Wildlife & Biodiversity

India Eco Watch: Major ecological happenings of the week (Mar 25-31)

Down To Earth brings you the top happenings in the world of Indian ecology, botany and zoology

By DTE Staff
Published: Sunday 31 March 2019
A Himalayan Griffon. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

37 vultures die in Assam after feeding on poisoned carcass

Thirty-seven vultures died in eastern Assam’s Sivasagar district on the evening of March 29, 2019, after feeding on pesticide-laced cattle carcass, according to a media report on March 30. Most of the 37 dead vultures are Himalayan Griffons. Others include the Oriental White-Backed and Slender-Billed vultures. Forest department officials were able to rescue an equal number of vultures whose condition is critical. The cattle carcass was poisoned by local residents to kill feral dogs. But vultures died instead. The rescued vultures will be taken to Kaziranga where they will recuperate for at least 10 days.

Is the Eurasian Lynx present in the Kashmir Valley?

The Eurasian Lynx, found currently only in Ladakh and some parts of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, may have found its way into the Kashmir Valley. A media report on March 28, 2019, quoted forest officials sharing a picture of an animal looking very much like the lynx from the Dobjan forest area in Shopian district of South Kashmir. The report further noted that “the Eurasian Lynx or Ee in Ladakhi is one of the medium-sized wild cats which roam the high and cold snow-covered mountains of Ladakh. The cat is agile and strong and is high adapted to the thin air atmosphere of Ladakh.” If confirmed, the lynx would be the third smaller cat species reported from the Kashmir Valley, the report said. The other two include the Jungle Cat and the Leopard Cat.

Is Chennai Airport emerging as major transit point for illegal animal trade?

Indian investigating agencies as well as Interpol will be probing as to whether Chennai International Airport is becoming a transit point for the trade in exotic animals, according to a March 27, 2019 media report. This, after a rare African venomous snake, the horn pit viper, was found in the baggage of a passenger who was travelling by a Bangkok-Chennai flight, along with iguanas and some other exotic species. In February, Customs officials had found a leopard cub smuggled into the city by a passenger on the same flight. The report said that Interpol is in touch with Indian and Thai authorities to piece together intricate details of the puzzle. The main questions include how could the animals in both cases have been smuggled into Bangkok Airport undetected, whether India is a transit point for such animals as well as demand among wealthy Indians for such animals as pets as well as plugging a loophole in Indian wildlife laws that do not have a deterrent for smuggling exotic species.

Two new bird species spotted in Kerala Sanctuary

Two new species of birds have been spotted in North Kerala’s Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary during a recent bird survey in the district, according a media report on March 26, 2019. The new species spotted were Woolly-necked Stork and White-bellied Drongo, both dry-land species. Besides the new species, a total of 152 species were spotted in the three-day survey. According to the report, the total number of species spotted in the protected area so far has touched 246. The survey was conducted for three days in five spots inside the sanctuary.It was jointly conducted by the forest and wildlife department and Malabar Natural History Society.

New species of Arachnid found in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony

According to a media report on March 31, 2019, a new species of jumping spider has been discovered in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony. It has been named in honour of Sunil Limaye, additional principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife east), Maharashtra forest department: Jerzego sunillimaye. Jumping spiders comprise 13 per cent of the global spider population. They are largely understudied, says the report. According to the researchers, the jumping spider family (Salticidae) is the most diverse spider family, with their world fauna consisting of 6,126 described species. A whole team of spider experts spent about three years to study the species. Their observations were published in the journal Arthropod Selecta.

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