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  • April | 2014 | View from Elephant Hills
    rows of four each the girls have the four spaces between the paired bamboos and the spaces outside to move in And with grace élan and joy they begin to dance their feet stepping in and out of the culms in sync with bamboo The girls step and swirl and hop and turn they toss their heads and swing their arms face each other or turn away dancing to the incessant beat of the bamboo culms worked by the boys at their feet To the clacking beat of the bamboo the girls step and stomp and turn and toss but inexorably each returns to the same spot where she started The bamboo delimits the space they have to dance step first here between the bamboo and before the boys slap it shut hop to the next space outside for the next steps onto the space between the next pair of culms and out and back again In my photographs the girls are frozen heads aloft long hair swinging feet in the air and the bamboo on the earth makes space for where they will land now keeps space for later and will make space once more where they began Watching the Cheraw I begin to think it is not unlike jhum itself in which bamboo plays such a pivotal role Mautak bamboos making space for this year s cultivation reserving shifting spaces for the next few years always with the prospect of return to place within the bounds of the bamboo Out in the hills of Mizoram I tried to understand this cycle of shifting cultivation through field research and by talking to farmers After a span of five to 10 years when forest vegetation and bamboo have recovered sufficiently in old jhum fields farmers return to the same site again The bamboo forest that has sheltered the soil for years from sun and erosion is then cut dried burnt and replaced by crops forming the cycle of cultivation and regrowth practised for centuries that has helped maintain extensive areas under bamboo and regenerating forests in Mizoram A farmer s eye view of the jhum landscape through the window of a bamboo hut in a jhum field slashed fields waiting to be burnt the previous year s fallows and slopes draped with regenerating bamboo forests For every hectare of forest cut for jhum at least five to 10 hectares are retained as forest in the landscape Furthermore jhum farmers also leave uncut many uncultivable strips of forest on ridges in ravines and valleys besides areas that form boundaries between fields For local people as for forest plants and wildlife these uncut spaces serve as small but significant resource patches natural buffers and refugia in the landscape In these areas besides Mautak other bamboos may be found the stalwart Rawnal Dendrocalamus longispathus the giant Phulrua D hamiltonii the sturdy Rawthing Bambusa tulda and forest bamboos such as the elegant Sairil Melocalamus compactiflora and the beautiful Chalthe Schizostachyum polymorpha The landscape of

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  • March | 2014 | View from Elephant Hills
    Fountain Ink a monthly carrying long form writing narrative journalism and photo essays published from Chennai India Fountain Ink is an attractive small format magazine that fits like a delectable little book in your hand The article carries some of our photos and those of Kalyan Varma from Kanha and Bandhavgarh and you can read the full text here Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Madagascar rainforest rivers wildlife and tagged essay forests landscape primates Ranomafana tigers tourism on 7 March 2014 by T R Shankar Raman Subscribe by email Enter your email address Recent Posts The other invisible hand Fire and renewal in Mizoram Fieldwork In clouded leopard country with Peter Matthiessen Blowin in the wind II Kalakad three years in rainforest Recent Comments T R Shankar Raman on Kalakad three years in rainforest Vinod Iyengar on Kalakad three years in rainforest Favorite Readings on The Environment on About Me T R Shankar Raman on Blowin in the wind II Jennifer Molidor on Blowin in the wind II Archives June 2015 May 2015 April 2015 February 2015 December 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 Categories agriculture Asian elephant birds books ecology economy environment forests Himalaya humour Madagascar memoir northeast India people politics rainforest restoration rivers science tourism Western Ghats wildlife Search for Follow me on Twitter My Tweets On the Coyot es Network Some reasons I have been called a radical environmentalist Coyote Crossing Published on September 19 2015 by Chris Clarke On Forgetting My Field Guide Birds and Words Published on September 16 2015 by Julia Zarankin My Hit Single Are Warblers Less Important Than Tigers Reconciliation Ecology Published on September 12 2015

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  • February | 2014 | View from Elephant Hills
