Nature Nib

... My published articles and features in newspapers, magzines and websites.

  • Iconic wildlife species - The BIG seven by N.Shiva kumar

    The diversity in India’s jungles is spectacular. But seven iconic species are a big draw in wildlife tourism.
    The tiger is the totem for wildlife tourism in India as it brings in plenty of big bucks. In 2017-18, the Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan had a revenue of Rs.33,77,28,080, which is indeed impressive. Similarly, the tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh—Bandhavgarh, Kanha, Panna and Pench—earned 400 per cent more in tourism than what the State and Central governments provide as their annual budget.

    Akin to Africa’s “big five”—the elephant, the lion, the rhinoceros, the leopard and the buffalo—India has the “big seven”, or seven beasts that are sacrosanct in their respective wilderness, the vast vistas of grasslands and woodlands that nurture them.

  • Manipur shows the herbal way to health

    Manipur’s rich plant wealth is a gift to mankind that needs to be nurtured with care, says biotech entrepreneur Rajkumar Kishor
    “Manipur is a mega biodiversity hotspot. One does not have to explore wilderness spread over 22,327 sq km to discover its distinctive floral wealth. Instead, a casual visit to the all-women Ima market with 4,000 stalls, in the heart of Imphal, will convince scientists and tourists alike. Herbal products straight from the forests and kitchen gardens are sold here on a daily basis,” says Rajkumar Kishor, one of the few first-generation entrepreneurs in Biotechnology and Life Sciences in North-East India.

  • A desert that bloomed rock by rock

    How the Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park in Jodhpur was nursed back to its original vegetation. Snugly located alongside the mighty walls of the magnificent Mehrangarh fort of Jodhpur is the fascinating Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park (RJDRP). However, what one sees today is a vastly different picture from what it was many years ago. Choking the landscape then was mad-weed or Prosopis Juliflora, locally called baavlia, a hardy shrub, introduced almost a century ago into the terrain.

  • Chilika Lake — wings at work and villagers on vigil

    Conservation efforts by individuals and organisations have transformed poachers into protectors. Twenty five years ago, when S Balachandran, Deputy Director of the Bombay Natural History Society, first visited Chilika Lake, he was amazed at the beauty of birds frolicking in its waters. The boisterous blue lagoon was teeming with lakhs of winged visitors jostling for space in the sun. Birds like godwits, plovers, sandpipers, stints, ducks, geese, and other waterfowl conducted glorious fly-pasts across the sky. It was a magnificent sight to behold, he recalls.

  • India has lost nearly 500 elephants to unnatural factors since 2013

    Of the 490 deaths recorded in the past 5 years, more than half the deaths — 267 — occurred due to electrocution. New Delhi: The death of a wild elephant while trying to escape angry villagers in Karnataka’s Nagarhole National Park last week triggered widespread outrage on social media.The 42-year-old animal’s death is the latest reminder of the pachyderm problem in India. According to Environment Ministry data accessed by ThePrint, in the last five years, nearly 500 elephants have died in the country due to unnatural factors.

  • Devoted to desert denizens

    Meet Peera Ram Bishnoi, the mechanic who became an animal saviour. The national highway is a killer, responsible for frequent road deaths of wildlife, says 50-year-old Peera Ram Bishnoi of Rajasthan. Chinkara deer, Nilgai antelopes, desert foxes, desert cats and civets — these are some of the animals that are killed while crossing the road, knocked down by fast-moving vehicles, mostly during the night, he says. Those that die on the spot are, in a sense, fortunate, others might suffer immense pain followed by a slow death with nobody at hand to provide help. Increase in road construction and vehicular traffic has seen an upswing in road hits and killing of animals.

  • Devoted to desert denizens

    The national highway is a killer, responsible for frequent road deaths of wildlife, says 50-year-old Peera Ram Bishnoi of Rajasthan. Chinkara deer, Nilgai antelopes, desert foxes, desert cats and civets — these are some of the animals that are killed while crossing the road, knocked down by fast-moving vehicles, mostly during the night, he says.

  • Biomimicry: The natural blueprint

    The jellyfish is a rather elegant marine creature that has lived in the oceans for millions of years. Its translucent body and hypnotizing movement make it a fascinating animal. But the fact remains that it is a deadly predator. Its tentacles are laced with nematocysts (stinging cells), which are triggered when they come in contact with a prey or other objects.

