December 10, 2010

Family Nature Camp


With the pace of life, unbearable traffic and simply insufficient avenues to experience Nature, families in our big cities often resort to television, malls and other truly urban forms of recreation. The spin off from these activities is that our children are getting more disconnected from Nature with each passing year. Their immunity drops, minds remain less challenged and there’s enough research to show that even their self-esteem takes a significant knock!

Many parents strive to find avenues by which their children can experience Nature and animals/ wildlife. What The Gerry Martin Project is proposing is for any interested parents to share this experience with their children.

We will leave Bangalore in the morning of the 14th of January and drive four hours to Hunsur where we will camp at Ossie Martin’s farm. The farm is located on the banks of a lovely lake and is basically a fruit orchard with a little agriculture and some livestock. Here, we will experience Nature through various activities that will be designed for parents to do with their children. There will be a lot of small wildlife that can also be experienced and of course, the lake that can be used to the fullest. We will paddle over in our coracles, swim in the shallows and even fish if we choose.

We’ll also build hides to watch the numerous bird species on and around the lake and get a chance to understand how wildlife and Nature photographers work. Nagarahole National Park is not far and we’ll take a drive through, looking for larger game ranging from Elephant and Gaur (Indian Bison) to deer and mongoose. We’ll also visit Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary and go on a boat ride to look at marsh crocodiles and a host of wading birds that nest on the river.

We’ll be staying in raised coconut shacks or camping tents. The bathrooms are permanent structures with running water.

This camp is an ideal way to get in touch with Nature, capitalize on some quality time with the family and deflate for a while.

For more details or to register, please get in touch with Conan on conan@gerrymartin.in or call Gerry on 9845779666.

October 25, 2010

Rainforest Ecology Experience - Agumbe 3/5 Dec 2010



 Cobras, Canals and Carabineers
A Rainforest Ecology Experience

Unfairly called the Cherrapunji of the South, Agumbe possesses a lot of its own unique charm and enigmas. Known primarily for the almost unfathomable rain and the clichéd and touristy ‘Sunset Point’, this sleepy town of Malgudi Days fame remains a tiny dot on the highway between Shimoga and Mangalore.

Geographically, the area is a small and low basket in the Western Ghats and consists of very unique flora and fauna. One of the few lowland evergreen forests in the Western Ghats, Agumbe is a naturalist’s dream, offering excitement and discovery at every corner.
This December, Gerry Martin will be taking a group of enthusiasts over to the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station to provide them with a learning experience by getting involved with the various projects that the Research Station is conducting. There will also be skill-building sessions where individuals can learn various techniques in wildlife field biology. 




Activities:
  • Stream Exploration
  • Radio Tracking
  • Canopy Access
  • Survey Techniques
  • Night Surveys
  • Camping Out
  • Waterfall Hike
  • Plenty of Photo Ops
  • Various learning presentations


Topics will include:
Reptile taxonomy, rainforest ecosystems, snakebite first aid, radio telemetry, king cobra breeding biology, etc.

Who can attend this workshop?
Anyone who is 12 years and above and interested in Nature can attend this workshop. It is open to children and adults. The age range on our workshops has been as large as between 12 and 60 years old! All levels of dialogue, interest and skills are addressed and accommodated.


Accommodation and Logistics:
The group will travel via overnight bus to Agumbe on the 2nd of December. The bus departs from the Majestic Bus Stand in Bangalore at 10 PM. We will be staying in tents at the field station. There is a common dining area and the bathrooms and toilets are permanent structures with hot and cold running water.

We will return early in the morning (usually around 5 AM) on the 6th of December. 



For further details or to register, please get in touch with Conan Dumenil. 9449010673/ conan@gerrymartin.in.

October 19, 2010

Island Ecology Workshop 22/27 Nov 2010

 
Andaman and Nicobar Islands!

The Andaman Islands are an almost fabled archipelago with clichéd sun-kissed beaches, blue waters and incredible coral reefs. However, there is a lot more that is spectacular on these islands! There are mangrove forests, intertidal zones and rainforests as well and all these habitats are dependent on each other, as are the flora and fauna that live within them.

We will explore four separate habitats, better understanding the dynamics at play within them and how they affect each other. Along the way, we will build skills in surveying techniques, canopy access, snorkeling and scuba diving.

We’ll be staying at the premier conservation and research body on the islands- The Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team’s field station and get involved with their experiences, work and endeavors. The field station is located with mangrove forests and inter-tidal zones adjoining it and the five-acre campus is a well-preserved rainforest!

The workshop will encompass a lot of learning skills, experiencing new ecosystems and getting numerous photo opportunities. We’ll see many species that are unique to the islands and some that are adapted specifically to life in island habitats.


