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Blackbuck or the Indian Antelope and its History of Evolution

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blackbuck
Image credit : Pixabay (PublicDomainPictures)

The blackbuck is a sleek, lean mammal indigenous to Indian plains, and also found in Pakistan and Nepal. Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish zoologist has given the animal its binomial name.

Distribution of blackbucks

Indian antelopes are native to India and have become extinct from Bangladesh. In Nepal, the Blackbuck Conservation area has the last surviving lot of blackbucks. In Pakistan, blackbucks can be spotted in areas close to the India-Pakistan border.

Blackbucks have been introduced in Argentina and Texas as well.

Characteristics of blackbucks:

  • The size of an adult blackbuck is moderate, with a head-to-body length of 120 cm approximately. The average weight of a full-grown blackbuck can be between 30 kg to 50 kg. Females are comparatively lighter in weight. Sexual dimorphism is also apparent, as males are darker and heavier than females.
  • Male blackbucks have ring-shaped, longhorns that look like corkscrews. Females may have horns but are not so common.
  • Their bodies have white fur around the eyes and on the chin, contrasting with the black stripes all over the face. The body of the males is brown and black in color. Female juveniles, on the other hand, are yellowish in color.
  • As the breeding season comes closer, males tend to grow darker and more aggressive.
  • Blackbucks have a close resemblance to another animal, gazelles.

Preferred habitat

Blackbucks prefer thinly forested zones and grassy plains where water is available to fulfill their daily needs. They travel in herds to long distances in quest of water. Scrublands are a great source of cover and foliage. They are not accustomed to the cold climate.

Behavior and ecology
  • The blackbuck is active at day, though in summer activities slow down post noon.
  • They are seen in three kinds of small groups, namely, the bachelor males, the territorial males, and the female herds.
  • The strategy adopted by male blackbucks for mating is termed ‘lekking’.  
  • The blackbucks are fast animals and can cover a distance of 80 kilometers in an hour.
  • Natural calamities like droughts and floods have severely affected blackbucks.
  • Wolves, cheetahs, and even jackals hunt these antelopes.
What do blackbucks eat?

Blackbucks are herbivorous animals that love to graze on low meadows. They prefer to eat sedge, mesquite, live oak, and fall witch grass. Digestion is slow in summer but efficient in winter and rainy seasons. They also consume less food in the summer.

In places where there is a scarcity of grasses, Prosopis is a significant food ingredient. Blackbucks need water on a daily basis.

How fast do blackbucks reproduce?

Though female blackbucks sexually mature in around eight months, they do not mate before two years of age. Males, on the other hand, take one year, 6 months approximately to become fit for mating. They mate in all seasons, fall, and spring being their favorite in places like Texas.

Gestation period is of six months, post which females give birth to a single calf. Young ones can stand right after their birth. Juvenile blackbucks play and stay active all day. The lifespan of a blackbuck ranges between ten and fifteen years.

Potential threats to blackbucks

In the 20th century, the number of blackbucks declined rapidly because of excessive deforestation, habitat degradation and hunting. Until India gained independence, chinkara and blackbuck were hunted in several princely states. By the 1970s, they became extinct in multiple areas. Nevertheless, due to strict laws and existence of conservation groups, the population has exceeded 500,000 at present.

Conservation of blackbucks

The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 prohibits hunting of blackbucks in India. At present, blackbucks inhabit various protected areas, including:

  1. Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat
  2. Velavadar Wildlife Sanctuary and Gir National Forest in Gujarat
  3. Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh
  4. Guindy National Park and Vallanadu Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu
  5. Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Maharashtra
  6. Ranibennur Blackbuck Sanctuary in Karnataka
  7. Tal Chhapar Sanctuary and Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan
Interaction of blackbucks with humans

The blackbuck has often been linked with the Indian culture. Bone remains of antelope in Indus valley sites reveal that they have been a source of food. As per Hindu myths, Lord Krishna’s chariot was drawn by the blackbucks. Villagers in Nepal and India are friendly with blackbucks.

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Independent Travel & Ecology: What You Need To know

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independent travel
Image Credit : Justin Cleaver (Wildlife Photographer)

For most people, independent travel is more than just a fun activity or a holiday. It is a life-changing activity or experience. Whether you are taking off around the world after retirement, taking a gap year, or simply heading off on your mid-20s career break, independent travel offers you the opportunity to take a break from your ‘normal’ work life, travel around the world, and get unforgettable experiences. Also, traveling independently teaches you a lot about different parts of the world and yourself. 

What’s independent travel?

independent travel
Justin Cleave

It is any trip that you organize by yourself. That means you must book a hotel (accommodation), plan your itinerary, transport, and other aspects of your trip. The concept revolves around traveling on a shoe-string, spending nights in hostels, and choosing experiences over luxury. Independent travel requires you to be more of a traveler and less of a tourist.

Tourist vs. traveler

independent travel
Mckenzie Kersen 

Most people use these words interchangeably. It might sound like a negligible distinction, but these two words signify a unique approach. The term ‘tourist’ often refers to a person visiting a specific area or region only for a short period before going back to their everyday life. It also relates to people who visit some destinations just to see exciting things without getting emotionally involved.

