Jewel of Vidharba

Tadoba Tiger reserve


The TADOBA ANDHARI TIGER PROJECT is a Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur District of Maharashtra State.  It is notable as Maharashtra’s oldest and largest National Park.  It is one of India’s 43 PROJECT TIGER  —— Tiger Reserves.

The name TADOBA is the name of the God TADOBA or TARU, praised by the tribal people who live in the dense forests of the TADOBA & ANDHARI region, while the ANDHARI river that meanders through the forest gives the ANDHARI name.
Legend holds that TARU was a village chief who was killed in a mythological encounter with a tiger.  A shrine, dedicated to God Taru, now exists beneath a huge tree, on the banks of the TADOBA LAKE.  The Temple is frequented by Adivasis, especially during the fair held every year in the Hindu month of PAUSHA between December and January.

Tadoba tiger


The GOND Kings once ruled these forests I the vicinity of the CHIMUR hills.  Hunting was completely banned in 1935.  Two decades later, in 1955, 116.54sq.km was declared a National Park.  ANDHARI Wildlife Sanctuary was created in the adjacent forests in 1986, and, in 1995, both the Park and the Sanctuary were merged to establish the present Tiger Reserve. ——– TADOBA ANDHARI Reserve is the largest and oldest National Park in Maharashtra.  The total area of the Reserve is 1,727sq.km.  This includes TADOBA National Park, created in 1955.

There are about 43 Tigers in the Reserve, one of the highest in India.  Densely forested hills form the northern and western boundary of the Tiger Reserve.  The elevation of the hills ranges from 660ft — 1,150ft.  To the southwest is the 300acres Tadoba Lake, which acts as a buffer between the park’s forest and the extensive farmland which extends up to IRAI Water Reservoir.  This lake is  a perennial water source which offers a good habitat for MUGGAR CROCODILES to thrive.

Tadoba tiger reserve India


Other wetland areas, within the Reserve, include the KOLSA LAKE & ANDHARI River.  The Tadoba Reserve covers the CHIMUR HILLS and the Andhari Sanctuary covers MOHARLI & KOLSA Ranges.  There are thick forests, which are relieved by smooth meadows and deep valleys as the terrain slopes from north to south.  Cliffs and caves provide refuge for several animals.  The 2 “forested triangles” are formed of Tadoba and Andhari range.  The south part of the park is less hilly.  Tadoba Reserve is predominantly a southern tropical dry deciduous forest with dense woodlands comprising 87% of the protected area.  Teak is the predominant tree species.  Other deciduous trees include AIN(Crocodile bark), BIJA, DHAUDA, HALDU, SALAI & TENDU.  The PALAS or Flame of the Forest adds vibrant colour to the forest.  Black plum trees grow in the RIPARIAN habitat around the lake.  At the waterhole at PANCHADHARA, huge ARJUN trees are seen. Bamboo thickets and patches of grass are found throughout the reserve.  The climber KACH KUJALI (velvet bean) found here is a medicinal plant used to treat Parkinson’s disease.


Tadoba tiger reserve


Aside   from around 65 of the keystone species of Bengal Tiger, TADOBA TIGER RESERVE is home to other mammals like spotted deer, sloth bears, gaur, nilgai, dhole, striped hyena, small Indian civet, jungle cats, sambar, barking deer and CHAUSINGHA.  The Tadoba Lake is an ornithologist’s paradise, with a diversity of water birds and raptors.  195 species of birds have been recorded, including 3 endangered species.  The Grey-Headed Fish-Eagle eagle, the Crested-Serpent Eagle and Changeable Hawk-Eagle are some of the raptors.

Other interesting species included the Orange-headed thrush, Indian PITTA, Crested Tree-swift, Stole Curlew, Crested Honey Buzzard, Bronze-winged Jacana and Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker.  The call of the Peacock is often heard.  74 species of butterflies have been recorded and that include the Monarch, Mormons and Swordtails.  Other insects located in the reserve are Praying Mantis, Dragonflies, Stick Insects and Jewel Beetles.  Spiders like the Wolf spiders, Crab spiders and Lynx spiders are common.
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Niihau

Niihau island


NIIHAU is the westernmost and seventh largest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands in the US state of Hawaii.  The Island is about 4.9 million years old, making it, geologically, younger than the 5-million-year-old neighbouring island of KAUA’I.  NIIHAU consists of one extinct volcano that had a large landslide to the east.