One day will be dedicated to snorkeling and another will be spent scuba diving to better experience the coral reefs and also build skills.



ACTIVITIES:

  • Understanding Island Ecologies
  • Mangrove walks- Searching for specialized animals
  • Intertidal Zone- Understanding this unique niche
  • Visits to the reef
  • Looking for crocodiles
  • Herpetofaunal surveys
  • Photography sessions
  • Ecology presentations
  • Canopy access
  • Snorkeling for marine life
  • Scuba Diving
  • Loads of hands on experience
  • Night surveys



Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team (ANET)
The Andaman and Nicobar islands are a chain of some 300 little known archipelagic islands situated on the eastern rim of the Bay of Bengal. Closely guarded by the Indian Government, they remain a pristine tropical island paradise, complete with stunning coral reefs, crystal blue waters and unspoiled equatorial rainforest. Most extraordinary, many of the islands are a bastion for some of the last remaining aboriginal tribes on earth that continue to shun all contact with the outside world. The Andamanese, as these tribes are collectively known as, inhabit a significant percentage of the islands in fully protected areas that remain completely off limits to the general public.

Shortly after setting up the Croc Bank in the 1970s, the Whitakers realize there were needs for basic herpetological and other ecological work in the then much neglected islands. Over the next several years Rom, together with Satish Bhaskar and Alok Mallick, set about crafting a strategy to effectively address these issues. The Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team (ANET) was conceived in 1989 and shortly thereafter five acres of land was purchase and a base station constructed in Wandoor, on the southern tip of South Andaman island.
ANET has since carried out extensive work on marine turtles, herpetofaunal biogeography and a host of other biological studies. In addition, ANET has been actively involved in the broader ecological and social spheres including work on natural resource utilization, socioeconomics and the management of protected areas.

As one of the most capable NGOs in the region, ANET  played a pivotal humanitarian and disaster relief role in the Nicobar Islands after the infamous 2004 tsunami devastated the region. Today, although still very active in the reptile arena (with a recently described genus of Agamid named at the base to prove it!) ANET has a very broad curriculum of environmental development work, including marine and terrestrial components. ANET is the only environmental research base in the islands and remains one of the Croc Banks most exotic and luxurious projects – our very own Treasure Island!


Program Dates- 22nd to 27th November, 2010.


For further details or to register please get in touch with Conan on 9449010673 (conan@gerrymartin.in)

Worse than pollution?!

On a dark night last week a group of animal rights activists in Donegal made their own special contribution to the International Year of Biodiversity. They cut their way into a fur farm and released 5,000 mink . This, within their circles, was considered a clever thing to do. A spokesperson for the Alliance for Animal Rights said: "I commend whoever risked their freedom to do this." The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade announced that "we fully support what has happened".

Had these people tipped a tanker load of bleach into the headwaters of the river Finn, they would have done less damage. The effects would be horrible for a while, but the ecosystem could then begin to recover. The mink, by contrast, will remain at large for years, perhaps millennia. Like many introduced species, American mink can slash their way through the ecosystem, as they have no native predators, and their prey species haven't evolved to avoid them. Is there anything the animal lovers in Donegal could have done that would have harmed more animals?

But there's a second question raised by this act of preternatural imbecility: what were the mink doing there anyway? In other respects the Irish Republic appears to be a civilised country, in this case it looks barbaric. While the United Kingdom banned fur-farming in 2000, Irish governments have resisted prohibition, to protect a tiny but wildly destructive industry. The republic's five remaining fur farms are the sole source of continuing releases of mink, either through raids or accidents. They are also places of astonishing cruelty, in which intelligent carnivores are confined to cages the size of a few shoeboxes. The Irish government is considering phasing out fur farming in 2012. Until then, its citizens will continue to pay more to eradicate mink than they make from breeding them.

But Ireland is a small player. Two-thirds of the world's mink farming and 70% of its fox farming takes place in other EU countries. Denmark alone produces 40% of the global supply of mink pelts. Feral American mink on the continent are even more damaging than they are here, as they drive out the endangered European mink . The EU's 6,000 fur farms are an affront to the values it proclaims.

This month governments meet at Nagoya, in Japan, to review the Convention on Biological Diversity . It has, so far, been a dismal failure. Perhaps the starkest botch has been their inability or unwillingness to control the spread of invasive species. The stories I am about to tell read like a gothic novel.

Consider, for example, the walking catfish , which is now colonising China, Thailand and the US, after escaping from fish farms and ornamental ponds. It can move across land at night, reaching water no other fish species has colonised. It slips into fish farms and quietly works through the stock. It can burrow into the mud when times are hard and lie without food for months, before exploding back into the ecosystem when conditions improve. It eats almost anything that moves.

