LEAPING ACROSS BOULDERS!

Where do I belong?

Growing up, I never had a sense of belonging. I always kept to myself and was a shy timid girl. I barely had friends at school and the only time I did play around was with the kids in my society! The boys and I would play cricket all evening or chase each other, and since I was the smallest, I was always referred to as the “kaccha limbu”. The only time I did feel like I was at the right place was when I was down strolling through the society’s garden. The butterflies fluttering above the hibiscus flowers and caterpillars on the milkweeds kept me company.

Hence, whenever I’m around colossal trees or see a bright white cloud in contrast with the deep blue sky, my excitement is evident! A few classmates were spectators to my delirium when we recently went on a trek for a college practical submission!

The Trek

We began at 8:00 AM since the weather was cool. It took us nearly 2 hours to get to the forest! Our first spot was tambdi surla! we walked around a bit, took a few shots, fed a friendly doggo, had some lime soda and quickly left! On our way back, I guided the team into a beautiful forest cover that had a calm river flowing right in between it!

We trekked a little bit and to our surprise we stumbled across huge pools of fresh water! Given the summer season, I didn’t really expect us to find water! The real fun part was that the boys hadn’t planned to swim, but while shooting our videos two of them had the tips of their butts submerged! HEY! since the undies are already wet, might as well enjoy the water yeah?! And so we all jumped right in!

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Just me lazing under the sun and soaking in a few joys!

Ronnan and I climbed up a tree and spent our time gazing across the river bank at a family of bonnet macaques and honestly I was terrified because I definitely didn’t want falling off the tree and into the river! (tsk tsk the fear of water is a real one) After lazing around in the river we gobbled a few samosas and vadas and began heading back down stream to our bikes. Ronnan and I even spotted a really huge spectacled cobra! After leaping across smooth boulders and pebbles we took a quick break and gossiped a bit!

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Ronnan enjoying the cool summer breeze!

As we reached, a few macaques were up the tree while several babies were running across the forest floor! Despite me repeatedly asking the boys to NOT TEASE, MAKE SOUNDS OR TRY FEEDING the monkeys, nobody paid any heed to what I said and guess what? A big male continually tried attacking us! It was hilarious!! Each time Saa proceeded towards the bike, the monkey leapt down at him and displayed his huge white canines at us! This continued several times until we finally decided to go for a walk and return later. Just when we were about to leave, the monkey retreated back and Ronnan and Saa made a dash for it! We quickly left and headed over to our next spot! Things could have gone south though, hence never ever tease or try feeding a wild animal!

So why shouldn’t you feed a monkey?

  • Firstly, when monkeys are fed by us humans, they tend to associate people with food. This could eventually lead to them populating human settlements and the risk of them getting attacked by dogs or falling victims to road kills increases!
  • Not everyone may feed a monkey, hence if one person feed them and if they approach another and don’t receive food it could make them super aggressive!
  • Feeding them could also lead them to be super dependable on us for food! This decreases their survival skills! Besides this, there’s a good chance that while you’re feeding them you could transmit or even contract diseases!

This doesn’t just apply to monkeys but all wild animals. NEVER FEED A WILD ANIMAL.

On this note, I’m going to end here. I Hope you have a great day, week and year ahead!

A THANK YOU FOR BREAKING HIS HOUSE?!

The Call..

It was a sweltering evening and all I could think of was complaining about the heat and getting super nervous since it was finally the day the two owls I had been rehabilitating were going to be taken for soft release. My phone buzzed and that was my cue. I picked up the secured cage and headed down to hand them over to Benhail, an experienced wildlife rescuer. We quickly headed to the place, dropped them off and decided to head out for a quick bite. Around 10:00 PM he got a call and yup, I knew it had to be a rescue call! He quickly glances at me and before anything could be said I say “LET’S GO!”

We rode from Taverna and headed to Aldona that was where we got the call from! I have insane respect for wildlife rescuers. Irrespective of the time, place or day, they will always try and make it for a rescue call solely to save the snake from a tragic end and help educate the people to be a lot more mindful. For an evening that was insanely hot, the night was really cold! The weather had been playing cruel games lately and after a bout of traffic and narrow misty roads through the fields, we finally made it to the house.

We head up a flight of stairs and into a room that had been bolted shut. A young boy of around 19 was cautiously staring at a few racks. He pointed us to the direction and mentioned about a black and white snake slithering across the room into the cupboard. In my mind, I thought it could be a Krait or it could be a wolf snake but it’s always best to not jump to conclusions regarding identification until you see the snake for yourself. And so began our long search for this tiny little creature that seemed to have vanished into the house and left its inhabitants puzzled! After nearly 45 minutes of shifting, pulling apart and separating things we still couldn’t spot the serpent. I gave up and walked over to the washroom and then we eventually left but not before I could play with his little hamster!

Picture Credits - Kedar Marathe
They can camouflage themselves really well! You’ve probably seen them but haven’t realized it!

On our way back, as soon as I mentioned about how the serpent gave us the slip Benhail’s phone rang once again and he took a swift turn! They spotted the snake. As soon as we reached we dashed up and they pointed us towards the washroom! Imagine my shock since I had just left from there but spotted nothing. (Talk about camouflage)  We again began our search but it seemed like this guy was super slippery! It was almost as if he was mocking us! We realized he escaped into the crevice of the washroom tiles below. The callers at this point were frustrated and really wanted the bugger out of the house so the father came over with a bunch of tools and requested us to break open the tiles! Benhail began hacking away at the tiled floors but they just didn’t seem to give away! He jokingly asked the owners for the contractor’s name!

