Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Migration & climate change


Due to wether changes, Flamingos have become migratory birds. When the weather pattern changes, the local resident bird species are the first to adapt. But the migratory species travel thousands of miles over weeks or even months so that they can reproduce and feed their cheeks, only to find that there is no food left for them.

Due to global warming, the migratory pattern of the flamingos has become unpredictable. Human establishments have encroached over most of the water bodies suited for these birds. Climate change is also reducing their food source dramatically.

The story isn't true only for flamingos. There are many different animal species on earth who migrate annually or semi annually at a specific time in search of better food source. All these species are suffering due to climate change. 

Monday, 30 December 2019


Flamingos are water birds, so they live in and around lagoons or lakes. These bodies of water tend to be saline or alkaline. Flamingos are generally nonmigratory, but changes in climate or water levels in their breeding areas will cause them to relocate, according to Sea World.

Flamingos travel huge distance every year in search of food. They tune their reproductive cycle in such a way that their chicks get enough food and grow strong soon enough to adapt to their migratory lifestyle.

Flamingos have specific food needs that is heavily dependent on climatic conditions, especially temperature and rainfall. Flamingos feed on small insects, larvae, small fish, algae that form on the shore of receding water bodies or the shallow stagnant water. Any changes in the rainfall pattern has the potential to completely wipe out their food source. If there is too much rain, they won't have the shallow water they need to find algae and if there is a drought, no algae will form and no fish will be available.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Annual Guests


Recently I had the privilege of visiting some of our annual guests....flamingos, the beautiful migratory birds who come from far away land every year, looking for food around the water bodies. Flamingos in flock can paint the whole landscape pink, with their elegant long pink neck, strong pink beak.

The flamingos get their pink colour because of the algae they consume are loaded with beta carotene, an organic chemical that contains a reddish-orange pigment.

Carotenoid levels in their food vary in different parts of the world, which is why American flamingos are usually bright red and orange, while lesser flamingos of the drought-plagued Lake Nakuru in central Kenya tend to be a paler pink.

If a flamingo were to stop eating food containing carotenoids, its new feathers would begin growing in with a much paler shade, and its reddish feathers would eventually molt away. Molted feathers lose their pinkish hue.

Flamingos are really what they eat!!!

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Nomads


We always hear that the journey is important and not the destination, but really how many of us are comfortable if the hotel we booked is not upto the mark or if our luggage is lost at airport. How do you think we would react? If we are so uncomfortable with little hiccups in our journey, think about the migratory birds who travel miles to get to a different region. For us, generally travel is just for pleasure but for these birds it's a matter of survival. How must they feel if the new place is filled with concrete, plastic and worse of all, humans. 

Friday, 27 December 2019

The boundary


We hear so much discussion about what it means to be a Citizen. Let's remind ourselves that countries are our creations of our imagination. Nature doesn't differentiate between countries, it doesn't recognize any border for that matter.

We have migratory animals who move from one continent to another as part of their life cycle. When we start creating boundaries, start making this distinction of mine and yours, what we forget is the true owner of the earth is not us at all.

I have heard of animals being electrocuted by the fences that humans create. Poor animal souls who don't even understand this idea of fence and electricity, why should they be punished in our endeavor to show our dominance?

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Foodchain


With the continuous development, human beings have found themselves at the pinnacle of food chain.

The sad part is that humans are using this power not just to source food but also for other benefits and momentary pleasures. If predators like tiger and lions start hunting their prey not just for food but also for entertainment, it will mean the destruction of their own food source.

These predators understand this simple fact but sadly humans don't. We still don't know how to responsibly manage this power.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Hope for Stripes


African savannas are magical. In these grasslands, you can witness the circle of life right in front of your eyes. Beautiful animals everywhere, innocent herbivores to majestic carnivores.

Indian jungles are not like that. You go to the tiger reserves, hoping to see a tiger, but nobody can ever guarantee you that the beauty of Indian jungles will choose to bless you with a sighting. These safaris aren't comfortable. You get a dust bath in these jungles either in a freezing cold morning or a scorching hot day, never knowing if your quest will end in a disappointment or an ecstasy.

Many people ask me, if it is so difficult to spot a tiger, why do you keep going back to these jungles, why don't you go to Africa only every time! The answer is, these beauties, sadly Africa doesn't have a tiger. I will keep going back, again and again, even if there is remotest possibility to see this beauty. At the end of everything, I will take a small chance of seeing this beauty to never laying eye on one or seeing it in a captured environment. This is my way of worshipping this majestic creature!

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Affection


Lions often stay in prides consisting of one or more male lions, a few lionesses, few sub adult cubs and some young cubs. The size of the pride can reach more than 20 lions. Often lionesses work together to raise cubs, hunt and feed the entire pride.

When we saw this pride, they were enjoying their meal of a wildebeest they had hunted early morning. Each member of the pride took turn to eat their share of the kill. The dominant lion ate for a long time. When he was full, he got up, went to the lioness and started grooming her. The lioness was still hungry and kept eating while happily accepting this show of affection.

To me, it looked like the lion's way of saying thanks for providing food and taking care of the family!! Such simple gesture!!! What do you think the lion was saying?