Its terrestrial equivalent is the cane toad, widely introduced in the tropics to control crop pests. It's omnivorous and just about indestructible: one specimen was seen happily consuming a lit cigarette butt. Nothing which tries to eat it survives: it's as dangerous to predators as it is to prey. Unlike other amphibians, it can breed in salty water: it's as if it had waddled out of the pages of Karel Capek's novel War With the Newts .

The world's most important seabird colony – Gough Island in the South Atlantic – is now being threatened by an unlikely predator: the common house mouse. After escaping from whaling boats 150 years ago, it quickly evolved to triple in size, and switched from herbivory to eating flesh. The seabirds there have no defences against predation, so the mouse simply walks into their nests and starts eating the chicks alive . Among their prey are albatross fledglings, which weigh some 300 times as much as the mice. A biologist who has witnessed this carnage observed that "it is like a tabby cat attacking a hippopotamus".

On Christmas Island the yellow crazy ant does something similar: it eats alive any animal it finds in its path. It is also wiping out the rainforest, by farming the scale insects that feed on tree-sap. Similar horror stories are unfolding almost everywhere. The species we introduce, unlike the pollution we produce, don't stop when we do. A single careless act (think of the introduction of the rabbit or the lantana plant to Australia) can transform the ecology of a continent.

According to a government report, invasive species cost Britain several billion pounds a year. The global damage they cause, it says, amounts to almost 5% of the world economy. A single introduced species – a speargrass called Imperata – keeps 2 million square kilometres in the tropics out of agricultural production, equivalent to the arable area of the US, while ensuring that the native ecosystem can't regenerate.

In most cases there's a brief period in which an invasive species can be stopped. So you would expect governments to mobilise as soon as the threat appears. But in many parts of the world the policy appears to consist of staring dumbly at the problem while something can be done, then panicking when it's too late. When museum weed (Caulerpa taxifolia) escaped into the Mediterranean from the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco, the authorities responded by bickering over whose fault it was. In 1984, when the invasion was first documented, the weed occupied one square metre of seabed. It could have been eradicated in half an hour. Now it has spread across 13,000 hectares and appears to be uncontrollable.

Australia, the continent that has been hit hardest by introductions, still seems incapable of regulating the trade in dangerous species. As the Guardian's new Biodiversity100 campaign shows, 90 potentially invasive plant species are being sold in nurseries there, while 210 species of aquarium fish can be imported without a licence. The UK has some good policies at home. It spent £10,000 in 2006, for example, on a strategy (successful so far) for excluding the South American water primrose, whose control now costs France several million euros a year. But in its overseas territories – of which Gough island is one – it reacts slowly, if at all.

The mink, the walking catfish, the cane toad, the mutant house mouse, these are potent symbols of humanity's strangely lopsided power. We can sow chaos with a keystroke in an investment bank, one signal to a Predator drone, a seed dislodged from the sole of a boot, a fish tank emptied into a canal. But when asked to repair the mess we've made, we proclaim our impotence. Our challenge this century is to meet our capacity for harm with an equal power for good. We are not, so far, doing very well.

• A fully referenced version of this article can be found at www.monbiot.com

September 28, 2010

Let's stay connected!

The Gerry Martin Project is setting up its communications database.


If you would like to receive updates about all that is happening as well as be notified about up coming workshops and programs, please fill in the form at 

www.gerrymartin.in/form





September 20, 2010

Herpetology Workshop

Hunsur; October 2010

Over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of people who are interested in reptiles and their conservation. This heartening change has also manifested in numerous snake rescue organizations in almost every town in the country. Another manifestation is in the information at the fingertips of children these days. They are able to name species from all over the world, know about their natural history and even their venom.
However, in all this change, there is very little context. This has given rise to a lot of damage - whether it is from our practices, or people getting hurt through less than ideal protocols and also, a lot of snakes getting injured or killed.

The Gerry Martin Project will be running a herpetology workshop at the end of October this year.

This workshop is aimed at creating a strong context to reptile conservation. We will not focus solely on snakes, but, work towards creating a larger understanding of reptile biology and conservation.

The workshop will start on the 30th of October at 10:30 AM and end on the 1st of November at around 4 PM. The location is a fruit orchard on the banks of a large lake in Rathnapuri, near the town of Hunsur on the Mysore - Coorg highway.
We will be staying in tents and coconut shacks, sleeping on mattresses.

The workshop module will include:
· Learning taxonomy of snakes, lizards and turtles/ tortoises
· Understanding the micro-habitat usage of reptiles
· Learning game tracking
· Snakebite first aid and treatment protocols
· Safety Protocol
· Build your own equipment
· Conservation issues
· Outdoor safety



Workshop Dates: 30/10/10 – 1/11/10
Venue: Ratnapuri, Hunsur
For further details and to register, please get in touch with Conan Dumenil on 9449010673 or conan@gerrymartin.in.