After a lot of hitting and whacking away at the wall we eventually caught the little slippery bugger and he turned out to be a wolf-snake hatchling. Were there chances of more of them being around? Definitely! The owners quickly thanked us at which Benhail remarked at me saying “Where else would anyone thank you for breaking his house apart?!” I chuckle and head over to the family telling them a little bit more about the snake.

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Picture Credits – Kedar Marathe

WOLF SNAKES

Wolf Snakes (Lycodon Aulicus) also known as Kavdya Saap in Marathi, these little guys don’t grow too big. They’re non venomous but make up for it with their bites! They’re commonly found in human settlements and have adapted quite well amongst people. Sadly, they’re often mistaken for Kraits (Venomous Snakes) and hence meet a really tragic end with usually their heads being smashed!

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Picture Credits – Kedar Marathe. The different morphs of a wolf snake. Same species, same snake but different colors and patterns!

There are several morphs (colors/patterns) that range from black to reddish brown. They usually feed on small reptiles and amphibians. That being said, they will bite when they feel threatened. NO SNAKE BITES WITHOUT REASON. If you spot them and leave them alone I assure you, nothing will happen to you! You won’t get bitten nor will they chase after you. Now that you know a bit more about them, if you spot them, OBSERVE! They’re absolutely harmless and are terrific to have around your homes!

EVERY LITTLE THING IS GONNA BE OWLRIGHT!

THE CALL

I was at Old Goa when my phone suddenly buzzed! My pal Rajiv was frantic on the other end of the call. “There are two owlets that have fallen out of a tree Sherry!” This caught my attention and quickly woke me up from my snooze. After asking him a few more questions, I thanked him for calling me and quickly made another call to Ben, an experienced wildlife rescuer who also happens to be one of the most fun people I’ve had the privilege of knowing! We then decided it was best to pick them up considering they were initially a parliament of 4 and now were only 2 since the other two didn’t survive! (Heartbreaking, I know but it indeed is the survival of the fittest)

Rajiv’s father was an absolute gem and volunteered to drop them off to me and hence began my three week journey of rehabilitating the two owlets! Was I nervous? Hell yes! It is an extremely daunting task. The pressure of doing your absolute best to ensure that the creature’s survival rates are high can be pretty nervous work. Thankfully I had experienced rescuers and rehabilitators guiding me and ensured the owlets would be given the best possible chance at survival once they were released back into the wild.

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The first day of rehabilitation covered in white fuzz!

THE FIRST NIGHT

When I got the box and opened it up, 4 big black frightened eyes were peering at me while their head bobbed around in a peculiar fashion. I decided to let them settle down in a quiet dark room for a while and then assess them for injuries and eventually feed them. The box had a few fresh glossy pellets which was a good sign! It meant they had been fed well. After their brief rest, I fed them their first meal. These two hungry curved bills quickly snatched the strips of soaked meat off the tongs, another great sign! They were feeding and were super active. I was finally at peace. They took some time to warm up to me and trust me and eventually meal time was a lot less stressful for them. Since I was in the middle of my viva and research projects at college, Troy too kept visiting them and offered to help me by feeding them several of their meals. He often winced when their sharp talons would occasionally get a hold of him! These talons are basically claws that help an owl capture its prey. Since they’re predatory creatures, it helps them get a good grip of their meal and usually kills it in an instant! They’re very powerful and once they get a hold of something, best believe it’s going to take some effort to get them to leave it!

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LOOK MA! STRONG TALONS AND NO HANDS!

THE BEGINNING

This particular species were spotted owls. They’re often found near human settlements and farmlands and have adapted to living in cities. They feed on a variety of prey ranging from insects to scorpions, rodents,toads and snake. Hatchlings are often even fed cockroaches! The adults are pretty small, just around 21cm. These owlets were white fuzz-balls when first rescued. Their white downy feathers were eventually replaced with darker ones by the end of their second week with me. The entire room was covered in small white fluffs!

Every day I observed their growth. One was bigger than the other. This was probably because he must have hatched earlier! Owls lay their eggs days and sometimes even weeks apart! These eggs hatch in the order they were laid. This is also called asynchronous hatching and hence the stronger ones usually have a higher rate of survival since they fight for the food while the weaker ones may starve to death! By now the little fledglings had developed their feathers and would often try flying around during feeding time. Being excellent poopers I had quite the trouble cleaning after them! After nearly three weeks of rehabilitation and both of them flying across the room, we realized it was time. Soft release was the next crucial step. Would they know how to survive in the wild? Yes. Their predatory instincts would kick in and they’d take off!

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CUDDLE BUDDIES!

ARE THEY THE HARBINGERS OF DEATH?

Well I’m alive and kicking! So no, seeing an owl doesn’t mean you’re doomed to die. It is widely believed that spotting an owl is a bad omen, much like a cute black kitty crossing your path. If there’s any bad luck hovering around me right now it’s because of college and definitely not these two wild birds. Another myth I recall someone mentioning is they pluck your eyes out. Now I’m no expert but I’m usually known for my big owl eyes and they’re yet in my eye socket so what do we learn from this? It’s all a huge pile of steaming bullshit!

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Picture Credits: Stephen Menezes

Our surroundings are disintegrating and so is their habitat. It forces them to move out, and this means they crowd in less space. These areas may not have the food supply to nourish their offspring. The least you and I can do is respect their space and let them be. Besides loss of habitat, food poisoning is another issue that these beautiful birds face. We often tackle our rodent situations with rat poison and chemicals. Rodents that consume this poison take several hours or even days to die and during this period they often can end up as a meal for raptors, (birds of prey) reptiles or even mammals. This eventually leads to them being poisoned in other words it’s secondary poisoning. So if you’re guilty of using rat poison, STOP and get a rat trap instead!

That being said, these are wild creatures, they’re not meant to be tamed and never will be. They’re not soft toys meant for cuddling. Wildlife is all around you and it takes patience to see and appreciate it. Next time you chance upon them, observe them from a distance. Never approach them because that’s what’s best for them and you!

