Just Deserts

I love deserts. Of all the ecosystems and landscapes, I have always felt the closest affinity to the desert. While I have trekked among hills and mountains, and have enjoyed the sea and seashore, it is the desert that makes me feel at once ‘at home’ as it were.

My introduction to the desert dates back many decades.

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Illustration CEE’s NatureScope India  Discovering Deserts 

As a young trekker I was a member of a group called the Delhi Mountaineering Association. One year, the mountaineers decide to descend from the mountains and explore a new terrain and undertake something that was hitherto unexplored. The result was the Desert Expedition—the first-ever attempt (then) to cross the Thar desert in Rajasthan on foot. Eight strangers (5 men and 3 women, including yours truly), sharing a common urge to explore and discover, came together to embark on a two-week journey that touched each of us in so many different ways, and left behind indelible memories.

The walk commenced from the little village of Sam, about 44 km from Jaisalmer. This is where I had my first sight of the dunes rising from a sea of sand in the morning sunlight–a curious composite of the ripples of the ocean with the majesty of the mountains. And from here walked, our motley band of adventurers; day after sunny day, dusty winds, clinging bhurats (prickly thorns). From the sand, through the unending vista of flat arid miles stretching to the horizon, stopping to quench our parched throats with mathira the juicy wild melons, and communing with our accompanying camels. The utterly comforting feel of sleeping on the sand, under the canopy of the Milky Way, lulled by the unbroken sounds of silence. A unique bonding over seven days and 190 km (every inch traversed on blistered feet!), that left me deeply in love with the desert.

While I have not been able to go the desert as often as I would like to, serendipitously the desert has made its way into my life from time to time.

I am often reminded by my erstwhile boss that the only credentials that started me on my career as an environmental educator, was the fact that I had been on that desert expedition! My work in environment led me to study and understand (rather than only experience) the different ecosystems. When I had the opportunity to develop a teaching-learning manual on Deserts, I plumbed the depths of literature on the subject and was awestruck by the fascinating facets, incredible adaptations, and the innumerable strands that weave together create a vibrant ecosystem in a seemingly lifeless terrain. What was once intuitive was bolstered with intellect.

More serendipity! A collaborative project with Abu Dhabi, and an equally ardent desert lover transported me (after so many years) into a desert again—the Arabian Desert, also known as the Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali in Arabic). Being amid the immense dunes and endless stretches of sand, was like homecoming. I would never have imagined this, all those years ago in the Thar.

And then, a trip to Ladakh to experience the cold desert—that I had only written about till then. So different–the starkness, the skies, the silence, and the sheer scale, and yet similar.  Nowhere but in the desert have I felt this with such intensity.

My heart lies in the desert. Sadly I may not be able to recreate these experiences if I tried now. The once remote sand dunes of Sam are now a tourist hot spot. The dunes and dune life of Rub al Khali are being decimated by the sport craze for off-road vehicles zooming across the sand. The fragile cold desert ecosystem of Ladakh is being snowed under with overtourism. Deserts are disappearing, and no ‘development’ scheme can ever recreate them.

–Mamata

Ironically while the real deserts are under threat, human activity is leading to transforming non-desert areas into arid lifeless regions through the process of desertification.  June 17 is observed as The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification.

 

World Environment Day

June 5: For an ex-Environmental Educator, the date has huge significance.

June 5 in 1972 was the day the first UN International Conference on the Environment kicked off in Stockholm, Sweden. And since then, the day is observed as World Environment Day.

What was this Conference about? Well, it was called the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. While it was termed a conference on the Environment, developing countries and NGOs brought to fore the need to link Environment with Development, insisting that the environment could not be considered in isolation. Today, this seems obvious, but back in  those days, this point had to be lobbied for, fought for and agitated for.

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India can be proud of its contribution to this paradigm shift in thinking. Mrs. Indira Gandhi who attended the Conference, famously said in her address ‘Poverty is the biggest polluter’. Interestingly, India had even then realized the importance of Environmental concerns—Mrs. Gandhi was the only Head of State (other than that of the host country Sweden), to attend the Conference.