Urban Wilderness!

A naturalist’s beginning

With the explosion of media coverage of various wild subjects from whales and walruses to herpetologists and adventurers, children today are more exposed to what lies ‘out there’ than ever before. There is an ever-increasing interest in the animal world and adventure in the outdoors. However, much of this remains fantasy and children aren’t able to easily access wild areas or expanses of wilderness to explore.
Further, possibly because of the schedules they need to keep, children have not built the skills to safely and optimally explore and experience the outdoors.



The Gerry martin Project is trying to make these skills and contexts more accessible. Towards this, we are running a weekend workshop in October that will help children between the ages of 10 and 16 learn new skills, experience urban wildlife and develop ways in which they can start the process of conservation at home.

This workshop will be conducted at the Martin Farm on Sarjapur Road. In addition to all the naturalistic learning and skill building, children will also learn how to camp in the wilderness, cook on outdoor wood fires, follow safe protocol in the wild and generally develop a personal connect with the outdoors.
Gerry Martin will head the program along with two or three other naturalists. There will be at least one female instructor along and all faculty will have gone through a thorough orientation before the program.

Workshop Date: October 23rd and 24th.
Age Bracket: 10 to 16 years.

Activities will include:
• Exploring habitats used by various urban wildlife
• Understanding the role of the lesser known animals in the ecosystem
• Things to do to bring Nature home
• Canopy access systems
• Ornithological basics
• Herpetological basics
• Outdoor skills
• Creating aquatic ecosystems
• Night surveys
• Fun and games!






For more details or to register, write to conan@gerrymartin.in
or call Gerry on 9845779666 or Conan on 9449010673.

August 26, 2010

The Island Ecology Workshop!



The Andaman Islands are truly one of the last spots on earth that will undoubtedly inspire you with each visit. This archipelago provides anthropological, socio-economic, historic, culinary, adventure and ecological experiences that are amongst the best in the world.

 With the diversity in habitat surrounding it, the Andaman and Nicobar Research Team (ANET) field station is ideally placed to be a real live laboratory for learning about island ecosystems. You can travel from rainforest, through mangrove and intertidal zones and reach coral reefs on a transect that is barely half a kilometer long!
This October, when the monsoons begin to ease off, The Gerry Martin Project (TGMP) and ANET will be running a six day workshop that will take participants through a structured and focused experience of the islands.
Through the workshop, there will be a combination of experiences, presentations, exploration and skill building. We will visit and explore various habitat types from rainforest and coastal habitats to inter-tidal zones and coral reefs.We will look at the various habitats from numerous perspectives. There will be the single species approach like dugongs and coral reefs or shorelines and sea turtles. Then there are ecosystem and ecological perspectives of how numerous organisms work simultaneously with their environment to survive and succeed, consequently affecting the environment and often the others in the system.
We will also be using the various habitats to help us build skills. We will learn the basics of canopy access using rope systems. There will be the basics of snorkeling, night surveys, bio-statistical sampling and more.
At the base, we will stay in quaint cottages that are erected on stilts, with bamboo thatch roofs. The huts are also well visited by much of the small local wildlife. The food is all very authentic and truly mouth watering!
   ACTIVITIES:                 

· Understanding Island Ecologies
·Mangrove walks- Searching for specialized animals
· Intertidal Zone- Understanding this unique niche
· Visits to the reef
· Looking for crocodiles
· Herpetofaunal surveys
· Photography sessions
· Ecology presentations
· Canopy access (weather dependent)
· Snorkeling for marine life
· Loads of hands on experience
· Night surveys



 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team (ANET)

The Andaman and Nicobar islands are a chain of some 300 little known archipelagic islands situated on the eastern rim of the Bay of Bengal. Closely guarded by the Indian Government, they remain a pristine tropical island paradise, complete with stunning coral reefs, crystal blue waters and unspoiled equatorial rainforest. Most extraordinary, many of the islands are a bastion for some of the last remaining aboriginal tribes on earth that
continue to shun all contact with the outside world. The Andamanese, as these tribes are collectively known as, inhabit a significant percentage of the islands in fully protected areas that remain completely off limits to the general public.
Shortly after setting up the Croc Bank in the 1970s, the Whitakers realize there were needs for basic herpetological and other ecological work in the then much neglected islands. Over the next several years Rom, together with Satish Bhaskar and Alok Mallick, set about crafting a strategy to effectively address these issues. The Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team (ANET) was conceived in 1989 and shortly thereafter five acres of land was purchase and a base station constructed in Wandoor, on the southern tip of South Andaman island.
ANET has since carried out extensive work on marine turtles, herpetofaunal biogeography and a host of other biological studies. In addition, ANET has been actively involved in the broader ecological and social spheres including work on natural resource utilization, socioeconomics and the management of protected areas. As one of the most capable NGOs in the region, ANET played a pivotal humanitarian and disaster relief role in the Nicobar Islands after the infamous 2004 tsunami devastated the region. Today, although still very active in the reptile arena (with a recently described genus of Agamid named at the base to prove it!) 

