Category Wildlife

Where can you find the gorilla?

The gorilla lives in the dense forests of equatorial Africa. It is the largest and most powerful of the ape family. The gorilla is extremely strong but it is a unduly disturbed. But other animals are very much afraid of it: few of them will dare to attack a gorilla because they know they would have the worse of the encounter.

A full-grown gorilla stands nearly 2 metres tall, with a massive body and very muscular arms and legs, and can weigh over 200 kilograms. Its jaws jut out and it has a broad, flattened nose and huge beetling eyebrows.

There are two main kinds of gorilla: the lowland gorilla that lives in the rain forests of western Africa, has a dark grey coat; the mountain gorilla which lives in the eastern regions of Zaire-Uganda borderland at altitudes of more than 3,000 metres, has black fur, Little is known about the ways of these big apes. This is because gorillas are very shy animals and also because they were first found only during the last century.

Gorillas usually live in groups which include both young and old. They build rough dwellings in trees a few metres above the ground. These dwellings look like platforms made of branches and twigs.

Gorillas do not spend all their lives in the trees. During the day they wander about on the ground looking for food. They feed on leaves, roots and fruit which the forest has in plenty. Gorillas walk in a crouching position, but every so often they stand up straight on their long hind legs.


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Why reindeer migrate?

In spring the Lapps leave behind the woodlands of the south where they spend the winter and set out for the pastures in the northern mountains. The Lapps move in small family groups, leading their herd of reindeer along established tracks which usually follow the courses of river. The rivers are still frozen and the Lapps us them as safe roads for their sledges, laden with provisions. The reindeer are used to following the same route and move along slowly, feeding as they travel.

Half-way through the journey, when spring breaks, the Lapps pitch their tents for a period lasting several weeks. It is at this time that the baby reindeer are born and the tribe has to wait until they are able to walk by themselves. The young reindeer do not take long to learn how to trot about and the herd moves on once more. The destination is the far north where the tundra, the ‘cold desert’ of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland, ends and the Arctic Ocean begins. The reindeer herd spends the short summer on the grassy shores and on the islets along the coast before travelling south once more.

Lapps consume large quantities of reindeer milk and use it to make delicious cheese. When the icy north wind blows and the family is gathered together in the tent the mother prepares a hot drink by dissolving chunks of reindeer cheese in hot water. This drink provides a great deal of energy and warmth.

Lapps have hunted reindeer since the earliest times and have kept small numbers, but breeding them in large herds is comparatively recent.


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How the Aborigines trick the kangaroo?

The only domestic animal known to the Aborigines is the dingo, the Australian wild dog which is trained and bred by the Aborigines and helps them to hunt. For the primitive Aborigines hunting is often a real adventure, involving long journeys on foot through the desert, the use of primitive weapons and great difficulty because of the lack of any form of transport.

In the main the Aborigine hunts animals which move very swiftly and are difficult to catch. Some species of kangaroo can jump further than 9 metres and nearly 3 metres high, and travel at speeds of over 65 kilometres an hour.

There is one type of kangaroo which has a reddish-brown fur that makes it almost invisible against the surrounding countryside. This kangaroo can hear a suspicious noise several thousands of metres away and it can move very swiftly so that not even a dingo can catch it.

The Aborigines use their cunning to catch this animal. The marksmen take up their position along a kangaroo track. The other men then create a terrible din to frighten the animals which are killed by spears from the hidden markmen.


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Which Indian state is the only home of the brow-antlered deer sangai?

The Manipur brow-antlered deer (Racervus eldii eldii) is locally known as sangai. It is a sub-species of the Eld’s deer found in Asia. Though Eld’s deer are found in other parts of the world too, sangai is found only in Manipur listed as endangered in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, its habitat in Manipur is the Keibul Lamjao National park Covering an area of about 40 sq. km. the Park is located on one end of the Loktak Lake The animals have adapted themselves to a life on floating meadows – called phumdis in the Lake. Interestingly, sangai is also called the dancing deer because of the way it delicately hops between the phumdis. Not surprisingly, it is the State animal of Manipur.