By contrast, the event to mark the 20th Anniversary of this conference, popularly called the Earth Summit and held in Rio de Janeiro, had 108 Heads of States in attendance!

Equally in contrast is India’s own attitude towards the environment. The high standards we set for ourselves and the world are certainly being diluted by our policy decisions and actions—now more rapidly than ever.

This, coupled with the disasters we are seeing around—from COVID to cyclones–all in some way or the other related to humankind’s exploitation of the environment, make it important to observe World Environment Day with even more seriousness than ever.

And while we are here, here is a quick look at WED themes over the years.

1973 Only one Earth
1974 Only one Earth (during Expo ’74)
1975 Human Settlements
1976 Water: Vital Resource for Life
1977 Ozone Layer Environmental Concern; Lands Loss and Soil Degradation
1978 Development without Destruction
1979 Only One Future for Our Children
1980 A New Challenge for the New Decade: Development without Destruction
1981 Ground Water; Toxic Chemicals in Human Food Chains
1982 Ten Years after Stockholm (Renewal of Environmental Concerns)
1983 Managing and Disposing Hazardous Waste: Acid Rain and Energy
1984 Desertification
1985 Youth: Population and the Environment
1986 A Tree for Peace
1987 Environment and Shelter: More Than A Roof
1988 When People Put the Environment First, Development Will Last
1989 Global Warming; Global Warning
1990 Children and the Environment
1991 Climate Change. Need for Global Partnership
1992 Only One Earth, Care and Share
1993 Poverty and the Environment
1994 One Earth One Family
1995 We the Peoples: United for the Global Environment
1996 Our Earth, Our Habitat, Our Home
1997 ·         For Life on Earth
1998 For Life on Earth (Save Our Seas)
1999 Our Earth – Our Future
2000 The Environment Millennium
2001 Connect the World with a World Wide Web
2002 Give Earth a Chance
2003 Water
2004 Wanted! Seas and Oceans
2005 Green Cities
2006 Deserts and Desertification
2007 Melting Ice – a Hot Topic
2008 CO2, Kick the Habit – Towards a Low Carbon Economy
2009 Your Planet Needs You – Unite to Combat Climate Change
2010 Many Species. One Planet. One Future
2011 Forests: Nature at your Service
2012 Green Economy: Does it include you?
2013 Think. Eat. Save
2014 small island developing states
2015 One World, One Environment
2016 Zero tolerance for the illegal trade in wildlife
2017 Connecting People to Nature
2018 Beat Plastic Pollution
2019 Beat Air Pollution
2020 Time for Nature

–Meena

Turtle Man

This is a week of Days—international days to mark events, or create awareness about different themes and issues. 22 May is the International Day for Biological Diversity, and 23 May celebrates Turtles–one of the millions of species

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Illustration CEE’s NatureScope India Turtles in Trouble 

that are part of the incredible tapestry of biodiversity.

This took me to revisit some of the teaching-learning material on these themes that we developed in CEE, among them, an Educator’s Manual on Turtles. Going through it I rediscovered the inspiring story of Archie Carr–the Turtle Man.

Archie Fairly Carr Jr., was an American zoologist whose studies unraveled many mysteries about giant sea turtles, and whose writings and conservation efforts have helped to save sea turtles from near extinction.

Archie Carr was born on June 16, 1909, in Alabama, where his father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother a piano teacher. It was his father who instilled in him his love for nature. The backyard of their home was filled with cages of snakes, frogs, lizards, and turtles that the young Archie collected. As a child he also developed a keen ear for language and music. In later years he further developed these language skills which led him to master several languages, and his work in collecting dialects from the Caribbean area and east Africa where he travelled and worked.

Archie Carr originally went to the University of Florida to study English but was diverted to biology by a professor who recognised the young student’s love for nature. In 1937 he became the first to be granted a PhD in zoology by the University.  And it was his alma mater that became his lifelong academic home; he was associated with the University for more than fifty years.

Carr was a true, and early, ecologist of his times. While his early training was in taxonomy and evolutionary biology, he combined this with his wide knowledge of zoology, botany, soils, geology, history, and cultural anthropology, and he showed his students the need to weave together all of these disciplines to begin to understand the subject matter of ecology. This breadth of understanding and perspective also permeated his writings which beautifully combined the different strands.