ANET has a very broad curriculum of environmental development work, including marine and terrestrial components. ANET is the only environmental research base in the islands and remains one of the Croc Banks most exotic and luxurious projects – our very own Treasure Island!

DATES: 11th - 16th October 2010
GET IN TOUCH! gerry@gerrymartin.in



August 15, 2010

Arunachal Reptile Survey - September, 2010

Arunachal Pradesh, India’s Northeastern-most state is like a different world. We leave the plains in Assam and as soon as we cross the border, enter a mountainous realm with steep slopes and increasingly lofty peaks. The people, culture, terrain and wildlife are all unique and fascinating.



 ...Unfortunately, because of its remoteness, security issues and the difficulty in obtaining permits for travelers, the state has been relatively ignored when it comes to research or even eco-tourism. It hosts some very interesting fauna and flora. The red panda, binturong, clouded leopard, golden cat, takin are just a few examples. Its diversity in reptile and amphibian life is no exception. Species diversity here is quite jaw dropping and many of them are found only in this small region in India.

Herp Guru - ROM WHITAKER

This is precisely the reason why Rom Whitaker is heading there. He needs to conduct a survey of the venomous species there to contribute to his national snakebite survey. He will be assisted by Gerry Martin and a small team of naturalists, herpetologists and even enthusiasts. The first location for this survey is Pakke Tiger Reserve about seven hours from Guwahati.

Pakke is primarily a lowland forest between 600 and 1000 meters ASL. There are, however, some reaches of the park that extend up to 2000 meters ASL. We’ll be focusing our searches in the lowland area. We reach the ‘West Bank’ where the park begins and then (depending on the level of the river) have to walk around 15 kilometers to the Khari Camp. We will set up base here, staying in tents and cooking our own food.



We will explore the area around Khari and then also radiate to other camps on day or overnight visits. We will have two friendly elephants to help us along most of the way!


Hands-on with GERRY MARTIN
We will get a chance to go ‘herping’ with India’s premier reptile conservationist, learn from his experience and also build context from the general dialogue, which is inevitable when in Rom’s company. Gerry will guide us on safe protocol while working in the field. Most of all, we will have contributed to some very valuable and long overdue work that will, hopefully, improve our understanding of snakebite in the country and enable us to treat it more efficiently.

Program Dates: 20th to 29th September; ex-Guwahati
For further details, contact Gerry on gerry@gerrymartin.in

__

July 28, 2010

In the heart of the Monsoon!

 Experience the life giving rains.

At the end of August, the rains in Agumbe are still punishingly heavy. However, there is a good chance that there’ll be a little sun in between. It is an interesting time. Most of the reptiles and amphibians have been taking shelter through the main leg of the monsoon and some of them begin to move again with the few breaks in the rain.
Gerry Martin will be heading up to the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station to experience this transition. We will be staying at the research station, in tents. We will explore the surrounding streams and forests and understand how various animals adapt to this wet clime. We will also learn about taxonomy of reptiles, ecological research methods, outdoor skills and guidelines for safe functioning in the wilderness.
The workshop will be a combination of activities and presentations. Some of the aspects we will address are: • Rainforest ecology
• Canopy Access
•Stream Ecology
•Snake Taxonomy
• Snakebite treatment and first aid
•Night survey techniques


We will be staying in tents set on concrete platforms with a tarpaulin shelter over them. The bathrooms are permanent structures with hot and cold running water.
 Program Dates: 27th to 29th August, 2010. (The group leaves Bangalore by overnight bus to Agumbe on the 26th and returns early in the morning of the 30th.)
If you are interested in joining or need more details, please get in touch with Gerry on gerry@gerrymartin.in



Photo Credit : Benjamin Tapley (www.frogshot.co.uk)

June 20, 2010

Snake-bite management >> India

Snake-bite is one of the more serious health issues, especially in India where deaths due to snake-bites (I am referring to venomous snake-bites) are estimated well over 50,000 every year. Even though actual envenomation takes place less often, it is best to stay prepared for an emergency. This is not only for people residing in remote rural areas (who are the majority victims) but also for urban city residents. There has been a transformation of habitat for snakes from forest systems >> farmlands >> villages >> towns >> cities, but owing to their extraordinaire adaptive nature, they have managed to survive everywhere. No doubt there are only a few common species that are found in and around human habitation, unfortunately the list includes the BIG 4!


