Sabyasachi Patra

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol.11 Issue VII

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 11 Issue VII

ISSN 2394 – 6946

Download the full Newsletter PDF by clicking the below button –
IndiaWilds Newsletter-July-2019 (7.3 MB, 106 downloads)

Save the Earth: Micro plastics invasion:

IndiaWilds Newsletter-July-2019-PDF

IndiaWilds Newsletter-July-2019-PDF

The earth is wounded. Its body is ravaged by the relentless destruction of the natural world, thoughtless industrialisation projects, merciless killing of wildlife and brainless pollution of air, earth and water. Humans – who are supposed to be most intelligent species on earth- for some strange reasons seem to have abandoned their intellectual faculties. What else can explain this beautiful earth to have got converted into Planet Plastics where the earth has been inundated with plastics?

Plastics, invented in 1907, was seen as a major development to further the progress of mankind. Within a hundred years, the earth is swamped with plastics as they are not biodegradable. There are plastics dumped everywhere and we don’t have any way of getting rid of it. There are monstrous mountains of plastic trash piles in various places. However, more than the aesthetically ugly nature of plastics floating in the rivers and waterways is the impact of plastics on the ecosystem and on us.

Micro-plastics into our body and ecosystem:

There have been several cases of animals dying after swallowing polythene bags containing food. However, those are individual cases. The more important ones are the case of micro-plastics have entered our blood stream. For the first time microplastics have been found in human stool. Degraded plastic fibres and pieces of everyday plastics discarded carelessly disintegrates and then tiny sizes from 5mm to even microscopic size gets easily ingested along with food. Various scavengers scavenging the garbage dumps and the food items thrown out along forest paths with various plastic packaging chew pieces of plastics. The beauty care industry also employs microbeads in the face scrubbing and other beautifying gels and lotions.

Now the micro-plastics are moving along the food chain and are even bio-accumulating without we noticing.

The impact of these micro-plastics is going to unravel in myriad ways. The micro-plastics can inhibit growth, reduce reproduction abilities and compromise adversely impact the immunity of the body. They can leach within the body to release chemicals the impact of which can be slow and difficult to diagnose and can cause liver and other organ damage. A research study (Transgenerational effects and recovery of micro-plastics exposure in model populations of the freshwater cladoceran Daphnia magna Straus, Alexandra Martins et. al., ) suggests that D. magna recovery from chronic exposure to micro-plastics may take several generations, and that the continuous exposure over generations to micro-plastics may cause population extinction. Micro-plastics (0.1 mg/l) decreased growth, reproduction and population growth rate and caused the extinction of the exposed population in two generations.

Rainbow runner in North Pacific Gyre ingested 18 plastic pieces Photo: Dr. Marcus Eriksen Gyres Institute

One estimate suggests that there are 15 trillion pieces of plastics floating in our oceans, fresh water rivers and other water bodies. And the amount of micro-plastics already in our waters may be of similar number. And these numbers can always be severe underestimation. So the chances of cleaning up our water of plastics is simply impossible.

A study (Kosuth M, Mason SA, Wattenberg EV (2018) Anthropogenic contamination of tap water, beer, and sea salt. PLoS ONE 13(4): e0194970. after testing 159 samples of globally sourced tap water, 12 brands of Laurentian Great Lakes beer, and 12 brands of commercial sea salt, found that 81% of tap water contained anthropogenic particles out of which 98.3% were fibres between 0.1 to 5mm in length. Similar debris were found in beer and salt out of which 99% were fibers. After adjusting for particles found in lab blanks for both salt and beer, the average number of particles found in beer was 4.05 particles/L with a range of 0 to 14.3 particles/L and the average number of particles found in each brand of salt was 212 particles/kg with a range of 46.7 to 806 particles/kg. So the authors concluded that “the average person ingests over 5,800 particles of synthetic debris from these three sources annually, with the largest contribution coming from tap water (88%).”

The microplastics are so tiny that they can be carried in air. We can breathe in air laden with micro-plastics and these tiny microplastics once lodged deep in the lungs can cause lung cancer.

So what will happen to humans within the next two generations? Will we be similarly impacted like the small planktonic crustacean Daphnia magna?

In 1950s the total production of plastics was to the tune of 2 million tons. Now it is 300 million metric tons. This figure is bound to rise to 33 billion metric tons every year by 2050. Governments are still not calling for an immediate ban on plastic packaging and single use plastics. When will we wake up?

