Papikonda – a sneak preview of the national park!

A forest where you can see wonders like Malabar pied hornbills swooshing, a shy pair of Malabar trogons, a herd of gaurs mulching on post-monsoon grasses on a high-altitude shola landscape  and there are tribal hamlets which need a day’s walk in treacherous terrain to access them.

Malabar Pied Hornbills
Malabar Trogon
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You might be thinking you are in Western Ghats or some remote Vietnam rainforest, but it is a paradise known as Papikonda landscape which lies on border of Andhra and Odisha.

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These semi-evergreen and moist-deciduous forest give a refuge to wealth of diverse biodiversity.

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From mouse deer which is world’s smallest deer to gaur which is world’s largest wild bovine, from rusty spotted cat which is world’s smallest cat to the majestic Bengal tiger.

Text & Photos by Santosh Edupuganti

Tiger Survey in Telangana

HyTiCoS and Telangana Forest Department Invite Citizens to count Tigers!!

Starting Jan 21st, 2018

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Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society in association with

Telangana Forest Department have launched a “citizen volunteers” program to count the Tigers in Telangana forests.

“Conducted once in 4 years the “All India Tiger Estimation” is part of the National Tiger Conservation and Wildlife Institute of India’s national exercise.”

Hyticos being appointed as partners with Telangana forest department will be supporting in this prestigious monitoring programme

Tiger Monitoring

This survey will help estimate and protect our “umbrella species” the Tiger, its prey base of herbivores and their forest habitats. These “natural” Forests will in turn keep feeding our rivers, absorbing oxygen, storing carbon, prevent floods and erosion and countless other free services without which we will not survive.

LEVEL 1- All India Tiger Estimation (Telangana) – Jan 22nd – 29th 2018 (minimum of 8 days)

Volunteers will help survey Tigers, other carnivores, herbivores and condition of forests through “Sign surveys” and “Line Transect Surveys” in forests of Telangana.

LEVEL 2- Long Term Wildlife Research – Feb 1st– May 30th 2018 ( Phase IV of Tiger Monitoring, minimum of 2 weeks )

Volunteers will help count Tigers by setting up camera traps, and counting Tiger prey species through “Line Transect Surveys” in Tiger Reserves in Telangana.

Submit applications online at https://goo.gl/ZhRpi1

For more details contact volunteer.hyticos@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/HyTiCos/

https://hyticos.wordpress.com

Tiger Research Volunteering Opportunity @ Amrabad Tiger Reserve and Kawal Tiger Reserve, just rush in your enrollments first!

To Enroll Yourself Fill The Form NOW!!! (Limited Vacancies)

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Please Fill The Form Today to Enroll

Volunteers are expected to

  1. Carry their own torch lights, Binoculars, caps, sleeping bags, medicines etc
  2. Should be prepared to walk for long treks (5-10 kms) in evenings and mornings. It can sometimes also be camping in a suitable place.
  3. They should sign an indemnity bond and go through a screening process.

Collector Urged to Eat his Words

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/collector-urged-to-eat-his-words-on-killing-wild-boars/articleshow/57935240.cmsPigs.jpg

HYDERABAD: The Bhupalpally district collector has been urged to publicly denounce his call for killing of wild boar and consume their meat by people with a caution that not only is killing of wild boar currently prohibited in Telangana, but any consumption of its meat too is prohibited by law.

In a letter to district collector A Murali, Imran Siddiqui, a member with the Telangana State Board for Wildlife said any permission for hunting of wild boar, that too by a panel of 17 hunters appointed by the chief wildlife warden of the state, expired on December 28, 2016.

Anyone propagating the hunting of the animal or consumption of its meat will also fall foul of High Court orders in a writ petition (PIL), No 37 of 2016 on the subject of hunting of wild boar, Siddiqui told the collector in his letter. The Wildlife Protection Act states that any wild animal killed in defence of any person or their property becomes government property. A post-mortem needs to be performed after which the animal’s body needs to be disposed off by destroying the carcass, he said.