Monday, 23 December 2019

Festive Mood


Christmas is just around the corner. It's time for celebration. It’s time for lights, colors and Christmas tree. Everywhere I am going recently, is decorated with plastic Christmas tree and colorful lights and decoration. It’s festive, it’s pretty.

I don’t have a Christmas tree. Neither do I have so many lights and decoration. But I celebrate differently, minimizing my impact on the environment. My house doesn’t have plastic decoration, but it is adorned with more than a hundred lush plants, flashing all colors you can possibly imagine. And guess what, in addition to adding colors to my home, they also clean my air, produce oxygen for me and reward my love with new leaves and flowers.

And when even that is not enough, I have these animals, these pictures and memory of such colorful moments.

Is my home less colorful in any sense? Isn't it more important to celebrate life in a most lively fashion possible?

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Black and White


Nature is the birthplace of all creativity. May it be colours or sound, we have all been inspired by nature. The diversity of colours is unparalleled and can not be recreated by humans.

Even the whites in nature have the ability to enthrall us. Seeing wintery white on the street is magical while the white waterfall cascading down is enchanting. The white rose in the flower garden is exquisite and white ducks on calm waters is angelic.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Cost of Flying



I have always envied the birds for their flight. I mean, humans also have the option of taking a flight now but then it's still not so easy.

The cost for humans for the flight is alot but also the environment pays everytime we use this option. Travelling by aeroplane may only account for 2% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, but those 39.4 million annual flights pump out toxic nitrogen oxide, cancer-causing exhaust particulates and carbon dioxide. But, the total global warming impact of each flight is thought to be around twice as high as the CO2 emissions alone. At flying altitudes in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere, these outputs produce a range of climatic effects, multiplying the plane's environmental impact. For example, nitrous oxide causes the formation of ozone — a greenhouse gas that warms the local climate — but at the same time undergoes reactions which destroy methane, thereby removing another greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
Even though less than 20% of human population has flown, with the increase in globalization and resultant traveling, the number of flights are expected to double by 2037.

A number of commercial airlines are already experimenting with using biofuels to fly and the International Air Transport Association predict that a million flights will be powered by a mixture of biofuels and conventional fuels by 2020. These aren't an ideal solution, since biofuels can be environmentally problematic in themselves, and anyhow it would take a huge chunk of the world's arable land to grow enough crops to fuel all the world's planes.

Till the time, we are able to create carbon neutral travel a possibility, we will have to pay a heavy cost of being globe trotters.


Friday, 20 December 2019

Cat Stretch


Nature is a place having infinite wisdom. It's the source of most of our imaginations and creativity. It's also the place for most of our learning.

The learnings offered by nature can be as massive as the gravitational force that keeps us alive on earth, or as fundamental as the interdependence among all the biotic and abiotic components. Whenever we are lost, we turn to nature, our biggest inspiration.

Without nature, we have a very limited understanding of even our basic physiology. In the era of technology and fast food, we are losing our fitness, flexibility of our body. But our muscles are not meant to rest all the time. They need to work, and they need to stretch.

The way cats stretch is very effective in stretching their spine and many of their important muscles. When they get up after long inactivity, they stretch to get their muscles ready and flexible for action again.

Cat stretch is one of the most commonly used yoga move used all over the world....yet another gift of nature. 

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Disposable fashion


Have you heard of really cheap clothes, where the quality is such that they may survive only 3-4 wash only. They are styled in the latest fashion as the production for these is easy and quick. This disposable culture is invention of our generation only. We have invented everything to be single use.

But do we think what will be the impact of this mass production on the environment? Nature can't dispose these items the way human can discard. Our speed of discarding can not be matched by nature's speed of decomposition.

All these fashion new trends soon become part of the garbage problem. These kinds of fashion is antithetical to the philosophy of "reuse-reduce-recycle". At the end, the choice is ours whether we want to be driven by short term pleasure or focus on sustainable development.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

God's Judgement


It's said that God made humans to be an image of his own. After looking at all this destruction, do you think God will be regretting the decision to make humans?

Looking at the massive Extinction being caused by humans, what exactly will be the judgement received for us at the end of the road?

Or maybe God believes that everything that lives should die and that's why he created humans to be the destructors of the earth. But do we even realize the role we are playing?

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Climate Crisis Part 7

Human mind has infinite capacity for imagination in most cases. One place where our imagination lacks is the idea of life after us. We can't imagine a world where we don't exist, we always want to go on living, may it be through our offspring or our legacy.

I think one of the challenge we face against actionizing to stop climate change is this inability of ours. We tend to think that there will always be a world where there will be humans. What we don't understand is that we need the earth, the climate to sustain us and not the other way around. Even if the temperature continues to rise and earth ceases to be a suitable living planet for humans, earth will exist, even some other living beings will exist. But humans, we will also be extinct just like many species are going extinct now.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Climate Crisis Part 6


The biggest issue with climate change is the uncertainty associated with it. Our lack of knowledge adds on to the challenge. Whatever actions we take, we will make mistakes. It's important to learn from the mistakes and evolve. We cannot be disappointed by failure.