Plastics in Thane creek

Plastics in Thane creek

A lot of single use plastics is through water bottles and paper cups. Government has to ban all plastic disposable water bottle use in big hotels as well as in meetings and corporate offices. Hotels and caterers make money by selling packaged drinking water bottles. Onus has to be on the hotels and corporates to install water purification machines and then provide mugs and glasses to be filled from those. This may hit the profits a bit as hotels are known to have a huge markup on the water bottles. Government has to ensure that single use water bottles see a drastic fall in sale and consumption. People should be allowed to fill their water bottles from certified dispensers in different localities. That would improve the health of people as well as reduce plastic consumption.

Even after raising awareness retail chains continue their romance with single use plastics. The mushrooming tea and coffee joints continue to provide disposable cups which are paper and plastic mixed. These joints want to avoid washing cups so they give disposable cups.

With every product that we buy, there is a lot of plastics used in packaging. The more fancy the product the more is the packaging. Government has to ban plastic packaging. It has to force corporates to take back the plastics they have generated. Placing the onus on individuals means they will throw the packaging increasing the already high pollution load. Government has to start penalising corporates to force them to use alternate materials for packaging. The deadline for compliance has to be immediate.

Our municipal garbage collection and disposal systems are in abysmal condition. The Government has to immediately revamp and invest and bring in accountability so that all garbage generated is 100% recycled. Till the time scientists don’t discover an antidote to plastics, we have to keep the stop the usage. We have to take urgent action to take this micro-plastic invasion into our bodies and all natural systems.



An ode to “Stairway to Heaven”: Valley of Flowers National Park

Conservation News:

Non-invasive Pregnancy diagnosis of wildlife through faecal hormone profiles

If pregnancy of humans can be diagnosed easily, then why not that of wild animals? Progress in science has now made it easy. IVRI (Indian Veterinary Research Institute), which is India’s premier research facility in veterinary field, has announced that it can diagnose pregnancy of wildlife through non-invasive methods with full accuracy.

Using a non-invasive pregnancy diagnosis (PD) IVRI (Indian Veterinary Research Institute) in April had declared Jessica from Etawah Lion Safari as pregnant. Subsequently Jessica has given birth to four cubs on 26-6-2019.

Jessica with four cubs - cctv grab on 26.6.2019

Jessica with four cubs – cctv grab on 26.6.2019

In the past the lioness Jessica was declared pregnant three times and as non-pregnant on one occasion. Accordingly she had given birth during the three times she was declared as pregnant and no parturition happened when she was declared non-pregnant. This has ensured 100% success rate in predicting pregnancy.

IVRI’s non-invasive pregnancy diagnosis is done using faecal hormone profile 45 days after mating. This has been found successful in 14 samples (lions and tigers) from Etawah Lion Safari.

During previous years IVRI has received samples from MC Zoological Park Chhatbir (Punjab); Pipali Zoo, Kurukshetra (Haryana); Silvassa Vasona Lion Safari, Dakshina Kannada (Karnataka); Dharmasthala (Karnataka); National Zoo Nainital (Uttarakhand); Nahargarh Biological Park, Japiur (Rajasthan), National Zoological Park, New Delhi; Sajjangarh Biological Park, Udaipur (Raj); Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, (UP). A total of 36 such samples were evaluated based on progestin concentration and found to be 100% successful.

Large carnivores like Tigers, leopards and lions need inviolate space to breed. Such non-invasive techniques can be of big help in predicting and taking precautionary measures in the wildlife sanctuaries and National Parks as well. It would be important to include such testing into the regular protocols for wildlife managers so that they don’t go through much red tape.


Rising sea temperatures sees corals moving away from equator:

With global warming our seas are also getting hotter. So corals have started moving away from the equatorial region. In the last 40 years coral reefs are declining in tropical regions and increasing in more cooler areas. This was found in a study “Global biogeography of coral recruitment: tropical decline and subtropical increase, Price et. al. DOI:” published in Marine Ecology Progress Series.

The authors of the study have said that “despite widespread climate-driven reductions of coral cover on tropical reefs, little attention has been paid to the possibility that changes in the geographic distribution of coral recruitment could facilitate beneficial responses to the changing climate through latitudinal range shifts.

To address this possibility, Nichole Price and his collaborating scientists from six countries and 17 institutions in their study examined coral settlement trends upto 35 degrees north and south of the equator.

we compiled a global database of normalized densities of coral recruits on settlement tiles (corals m-2) deployed from 1974 to 2012, and used the data therein to test for latitudinal range shifts in the distribution of coral recruits. In total, 92 studies provided 1253 records of coral recruitment, with 77% originating from settlement tiles immersed for 3-24 mo, herein defined as long-immersion tiles (LITs); the limited temporal and geographic coverage of data from short-immersion tiles (SITs; deployed for <3 mo) made them less suitable for the present purpose. The results from LITs show declines in coral recruitment, on a global scale (i.e. 82% from 1974 to 2012) and throughout the tropics (85% reduction at <20° latitude), and increases in the sub-tropics (78% increase at >20° latitude).”

