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In a global first, World Bank funds a zoo in India

PTI | Jan 17, 2016, 02.33 PM IST

The World Bank has a portfolio of about $26 billion for India where it partners in about 89 [url removed, login to view] World Bank has a portfolio of about $26 billion for India where it partners in about 89 projects.

NEW DELHI: The World Bank usually tames wild economies and helps countries stabilize their fluctuating finances, but in a global first, the banker for the world has gone to a zoo that too in India! This is a new addition in the portfolio of the bank as part of its ever-expanding work on urban regeneration.

A zoo is nothing but a bank of captive animals. In a novel initiative, the World Bank has embraced a zoo for its eco-development!

In Visakhapatnam, the global bank is extending an assistance of $20 million to help reconstruct the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park (IGZP), which got devastated during cyclone Hudhud. This is part of the $370 million Andhra Pradesh Disaster Recovery Project for which the bank is extending assistance of $250 million from 2015-2020.

The much-loved Vizag zoo is nestled in the picturesque Eastern Ghats. It sees an annual footfall of about 8 lakh people and was set up in 1972 and shot into fame because it had some aviaries designed by the legendary ornithologist Salim Ali, the 'bird man of India'.

Neha Vyas, senior environment specialist at the India country office of the World Bank who is actively involved in this eco-development project, asserts that this is "the very first time in the history of the World Bank that it is directly involved in a zoo".

The Vizag zoo situated on the northern limit of the Visakhapatnam town houses 170 different species of animals on its 250-hectare campus. Only a road separates the zoo from the sea and this became its undoing, when Hudhud struck the region it caused huge damage to the entire zoo.

According to a damages needs assessment report by the World Bank, almost 40 per cent of the trees of the complex were flattened and a larger number were damaged. Some 180 birds and animals escaped from their enclosures as the cages were badly damaged and 11 animals died due to the cyclone. Out of 67 enclosures about 57 suffered damages.

"Unfortunately for the zoo, the eye of the cyclone Hudhud passed right over it causing widespread devastation in the zoological park," says Vyas.

The enclosures for tiger, python and the white tiger were severely damaged. The offices including the veterinary hospital were also affected and the compound wall was breached in several places. The adjoining Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary was also damaged.

Cyclone Hudhud was classed in the "very severe" category and it crashed into Andhra Pradesh on October 12, 2014. Sixty-one people lost their lives in the natural calamity.

According to the Andhra Pradesh government, Hudhud affected about 9.2 million people in over 7,285 villages in 4 coastal districts of the state. The damage caused by the cyclone was due to the unprecedented wind velocity of over 200 km per hour followed by torrential rains that caused massive destruction in the districts of Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and East Godavari. According to The World Bank, the cyclone caused a damage equivalent of $2,155 million and over two lakh houses were affected.

At the zoological park where local support to retain it on its original location is widespread, the World Bank partnering with the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department and the Central Zoo Authority will help bring back the pristine glory of the zoo.

It will also help re-build the eco-tourism park at the Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary.

At the zoo, the effort will be to build in disaster resilience into the civil structures; re-establish lost nurseries to establish green shelter beds that act as windbreaks.

Deepak Singh, senior disaster management expert at the World Bank's India office, says, "The endeavour is to demonstrate how a disaster resilient zoo can be scientifically re-modelled", adding "the zoo plays an important part in the education, recreation and conservation and it fits in nicely in the concept of having a smart Visakhapatnam".

The World Bank has a portfolio of about $26 billion for India where it partners in about 89 projects. Disaster management and recovery are becoming a big part of the World Bank's activities in India where it is providing assistance of about $2.2 billion for 10 projects.

In a one-of-its-kind rolling audit on wheels to assess the impact of its efforts on the coastal projects, a 10-member multi-national team of the World Bank is currently visiting all 10 coastal states on a specially designed bus that will tour the Indian coast for a month.

Called 'Road to Resilience', the 10,000-km continuous road trip on this special bus by the officials of the World Bank will travel all along the Indian coast from West Bengal to Gujarat and will provide support and oversight for the 6 coastal projects.

The team is scheduled to visit the zoo later this week after having visited the Sunderbans and the cyclone prone areas of Odisha where the World Bank is helping set up over 300 multi-purpose cyclone relief shelters.