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Picture Credits: Stephen Menezes

LAND OF THE SEA

Ahoy everyone!

Since I was a little girl, I’ve always loved the idea of travelling to places. Places that were filled with shady trees and cool air. Places where you could smell the breeze or the salty ocean. These past few months have been crazy! I’ve been juggling way too much. This includes my college work, freelancing at a newspaper, working with an NGO and my college project! To top things off I had taken up another assignment and it drove me nuts! With so much happening, I could barely concentrate on myself let alone have some fun. Like physical stress wasn’t enough, I also had tons of mental stress to deal with right from strained relationships to things just not going my way. It didn’t take me too long to get back on track and so here I am still working my way through.

The previous Sunday was loads of fun. Right from stepping out of my comfort zones to making new friends, it was a blast! When Troy told me we’re going to the beach I was delighted! It was the exact thing I needed. It had been long since I swallowed salty water and toasted in the sand under the sun, so I jumped at this.

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We set out after a quick breakfast and headed to the place. The ride was a pleasant one. The trees sheltered our route and greeted us at every turn while the air got cooler. After swift turns and “oh look at that” and “hey see this” we made it. We quickly carried our stuff and made a dash for the ocean. The tide was high and the tide pools filled. I let out a squeal and walked over to the salty pools. Sea anemones, hermit crabs, green scat fish, button snails and cowries were a few creatures we had a glimpse of that day! (Thanks to Marine Life of Mumbai for fueling my love and knowledge about our coastal life!) While I kept peering into every rock, Troy just hopped and pranced about effortlessly as I trotted in my chucks! After a small climb and a slightly steep descend down some serrated rocks we reached a little nook with an ocean view that was surrounded by two rocky outcrops. I sat there while he went to collect the rest of our friends and at that moment everything felt so comforting! There is so much to look forward to every single day and I couldn’t help but feel grateful!

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The sand was white, warm and comforting. Several bubbler crabs scuttled ahead of me while the waves crashed over them carrying away the ones that were too late to scramble into their burrows. Our friends finally arrived and then what ensured was absolute chaotic fun! Right from running across the beach, piggy backing, cracking open oyster shells and eating them raw (Thanks to Jazmyne for teaching us the skill) to trusting Jessica and letting my fear of water go and eventually floating!

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The madness was something I needed. As the day died down and just before dusk could settle in, we climbed up a rocky hill and sat down. That was all; we just sat down, stopped for a while, took our surroundings in and felt so grateful to belong to this land. The tide had gone down and a fisherman dressed in his kashti (loincloth) was busy fishing. To his dismay, he ended up catching just a single green scatfish! I quickly ran behind him and requested him to let me have a look.

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It’s stunning really. There’s so much life all around us. Whether it’s a simple beach walk you’re on or you’re sipping some chai at your balcony there is so much life you can spot! Creatures that you’ve probably never seen before or haven’t bothered observing. To help you began, I highly recommend a book I read years back, ‘A Naturalist’s Journal’ by Yuvan Aves. He’s beautifully written about creatures we see every day but know nothing about!

And with that, I end here. I hope you get out and observe creatures big and small. Search for the life that surrounds you in a world that is quickly disintegrating and when you find it observe it patiently and curiously!

I hope you have a good day ahead filled with the last of this winter breeze and shady leaves on mighty trees!

MEET THESE YOUNG GREEN CRUSADERS!