    bird by bird Well there I was the next morning on my own short assignment ready to put aside my failures and take it bird by bird But the damn birds refused to show I don t know what you would have done in this situation I screamed mutely at every mysterious bird call I let fly motionless at every fleeting glimpse In complete silence I cursed With that my luck turned The tesia was just an early victim My patience exhausted in fifteen minutes I pinned him to the twig with one cutting comment A little later briskly turning a bend I spooked a bird that exploded from virtually at my feet Freeze Asshole I said behind gritted teeth which applied I guess to both of us I stood binoculars glued to my eyes The bird alighted on a slanting bamboo culm thirty metres away and glared back Feather for feather he was one of the most beautiful Emerald Dove males I had ever seen coral red beak and silver capped head on wine lilac neck zebra patterned rump immodestly flaunted under emerald wings I could have stood rooted there for ever Only the feeling was clearly not mutual and the bird hustled away in a clapping flutter Emerald Dove Photo courtesy Ramki Sreenivasan And what are you fussing and churring and whistling about Yes you with the nervous tic with your bunch of buddies on the branches Show yourself clearly or shut your frigging mouth It seemed rather extreme even to me to thus lambast what turned out to be a coterie of shy Brown cheeked Fulvettas winding its way away through the bamboo They were nondescript and dull birds brown with a touch of grey on their heads foraging in the shadow of bigger and more colourful peers Brown cheeked Fulvetta Photo courtesy Ramki Sreenivasan The fulvettas made a dignified exit after their brief showing at my unuttered words Only after they left other words far greater than mine came to mind and refused to leave The fault must partly have been in me The bird was not to blame for his key And of course there must be something wrong In wanting to silence any song from A Minor Bird by Robert Frost The fault was partly in me A many layered fault of finding excuses when I failed at finding birds of being stubborn snobbish or merely impatient It was like blaming friends who I had forgotten for years not seeing them not casting a thought in their direction for failing to show up when I wanted them to Like them the birds lived neither for my convenience nor my disposal they had lives of their own free to roam and do unexpected things It was I who needed to make more effort to see them to understand once again if need be who they were or weren t They were like characters in a book and as Anne Lamott writes if you want to get to know your characters you have to hang out with them long enough to see beyond all the things they aren t You may try to get them to do something because it would be convenient plotwise or you might want to pigeonhole them so you can maintain the illusion of control But with luck you will finally have to admit that who they are isn t who you thought they were And what if like the birds the knowledge that I sought was not something to be chased after or coerced into revealing itself If the best I could hope for was to remain receptive and observant and let the story show gradually as a reward for attentive and repeated effort Finding the bird identifying the species knowing their calls and habits these were just the first but crucial steps of a long chain of things I needed to do to translate a confirmed sighting to something of larger substance I still needed to systematically cover various habitats from streams and rivers to fallows and forests resurvey transects I had walked two decades ago measure vegetation attributes such as tree density and canopy cover to quantify habitat change then enter verify and analyse the collected data then interpret and write my findings all in the hope that it would lead to greater scientific understanding and better conservation and management efforts on the ground Years ago this had formed the bedrock of my work on the effects of shifting cultivation on rainforest birds in Dampa Now while surveying the same areas again after two decades I had the opportunity to take my earlier work ahead deepen my understanding of recovery of rainforest vegetation and bird communities After this short trip in December I would come again in February for several weeks of work but I was beginning to wonder if even that much time was enough Even during this short visit I was already becoming concerned about the changes in land use around Dampa Monoculture teak and rubber and oil palm plantations were replacing diverse secondary forests and traditional livelihoods based on shifting cultivation on community lands were being beaten back by government and corporate interests to bring in economies based on cash and private ownership In such a backdrop the birds of Dampa seemed inconsequential and irrelevant but they too had a role to play in helping understand the changes The presence and kinds of birds in various sites serve as revealing titres of transformation in land use when habitat alteration reaches its threshold and that little extra drop of disturbance irretrievably changes the colour of the landscape But I realised the birds were not the primary instrument of the assay they were living measures of change in landscape I was the blunt instrument making the measurements scrawling notes and observations into my fraying field notebook What if I was not up to the task If all I could achieve was a mismeasure of a pertinent conservation issue