There is a concept called Adaptive management in environmental studies. In adaptive management, hypothesis driven experiments are designed. The results of these experiments are closely monitored. Any deviation in results from what was expected at the time of planning is considered as new learning and incorporated into the next level of experiments. Uncertainty is considered to be an opportunity to learn complex ecosystem functionality.

Climate change may be the best place to implement adaptive management due to the complex nature of climate change and its uncertainties. 

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Climate Crisis Part 5


Climate crisis is not something that can be handled at a local or national level. It needs international collaboration from every level of government, local, state, federal, international, non governmental agencies, indigenous communities and general public. A mass awareness is needed, and mass change of lifestyle all over the world. Governments need to work closely with Environmental NGOs, indigenous communities and local people to implement strategies to deal with the crisis.

In terms of awareness, it's very hopeful to see the climate strike that happened in September this year. It just tells us that a lot more people now want actions which can push the governments to take some actions sooner rather than later. Also it tells us that general public are not powerless. They can create a mass movement if they really want.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Climate Crisis Part 4


Climate change is THE biggest challenge facing the human race currently. We need to take action and we have to take it now. We cannot afford to lose any more time.

Having said that it's probably the most complex environmental crisis human kind has ever faced. The solution/result is not going to come in a short time period. As humans, we are always concerned about our near future. It's not a natural tendency to think beyond that and take actions accordingly, even if we don't see immediate results. So we have to be patient.

There are many steps that we need to take right away to halt the climate change process. Among so many of them, I think the most important are reducing fossil fuel use and creating more green space /carbon sink.

Every time we drive a car, we are emitting greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases have been scientifically associated with air pollution, climate change, acid rain and many more serious environmental issues. This could have been compensated if we had enough green space. However deforestation at an alarming rate has made the recovery next to impossible. Trees don't just photosynthesize and create food for the entire living world. They also produce oxygen and remove harmful gases such as carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide from the atmosphere. Every living tree removes a massive amount of carbon from the environment and locks it inside. When we cut a tree, not only we stop the additional carbon removal process, we also release a massive amount of carbon that was stored inside a tree through photosynthesis.

Friday, 13 December 2019

Climate change part 3



We cannot live independently, we depend on nature for food, water and oxygen. Climate change is impacting every living being in our surrounding. Apart from the obvious perils of climate change, there are other implications as well.


Changing rain patterns affect our food and water sources. Too much rain causes flood, drowns our crops and pollutes our drinking water sources. Too less rain causes drought, dries up the crops and drinking water. Rise in sea temperature causes coral bleaching. Coral reefs are one of the most important habitat for thousands of marine species including fishes. When millions of fishes die due to loss of habitat, we lose an important food source. 


One of the biggest impacts of climate change is on food and water security in almost all countries around the globe. Poorer countries are already suffering due to loss of crops, fishes, and clean drinking water. Even in developed countries, food prices are increasing. Unexpected incidents of drinking water source poisoning are on the rise. 


Our population is increasing and food, water sources are depleting. If that is not a reason to be concerned, what is?

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Climate crisis part 2


Climate change affects our everyday lives in more ways than we know. Climate change doesn't just increase temperature everywhere. It messes with the temperature and rainfall patterns of a place to make it hotter or colder, drier or wetter. The change in temperature does not just cause discomfort. The untimely rain is not just an inconvenience. These changes are impacting survival of many species.

Every living being in the world have their ideal environment for survival. Some are more resilient than others. But when the environment becomes too inhospitable too quickly, every living being struggles, including us.

Let's assume that human beings can survive a range of temperatures from -50 to 50 degree celsius. The places where temperature was already close to the extremes, is now almost becoming uninhabitable.

But if temperatures keep rising, how long before other places also cross the threshold? We have been experiencing increasing incidences of flood, cyclone, and other extreme weather events. Our population is constantly rising and our habitable area, our own 'habitat' is constantly shrinking.

Can we still ignore climate change?

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Climate Crisis Part 1


The climate change is already real and it has started impacting every single place all over the world in some way or the other. Starting from irregular rain and unpredictable, extreme weather events to sea level rise, sea temperature increase, it's everywhere. It is already impacting everyone, some more than the others. The poorer countries are feeling the heat way more than the developed countries. But even for the developed countries, it's not too far anymore.

Few days back we posted that in the scientific community, we have a tendency to be 'conservative'. Whenever someone predicts a grim or devastating or a drastically different future, they are dismissed saying it is too radical. So most of our predictions on climate change and its impacts have always been conservative. But the actual change and the impact is actually happening much faster than we ever predicted or expected.

This year we saw the Amazon rainforest burning. We have been hearing about melting polar ice and polar bear habitat shrinking. Great barrier reef is struggling to cope with the mass coral bleaching due to rising sea temperature. These are just a few examples from the biggest and greatest natural wonders on earth. 

Now climate change is a full blown crisis that needs to be dealt with and we need to do it NOW, aggressively. No more room for conservative measures, doubts or no action. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

No need for Slavery


Zoos at the end are just a profit making business. Some may advertise conservation as their agenda but at the end, when a consumer is paying to enter and be entertained by the animals, the welfare of the said animal generally is given the least consideration.

