices. The presence of human habitation was endangering wildlife. The animals like tigers and swamp deer were most affected since the latter was totally dependent upon swampy grasslands which were severely encroached.  

Most of the tribal in Kanha are Baigas, Gonds and others of various denominations. The relocation created lots of resentment among some. Apart from compensation the villagers benefit from joining the mainstream and eco development programs.

Responsible Tourism has been the largest beneficiary Vis a Vis employment and development in terms of skills and abilities. The remote settlements inside the habitation did not yield such bounties.     

The tribal till this date are able to practice their customary rites and rituals besides ingraining mainstream benefits like better education and health care facilities and ample job opportunities. 

The biggest benefit has arisen from the forest department which employs large number of local guides and laborers. The administration has employed many tribal in administrative task as well. It eco development program has benefited local communities.

The increasing number eco resorts in Kanha National Park and hotels follow responsible practices. A large number of local are employed in hotels in the periphery. The responsible tourism guide lines favor employment for local communities. These tribal communities have been part of heritage sites since centuries.  

Where ever proper compensatory schemes have been introduced the local communities in protected areas have benefited.  The State government is taking all positive steps to increase inviolate areas in Kanha. There are lots of programs that seek to benefit the poor and down trodden.

The tourism industry too should take active interest in responsible practice which will be a big step forward in conserving this heritage wealth. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tourism potential in India

India is an upcoming inbound tourism destination. The tourism potential of the country is not realized to the fullest yet. In spite thousands of splendors that are present all over the country tourism is much wanted at places. The reason for lack of inbound tourism in many places is purely due to lac of proper infrastructure and awareness about the destination.

Much needs to be done in order to promote tourism in India. At present tourism is restricted to few quarters - Rajasthan, Kerala, North India and Central India for wildlife tourism. Since the rush for tiger safaris Central India or Madhya Pradesh experienced a surge of tourists to tiger reserves like Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench National Park. In North India tiger tours became popular in Corbett National Park and Ranthambhore in Rajasthan. Similarly the former and Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary  are popular birding destinations. 

For historical monument tours Agra especially the Taj Mahal takes the cake. Goa is also a popular travel destination but is more popular for beach tourism. Niche tourism has never been exploited in India. North  East does receive outbound tourists but mainly for Rhino safari and birding in Arunachal Pradesh. 

Kerala accounts for maximum inbound movement and the destination caters to all categories of tourism successfully. In current scenario it is recognized as best destination in India all over the world.          

The country offers amazing destinations and activities yet to be discovered to tourists from all over the but the infrastructure is wanting. State that wish to cash in on tourism should concentrate to infrastructure development. The development  should include lesser known destination that can become prime spots for tourists coming to India. 

For accommodation luxurious and well located resorts in India are a must. the two most important factors are accommodation and transportation. Where ever possible airports that service small charter jets or helicopters should be set up. Road network should extensive and contain well maintained roads for easy travel. This is much wanted in the country. Public culture is as important such that foreign tourists fell happy to be here.   

The most important face of tourism industry in India are tour operator companies that govern tourism. They  play a key role in promoting tourism and new destination. The packages offered by tour operators should conform to costs that are prevalent in other countries.

For increasing tourism not only the home aspects have to be looked after competition from other countries has to be face. It is crucial that we out compete other Nations in service and product as well.      

Monday, May 10, 2010

Outnumbered - Noradehi Wildlife

Nauradehi Wilderness

In spite of being one of the largest wildlife sanctuary in India the preserve has no respite. Naurdehi is spread over an area of 1197 sq km. The forest types are Southern Tropical Dry Deciduous  Mix with average rainfall of 1200mm. This unique eco region in India is home to less seen species (now endangered)  like Indian Wolf, Nilgai and Chinkara or Indian Gazelle. Indian mugger or marsh crocodile inhabits Bamner and Byarma River systems. Smooth Indian Otter is reported and so is the Spotted Creeper (bird). Other animals that inhabit this sanctuary are spotted deer, sambar, sloth bear, barking deer, jackal, fox, wild boar, langur, rhesus macaque and perhaps hyena and wild dog. Night safaris can confirm existence of other small mammals and reptiles. Unfortunately human populace far outnumbers the wildlife here.