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/elephanthills/2014/02/ (2015-09-25)
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  • December | 2013 | View from Elephant Hills
    their children s children At the end of their lives many would like her father have their ashes consigned nowhere but in the river Perhaps like a bloodline the river is a community of waters A coming together of freshets a commingling of streams traversing earthly life and landscape surmounting boulders cascading down cataracts sweeping through calm interludes receiving sharing giving branching out into little distributaries that join the vast oceans of life Through Karnataka then Tamil Nadu the Cauvery gathers the waters of the Hemavathi Kabini Shimsha Arkavathi Bhavani Moyar Noyyal Amaravathi and more before splaying out into the great delta of over 14 000 square kilometres across Thanjavur and its neighbouring districts At every confluence of rivers one is likely to find shrines or ghats or great trees silent markers of religion culture and ecology He ponders now over the two streams joining near the origin the water lapping against as yet unsullied banks Something that the hydrologist said at the conference comes to him the daily flux of water with the breathing of the trees He imagines now the water level dropping subtly by day as the trees in the watershed draw water up through their roots breathe them out through their leaves the level slowly rising again as the trees close their stomata in the quietude of night He imagines the tree as a river itself waters drawn from the earth coursing through the trunk branching out breathed out into the atmospheric ocean the air then burdened with moisture condensing as mist and cloud rushing back into the mountains then falling as rain the water drenching the trees and the earth shimmering down the tree trunks sponged by the leaves on the soil percolating through soil pores and root tubes then drawn out again into the tree into the river Now the river is a dendritic network of water melding with the trees A yell snaps him out of his reverie back to Mavinahalli Standing on a bamboo coracle wooden paddle in hand a fisher shouts across to another in a coracle downstream asking perhaps about the day s catch On the banks the conference group splits and climbs onto half a dozen coracles and two inflatable rafts to experience the river discuss field survey methods their task for the day and look for otters The coracles and rafts are full and he waits on the banks with her for another coracle from the village A boy is dispatched running to the village for the purpose and returns soon with the coracle The boy carries the coracle inverted over his head only his legs are visible feet slapping bare earth he looks like a walking mushroom Behind him a fisherman follows holding a paddle The sun blazes furiously over their heads and there is no breeze The shimmering surface of the river reflects the light the water is barely cool to the touch Sweating squinting against the light squatting at the three points of a triangle in the coracle for balance the two of them and the fisher make their way slowly downriver the coracle swinging now this way now that to the rhythm of the rowing Fishing in a coracle Photo Nisarg Prakash Out in the river the fishing is on A pair of smooth coated otters gambolling in the current heads up skimming the surface plunging suddenly as if diving for a fish reappearing somewhere else A fisher on a coracle swinging his net heaving it out the net fanning out in a circle dropping the net hauled up and checked for unsuspecting fish caught Another setting out a net line from the edge of an islet out into the river waving their coracle around the unseen net in the water He sees the river as an ecosystem one that sustains life and livelihoods he wonders what the fishers see the river as In A Sand County Almanac Aldo Leopold wrote There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery and the other that heat comes from the furnace To this keeping rivers in mind one could add There are two spiritual dangers in not knowing a river One is the danger of supposing that fish come from the market and the other that water comes from the tap The history of use and abuse of rivers in India is a sorry one Few rivers have been left undammed their dynamic flow their open throbbing engines of life left untrammelled After 1947 independent India embarked on a phase of dam building reaching a crescendo in the 1960s onwards a period when around the world there was one dam being built every day on average The archaic and obsolete ideas of development based on large scale impoundment of water for agriculture and electricity generation has spared few of India s rivers The Cauvery and its tributaries already has a series of major dams at Harangi Hemavathi Krishnaraja Sagar Kabini Mettur Lower and Upper Bhavani Avalanche Emerald Kundha Palam Pegumbahallah Forebay Pillur Porithimond Parson s Valley Nirallapallam and Amaravathi and smaller impoundments 65 dams already plus a series of irrigation canals drawing water out Devaraj Urs Mettur Kodivery the Grand Anicut of the Cauvery Delta Lower Coleroon and more all of which feed the prosperity and eternal discontent of human needs in the basin Over a hundred dams beguilingly named mini hydels built or being built generating power and profits for privateers are set to scupper what is left of the river The 2012 River Basin Atlas of India proclaims that about 90 of the Cauvery basin s average water resource potential of 21 358 million cubic metres is Utilizable Surface Water Resource The live storage capacity of completed reservoirs has already usurped half that pot of water a disputed and contentious pot the sharing of which the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have fought over for more than 150 years Another

