IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 5 Issue VII

IndiaWilds Newsletter Vol. 5 Issue VII

Newsletter-July-2013 (4.2 MB, 972 downloads)


Soundscape Ecology in Conservation:

India is losing its wilderness areas to large projects like dams, canals, power plants, roads etc. Some of these diversions are forced on the MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forests) by other cabinet ministers and PMO, some diversions due to populist pressures, there are also many cases where clearances are given to industries and projects based on faulty EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment).

I have been privy to some EIA reports and have been aghast by the manner in which documentation of the flora and fauna is done. Most of these reports conclude that they didnt find any evidence of wildlife in the place. Despite protests, the agencies conducting the EIA stick to their guns and say that they didnt have any direct sighting of any wildlife.

It is a well known fact that wildlife with their keen sense of hearing, smell and sight can detect our presence much before we do and due to the poaching and anthropogenic pressures wildlife often dont want to advertise their presence infront of people. Even in reserve forests and National Parks where there is lot of disturbance from people, the animals become nocturnal in their habits. Hence the team undertaking the EIA dont get direct sighting of wildlife. In hard ground it is difficult to see the pug marks, hoof marks or other such imprints and it becomes easy for the team to declare that the place is devoid of any wildlife.

Even though wildlife may not be directly seen by us, there is a way of detecting their presence in a particular habitat. Animals, birds and insects are prone to vocalisations for various reasons. They vocalise or make sound to communicate within their own species as well with members of other species. Birds singing, mating calls of various species, vocalisations to inform others about food, mother calling child, alarm calls, warning calls to other species during conflicts and many others happen routinely during the day and night. Some calls also vary during seasons in terms of duration as well as in frequency. There are also calls and animal sounds in response to human intrusions into their habitat and also in response to anthrophony (ie.sounds created by man, tools, machines, airplanes etc). So the biophony (sounds of living organisms) signature varies in response to anthrophony.

At certain seasons, due to migrations of animals and birds, there are more and varied sounds simply due to the presence of the migrating species which were not present in the previous season. For example a grassland appearing naked to an untrained eye can suddenly with the change in season vibrate with the melodious calls of birds, sharp calls of raptors chasing them as well as lesser carnivores trying to predate on them. In less than a few months the soundscape of the place would be completely changed.

Waveform and frequency analysis of a changeable hawk eagle call

Waveform and frequency analysis of a changeable hawk eagle call

Similarly during the breeding time of various amphibians and insects the landscape resonates with their sounds. There are even cicadas which emerge periodically once in every few years and their sounds resonate in the landscape. In North America one species of cicada comes out every 17 years. Needless to say that there are many species residing in a landscape beyond the few mega fauna like elephants and tigers.

At times permissions are given for selective logging under the argument that only a few old hard growth trees are removed and the main forest remains or only if one portion of the forest is diverted the main forest is not impacted. If one records the biophony of the place after diversion of the forest land for projects, the impact of the loss of micro habitats for various species of insects, amphibians, birds and mammals will be noticeable.

We should realise that there is a complex web of interactions and inter-dependencies among various organisms big and small in this world. We cannot play God and remove a few species or few wild lands to satisfy our greed for a modern lifestyle. To rise above the biased arguments and people who are not willing to believe our impact on nature and other species, it would be important to commission studies to examine the soundscape of the place before arriving at any decision. So it would be important to make it mandatory to examine the soundscape or bioacoustics of the landscape to decide the richness of the biodiversity of the place.

Identification of species based on sounds:

The soundscape of the place needs to be examined by competent experts who can identify the vocalisations of animals, birds, insects etc. With the advent of digital technology it is easier for each expert to mark the species in the relevant portion of the spectrogram.

These days there have been efforts to undertake real-time bioacoustics monitoring and species identification through the use of software. (Aide et al.(2013)Real-time bioacoustics monitoring and automated species identification.PeerJ1:e103) . With the passage of time these automated species identification softwares are going to be become robust. Till that time, we can depend on individual identification of species. Voluntary contribution of many experts can also be taken by uploading the recordings in the websites.


Like all shoddy EIA reports, there is also a loophole ie limitation with the use of soundscapes as one needs to follow a fixed protocol. One should also use the microphone and recording equipment, so that geophony (sound of wind) doesnt mute every other sound. Careful positioning of equipment is also required to properly record the soundscape.

Recording bird sounds

Recording bird sounds

I hope we can use scientific tools like soundscape ecology to correctly document the places and save them from being destroyed.


Software Programme to identify individual wolf from howl:

In a study finding which has far reaching consequences for use in conservation, a research team from Nottingham Trent University in UK have managed to create a software which can analyse the individual vocal signatures of wolves.


Wolf in Velavadar Blackbuck Sanctuary, India

A species like wolves tend to vocalize a lot. They also readily howl when other members of the group are howling in chorus. The wolf howl can be heard from a long distance and helps one member of the group to call others incase of finding a carcass, presence of prey or of competitors and as well as just to inform its position and reconnect with the group.

The researchers of Nottingham Trent University have used the frequency and amplitude of the wolf vocalisations to improve the accuracy. They have claimed to be able to now predict with 100% accuracy about the identity if a single wolf is howling and with 97% accuracy when the pack is howling. The researchers used a total of 67 recordings of 10 individual Eastern Gray Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon) and 112 chorus howls of 109 individual wolves.


Dolphins addressing each other by names:

In an interesting research paper (Stephanie L. King et al) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) the authors have said that Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) can use learned vocal labels to address each other.