We have been born into a society that accepts animals in zoos as commonplace but the invention of the zoo dates back thousands of years — to an era when people who looked different were also put on display. We now have unlimited options for entertainment, not to mention a greater understanding of animal sentience and needs. In today's society, ogling at animals in zoos behind glass seems crudely outdated. Certainly it's unnecessary and rarely (if ever) in the animals' best interests.

Let's recognize this as an inhumane practice and stop putting animals through lifetime of torture for our momentary entertainment.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Psychological Trauma



The animals always look miserable in captivity. The notion that animals think and feel may be rampant among pet owners, but it still makes many scientists uncomfortable and still not taken very seriously. Philip Low, a prominent computational neuroscientist, masterminded an unprecedented document, The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Human and Nonhuman Animals”. It was signed by a group of leading animal researchers in the presence of Stephen Hawking. It asserted that mammals, birds and other creatures like octopuses possess consciousness and, in all likelihood, emotions and self-awareness.

A profusion of recent studies has shown animals to be far closer to us than we previously believed — it turns out that common shore crabs feel and remember pain, zebra finches experience REM sleep, fruit-fly brothers cooperate, dolphins and elephants recognize themselves in mirrors, chimpanzees assist one another without expecting favors in return and dogs really do feel elation in their owners’ presence.
Animals in captivity across the globe have been documented displaying signs of anxiety and depression. In fact, psychological distress in zoo animals is so common that it has its own name: Zoochosis.

Zoochosis can include rocking, swaying, excessively pacing back and forth, circling, twisting of the neck, self-mutilation, excessive grooming, biting, vomiting and copraphagia (consuming excrement).

Animals in the wild hardly ever exhibit these behaviours. When kept in captivity, animals are deprived of the ability to express their natural desires and this can often have an impact on their mental and emotional health.


Sunday, 8 December 2019

Lapse of Humanity



Animals in zoos are caged for life and deprived of the opportunity to develop and fulfill the full range of their interests and needs. They lose control over their lives and the environment they live in. Social animals are often forced to live in the misery of solitary confinement. Animals who would prefer to live alone are often forced into close contact with others. 

If you know anyone who has a dog or a cat as a pet, ask them if the animals liked to be locked indoors and you will hear a definitive no as an answer, why can't we extend same courtesy to other animals. At least most breeds of cats and dogs are domesticated, while for the other wild animals being caged will prove to be even worse.

Animals suffer in zoos. In zoos, animals such as dolphins and sea lions are ridiculed in demeaning and embarrassing performances, animals can get extremely stressed by screaming visitors. They are subjected to camera flashes and the hordes of hundreds of people. The animals get depressed, psychologically disturbed, frustrated, they harm each other, become ill, go hungry, and are forced to endure extreme and unnatural temperatures. These animals cannot live as they would wish to live.


Saturday, 7 December 2019

The cost of Love


In the last discussion, we spoke about why humans like to interact with animals. One of the way by which we tend to interact with animals is by visiting them in zoos.

We love seeing monkeys climb trees or a deer grazing or birds flying around or a tiger yawning. All of us are curious about animal behavior and learning more about them is important to our survival as well. But seeing these animals behind bars, inside cages, seems like human depravity.

There is no study showing that we learn better if the animal is in a zoo or if it's in the wild. If I can learn about my brain without actually seeing it, I can learn about animals without capturing and torturing them. If zoos teach anything, they teach us dangerous lessons. They teach us that humans have the right to enslave animals and reinforce the notion that animals have no other purpose other than for our gain. Zoos do not teach us to respect individuals.

Friday, 6 December 2019

The reason of Love



In many of my conversations, I hear people talking about their favourite cat/ dog videos. A lot of times, these are on the characteristics of the animal and sometimes, even their reaction to new stimuli. I am sure you would have seen dog's reaction to a slice of lime or a cat chasing the laser light. Many of these are entertaining.

But have you wondered why are these videos so entertaining? Why, we as humans, find amusement in the characteristics of animals? I think the answer lies in our love for the animals themselves. Do we not want to pet the dog who was tricked by lime or a cat whose tired of chasing ever moving laser light.

Our brains evolved to enjoy the animals because they can help us survive. Modern man now has the ability to view animals in the wild, in captivity, or on smartphones. But the reasons for doing so — whether the animals are cute or deadly — may still be very much the same: our survival as hunters, farmers, and potential prey depend on it.



Thursday, 5 December 2019

Run Baby Run


Birth is always magical. It's the start of a new life. It's new energy, new beginning, regeneration of life... ray of hope. We want to shower the newborn with love, protect them from all dangers and give them all the happiness in the world.

Yesterday we posted a photo of a topi being born. The topi mother wants to love and protect the young angel just as much as we do, with our kids. But in these grasslands, the most important teaching/gift a mother can give her child, is the ability to run. Who knows what is waiting behind the bushes! Who knows what will pounce on the tiny helpless kid and snatch him from his mother forever!

So the moment a baby is born, the mother encourages the baby to stand up, and run. It's not easy for the baby. The magic of evolution has given them the ability to start trying from the first moment of their lives. The baby tried, failed, tumbled, fell over, but never gave up. And within 10 mins, another magic happened...the baby finally stood up and started running.

At the end of that day, for us, life won over all adversities.

Food for thought: are we really protecting our children from all potential dangers? Are we really doing our best to give them all the happiness in the world? 