Sangai facts

  • A medium-sized animal, the brow-antlered deer gets its name from its antlers that seemingly emerge from its eyebrows. The mammal has a small tail, and a dark reddish brown coat in winter, the coat gets lighter in summer.
  • The deer’s habitat varies from scrubland and grassland to dry forests and marshland, depending on the country they’re found in. In India, however, these animals inhabit the regions in and around the Loktak Lake.
  • When there’s flooding, apparently, the deer population leaves the phumdis and moves to the hillocks nearby
  • The un-submerged area of the Park has tall grasses and shrubs, some of which are food for sangai.


In the mid-20th Century, sangai was on the brink of extinction. However, a few individuals were spotted, and thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers today are said to be over a 100, at least. While this is a comforting story, the mammal continues to face several challenges. Foremost is the water pollution in the region. As the water in the Lake gets more and more polluted, the quality and thickness of the phumdis are affected. When phumdis get thinner it becomes difficult for the sangai deer to move from one place to another. In fact, it is said that the total area of the phumdis has been decreasing over the decades. A recent study has said that agriculture practices and newer human settlements in the region too are a threat to phumdis. According to media reports as recent as 2020, “unchecked growth of two perennial aquatic weeds – water hyacinth and para grass in the famous fresh water lake of Loktak in Moirang in Manipur is posing a major threat to sangai The increasing abundance of these weeds has reduced space for indigenous plants the sangai feeds on. For a subspecies already plagued by limited space and numbers, the possibility of in-breeding, and infection due to livestock, such challenges make them even more vulnerable. This could drive them toward extinction all over again, undoing decades of conservation effort.


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What are the threats to sloth bears?


Increasing human population is said to be the greatest threat to these bears. This leads not only to the loss and degradation of the bears habitat but also human-bear conflict. And, this is not good news. Sloth bears tend to avoid humans. However, they can also be intolerant of them when the two meet face to face. And their aggressive behaviour coupled with powerful claws and canines don’t help. So, a human-bear conflict may not end well. For instance, a media report says that “in Odisha, between 2014 and 2018, 716 attacks by sloth bears on humans were recorded. Out of the 716 attacks recorded, 627 humans were left grievously injured – with many victims severely impaired for life”. Which means, there are retaliatory killings too. Other worrying factors include hunting and poaching for meat and body parts for medicinal purposes. It is said that there are no specific numbers for the deaths of sloth bears. This is of concern because there are only rough estimates for their population, meaning we may not know exactly how many bears live and die, and what sort of conservation mechanism should be put in place to save this vulnerable species. Another reason for concern is that these animals have traditionally been captured and made to perform “dances” for human entertainment. Though this has been largely brought down in India and some of the animals have even been rehabilitated, it is believed to be continuing in places such as Nepal.

Though sloth bears are found in Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Nepal too, India hosts its largest population in the world. They appear to be extinct in Bangladesh since no sightings have been confirmed in the region for years now. Within India, they are found in many States, including Karnataka. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and central India. Among the sanctuaries for the species are Ratanmahal Sloth Bear Sanctuary and Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary in Gujarat, and Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary in Karnataka. According to the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, it is a “Vulnerable” species.

Sloth bear facts

  • Sloth bears are small bears, and usually have a black coat (and sometimes, a brown coat). What helps identify them is their distinctive whitish or yellowish chest patch in the shape of a wide U or Y.
  • They are a lowland species, and occupy different types of habitats such as wet and dry tropical forests, savannahs, scrublands, and grasslands.
  • These omnivores feed primarily on termites, ants, and fruits. Apparently, they are fond of honey too.
  • Cubs stay with their mothers for roughly two-odd years, and for about nine of those months, they ride on their mother’s back.


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Which is the most-trafficked mammal?

Pangolin is the only mammal said to be covered completely in scales. But it is these very scales that have largely brought about their decimation.

Why is it trafficked?

There are eight pangolin species – four each in Asia and Africa. And in both these continents, the mammals have been hunted for meat, and their scales have been used in traditional medicine. The scales are used in treating several ailments, particularly in many Asian countries. The demand for these scales has been steadily increasing over the years, and alarmingly, in addition to Asia, the number of animals being trafficked from Africa too has been increasing. This has been happening in spite of a 2017 international trade ban on all the species. In the last decade alone, more than one million pangolins are said to have been poached, according to the National Geographic, making them the most-trafficked mammal. It is believed that these numbers could be higher because small-scale smuggling could go undetected.