He further said that the HC, in the case, had clearly said “there should not be any killing allowed in sanctuaries and national parks, If at all any such killing occurs, a case should be booked under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.” Siddiqui further said that the collector’s statement around Eturunagaram Sanctuary is thus in violation of the HC order and the spirit of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Latest and refined Methods of tiger counting

https://www.asianscientist.com/2017/04/in-the-lab/bayesian-model-wildlife-tiger-count/

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Count Me In! Bayesian Model Used To Estimate Tiger Population Researchers have developed a more reliable method for estimating tiger numbers in India. Asian Scientist Newsroom | April 4, 2017 | In the Lab AsianScientist (Apr. 4, 2017) – A new methodology developed by the Indian Statistical Institute and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) may revolutionize how to count tigers and other big cats over large landscapes. Their results have been published in the Journal of Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Statistics. The new method offers the opportunity for researchers to rigorously assess animal numbers at large geographical scales—a critical need for informing conservation interventions and wildlife management. Called Bayesian smoothing model (BSM), the methodology addresses a thorny problem faced by ecologists and conservationists: Extrapolating accurate population counts in smaller areas, such as protected reserves, to wider regions where only weaker methods can be employed. Currently, scientists rely on information collected using rigorous but resource-intensive survey methods—such as camera trapping—to provide reliable results at smaller scales. However, they are compelled to use weak surrogate indices, such as track counts, while surveying large landscapes of 10,000 square kilometers or more. The current statistical method of integrating these two types of data, known as index-calibration, was developed decades ago and is known to generate misleading population estimates. BSM addresses this critical flaw by developing a far more complex but realistic model for combining information obtained at different geographical scales. The authors illustrated the BSM technique by applying it to the information from actual data sets from WCS tiger surveys in India. These data included tiger abundance derived from camera surveys and habitat occupancy estimated from counts of tiger signs such as tracks. They found model results to be in conformity with tiger numbers expected based on WCS ecological studies going back three decades. In addition, the new method confirmed scientists’ earlier critiques of the traditional index-calibration tiger survey method. “BSM offered a superior, more rigorous methodology to combine these two types of data to yield more transparent, reliable estimates,” said Professor Mohan Delampady at the Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore, who guided the development of the new method. “This also opens the door wide for development of even better methods in the future.” “The progress on scientific techniques we describe can significantly impact and greatly inform how we direct our efforts in saving these iconic species into the future,” said Dr. Ullas Karanth, WCS Director for Science in Asia. The article can be found at: Dey et al. (2017) Bayesian Methods for Estimating Animal Abundance at Large Spatial Scales Using Data from Multiple Sources. ——— Source: Wildlife Conservation Society. Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff. Read more from Asian Scientist Magazine at: https://www.asianscientist.com/2017/04/in-the-lab/bayesian-model-wildlife-tiger-count/

Occupancy Survey Workshop at NSTR and a volunteer’s experience.

 


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NSTR Forest

Occupancy Survey Training Workshop was held at Atmakur (Kurnool) 16-18 of Oct ’15. 

HyTiCos along with WCS and Andhra Pradesh Forest department held the workshop in NSTR Forest for first two days and the final session at YSR Smriti Vanam.

Training session was held for volunteers and forest staff. Compass, map reading, field tracking and gps use were highlight of the training sessions.

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Field Sessions

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Training sessions

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Imran addressing forest staff at YSR Smriti vanam

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Forest staff and volunteers attending session

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Curious Ants looking at me!

Photos by Asif Siddiqui

A first time hyticos volunteering experience by Padmaja:

My first field course, packed the stuff and set out for travelling. I spent 3 days travelling around NSTR visiting Peddacheruvu with Hyticos team.

Friday 16th October

We arrived at Atmakur at about 5am and then by walk to forest guest house. By 7am had breakfast and head out on my first drive. We reached to Peddacheruvu base camp which was our luxury suite.

“On my way I was extremely lucky to see a Dhole and Spotted Deers as my first sighting.”

We were joined by a team from WCS who were conservationist and scientist who on our first day began by explaining technicalities and protocols of occupancy survey. Later that afternoon we walked on trail to spot foot prints of tigers and herbivores.

It was an interesting experience for a volunteer.