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  • November | 2013 | View from Elephant Hills
    conductors didn t give me a full refund So I decided to walk it It was a tremendously wearying walk The buildings trees and telephone poles that had dashed so quickly past me when I was in the bus seemed to now become super phlegmatically lethargic and dragged painfully by My shoe s soles scraped on the dusty gravel of the road and I looked down to find my shoes brown and covered with dry dust I was nearing my house when my knees started buckling I bent and pulled them sluggishly and stumbled clumsily into my house I walked directly to the bathroom and flopped into the bath tub which I had filled with cold water I soon fell asleep I was woken up by my mother s shouts After crying out to calm her I donned my clothes and walked out without even looking at her and sat down on the seat of the chair beside the dining table Whatever happened to you my mother asked wide eyed It was a tiring day I said She didn t ask me anything else and joined me while I had my supper It was three minutes more before I reached my bed My head must have still been falling down to my pillow when I fell asleep again for I don t remember having laid it down on the soft cushion Then I had the dream It is usually very diffucult sic to say how a dream began but I remember this one clearly At first it was dark Very dark The kind of darkness that seeps into you clogging the very recesses of your being Then there developed a haze A thin greyish mantle that started spreading from the rightmost corner of my right eye The haze spread throughout and then shrunk until it was just a sort of doorway through which bright light entered It turned out to be a tunnel The tunnel seemed to flicker and move I realized that it was I who was moving out of the tunnel I came out The chill morning mist hit me like a sledge hammer I was suddenly feeling free there was no weight on my legs and the path before me lead into a lush green jungle I looked up to see the Blue Hills in the distance I was in the Annamalai woods My passion for ornithology had still not left me The rising sun was directly in front of me I soaked up its warmth greedily and experienced a state of quixotic euphoria A Magpie robin sang its melodious song from somewhere deep in the forest I heard a tittering musical cry from my left and turned to spot a beautiful Yellow backed sunbird in its glossy yellow green and crimson plumage diving into the thick undergrowth A group of Orange headed ground thrushes and Slaty headed babblers landed in front of me making a cacophony of gurgling calls The whole forest came alive I listened to the calls of a million birds the harsh chatter of the nocturnal owls in quest of a roosting hole in some gnarled branch to while away the day the raucous cries of the macaques and the faint trumpet of a wild elephant It was absolute peace I had been in the heat and dust that had made me so weary But now I was in the Western Ghats at the Annamalai jungles at the foot of the awesome Nilgiris I was where I had always wanted to be THE END After reading the typescript I am elated and confused at once Falling asleep in a bathtub after a tiring day at school really Thoughts and emotions aswirl I laugh at the dream cringe at the use of language Super phlegmatically lethargic Where did he even find such words leave aside the horror of using such an expression The answer stares back at me from the bookshelf the well thumbed pages of How to Build a Better Vocabulary within its bright blue cover tacked alongside its white sequel All about Words by wordsmiths Maxwell Nurnberg and Morris Rosenblum I note with satisfaction his attempts to proofread and correct the typescript with a pen and the single typo in spelling but itch to confront him to correct the errors that remain You have identified the sunbird wrong your punctuation is awry and go easy on the adverbs and hyphens will you Also it is Anamalai not Annamalai I want to tell him the Nilgiris is a different hill range over fifty kilometres to the north But most of all I am incredulous Incredulous at the boy imagining himself as an ornithologist in the Anamalai someone he has no assurance of becoming How could he My first field research on wildlife was a study on deer and antelope in Guindy National Park in Chennai My Masters fieldwork took me to tropical rainforests of remote northeastern India