Spectacled Cobra Naja naja (Elapidae)


Common Krait Bungarus caeruleus (Elapidae)


















Russell's Viper Daboia russelii (Viperidae)


Saw-scaled Viper Echis carinatus (Viperidae)

These four species make up the BIG 4 medicinally important snakes of India. They are lethally venomous and occur commonly throughout most of India. Of course there are other species that too demand utmost respect like other cobras Naja spp., kraits Bungarus spp., coral snakes Calliophis spp. and Sinomicrurus sp., King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah, sea snakes (Hydrophiidae) and some pit vipers (Viperidae). Bites are however rare from these mostly because of their distribution and biological pattern.

Most of the snake-bites take place unknowingly when the snake is accidentally threatened; while in other cases, well some people just ask for it!

Whatever be the reason, it is not unlikely that you might end up in a situation where a simple strategy and presence of mind can prove to be a limb-saver, in some cases, a life-saver.

The snake-bite management strategy is presented below; and presence of mind, well, I just hope you have it!

Suck out venom
Make incision to bleed out venom
Go to traditional healers or anything similar
Try out home remedies
Apply tourniquets
Apply ice
Clean out the bitten part
Try and catch/kill the snake

All of the above activities either do not work or are extremely dangerous to perform. In fact, they will do more harm than good.

Following is what you can and should do:
> Make sure the victim and others are at a safe distance away from the snake
> Try to memorize the snake’s appearance (from a safe distance!)
> Remove watches / rings / other jewelry from the bitten part
> Keep the victim calm and reassured
> Do not panic
> Try to immobilize the bitten limb; do not make the victim run and avoid making him/her walk if possible
> Do not waste any time and arrange for a quick transport to the nearest hospital treating snakebite cases, as safely and comfortably as possible
> If possible, note the time of bite and progression of symptoms
> Describe the snake and the whole incident to the attending doctor

*Anti Snake Venom Serum is the only cure*

If your neighborhood has a high density of snakes, it is advisable to prepare a snake-bite protocol (plan of action in case of an emergency) best suited to you. This can simply be important contact people and numbers who should be informed first, name / address of nearest hospital treating snake-bites, best mode of transport and related details, name / contact no. of doctor, etc. Make sure all family members understand their role in an emergency.

As always, prevention is better than cure
> Do not walk around with bare feet outside your house.
> Take great care when clearing vegetation, raking dry leaves in your garden.
> Supervise kids in the outdoors, especially in a green neighborhood.
> Use torch/flashlight at night and keep wearing those shoes. Check shoes before wearing them.
> Watch your step and see before you sit!
> Keep your backyard free of junk and make sure your solid waste is managed properly.
> If you see a snake, do nothing. Let it go. Do not try to pick it up or kill it.
> If a snake has entered your premises, call professional snake rescuers.

Snake-bite is painful, expensive and extremely risky. Please do not get bit.

Stay safe!


June 11, 2010

A Workshop on Herpetology

As we continue to plunder natural resources that are not entirely ours and build human infrastructure where it least belongs, we ingloriously destroy pristine animal habitats around us. A sharp increase in human-

animal conflict is testimonial to the fact that we are successfully snatching away what rightfully belongs to the other species that share our planet.

Rural India, fortunately, is still a thing of beauty. Expansive farmlands and the relative abundance of trees make it an intuitive habitat for some very interesting and enigmatic animals.

The Gerry Martin Project will conduct a naturalist workshop this July that focuses on giving its participants a contextual insight into conservation. The activities at this camp highlight the importance of maintaining a more holistic perspective to the problem of conserving what’s left.

We will camp at a fruit orchard on the banks of a beautiful lake in Rathnapuri Village, Hunsur and learn about reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects that play a vital yet often understated role in keeping Nature’s mojo intact.

Here’s a great opportunity to learn and understand animal behavior, develop field skills and explore different habitats.


Gerry Martin and his team will conduct this workshop. We will also have an expert in snake tracking with wisdom passed down through generations of experience.





Activities :

  • Herpetological exploration and Field techniques
  • Game Tracking
  • Exploring aquatic ecosystems
  • Understanding taxonomy
  • Game drive
  • Night Surveys

Dates : 23rd July – 25th July 2010.

For further information or to register for this workshop, please get in touch with Chaitanya on 9886285988 (chaitanya@gerrymartin.in)

June 10, 2010

Reptile Biology Workshop

Through the ages , different civilizations around the world have used Crocodiles as mythological fodder. Killing machines that destroy anything they can lay their jaws on. Primeval animals regarded to have little intelligence and a next to nothing ability to co-exist with humans.