Saturday 17th October

Another day with big hopes! The teams were divided into 4 different groups to do survey at different locations. We came upon a small lake, sighted the first foot prints of tiger and leopard also heard songs of Babblers and Black headed Golden Oriole. The other team was able to see the photos of tiger taken by camera trap.

That evening we were also able to see the fresh kill by the leopard hidden inside the bush. This was the highlight for me, although another group had spotted Sloth Bear. I have yet to see tigers and sloth bear in NSTR.

“I was lucky to get a unique insight into an early stage of volunteering.”

We left having improved our focus on techniques from the sessions and with a lot of food for thought.

Sunday 18th October

Early the next morning we discovered how close we were to the wildlife last night. We left to Atmakur and participated in the conference held by Hyticos collaborated with WCS along with Forest Dept. The conference was quite affluent and the support given to Hyticos for further functioning is valuable. On the way back to Atmakur we then settled down for our last evening in NSTR.

Folks,I could say having done something with purpose and dedicating myself to it gives great happiness! You also learn to understand nature and how everything interacts and impact on each other. I would recommend people to volunteer for Hyticos, knowing that they have contributed to preserving and conservation of nature. Will keep encouraging people to take on the adventure and to give their life a new meaning.

Tracking the Tiger at Kawal Tiger Reserve.

The surreal feel of Tiger prowling around especially while walking on trails is remarkable. Nothing else instils the kind of respect and fear as a Tiger does, it takes the game to next level.

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Came in the confirmed news of a Tiger in Kawal Tiger reserve, this was in second week of September 2015, Sambar and Gaur were killed in forest in the preceding weeks itself hinting the Tiger.

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It may be one of the many that embark and prowl in corridor.

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This particular Tiger that I tried tracking in past three days restricted itself to heavy cover near hills of Kawal Tiger Reserve. Walking the trails reminds me of the former years and the treks in Tiger census along with Imran, once during annual estimations of the year 2001, twelve Tigers were recorded at Kawal.

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In my first morning trip with DFO to the Tiger trail, the four wheel drive Jeep got stuck in the wet sand of the flowing stream. The water makes the sand loose and more the driver raced – further the Jeep dug itself. We had to get down and put large stones under the both front tyres that gave us luck.

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The forest looks beautiful amidst the rain filled streams, the unremitting sound of water flowing and battering the small turns and drops make consistent soothing sound. We took off shoes for a stream and rambled deeper winding paths through the forest – but that day we had no luck. Wild Dogs seem to rule here as they rejoice in packs, their tracks in sand unfolds their story.

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On the way back we requested the DFO and he obliged to speak to villagers, they were told to claim cattle kill compensations and avoid harming the Tiger, Yellam also spoke along with the DFO and I yearn that the twenty odd that gathered heed and won’t eliminate this Tiger.

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In subsequent days we tried using motorcycles to crisscross the streams and venture as much as possible; we put lot of camera traps all along the way. At my count we did cross six streams before we could walk. At one point half of the bike sunk in sand, the wheel spinning but to no avail, we were stuck!!

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One fine morning we trekked to lorry bata, which literally means ‘truck’s way’. This way is on top of the hills at 500 meter height like a highway on a plateau, it was used earlier to bring the bamboo from interior forest by the sirpur mills.

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On the plateau a familiar lone Hyena’s trail were seen. Gaur signs show they are in good number here. We lay another two infra-red cameras here. On our teams descend back into the valley, we found lot of flower bloom, yellow & orange hues dominating among them.

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While I write this piece I am hopeful Tiger walks into one of our Camera traps, this will be first Tiger photo in core of Kawal, although many have been captured by our hyticos team lead by Amar in corridor already.

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The Tiger’s appearance in not a great amusement, but it is a sign that habitat is still clinging to its last strings, the corridors have the last remaining connectivity, hence their protection and restoration is very vital, the future of this Tiger and many more that wait to inhabit Kawal lies in relocation of few villages and establishing a safe human free zones for them – there is lot of ground work being done in this direction and we hope that it materializes.

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My hoary feeling again pricks my mind – what tussle we as individuals and our forest staff are ready to put in to surely save these Tigers?

“Yet, amid the rain filled streams of the misty Kawal forests a Tiger is making its moves”, what can be better than this? For us the Tiger is right now burning bright!

