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Monkeys in the Garden

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Gardening has always fascinated me. Till now I have believed in its therapeutic nature, how it calms our senses as well as educates us, teaching so many things, from sowing to reaping our crops and invaluable knowledge about the flora and how the climate is related to them.

But, Delhi provides me with little scope in terms of full-fledged gardening, where less of space limits us to either terrace gardening in pint size houses or putting a few potted plants in our balconies.

As a child, living in the hills, I have always seen houses accompanied with lawns and gardens and same goes for my parents’ home. Here in Himachal , whether you are rich or poor, everyone has roof over their head along with kitchen gardens, though the size may vary. Despite of urbanization, the gardens still exist. But yes, these high-rise buildings have resulted in destruction of Natural Habitats of animals and birds . The result of all this is’ increase in monkey-menace, the simian population is destroying the crops and vegetables, because of all this the farmers are facing huge losses. It has become a herculean task to control these monkeys and despite of on-going sterilization programmes nothing much has been done or changed.

Delhi monkey menace

Now, the huge back yard garden of my dad faces the biggest threat from the troops of the monkeys on the prowl looking for goodies. Though my dad has attained some wisdom in dealing with them by observing them for quite some time now. The doors of the house are never left open and always latched, the dustbins are never left out, the compost pit is always covered, and the old habit of feeding the monkeys especially during Tuesdays by my mother has been quit long time back, even if a baby monkey steals her heart with its pranks.

Despite of all this, the real test began for them when there were mangoes, tomatoes and guavas in their kitchen garden which were about to ripen!! Seeing the monkey family so mercilessly plucking the mangoes, Brinjals and even spring onions, and so carelessly tasting and throwing them away, really saddened them. Their labour and hard work was just destroyed in few seconds, they were almost heart-broken.

Our neighbours made a smart move. In order to tackle this situation peacefully, they made a green house but my dad was not in favour of this as it would restrict the movement of birds. Many others like us who did not support the Green house idea , took to bursting of crackers. Moment the monkeys were in the vicinity , a fire crackers went off and hearing the big boom, the monkeys scampered away. Soon this idea became quite hot and happening and we also tried it, but every time bursting crackers was spoiling the peaceful environs , along with scaring the poor pet and street dogs and whole day keeping a watch on these simians was not possible and often they would stealthily come and perform their chores, the half eaten vegetables strewn around were the only proof of their surprise and shocking visit for us.

The present cause of concern for my father is his Orange tree, he has so religiously taken care of this tree, from the time it was just a mere sapling, that even my six year daughter has made it a duty to water it daily and refers to it as ‘Nanu ka Orange Tree’. As the small oranges have started appearing, my father is so perturbed about its future, every day he counts the number of oranges along with my daughter, the addition to the orange family brings smiles on their faces but some where a fear is lurking in his mind about their survival rate, as deep down he knows that once the monkeys eye this tree, only a couple of the oranges will survive, that too out of sheer luck.

The idea of covering the oranges with the muslin cloth was suggested by one of our neighbours but it was completely rejected by my father as it is a tested and a failed formula, which was tried on the mangoes last year, it restricted the growth of the fruit and later on the monkeys could spot the mangoes hidden behind the mask , which they managed to tear apart .

So the last resort left with us was the toy guns, and now we are dealing with the monkeys in our kitchen garden with these guns, as we see the monkeys, my dad just raises his gun in air, so that it is visible to the monkeys as they are intelligent beings and fear for their lives and this technique has been a successful so fa , as well as harmless to all concerned. Monkeys just run away seeing the guns, but God knows till when.

By Anjali Sharma, an HW Reader

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Himachal: Report Forest Fires on Toll-Free Numbers 1077 and 1070

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helpline for Forest Fires in himachal pradesh

Shimla-Forest fire is a recurrent annual phenomenon in Himachal Pradesh and causes losses worth several crores every year. Dry spell and summers make forests, especially chir pine forests, highly vulnerable to forest fires. These forest fires not only damage the forest wealth but also hit wildlife and biodiversity in general. The forest department attributes most fires to human factors.

Like every year, the forest department has claimed that it is all geared up and ready to combat forest fires this year too. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dr. Savita on Monday held a virtual review meeting with Forest Circles on preparedness for forest fires in the state.

She said that the Forest department was well prepared to fight the forest fires and a rapid forest fire fighting force and rapid response teams had been set up at forest division and range levels.

“Approximately 40,000 man-days of fire watchers would be engaged by the department in addition to existing frontline staff for preventing and combating forest fires,” she said. The state disaster control room with toll-free number 1077 at the state level and 1070 at the district level were operational for reporting of the forest fire by the local community, she informed.

Dr. Savita said messages regarding forest fire had been shared with the members of the rapid forest fire fighting force, in which approximately 50,000 volunteers had already been registered. Awareness to the community was also conducted through Nukkar Nataks, songs, speeches and other activities at different locations in the state. Besides, a massive state-level awareness program was also conducted at 45 places from 10 to 17 March 2021

She said that the department had created forest fire lines and did control burning and also constructed water storage structures in the forest areas to combat forest fires. Additional multi-utility vehicles and water loaded tankers in 80 fire-sensitive ranges had been engaged for three months. She that matter regarding Standard Operating Systems (SOPs) for requisition of helicopter services for dousing the forest fires had been sent to the Government for approval. 