studying effects of slash and burn shifting cultivation on birds and primates in Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram Then I had scouted widely for topics and sites for my doctoral research before electing to work on rainforest birds in the southern Western Ghats in Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in the extreme south and in the Anamalai hills Surely the boy had no way of knowing that after my doctoral degree in ornithology I would remain to work in the Anamalai would read the words he has written over a quarter of a century later I am confused what is this typescript on its yellowing paper saying Is it prescient prophecy plain fact or fiction The words seem prophetic I do live and work in the Anamalai hills now in a landscape where on any day we need to only step out of home or research station to be assured of seeing wildlife great hornbills whooshing over the canopy stately gaur moving through the plantations creatures of all sorts from fireflies to frogs and earthworms to elephants

    Original URL path: http://coyot.es/elephanthills/2013/11/ (2015-09-25)
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  • Himalaya | View from Elephant Hills
    each other Then the flies buzz in A duller one dripped in grey like a drab honeybee and a little gold and black hoverfly a torpedo winging back and forth like a shimmering jewel I wave I swat I blow I twitch until I stop to see what they want The flies come only to sponge a little sweat salt off exposed arm or leg with their tiny tickly tongues If I stay still they dab away for a while lap up a little from elbow crook or leg make a short survey of ankle and shin give a glancing touch to my cheek a skimming look from the air over my nose Then they disappear resume their busy lives perhaps visiting flowers transmitting pollen from plant to plant Why should I grudge the flies this much What am I but a little ephemeral fly myself scanning and surveying gathering my own little crumbs of learning off the rugged skin of Dampa What can I aspire for in my fieldwork but to leave carrying a pollen grain of perception to share with others when the moment arrives of my own vanishing The stillness to which all returns this is reality and soul and sanity have no more meaning than a gust of snow such transience and insignificance are exalting terrifying all at once like the sudden discovery in meditation of one s own transparence Tuichar cave Photo Bhagyashree Ingle Tuichar cave 27 March 2014 After morning transects in the valley I return to the camp at the Puk the cave in deep rainforest beside Tuichar Lui Rending the morning quietude a family of gibbons howls from the far forests on Chawrpialtlang Almost in retort another gibbon family closer louder begins to whoop and hoot in morning abandon The latter I notice are calling not from the primary rainforests to the south and east Their calls urgent clarion challenging come from the old bamboo forests of Tuichar downriver the gibbons perhaps swing and sing from high trees in the patches of mature rainforest closer to the river perhaps from the great Tatkawng Artocarpus chaplasha Lawngthing Dipterocarpus turbinatus Thingdawl Tetrameles nudiflora and Ficus trees that tower over the bamboo or who knows perhaps from the bamboo itself Male Hoolock gibbon Photo courtesy Zakhuma Past a whinnying Great Slaty Woodpecker who dips and darts from the broken fig tree above the cave we turn off the forest trail down to the Puk where I am enveloped by grey rocks great trees soft voice of stream How much this place has given me Not by asking just by being here living watching recording water food fire shelter experience data learning and unlearning All steamed in tropical heat washed in thunderstorm wafted by winds lit by starlight and firefly And yet how much really have I perceived have I been ready to perceive How much remains The Puk stands on a threshold a line stretching from river to ridge where dark forest gives way to light bamboo greens Standing on that threshold I wonder have I been wrong about shifting cultivation or jhum all along My study on shifting cultivation had concluded that many bird and mammal species of deep rainforest will survive in the landscape only if mature or primary forests are retained that young bamboo forests resulting from short cycles of cultivation of five years or less are insufficient to conserve the full spectrum of rainforest wildlife Some conclusions may stand for a while attested by birds and squirrels and primates persisting in mature rainforest and bamboo forests in much the same places and manner as two decades ago And yet did the hoolock gibbons not call just this morning not from the primary forests where they were expected to be but from the old bamboo forests But my work like other studies of jhum was also being selectively cited and quoted as having drastic effects on wildlife In the landscape around Dampa Tiger Reserve decrying jhum as destructive other land uses were being ushered in monoculture plantations of teak oil palm rubber The part where I had written that the landscape mix of bamboo and secondary forests resulting from jhum cultivation was more diverse