  • Greenwashing is an elusive CSR attempt

    Greenwashing is a phrase used in advertising to describe initiatives taken by organisations to preserve the environment; this they do to improve their public image. The term ‘greenwashing’ is in use since the 1960s, but became famous in the 1990s when environmental awareness became a movement across the world. Organisations struggle to get public attention and customers’ mind share; pretending to be environment-friendly is one such attention-seeking measure.

  • Striped felines of Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve

    TRACKING a tiger in the wild timberland is a tantalising task and with tenacity to see the big cat in the jungles, I set out for an adrenaline-rush-adventure to Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve (RTR). The scorching tropical Indian summer heat was hovering at 42-degree centigrade, blazing hot as if the forest was on fire, but it was no deterrent for me.

  • Green, green plants at IndianOil

    “A Breath of Fresh Air” is a notable document on the biodiversity around Indian Oil refineries, writes Sangeeta Barooah Pisharoty in THE HINDU.
    The cover image of a crimson sunbird perched precariously on a tree branch on what looks like a wet monsoon morning, is alluring enough. And then the name, “A Breath of Fresh Air”, adds to your temptation and you pick this colourful picture book which to any reader clearly looks like a celebration of nature. Run your fingers through it and what you find is an impressive string of images — of birds, both local and migratory, water bodies brimming with tranquillity and herbs and plants in varied hues. The over-100 page tome in the shape of a school goer's drawing book, documents the flora and fauna of the eco-parks spread around 10 refineries of the lubricant giant, Indian Oil. It comes with an exhaustive list of the winged creatures exclusive to each refinery.

  • A sanctuary and a livelihood

    Phantom of the forest: Hidden in foliage, the Frogmouth rarely ventures out in the day N Shiva Kumar. The rare Frogmouth bird fuels the local economy in Kerala’s Thattekad village
    High on the wish-list of curiosity chasers is the Frogmouth, considered the “weirdest” bird in the world. Also known as the ‘phantom of the forest’, it has empowered the entire economy of a village in Kerala.

  • Guiding light in the forests of the night

    The self-taught guides are vital to tiger tourism in Ranthambore, but they earn very little.
    Suraj Bhai Meena is a rare female tourist guide, the only one in Ranthambore, who gamely does the rounds in the heat and dust. Having trained under her experienced brother for a year in 2007, she quickly learned the ropes. Inspired by her, three more women joined up but soon dropped out as they found it physically challenging.

  • When fans of the fig came together

    Fascination for this complex plant species has led to enriching research by a team of botanists focussing on the Eastern ghats
    When a young botanist and two veterans team up, something unique is bound to happen. And so it was with the trio of Dr JV Sudhakar, his guide Dr GVS Murthy and Dr N Chandra Mohan Reddy, who came together to bring out the only book on Indian figs after Independence.

  • The pride of Ranthambhore : Tiger watching in Rajasthan

    We decided to celebrate the completion of 25 years of Project Tiger in Ranthambhore. So, we set off on a four-day sojourn to see the tiger in the hinterland of eastern Rajasthan.

  • Winged Wonders on the Wane - a photo show on birds.

    A photo exhibition explores the wide and wonderful world of birds. This exhibition from 1-7 October 2007 provides interesting insights into bird behaviour. Birds are human. That is what a fascinating photo exhibition on birds recently proved. Mounted at AIFACS Gallery, birds are shown engaged in human activities like feeding, resting, courting and even sun bathing! The exhibition details how many of these birds are on the brink of extinction. Threatened by shrinking habitat, environmental degradation and by poachers, many birds lead a perilous existence. Artistic side apart, these photos endow birds with personality. Each one is shown as unique in its behaviour, personality and traits. The exhibition impresses the eye and interests the curious. © Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

  • Chail chalo : into the lap of nature near Shimla

    Recently I persuaded my lazy bones to make the promised trip and drove nearly 400 km straight up to Chail.

  • Say hello to the rhino : into the wild wonders of Kaziranga

    Taking an elephant ride in the Kaziranga National Park in Assam to spot the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros is fun and an experience like no other. Published in the LIFE magazine of the HINDU Business Line. dated 17th March 2003.