Niihau


The Island is relatively arid and because it lies in the rain shadow of Kaua’i and lacks the elevation needed to catch significant amounts of trade wind rainfall, Niihau therefore, depends for its rain on winter KONA storms, when more northerly weather systems intrude into the region.  As such, the Island is subject to long periods of drought.  Historical droughts have been recorded several times, one in 1792 by Captain James Cook’s former junior officer George Vancouver, who had been told that the people of Niihau had abandoned the island because of a severe drought and had moved to Kaua’i to escape famine.


Niihau island


As an arid island, Niihau was barren of trees for centuries  ——– Captain James Cook reported it ‘treeless’ in 1778.  Aubrey Robinson, grandfather of current owners Bruce and Keith Robinson, planted 10,000 trees per year during much of his ownership of the island.  Robinson’s afforestation efforts increased rainfall in the dry climate.  Island co-owner, Keith Robinson, a noted conservationist, preserved and documented many of Niihau’s natural plant resources.  The Island is designated as a critical habitat for the OLULU, an endemic and endangered species of Hawaiian LOBELIOID.  AYLMER ROBINSON, a Pritchard palm tree, named for Keith’s uncle Aylmer Robinson, is an endangered  species native to Niihau.


niihau-island


Several bird species thrive on Niihau.  Intermittent PLAYA lakes on the Island provide the KOLOA MAOLI (Hawaiian duck).  The critically endangered MONACHUS SCHAUINSLANDI (Hawaiian monk seal) is found in high numbers on Niihau’s shores.  Niihau’s secluded shoreline offers them a safe haven from habitat encroachments.  “Conditions here are better than the Government refuges of the North western Hawaiian Islands,” according to Robinson.  When the Robinsons originally purchased Niihau, no monk seals were present, because they lived in the north-western part of the Hawaiian Island Chain (NECKER & MIDWAY Islands).  They have been relocated to the main Hawaiian Island Chain by NOAA Fisheries over the past 30 years, and some have found homes on Niihau.

Big game herds, imported from stock on MOLOKA’I RANCH in recent years, roam Niihau’s forests and flatlands.  Eland and Aoudad are abundant, along with Oryxes, wild boars and feral sheep.  These big game herds provide income from Hunting Safari Tourism.

Niihau island Hawaiian seal


Approximately 80% of Niihau’s income comes from a small Navy Installation atop 1,300ft-high cliffs.  Remote-controlled tracking devices are used for testing and training with Kaua’i’s Pacific missile Range Facility.  Modern missile defence tests are conducted at the site for the US and its Allies.  The Installation brings in millions of dollars a year and provides the Island with a stable economic base, without the complexity of tourism or industrial development.  The sale of shells and shell jewellery is an additional source of income.  Niihau’s beaches are known for their PUPU (tiny shells) that wash onto shore during winter months.


Niihau island ranch sheep


Species used for shell leis include Momi, Laiki or rice shells and Kahelelani.  The shells and jewellery are so popular that Governor linda Lingle signed a Bill in 2004, to protect Lei POPO O NIIHAU from counterfeiting.  A single intricate Niihau shell lei can sell for 1000s of dollars.

Many residents of Niihau were once employees of Niihau Ranch, farming cattle and sheep until the Robinsons shut down the operation in 1999.  It had not been profitable for most of the 20th century.  Honey cultivation was also no longer viable by 1999.  KIAWE Charcoal was once a large-scale export, but aggressive Mexican price competition ended that as well.  Mullet Farming has been popular in Niihau, with ponds and lakes stocked with baby mullet which reach 9 to 10 pound apiece before being harvested and sold on Kaua’i and O’ahu.
Niihau’s owners have offered half-day helicopter and beach tours of the Island since 1987, although contact with residents is avoided and no accommodations exist.  Since 1992, Hunting Safaris provide income via tourists who pay to visit the Island to hunt eland, aoudad and oryx, as well as wild sheep and boars.  Any meat the hunters do not take with them is given to the village.