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(Special mention of my team during the trip includes Yellam, Shankar, Vamshi, Shankariah and other supporting trackers).

by Asif Siddiqui

Birding escapade to Pocharam by Preethi Sridharan

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It was still june as Sampath, Moin, Sarada and me from hyticos laden the car for a day long birding trip“.

The weather was cool and pleasant, with slight dampness from showers the previous day, this created the perfect ambience for a bird watching trip. At dawn we started our journey towards Medak to Pocharam Wildlife Sanctuary, located around 120kms from Hyderabad. The Sanctuary encompasses around 130 sqkms comprising of a beautiful lake and a deer breeding centre.

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As we drove through the villages, the sun broke out with its first rays accompanied by a slight drizzle. Once the showers resided we started looking out for birds, and managed to catch a few around the fields, coucals, bee eaters, drones, shrikes, pied cuckoo and egrets to start with. And of course, our beloved black shoulder kite was
perched unassumingly on an electric pole.
As we drove down staring into the sunrise was a lone spotted owlet hanging out by a tree, we immediately stopped to get a closer look. Instinctively, the bird flew into a palm tree which to our surprise had a series of tree hole nests. And there we found our bird curiously peeping out of one of them.
On reaching the park we stopped by the forest department office to inform them about our arrival. We got talking to the trackers and were a little disappointed to see that the watchers had very little knowledge of what wildlife was found beyond the boundaries of the breeding centre. We were then escorted into the park by one of the watchers.

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On entering the park, we were welcomed by a herd of Chital grazing under the tree cover. It was a pleasure to see those tiny chital fawns in some groups. Interestingly we found one chital stag rutting onto a tree trunk, although we are quite familiar with this behaviour it was a rare sighting.

The surrounding forest was a mix of dry deciduous patches with a few random rough patches of scrub and grass. It was lush green due to the damp weather, the man made saucer pits were filled and an occasional chital jumping across into the bushes from near the water holes.

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It glided past smooth and agile, before coming to rest in the bushes right in our view, blissfully unaware of our presence. The monitor lizard was almost four feet long and beautiful and to our delight stayed still on the ground as though posing for our pictures. He seemed to be resting peacefully in the shade probably tired from all the scourging at night. We clicked a few pictures and decided to leave him alone. Just as we turned, we caught a four pairs of eyes staring up at us from the bushes. A group of wild boar hiding and sitting quietly, understanding that we were alerted of their presence some of them started moving around and we saw that there had been more than four sitting in the bushes. Now, riding down the road we spotted a herd of shaggy Sambar deer grazing under the canopy, although they were alerted by us they did not seem to be afraid and allowed us to linger and click a few pictures.

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After getting out of the park, we drove further to the lake and walked across a small bridge. While walking we noticed a few male Baya weaver birds building their nests and females observing from the same tree. The nests were beautifully woven and one of them was in the process of construction. On reaching the small dam construction, we sat down to officially start our birding exercise, binoculars and camera in hand.

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Female Sambar deer at a water source.

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A glamours peacock dances around courting several females early in the morning.

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Several species of birds were observed, species of egrets, purple  and  greyherons, kingfishers- common blue, white throated  and  pied. We also observed pochard, stints, magpie robin, pied cuckoo, lapwings, white breasted water hen, and pied wagtail. Few of the birds seen were my first sightings, such as Jacana, Cotton pygmy goose. Soaring in the skies above were five spotted eagles another first for us. We spent the next two hours bird watching and we rested looking at the crowd of swallows and swifts fluttering above our heads and the beautiful river terns gliding across the water, occasionally diving down to catch a fish.

(photos by Sarada and Sampath).

Gaur release in Kawal

“A Gaur was unusually  found, tranquilized and captured in remote reserve forest of Nizamabad on 13th June 2015, it was loaded in container and was motored straight to Kawal Tiger Reserve for release”.

Our team was returning back to Hyderabad from Kawal Tiger Reserve concluding our trip, we stopped the Bolero at a tea joint near Kadam. Imran got busy with a call with forest staff that a Gaur is reaching Kawal with veterinary doc and team. We soon decided to go back to Kawal to be part of this episode.