Vyas says at the Visakhapatnam zoo "effort is to ensure ecological restoration of an area that will be resilient and have a minimum footprint" for a large outdoor recreational area almost within the city limits. The World Bank is currently in talks with the Smithsonian Institution that runs the world famous National Zoo in Washington DC, USA to see if their expertise can be tapped to re-develop the Vizag zoo as a model 21st century 'ecological park'.

Top Comment

Just fantastic ! Good work world bank :-)Kautilllya Raj

The IGZP is already a breeding centre for the Indian Wild Dog or the Dhole and it is hoped the 'modern' version will house an even better breeding centre.

Restoration of the IGZP is a pet project of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who has vowed to make it even better than the Nehru Zoological Park at Hyderabad in Telangana, and the current effort is likely to offer a working blue print for setting up a state-of-the-art zoo at Guntur.

This unique one-of-its-kind push by the World Bank where it is providing assistance to an Indian zoo will add value to the 100 'Smart City' initiative being spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi where urban regeneration and open spaces are key elements.

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Kautilllya Raj

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Bharat - 3 days ago

Just fantastic ! Good work world bank :-)

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SA - 3 days ago

very good initiative..

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Arun Kumar

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Bangalore - 3 days ago

Pl just don't give, ask and check accounts.

Implement cost accounting firm for genuine transaction.

Tenders are most corrupt.

Quality and Quantity will be manuplated .

such funds are jackpot for contractors.

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The truth behind those photos of a 'mourning' kangaroo

Matt Payton | The Independent | Jan 15, 2016, 08.51 PM IST

Male Kangeroo holding the head of his dying mate (Photo courtesy: The Independent)Male Kangeroo holding the head of his dying mate (Photo courtesy: The Independent)

A series of photos showing a male kangaroo cradling his dying mate that went viral on social media have taken an unsettling turn.

Far from mourning for its lost companion, experts have now said the male was probably trying to lift the female upright so it could have sex with it.

Evan Switzer, 49, who took the photos in Queensland, Australia, said of them: "I saw the male pick up the female, he looked like he was just trying to get her up and see what was wrong with her.

"He would lift her up and she wouldn't stand she'd just fall to the ground, he'd nudge her, stand beside her... it was a pretty special thing, he was just mourning the loss of his mate."

However, the sexually aroused adult male was in fact likely guarding the dying female from other males in the area who might attempt to mate with it.

Dr Mark Eldridge, principal research scientist of the mammalogy section at the Australian Museum, wrote in a blog: 'The male is clearly highly stressed and agitated, his forearms are very wet from him licking himself to cool down.

'He is also sexually aroused: the evidence is here sticking out from behind the scrotum

'This is a male trying to get a female to stand up so he can mate with her.'

Kangaroos breed all year round but mating happens most in spring and early summer, said Dr Eldridge.

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Soon, monkeys to be declared vermin: Goa CM

Bindiya Chari | TNN | Jan 13, 2016, 04.47 PM IST

File photoFile photo

PANAJI: The chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar told Goa Legislative Assembly on Wednesday that time has come to describe some animals as vermin, nuisance animals that spread disease and destroy crops. "We have already initiated steps based on instructions of central government. We will do it as early as possible," he said in response to concern expressed by Opposition Leader Pratapsing Rane. Discussion took place during motion of calling attention about rising cases of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) also called monkey fever detected in some villages of Sattari taluka.

Monkey disease is a viral disease caused by KFD virus transmitted by a tick bite infected with KFD virus.

Rane said monkeys are destroying horticulture crops, and farmers are very upset about it as forest department is not doing anything about. He said breeding of monkeys need to be controlled. To which, chief minister said he fully agree with the Opposition leader and assured to deal with the problem.

Earlier, deputy chief minister Francis D'Sousa who is also a health minister told the House measures health department has taken to control the spread of the disease. He said there have been no deaths so far because vaccination has been started in the affected villages.

He also told the House that procurement of 500 doses of vaccine is in process. Around 2000 doses were procured and 386 people were vaccinated with first dose and 221 with second doses in 2015.