I had quite a hectic day today. Juggling college and a few jobs is definitely not fun right now! After college hours, I was headed to the office to continue with some work. We decided to visit Campal, Panjim.  This was for a shoot with regards to something I was working on and when I reached there I was absolutely heartbroken! No seriously, I cried! some of my favorite trees, The Cassia Fistula, also known as the golden shower trees had been trimmed down. The streets were filled with speckles of yellow and green. The lungs of Panjim city were shaved once again and all of us were mute spectators. I ended up walking from Campal to the Panjim church. My walk was a long and quiet one. It got me wondering about what really matters and whether I’m contributing enough towards this cause. That’s also when I realized that surely there’s a lot more youngsters out there helping out in their own little ways. Perceptions about potential and growing environmental problems have led many youngsters to engage in environmental activism around Goa today. As more and more students start engaging with environmental issues, there is hope that the state and its people will slowly become conscious about eco-conservation. Here are a few student activists I had the privilege of talking to, who are doing their bit for the cause! Read about them and maybe you could help out too?
RONIL GOSAVI, 22, WILDLIFE CONSERVATIONIST
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Ronil is a research intern at Herpactive, Animal Rescue Squad (ARS) and Living with Pythons (an initiative that collects and researches data on python species across the country). Conducting activities that help conserve wildlife, he also works as a wildlife rescuer. From visiting several schools and giving awareness talks on python conservation across the state, Ronil has been following his childhood passion for the wilderness with zest. Motivated by wildlife rescuer and conservation activist Amrut Singh and hurt by the disintegration of wildlife around his village and the mutilation of snakes by the villagers, he joined ARS and has been working with them for the past five years. From rescuing snakes, crocodiles, porcupines and even leopards, Ronil has helped change the approach people have towards wildlife. “Only through awareness and education about species, people will understand their importance and love them,” he says. He hopes that in the near future, Goa’s wildlife will flourish and individuals will work towards conserving what’s left of our biological diversity.
JOSNA DESSAI, 22, ANIMAL ACTIVIST
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Being associated with SWARG (South-Goa Welfare of Animals and Rescue Group) that comprises individuals who volunteer to work on the welfare of animals, Josna has been in the rescue circles for a few years now. She spends her day after college volunteering in rescue, fostering and treating injured and abandoned animals. She also works towards sensitising people and promoting the idea of responsible pet ownership and spreads awareness on the importance of sterilisation and vaccination. “Spreading awareness about sterilisation helps our ecosystem by controlling the stray population and also prevents diseases that could harm other species in our biodiversity,” says Josna. As part of her fieldwork, she has also contributed towards the conservation of jackals and worked in Goan villages protecting the species from hunters and other threats. She says that speaking to the villagers on issues have helped immensely and believes grassroots conservation can help the future generations of Goa.
GASPAR JOHN D’SOUZA, 20, GARBAGE WARRIOR
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A student of St Xavier’s College, Mapusa, Gaspar is often found collecting garbage and clearing the plastic and non-biodegradable waste around public areas while other students are enjoying their holiday break. He works tirelessly and conducts several cleanliness drives across his neighbourhood as he believes that our time is running out. “We only have five years left to do whatever we can, after that it’s going to be too late!” says Gaspar. He believes that cleanliness starts with each one of us and that the minute we start looking at our environment as home, good habits will follow. He says that Goa won’t achieve cleanliness as long as people are unaware about climate crisis and how bad the situation really is. Public awareness is as important as cleanliness drives.
SHERWYN CORREIA, 19, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST
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A student of VM Salgaocar college of Law, Sherwyn has tapped the power of the spoken word by voicing against several issues that plague his city and surrounding areas including the stacking of coal at MPT thus plaguing Vasco da Gama with pollution. He tries to create awareness about the several ways this would prove hazardous to the citizens, especially children, and the lethal impact it would have on marine life in the area. He continues to file RTIs with various government offices,collecting data on pollution levels and scrutinising measures implemented to curb the rising levels of pollution. Sherwyn has greatly helped the movement against pollution by speaking at public hearings, being a part of several protests and has met the MLAs and MPs concerned. Due to his unwavering stand, several political figures have paid heed to his concerns trying to get a deeper understanding of the problem. He also tries to spread awareness among fellow students as he believes that youth involvement in environmental activism will help show the authorities that seriousness of the problem we as humans face.
MADHURAJ NAIK, 20, SNAKE RESCUER
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Madhuraj works as a wildlife rescuer and research volunteer with SAWE (Study and Awareness of Wildlife & Environment), Animal Rescue Squad and Mugger Tales (an initiative that focuses on the human-crocodile interaction in Goa). Despite his young age, Madhuraj has actively rescued and rehabilitated several wild species. His experience with conservation has taken him to several schools and public spaces where he continues to spread awareness and instil positive behaviour amongst children towards biodiversity conservation. “I want to work towards creating a safe atmosphere for Goa’s wildlife, in hopes to save wildlife species from brutal ends and eradicate snakebite incidences. This is possible only if we have a personal relationship with our environment and to do this, we need to learn to love our surroundings first,” says Madhuraj. He is also an active member in the mangrove cleanliness drive and works towards cleaning the mangrove ecosystems of Goa.
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Every day, thousands of plant and animal species are victims of mindless, unplanned and intrusive development.
Those were just a few amongst the many that have been working relentlessly to save Goa’s Forest cover. If there’s ever a way you can contribute towards protecting all that you see around you, DO NOT HESITATE! no effort is too small nor does it go into vain.
Hope you have a great day ahead and as usual, I hope it’s filled with  some cool winter breeze and shady leaves on mighty trees!

SAVING GOA’S MANGROVES!

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Across India, mangroves have been revered for centuries and Goa hasn’t been an exception. But the spate of development over the past few decades has led to an indiscriminate destruction of our wetland ecosystems. There are many initiatives afoot to save Goa’s mangroves, through the several nature trails, bird-watching, crocodile sighting and kayaking expeditions in the rivers and estuaries where one can find mangroves! I remember my bus journeys as a kid. the vast stretches of these dense shrubs in Cortalim and Panjim would get my heart all excited! I’d keep staring intently as the bus zoomed by hoping I’d be lucky to see a mugger, well that off-course never happened!

BIODIVERSITY AT ITS BEST!

The mangroves house a plethora of marine flora and fauna. Birds such as the Brahminy kite, egret, grey heron, three species of kingfisher, rose-ringed parakeet, spotted dove and heron are often found nesting in the safety of these dense networks. Fish breed in the shallow waters that provide protection from predators without which we wouldn’t get fish for consumption. I had a wonderful experience kayaking with Terra Conscious, a conservation enterprise based in Goa. I’d highly suggest this kayaking expedition to those that would like a relaxing day kayaking in the dense network of Goa’s mangroves. If you’re lucky you’d catch glimpses of furry otters and perhaps the mighty mugger as well!

Mangroves have been neglected for the longest time, but now people have started regaining interest in these forests. Several people have now come together to conserve Goas mangroves and clean them up. Our mangroves are excellent breeding grounds for crocodiles. Muggers depend on the ecosystem for nesting, basking and even hiding. Without the filtration of semi-saline water by the mangroves the survival chances of crocs would be really bleak. This further proves how interconnected our surroundings truly are! Other smaller animals seen are otters, mud clamps and turtles, ibises and cormorants.  The mangroves are flourishing with life across the year!

shallow focus photo of crocodile on body of water

 

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ROWING IN SERENE WATERS

Working with the local fishing community to provide tourists with an ethical view of marine life in the state, Terra Conscious, a conservation enterprise conducts several activities to increase appreciation of marine biodiversity like ethical dolphin sighting tours.

Mangrove kayaking has seen to catch on among the more eco-sensitive tourists, of late, especially those who want more than the beaches. These expeditions aim to help educate people about the wetland system and the life it holds. Kayaks in the mangroves are way better than motorized boats, as it negates the noise factor and people can soak in the natural sights at leisure.

WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT?