Above all, Archie Carr was a great biologist. His early descriptive studies of turtles set the standard of quality in the field of natural history. He published his first paper on sea turtles in 1942, but it was not until he wrote his classic Handbook of Turtles (1952) that he began to focus his research on sea turtles.  He described his early discoveries about the plight of sea turtles in his book The Windward Road particularly in his chapter The Passing of the Fleet, which was a call to arms and resulted in global efforts to conserve sea turtles from extinction

As he focused on sea turtles, Carr moved toward ecology and behaviour, although his work always retained a taxonomic and evolutionary perspective. His decades-long research at the research station at Tortuguero in Costa Rica, enabled him to initiate one of the longest lasting and most intensive studies of an animal population that has ever been done. Almost all of these studies have significance for conservation; Archie Carr was a conservation biologist long before the field was recognized.

Carr’s book The Windward Road published in 1959 deeply touched a newspaperman Joshua Powers. He sent copies of the book to twenty friends with an invitation to join a new organisation called The Brotherhood of the Green Turtle; this grew into The Caribbean Conservation Corporation, and later the Sea Turtle Conservancy, which became an international force for the preservation of sea turtles.

Like many of his generation Carr was at one time an avid hunter, but he gave this up after his travels in Africa. This change he described in his book Ulendo: Travels of a Naturalist in and out of Africa, in 1964. And also, like many hunters turned conservationists, such as Jim Corbett in India, Carr wrote extensively and evocatively about wildlife and nature. ”It was the lion song, and I sat quiet to learn it, as you learn the trill of a tree toad, or how an alligator goes. And though there may have been little real song in the sound, it came in strong and lonely through the whisper of the mist; and to me, at the time, it seemed to tell of an age being lost forever.

He was far from the stereotype of a ‘scientist’ whose highly technical and academic language could be understood only be a select band of fellow scientists. He combined his original academic interest in English, and his love for the language, with his passion for biology by writing 11 books, several of which won top awards were a model of authoritative yet lively scientific writing.

His colleagues remember him for his sense of humour that often included practical jokes, and which peeped through his writing. I like the look of frogs, and their outlook, and especially the way they get together in wet places on warm nights and sing about sex”.

His wife once jokingly told him “You’ve done a lot for turtles.” To which he replied “They’ve done a lot for me too.”

Professor Carr, died at his home on May 21, 1987. At the time of his death, he was the world’s leading authority on sea turtles.

The world that Archie Carr explored and wrote about has changed a lot today. Yet the sea turtles remain, thanks to the painstaking pioneering work,  passion and life-long mission of this brilliant scientist and inspiring human being.

Today is a good day to remember his words, “For most of the wild things on earth, the future must depend on the conscience of mankind.

–Mamata

 

 

Tuk Tuk

Tonk tonk tonk…it starts before dawn has broken. Even before the crows start their warm-up caw-caws, and the magpie robin tunes up to launch into its melodious repertoire. 

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Spot Tuk Tuk! 

A steady metronomic metallic sound—like the hammer of a coppersmith softly hitting the metal.  The Coppersmith of the avian world is awake and ready for another call-marathon.

Last week when it first began calling, I rushed out to look for the source of the sound. It seemed to be all around—almost like sound-surround! But I know where look for it–the remains of the big rain tree that once overlooked my kitchen wash area. The tree died naturally last year, but its skeletal remains continue to invite so much other life–to perch, to play, and to pause awhile. This is the Coppersmith’s favourite post. And sure enough there it was—on the highest point of the tallest bare branch—a speck against the blue sky. Almost invisible, but certainly not inaudible. It puffed up its chest, and raising and bobbing its head from side to side (perhaps the secret of the sound surround!) called out like a muezzin from the minaret.

The Crimsonbreasted Barbet, as it is ornithologically called,

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Cover bird of my favourite bird book!

is a small bird with a loud call. It  is just a little bigger, but chunkier, than a sparrow, but certainly not as drab. It dons a striking combination of brilliant colours—grass-green top feathers and green-streaked yellowish underparts; a crimson forehead and patch on its breast; vibrant yellow throat, and concentric eye rings of red and yellow. It has distinctive whisker-like feathers around its stout black beak, and a short truncated tail.

