Monday, September 29, 2008

Dam-m-ing Rajmachi

Peooww…Peooww – The calls of Indian Peafowl were echoing in the valley of Ulhas at Rajmachi ( the proposed Protected Area waiting for its notification as Father Santapau Wildlife sanctuary from last few years). The twin calls of this magnificent pheasant were attracting me and my co-traveler Mane who traveled all the way from distant suburbs of Mumbai – Kalyan to Lonavala. We both were looking forward for a sighting of stripped hyeana at the Ulhas Valley. Re-collecting the sighting of this carnivore just 2 years back made me more optimistic.

This was worth leaving home at 05.30 AM in the early & mist morning of Wednesday 24th September, 09. Through the doors of Indrayani Express, the sightings of Karvi between Lonavala & Karjat were much beautiful. The hill slopes of this Western Ghats zone ( Sahyadri) were painted purple ( Karwi ) Yellow ( Graham's groundsell) and Magenta (Impatiens Balsamania).

We finally reached at Tungarli Village, the base of Rajmachi Platue at 08.30 AM. The shrikes (Long tailed Shrike) The Sunbirds (Purple Sunbird) and Bulbuls (Red Vented & Whiskered) were much vocal near Tungarli dam. The base of dam structure is parallel to the road (tar road) leading to Rajmachi via Upperdeck resorts & Captain's resort.

Before could I give the report of few of the best sightings, here I must share that a new dam is being constructed near these resorts. Possibly, a huge forest land was cleared to create the catchment area for the dam. This is of surprise to me, since I am frequent traveler to this area from last 3 years, but this was something new to me.

Anyways, proceeding ahead was the only option for us. Despite of a single sighting of common flameback woodpecker, we wanted to leave that area dam-m-ing area, because of noise coming out of JCB machine excavating the soil near the dam structure.

After a walk of 10-12 minutes we started hearing calls of an Indian peafowl, infact there were two peafowls, the other was somewhere down the valley. Slowly, gradually we were heading towards the culvert from where the call was coming. And there we saw one. I was fully enchanted with this blue pheasant, when Mane shouted and pointed towards a solitary Scarlet Minivet – Male. Very soon we were disturbed by two fully loaded tourist vehicles full of British, who traveled from Pune for tracking in Rajmachi. These trackers were in much hurry, and were rushing towards the fort situated atop the Platue.

But, we were not in hurry, it was just 11.00 AM, we were waiting for raptors and Butterflies to come out. Before Raptors could come out, what we saw was White Napped Tit, an unspectulated sighting of the bird resident of South – West and North-East India. Nothing else, but I shot an instant SMS to Adesh Shivkar on this sighting.

By now the day was hot, apprx. 12 PM and actually un-sustainable for me in person. We decided to roll back to Lonavala. My decision turned out to be right with sightings of Raptors such as Vulture, Shikra, Eagle and Kestrel.

With a promising commitment to visit Rajmachi again & again and again to document the untamed wilderness of this "CRITICAL WILDLIFE HABITAT". I would come back here.

Compiled list of my sightings…………


White napped Tit

Indian Peafowl

Scarlet Minivet – Male

Common Flameback woodpecker

Brown headed barbet

Spotted dove

Crow pheasant

White rumped vulture

Crested Serpent Eagle


Common Kestrel

Golden Fronted leaf bird

Long tailed Shrike

Common Iora

Blue tailed bee-eater

Great egret


Porona Malabarica

Smithia setulosa

Ipmoia NIL

Impatiens Balsamania

Trichodesme Indicum

Solanum Anguivi

Carvia Callossa

Commelina forskalaei

Chlorophytum bharuchii


Common Mormon

Common Rose

Common leopard

Gaudy baron


Chocolate pansy

Great Eggfly

Blue Oakleaf

Rajesh Sachdev
Wild Mumbai Nature Conservation
"The tiger cannot be preserved in isolation. It is at the apex of a large and complex biotope. Its habitat, threatened by human intrusion, commercial forestry, and cattle grazing, must first be made inviolate." - Mrs. Indira Gandhi

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Who needs freedom in India?