Mangroves play a major part in the circle of life; they cycle various organic matter, important nutrients and chemical elements and thus form a natural water filtration system. Being protective breeding grounds for fish, shellfish and crustaceans, Goa’s commercial fisheries and local livelihoods would drastically decline without the functioning of healthy mangrove forests. Furthermore, inland areas are protected from floods, waves and storm winds due to their dense root systems. These natural buffers reduce wave and flood damage by acting as shock absorbents of the force of flood water. Did I mention they are also excellent carbon sinks and can absorb a lot more carbon than a rain-forest!!

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Image by Kedar Marathe   The Mugger/ Marsh Crocodile

 

THREATS TO THEIR EXISTENCE

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Polluted mangroves in Goa!

Like that of any forested area, deforestation is a major concern in the case of mangroves as well. But apart from that, the issue of building retaining walls around them in attempt to help preserve them is debatable. Building retaining walls do not actually solve any issues rather these walls in turn increase pollution since they cannot withhold the force from the sea and then decrease to rubble! A lot of animal conflict can come off these retaining walls. Animals like the otters do not have access across the walls to access the bunds where they generally nest. River pollution and oil spills have also led mangroves to become extremely vulnerable. A lot of plastic is collected on a regular basis in the mangroves as well! A cleanliness drive was conducted by SAWE, (Study and Awareness of Wildlife and Environment) with the locals in all the mangroves once and  they returned with a staggering amount of!!

WHEN RELIGION PLAYS CONSERVATIONIST

But while frenzied development has hindered the growth of these forests, thus making them vulnerable, the beliefs and protection provided by the locals have been rather fruitful in conservation.

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Maanage Thapne. The peculiar ritual of worshiping crocodiles in Goa.

Known as sacred groves or “sacred natural sites” as per the definition provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) these mangroves have been protected thus. “Our ancestors realized that continued deforestation would cause harm to our environment, hence they decided that some parts of the forests should be protected in honour of the local folk deity,” says environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar about the centuries-old tradition of worshiping the groves. People respect all forms of life in these areas. Trees and even a single ant wouldn’t be harmed here. Different folk deities reside in different sacred groves, respecting them is absolutely necessary. Several years ago, a festival called Dhalo was celebrated in Goa where women would enter the sacred forests and perform folk dances there. Other festivals such as Holi, Gudi Padwa and Dussehra too got people together to enter these forests to worship, perform rituals and offerings. It is strongly believed that the deity protects and looks after the worshipers. These rich cultural traditions have in a way led the locals to step up against destruction of these groves all over Goa.

I feel extremely proud of my Goan roots. We live and share the same land as a few rare species of amphibians and reptiles do. Not to forget the tigers, otters, mighty muggers and other silent but prominent creatures of the lush western ghats.

I hope you have a great day ahead filled with shady trees hovering above you and fresh wind swishing across your face in this humid heat of January! (It’s crazy, I know!)

 

 

 

ALL ABOUT THE MAGICAL MENSTRUAL CUP!

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When I first heard about menstrual cups I was intrigued. I was very young and like every other teenager I was terrified with the idea of placing an object inside my vagina! I came across a post one day by a friend who made the change and that’s when I began my extensive research. I watched a ton of videos daily and read blogs on the subject. How did I finally make the switch? I was at my friend’s place and she told me how she made the transition and how great it felt. I had an extremely comfortable and open conversation with her that helped me understand more about the menstrual cup. For a long time I’ve tried to minimize my plastic consumption but personally, it’s impossible to completely eradicate plastic and other forms of non-biodegradable products from our daily lives. So when I do have an affordable alternative and option, I do not hesitate!

A menstrual cup is so affordable and easy on the pocket! A packet of tampons or sanitary pads will cost you anywhere from 200-400 Rupees. A cup on the other hand which is a one time investment for around 10 years will cost you anywhere between 500-2000 Rupees. So yearly you spend approximately 2,400 – 4,800 Rupees just on sanitary pads! in 10 years that would amount to 24,000 – 48,000 Rupees!!! One of the many reasons why I call the menstrual cup magical. For sanitary purposes it would be a good idea to invest in two cups because there might be days when you probably won’t have access to clean running water.

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It’s easier to try something new when you personally know someone that’s tried it. This is exactly why talking about menstruation shouldn’t be a taboo! In fact the word “taboo” comes from the polynesian word tapua, which means both “sacred” and “menstrual flow.” So the very word that is regarded as a forbidden discussion and association with a place or person is derived from the ordinary bit of blood that every women deals with monthly.

We shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about a completely normal and natural occurrence for billions of women, that women miss out solutions that can change their lives for the better. Lets face it, haven’t you wondered where do all your disposable menstruation products end up? How often have you walked across a garbage dump and come across a used sanitary pad or seen an animal run away with one in its mouth? In 2015, 27,938 used tampons and sanitary pads were collected by The Ocean Conservancy around the world in a single day! While the correct manner to dispose off used sanitary pads is in a bin, many people flush it down a toilet which eventually enters water ways and causes a huge detrimental affect in our water bodies. It even poses a great threat to our marine life!

What motivated me to finally get over my fear of using a cup is the impact a single woman can make on the environment using disposable sanitary pads and tampons. Yes, there are organic tampons and washable cloth pads but lets face it, how many of us actually would prefer scrubbing a cloth pad given our busy lifestyle and as for organic tampons, even they take several years to breakdown and run a risk of toxins and pesticides. An average women menstruates for 38 years and in this time uses approximately 150 kg of disposable products. According to data, 432 million pads are disposed every month worldwide! These disposable products end up in landfills for at least 800 years!! On the other hand, a single menstrual cup is non toxic, Eco-friendly and can last you for at least 10 years if used correctly with the provided instructions and care.