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Circle of Life Part 2


Nature is cycle of life and death. We saw a young Topi losing his life and a lioness devouring him. But life isn't all gore and scary. It regenerates itself. Merely half an hour after we saw the Topi being killed, we saw another Topi being born.

Another herd of Topi was happily grazing around. We saw this female Topi uncomfortable and a little shaky. We took a closer look and realized, she was going to give birth pretty soon. The new-to-be-born had already started coming out just a little bit.

Again it was a long wait. The Topi kept grazing, taking break intermittently to lie down on the ground. She kept trying to push the baby out. Some other Topis tried to help her a little at times. But mostly she was on her own. And finally we saw it happen. We saw the tiny one seeing the first light of its life.

It was a test of patience. But we saw the magic of life unfold right in front of our eyes. A loss of life and a sight of new birth, all in a span of an hour. That's how magical these savannas can be. 

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Circle of Life Part 1


We were roaming around here and there. A message on radio and we hurried to the destination. There was silence all around. It was just another jungle scene. Impalas and Topis grazing the vast savannah under mid morning sun. It couldn't be more mundane. But we sensed something else, tension hanging in the air. And heard hushed voices saying 'a lioness is stalking from behind a bush' far away. So we sat there, waiting.

It was a long wait. Untrained eyes could not have predicted what was going to happen next. The silence and the calmness was almost engulfing. Even the herbivores had no clue what was lurking from behind those bushes.

Then I saw her. A splash of dull greyish yellow and a pair of eyes, still, full of concentration, trained on the prey. In a split second she started chasing. The whole herd of scared herbivores ran for their life, scattered all around. But the lioness had her target fixed. Her gaze didn't shift for even a second from her prey. She spotted the weak link from far away. A few seconds of chaos, and it was over. A young Topi had already lost his life.

We posted a photo of this young Topi few days back, photo of the last moments of his tiny life. The next I saw him was when he was cut to pieces, bloody, lifeless, under the strong hold of the lioness.

But life is not all grim. It's beautiful and it is constantly regenerating itself. We will see that in tomorrow's post. 

Monday, 2 December 2019

Playing Safe



A recent essay in Scientific American argued that scientists “tend to underestimate the severity of threats and the rapidity with which they might unfold” and said one of the reasons was “the perceived need for consensus.” This idea that we need to underestimate and present the most conservative output possible is generally understood by the scientific community. The sad reality is that politicians and industrialists who want to benefit from public ignorance and inactivity still present these conservative studies as the most outlandish ones.

This summer, for instance, a heat wave in Europe penetrated the Arctic, pushing temperatures into the 80s across much of the Far North and, according to the Belgian climate scientist Xavier Fettweis, melting some 40 billion tons of Greenland’s ice sheet.

Had a scientist in the early 1990s suggested that within 25 years a single heat wave would measurably raise sea levels, at an estimated two one-hundredths of an inch, bake the Arctic and produce Sahara-like temperatures in Paris and Berlin, the prediction would have been dismissed as alarmist. But many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities.

We need to understand that climate change is a reality and the sooner we accept and try to slow down this process, higher the chance of our survival.




Sunday, 1 December 2019

Can we take a chance?


India will break its previous record of having been hit by the most number of tropical cyclones in a year, private weather forecasting agency Skymet said in its latest bulletin. Last year, the country broke its 33-year record, after having been hit by seven cyclones. Emerging climate models predict increasing intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones. The logic is fairly clear: As oceans warm, there is more moisture and ocean storms will build up to lash the land with devastating wind and rain.

We have seen cyclones like Fani and Ockhi cause mayhem and many losing their lives in the aftermath of this. It may be true that there is no truth in the theory of climate change and cyclone, but if there is even the slightest chance that the scientists are correct, shouldn't we be taking all precaution to make sure these killers are not created because of us? Wouldn't it be most critical to at least try to stop climate change even if it means less than 10% chance of reducing the impact of these cyclones, even if it means we save just one life, isn't it worth it?

Saturday, 30 November 2019

A Simpler World


Aren't kids the cutest? They are curious, full of innocence. They are mischievous, playful. We love them because they remind us about a much simpler time, worry free world. We adults are complex, opinionated, we have baggages. We fight with each other, sometimes for the basic needs such as food, water, shelter and sometimes for money, power, religion. We see the world with a different lens.

Kids don't understand money, power or religion. All they know is to love and to be loved. They teach us to be inquisitive, trusting, to forget and forgive, and to find happiness in the simplest of things.

Animal kids are no different. When the adults fight among each other over food, all this cute baby can see is an opportunity to play with its mother. 

Friday, 29 November 2019

The Last Moments


Life in the jungle for these herbivores isn't easy. There are predators lurking at every corner. A moment's weakness can be the end of life for them. They have to be alert from the first moment of their lives till the last.

This baby Topi wasn't the strongest of all. He looked injured, limping. And in these savannas, there is no place for weakness. A lioness spotted the limping from behind the bushes, far away. This injured kid was her best chance at getting some food for herself and her tiny cubs. So she targeted him, stalked him and killed him.

While this is a natural circle of life, it wasn't easy to see the baby lose his life. This photo was my attempt at remembering him. 