The researchers have said that the bottlenose dolphins develop their own signature whistle. When the researchers played the whistle only the individual dolphin whose signature whistle is being played back responded to it by whistling back. Other dolphins didnt respond to the whistle.

This signature tune of dolphins may help them in communicating with each other and understanding each others location, especially since visibility inside water is limited. This appears to be a promising area for future research.

Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) in Arabean Sea


Current Affairs:

Indian Media and Conservation

A story in Deccan Herald caught my eye. It had the title Zoo to breed wild dogs in captivity. Just below the headlines one could see the photo of the two forelegs of a German Shephard dog without showing its head or other parts of its body. Parts of a collar is seen in the image. Clearly the image was clicked in someones house.


This dog image was used in the news article about Wild Dogs (dholes). Source Deccan Herald

For a moment I was surprised as Dholes (Cuon alpinus) are also referred to as wild dogs. Reading the story a bit more revealed that the news was about breeding of dholes and not about feral dogs or domestic dog species like German Shephards.

One can see the article in question at this link:

Earlier, there were many instances of vernacular media posting images of Wart Hogs in the place of wild boar (sus scrofa) in the news about wild boars destroying crops -

Similarly there have been usage of African elephant photo in advertisement campaigns in India.

In an age when the regular print media is getting converted into multimedia with more images and videos to supplement the story, our mainstream media is finding it difficult. Reputed newspapers abroad, with circulation figures that are much lower than our newspapers, still respect copyright and they dont just copy images from the net and use it without seeking permissions and giving credits as our newspapers do. Paying for an image is unthinkable for most of our mainstream media.

In this case, posting an image of a pet dog and trying to pass it off as a wild dog (dhole) is purposefully creating a wrong image in the minds of people. As such, our people have a lot of misconception about wildlife. Some time back in a class I had asked a bunch of students to tell me the word that first comes to their mind when they hear tiger. Blood curdling, beast, wild, angry, killer etc were the words that instantaneously came to the minds of the students, which in marketing terms are referred to as top of mind recall. These words certainly doesnt show the tiger in good light. You cant protect something which you fear. No amount of Save the Tiger campaigns can succeed when there is so much misconception about our tigers and wildlife.

Our media should take lot of responsibility. Without media there cannot be efficient awareness campaigns. May be some of our large NGOs can conduct awareness workshops among the journalists. However, who will convince the media barons?


Article on Golden Langur by Biswajit De

Within the city of Guwahati in the state of Assam, a small group of Golden Langurs can be found on a small river island named Umananda Island in the river Brahmaputra(Coordinates:2611’47″N 9144’42″E). This article documents the struggle for existence of these Golden langurs..

To read the full article click here -

Golden Langur Portrait

Golden Langur Portrait


Other Conservation Issues:

New habitat for Great Indian Bustard

Tiger Sightings in Buxa, Bengal


Equipment Discussions:

NTU’s Graphene based sensor with extreme low light sensitivity:

In a major breakthrough, scientists in Nanyang Technical University (NTU) in Singapore have claimed to develop a camera sensor which has 1000 times higher sensitivity than the CMOS and CCD sensors that we use in our cameras. They have claimed that these sensors made out of grapheme need much lesser voltage and hence needs about 10 times less power and have estimated it to cost five times cheaper when mass produced.

The cameras using this sensor will have extremely high ISO ability and can shoot images and or video from daylight to complete darkness. So these cameras have the potential to replace the current IR cameras which is used by security agencies, wildlife filmmakers etc.

For further details please check:

Graphene image sensor

Graphene image sensor (Image source: NTU)


20.2 MP Canon EOS 70D announced

20.2 MP Canon EOS 70D Digital SLR

20.2 MP Canon EOS 70D Digital SLR

Salient Features:
* 20.2 MP – This resolution increase probably indicates that the consumers still buy on the basis of number of mega pixels as this is higher than its 1 Series camera – 1D X and 1D C.
* New Dual Pixel CMOS AF system for video as well as still for faster AF during liveview as well as video.
* APS-C sized Canon CMOS sensor
* DIGIC 5+ Image Processor.
* ISO range of 100-12800 (expandable to 25,600)
* High-speed continuous shooting of up to 7.0 frames per second (fps)
* 19-point all cross-type AF system (f/2.8 dual cross-type AF center point)
* 63-zone Dual Layer IFCL (Intelligent Focus, Color & Luminance) AE metering system
* built-in Electronic Level Function for horizon adjustment
* Manual WB settings and AF Microadjustment.

For further details please check:


Canons new Android App

Details of Canons new official app for controlling EOS DSLRs through wi-fi :


Natural History

COUNTRY NOTEBOOK: Avian Courts Martial: M.Krishnan


Image of the Month

The honour for the Image of the Month for June 2013 goes to Praveen Siddannavars leopard image titled Monsoon Leopard Kabini


Wildlife Photography

A selection of nature and wildlife images of IndiaWilds members

Leopard after storm & rain by Kaleeswara Srikanth

Himalayan Tahr by Mrudul Godbole

Secured Steps by Arindam Datta

Nilgiri Langur by Roopak Gangadharan

Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker by Sucheth Lingachar

Painted Stork Juvenile with catch by Bibhav Behera

Spotted Owlet by Kaleeswara Srikanth

Test of Time by Kaling Dai


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

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Sabyasachi Patra

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Newsletter-July-2013 (4.2 MB, 972 downloads)
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