The bird life is interesting and one gets chance to spot interesting birds of forest and wetland ecosystem at one destination. The Chivla Lake is interesting spot for wetland birds and is surrounded by forests all around. This could be the main birding spot here. I have visited few more lakes or water bodies in the park which I am sure would be harboring many migrants in winters. The water retention capacity of the ecosystem is  high with large water bodies and rivers filled up during extreme heat in summers.  The rivers and water bodies are not only life line of the preserve and its inhabitant the villages depend upon them too. The Mohli Lake is completely surrounded by the village and does not support wildlife.  

"The sanctuary sets an ideal  example of how intact ecosystems benefit all life forms."              

What could have been one of the best tiger heavens in India, Noradehi lies neglected and exploited... entirely at the mercy of the humans. The tiger is not seen anymore and the status of the leopard is unknown. Noradehi encompasses three districts of Madhya Pradesh - Sagar, Damoh and Narsinghpur. It can be best approached from Jabalpur at a distance of eighty six km. The topography is more or less even with minor variation in flora and fauna at places. No systemic survey has been carried in case of avian species. The statistics of mammalian numbers and species present are not available. 

Visiting lesser known wildlife heavens offers greater insight into the state of forested habitats in Central India and  the problems that they face.

Like all ecosystems Noradehi faces a similar problem -  unchecked Human Habitation. There are more than sixty villages in the sanctuary with varying population. The bigger villages like Mohli are fast expanding and getting urbanized.  This village with population or more than two thousand is located right next to Chevla Lake which is inhabited by major mammals and birds. 

Of the sixty or more villages none have been relocated outside the sanctuary though the proposal is on paper since a number of years. Some of the villages are notorious for smuggling precious wood and poaching wild animals of the preserve. The staff is helplessly out numbered, under stress and fear, and exasperated. The matter is made worse by the ineffectiveness of the legal system. 

As per reports most of the wood smugglers and poachers operate  with impunity. The fear of punitive measure is not there. For some villages, wildlife crime has become a regular activity. Due to fear of violence and  at times political interference, the lower staff prefers to avoid any cudgels rather then face the repercussions. Nevertheless I have found them to be sincere in their task.     

The villages depend upon wood from the forest and grazing ground for their live stock The movement in the sanctuary is unchecked though efforts are made to prevent intrusion in the core areas. Most of the movement is as a right of the way from one village to another. Jabalpur - Sagar highway is frequented throughout the day and night by  vehicles.       

Nauradehi at best can be defined as a fragmented habitat under serious ecological stress and human intrusion. The wildlife survives because of some inviolate areas - out of reach perhaps.  The  big cats are rare of extinct while keystone specie is Indian Wolf. The exact population of wolves in Nauradehi is not known, though the sightings are said to be frequent..

The management is active in creating support base. Wildlife monitoring camps have been set up with regular patrolling. Water retention capacity of water bodies is being increased. Fire control measures are in place. The management is understaffed and resources are limited as the sanctuary does not enjoy the same privilege as tiger reserves of Madhya Pradesh.

The biggest problem that the sanctuary faces is large human population and live stock. Poaching and wood smuggling is there but the extent is not known. Intrusion for minor forest produce and fire wood is also a problem albeit the latter is more serious. The canopy is reduced at many places which adds to habitat degradation. There appears to be no re-plantation program.    

Tourism at Noradehi     

Nuaradehi has great potential for bird watching tourism especially for species like  spotted creeper, endangered vultures, sarus cranes,  storks and raptors - many more to be check listed  It is a good place for wildlife watching in order  to see Indian  Wolf, Nilgai, Fox and Chinkara. Tourism is limited to Chevala Lake and surrounding forest trails in the Mohli Range. The preserve could be a good trekking country as well.  For naturalist and birders this is a journey of discovery.

Due to poor infrastructure, tourism is limited to few picnickers every year. Most of the tourists are locally from Jabalpur town and Sagar nearby. There  is no wildlife interpretation center and the foresters guide the tourists around. The accommodation is basic in two rest houses which require prior reservation.       

Friday, May 7, 2010

Endangered species in India

There are plentiful species in India that are threatened or near threatened. The threat level is based upon population statistics, habitat destruction, poaching or hunting by tribal, disease prevalence and changing land use pattern - expansion of villages around the ecosystem. Weather and climate plays a role as well but most of the species are highly adaptable to withstand such changes until unless drastic.

Some species may be less in nature or survive only in niche ecosystems by natures design. Nevertheless they are always threatened due to limited population or few remaining niches. One example is Hard Ground Barasingha which survives in the grasslands of Kanha National Park. Birds like Siberian Crane have not become extinct but the stock that used to migrate to India in winters has.   