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After 6 months, wild tiger resurfaces at BNP

Rohith BR | TNN | Jan 13, 2016, 09.46 AM IST

It was a sight to behold and a wild one at that. Visitors to Bannerghatta Biological Park who were out on a safari at the adjacent Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) were in for a royal surprise on Monday -a wild tiger resting near the 'barber stone', a monolithic structure resembling a stone used by barbers to sharpen blades in olden days.

The sighting has reassured the forest department that the wild tiger has made the park its home and that people needn't travel all the way to Bandipur and Nagarahole to spot a wild big cat; BNP is barely 25km from the core city areas.

The tiger was first spotted in the park in July 2015, following which the forest department carried out camera-trapping exercises to check whether it was a stray ."It's confirmed that the tiger has established its territory .As per our analysis, it's a young male tiger. In the last six months, our staff has also recorded tiger kills and territory markings. All this confirms the forest patch next to India's Silicon Valley is home to a wild tiger," said Sunil Pawar, deputy conservator of forests, BNP.

Asked what precautions were being taken to ensure people's safety, Sunil said villagers and other inhabitants of the area have been told to be careful and awareness sessions have been conducted. "Since it's a protected area, everybody has to abide by forest laws. The fact that no human-animal conflict has been witnessed in the past six months indicates all is well," he added.

Santosh Kumar, executive director, BBP, said a staffer informed him about the tiger sighting and hoped more visitors will be able to see the big cat in the days ahead.

Congratulating the forest department for its conservation efforts, wildlife experts said the repeated sighting of the wild tiger is a good sign."No major city in the country has a wild tiger living so close to it. However, extra caution must be taken to ensure villagers don't allow their cattle into the woods or break the fence to cut trees," said Sagar K, a wildlife enthusiast and a regular visitor to the BBP.

Where did it come from?

B annerghatta National Park officials said they still weren't sure from where the tiger migrated. "We had shared camera-trap images with other forest divisions. But they are not matching with the existing database," said a senior official from the forest department.

Wildlife experts say BNP is now connected to Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected area covering Ramanagaram, Mandya and Chamarajanagar districts. "The sanctuary, along with the adjacent MM Hills, is home to a good number of wild tigers. The big cat at Bannerghatta could have come from the Cauvery Sanctuary or from the forests of Tamil Nadu," said an expert.

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Over 8.58 lakh migratory birds throng Chilika this year

IANS | Jan 12, 2016, 12.54 PM IST

Migratory birds seen near a water body in eastern India. (Getty Images)Migratory birds seen near a water body in eastern India. (Getty Images)

BHUBANESWAR: Over 8.58 lakh migratory birds have thronged Odisha's Chilika lake this winter, as per the bird census released on Monday.

Last year, over 7.61 lakh migratory birds were sighted in Chilika lake, Asia's largest brackish water lake and the largest winter resort for migratory birds in the Indian subcontinent.

However, the number of bird species has come down this year.

While 172 bird species were sighted last year, this winter, 161 species have arrived in the lake, said principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) SS Srivatsav, ascribing it to climatic changes including deficient rainfall and high temperatures.

A total of 106, 356 birds have thronged Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary in Kendrapada district this year, said the census report.

However, it was less against last year, when 113,226 migratory birds were spotted, said the report. Also less was the number of species.

A total of 87 species have come to Bhitarkanika while it was 109 last year, said an official of the Rajnagar forest division.

Sources said more than 95,000 birds have visited Hirakud water reservoir this year while 63 species were sighted in Mahanadi wildlife division.

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Of the over 100 whales that washed ashore on Tamil Nadu coast 45 dead

J Arockiaraj & P Oppili | TNN | Jan 12, 2016, 11.06 AM IST

Of the over 100 whales that washed ashore on Tamil Nadu coast 45 dead

00:25

Of the over 100 whales that washed ashore on Tamil Nadu coast 45 dead

TUTICORIN/CHENNAI: At least 45 small whales (short-finned pilot whales), part of the lot which washed ashore in Tiruchendur in Tamil Nadu on Monday evening, have died. More than 100 whales were found on the 16km stretch from Alanthalai to Kallamozhi coastal hamlets on Tuesday morning. Thirty six of them have been rescued by fishermen.