Feature Photo: Unsplash@Thematthoward

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Himachal Counts 108,578 Waterbirds of 96 Species This Year With Increase in Habitat

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Annual Bird Count in Himachal Pradesh 2021

Shimla-The habitat of migratory and resident water-birds in Himachal Pradesh has gradually improved, said Forest Minister Rakesh Pathania.

The annual water-bird count at Pong Dam Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was conducted in the first of February, 2021 and the exercise was conducted under restrained conditions due to the prevailing Avian Influenza outbreak in Pong Dam Lake as well as the COVID-19 Pandemic, he said.

The exercise was conducted by Wildlife wing of Himachal Pradesh by deploying 57 staff members in 26 sections of the sanctuary for counting the water-dependent birds.

Total 108,578 birds of 96 species were counted during this year. Out of the total number, 101,431 of 51 species are water-dependent migratory birds and 6,433 of 29 species are water-dependent resident birds. As many as 714 birds of 16 other species were also recorded. The total population of the flagship species, Bar-Headed Geese, is 40,570.

The other species which have higher population count during this year are Eurasian Coot (24,163), Northern Pintail (12,702), Common Teal (8,444), Little Cormorant (3,649), Great Cormorant (3,410), Grey Lag Goose (2,297), Northern Shoveler (2,275) and Common Pochard (2,138). The species which find noticeable mention are Red Necked Grebe, Great Bittern, Lesser White-Fronted Goose, Red Crested Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Pied Avocet, Northern Lapwing, Peregrine Falcon etc. During the counting exercise, one Bar-headed Goose and one Grey Lag Goose with collars were also spotted.

This year the Annual bird count exercise assumes significance, considering the Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary. Further, the Minister expressed satisfaction over the timely and effective containment measures taken by Wildlife Wing to control and contain Avian Influenza outbreak in the Wildlife Sanctuary.

PCCF (Wildlife) Archana Sharma and CCF Wildlife (North) Dharamshala Upasana Patial also participated and supervised the Annual Water Bird Count.

The total population of birds, as well as number of species, counted this year are marginally less as compared to last year, probably due to the impact of Avian Influenza outbreak which was first reported on 28th December 2020.

Although the total population of water birds declined during the peak of the Avian Influenza outbreak, there is a gradual increase in the total population of birds, the Minister informed.

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Himachal First State to Complete Assessment of Snow Leopard and its Wild Prey

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Snow Leopard Population Assessment in Himachal Pradesh

Shimla-The assessment of snow leopard population in Himachal Pradesh has been completed by the state wildlife wing in collaboration with Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) Bangalore following the protocol aligning with the SPAI (Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India) protocols of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. Himachal Pradesh has become the first state to complete assessment of snow leopard and its wild prey.

The state has an estimated population of up to 73 snow leopards.

It is the first scientifically robust estimate of snow leopards and its prey for the State. Since snow leopard is the state animal, the study assumes great significance for Himachal Pradesh.
The exercise revealed that snow leopard density ranged from 0.08 to 0.37 individuals per 100 sq.km., with the trans-Himalayan regions of Spiti, Pin valley and upper Kinnaur recording the highest densities, both of the predator and its prey, mainly ibex and blue sheep.

This study covered the entire potential snow leopard habitat of Himachal Pradesh: an area of 26,112 sq.km., utilising a stratified sampling design. Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata i.e. high, low and unknown. The camera trap deployment over the mountainous terrains was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village and more than 70 frontline staff of HPFD were trained in this technique as part of the project. Snow leopards were detected at all the 10 sites (Bhaga, Chandra, Bharmour, Kullu, Miyar, Pin, Baspa, Tabo, Hangrang & Spiti) suggesting that snow leopards are found in the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh either as resident individuals of a population or as dispersing individuals navigating through these connecting habitats.

Another revelation from the study is that a bulk of snow leopard occurrence is outside protected areas, reiterating the fact that local communities are the strongest allies for conservation in snow leopard landscapes.

The NCF and wildlife wing collaborated in the effort and it took three years to complete the assessment. MoEFCC had launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day. You can read the complete protocol here.

Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range.

Snow leopards occur over a vast, relatively remote and difficult to access mountainous area. Together with their elusive nature, this makes a complete population census of snow leopards an unfeasible goal. Even their distribution remains unclear. For example, recent surveys show that they do not occur in 25 % of the area that was thought to be their range in the state of Himachal Pradesh Their density is expected to be variable in space, dependent on several factors such as habitat suitability, prey availability, disturbance and connectivity. Variation in density across space also poses the risk of biased sampling, and, indeed, most of the snow leopard population assessments conducted so far across the world are biased towards the best habitats.

Feature Photo: Pexels/Charles Miller

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