From these trends the scientists concluded that “a global decline in coral recruitment has occurred since 1974, and the persistent reduction in the densities of recruits in equatorial latitudes, coupled with increased densities in sub-tropical latitudes, suggests that coral recruitment may be shifting poleward.”

Climate change seems to be redistributing coral reefs, the same way it is shifting many other marine species,” said Nichole Price, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and lead author of the paper. “The clarity in this trend is stunning, but we don’t yet know whether the new reefs can support the incredible diversity of tropical systems.”

These subtropical reefs created by corals moving away from the tropics may provide refuge to species which are similarly escaping from the hot tropics. However the researchers believe that only certain types of coral are able to reach these new locations, based on how far the microscopic larvae can swim and drift on currents before they run out of their limited fat stores. The exact composition of most new reefs is currently unknown, due to the expense of collecting genetic and species diversity data. We hope more studies are sanctioned so that we can understand the impacts of our actions and how these tiny microorganisms are trying to cope up with Climate Crisis.

We are seeing ecosystems transition to new blends of species that have never coexisted, and it’s not yet clear how long it takes for these systems to reach equilibrium,” said Satoshi Mitarai, an associate professor at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University and an author of the study. “The lines are really starting to blur about what a native species is, and when ecosystems are functioning or falling apart.”

Coral photo by Nichole Price

Coral photo by Nichole Price

Coral reefs are also intricately interconnected systems, and they depend on each other for their healthy functioning. At the moment it is not clear which other species, such as coralline algae that facilitate the survival of vulnerable coral larvae, are also expanding into new areas – or how successful young corals can be without them. Nichole Price wants to investigate the relationships and diversity of species in new reefs to understand the dynamics of these evolving ecosystems.

So many questions remain about which species are and are not making it to these new locations, and we don’t yet know the fate of these young corals over longer time frames,” Price said. “The changes we are seeing in coral reef ecosystems are mind-boggling, and we need to work hard to document how these systems work and learn what we can do to save them before it’s too late.”

With new species migrating on their own due to climate change, it is imperative that there are more studies to understand the ecological impact. Predicting the locations where new corals are moving in may help from a resource exploitation point of view as one can find out new fishing grounds and tourism revenues. Given that India has a long coastline and corals in many places, it is important for Indian scientists to get longterm funding to continue work on these topics.


Neem chemical can disable cotton pest in multiple ways

By Susheela Srinivas
Bengaluru, July 2 (India Science Wire): The neem plant, Azadirachta indica, is known to contain a potent phytochemical Azadirachtin-A (Aza-A) that can ward off several pests. Scientists from India and Germany have now deciphered the mechanism by which Aza-A does this. Their research on cotton bollworm reveals that the phytotoxin acts in multiple ways to suppress growth of the pest.
Cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) is a dreaded pest attacking several crops of economic value and has become resistant to most insecticides in use.

Unlike synthetic pesticides which target a single protein, Aza-A aims several proteins in pests. This, in turn, triggers actions that change their feeding habits and metabolism, thereby arresting their growth.
Two sets of the insect larvae were reared – one fed on a diet with Aza-A and the other without it. Aza-A was extracted from neem fruits. By using a technique called MALDI-TOF Imaging, researchers examined the distribution of Aza-A in the larvae of the pest.

It revealed that the neem extract vigorously attacked the worm’s key enzyme JHE (Juvenile Hormone Esterase), which is involved in metabolism and its growth. The presence of the phytotoxin made worms engage in the detoxification process, changing the way they used their energy, which, in turn, affects their metabolism, feeding habits and growth.

Even a small amount of Aza-A could alter primary metabolism in the insect. Metabolomics analysis performed on the larvae showed that the worms underwent various changes in response to the toxin. In some, the moulting phase was arrested, while in others, there was stunted growth. The whole larvae burst upon ingesting Aza-A diet in some cases.

This suggested that Aza-A could have several targets for its toxic mode of action. Aza-A metabolites produced in H. armigera could also inhibit the activity of vital enzymes. In all, over 35 such metabolites have been identified. “Aza-A has a complex structure, and it has taken several years to understand it. Owing to this complexity, it cannot be synthesised in the laboratory. However, the metabolites can be. By exploiting this, we can develop broad-spectrum bioinsecticides,” said Dr Vishal Dawkar, lead researcher of the study.