Hi all,
Since last 60 years we Indians are free. We are in democracy, we are entitle to do anything, speak anything and go anywhere. But, what about the poor wildlife. They are still to get freedom from Human presence. They need inviolate space. They need complete isolation from Human being, not humanity. The attached picture was shot in the world famous "City Forests" - SGNP. in the pic. there is track near culvert No.: 12 at Vihar lake where a leopard cub passed by. in very few minutes a human followed the same track. This shows that the critical wildlife habitats are not away from the human greed, we humans use the forest resources for our very personal use, but also we degrade the forest land by felling/cutting trees, clearing the forests on the name of infrastructural development such as Hydro-Electric power plant, Nuclear plant & Water dams - reservoirs.

Do we have any other planet where we can shift, if all the resources from this earth are finished. If we kept on degrading our forests then, there will be no forests- no wildlife- no water and perhaps no humans.
Rajesh Sachdev
Wild Mumbai Nature Conservation
"The tiger cannot be preserved in isolation. It is at the apex of a large and complex biotope. Its habitat, threatened by human intrusion, commercial forestry, and cattle grazing, must first be made inviolate." - Mrs. Indira Gandhi

Friday, July 25, 2008

Matheran - An untamed panaroma

It was unimaginable to see the highly endangered specie right on the way to the bustling hill station of Mumbai - Matheran. Yes, guys, it was none other than the state animal of the Maharashtra the SHEKHAROO an Indian Giant Squirrel. Trust me I didn't expected this chap to come on my way, i remember to had seen it last time in Dandeli in October, 07. Perhaps, this is because of those who dreamt to make Matheran non pollution ECO Sensitive Zone, which is in the Hot spot of Bio-Diversity the Western Ghats. I know whome i Shall say Thanks for keeping Matheran what is it meant for ?
Me, Mane & Amish decided to spend the first day of week at Matheran on 21st of July. We reached at Mathearn at 08.00 AM and started the trail to Panaroma Point which is apprx. 5 Kms from the station ( 2.5 Kms from Dasturi Check Naka ). It was drizzling for the whole day. But, we had our preparations ready for it. I knew that the god of Rains will not let me see the good sightings of the denizens, but indeed he was much in good mood.
Here comes what I saw...................
1) Malabar Whistling Thrush - 5 sightings on the way and back Panaroma Point
2) Crested serpent Eagle - 3 sighting continuous shrilling and hovering above sky
3) Changeable Hawk Eagle - 1 Sighting in pair
4) Brown Headed Gull - 1 sighting , right at panaroma hill top
1) Tolypenthus logenifer
2) Pavetta crassicaulis
3) Pinda concanensis
4) Solanum anguivi
5) Sonerila scapigera
6) Habenaria rariflora
7) Cucuruma pseudomontana
1) Great Eggfly
2) Danaid Eggfly
3) Malabar Spotted flat
4) Blue Mormon
1) Indian Giant Squirrel
These 6 hours of tracking was indeed very much promising and thanks to Terence Delima for advising the right trail.
Experts kindly confirm how rare and how common is the Giant Squirrel at Matheran and also please confirm what the brown headed gull was to do at panaroma point?

Rajesh Sachdev
Wild Mumbai Nature Conservation
"The tiger cannot be preserved in isolation. It is at the apex of a large and complex biotope. Its habitat, threatened by human intrusion, commercial forestry, and cattle grazing, must first be made inviolate." - Mrs. Indira Gandhi

Friday, June 13, 2008

World Bank ofer rejected...Why?