Dagchigam National Park

Dagchigam national park


DAGCHIGAM NATIONAL PARK is located 23km from Srinagar.  It covers an area of 141sq.km.  The name of the park literally stands for “ten villages”, which cold be in memory of the ten villages that were relocated for its formation.

dachigam2The park has been a protected area since 1910, first under the care of the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir and later under the observation of the concerned government authorities.  It was initially created to ensure clean drinking water supply for the city of Srinagar.  It was finally upgraded and declared a NATIONAL PARK in the year 1981.
Dagchigam wild goatThe mountainsides below the tree line are heavily wooded.  Most of this coniferous forest consists of broad leaf species.  Interspersed between these are alpine pastures, meadows, waterfalls and scrub vegetation with deep gullies, locally known as NARS, running down the mountain face.
Dagchigam National park wildlifeMost of the grasslands and meadows, except in the harsh winters, are covered with brightly coloured flowers.  Located high among its interiors is the MARSAR LAKE from which flows the DAGWAN RIVER.  This river flows all the way down to, and past, the lower region where it runs along the only proper road in the park and is also famous for its fish population  ——- the trout.
The main animal species that Dagchigam is most famous for is the HANGUL (Kashmiri Stag), and the other species are musk deer, Himalayan grey langur, jackal, hill fox, Himalayan black bear, long-tailed marmot, Himalayan brown bear, yellow-throated marten, weasel and otter.
Dagchigam-National-Park-The birds here are cinnamon sparrow, black bulbul, Himalayan Monal, golden oriole Minivet, woodpecker, babbler, redstart, wagtail, chough, orange bullfinch, Kashmiri flycatcher, streaked laughing thrush, Himalayan ruby-throat, black-and-yellow grosbeak, bearded vulture, Himalayan griffin vulture, red-billed blue magpie and titmouse.
Many precautions have been taken to protect the flora and flora in DAGCHIGAM National Park.  The Wildlife Institute of India and Jammu and Kashmir have a proposal about GPS tracking system to be implemented on HANGUL for its protection.

Tierra del Fuego

Tierra del Fuego


TIERRA del FUEGO (FIRE LAND in Spanish) consists of a main island, ISLA GRANDE de TIERRA del FUEGO, often called simply TIERRA FUEGO or ISLA GRANDE, with an area of 48,100 sq.km, and a group of smaller islands.  The main island is split between 2 countries : 38.47% of the total area, belongs to Argentina, while 61.43% of the total area, belongs to Chile.  The archipelago is divided by an east-west channel, the BEAGLE CHANNEL, immediately south of the main island.  The largest islands, south of the Beagle Channel are HOSTE & NAVARINO.


Tierra del_Fuego


The geology of the archipelago is characterized by the effects of the ANDEAN OROGENY and the repeated PLEISTOCENE GLACIATIONS.  The geology of the island can be divided into large east-west oriented units.  The south-western islands of the archipelago, included CAPE HORN, are part of the PATAGONIAN BATHOLITH, while CORDILLERA DARWIN and the area around Beagle Channel form the principal cordillera hosting the highest mountains.  The Magallanes “fold and thrust belt” extends north of ALMIRANTAZKO FJORD & FAGNANO Lake, and north of this lies the Magallanes foreland  —- an old sedimentary basin that hosts “hydrocarbon reserves.”  ORTHOGNEISS dated at 525 million years, is known to underlie some of the oil wells in northern Tierra del Fuego.


Tierra_del_Fuego_3


Tierra del-Fuego


The Magallanes-Fagnano Fault, a “dextral strike slip” fault crosses the southern part of the main island from west to east.  It is an active “seismic fault”, located inside and parallel to the Fuegian “fold and thrust belt”, an dmarks the boundary between a southern belt of Paleozoic meta sediments and a northern Mesozoic belt of sedimentary sequences.  Fagnano Lake occupies a “glacier-carved depression” in a pull-apart basin that has developed along the Megallanes-Fagnano Fault Zone.


