Philip Dev is now 21 months old now and is the elephantine equivalent of a toddler. As he grows older he is losing his signature Mohawk hairdo but his antics still have his caregivers in splits. His excitement at the sight of his milk bottle is as great as ever and he will swing his trunk, wave his head to and fro and even push Rani and Nunai out of the way, just like an unruly child in the playground. There is no centre maintenance activity that the keepers can apply themselves to without an interested Philip jostling his way into the centre of action and sticking his trunk in.
But, the elephant calf with the most personality is still Nunai – the youngest one of the trio. She goes almost hysterical with joy at the sight of water, be it in a pond, a paddling pool, the drinking trough, a bucket, or even a trickle out of faulty faucet! There was one incident recently that the vet told us about where the trio had reached the indoor nursery before the keeper, but since the door was latched they could go into their rooms. Nunai found the coiled hosepipe that is used to wash down the nursery every day. She followed the coils to the tap and somehow managed to turn it on. When the keeper arrived, she was happily waving the hose in the air with water gushing out over all three of them, and Rani and Philip looked distinctly unhappy at the unexpected drenching.
Philip now has 21 liters of milk in 6 feeds in 24 hours – 4 feeds during the day and 2 at night, each feed consisting of 3.5 liters of reconstituted formula milk powder. At sundown, Philip, Rani and Nunai are brought into the indoor nursery as it is too cold for them to be out in the open. They have small rooms where each one is separately housed but can reach out with their trunks and touch each other over the partitioning walls. The rooms have fresh grass and water placed so the calves can nibble through the evening and night. Philip and Nunai will lie down on their side and sleep, but Rani is taller and prefers to sleep standing up leaning against a wall or a sloping surface. In the wild, adult elephants sleep on their feet while the young ones will lie down in the middle of the herd where they are secure.
Philip recently developed a toenail infection that was painful for him, so the vets performed a minor procedure where he was anesthetized and his toenails cleaned and trimmed. His feet were bandaged for a few days after that. He is now perfectly well and the infected toenails have healed. Otherwise, the calves are doing well now and Philip is steadily putting on the weight he had lost during his illness. The fibrotic growth at his left front knee is disturbingly prominent even if harmless, and the vets are keeping a close eye on it and will take action if it starts to interfere with his gait.
Philip, Rani and Nunai have another 2 years or so at CWRC before they are moved to Manas National Park for the second phase. Seeing these young ones at play in the security of CWRC, it is daunting to think of them as adult independent elephants in the wilds of Manas, but that is what we eventually hope to achieve with your support – give these young ones the dignity and freedom of a wild elephant.
The south Indian states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been reported as major sources of ivory and large cat skins, which are sold in the international market. Widespread poaching and illegal trade threaten the long term survival of predators as well as prey species in this region. There are reports of local hunters using country-made guns and snares to poach animals, and trading animals body parts through established gangs with a network of agents and carriers. Since 2009, WTI has assisted the state Forest Departments in cracking down on seizures of body parts and the arrest of suspects for legal action.
Anti snare patrolling is an effective method of combing the fringe area of the forest where human interference is high. A snare is simply a wire cable stretched between two trees or stones, which tightens around the neck or the limb of wild animals leaving them to die.
In south India, several small teams of two or three people combed the entire boundary of Bandipur National park and Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, covering some 11 ranges. All snares and evidences of snares were geotagged with their location before handing over to the forest department. Anti-snare walks conducted with frontline staff in south India resulted in the removal of more than 600 snares from various locations in 2012.
Encouraged by these results, WTI proposes to increase the frequency of foot patrols and actively equip and train frontline forest staff to combat wildlife criminals in our mission to protect tigers and other wild animals and their habitats.
Wildlife Trust of India through a Rapid Action Project provided 85 pairs of high altitude boots in November to the patrolling staff of Dachigam National Park to equip them for the winter and snow.
Dachigam National park is located 22 km from Srinagar in the northernmost Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). Covering an area of 141 sq. km, the park had initially been protected since 1910 by the royal family of J&K and later under Indian law by declaration as a national park in 1981. Dachigam literally means ‘ten villages’ in memory of the ten villages that were relocated for its formation.
Located among the high mountains of the mighty western Himalayas, the variation in altitude is vast, ranging from 5500 ft to 14000 ft above mean sea level. The terrain ranges from gently sloping grasslands to sharp rocky outcrops and cliffs. The park has alpine pastures, meadows, waterfalls and scrub vegetation with deep gullies running down the mountain face and most of the grasslands and meadows, except during winters, are covered with brightly coloured flowers. The park is famous for being home to the endangered Hangul (Cervus elaphus hanglu) - the Kashmir stag that is the state animal of which only about 200 remain within Dachigam National Park, as per a survey undertaken by WTI and the J&K Department of Wildlife.
This beautiful park is protected by a dedicated band of forest staff who patrol the park on foot every day in every season keeping a watch for poachers, illegal graziers, and forest fires. Grasslands being the most vulnerable to forest fires, fire lines of more than 10 km in length and 15 feet in width are being prepared and will be maintained throughout the year.
The patrolling party, constituting the Block Officers, Beat Guards and seasonal manual labour, plays a key role in the early detection of these fires and most of the time is able to check them with minimum damage to wildlife. The tough mountain boots provided were very well received by the staff who said that it would greatly ease the discomfort associated with hiking across rocky mountain terrain.