On the other hand, travelers spend a lot of time on the road and have less of a fixed objective in terms of timing and destinations. They can travel for an extended period, spend time gaining new experiences, and don’t rush to return to their everyday life. That means traveling is all about am exciting journey while tourism is all about seeing new things.

Travelers are more likely to stay in a single destination for a long time, perhaps working there. Some travelers end up settling in some of the regions they visit. Generally, the definition of a traveler emphasizes the journey rather than the excitement and pleasure associated with visiting new destinations.

The best places for independent travel

The world is your oyster, and in numerous ways, it is. Your choice of destination is influenced by many factors. Therefore, it’s important that you consider the following factors to ensure that you get the most out of your independent travel.

The objective

What do you plan to do? This might sound like an obvious question. But it’s the right one, to begin with. What experiences are you seeking? Do you desire to connect with like-minded travelers? Are you ready to spend quite some time away traveling and working?

Time

Do you have enough time to travel? Well, there is little point in heading to Fiji if you have a 5-day holiday. This is because you will spend a lot of time to get to your destination and have little time to explore it.

Therefore, it’s worth working out the travel periods between your desired destination early enough. This will ensure you have enough time to see around and gain memorable experiences when you get to your destination.

Financial resources

How much money have you saved for your travel activities? Once you have decided on the specific experiences you seek and created a travel plan, it’s time you consider the financial aspect of your travel activities. Money is the single most significant constraint on most plans. It is worth working out a budget before you start booking flights.

Safety

How safe is your preferred travel destination? Well, it might sound like most questions asked by mums. However, nothing can ruin your trip more than getting robbed, beaten up, or being kidnapped. Therefore, you should make sure that you are traveling to a safe region.

Independent travel is more than just a fun activity

Traveling independently opens your mind to new and exciting possibilities. Indeed, it helps you learn more about how the planet, get lifetime memories, and have a lot of fun. Just think about planning a long trip to Africa to learn more about social change through experiencing the journey and discovering what we have all lost touch with.

Kenzie Kersen, a 24-year-old American model looking to promote a positive message about eco-tourism, wildlife conservation, and other aspects of the environment. In partnership with Justin Cleaver, a reputable wildlife and fashion photographer from South African to produce an eBook in SA that will be a mix of cool fashion photography (all on film) and wildlife photography (also on film). The reason for incorporating fashion photography and a social media campaign into this story is again to pull the interest of the young generation.

Justin Cleaver

These are some of the important initiatives that send a positive message about eco-tourism, independent travel, and the importance of environmental conservation to the world. Times are changing and planet earth needs our care. It’s time we start sending a positive message to the world like Kenzie and Justin are doing.

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Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change

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Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
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The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (also known as MoEFCC) was formed in 1985. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Government of India. The current Union Minister of MoEFCC is Prakash Javadekar. As the name suggests, MoEFCC is a nodal agency responsible for the accomplishment of policies related to the environment, forests, and climate change.

Duties of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change:

  1. Prevention and control of pollution
  2. Conservation and survey of flora
  3. Conservation and survey of fauna
  4. Conservation and survey of forests
  5. Conservation and survey of wildlife
  6. Afforestation and regeneration of degraded areas
  7. Protection of the environment
  8. Ensuring the welfare of animals

These above-mentioned duties of the MoEFCC are well supported by a set of legislative and regulatory measures, aimed towards the conservation of the environment. Besides the legislative measures below mentioned are some policies that also guide the Ministry’s work.

Policies that guide MoEFCC’s work: The National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development:

This policy entails the guidelines that will help to weave environmental thoughtfulness into the fabric of not just our nation, but in our development process as well. It also examines the nation’s development plans so that they are aligned with our environmental perspective. The policy explains the magnitude of our environmental problems and lists our strategies and action plans, some of them include:

A) Population control

B) Conservation of natural resources

C) Prevention of air and noise pollution

National Forest Policy:

The National Forest Policy of 1988 was launched was to ensure environmental stability and maintain the ecological balance of the country. Basic objectives of the National Forest Policy include:

A) Restoration of the ecological balance by massive afforestation, especially on the unproductive lands and preservation of the existing forests of our nation.

B) Conservation of the natural heritage by preserving flora and fauna.

C) Encourage efficient utilization of forest produced products and maximize substitution of wood.

D) Check for soil erosion.

E) Check the extension of sand-dunes in the desert areas of Rajasthan.

F) Meet the requirements of fuel-wood, fodder, minor forest produce, and small timber of the rural population.

Policy Statement on Abatement of Pollution:

This policy was introduced due to an increasing trend in environmental pollution. Air quality in the major cities of our country has deteriorated! Levels of nitrogen dioxide are increasing in urban cities with growing vehicle emissions. Water is polluted by four kinds of substances: organic waste, waste generated from industrial processes, chemical agents for fertilizers, and pesticides for crop protection and from degraded deposits. The goal of this policy is to control and prevent pollution with the combination of command methods, voluntary regulations, financial measures, and awareness promotion.  It further includes – waste minimization, reuses or recycle, improvement of water quality, natural resource accounting, institutional and human resource development, and many more.