Beaver_Dam_-_Tierra_del_Fuego_National_Park


Only 30% of the island have forests which are classified as Magallanic Sub-polar.  The northeast is made up of steppe and cool semi-desert.  Canelo or Winter’s Bark and several kinds of fruits grow in open spaces in these forests, such as beech, strawberry and calafate, which have long been gathered by both Native Americans and residents of European descent.  These fruits are “unique in the world” for having developed in a climate with such cold summers.  Winds are so strong that trees, in wind-exposed areas, grow into “twisted shapes” inspiring people to call them “flag trees”.


Gobernación_Provincia_de_Tierra_del_Fuego_Antártida_e_Isla_del_Atlántico_Sur


Among the most notable animals are austral parakeets, sea gulls, foxes, guanacos, condors, king penguins, owls and fire-crown hummingbirds.  North Americans beavers, introduced in the 1940s, have proliferated and caused considerable damage to the island’s forests.  The governments have established a wide-reaching program to trap and kill beavers in Tierra del Fuego.


tierra_del_fuego_argentina


The archipelago also boasts of some of the finest trout fishing in the world.  Sea-run brown trout often exceed 9kg, particularly in rivers.  Sightings of southern right whales have increased in recent years, as well as some others such as blue whales, southern fins and southern minks.  Beagle Channel is a prominent area to watch rare endemic dolphins, and the less-studied pygmy right whales.  There are also South American sea lions, South American fur seals and gigantic southern elephant seals.


Tierra_del_Fuego


Today, the main economic activities are fishing, natural gas and oil extraction, sheep-farming and eco-tourism.  Tourism is gaining in importance, as it attracts numerous upmarket visitors.  Much of the tourism is based on claims of “southernmost things” : for example, both USHUAIA & PUERTO WILLIAMS claim to be the “southernmost city in the world”.  On the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego, the government has promoted the establishment of several electronic companies.  Energy production is a crucial economic activity.  During the 2005-2010 period, petroleum and natural gas extraction contributed to 20% of the region’s economic output.


park_ushu Tierra del Fuego


Roads are poor in Tierra del Fuego, and apart from the tourist tour train, there are no railways.  There is little public transport.  However, tours can be booked through the Tourist Office or through many of the Hostels..

Lake Baikal

The-freshwater-sea-Lake-Baikal-Russia

LAKE BAIKAL is in a “rift valley”, created by the Baikal Rift Zone, where the earth’s crust is slowly pulling apart.  At 636km long and 79km wide, Lake Baikal has the largest surface area of any freshwater lake and is the deepest lake in the world at 5,387ft.  The bottom of the lake is 3,893ft below sea level, but below this lies some &km of sediment, placing the “rift floor” some 8-11km below the surface ——– the deepest Continental rift on earth.

It is also among the clearest of all lakes, and thought to be the world’s oldest lake at 25million years.  It contains more water than all the Great Lakes combined.  Like Lake Tanganyika, Lake Baikal was formed as an ancient rift valley, having the typical long crescent shape.  In geological terms, the rift is young and active– it widens about 2cm per year.  The “fault zone” is also “seismically active”  —— there are hot springs in the area and notable earthquakes every few years.

Frozen Lake Baikal


The lake is divided into 3 basins :  North, Central and South, with depths of about 3,000ft, 5,200ft and 4,600ft respectively.    Fault-controlled accommodation zones, rising to depths of about 980ft, separate the basins.  The North and Central basins are separated by the ACADEMICIAN RIDGE, while the area around the SELENGA DELTA and the BUGULDEIKA SADDLE separates the Central and South basins.  The lake drains into the ANGARA tributary of the YENISEI.  Notable landforms include CAPE RYTY on Baikal’s northwest coast.


Zabaikalski National Park, Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia


Baikal’s age is estimated at 25-30million years, making it one of the most “ancient lakes in geological history”.  It is unique among large, high-altitude lakes, in that its sediments have not been “scoured” by overriding continental ice sheets.  Russian, US and Japanese co-operative studies of deep drilling core sediments in the 1990s provide a detailed record of climatic variation over 6.7million years.  Longer and deeper sediment cores are expected in the near future.  Lake Baikal is the “only confined freshwater lake” in which direct and indirect evidence of gas hydrates exist.