and preferable to monocultures that part had gone unread unquoted unheeded Tangentially I was implicated in the assault on jhum the picture I had drawn within the circumscribed ambit of science was flawed incomplete The Char tree Terminalia myriocarpa Perhaps my field study seen closely resembles the great Char Terminalia myriocarpa tree that stands by the trail to the Puk an apparently strong framework outside hiding a hollow inside home of dark beings that fly by night One day the tree will come crashing down return to the soil from where it sprang And just as the canopy gap opened by the fall of the Char would stream again with sunlight crowd with seedlings clamouring towards the sky so in the space illuminated anew other studies will follow mine At the Puk I cannot shake myself out of the self questioning Was it all worth it The studies the surveys the travails of fieldwork camping the money raised spent the energy expended the ligaments torn and knees pounded the shoes shredded tromping sharp bamboo and hard rock The hour upon hour spent walking looking listening binoculars clutched in my hands Already the not looking forward the without hope ness takes on a subtle attraction as if I had glimpsed the secret of these mountains still half understood With the past evaporated the future pointless and all expectation worn away I begin to experience that now that is spoken of by the great teachers I look at my hands my thin brown arms In the humid heat my skin beads with tiny droplets of sweat small as the pores in every crinkle and crevice on the skin along my arms In slanting shafts of afternoon sun the little droplets glint and twinkle like flecks of gold on soil The

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  • humour | View from Elephant Hills
    by bird Well there I was the next morning on my own short assignment ready to put aside my failures and take it bird by bird But the damn birds refused to show I don t know what you would have done in this situation I screamed mutely at every mysterious bird call I let fly motionless at every fleeting glimpse In complete silence I cursed With that my luck turned The tesia was just an early victim My patience exhausted in fifteen minutes I pinned him to the twig with one cutting comment A little later briskly turning a bend I spooked a bird that exploded from virtually at my feet Freeze Asshole I said behind gritted teeth which applied I guess to both of us I stood binoculars glued to my eyes The bird alighted on a slanting bamboo culm thirty metres away and glared back Feather for feather he was one of the most beautiful Emerald Dove males I had ever seen coral red beak and silver capped head on wine lilac neck zebra patterned rump immodestly flaunted under emerald wings I could have stood rooted there for ever Only the feeling was clearly not mutual and the bird hustled away in a clapping flutter Emerald Dove Photo courtesy Ramki Sreenivasan And what are you fussing and churring and whistling about Yes you with the nervous tic with your bunch of buddies on the branches Show yourself clearly or shut your frigging mouth It seemed rather extreme even to me to thus lambast what turned out to be a coterie of shy Brown cheeked Fulvettas winding its way away through the bamboo They were nondescript and dull birds brown with a touch of grey on their heads foraging in the shadow of bigger and more colourful peers Brown cheeked Fulvetta Photo courtesy Ramki Sreenivasan The fulvettas made a dignified exit after their brief showing at my unuttered words Only after they left other words far greater than mine came to mind and refused to leave The fault must partly have been in me The bird was not to blame for his key And of course there must be something wrong In wanting to silence any song from A Minor Bird by Robert Frost The fault was partly in me A many layered fault of finding excuses when I failed at finding birds of being stubborn snobbish or merely impatient It was like blaming friends who I had forgotten for years not seeing them not casting a thought in their direction for failing to show up when I wanted them to Like them the birds lived neither for my convenience nor my disposal they had lives of their own free to roam and do unexpected things It was I who needed to make more effort to see them to understand once again if need be who they were or weren t They were like characters in a book and as Anne Lamott writes if you want to get to know your characters you have to hang out with them long enough to see beyond all the things they aren t You may try to get them to do something because it would be convenient plotwise or you might want to pigeonhole them so you can maintain the illusion of control But with luck you will finally have to admit that who they are isn t who you thought they were And what if like the birds the knowledge that I sought was not something to be chased after or coerced into revealing itself If the best I could hope for was to remain receptive and observant and let the story show gradually as a reward for attentive and repeated effort Finding the bird identifying the species knowing their calls and habits these were just the first but