"The whales started reaching the shore in groups around 5pm. It is very strange. In 1973 when we were boys, we witnessed same phenomenon. However, not these many washed ashore then," said Rajan, a fishermen in Manapad.

Ditto Mascarenhas of Kulasekarapattinam said if local fishermen had not kept a vigil, many more whales would have died. The fishermen remained awake the whole night to keep the whales in water by pulling them back to the sea.

Tuticorin district collector M Ravikumar inspected the coast. He said officials were investigating the reason for such a huge number of whales reaching the shore.

A team from the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park in Ramanathapuram has rushed to the spot.

(Pictures courtesy: K Antony Xavier)

A Possible Reason

Former director of Zoological Survey of India K Venkataraman said cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are social marine mammals. They live in groups and if the leader of the group is disturbed due to changes in underwater, they get disoriented immediately. They start drifting from their normal path and head towards the shoreline, leading to their deaths.

Moderate earthquakes, geo-magnetic deviations, sonic waves and tidal currents could disorient cetaceans.

On Monday, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale and another one measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale were in the Philippines and Indonesia, respectively. These could have disoriented the whales.

In India, the first ever report of mass stranding of this whale species was reported in Salt Lake in Kolkata in 1852. The maximum number of whale stranding on Indian coastline happened in 1973 during which time 147 whales got stranded, Venkataraman said.

Annually world over 2,000 whales get stranded. More than 1,500 whales have been stranded along the Indian coastline since 1800 till 2015.

So far no study on this issue has been taken up in the country, lament researchers. One of the reasons is that not many funding agencies are ready to finance the study.

Study on population dynamics of cetaceans, their breeding ecology, habitat degradation and other related issues needed to be taken up by the government. Only such an effort would help in protecting these endangered marine mammals.

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Moonlight drives marine creatures in Arctic winter

IANS | Jan 11, 2016, 11.59 AM IST

A zooplankton. (Getty Images photo)A zooplankton. (Getty Images photo)

LONDON: In the absence of any sunlight, it is the moonlight that drives the migrations of tiny marine animals through the permanently dark and frigid Arctic winter, an interesting study says.

According to the researchers, zooplankton — which are the tiny animals found near the surface in aquatic environments — keep moving during the Arctic winter.

The migrations take place when the moon rises above the horizon, the findings showed.

The researchers explained that the behaviour is most likely an attempt by zooplankton to avoid predators hunting by the moonlight.

"During the permanently dark and extremely cold Arctic winter, (these) tiny marine creatures, like mythical werewolves, respond to moonlight by undergoing mass migrations," said one of the researchers Kim Last from Scottish Association for Marine Science in Scotland.

The findings have implications for the carbon cycle, which is particularly important in light of climate change.

"The daily vertical migration of zooplankton contributes significantly to the carbon pump by moving fixed carbon from the surface into the deep ocean," Last explained. "Since there is no photosynthesis during the polar night, carbon is only moved into the deep by predators feeding on prey," Last added.

Further investigation also showed that the marine creatures follow the 24.8-hour lunar day, instead of the 24-hour solar day.

"The acoustic database used for our analysis cumulatively spans 50 years of data from moorings that cover much of the Arctic Ocean. The occurrences of lunar migrations happen every winter at all sites, even under sea ice with snow cover on top," Last said.

The report was published in the journal Current Biology.

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Mozambique park sees wildlife numbers grow after war

AP | Jan 10, 2016, 12.17 PM IST

In this webcam image taken and supplied by WildCam Gorongosa, buck drink at a watering hole in the Gorongosa National Park, central Mozambique. (WildCam Gorongosa photo via AP)In this webcam image taken and supplied by WildCam Gorongosa, buck drink at a watering hole in the Gorongosa N... Read More

JOHANNESBURG: Lions are getting pregnant and the waterbuck population is soaring at one of Mozambique's main national parks, once the scene of fighting during a civil war which virtually wiped out the park's lions, elephants and many other species.

The 15-year conflict that killed up to 1 million people ended in 1992, and some former battlefield foes are now working together as rangers at Gorongosa National Park, where foreign donors and conservationists helped launch a turnaround on a continent accustomed to bad news about wildlife welfare.