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Building Block of Civilization


Many prosperous cities in the world were built around some steady source of water. Either they are close to sea or they were built in river banks or lake shores. This is not coincidental. These places needed steady source of water because water is an essential resource for sustaining life. These places also flourished more than the others, because water brought more trade, industry and more prosperity.

But humans are smart. Probably a little too much for their own good. We polluted these sources of water, sometimes beyond recovery. We changed the course of these rivers, filled up the lakes to get more land. We didn't realize that by doing so, we are destroying the priceless resource that made us thrive in the first place. The steady source of water was sufficient for the human settlements long back. But with the ever growing human population and shrinking water bodies, we practically invited our days of struggle.

No wonder now many of these cities are facing serious water shortage!!

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

History of our lives



Earth is believed to have formed 4.5 billion years ago. The earliest life form was created some 4.1 billion years ago. It took almost 1 billion years to start oxygenic photosynthesis to form large quantities of oxygen, an atmosphere suitable for other life forms. The first organisms who used oxygen from the atmosphere came along another billion year later. Around 2 billion years ago appeared organisms with complex cell structure. Sexual reproduction started some 1.2 billion years ago expediting the evolution process a little as genetic structure changed with every generation.
The first fossil evidence of creature closer to an animal is 600-700 million years old. Between 500-600 million years more and more invertebrates and some vertebrates started appearing. Life at this stage was predominantly sea life. Gradually came tetrapods, various amphibians and reptiles. Around 250 million years ago came first mammals. Around 85 million years ago primates started evolving. Apes evolved into hominidae around 15 million years ago. The earliest humans, homo habilis didn't appear until only 2 million years ago. Fossils showing evidence of homo sapiens, the modern human species, date back only to 300,000 years. So it took humans more than 4 billion years to evolve since earth was created.
Only 300 thousand years, and we have already caused (or about to cause) extinction for almost a million species. The universe took so long to create with it's different species and their delicate interdependency and here we come along to try to seize it for ourselves. In doing that, we have cause the entire balance to topple up. When I think about it, it feels like we are wiping out history, billions of years of rich evolutionary history.

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Away from our culture

Most of us love our culture and we are proud of it, whichever part of the world we come from. But what is culture? Things that we have been doing traditionally? The things that we were taught as kids by our parents? Or practices of our ancestors which are nothing more than faded distant memories any longer?

With generations, our lifestyles have changed. Our ancestors lived a more rural life, closer to nature. It was a relation of respect and mutual benefit. They needed nature to stay alive just as much as the nature needed them. They weren't the controllers of nature, they were part of it, just as much as an animal or a tree or the land we stand on or the air we breathe.

We still breathe that air. The soil is still the ground under our feet. We still need the nature just as much as our ancestors needed it. But still everything is so different. With increased modernization, we have changed. We are still proud of our culture, but perhaps a little too selectively for our own good. May be the promise of convenience has got the better of us.

Monday, 25 November 2019

Convenience or Ignorance?


What is bottled water? I read somewhere that packaged water selling companies don't produce water but they produce plastic bottles. The idea of buying packaged water in a place which has availability of clean drinking water through water filters or clean tap water has gained a momentum.

As we travel, we tend to use plastic water bottle. Same is true sometimes in cities, where people order plastic cans of water rather than buying a water filter or use tap water. We ask for mineral bottled water in restaurants rather than regular to show off our wealth or maybe our hygiene.

But rather than just caring for our personal hygiene only, if we thought of the hygiene of the planet, we wouldn't be so careless about single use plastic.

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Don't go by Looks


Many of us are scared of animals. We think all animals are dangerous. Bigger the animals, more dangerous they are. Carnivores are the scariest and big cats are worst of them all. It's better to stay far away from them, otherwise our lives are in danger.

This stereotype couldn't be farther from truth. The biggest human killer (of all animals) in the world, hippos, may seem innocent to most. But they are actually the scariest and most dangerous animal to humans.

Hippos LOVE water. They spend their day, in big groups- in waterholes, river or lakes- body submerged in the water. Only their eyes and sometimes nose is visible above water. After sunset, they come out of water in search of food.

Hippos are strictly herbivores. But they don't like anything to come between them and their water. If someone comes in the way of a hippo, they immediately feel threatened and kill the person. With their gigantic mouth, one bite can be the end most of us. They don't bite to eat us. They do it in self defense. But still, it may be a good idea to forget the stereotypes and avoid being close to a hippo.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Beyond Capacity


At night when I leave from work, most of the days I can smell the pollution in the air. It may sound crazy and laughable, but it really is not.

Mumbai pollution has increased exponentially over the past few decades. The city has grown beyond its capacity. Population is increasing by the day, leading to ever increasing demand for space and an overflow of number of vehicles. As we try to accomodate infinite number of people in finite space, we chop down more and more trees, clear more mangrove forests, encroach more of the Aarey forest or Sanjay Gandhi National Park. So as the stress on natural resources such as air and water peaks with no provision for a natural clean up (enough greenery), pollution builds up to an extent when it becomes detrimental to human health.