  • Seducing silence in Shivpuri : Shivpuri National Park in Madhya Pradesh

    Thanks to its rulers, Shivpuri's majestic past has been transformed into an effervescent and hopeful present for tourists, making it a desired destination for history hunters, motorists and nature-lovers, says N. Shiva Kumar. Published in the LIFE magazine of The Hindu Business Line : Monday, January 07, 2002.

  • A week with winged friends : Bird watching in Bandhavagarh National Park

    Crisp and clean air, verdant vistas, hills surrounded by swamps and savannahs, a crumbling fortress, big cats, beautiful birds and curious contours in the terrain are the attributes of the Bandhavgarh National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Published in the LIFE magazine of The Hindu Business Line 14th October 2002

  • A bird's eye view : Rambling in the Salim Ali Sanctuary. KERALA

    It's a delight to be amidst feathered friends at the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at Thattekkad in Kerala, says N. Shiva Kumar. Published in the LIFE magazine of The Hindu Business Line : Monday, November 25, 2002.

  • Coming home to roost : Demoiselle Cranes in Keechan

    Come winter and thousands of Demoiselles cranes home their way to a tiny village in Rajasthan, that plays ideal host to them. N. Shiva Kumar on the unique experience. Published in the Life magazine of the Hindu Business Line. dated 18th March 2002.

  • The poor little owl...

    Thanks to misplaced myths and religious beliefs, the owl is poached, traded and sacrificed during the festive season

    Do you know what a group of owls is called? Parliament! The phrase was probably coined by a wise old British who observed plenty of people in parliament behaving as the species do. Often referred to as ominous by some and wise by others, these winged professionals of the dark have been misunderstood by human beings. Age-old beliefs, unfortunately do not get blown away over time, instead they only get enhanced and amplified, thereby giving owls a bad name.

  • Bearing the brunt

    India is going to host the 21st International Conference on Bear Research and Management in the Capital this week to address concerns regarding bear preservation

    Every day at twilight, as the orange orb goes down the horizon, sloth bears venture into the open from cosy caves and resting roosts. Essentially nocturnal and fond of fruits they wander many miles for choicest figs and berries. As omnivorous creatures, they also depend on ground grubs, juicy insects and dig deep into termite mounds. As they have a sweet tooth, they often climb trees to hunt for honey.

  • Moon magic on earth

    The dismal state of the fascinating crater-formed Lonar Lake in Maharashtra is a reminder of human disregard towards its environment

    Incredibly old at 50,000 years, the Lonar crater is the youngest and best preserved impact crater formed in basalt rock and is the only of its kind on earth.

  • Crocodile chronicles

    Though roaming on the earth’s surface since pre-historic times, 17 out of 23 crocodilian species are endangered today due to human folly

    She was young, vivacious and vacationing with her boyfriend in the idyllic Andaman Islands. All of a sudden she simply disappeared during a snorkelling session in the blue-green waters. The police suspected the boyfriend for her death but her own underwater video camera captured something more dramatic. The last images of the panic stricken woman, as she drowned to death, showed the culprit was a famished estuarine crocodile.

  • Farmers of the forests

    The bulky beaked hornbills, known for their perseveranceand seed dispersal skill, are facing the threat of vanishing woodlands and mushrooming concrete jungles

    Bangalore to Beijing and Baghdad to Bangkok there will be no husband worth his weight in gold when compared to the hornbill. A bird blessed with immense patience and perseverance in the world of bird brain — a definition with which human beings tend to delight in describing other creatures. Taking this into cognisance, recently the Environment Ministry declined a proposal to set up a RADAR installation on a secluded Island in the Andamans — thus saving the remaining 300 wild Narcondam Hornbills from extinction.

  • A lifeline under siege

    Though they play a vital role in sustaining the eco-system, the country’s natural wetlands are falling prey to rising pollution and urbanisation

    The World Wetlands Day (WWD) was observed sporadically across India on February 2 and yet many of us are not aware about the richness and necessity of wetlands in our lives. While wetlands are nature’s water storage and water purification zones, they are also a paradise for wildlife, fishing, angling and bird-watching, water sports, relaxation and rejuvenation. Scientists believe that wetlands are the kidneys of nature. Unfortunately, wetlands today have become mere dumping grounds for garbage, rapidly throttling the water bodies.