Still, the park remains vulnerable to poachers and other problems. Tourism dropped in 2013 and 2014 during sporadic violence linked to the rivalry between Renamo, Mozambique's main opposition group, and its former adversary during the civil war, the ruling Frelimo party. The park is also in Sofala province, an opposition stronghold in central Mozambique.

Gorongosa became a national park under Portuguese colonizers in 1960. The decade that followed is considered the park's heyday; actors John Wayne and Gregory Peck and author James Michener went on safari there, according to the park's website.

The civil war began in 1977 after Portugal's exit from Mozambique. Fighters killed Gorongosa's elephants for their ivory and slaughtered other animals, emptying a once-teeming landscape. Widespread poaching continued after a peace deal.

Today, there is a lot to see, thanks largely to a 2008 deal in which a non-profit group founded by American philanthropist Greg Carr pledged at least $1.2 million annually to the restoration of Gorongosa for 20 years. More funding came from European governments, the United States Agency for International Development and other donors.

Workers have built tourism facilities, planted trees and relocated buffalos, hippos and elephants from neighboring South Africa into Gorongosa; money has flowed to poor local communities whose support for the park is seen as indispensable.

"Things are really starting to go quite fast," said Marc Stalmans, director of scientific services at Gorongosa, which encompasses 1,570 square miles (4,070 square kilometers) and was expanded to include the mountain of the same name in 2010.

The numbers tell a remarkable story of recovery, particularly at a time when populations of threatened species are under pressure from poachers and human encroachment elsewhere in Mozambique and in much of the rest of Africa. Even so, the counts in Gorongosa are generally far below what they were before the war.

The estimated elephant population went from 2,500 in the early 1970s, to fewer than 200 in 2000, and more than 500 in 2014. Similarly, researchers have counted nearly 60 lions, double the number a few years ago, but below the estimated 200 in 1972.

Four lions were pregnant in December, and at least one of them has produced a litter, Stalmans wrote in an email to Associated Press.

"The biggest cause of mortality is lions becoming 'by-catch' in snares and traps set for antelopes by the poachers," Stalmans said. "A significant percentage of our lions have lost toes or part of a paw to snares and traps but managed to break loose. Some unfortunately die."

The waterbuck population is more than 34,000, 10 times the figure recorded 40 years ago. It is likely the single largest group of waterbuck in Africa, according to park managers.

Jen Guyton, an ecologist working in Gorongosa, believes one reason that waterbucks have bred so fast is because, unlike other antelope, they like eating weeds that replaced grasses on floodplains, a change in vegetation possibly related to the massive loss of wildlife during the war. Experts have noted significant changes in the ecosystem, apparently linked to the animal slaughter, and are trying to understand them.

Another theory is that waterbuck survived the civil war in greater numbers than other species, and are simply growing in population at what is considered a normal rate.

Most of the park is inaccessible by road. To keep track of wildlife, researchers have installed 50 motion-sensitive cameras, amassing several hundred thousand images. Some cameras can only be reached by helicopter, including in limestone gorges. Some cameras were destroyed by elephants or inundated by rising rivers and were replaced.

Under Gorongosa's "WildCam" project, online volunteers help sort the vast amount of data, logging onto an interactive website and identifying animals in photos, noting how many are visible and reporting what they are doing ("resting" and "eating" are options).

The wildlife resurgence has led to new challenges, including conflict between villagers and elephants encroaching on farmland. Also, the goal of a park reliant on its own revenue is distant — it reported just 2,300 tourists in 2015, far below visitor numbers in major parks in, for example, South Africa and Kenya.

Gorongosa's last rhinos, a species under heavy threat today, were wiped out in the 1970s. One day, park managers hope, rhinos will again roam there.

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1In a global first, World Bank funds a zoo in India2The truth behind those photos of a 'mourning' kangaroo3Soon, monkeys to be declared vermin: Goa CM4After 6 months, wild tiger resurfaces at BNP5Over 8.58 lakh migratory birds throng Chilika this year6Of the over 100 whales that washed ashore on Tamil Nadu coast 45 dead7Moonlight drives marine creatures in Arctic winter8Mozambique park sees wildlife numbers grow after war9Eighth lion dies at ambitious Etawah Lion Safari Project

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