It’s keratin, after all!

Pangolin parts, especially the scales, are important ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine. They are believed to cure skin infections, among others. Though people continue to believe in these medicines, there has been no scientific evidence to support the theory that these scales could actually cure any ailments. However, it is assumed that it could just be the placebo effect (placebo effect refers to a phenomenon when a fake treatment appears to improve a patient’s condition because the person believes it works). It is likely that the scales have no curative properties because they are made of the same protein our nails and hair strands are made of- keratin!

With its defence mechanism of rolling itself into a ball, the pangolin is relatively safe from predators in the wild. Clearly, humans are its only big problem.


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Why is the Great Indian Bustard endangered?

The great Indian bustard was once seen across the grasslands of India and Pakistan. Today though, the situation is worrying. They are found only in small and isolated fragments of their remaining habitats. They are said to have disappeared from about 90% of their original habitats, and are now confined mostly to Rajasthan. One of the best places to spot the bird in the wild is the Desert National Park (DNP) in Rajasthan. Spanning over 3,000 sq. km., it is spread across Jaisalmer and Barmer districts. Forming a part of the great Thar Desert, this Park is said to have at least 100 of these bustards. Sadly though, there are no recent confirmed sightings of these birds in places such as Maharashtra and Karnataka where they were spotted earlier.


Traditionally, the dramatic loss in the number of birds has been due to large-scale hunting – for meat and sport. What added to the problem was systematic habitat loss and degradation. Turning their grassland habitats into agricultural land has dealt them a double blow – loss of food and closer contact with humans and cattle. Further, stray animals such as dogs too entre these habitats and destroy the eggs of these birds. However, one of the major dangers that these birds faces today is the power lines. As heavy, low-flying birds, the chance of their coming into contact with powerlines and even wind turbines is high. Many meet their end thus. Infrastructure development and ill-informed habitat management too add to their problem. And, the species is facing the threat of extinction.

Something to cheer about

Thanks to a move by the Convention on Migratory Species in February 2020, the great Indian bustard was added to Appendix I: the strictest level of protection. And something just as positive has been happening even before this move, according to a media report. Over three years ago, a project involved the local community around DNP for great Indian bustard conservation. As part of the project, a group of young people was chosen to be nature guides, who would inform conservationists about the presence of the birds in their area. They would also keep the forest department updated about the movement of poachers in the region. This continuing project has not only supported the young people monetarily, it also helped them understand the need to protect the bird and its habitat. It has additionally programme and habitat protection, this project could go a long way in bringing hope for the survival of the species.

The great Indian bustard facts

  • The great Indian bustard is a large, white-and-brown bird with wing marking and a black crown.
  • These birds usually inhabit dry or semi-arid grasslands marked by scrub, bushes, sparse vegetation, minimal cultivation, and rich in insect and crop resources.
  • They are said to be deeply connected to the habitats they use, and so keep returning to these places. However, when they realize the place is disturbed or has become unsuitable for them, they abandon it.
  • The species has been categorized as “Critically Endangered” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list because of its low numbers.

Why do polar bears and penguins never meet each other?

You may have come across video games or story books featuring polar bears and penguins together. In reality, these animals cannot meet in the wild. Why can’t they meet? And, if they can’t, why are they featured together? Let’s find out.

Photographs and videos show polar bears and penguins invariably surrounded by ice. That’s because polar bears and most penguins inhabit Polar Regions, which are dominated by ice cover. But you’ll never find them together in the wild.

And that’s because they live near two different poles. While polar bears are found in the Arctic near the North Pole, most species of penguins live in the Antarctic region near the South Pole. Which is why these two animals can never meet in the wild? Since photographs and videos almost always show them in ice-dominant habitats, this could be the reason they have been misrepresented in story books, games, etc. as sharing a common space.

However, despite literally being poles apart, their plight today is quite similar. Both of them live in regions that suffer continuous, extensive, and increasing melting of sea ice. This is because “the high Arctic and the Antarctic peninsula have seen bigger temperature increases than anywhere else on earth”. Sea ice is integral to the survival of polar bears and many penguin species.

In addition to climate change-include melting, habitat loss/degradation also affects both these animals.


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Why is Pobitora National Park famous?