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Using the cup has been a dream! I personally use an iCare menstrual cup but there’s a plethora of products to choose from. I have never felt so free during my menstrual cycle. It has even helped me stop cramping. The cup definitely teaches you a lot about your body. You can see how much you bleed, on what days and the viscosity of your blood. There might be an ick factor for most of you but remember, it’s your body and you must learn to understand it, accept it and above all; love it.

So, what is a menstrual cup?

Menstrual cups have been around since the 1980’s and is slowly gaining popularity among-st the masses. It’s a flexible cup made of high quality medical grade silicone designed for use inside the vagina during your period to collect menstrual blood directly. The cup actually collects the menstrual blood rather than absorbing it like a tampon or sanitary pad does. A menstrual cup can collect 3 times more menstrual fluid as compared to an ordinary pad or tampon! Which means ladies, depending on your flow it can hold anywhere between 5-6 hours to 8-10 hours! Menstrual cups can be used all day and from personal experience, I’ve had to clean my cup once in the morning and once in the night. Switching to a cup has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my 19 years of existence on this planet. What a dream!! Right from strenuous exercising to swimming and dancing, you can do everything and anything you want to while using your menstrual cup.

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How Does One Use a Menstrual Cup?

Firstly, always wash your hands before touching your cup. Your cup needs to be sterilized before and after your menstrual cycle ALWAYS! To sterilize your cup boil it in bubbling hot boiling water for 5-7 minutes and then let it cool before using. Keep this container aside from your other utensils and use it only for the purpose of sterilizing your cup.

Find a fold that suits your anatomy. 

There are several folds one can try. Here is a list to help you. pistachio project

Use the fold that proves easiest to insert your cup. Always insert the cup holding onto the fold firmly. This prevents premature opening which can result in difficulty while placing the cup.

Always keep your pelvic muscles relaxed. 

If your pelvic muscles are tensed it will be challenging and sometimes even painful while inserting the cup. Therefore always remain relaxed. its always hard to insert the cup for the first time. eventually in time, you will master it.

Find a comfortable position to help you insert your cup.

Some prefer sitting while others find it easier squatting. You can also try standing with one leg resting on your shower tub.

Insert your cup with the stem facing down.

Insert your cup slowly while making sure your muscles are relaxed. The cup should pop open inside. Make sure your cup is open completely by feeling the base of the cup. The cup forms a vacuum around the cervix and will collect your menstrual flow. If you feel uncomfortable then you’re most likely not wearing the cup correctly.

Removal of your cup.

Since there’s a vacuum formed, it is of utmost importance that you do not tug the stem of your cup. You can gently rotate it and pinch it at the bottom to break the vacuum, this is what helps me the best. Rinse your cup thoroughly with clean water. You can use V wash or any mild unscented water based soap free from any oil to wash your cup.

If you’re using a public restroom make sure you have access to clean running water but honestly, always carry a reusable bottle of drinking water in case of emergencies. Always make sure you’re carrying a hand sanitizer as well.

The menstrual cup can be used for young girls as well as older women. It’s never too late to make the switch! A lot of you asked me questions on the lines of,

  1. Can my hymen break?

Your hymen is elastic and is gradually worn away with time due to several activities that you may perform, ranging from sports, dancing or even briskly walking! The hymen is not attached to your virginity. That’s just a myth.

      2. Will I be able to pee and poo?

We have three output holes: The urethra, the vagina and the anus. The menstrual cup is placed in the vagina, so there is no interference with urination. Although, the cup can apply little pressure to the bladder which can be discomforting since you’ll want to pee frequently. Adjusting the cup correctly will rid you of that problem.

     3. What cup size should a virgin use?

Usually there are two sizes. Size small is for women with light to normal flow who are up-to 25 years of age.  size large is for women post child birth or with an extremely heavy flow.

      4. Can the cup be washed with any soap?

No! It’s necessary that you use mild unscented water based oil free soap to wash your cup. Using v wash is helpful. A menstrual cup is completely hygienic and safe if used as per instructions. The uterus of a woman isn’t as delicate and clean as we think it is. Always make sure you have access to clean water when using your cup.

      5. Isn’t it uncomfortable?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!! I swear, shifting to a cup has been the best thing ever! I have even stopped cramping. I sometimes forget I’m on my periods. There’s no dampness, rash nothing! It is obviously difficult the first time you try it, but after several attempts you will eventually master it! I also sleep like a log without worrying about leakage or tossing around. It’s like using lenses. the first time is difficult but then you reach to a point where you don’t even need a mirror. Remember, the anatomy of every woman is different, if a menstrual cup doesn’t suit you for any reason you could switch to a reusable washable cloth pad. The idea is to decrease your waste and go easy on the planet.

      6. I’m scared to put it inside, how can I get over that fear?

I understand it’s difficult but you have to attempt it at least once. You won’t regret it I promise. Keep trying and take breaks in between if you get frustrated. A lot of women are beginning to use the cup. overcome that fear.

      7. Can the cup get lost inside my vagina?

No. The cup can never get lost inside. It might go a little up ahead but you can always use your finger and gently pull on the stem.

       8. Can I use the cup when I’m not on my period.

Well, I don’t really know. When you’re on your period your vagina is lubricated thereby it’s easier for insertion and removal if you aren’t on your period, I’m assuming it would be painful.

        9. My mother is conservative and shuns the idea, what do I do?

If it helps, even my mother was very reluctant about me using the cup but at the end of the day, it’s my body and my personal choice. Our parents are children of their generation. Since then things have changed drastically. . I’m sure if you stand your ground and patiently talk to them they will try and understand, after all You’re a woman.

My challenge to you all is to talk to your friends, parents kids or whoever else will give you an ear. There’s a plethora of options and sources to learn from. This isn’t just for women, if you’re a guy and you’re reading this, talk to your women. The more we talk, the less of a taboo will it be.

