Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Nikit Surve - the Scatman! Disecting and studying Leopard poo to track the diet/ecology of leopards in SGNP Mumbai.

                   Nikit Surve- the Scatman!

Elsie Gabriel.

Of course, I have seen the Leopard which appeared diagonally in front of my building arena in Hiranandani Powai Mumbai about six months ago. All I could do as a lay person and environmentalist, was to shoo people away from the scene and call the authorities, pave way to give the leopard some dignity and respect; as it was on it’s own home ground. It was no use crowding around and clicking pictures, or gawking at it, collecting a large gathering around it. The leopard was not in a circus, it was in its own jungle surrounded by us creatures, humans!

copyright pics SNGP/Elsie Gabriel/Nikit Surve
The man and animal conflict has risen in fact with more cases showing up, as experts attribute this to human encroachment of forest land.

The shrinking natural habitat of wild animals like deer, rabbits, and jackals has been forcing them to enter human habitations sometimes, where they come in conflict with human beings competing for space and food.

At many places wild life suffers loss as people hound the beast and then kill it to spare from its expected attacks. With climate change and deforestation, more and more of the poorer sections of society get the bitter end of the bargain, like in the case of the Arey hutments.

Today, 30th June 2015, watching Nikit Surve, a masters student from the Wild life Institute of India was very enlightening. Nikit unveiled his research methods on leopards to obtain the density and census of leopards in SNGP; and to also estimate the density of wild prey in SGNP as well as its diet and domestic preys. Nikit has carried out a study of the different aspects of the ecology of leopard which was all studied at the Sanjay Gandhi National Park Mumbai from December 2014 to June 2015.This study was conducted under the supervision of Dr. S.Sathkumar, Dr. K.Sankar, and Dr.Vidya Athreya in collaboration with the park authorities and the Park director Vikas Gupta.  


Nikit and his teams used ‘camera traps’ deployed both sides of the trails and ‘Distance sampling’ with the help of  ‘line transects’ among numerous other methods all around the periphery of the park including the Arey Milk colony, the Manpada  Yeoor belt and  Nagla zone of Borivli . For this he said that they even collected Leopard scat [feces] to analyze the leopards food habits. “Prey density outlined where leopards were moving for prey. Along with marking transects, pug marks, scats and tracks, cameras at ideal locations were placed to study the ecology of the leopard habitat.”Added Nikit, as he showed several captures of the team washing Leopard poo and documenting findings from its contents to prove it's diet chart.Thererfore I proudly call him the Leopard Scatman!
copyright Pics Nikit Surve

“This study is excellent, we can now manage the park in a more systematic manner and also help with  mitigation where the leopard-human conflict is concerned. We appeal to the public to be sensitive towards the leopards and not sensationalize the creatures.” said Vikas Gupta, director, SGNP congratulating Nikit and his team. Therefore in conclusion at least thirtyfive leopards feeding on wild pigs, stray dogs, civets, jungle cats,macaques, langurs, deer, sambars and other preys like Hare and Mouse Deer exist in the SNGP. According to the study findings, 24% of prey base is stray dogs alone, total domestic animals prey base including dogs is 43% while the remaining prey base of 57% is from the wilderness . Nikits presentation of his pictorial findings were very entertaining but factual.This is the first time a density estimation has been done of the leopards of SGNP.

So, if you ever see a leopard, do not be alarmed, infact any wild life animal, simply walk away. Do not provocate the animal,or gather in large crowds. The leopard was accorded full protection by awarding it the Schedule I status in 1983 which gives it the highest protection in India.

Do not take the matter in your own hands. Call the forest department or BMC or Police to help. Do not pressurize the forest rescue team to capture the wild animals, you never know if there are young ones being left behind for poachers. You also never know if you are creating a space for bigger wild animals to come in. You may call the Forest rescue team where ever you are or simply the police and if in Mumbai call the Sanjay Gandhi National Park control room: 022- 28866449.
[Elsie Gabriel is the founder of Young Environmentalists Programme Trust and Mentor Climate Reality leader for Al Gores climate change education. Expert Environment Law and Mass communications Elsie is a certified Green Teacher.You may contact 9967347511/elsiegabriel for more EVS ecucational trails and presentations on climate change.]