Lake-Baikal-Summer-cruise-tour-Russia-Siberia1


The lake is completely surrounded by mountains.  The BAIKAL MOUNTAINS on the north shore and the TAIGA are technically protected as a National Park.  It contains 27 islands —- the largest, OLKHON, is 72km and is the 3rd-largest “lake-bound” island in the world.  Despite its great depth, the lake’s waters are well-mixed and well-oxygenated throughout the water column, compared to the “stratification” that occurs in such bodies of water, such as Lake Tanganyika and the Black Sea.


lake_baikal_ice_in_winter


Lake Baikal is rich in biodiversity.  It hosts more than a 1,000 species of plants and 2,500 species of animals based on current knowledge, but the actual figures, for both groups, are believed to be significantly higher.  More than 80% of the animals are endemic (found only at Lake Baikal).  The Baikal Seal or NERPA is found throughout Lake Baikal.  It is one of only three entirely freshwater seal populations in the world, the other two being sub-species of “ringed seal”.  The watershed of Lake Baikal has numerous flora species represented.  The “marsh thistle” is found here at the eastern limit of its geographic range.  In total there are fewer than 60 native fish species in the lake, but more than half of these are endemic.  Baikal oil-fish, deep water Baikal sculpins are entirely restricted to the lake basin.  The oil-fish (GOLOMYANKAS) are long-finned, translucent fish that typically live in open water in depths of 330-1,640ft.  They are the primary prey of the Baikal seal and represent the largest “fish biomass” in the lake.  The most important local species for fisheries is the OMUL, an endemic white fish.  It is caught, smoked and then sold widely in markets around the lake.  The Baikal black grayling, Baikal white grayling and the Baikal sturgeon are other important species with commercial value.  They are also endemic to the Lake Baikal basin.


baikal-seals


The lake hosts rich endemic fauna of invertebrates.  Among the most diverse invertebrates groups are the TURBELLAARIAN, freshwater snails and amphipod crustaceans.   As of 2006, almost 150 freshwater snails are known from Lake Baikal, including 117 endemic species.  All endemics have been recorded between 66-98ft, but the majority mainly live at shallower depths.

The Baikal area has a long list of human habitation.  An early known tribe in the area was the KURYKANS, forefathers of 2 ethnic groups :  the BURYATS and the YAKUTS.  The Trans-Siberian Railway was built between 1896 and 1902.  Construction of the scenic railway, around the south western end of Lake Baikal, required 200 bridges and 33 tunnels.  Until its completion, a train-ferry transported rail-cars across the lake from Port Baikal to Mysovaya for a number of years.  The lake came the site of  a minor engagement between the Czechoslovak Legion and the Red Army in 1918.  At times, during “winter freezes”, the lake could be crossed on foot —– though at risk of frostbite and deadly hypothermia from the cold wind, moving unobstructed, across flat expanses of ice.  Beginning in 1956, the impounding of the IRKUTSK DAM on the Angara River raised the level of the lake by 4-6ft.  As a railway was built, a large hydro-geographical expedition, headed by F. K. Drizhenko, produced the 1st detailed contour map of the lake bed.

Olkhon Island


The lake, nicknamed THE PEARL OF SIBERIA and the GREAT BLUE EYE OF SIBERIA, drew investors from the tourist industry as energy revenues sparked an “economic boom”.  Victor Grigorov’s GRAND BAIKAL in Irkutsk, is one of the investors who planned to build 3 hotels and thus creating 570 jobs.  In 2007, the Russian Government declared the Baikal region a “special economic zone”.

A popular resort in LISTVYANKA is home to the 7-storey HOTEL MAYAK.  At the northern part of the lake, BAIKALPLAN ( a German NGO) built, together with Russians in 2009, the FROLIKHA Adventure Coastline Track, a 100-km-long long-distance trail as example for a sustainable development of the region.  Lake Baikal was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Hotel Mayak


Baikal, the oldest and deepest freshwater lake in the world, curves for nearly 400miles through south-eastern Siberia, north of the Mongolian border.  It lies in a “cleft”, where Asia is literally splitting apart, the beginnings of a FUTURE OCEAN.  Geologists say Baikal today, shows what the “seaboards” of North America, Africa and Europe looked like as they began to separate millions of years ago.