National Environment Policy:

This policy aims at mainstreaming environmental concerns into all developmental activities. Few objectives of this policy are mentioned below:

A) Conservation of critical environmental resources.

B) Integration of environmental, social and economic development.

C) Ensure poor communities, which are dependable on environmental resources for their livelihoods, have access to these resources.

D) Judicious use of the environmental resources.

The MoEFCC also serves as the nodal agency in the country for:

  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)
  • International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)
  • South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP)

The Ministry is also trusted with the following multilateral bodies for matters of the environment:

  • Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)
  • Economic and Social Council for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP)
  • South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC)
  • Global Environment Facility (GEF)

Sum and Substance:

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is accountable for scheduling, promoting, coordinating, and managing all the environmental projects and programs. The Ministry is liable for the conservation of biodiversity, lakes, rivers, trees, forests, wildlife, ensuring the welfare of animals and the prevention of pollution in order to control the climate change in the country. The motto of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is sustainable development and enhancement of human well-being.

Nature Talkies declaration: This content is written by the contributor. If you have any suggestion or want to update more information or report us then contact at info@naturetalkies.com  

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Giant Sequoia or Sierra Redwoods: The Most Massive Trees On The Earth

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Giant Sequoia
Image credit : Pixabay (nmnm)

The Giant Sequoia, the tallest trees on the plant, fills everybody with wonder. That a living thing can be so old and enormous is something unbelievable. Commonly known as Sierra redwoods, the largest tree of this family has the capacity to hold as many people as a stadium can accommodate.

History of Sierra Redwoods:

There was a time when redwoods grew all over the Northern Hemisphere. The most ancient redwood fossils unearthed are more than 200 million years old, belonging to the Jurassic Age. At present, there are 75 groves of Giant Sequoia scattered along Sierra Nevada’s western slopes, over 14,400 hectares of the landmass.

Why is a Giant Sequoia tree so huge?

The secret behind giant sequoia’s large size is its long life. They grow so huge because they live the longest. Also, they need a lot of water to thrive. The Sierra snowpack provides the trees with plenty of water as it melts in summer months. As they require well-drained soil, it is harmful to walk around their base as walking compacts the base soil around the roots.

However, giant sequoia trees are quite capable of protecting themselves against natural threats. They are too great to be blown over by the strong wind. The thick bark, rich in tannins, shields them against insect damage and fires.

The strong defense mechanism of Giant Sequoias against forest fires:

Giant sequoias are immune to forest fires due to several factors. Their fire resistant barks save them in times of forest fires. Their cones open after fires, thus facilitating the process of reproduction. So, whereas forest fires threaten the lives of other trees, they benefit from fires.

The larger trees are more resistant to damages caused by fire because of their thick, protective bark and elevated crown. But, as they live for centuries, repeated fire may damage the vascular cambium by penetrating the bark. Most of the larger giant sequoia trees have fire scars

Where can we find Giant Sequoia trees?

All the giant sequoia groves that have developed naturally are situated in the moist and un-glaciated valleys and ridges of the western slope of  Nevada range, present in California, in the United States. The altitude of the area is between 1,500 meters and 2,400 meters above sea level.

The northernmost grove, present in the Tahoe National Forest, is known as the Placer County Grove. The Deer Creek Grove, situated in the Giant Sequoia National Monument, is the southernmost grove.

The tallest Giant Sequoia tree:

General Sherman tree is at present the tallest among the Giant Sequoias inhabiting the earth. Situated in the Sequoia National Park in California’s Tulare County, it has an impressive height of 275 feet. So, it is as tall as a building of 26 stories. However, giant sequoias are capable of reaching a height of 310 feet.

General Grant, Lincoln, The President, Stagg, Genesis, Boole, Franklin, and King Arthur are among the largest giant sequoias.

How fast can giant sequoias grow?

The Giant Sequoia is the world’s fastest-growing conifer. Under favorable circumstances, they usually have 4 feet of vertical growth in their third year. The average growth rate for younger trees is 5 feet or 1.5 meters per year. In an ideal situation, with each year their growth rate increases steadily. So, in 40 years or less, a redwood tree can reach a height of 100 feet.

Some incredible facts about Sierra Redwood trees:

  • Giant sequoias are the largest living organisms on the earth.
  • Giant sequoia trees never cease growing as long as they live.
  • A Sierra Redwood tree can live as long as 3000 years.
  • They reproduce once every 20 years and need forest fires to open their cones.
  • There are 75 groves of giant sequoia left on our planet.

Conservation of Giant Sequoia trees:

There are several governmental laws to protect the giant sequoia trees. The National Park Service devotes much planning and thought to the conservation of these national as well as worldly assets. Road routes in the area are selected with great care. As giant sequoia trees have roots close to the earth’s surface, excessive trampling is not allowed near the trunks. There are barriers surrounding the famous trees that thousands of tourists visit every year, from all parts of the world.

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