  • Smitten by the Himalayas

    The lofty, majestic, ice-capped Himalayas continue to inspire seekers of knowledge and natural beauty into documenting its various attributes

    Aptly named Himalaya, meaning “abode of snow”, this majestic mountain range is akin to the crown of India with the world’s top 10 highest peaks. Towering more than five miles above sea level, the snow-capped mountains form a massive border between the Indian subcontinent and the rest of Asia. In fact, the Himalayan abode has 14 peaks more than 8,000 meters high and some 200 peaks more than 6,000 meters. They have for centuries inspired sadhus to soothsayers, painters to photographers, botanists to zoologists; all have walked the mountains for inner salvation. Some have even conquered them by trekking, climbing and risking their lives to understand the mighty Himalayas.

  • Shrinking space for the high flyer

    Steady encroachment of marshlands and rampant use of pesticides is pushing the graceful Sarus Cranes to the verge of extinction

    With their habitats shrinking fast to make way for the ‘green revolution’, the lanky, handsome Sarus caranes — the tallest flying birds in the world — are increasingly staring at an uncertain future. Primarily found in India, the Sarus cranes stand gracefully at six feet, towering over even the average Indian male human being. Other tallest birds — the African ostrich and Australian emu — cannot fly with their rudimentary wings.

  • The return of the native

    The recent Supreme Court directive to reintroduce Asiatic lions in Madhya Pradesh’s Kuno sanctuary will help give them a second lease of life, feel experts

    India was the only country in the world to have five big cat species until recently. While the mile-a-minute cheetah has lost the race to survive in India, the tiger has its back to the wall, the sinewy snow leopard is barely surviving in its Himalayan abode, the Asiatic lion is languishing in its only tiny territory and the nimble leopard is maligned across the nation.

  • Off the beaten track

    Wildlife watching is a tricky occupation and to conduct the arduous task of wildlife census non-stop from noon-light to moonlight is even more complicated. Despite the prevailing heat conditions and a sizzling temperature of 44 degreess Celsius, a full-scale wildlife census was recently conducted at Sariska and Ranthambhore wildlife sanctuaries in Rajasthan.

  • On the mammal trail

    A wildlife tome focuses on the variety of mammals found across South Asia, their distribution, behavioural aspects and issues affecting their survival

    Mammals on our planet make up one of the smallest groups, with just 5,490 members and South Asia is privileged to have about 600 wild mammals and probably a few of them are still hidden in jungles that are waiting to be discovered and documented. To compile many of these creatures in nearly 766 pages, over 75 authors in about 15 years have amassed diligent details of 574 mammals in a bulky publication. The two-volume book is titled A Complete Guide to the Mammals of South Asia.

  • When the clouds collapse

    Cloudbursts — the ‘culprit’ for the Uttarakhand deluge — are difficult to predict and on the rise due to changing weather patterns

    The devastation that ravished Uttarakhand recently will soon be forgotten without any remedies rendered, even as experts continue discussing what needs to be done or not to avoid any such future calamities.

  • Marmots caught off guard

    Increased tourist influx in the Leh-Ladakh region is taking a toll on the natural habitat and way of life of Himalayan marmots

    There are no trees, no telephones and no rain. Only barren rock faces and jagged mountains piercing the sky are seen all round. The higher you travel into the mountains, the colder it gets — taking your breath away both by its brashness and magnificence. Even though the slanting sun stabs your facial skin with its warmth, it is the chilly winds that gnaw at your bones even at high noon in the barren landscapes of Ladakh.

  • The lion’s second coming

    An expert committee has been set up to expedite the smooth translocation of some Asiatic Lions from the Gir forest in Gujarat to the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh

    The large carnivores of India seem to be caught in controversies all the time. Not a single day passes without news in the print or electronic media about leopards being bludgeoned to death, tigers being poached for body parts or snow leopards being hunted for their precious pelt. Two other issues that hit the headlines recently were the shifting of lions ( Panthera Leo Persica ) from Gujarat to Madhya Pradesh and of cheetahs into the wild.