More than  5,000ft deep, at its most profound, with another 4-mile-thick layer of sediment further down, the lake’s cold, oxygen-rich waters teem with “bizarre” life forms.  One of those, the seals’ favourite food, —– the GOLOMYANKA, a pink, partly transparent fish that gives birth to “live young”.
Surrounded by mile-high snow-capped mountains, lake Baikal still offers vistas of unmatched beauty.  The mountains are still a haven for wild animals and the small villages are still outposts of tranquillity and self-reliance in the remote Siberian TAIGA (as the forest is called).
There are the ALPS, the CAUCASUS, the BLACK SEA ………….. but there’s nothing like LAKE BAIKAL.  Endless forests all around.  Then you see blue, blue, blue.  It is like a coast-less entity.  It’s all blue and it’s all beautiful  What is particular is its sudden change of mood.  It could be blue, quiet and calm one moment and then immediately the wind rises and huge waves appear.  It is like an “old man mumbling”.
——— Steve Nettleton.

Republic of Palau

palau

Republic of PALAU (Beluu er a Belau).  PALAU, sometimes spelt BELAU or PELEW, officially called the REPUBLIC OF PALAU, is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean.

The country’s population of around 21,000 is spread across 250 islands forming the western chain of the CAROLINE ISLANDS.  The most populous island is KOROR.  The capital, NGERULMUD, is located in MELEKEOK STATE on the nearby island of BABELDOAB.  The islands share maritime boundaries with Indonesia, the Philippines and the Federated States of Micronesia.

turtle-republic-of-palau


The name of the islands, in the PALAUN language, BELAU, likely derives from either the Palauan word for ‘village’ (BELUU) or from ‘indirect replies (AIBEBELAU), relating to a creation myth.  The name PALAU entered, via the German PALAU.  An archaic name for the islands, in English, was the PELEW Islands.  It should not be confused with PALAU, which is an Indonesian word meaning “island”.


republic of palau


Palau was originally settled between the 3rd and the 2nd millennia BC, most likely from the Philippines or Indonesia.  The modern population, judging from its language, may have come from the SUNDA ISLANDS.

While much of Palau remains free of environmental degradation, areas of concern include illegal “dynamite fishing”, inadequate waste disposal facilities in Koror and extensive sand and coral dredging in the Palau Lagoon.  As with other Pacific island nations, “rising sea level”, presents a major environmental threat.  Inundation of low-lying areas threatens coastal vegetation, agriculture and an already insufficient water supply.  Wastewater treatment is a problem, along with the handling of toxic waste from fertilizers and biocides.

Arch republic of palau


Palau’s marine environment exhibits a rich fauna, balanced by an abundant terrestrial flora.  The richness derives from Palau’s close proximity to Indonesia, New Guinea and the Philippines.  Palau has more species of marine life than any other area of similar size in the world.  Corals, clams, sea-urchins, sea-anemones, sea-cucumbers, starfish, squid and jelly fish exist in profusion and variety.  Such marine life has made Palau one of the world’s premier scuba-diving location. Common flora are the morning glory, Polynesian ironwood tree, pandanus and various species of palm and fern.  The birds of Palau are abundant and colourful and many migrate to or through Palau twice a year.  A few species of reptiles and amphibians live in Palau, including a UNKIQUE FROG that gives birth to “live young”.  Insects are also abundant.  The accidently introduced coconut rhinoceros beetle can do enormous damage to coconut palms, but various biological methods are used to control its spread.


Palau


Saltwater crocodiles are also indigenous to Palau and occur in varying numbers throughout the mangroves.  Although the species is generally considered dangerous, there has only been one fatal human attack, and that too in the 1960s.  In Palau, the largest crocodile measured in at 15ft.

The island nation is also vulnerable to earthquakes, volcanic activity and tropical storms.  Palau already has a problem of inadequate water supply and limited agricultural areas to support its populations.

Palau snaps


On  the 5th of November, 2005, President Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. took the lead on a regional environmental initiative called the MICRONESIA CHALLENGE, which would conserve 30% of near-shore coastal waters and 20% of forest land by 2020.  On the 25th of September, 2009, Palau announced that it would create the world’s 1st “Shark Sanctuary”.  Palau banned all commercial fishing within the waters of its EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE (EEZ).  The Sanctuary protects about 600,000sq.km of ocean.