There was an excitement all around,  the night was long for the team and wait went unto wee hours of the 14th June morning, at least 40 persons reached the spot most of them from forest department.

On the way we met G Ravinder the in charge DFO and I spent some time with him as we discussed the release. Imran later joined him and went to Kadam as well for getting along the truck carrying the game.

Vamshi, Amar, Yellam, Shankar, Tirupathi all were excited throughout the night and we all reached the chosen spot Kalpakunta for the release.

Instead of detailing the entire episode I put the shots in sequence.

For me it was a nervy situation as the Gaur charged towards us and just passed by me as I was in corner, earlier I had decided to hide in bamboo on bund to capture the release shots. But to an advise I just got down to the open land where our fellow hyticos members Vamshi, Tirupathi, Yellam were standing, on the release within 2 seconds the Gaur ran and reached us! I just got less than quarter of sec to get out of its way, it was that close! It sneezed as it ran passed me.

But I held my nerve and took his last shot from hind, in a breather it was lost in wilderness!

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Born Free!

text and photos by Asif Siddiqui

In Amrabad Tiger Reserve – few lines from my diary.

Our jeep just passed a sheer with shrubs bordering the way, a surprise shower greeted us out of nowhere and before we could rumple, we reached Chenchu children playing with a Sambar deer under a big tree. It was last week of April and our camping amid dense forest of Amrabad Tiger Reserve had just started.

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“The Behrapur forest base camp was hundred step away from a Chenchu hamlet of fifteen huts, it lay next to an old temple ruin bordering a white lotus filled lake, Here time cavorted still, the worries departed and we felt belittle under the creation of vast expanse of skies and of course the incredible jungle that has wilderness of all sizes, hues and clamor.”

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Although we went for volunteering for the annual wildlife estimations, we were late as the process was almost nearing the end, we had notable interactions with field staff in Behrapur, and couple of them had walked since morning till early evening, concluding their two day estimation work elsewhere in another remote location. One looked tired and couldn’t speak much, as I kept pondering he could have walked in evening instead the noon. The prospect of facing Bears in evening was more terrifying than the walk in sun one of them said.

 

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To each his own but for me to comprehend a forest in its pristine prime is always a charm.

 

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Those valleys, hills and gorges hold beauty of immense value, the breeze just gusting at will and spilled the lakes tranquil, the deer visit the lake in petty to large herds, and all along an occasional hawk cuckoo’s call brrrrn fvvvvvvr… brrnfvvvvvvvr.. kept coming not just in the day but even pierced the moonlit nights.

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We cooked all our meals, maggie, tea, we also went trails all mornings and evenings. Some also found time to swim in the lake next to the temple ruins. Our lake was frequented by a herd of fifty spotted deer our first dawn, one laborer lady carrying out the kuccha road work saw Tiger at the lake couple of days prior to our visit, she then ran back to the camp in panic.

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The raptors including a solo Black eagle kept flying across all day long, as we sat near our base camp which lay under the ficus tree. Green imperial pigeons swelled in bushes and hogs kept exploring the forest floor. A Fish eagle also visited and other raptors including buzzards were always at sky.

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We explored the forest with Chenchu trackers, the forest just went on and on with deep gorges and ravines that finally slit the land, and in those deep valleys at distance lay the huge streams that fill the mighty Krishna River. The camp’s dog kept catching up our stroll in spite of valiant efforts by Chittia to drive it back.

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To write about such trips can be endless with no words that can do justice.

On the final day I spent some time with Chenchu men near their hamlet, they had interesting views, woes and ideas. Unravelling the Chenchu life amid the influence of wilderness holds answers for prospect of these forests and Tigers.

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(We volunteered this year at Eturnagram and Amrabad Tiger Reserve. I should thank the Chenchu trackers Chittia and Bala without them we couldn’t have explored as much. It is not just easy to plan such trips along its trainings, permissions, logistics and participation. I take a moment to thank all volunteers, supporters (Special mention of Kareem), forest department for all the help)

 

Impressive number of deer and a Tiger’s roar; Birds always busy with their daily chores.

Lines and Photos by Asif Siddiqui