Now I smell the smoke in the air, may be because I know how clean air smells or may be I haven't forgotten how the city once used to be. It wasn't the slow painful killer with toxic air as it is today. In the meantime, my pursuit of natural place all around the world continues.

Some people in Mumbai say, 'at least it's better than Delhi'. But is that what we have come to expect? Just marginally better than the worst. Never knowing or wondering how much better it could be!! 

Friday, 22 November 2019

Penguin 4


African penguins, as a species are struggling. The population has declined significantly over the last 100 years due to human activity related pressure. South African government is currently trying to implement multiple conservation measures to save the remaining population of the species.

Many of the natural habitats of the species have been declared as protected areas and human activity, including fishing, ship route and recreational activity is restricted in those areas. In order to raise fund for conservation efforts, some of these areas (for example, Boulder's beach, Betty's Bay etc) have been opened to the public for viewing these beautiful creatures and spread awareness for their conservation. However, tourists are not allowed to interact with the birds.

Whether the conservation measures succeed to revive their population is yet to be seen. However, thanks to this effort, they are now getting some sort of protection from a bleak future and some people, like me, are able to experience seeing them from up close in their natural habitat.

Until a few months back, I never thought I would have the privilege of seeing these beautiful and unique birds in their natural habitat unless I go to polar regions. If the population continues to decline at the present rate, the species 'African penguins' will be a thing of history sooner than we realize. 

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Penguin 3



African penguins have been declared as endangered by the IUCN red list. Their population has declined by around 90% since the beginning of twentieth century. Estimates suggest that in the beginning of 1900s, there were approximately 1.4 million adult birds in one population alone at Dassen Island, which had been reduced to about 145,000 birds by the mid-1950s. By the end of 1900s, the worldwide population declined to about 179,000 and it is still declining.

The population decline can be attributed to human related pressure such as loss of habitat, lack of food source due to commercial fishing and oil pollution at sea. In addition, global warming has changed the marine environment too rapidly for the species to evolve. Global warming also intensifies other threats and affects their breeding cycle.

Such a cute animal is in danger because of the impact we are causing to the environment and rather than help protect it, we are still questioning the unquestionable scientific data on global warming.

Source :

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Penguin 2



Have you seen a penguin walk? If not in real life, I am sure you would have seen it on videos. How cute are they? With their two little legs and two little flippers, how lovely is their walk!!!

According to me, Penguins have one of the best social structures that even modern democratic societies would envy. The reason penguins live in colonies is just because they increase the chances of survival, both adults, and offspring. In the first place, among so many individuals, it is easier to find a partner to mate; second, it is also simpler to protect from predators because they can issue warning calls and defend the nests; and third, sometimes they can collaborate to find food. It is a question of cooperation.

In a colony, there is not a dominant male, as in other species of animals. Despite living in groups, within each colony penguins remain in pairs, sometimes alone or with their offspring. Both parents take turns caring their offspring, and when the chick has grown a little, they bring it to the “nurseries,” sites where other young penguins of the colony join.

Doesn't it sound like the perfect society where peace and equality are residing perfectly?


Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Penguin 1



Nature is full of aberrations and pleasant surprises. I have been interested in nature and its wonders for quite some time now. But until a few years back, I didn't know the existence of African penguins or the Cape penguins.

Cape penguins are a species found only in Southern African waters, usually within 40 kilometers from the shore. Just like any other penguine species, they are flightless birds but they are excellent swimmers. They can grow upto 2 feet tall and can weigh upto 11 pounds. Females are smaller in size. They have black stripes and a unique black pattern on their chest and a distinctive pink patch above the eyes.

They search for food, primarily sardines and anchovy, in the waters, but build their colonies and breed onshore. They prefer to breed in rocky patches onshore between May through August.

Source:

Monday, 18 November 2019

Delhi Air Pollution


Air pollution in Delhi city has reached hazardous levels. If this is not public emergency, what is? And how do we react to such emergency? We implement some stop gap solutions, like declaring holidays, shutting down offices and blaming others for not taking appropriate actions. Some businesses have grabbed this opportunity to earn more business. They are now actively promoting products like air purifiers or face masks.

But will it ever fix the problem? Air pollution doesn't stay confined in only one place. The air we breathe is our most basic necessity. Why not plant trees to have a more permanent solution for such air pollution crisis. Why not try to reduce burning of fossil fuel and promote more public transport? Why not stop the burning of fields in this season and use the creative minds to find a more sustainable solution?

While Delhi struggles with air quality crisis, Mumbai is cutting matured forests. As if we haven't already destroyed enough!! When will we open our eyes and accept that we cannot destroy the environment we are so dependent on? Only after reaching a hazardous situation as Delhi?

Sunday, 17 November 2019

My Choice


You live your life with the choices you make, the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with it.

I am a vegetarian first through family values then through personal ones. I never try to convert people to make vegetarian choices and even though someday I want to be a vegan, today it is not within my limits to be so. But I see many people who will try to shame me or force me into eating meat. Most times the first question I get asked is if I have ever had meat and how did I like it. If it was out of curiosity only I wouldn't mind but it's generally as a discussion to compel me to eat as per their choice or to ridicule my choice of eating.