My bird book tells me that this bird is mainly a fruit eater, and is commonly found wherever there are fruiting trees, especially fig or banyan. The closest trees around my house are Gulmohar and Copper pod, which are also in full bloom, but not with the fruits and berries that this bird likes so much. Perhaps it finds these in the park next door. Although it baffles me, given the very short breaks between the continuous metronomes, how it manages to partake of sufficient nourishment to sustain its energy to call non-stop.

As the sun climbs higher, other birds fall silent as they seek refuge from the heat in the foliage of trees and hedges. But not our relentless caller. Under the blazing sun, on a high bare treetop, it goes on and on. Funnily, nowhere could I find out why it calls—is it to attract a mate? Difficult to know as both male and female look alike! Is it to warn of predators and danger? But then, why call continuously? Or is it for the sheer joy of being alive and and sharing its song each day? I rather like to think of it this way!

Last evening during a lull, I scanned the tree and spotted it perched woodpecker-like, using its strong beak to excavate a hole in the dry branch. I discovered that it nests and roosts in these small holes.  I am glad though that it has chosen to make its look-out point, and perhaps its home, on our tree. It is nice to have a Tuk Tuk for a neighbour!

Tuk Tuk is one of the common Gujarati names for the Coppersmith.

–Mamata

 

Earth Spring

22 April 1970 saw what, at the time, was perhaps the planet’s largest civic event. Millions of American citizens took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet.
“Earth Day” as this event was dubbed, was a unified response to the numerous environmental crises that engulfed the world in the 1960s—oil spills, smog, polluted rivers, and newly exposed dangers of pesticides.

2020 marks 50 years since what was considered to be the trigger that launched the modern environmental movement. In the five decades since, much has transpired and much has changed for, and on, planet earth. Despite all the noble intentions, movements and efforts (which I have also been a part of for three decades), the planet seems to have been damaged beyond limits, plummeting in recent times into an uncontrollable downward spiral. Poisoned waters, toxic air, melting ice, disappearing forests and vanishing wildlife have become so much a part of the daily news that we have become inured. Worst still, we continue to pretend that all will be well—after all man is the master of technology, and we will find the answers.

It has taken 50 years for Earth to have gotten a respite from human interference. Ironically, this has been given by an invisible, seemingly indestructible microbe.

Almost a hundred years ago, pioneering environmental philosopher John Muir wrote “The universe would be incomplete without man; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge…”

In the three months since this ‘creature’ has sent us scurrying for shelter, and changed the world as we know it, the earth is changing too. It is coming back to life.

The theme for this year’s Earth Day was Climate Action and events were planned to draw attention to the critical need to take action to combat climate change. Ironically, what a hundred conferences did not do for climate change, is happening today simply without human activity.

When I read about the revised suggested activities for a house-bound Earth Day it made me wonder though! All the activities were digital– webinars, online learning, nature videos, teach-ins and make-ins, and more. Everything that called for virtual interaction through digital media. What a paradox! What a missed opportunity to open windows and minds to the world outside. Some thoughts on this.

A lot is being written and shared about windows and balconies. WIMG_20200306_071238550 (1).jpghile these are great to reach out to other humans, they are also a wonderful opportunity to be inside looking out, at nature. One does not have to be in the countryside to see Nature. Even in the midst of the urban jungle, look from the same balcony or window, and you will discover—a bird, a butterfly a bumblebee, a spider. A patch of sky and a puff of cloud. The branches of a tree with fresh green leaves, a bird call, a shaft of sunlight on a wall, or the stars on a clear night.

One doesn’t have to be outdoors to do one’s bit for Earth day. Just making time to stop and stare is as much a contribution as a ‘run for earth marathon’.

And why make Earth Day just a one-day celebration? Even in 1970, the entire month was marked by events and it came to be called Earth Spring.

In these unusual times, let us be grateful for Nature which is never in ‘shutdown’! Come let us celebrate every moment, every day of our Earth Spring.