  • Dainty aerial acrobats

    Swallows, which devour nearly a thousand tiny air borne insects every day, help in reducing the numbers of malaria and dengue-causing mosquitoes

    With the second edition of the International Conference on Indian Ornithology (ICIO-2013) around the corner (November 19-23), many knowledge gaps in the world of Indian birds are likely to get filled.

  • Touching the sky

    Kumbhalgarh Fort, a massive citadel, is an architectural marvel

    Kumbhalgarh is not related to Kumbh Mela, the mega gathering of human beings. It is located about 10 km north of Udaipur in Rajasthan. Popularly known as Kumbhalgarh Fort, its fortunes have been fashioned across 500 years ago like the twirling ice-cream on the top of a cone. Nestled amongst the hills and dales of Aravalli hill Range, Kumbhalgarh Fort is one of the most massive edifices in the country. Having been constructed and repaired for more than five centuries, the impressive fort has managed to withstand the vagaries of nature, manmade mischief and marauding invaders over the years...

  • Sea, sand and survival....

    ENVIRONMENT: The east coast is currently witnessing the birth of millions of olive ridley turtles. Only one in every thousand survives to adulthood

    Last fortnight the Indian east coast was witness to three dramatic ‘hiccup events' in the world. While two grabbed world headlines, the third event went unnoticed. The first was a traumatic tsunami scare; the second was launch of Agni-V and the third was the birth of about ten million tiny turtle hatchlings.

  • On mother nature’s secret service

    How a veteran forest ranger spent a lifetime serving the wetlands of the Keoladeo National Park

    “I am probably the longest-serving resident of Bharatpur wetlands,” declares Bholu Khan with a chuckle. The 65-year-old Khan is a veteran forest ranger and has been living inside the Keoladeo National Park, commonly called Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, continuously for over 60 years and admits that it is not only a privilege but also a profound way of life. “The pure air I get to breathe is a bonus."

  • A not so stinging reputation

    Known to keep agricultural pestsat bay, the egg-laying methodof wasps is now being studied to develop safer surgical processes

    Last week a young woman in Noida, covered fully to protect her skin from the scorching sun, was riding her bike when she felt a sudden stab on her arm. She came to a screeching jolt, quickly inspected the spot on her arm that had already turned red and pained as well. She returned home and showed her arm to her entomologist father, who deduced that the young woman might have been bitten by a wasp.

  • Crimson choreography

    The graceful flamingo is falling victim to electrocution by high-tension cables at its breeding ground in west Gujarat

    A flock of flamingos are the most beautiful birds with their flaming shades of rosy pink. Collectively wading in blue lagoons, the pink birds make a profound statement for any casual onlooker. However, for the birdwatcher, they are a thrilling sight to behold when viewed through binoculars. It is not just because they are tall and slim but they also have gorgeous contours. Above all, they are not easy to find because of their rarity in the Indian sub-continent.

  • Living monuments

    Three holy rivers merge with their gushing waters here; so do millions of pilgrims from across the country congregate at the Sangam in Allahabad for a holy dip to ward off their sins. At this very same venue stands a massive, magnificent yet lonesome tree. Probably one of the largest and longest living trees in India, this monolithic tree has been thriving albeit precariously by sipping water at the confluence. Reportedly over 1000 years old, this Baobab tree is a living monument and a mute witness to numerous Kumbh Melas held under its boughs.

  • From amateur lensman to Bharatpur’s birdman

    Born in the small town of Bharatpur in Rajasthan, Kailash Navrang was a boisterous boy. Growing up during the 1970s, he had little interest in going to the ramshackle local government school and dropped out in Std X. However, curious by nature, he watched with interest the stream of foreigners who regularly visited the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary on the outskirts of town.

  • Namdhapa tropical rain forest in Arunchal Pradesh boasts such exotic wildlife as tiger, leopard and the rare hoolock gibbon

    The Himalayas were awesome with their snow decked peaks as I peeped through the aircraft's windows while flying into Dibrugarh airport in Assam. From Delhi, it was a long cramped flight, but seeing the mighty meandering Brahmaputra down below in so many twists and turns like liquid threads was equally breathtaking. As I deplaned my three friends were waiting and we took off for another adventure. Driving through lush manicured tea gardens, we encountered milestones with remarkable names like Tinsukia, Dibrugarh, Digboi and Margherita, etc., some of which were branded by British in their heydays of colonial India.