Sometimes it feels a bit sad to me that such an important choice to relieve the burden on the food chain is being looked as meek or a weak decision. The harm that is being caused by meat and fish farming is well documented. The benefits of vegan and vegetarian diet is also now being outwardly spoken. But we cling to the idea that one man's pleasure will have to mean some form of death or destruction of the environment.

Again I don't want to put this burden on anyone, it is a personal choice that each person has to make. But people who make this choice shouldn't be ridiculed and when they are, it shows the values of our own society.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Old is gold


Have you recently been to any event, may it be a corporate event or a personal celebration? If yes, then you would have seen the smallest water bottles ever invented.

I genuinely don't know what is the purpose of these bottles. No one, I mean, no one can be satisfied with that small bottle of water. The amount of plastic which is being consumed because the sheer size of that bottle and the number of people attending an event makes me nauseous.

I saw one event lasting couple of days and the number of bottles that got used and thrown away would fill up more than the huge venue that hosted the event.

I remember as a kid going to these events and many a times I would see a system of steel glasses and a huge tumbler of water. What happened to that system? I grew up seeing this system work, never appreciated it as much as I should have. Why does it look cool to pollute the world but not to preserve the world.

Friday, 15 November 2019

Cheetah 5



Social behavior or big cats may vary widely. Tigers are solitary animals whereas lions live in prides. Cheetahs are not as solitary as tigers, neither do they live in big prides. Female cheetahs mostly stay and hunt alone. They stay with their cubs until they are about 2 years old. Then the cubs separate from the mother. Male cheetahs sometimes make coalition to make their lives easier in the wild. The famous 5 brothers of Masai Mara are an example of such a coalition. Cheetahs start reproducing at a very young age. Females give birth to 2 to 8 cubs at a time. The mother takes care of the young all by herself.

Cheetahs are the only big cats that cannot roar, but they can meow. They also purr when they are close to other cheetahs. They live in dry savannahs and can survive without drinking water for upto 3 days.

This magnificent beauty is now on vulnerable list for extinction according to IUCN red list. The biggest threats against their survival is poaching, loss of habitat and higher degree of competition from other big cats or scavengers due to limited habitat. With only a few thousand individuals left in the wild, a day might come when seeing a cheetah in the wild is not an option anymore, unless we stop encroaching into cheetah and other big cats habitat.


Thursday, 14 November 2019

Cheetah 4


Cheetahs are the fastest land animals, but they aren't the strongest. They have incredible eye sight which helps them spot their prey from a few kilometers away. They like high vantage points to spot their prey. Because of this, many times they climb on to the tourist vehicles.

How does such a close encounter affect us as well as the cheetahs? In the era of social media, cheetah climbing up the vehicle is perceived to be an ultimate adventure. To be so close to a cheetah means a quick internet sensation amongst friends. Guides and drivers deliberately go close to the cheetahs to encourage them to climb up. So the tourists get an adrenaline rush and perhaps fame in the social media.

But many wildlife experts have raised concerns over this. The cheetahs can hurt themselves while climbing up the vehicle.  In the wild, with prides of lions or leopards or scavengers like hyenas roaming around, hurting themselves may mean the end of life for a cheetah. Also when cheetahs come so close to humans, they grow familiar with human presence and cannot differentiate between innocent tourists and poachers.

Thankfully Kenyan forest department has banned such actions so that guides and drivers maintain safe distance from the animals. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Cheetah 3


Cheetahs may be the fastest animals, but they are not the strongest when it comes to survival. The wild cheetah population is now considered vulnerable in IUCN red list. Cheetahs aren't the mighty wildcats, neither do they stay in big packs. Unlike other big cats who prefer to hunt during night time due to their night vision, cheetahs hunt during the daytime. During day time, they have excellent vision and can spot their prey a few kms away. They also prefer to eat primarily fresh kill and hunt small to mid sized prey ranging from rabbits to impala, warthog etc.

Wild cheetah population is suffering due to predation from larger cats and scavenger like hyenas. Hyenas live in packs and many times they snatch cheetah kill. Bigger cats like lions are also known to scare cheetahs away from their prey. Since cheetahs aren't strong enough to fight a pack of hyenas or a pride of lions, letting go of the prey is the only way to survive another day.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Cheetah 2


The first time I learned the word 'Cheetah' was as a child when I read about the fastest animal on land. Since then cheetahs have been a source of endless fascination for me. Their small face, slender body, the unique stripes and the teardrop marks on face and the fact that they can reach the speed of 110 kmph in a few seconds made me wonder time and again, what it would be like to see a cheetah chase!! Finally a few days back, I had the privilege of witnessing it.

I saw a few impalas grazing. I knew a cheetah is hiding behind nearby bush and stalking the impalas. Suddenly I saw a burst of dust storm. The impalas started frantically running in all possible directions for life. There was a tiny cloud of dust that moved like a lightning bolt and on top of it was a cheetah. The cheetah moved so fast that my brain couldn't even cope up. I was unable to guage its speed and I kept losing the cat.

The whole chase lasted hardly 5-6 secs. But it was a life and death for both the cheetah and the Impalas. Most times you see a cheetah, you will see it lazying around in rest. But only a few lucky ones are privilaged to witness this miracle of the nature. In those few moments of the chase, I saw what I have been dreaming about my whole life.