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) and Centre for herpetology is redefining the way we perceive these beautiful animals that have changed little since the time of the dinosaurs. So, while at the Croc Bank, if you hear someone yelling out ‘Ally’ or ‘Pintoo’, be assured they are not the names of friendly neighborhood mutts!

MCBT was founded in 1976 initially for the conservation of the 3 native croc species in India, Muggers or freshwater crocodiles, salt water crocodiles and the Gharial. Today, through their successful captive breeding initiative MCBT is playing a key role in the conservation of endangered reptiles.

The Gerry Martin Project will conduct a 3 day workshop at MCBT, Ch

ennai this July for keen reptile enthusiasts. The program will cover the different aspects of reptile husbandry and reptile biology. P

articipants will get a unique chance to live the life of a reptile keeper by helping out with some of their day to day husbandry work with Crocs and Turtles.

Herpetologists and experts in reptile husbandry at the Croc Bank will run this program through a set of carefully designed activities. Partic

ipants will also get to meet and interact with the Irula people and walk with them in search of any of the big-4 medically important species of snakes in India.

Activities :

  • Introduction to various reptile species at the Croc Bank
  • Assisting in research and husbandry work, currently carried out at MCBT
  • Understanding reptile taxonomy
  • Night Safari
  • Morning walk with the Irulas in search of snakes
  • Birding at the Croc Bank
  • Well…theres the Bay of Bengal in the backyard. A quick dip is always on the cards.
  • Safe protocol while working with crocodiles

Dates : 16th July – 18th July 2010.

For further information or to register for this workshop, please get in touch with Chaitanya on 9886285988 (chaitanya@gerrymartin.in)

May 18, 2010

Here's more ‘ostrich in the sand’ type conservation!





India to stop tiger tourism in attempt to prevent species extinction.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article7109878.ece

For centuries, the prospect of spotting a Bengal tiger in the wild has been a highlight of visiting India. Now the Government is to end the spectacle amid fears that the species is being “loved to death” by visitors desperate for a glimpse of tigers in the wild.
Tourism is to be phased out in the core regions of the 37 tiger reserves, Rajesh Gopal, the head of India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority, told The Times. “We should not forget that tiger reserves are primarily for conserving the endangered tiger and tourism is just a secondary outcome,” he said. “Our reserves are small and prone to disturbance caused by tourism. They cannot compete with large African savanna parks, which can stand large number of tourists.”
The Environment Ministry has ordered India’s states to wind down tourism in such areas and to tightly regulate it in surrounding regions where the chance of seeing a tiger is far smaller, Dr Gopal said. People who live in core tiger habitats will be moved.
A count in February 2008 showed that India’s tiger population had plummeted to 1,411 animals, down from 3,642 in 2002. The latest figure is disputed, however. Some experts say that there may be only 800 wild tigers in India today and that the species could be rendered extinct in five years.
According to government officials, the species has already disappeared or is in danger of becoming extinct in 16 reserves. A century ago, when tiger hunting was a favourite pastime of Raj-era dignitaries, there were an estimated 40,000 in India.
The decline is largely due to poaching, but habitat damage caused by tourism has also reached critical levels, experts say. “Seeing a wild tiger has become a kind of status symbol,” M. K. Ranjitsinh, chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India, said. “People do not realise the harm to the broader ecosystem. They are loving the tiger to death.”
Tourists, whether in vehicles or on top of elephants, destroy the high grassland in which the big cats hunt, and drive away their prey, Mr Ranjitsinh said. In many parks, lodges have been built in core reserve areas while hotels block the corridors that tigers use to travel from one territory or reserve to another.
Some reserves have been criticised for using radio telemetry systems for tracking tigers for the benefit of tourists. Once found by a mahout — an elephant driver — brandishing an antenna, a single tiger can be hounded by dozens of tourist vehicles.
“The parks’ priorities have become warped,” Mr Ranjitsinh said. The bamboo forests and grassland in Kanha provided inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
Experts agree that only radical action can bring back the tiger from the brink of extinction, but add that tourism is only one of several dangers. Poaching to feed Chinese demand for traditional tonics has taken a heavy toll. So too has competition for space between tigers and India’s booming human population.
Jairam Ramesh, the Environment Minister, said this month that unregulated tourism was as much a threat to tiger population as poaching. He said that he would clamp down on “mushrooming luxury resorts around tiger reserves”. He singled out Corbett National Park — named after the British hunter-turned-conservationist Jim Corbett and a favourite destination with Western tourists — as a habitat that had degenerated because of tourism. At least four tigers have died there in the past two months, according to reports.
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On the other hand, let's look at it this way:
- Julian Matthews
This is the kind of NTCA’s bizarre thinking on trying to save Tigers.
For six years I (and many others) have been saying to NTCA and Forest Department that where tourism exists today is where the Tigers are still surviving. Corbett has the highest numbers of Tigers left in India and 65000 visitors - a fact not mentioned in the article above. Bandavgarh has 5 breeding females and 14 cubs in the Tala Tourism zone today and 45000 visits- unbelievably high densities - given that tourism is meant to be ‘killing’ tigers and destroying habitat.
The reality in India today is where there is NO tourism = NO Tigers (or very few). The 15 tiger reserves that have no tigers - also have historically had no or very small levels of tourism!!
The reasons why tourism saves tigers is - More resources are channelled here, more accountability of Forest staff, more alternative livelihoods than marginal farming, poaching, grazing and wood chopping, (they stay away from tourist zones) and millions more people who care about nature - having visited the places. Also millions of dollars extra in Forest department’s coffers to put into conservation measures/staff etc.
Habitat that has no tourism is now in a desperately poor state of health, overgrazed, burnt often, no prey left, no understory left, and being chopped down! Simply it is ‘unloved’. You don’t have to be a wildlife research scientist to see this!
This is not to justify what lots of tourism is doing today (outside of park boundaries of course) - a lot of it is poor and unsustainable - and I have been advocating all this time for better rules, regulations and ENFORCEMENT. ONLY the government can effect this and lay down a template for using tourism more effectively – so let’s not blame the easy target for a complete vacuum of vision from the government here.