–Mamata

 

Have You Ever Seen, A Penguin Come to Tea?

Why would a Penguin ever come to tea? But so goes the nursery rhyme my foster-grandchild and I are currently hooked on.

If I were to write the poem, I would say

‘Have you ever seen, a penguin out at sea’.

Would make a bit more sense.

Of course, the other argument is, why should nursery rhymes make sense?

6A7544E4-A7BF-48E0-9512-51C1F4F1AFDCBut that is not the subject of the blog today. April 25th is marked as World Penguin Day, and that is the occasion of the blog. This day coincides with the annual northern migration of Adelie penguins.

Any ‘Day’ is a way to focus attention and raise awareness about an issue. Penguins evoke immediate love and interest. And hence are a great species to highlight when it comes to conservation education in general, and education about the species in particular. Alarmingly, of the 17 recognized living species, 11 have been listed as Vulnerable or Endangered, and hence awareness about penguins is important. And talking about penguins also ensures we talk about the health of the waters where they spend 75 percent of their lives.

It was only very recently that I saw my first-ever penguins in the wild. It was an unforgettable experience—a visit to the Omaru Penguin Colony in New Zealand, where visitors can spend a few hours freezing on stands, waiting for Little Blue Penguins to come home to their colony for the night. And believe me, it was worth every chilly bone to see this phenomenon. Groups of ten or more penguins coming in over a period of about an hour, after spending the whole day in the waters feeding—for themselves and to regurgitate for their children. What a hard life! The Little Blue Penguins are really tiny, just about a foot high. And we were lucky enough to see pair of chicks—cuddly balls of down.

And to end, some trivia:

  • The origin of the word ‘penguin’ is not clear. It may either be derived from a synonym for ‘great auk’, a bird familiar to Europeans who thought penguins looked like auks when they first saw them. (Great auks are flightless birds not related to penguins. They became extinct in the 19th century).  Or it could be from the Latin pinguis, which means fat or oil.
  • Some prehistoric species of penguins stood almost as tall and heavy as an adult human. Today, the largest species, the Emperor Penguin, stands at about 3 1/2 feet.
  • Although except one, all species are found only in the Southern Hemisphere, most do not live in extreme cold areas like the Antarctic. Many are found in temperate areas too.
  • There are two names for penguin collectives—when there is a group of them in water, they are called a ‘raft’. When there is a group on land, it is called a ‘waddle’.

Here is to World Penguin Day, may their tribes increase!

–Meena

The Kardashian of Trees

Heroing and highlighting individual trees is a great way of drawing attention to trees in general, and to reinforce the value of nature, wildlife and biodiversity.

An example of a successful initiative in this direction is the  European Tree of the Year contest started in 2011, inspired by an older competition which originated in the Czech Republic in the late nineties. According to the Czech Environmental Partnership Foundation which started it all: ‘Tree of the Year is a contest looking for a tree with a story. The aim of the contest is to empower people and get local communities involved in the environmental and local heritage protection. We believe that by gathering around a tree, people are more likely to take action again in the future for other environmental causes and for the wellbeing of the community.’

The process of selecting the European Tree of the Year starts with a well set-out voting process at the national level of the participating countries (16 this year), and ends with a finale consisting of online voting to select from among the national winners.

Now the competition is moving to other parts of the world: In 2016, Sri Lanka started the Asian Tree of the Year, with India, Nepal, Malaysia and Singapore joining in soon after. Canada, Australia and Russia have also held national competitions, though not on an annual basis.

Beautiful old trees, with history and cultural connections to the community have found their spot under the sun through this process, and also generated a lot of public interest, involvement and learning.

Sounds good! But what has all this to do with the title?