HI all, Click on the link and also do read the comments written by me right after the link:

The Government of India rejecting the World Bank (WB in short ) offer sound strange. I mean, when several NGO are running their show on the funds provided by the Multinational banks and industries. When several NGO's in India have their offices located somewhere in the other part of the world. When the Importance of the word TIGERs and Leopards was made understood by the British national ( Jim Corbett ), till than we were branding these big cats as Aadamkhor ( man eaters ) irrespective of they were or not. When the Indian Tiger Conservation Programme is in its dark face, and every another day there are the reports of Tiger Poaching, Tiger Killing and other stuff. Whenever the FD probed, the only answer come across is the short of funds.THEN, WHY SHOULDN'T WE ACCEPT WORLD BANK OFFER TO FUND FOR THE TIGER CONSERVATION PROGRAMME IN INDIA?

Even the recent declaration of Indian Government providing 600 CR for such a giant project to protect 37000 Kms of Tiger Reserves and conserve the umbrella specie would be nothing, Most of amount would be spared for back office expenses, overhead expenses in administration and travel to delhi and State head quarter ( mantralaya or Sachivalaya, by the PA managers & TR Directors ). No amount would be paid towards afforestation , Reforestation and rehabilitation of Eligible people outside the TRs. No fencing or the boundary wall would be erected , where the man-animal come in conflicts.

Let us calculate 600 CR allotted for 5 years in 30 TRs of India is nothing more than 3.33 CR for every Tiger reserve. Every TR in this part of world had more than 2 CR of expenses on Admin and other expenses till 2005, now the situation is rather worst, the recent CAG report would state more than that much.

We should also consider that the WB is an organisation which is already active in many environmental projects in the several parts of World ( Specially wildlife rich African Sub-continent & Bio-diversity rich South-East Asia )

and most of its project are either active or closed after its final completion. I did download the 2500 MB size of its report of project the WB carried in the several parts of Africa, South East Asia and other poor countries and I am quite convinced with it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A leopard cub, lost its wilderness

On Monday, a leopard cub was rescued by the forest department in Yeoor range of Thane forest division. The news came in most of national news paper circulating in Mumbai. The Cub was being chased away by the feral dogs and was noticed by the local, who informed the Forest department and the action of rescuing was taken upon.

Now, if we go to flash back and try to re-collect an incident where the kittens of Jungle cat were rescued at Aarey milk colony almost a year ago. The veterinary doctor and Forest department took every another step to ensure the survival of kittens. But, unfortunately, the poor kittens could not be saved and perished away in captivity. We must know that these small cats/kittens can't stay away from their mother and must be with the care taker for almost 2-3 years of their initial age. This not only allows them to understand the method of hunting down the prey, but also to understand the life system of the CAT family. The FD is claiming that the cub would be released once; it is able to hunt down its prey at its own. But, my question is that who is going to teach the leopard cub the method of learning and bringing down its prey. No matter, the leopards are opportunistic and have almost no strategy to prey on the hunt. But, chasing and killing the prey is the technique which every cat has to adopt and understand from its parents.

I am in doubt, if the poor cat could survive in absence of its mother. And even in any case if it could survive, there is no chance for him to get back to its jungle at its own or otherwise, this leopard has lost its wilderness.

OR Shall we say that this is another loss of leopard that would never go back to its wild and would be in captivity for rest of his life the way other leopards are in.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Rajmachi - an urgent need of hour