The team included Vishal V Dawkar, Ranjit S. Barbole, Vidya S. Gupta, Saikat Haldar, Hirekodathakallu V. Thulasiram and Ashok P. Giri (National Chemical Laboratory, Pune); Sagar H. Barage (Savitribai Phule Pune University); Amol Fatangare, Susana Grimalt and Aleš Svatoš (Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology). The study results are published in the journal ACS Omega.


Equipment Discussions:

Sony announces 61 MP a7R IV camera

Sony has launched the a7R IV camera with a 61.0-megapixel full-frame Exmor R™ CMOS sensor combined with BIONZ X™ imaging engine to deliver unprecedented resolution, fine gradation and low noise to open an entirely new dimension of detail just as pro photographers expect.

Sony announces 61 MP a7R IV camera


Canon announces New 120MP and 2.7MP ultra high sensitive CMOS sensors

As image sensors are a driving force in innovating industries, Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, has announced two new CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductors) sensor products, the ultra-high resolution 120MXSI and ultra-high sensitivity 35MMFHDXSMA. These sensors help expand the company’s lineup of industrial vision products, and offer integrators and end users additional capabilities when developing solutions in a variety of applications.

As a result of Canon’s success in developing and manufacturing advanced CMOS sensors for our own purposes, we expanded to create a business platform offering select sensor capabilities for use in industrial vision applications,” said Kazuto Ogawa, president and chief operating officer, Canon U.S.A., Inc. “These two new CMOS sensors reflect Canon’s dedication to this new business, and reinforce our commitment to developing high-quality imaging solutions.”


Canon Announces Its First RF Telephoto Zoom Lens, The RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM

Canon has introduced a travel zoom telephoto lens for its new RF mount the Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3mm IS USM lens. This is the sixth RF lens to be announced.
This is a compact and lightweight 10x zoom lens designed for EOSR and EOSRP full frame mirrorless cameras as well as work with any future cameras to be launched in the EOS RF mount. This is meant to be a high quality as well as budget friendly option in the RF mirrorless cameras and will round up the needs of many amateurs who typically buy such a zoom for travel.

“Providing photographers of all skill levels with the invaluable tools to help capture and create the images they desire has been and will continue to be a paramount goal for Canon,” said Kazuto Ogawa, president and chief operating officer, Canon U.S.A., Inc. “The new RF 24-240mm is an excellent option as an all-around travel lens that provides attractive features for a wide variety of image capture.”


Natural History

COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: M. Krishnan: ‘A King among Fishers‘ shared By Saktipada Panigrahi


Wildlife Photography

Tiger Cub by Sabyasachi Patra

Tiger Mating by Vipin Sharma

Leopard by Shyamala Kumar

Tiger in Corbett by Jerin Dinesh

Spot Billed Pelican by Mrudul Godbole

Grey-Crested Tit by Sandipan Ghosh

Lynx spider with Grasshopper by Arun Acharjee

Hermit crabs around a sponge by Prajwal Ullal


This is the 127th issue of IndiaWilds. The cover page photo captures a predator with its prey. On first glance one can sight a Crested Serpent Eagle perched on a dead tree. On closer inspection one can sight the snake about two feet away hanging on the tree. Since the eagle was not immediately feeding on the snake tourists may not notice the snake and move away. Patience, a keen eye and curiosity helps in unraveling mysteries in the wild. This eagle didn’t eat for an hour. And since it was time for the gate to close in Bandhavgarh National Park, we were forced to move away. Why did the eagle not eat immediately after killing the snake? What was it waiting for? At times their actions may appear to us as mystery. However, these eagles know what they are doing. At times you can sight an eastern imperial eagle eating the orchid vanda which has anti-venom uses. Deeper levels of observation and studies can unravel the actions of our wild denizens and perhaps can bring in more respect for their knowledge and intelligence.

The lead article in this issue talks about the problems of plastics and microplastics. Once hailed as wonder material, tiny plastic fragments have now reached our blood stream and are present in water, beer and in different foods. We should understand that our actions have resulted in a massive ecological crisis as well as threatening the survival of mankind. So it is time for shedding our ego as the most intelligent species on earth and start working to save our Planet Earth as well as ourselves for our stupid actions.


I look forward to your inputs and support in preserving the last tracts of wilderness and wildlife left in our beautiful country and raising awareness about it. For other interesting articles and images check –

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Sabyasachi Patra

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IndiaWilds Newsletter-July-2019 (7.3 MB, 106 downloads)
Sabyasachi Patra
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