One of the densest habitats of the greater one-horned rhinoceros in the world, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary spans about 40 in Assam. It was declared a reserve forest in 1971 and a wildlife sanctuary 10 years later. The humid grasslands, along with woodlands and wetlands, make the region a perfect place for not just the one-homed rhino but several other birds and animals. The annual flooding of the Brahmaputra in the Sanctuary both clears unwanted waste and rejuvenates the vegetation there. However, its increasing severity of late has caused more damage than it has left room for regeneration. Likewise, the annual seasonal burning of grasslands have been crucial for the growth of new vegetation, but with a lack of proper monitoring this too is said to have been causing more damage than helping the habitat and its inhabitants.


Kites, eagles, vultures, harriers, kingfishers, geese, ducks, egrets, grebes, cormorants, pelicans, herons, darters, storks, doves, coucals, lapwings, bittens, treepies, orioles, shrikes, leafbirds, jacanas, shovelers, teals, coots, moorhens, sandpipers, greenshanks, terns, nightjars, swifts, starlings, and munias are among the several species of migrant and resident birds that can be spotted in the region. In addition to the one-homed rhinoceros, one can also spot leopards, wild boars, barking deer, wild buffaloes, leopard cats, fishing cats, jungle cats, jackals and Chinese pangolins in the Sanctuary. The place is also home to a large number of amphibian, reptile and fish species.

Migrating birds

In addition to its famed pachyderm, the Sanctuary is also noted for its migratory birds. Every winter, the region welcomes thousands of these winged visitors. As with many places, some years are good and some, not so. For instance, in 2012, at least 20,000 birds visited the Sanctuary while in 2015, the numbers were said to have come down.

The problem of plenty

As mentioned earlier, Pobitora has a high density of rhinos – about a hundred of them occupying the core areas of the Sanctuary. While the growing number of rhinos is certainly good news, all of them having to rub shoulders within a small space is not good at all. For one, the risk of spreading infection or disease within a group increases substantially, and could lead to mass deaths of the animals in just one big swipe. Also, they jostle for not just space but food too. This could lead to many of them straying into human habitation, resulting in tragedy on both sides. The gravest concern in the crowded region is how vulnerable these creatures are to poaching.


While poaching is a near-universal problem, Pobitora faces a unique problem – floods. When the Sanctuary is flooded annually by the swelling Brahmaputra, it could lead to loss of animal life in many ways. The animal could face a watery grave, stray from its habitat and be injured on roads or be caught in a conflict with humans, or worse, be trapped by a poacher. Most parts of the Sanctuary remain inaccessible due to the floods, an opportunity poachers make best use of. This problem is being handled by placing frontline forest staff on 24×7 duty, as was evident this July, after the floods.


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Only around 150 of which birds are said to be found in India?

The recent condition of the Great Indian Bustard is now witnessing a worse situation where this beautiful bird’s population is amounted to be around 150 in India. Once considered as the national bird of India, the Great Indian Bustard is dying slowly. The threats majorly include the dogs who hunt them or the live wires which pass by their habitats or the quickly reducing grasslands. According to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), only 150 of these prevail in the nation. This survey revealed that in Thar, Jaisalmer, the total count of the GIB is 120 whereas in Maharashtra and Karnataka the count is just 22.

The GIBs are dying at the rate of 15% annually due to collision with high voltage power lines, the WII report had said, adding that their population has been reduced by 75% in the last 30 years.

The report had compiled various studies conducted by researchers across the country on GIBs.

“Mortality of adult GIBs is high due to collision with power lines that criss-cross their flying path. All bustards are prone to collision due to their poor frontal vision and inability to see the power lines from a distance,” it had said.

The GIB is one of the heaviest flying birds endemic to the Indian subcontinent.

They are primarily terrestrial birds with adult males as tall as 122 cm and weigh 11-15 kg and adult females reach up to 92 cm and weigh 4-7 kg, the WII said.

According to the report, the GIB lays one egg every 1-2 years and the success rate of these eggs is 60-70%. However, this rate has been reduced to 40-50% due to predators like fox and dogs.

As per researchers, apart from the GIB, many other birds also die because of collision or electrocution with these transmission lines at the rate of 10 birds per km per month totaling nearly one lakh bird deaths annually in 4,200 sq km.


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