CF37A480-1747-49E9-9F79-48FCA5BAC580The connection is a tree that is reputed to be the most instagrammed tree in New Zealand, almost a symbol of NZ tourism. On a recent trip there, we were urged to set aside time to see the tree, specifically around sunset. So we worked around our program to ensure we got to the spot—a stretch of a beach—well ahead. We drove past a few times, keenly looking at the beach. We could see some people, but nothing special in the way of trees. We asked natives and tourists alike, and they all pointed us to the same area which our GPS had shown us, and which we had passed, looking in vain for a landmark. We decided to make our way down to the beach anyway. Lo and behold, there were many, many people there, jostling for some spot (we could not figure out what the spot was for), all setting up professional looking camera equipment. It came to a pass when we had to ask a friendly-looking lady what everyone was waiting to photograph, where the famous tree was, and what it was about. She kindly pointed to this spindly willow tree, standing a few feet into the waters of the beautiful Wanaka Lake, against a beautiful background of majestic mountains. But the tree itself? In my mind, this will forever define and exemplify ‘under-whelming’. ‘Why is the tree famous’, we asked many around us in bewilderment. While there was some story of how it was part of a fence and had survived in the water for several years, the general consensus was that it was famous because it was famous! So famous , it even has its own insta handle #ThatWanakaTree.

Does the title begin to make sense?

But yes, surely is a lesson to countries like ours, where we have such unimaginable treasures of cultural and natural heritage, but simply are not able to create anywhere near a proportionate buzz!

–Meena

 

 

Sighting Snowflakes In Bangalore

I came out of my house one evening and the green grass was sparkled over with hundreds of what-looked-like-snowflakes. And as I lifted my head to look up, I saw thousands of transparent winged seeds snowing down from the trees all around. It was a magical sight.

My housing complex has a large number of African Tulip Trees, and these were the sources of the ‘snow’. This native of Africa’s tropical forests (Spathodea campanulata) is an invasive species in some parts of the world, but fortunately does not seem to be a problem in India.

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For a few months, these trees were in bloom, clusters of bright orange flowers, each individual flower the shape of a tulip. The trees used to be a riot of colour and sound, with the dozens of birds which came to sip the nectar from the flowers. Then these flowers turned to seeds—when mature, these are brown and woody. And now the seedpods are bursting, releasing the 500 or so seeds that each pod has. Each seed is tiny and covered in a transparent polythene-like covering, which floats down lazily to the ground. And at this stage too, there are birds that visit the tree-yesterday I saw a parakeet feasting on the seeds and releasing the empty cases to float to the ground.

68811143-005D-42A1-BBF5-06B5CB2BD4A2It was like my textbook coming alive. ‘Seed Dispersal Mechanisms’ is what I think the lesson was called. And it described dispersal by wind, by water, by animals and birds, by ballistic action, etc.

I could only marvel at the tree for producing and sending down thousands of seeds every season. Sadly, for most to be swept away by the gardeners. Presumably, the very large number of seeds the tree has evolved to produce is to make up for the very small probability of any of them actually growing into an adult tree.

I can only hope a few of the ones I have seen this season manage to escape and are able to fly a decent distance away from the attention of gardeners and home owners, and land on un-managed land and fulfil their function!

–Meena

PS: While urging our readers to take all precautions and stay safe, MM will try extra-hard to focus on everything other than Corona during these difficult times. Life is beautiful!

 

So Many Ways to Downtime!

A few days ago a friend said ‘What with everything closed for Corona, it is so dull and boring, wish we could just HIBERNATE.’ Probably a sensible thought, except that given the temperatures outside, it would be aestivation, rather than hibernation.

3-s2.0-B9780124095489111674-f11167-03-9780444637680AESTIVATION, lesser known cousin of hibernation, is ‘summer sleep’– a survival strategy used by many vertebrates and invertebrates to endure arid environmental conditions. Key features of aestivation, like hibernation (winter dormancy) include significant metabolic rate suppression, conservation of energy , altered nitrogen metabolism, and mechanisms to preserve and stabilize organs and cells over many weeks or months of dormancy. Even more than in hibernation, strategies to retain body water are important in aestivation, as dryness or aridity is the key trigger for the summer sleep.

A surprising number of animals aestivate—vertebrates such as lung fish, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, and certain invertebrates such as molluscs. Bees, snails, earthworms, salamanders, frogs, earthworms, crocodiles, tortoise, etc. are examples of the aestivating animals. The duration of aestivation varies among species–some enter this state for a few months, others for a longer period.