The Rajmachi has its own intimate history of conservation. It not only has two of forts, but is also one of most potential & successful habitat for the wild ungulates. The forest lies in the 5A zone of Sahyadri range, and is easily accessible from Lonavla Stn. or Karjat Stn. near Mumbai. Way from Karjat Stn. to Kondavane base village is roughly around 17 Kms. and hence it is drivable. And then from Kondavane, one has to literally track for another 5 Kms. which is very steep terrain. This enable the trackers not only pass through the dense forest, but also to encounter the wildlife, which is endemic to Sahyadri only. The walk from Lonavla Stn. to Rajmachi fort at the top is 14 Kms. and is trackable or walkable. The Protected area is likely to get the wildlife sanctuary status and which is actually awaited by the state government. The forests of Rajmachi as I said have the great potentiality of wildlife habitat, is because of its hilly terrain, undisturbed forest zone (Lonavla-Tungarli- Rajmachi- Dhak & Vadap Base ) of over 400 Kms. which is the origin of Ulhas River. The river which originates from Ulhas valley cross over 97 Kms. before meeting Arabian sea at Mumbra and Dahisar on Mumbai’s eastern and western shoreline respectively. The river which gives birth to several rivulets on its way and those rivulets give new greens to the cultivation. The Valley has several perennial and seasonal streams forming its origin. These streams which flows from the top of Rajmachi forms the catchments area of several ponds and reservoirs on the way before entering the plains of Karjat-Dhak range. Rajmachi forests spaces more than 195 forest and scrub bird species. The most vulnerable species are vultures, which are almost extinct in its neighboring town. Not only bird even predators like hyenas and jackals are also seen here in sizeable population. I have spent couple of monsoons, winters and summers in this forest, exploring the possibility of big cats in the untamed green and hilly terrains of this region. The results are bit sheer clear and are otherwise exiting to know that the leopards are still ruling the forests, and their signs of presence are clearly seen. Not only leopards, but even hyenas and jackals droppings are the clear evidence of these forests being the best habitat of these predators, preying on the wild ungulates. The track to Rajmachi from Lonavla is more or less drivable, and the road has hills from one side and valley from the other side. And in the early mornings one can encounter a lone Sambars grazing on the plains of the forest. The burrows and the droppings of mongoose and porcupine are also the direct evidence of these insectivorous. The plains of the Rajmachi are not only the grazing area of Sambars, but also of spotted Deers. The over growing population of Chitals in the region are significance of how undisturbed these forests are till some extent. These Chitals otherwise easily to spot are difficult to locate due to the inaccessibility of the forest by the outsiders because of its terrain in Rajmachi. One of my friend, who just been back from Rajmachi sighted a hoof mark of Sambar overlapped by pugmark of a jungle cat. It is not that way, me only being talking about mammals, but this forest is paradise for the birds, reptiles and butterflies. Few of major or commonly sighted raptors of the terrain are Crested Serpent eagle, Black kite and Common Kestrel. The very uncommon raptors would be long billed vultures & White rumped vultures as well. A month or two ago, the bird watchers from Pune confirmed the sighting of vultures scavenging the Caracas. These scavengers have always made sure that everything is well consumed in the forest. These raptors not only scavenge the dead bodies found in the jungle, but also hunt the live prey. Serpent eagles and Shikra are known to prey on spotted dove and little brown dove. Spotted dove and The Little Brown Dove which are otherwise common and abundantly available in these forests, are one of the regular hunts of these raptors. Not only these raptors, but the bats like false vampire and others also target these small ground birds. The other common birds of Rajmachi are Rufous Treepie, Plum headed parakeet, White rumped Shama, Indian grey hornbill, Malabar pied hornbill and paradise flycatchers. The local winter visitors like verdict flycatcher and Black Necked Storks are also sighted near the watering bodies at the fort. The list of birds although big enough, but speculates, the birdwatchers, that how and on what these forest birds would be feeding upon, in this semi-deciduous forest. Ofcourse there are several trees to take shelter on, but there are very few fruiting tress in this forest. Further ahead, the long trackable road is also ground for several mud-puddling butterflies. These butterflies like Swordtail, Pansies and several other species. The most common encounter would be common
crow, tiger striped and blue bottle. The Rajmachi is also breeding ground for the world’s biggest Atlas moth. The moth which is endemic to South East Asia only has been seen in many parts of Rajmachi forests. The moth has very small span of life during monsoon season, and hence the sightings of such a species are restricted during the season only. Now, coming to reptiles, the reptiles of Rajmachi have also created much of excitement in the herpetologist community. Right from Spectacled Cobra, Common krait and vipers, Pythons to geckos & lizards. The easiest sightings of the area are green vine snake and Malabar pit viper along with several lizards.
May god maintain the pristinity of the forest, as safe ground for the wildlife-dé-Sahyadri