Species facing extinction or near extinction are:

Wild Dog
Indian Wolf
Asiatic Lion
Asiatic Black Bear
Fishing Cat
Desert Cat
One Horned Indian Rhino
Indian Wild Elephant 
Capped Leaf Monkey
Ganges River Dolphin
Swamp Deer
Hispid Hare
Indus River Dolphin
Hoolock Gibbon
Red Panda
Snow Leopard
Brown Bear
Clouded Leopard
Ganges River Dolphin
Himalayan Musk Dear
Asiatic Golden Cat
Nilgiri Tahr
Nilgiri Langur
Lion Tailed Macaque
Golden Langur
Wild Goat
Wild Yak 
Jenkin's Shrew
Mouse Deer
Malabar Large Spotted Civet
India Gazelle
Namdapha Flying Squirrel
Sarus Crane
Black Necked Crane
Pygmy Hog
Black Necked Stork
Salim Ali's Fruit Bat
Green Avadavat
White Rumped Vulture
Sumatran Rhinoceros
Long Billed Vulture
Wroughton's Free Tailed Bat

Fragmented habitats are imposing a serious threat of inbreeding among many species especially the tigers in India. Due rampant destruction of trees and grasslands for fuel wood and fodder is another cause of habitat loss. In case of insects and birds apart from habitat loss, chemicals used by humans are reducing their breeding capacity.    

In case of many species especially birds the status is unknown due to difficulty in gauging the numbers and migratory behavior. Research is crucial to uncover hidden facts behind decreasing number of any species. 


The common man can play a crucial role in preventing species extinction and habitat conservation in the country. 
The only solution to prevent extinction is habitat conservation and its expansion. This could be done by allocating abandoned land for habitat regeneration near the ecosystem. Relocation of villages inside wildlife sanctuaries and National Parks in India. 

Conservation of crucial natural resources, encouraging usage renewable energy. Discouraging industry that depend heavily on wood - use less paper and recycle it. Discourage urbanization and industrial development near fragile ecosystems. 

Preventing wildlife crimes like poaching and illegal logging.  Responsible tourism with profit sharing by hospitality industry. Fighting for pro active policies for nature conservation.
Living in an eco friendly manner in order to conserve natural resources. Love all life forms and throw away any myths and fears that encourages the vermin attitude. 

The diversity that exists in wildlife of India is amazing and mind boggling. Indian wildlife is our inheritance, it is crucial for our survival since we are very much dependent on nature. 

Every citizen of India should be concerned about nature and environment. All life forms are interlinked hence their survival is crucial to us all. As our culture speaks we must respect all life forms on Earth. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wildlife watching in summers

Summer is a difficult time for one and all. The romantic Indian Summer carries lot of heat. The temperatures at noon could rise as much as 43 deg centigrade. though evenings get cooler but not as cool. 

Summer is the ending time for tiger safaris in India. though the parks in Central India or Madhya Pradesh close on 31st June the rain may close park safaris earlier. Hence peak time for Indian holiday makers is April, May and perhaps first week of June.  

Wilderness in Summers. 

Indian Wildlife is stressed out during summer heat since water availability is scarce and shade reduces due to deciduous trees shedding their leaves.  Wild animals and birds are forced to congregate near water holes, lakes, marshy grasslands and rivulets. The visibility of wildlife is very high and it is fun watching wildlife in tiger reserves and National Parks.   

Sometimes one can experience heightened activity in a grassland or a meadow....a tiger on hunts or a wild dog chase...anything. Tigers are often located easily near water holes and lakes especially at Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench National Park. 

Other wildlife sightings are also very good. Birding is much stress free due to thin canopies but the winter migrants have gone. This good time to study the resident birds in India.   

The flame of the forest and Amaltas color the landscape making summer flora attractive. The golden dry grass adds to the ambiance of the meadows. It is an enchanting experience. 
Wildlife Tourism

The hotel owners much hungry for business make merry with discounted packages since the crowd does not overflow by any means. Perhaps best safari experience is whence the  tourists are less....Sundays are out. Summer holiday makers give India tour operators a last bust of business before holiday season closes. Rains put a stop to it all and new season promotions begin. The resorts in tiger reserves come to rest and close down to wait in anticipation the next year. 

Summer safaris are exciting and offer good chance of sighting tigers, leopards, wild dogs and other mammals like deer, bison, wild elephants and sloth bears in MP. The noon heat is unbearable for those not staying in air conditioned cottages. Mornings are cool and evenings tolerable. 

Going in for wildlife safaris in summers? Don't think twice!