May 15, 2010

Island Ecology - Andaman and Nicobar Islands!

This June, when the monsoons have just set in, we will head to a place that most people associate sunshine with. Sandy beaches, great snorkeling, star-studded skies, etc. We’ve chosen to go there to see a completely different side to The Andaman Islands. We’re looking at the animals that come out when the rains begin and enjoy the cooler clime and wetter environment.

This Island Ecology Experience is going to focus on the most alive season for herpetofauna! We will explore four separate habitats, better understanding the dynamics at play within them and how they affect each other.

We’ll be staying at the premier conservation and research body on the islands- The Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team’s base. We’ll get involved with their experiences, work and endeavors’. We will explore the adjoining mangroves, inter-tidal zone and rainforests, examining the ecological dynamics that are at play in each of these unique but interdependent habitats.

The workshop will encompass a lot of learning skills, experiencing new ecosystems and getting numerous photo opportunities. We’ll see many species that are unique to the islands and some that are adapted specifically to life in island habitats.

There is also a good chance that we will get to go snorkeling. However, given that this is the monsoon season, this will depend on the weather. Fingers crossed. We will spend some time by the reefs but what remains to be seen is how much we’ll see!

ACTIVITIES:

· Understanding Island Ecologies

· Mangrove walks- Searching for specialized animals

· Intertidal Zone- Understanding this unique niche

· Visits to the reef

· Looking for crocodiles

· Herpetofaunal surveys

· Photography sessions

· Ecology presentations

· Canopy access (weather dependent)

· Snorkeling for marine life

· Loads of hands on experience

· Night surveys

Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team (ANET)
The Andaman and Nicobar islands are a chain of some 300 little known archipelagic islands situated on the eastern rim of the Bay of Bengal. Closely guarded by the Indian Government, they remain a pristine tropical island paradise, complete with stunning coral reefs, crystal blue waters and unspoiled equatorial rainforest. Most extraordinary, many of the islands are a bastion for some of the last remaining aboriginal tribes on earth that continue to shun all contact with the outside world. The Andamanese, as these tribes are collectively known as, inhabit a significant percentage of the islands in fully protected areas that remain completely off limits to the general public.Shortly after setting up the Croc Bank in the 1970s, the Whitakers realize there were needs for basic herpetological and other ecological work in the then much neglected islands. Over the next several years Rom, together with Satish Bhaskar and Alok Mallick, set about crafting a strategy to effectively address these issues. The Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team (ANET) was conceived in 1989 and shortly thereafter five acres of land was purchase and a base station constructed in Wandoor, on the southern tip of South Andaman island.
ANET has since carried out extensive work on marine turtles, herpetofaunal biogeography and a host of other biological studies. In addition, ANET has been actively involved in the broader ecological and social spheres including work on natural resource utilization, socioeconomics and the management of protected areas. As one of the most capable NGOs in the region, ANET played a pivotal humanitarian and disaster relief role in the
Nicobar Islands after the infamous 2004 tsunami devastated the region. Today, although still very active in the reptile arena (with a recently described genus of Agamid named at the base to prove it!) ANET has a very broad curriculum of environmental development work, including marine and terrestrial components. ANET is the only environmental research base in the islands and remains one of the Croc Banks most exotic and luxurious projects – our very own Treasure Island!

For further details or to register please get in touch with Chaitanya on 9886285988 (chaitanya@gerrymartin.in)