DISCLAIMER : I am not a medical practitioner and all the views expressed in this post are based on my personal experience and a few friends I know that are users of the menstrual cup. Kindly use your own discretion while purchasing a hygiene product.        

Happy Green Periods!!

THE MISTY HILLS OF AMBOLI!

Rain clouds and foaming cascades…

The mosaic hills stood in all its might. As the mist evaporated, the hills were covered in clouds. Despite it blinding our sights, the ranges did not fail to amaze. Water gushed from above the hilltops and foamed the route below. Cascades after cascades followed. To my left, a few shards of sunlight broke through the mist and clouds, illuminating the hilltops below. A few infrequent spells of rain further comforted our journey. The mountain walls to our right were covered in carpets of mosses and were hidden above, beyond sight within the clouds. It was truly a sight that comforted the senses.

39623942_532200393877285_2260504144731176960_n(Image by Kedar Marathe)

After dropping our bags off at the hotel we were lodging at, a quick stroll led us to a quaint stall that served steaming misal pao and maggi. The spicy hot misal pao was perfect for the misty damp weather. The paths were foggy and made it quite difficult to comprehend what lay in-front of us or even beside for that matter.  The sun was setting behind the hills. A whiff of smoke drifted across the cloudy sky and the traffic of the weekend punctured the silence of the wilderness.

The forests reverberated with the echoing calls of the frogs. These unique songs marked their presence and excited me. I quickly put on my socks and walked down the corridor with my recorder. A night trail was what lay ahead and boy was I excited! We sheathed ourselves in our rain jackets and armed ourselves with torches. After walking a few miles we came across our first sighting, the Malabar pit viper! Excitement gripped the rest of the team.

MALABAR PIT VIPERS (TRIMERESURUS MALABARICUS)

39786268_563947094025139_6108923922894290944_n(Image by Kedar Marathe)

A venomous species of pit viper from the Western Ghats. There are several morphs found. Morphism remains unexplained. Different morphs in a single species is called Polymorphism and this is exhibited in the Malabar pit viper. There is a lot about nature that we’re still to learn.   These snakes are nocturnal and usually remain inactive during the day. Their coloration changes seasonally. During the dry seasons they’re light and the wet, they’re dark. These snakes are usually found in low vegetation and amidst the shrubs on the ground. They often prey on rats, geckos and frogs. They’re often known to rest at the same place for long periods. If you spot one at a particular branch today, you’re most likely to see it there for the next few days.

39536087_286341665481780_6678792222520901632_n(Image by Kedar Marathe)

 

We spotted several morphs that night. Green, brown and semi brown. They were all resting peacefully amidst the low shrubs and so well camouflaged undisturbed by the rain and a few of our flashlights.  Our walk ahead led us to several juvenile vine snakes. Spotting them was quite a task for an eye that’s still to learn but our guide was so quick to find them despite their brilliant camouflage, I almost believed he was gifted with telepathic abilities!

VINE SNAKES (AHAETULLA NASUTA)

39686715_851473528392922_9144678198653485056_n(Image by Kedar Marathe)

A slender body, narrow head and pointed mouth is what can help one identify this species; well only if you can spot it! The semi venomous Indian Vines are abundant in lightly forested areas, including gardens and often frequenting trees and bushes. In fact, if you happen to be a student or faculty of St Xavier’s College, keep an eye out for them in the trees outside the canteen as well as the trees around the main ground, you’re sure to spot one if you’re patient and if you do, observe it without fear. This beautiful highly misunderstood species spends most of its time amidst tree tops, motionless and patiently waiting for potential prey. Occasionally moving its head to mimic the fluttering of leaves in the wind, the common vine is excellent at camouflage.  No. this harmless species doesn’t pluck anyone’s eyes nor bores into human heads; they prefer birds, eggs, garden lizards and even tadpoles over human brains. Being tree snakes, they’re rather sluggish on land, making them often the victims of road kills.

39522418_270926980182010_7089622216798633984_n(Image by Kedar Marathe)

 

We need to protect our forests, conserve all the species that live and thrive in this environment. Sitting amongst a few house plants and captioning our images as ‘’breathing nature’’ and being the same one to trash your picnic spots and waterfalls isn’t really helping nature help you breathe. It’s the small things we do in our capacity that counts. We might not be able to tread the forests and get on field and conserve, but we can work in numerous other ways to help.

Warm greetings from one ardent lover to another,

I hope you all have a pleasant day ahead.

 

A QUAINT VILLAGE AMIDST THE JUNGLE!

Breathe..

When was the last time you stopped, breathed fresh air and revered the earth beneath your feet? Most of us do not yearn for the trees, the sparkling streams and the dirt of the earth on our feet, because we simply haven’t observed these tiny miracles that we think are all so trivial. How then can you love someone or something when you haven’t witnessed their love and beauty yourself? This is exactly why you should get out. Set your phones aside and let netflix chill alone. Take a walk and visit the village nearby. Stop. Breathe. Listen. While you’re at it, make sure you do not cause harm. Leave your plastic for good. Do not foul these areas that have such great history and rich culture. Enjoy it but make sure the next person that walks your path, enjoys it just the way you did, and for that you must keep the place clean.

 

31301916_441363956277371_7043855023817621504_nClear skies and beautiful weather.

The Jungle Hamlet

My recent visits to a quaint village in Karnataka taught me great lessons. Travelling through the scenic views of the Anmod Ghat was stunning. The hills stood in all its glory and every being that passed by was stupefied by the might of nature. The village was located in the heart of the jungle. Nestled amidst the trees, it’s surrounded by lush rainforests that are home to several endemic species of the Western Ghats.  with a plethora of beautiful creatures and tall trees, the forests shelters this village like a child in a mother’s bosom. Agriculture is their main occupation and the villagers work tirelessly in their fields to feed their families. Their food is fresh, organic and oh so yum!