Palau hotel


Palau’s economy consists , primarily, of tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing.  Tourist activities focus on scuba diving and snorkelling in the island’s rich marine environment., including its barrier reefs’ walls and WW-2 wrecks.  The government is the largest employer, relying heavily on the US’ financial assistance.  Business and Tourist arrivals numbered  some 50,ooo in the financial year 2000/2001.

The truth about elephants

You may have heard about people having “elephantine memories.”  Let us today probe into the “reputation” and “reality” about elephants.
Reputation :  frightened of mice, have “elephantine” memories, when it’s time to die, they travel with purpose to elephant graveyards to grieve and they are related to HYDRAXES.
Reality: They are frightened of bees, have good memories.  Graveyards are a myth, but elephants clearly show interest in the remains of their dead.  All living organisms are related to HYDRAXES.
HYDRAXES are those vaguely rodent-like animals that live in Africa.  This is one of those little factoids ( elephants are related to hydraxes) that people like to float.  It is also an entirely banal observation.  At some level, after all, every thing is related to hydraxes.  Therefore, the more precise claim that elephants are the closest relatives to hydraxes, is misleading.  First, it implies a recent common ancestor.  Yet, these two lineages have been going their separated ways for around 65 million years.  Second, it is probably wrong.  Several lines of molecular evidence indicate that elephants are more closely related to DUGONGS & MANATEES than they are to HYDRAXES.

tanzania_elephants3


Our obsession with juxtaposing the big and the small is also evident in the belief that elephants are afraid of mice.  This notion may date back to Pliny the Elder’s : “Of all living Creatures, they most detest a Mouse,” he wrote in The Natural History.  Walt Disney ran with the idea in DUMBO, in which Timothy Q Mouse terrifies the circus elephants before befriending the eponymous hero.  But is there anything behind this stereotype ?  “There’s all this nonsense about mice running up elephants’ trunks”, says Craig Bruce of the Zoological Society of London.  But there’s no serious evidence for elephantine MUROPHOBIA (fear of mice).
What is clear is that elephants “do not like bees”.  When recordings of “disturbed African honey bees” are played to elephant families resting under trees in Kenya, the elephants either walk away or, more commonly, run.  This and other findings are behind the  “Elephants and Bees Project, an initiative to explore the possibility of using bees to deter crop-raiding elephants in Africa.
How about memory ?  Not only can elephants remember landmarks and migration routes, they have an incredible “social memory” too.  Working in the Amboseli Natural Park in Kenya during the 1990s, researchers used playback experiments to explore the way in which elephants communicate.  In one case, they played the call of an individual, that died almost 2yrs earlier, to her family.  The elephants crowded round the loudspeaker and called back a response characteristic of a “strong social bond.”  In another setting, where a female had switched to another group, her original family still responded to her call 12yrs after she had left.
However, there is no reason to think that elephants have graveyards, where old animals go to die.  It is true that there are large aggregations of elephant bones, but drought and hunting are much more likely explanations for them.  ,There is better evidence, both from anecdotes and from experiments, for another remarkable idea : that elephants mourn their dead.  In her book “Elephant Memories”, conservation pioneer —- Cynthia Moss recalls how she brought the jawbone of a recently deceased matriarch back to her camp.  Several days later, The dead elephant’s family happened to pass nearby, and came to inspect the jawbone.  The animal that showed the most interest, lingering long after the others had moved on, was the matriarch’s 7-year-old son.
Moss and her colleagues have followed up on such anecdotes with controlled experiments designed to explore this behaviour more systematically.  When presented with three objects —— a piece of wood, an elephant skull and a bit of ivory ——– elephants showed a marked interest in exploring the ivory and clear preference in the skull over the piece of wood.  Although the researchers were unable to demonstrate that elephants are more interested in the remains of relatives than those of non-relative, they concluded that “elephants may, through tactile or olfactory cues, recognise tusks from individuals they have been familiar with in life.”  All of this confirms, that elephants really are extraordinarily intelligent creatures with a profound emotional range.
———— Henry Nicholls (BBC)