Well, there are other kinds of ‘downtimes’ we can choose from too.

There is BRUMATION, which is the equivalent of hibernation for reptiles. Mammals hibernate and reptiles brumate, but there are other differences too. During hibernation, a mammal is sleeping and does not have to eat or drink. But brumation is not true sleep and the reptile still needs to drink water. A brumating reptile may have days where it will wake, show some activity, drink water, and then go back to its dormant state.

Or we can take the option of TORPOR, which involves lower body temperature, breathing rate, heart rate, and metabolic rate. But unlike hibernation, torpor is an involuntary state that an animal enters into as the conditions dictate. Also unlike hibernation, torpor lasts for short periods of time – sometimes just through the night or day depending upon the feeding pattern of the animal. During their active period of the day, these animals maintain a normal body temperature and physiological rates. But while they are inactive, they enter into a deeper sleep that allows them to conserve energy and survive the winter.

Or there is DIAPUASE, a form of developmental arrest in insects that is much like hibernation in higher animals. It enables insects and related arthropods to circumvent adverse seasons. Winter is most commonly avoided in colder areas, but diapause is also used to avoid hot, dry summers and periods of food shortage in the tropics.

Now, which one do you prefer?

–Meena

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild is Wondrous!

March 3 is celebrated as United Nations World Wildlworld wildlife day 2.jpgife Day. This marks the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973. Every year on this day, events are held around the world to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.

The theme of World Wildlife Day 2020 is “Sustaining all Life on Earth”. This celebrates the special place of wild plants and animals in their many varied and beautiful forms as a component of the world’s biological diversity.

India is a treasure house of biological diversity. It harbours 8% of the world’s biodiversity on just 2% of the earth’s surface. It is one of the 17 mega-diversity countries in the world with ten biogeographic zones, and an incredible diversity of habitats, flora and fauna.

Here is my small ode to this wild and wondrous land and its denizens.

I live in such a magical land

Of mountains and valleys, plateaus and sand.

Jungles and farmland, deserts, islands and seas,

Here’s to my land of biodiversity.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

It’s all about Life and Variety

 

In forests and fields, deserts and seas,

Animals and crops, microbes and trees.

Colours and patterns, functions and form,

To survive and thrive, adapt and transform.

 

Snow leopard and yak, and double-humped camels

The Himalayan cold desert is home to these mammals.

Shining blue lakes in the rugged landscape

Welcome winged visitors many coloured and shaped.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Experience it, share it, enjoy it.

 

Where the mighty Ganga flows

River dolphins swim and gharials are found.

Proud tigers prowl, and deer abound

The fertile plains with bounteous yields

From forests and farmlands and fields.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

See it, taste it, smell it, feel it.

 

The North East is truly a garden of Eden

Full of priceless treasures, many still hidden.

Feathery ferns, bright orchids, bamboos tall

Where rhinos roam and Hoolock Gibbons call.

 

Biodiversity, Biodiversity

Appreciate it, savour it, explore it.

 

Discover that deserts are dry but alive,

Their dwellers have special tricks to survive

Store water, shed leaves, or burrow in the sand.

Why, even tigers and lions roar in this land.

 

Biodiversity, Biodiversity

Treasure it, enjoy it, study it.

 

In the Western Ghats meet a tahr, and a tiger too

Jumbos in jungles and a hornbill or two.

Colourful frogs that croak and call

Snakes and snails that slither and crawl.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Learn from it, weave with it, heal with it.

 

Deccan highlands and grasslands, plateaux that soar

Dotted with buffalos, cows, goats and sheep galore

There grow seeds and cereals upon which we feast

And people who celebrate it all with their dancing feet.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Plant it, grow it, cook it, eat it.

 

Deep in the seas meet clown fish and anemone in a coral jungle

Crabs, crocs and tigers in a mangrove tangle.

On islands in waters blue and green

See a megapode, a monitor, a Nicobar pigeon preen.

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Track it, live with it, delight in it!

 

Biodiversity Biodiversity

It’s all about Life and Variety.

Biodiversity Biodiversity

Celebrate it, protect it, conserve it!

–Mamata