crucial steps of a long chain of things I needed to do to translate a confirmed sighting to something of larger substance I still needed to systematically cover various habitats from streams and rivers to fallows and forests resurvey transects I had walked two decades ago measure vegetation attributes such as tree density and canopy cover to quantify habitat change then enter verify and analyse the collected data then interpret and write my findings all in the hope that it would lead to greater scientific understanding and better conservation and management efforts on the ground Years ago this had formed the bedrock of my work on the effects of shifting cultivation on rainforest birds in Dampa Now while surveying the same areas again after two decades I had the opportunity to take my earlier work ahead deepen my understanding of recovery of rainforest vegetation and bird communities After this short trip in December I would come again in February for several weeks of work but I was beginning to wonder if even that much time was enough Even during this short visit I was already becoming concerned about the changes in land use around Dampa Monoculture teak and rubber and oil palm plantations were replacing diverse secondary forests and traditional livelihoods based on shifting cultivation on community lands were being beaten back by government and corporate interests to bring in economies based on cash and private ownership In such a backdrop the birds of Dampa seemed inconsequential and irrelevant but they too had a role to play in helping understand the changes The presence and kinds of birds in various sites serve as revealing titres of transformation in land use when habitat alteration reaches its threshold and that little extra drop of disturbance irretrievably changes the colour of the landscape But I realised the birds were not the primary instrument of the assay they were living measures of change in landscape I was the blunt instrument making the measurements scrawling notes and observations into my fraying field notebook What if I was not up to the task If all I could achieve was a mismeasure of a pertinent conservation issue a

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  • Madagascar | View from Elephant Hills
    sportive lemurs this lemur s natural range is confined within the island of Madagascar The largest living lemur in Madagascar is the indri At seven kilograms the indri weighs as much as a healthy six month old human infant But instead of a crawling or bawling child imagine a wild primate dressed in striking black and white capable of prodigious leaps from tree to tree and endowed with an incredibly loud and mesmerising singing voice In October 2012 one month before our visit to Madagascar Madame Berthe s mouse lemur and the indri along with four other lemur species were listed among the world s 25 most endangered primate species All lemurs larger than the indri are already extinct Read the full article here Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in forests Madagascar people rainforest restoration tourism wildlife and tagged Andasibe conservation essay forests landscape primates Ranomafana tourism wildlife on 14 August 2014 by T R Shankar Raman March essays by T R Shankar Raman Leave a reply Two of my essays appear in print this month in two relatively new magazines that have been around for a couple of years EarthLines March 2014 cover One essay titled Madagascar Through the Looking Glass appears in the March 2014 issue of EarthLines a magazine of nature and place based writing published thrice a year from the UK EarthLines is an artfully produced magazine and I was glad my piece finds place in the March 2014 issue The EarthLines essay is part of a longer work by the same name which I am working on themed on life and loss rapture and revival in the island It is based on a trip that Divya and I made to Madagascar in November 2012 A few of our images of lemurs and reptiles from Ranomafana accompany the EarthLines piece Black and white ruffed lemur in Ranomafana The other essay appearing this month is on wildlife in the heart of India the land of deer and tiger in the forests of Central India This appears in the March 2014 issue of Fountain Ink a monthly carrying long form writing narrative journalism and photo essays published from Chennai India Fountain Ink is an attractive small format magazine that fits like a delectable little book in your hand The article carries some of our photos and those of Kalyan Varma from Kanha and Bandhavgarh and you can read the full text here Share this Email Like this Like Loading This entry was posted in Madagascar rainforest rivers wildlife and tagged essay forests landscape primates Ranomafana tigers tourism on 7 March 2014 by T R Shankar Raman Subscribe by email Enter your email address Recent Posts The other invisible hand Fire and renewal in Mizoram Fieldwork In clouded leopard country with Peter Matthiessen Blowin in the wind II Kalakad three years in rainforest Recent Comments T R Shankar Raman on Kalakad three years in rainforest Vinod Iyengar on Kalakad three years in rainforest

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