32560335_449286548818445_8466591115603083264_nVast stretches of forests land in all its glory.

 

Electricity was a recent introduction to this village and despite not having seen development like our city dwellers, the villagers are ever grateful for what little they do have. On arrival I was offered  Jack-fruit that was grown and harvested in the village and boy, it was so good! Sweet and as organic as it could get.  In the city, hand-wash etc is used to get rid of the sticky sap, but here, a good dusting on the dirt of the earth helps one get rid of it so quick! The village was a feast for all of my senses! right from smelling and breathing the fresh air, sighting so many birds and animals, eating food that was produced in the fields right in-front of the house to feeling the cool wind, my heart was thrilled!

32564419_449286895485077_7379788656833200128_nOrganically grown produce cultivated and harvested by the villagers themselves.

 

32595141_449286498818450_9175316382219239424_n.jpgOne of the best and healthiest meals I’ve had so far. Completely Farm fresh.

An evening stroll through the village guided by two little boys brought me to stunning landscapes and golden fields. The cattle grazed under the watchful eye of the herder. I felt great content. All my problems seemed so insignificant and doltish. The breeze was cool and the clouds whispered the arrival of a probable shower. The streams were playful and sweet. A sudden melodious sound from the forest got my attention. A Malabar whistling thrush sang its song. The tune was so captivating! The green bee eater, water hens, jungle fowls and lapwings were some of the many birds I sighted. I felt quite privileged to witness a wild Indian bison and barking deer grazing just outside the fields.

32815609_449289402151493_8823778420052721664_nThe two young lads taking me for an evening stroll.

 

32664341_449289578818142_8292808419455270912_nThe golden fields ripe and almost ready for harvest.

At night a walk through the village introduced me to several species of frogs. Oh the sticky amphibians are so gorgeous and so vital for our ecosystem! A way to know if an ecosystem is healthy is by studying the frogs in the area. Frogs are the first creatures to ever get affected if there is an imbalance in the system. They’re such tiny creatures but have such a crucial role to play. The fields were filled with croaks. In cities frogs face several problems, one of which happens to be noise pollution. In order to mate, these little amphibians croak so they can be heard by a potential mate. but due to the sounds of traffic and the hustle and bustle of busy crowds their cries are muffled, thus sabotaging their reproduction cycle. The entire village was asleep but the forest was awake and the cicadas made sure of it.

32747835_449286728818427_6029216111633891328_nOne of our sightings. The cutest little amphibian.

The village had plenty to offer in its own minimalistic way and taught me how it’s the little things that matter. I hope you are inspired to get out, find a huge tree and sit under it with a book to read or just soak in all its beautiful vibes. A single tree is home to various creatures, all you must do it look closely.

32665330_449286372151796_163879085678788608_nKomorebi: A personal spotlight of bright happy sunshine for all the forest creatures.

Hope you have a great day ahead!

 

THE INNOCUOUS LITTLE RUSSELL’S KUKRI!

Silent Serpents.

The sky was dusky. The blistering summer heat was showing us no mercy. My friend, Lakyn and I plonked ourselves on the couch playing with our rescue kitten, Tang. He sure knew how to make us roar with laughter!! Not too long after our session of catch and cook my phone buzzed. Now, all those that know me will know that every conversation is muted on my whatsapp besides a few numbers that are exceptions; one of which happens to be Gaurav. Gaurav is a snake rescuer from Vasco and I usually tag along with him for rescues around the area. Gaurav texted me wanting to know if I was in the area as there happened to be a rescue call. I promptly replied, “YES.”

31531320_442919219455178_8825157100259770368_nThe Juvenile Russell’s Kukri Rescued From The Residence.

The caller happened to be a resident from Bogmalo, Vasco and sounded extremely worried due to the presence of the snake inside his house. Lakyn being the thoughtful person she is, offered me a drop to the area as it was already nightfall. ( I promise I’ll be learning to drive soon!) Gaurav then picked me up and we both proceeded towards the house, keeping an eye for the caller as he was to direct us to the place. After a good 5 minute ride through the village, we reached the area and found the caller anticipating our arrival. You could tell he was shaken and breaking a sweat.

He guides us into his house and through the hall. We pass a room and halt at the next, it was bolted shut. He explained to us that his son latched the door when the snake was sighted to make sure it wouldn’t slither away to another room and disappear. Gaurav hands over the snake hook to me and tells me to go ahead. I open the door and ask them to point out where the snake was last seen. With the family’s help, Gaurav and I shift a few metal trunks and finally we spot the snake! It was a harmless little juvenile Russell’s Kukri. He was coiled up against the wall and the edge of the trunk unsuspecting. I gently lift him up and slowly proceed towards the caller and his alarmed family. Upon explaining to them how important this little snake is and what wonders it does, he smiled and appreciated the little snake. While I bagged the tiny guy, I overhear him asking Gaurav if I was a scientist! Gaurav and I both had a good laugh!! I proceed to tell them I’m merely just a student studying journalism with an interest in our biodiversity. We both then thank them for calling us and proceed towards the bike.

I reach home and narrate the incident to my mother, she isn’t fond of reptiles and mammals and completely detests them. Maybe someday I might be able to make her reconsider them too?

31648309_442932389453861_5225351306457120768_n(Image By Kedar Marathe)

Russell’s Kukri also known as the Variegated Kukri is a non venomous species found in Goa. It has a slender body with a short tail and has various colour forms. Human settlements means lizards and this is why they are found in these areas. So next time you see a snake that looks like this, know that it is harmless and comes in peace in search of geckos and not us.