Category Zology

What are the endangered animals in Eravikulam National Park?

 

There is a rise in the Nilgiri tahr numbers in Eravikulam National Park. The annual census held in April sighted 803 tahrs inside the park compared to 785 last year

The Nilgiri tahr is an endangered mountain goat found only in the hill ranges of the Western Ghats in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

People visiting the Eravikulam National Park (ENP) near Munnar are often amazed to see Nilgiri tahrs grazing nonchalantly in the tourism zone. Most of the park is out of bounds for visitors except for this demarcated area. Here the tahrs are almost tame, even allowing tourists to come close and click pictures!

In stark contrast, the tahrs in the core area of the park, where only park staff and researchers are allowed to go, are extremely shy, fleeing at the sight and sound of humans.

It is said that the tahr in the tourism zone became accustomed to people because of Walter Mackay, the manager of the Rajamalai tea estate in the 1950s. The estate was situated inside the present sanctuary (it was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1975 and a national park in 1978). Mackay would toot his cars horn while driving through the sanctuary, attracting herds of tahrs. They would mob his car to be rewarded with handfuls of biscuits!

Of course, visitors today are forbidden to feed and pet the tahrs.

The tahr feeds on a variety of herbs, shrubs and grass. Sure-footed and agile like others of its kind, it can negotiate sheer cliffs with amazing ease.

The Nilgiri tahr is endemic to the open grasslands in the upper reaches of the Western Ghats. It is found mainly in the Nilgiri the Anaimalai and Nelliyampathy hill ranges. A mature male tahr has a coat of deep brown and is called a saddleback for the broad swathe of lighter-coloured fur down its back. The females are smaller and lighter in colour. Both have horns that curve straight back.

In the Eravikulam National Park (ENP), the leopard is its only known predator.

The females and juveniles stay close together in a herd. sometimes numbering over a hundred. The males are usually loners and join the herd during breeding time. The females calve from January to February. The park is closed to tourists at this time

There are around 800 tahrs in the ENP and small numbers in the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and Silent Valley National Park in Kerala. The tahr is also found in Tamil Nadu’s Anaimalai hills. Around 60% of tahr habitat in the Western Ghats could be lost to climate change from the 2030s onwards. There are only around 3,120 tahrs left in the wild.

Back from the brink                                                                                            

In the early 1950s, poachers hunted the tahrs (their meat was a much sought-after delicacy) to the point of extinction. The tea company that then owned the area stepped in and declared it a sanctuary. A check post was set up at the site of the present Forest Department outpost, and all vehicles passing through the area were searched for firearms, snares and tahr carcasses. This went a long way in stamping out poaching.

Munnars High Range Wildlife and Environment Preservation Association is an NGO set up in 1928 by conservation-minded British tea planters.

Even today, tea and coffee planters in south India are actively involved in conservation and the Nilgiri tahr is a symbol of their success.

Picture Credit: Google

Why are stonefish so poisonous?

Stonefish is perhaps one of the world’s best camouflaged fish. But it is also the most venomous. Found in shallow waters of the tropical Indo-Pacific, stonefish stay in the muddy or rocky bottoms of marine environments, living among rocks or coral. It may look like a stone on the ocean floor and deceptively stays blended with the ocean floor while hunting. The skin covered by wart-like lumps helps it in camouflage. It has venomous spines and when stepped on accidentally or there is a contact, it can sting. The sting is painful and can be fatal. Did you know that the fish is a delicacy in certain parts of Asia after its venomous spines are removed.

Picture Credit: Google

What is a venomous lizard native to parts of the US and Mexico?

Native to the USA and Mexico, the Gila monster is a small, venomous lizard that is known to spend more than 90% of its life below the ground. As such you may not encounter the Gila monsters in the wild but bites are known to occur at times. The venomous lizard is known to use its venom only for defensive purposes. A mild neurotoxin, the venom of the creature is produced in the lizards’ salivary glands. The saliva is toxic and is found to contain the hormone exendin-4 which could be used to treat type 2 diabetes. Although its venom is deadly, it also has potential medicinal use. While the lizard is strictly nocturnal, above-ground sightings of it are also seen during the day.

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Is the inland or western taipan oxyuranus microlepidotus?

Native to central Australia, the Inland Taipan snake usually lives in desert areas. Also called a fierce snake, the Inland Taipan is the world’s most venomous snake. The venom of the snake is very potent with experts noting that a drop of the snake’s venom is enough to kill 100 people. The snake is quite shy and encounters with humans are rare. The venom is so powerful that it could kill the victim within hours if medical treatment is not given.

Picture Credit: Google

What’s a living fossil?

Living fossils are those species that have retained the same form over millions of years. They have few or no living relatives. Most of these animals have changed relatively little since their origins.

Did you know that some archaic species that lived millions of years ago have survived for a long time and still live alongside us? The anatomy of these species has remained unchanged and these relics of the past are called living fossils.

The term “living fossil” refers to those species that have retained the same form over millions of years. They have few or no living relatives. Most of these animals have changed relatively little since their origins. They have often survived several mass extinctions.

It was English naturalist Charles Darwin who introduced the concept of a “living fossil”. He coined the term in his book On the Origin of Species (1859). He described them as species that are still in existence but belonging to an old lineage. While most species have been evolving, these underwent slow rates of evolution. The appearance of these are mostly unchanged from their extinct fossil relatives.

They have survived from an earlier period or in a primitive form, have long-enduring lineages and also belong to a group with low diversity. Their DNA has hardly changed in millions of years.

Some examples of living fossils include coelacanths, horseshoe crabs, tuataras, komodo dragon, aardvark, red panda, nautilus and purple frog. The tree Ginkgo biloba is the only living species of its group. It dates back almost 300 million years in the fossil record.

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Can the eggs we consume be used to produce chicks?

No, The eggs we buy from the market cannot produce chicks. But why?

The eggs that we buy from the market cannot be hatched to produce chicks. This is because these eggs are not fertilized.

A hen begins to lay eggs when she is about 18 to 20 weeks old. She does not necessarily need to mate with a rooster to produce eggs.

These eggs are produced in response to daylight patterns. Usually a healthy hen lays one egg every 26 to 28 hours for a period of 4 to 6 days. Then she rests for a couple of days before resuming her job! The rate of egg-laying slows down naturally as the days become shorter in winter. Therefore commercial poultries provide artificial lighting to ensure optimal production of eggs. Only the fertilized eggs that are produced after mating can be hatched after about 21 days.

Picture Credit : Google 

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