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Roti, Kapda and Makaan!” A diet queens delight! Elsie Gabriel

“Yahaan Har Cheez Bikaoo Hain,” says Sneha Raisoni, owner of  this store cum cafe. “This is our take on the 3 basic essentials of life - Roti, Kapda and Makaan!”

The quant little place is tucked away at the Sena Pati Bapat Marg’s Raghuvanshi Mills complex and is a sure delight to the dreary eyes. Bright yellow walls, ceiling full of umbrellas,bright pajamas on sale and some more bright quirky articles for sale for your home interiors, all so well juxtapositioned with some good food as well. It sure is a healthy combination for the shopping souls.  

I loved the ‘Pante Khoi Swey’, A  twist on the Burmese gravy dish with the Indian Jeera flavour and coconut milk, and ofcourse the stuffed little buns with salsa and Green mint chutney also uplifted my soul after several meetings for the day.Let me warn you everything is blissfully vegetarian.

The Khus Khus jar with Humus and  herbs is a “ Diet Queens’ delight, I wanted to re christen it right away! Someday I want to steal a jar of these multilayered layered  vegetarian bliss all served in a glass jar and simply have spoon full’s while riding to work.

I loved the Nimbu paani and the edible spoons full of chutneys, the Somasa curry is a  delight if you like to try something out of the way.

Its a simple vibrant place with a lot of soul, with enough space for one to read a book or simply pen down your thoughts. Its up on the second floor with huge glass windows overlooking the  Mangoe trees outdoors.All this in the middle of town, Yeah go check it out.

Why do you think its called Roti Kapdaa aur Makaan, of course its not fine dining!! It is ultra contemporary!  Go there, just unwind, sit back, and forget that you are at a restaurant. Relax and order away some dishes you may have never eaten before. Its yours for the asking! I loved being there and taking in the high energy ambience. My soul was refreshed for sure.
And I must say Neha, you are one brave gourmet Entrepreneur-Go Girl!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"We are not God. The Earth was here before us and was given to us." Says Pope Francis in his Encyclical on Climate Change released by the Vatican today June 19th 2015

"We are not God. The Earth was here before us and was given to us."

Says Pope Francis in his Encyclical on Climate Change released by the Vatican today June 19th 2015.

By Elsie Gabriel.



"We are not God. The Earth was here before us and was given to us!" Says Pope Francis in his Encyclical on Climate Change released by the Vatican today June 19th 2015. Yes,the news has spread far and wide. As head of the Church, the papal call out to unite for the environment is a clarion call.

Pope Francis, further very bravely talks about industrial waste overtaking the planet, calls for renewable fuel subsidies and energy efficiency, global environmental deterioration and says that we have mistreated “our common home’ the planet, in his Encyclical on Climate Change released by the Vatican today June 19th 2015.

The Green Pontiff is being hailed as the green proactive catholic chief with great pride. But do you actually know what an Encyclical actually is? The Encyclical, actualdefinition in the Roman Catholic Church says it is a letter addressed by the pope to all the bishops of the church.

So in this 192 pages document released from the Vatican, Pope Francis lays out the argument for a new link between science and religion, to advocate the fight against climate change.Pope Francis very well comes to the point straight away saying in this document to his people, “Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet. In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home.”

In another quote the Pope goes on to state, "The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish."

The Pope's Encyclical on 'Climate Change' is a big deal for those of us in the ecology, environment and sustainability fields. It's a massive boost and may help move societies all over the world to real action from empty words.

The 'environment education for the youth and community' is what I dedicate my time to working for every day, a beautiful vision for a sustainable and thriving future is what I see, more powerful green young citizens is what I can fuel.

Pope Francis is a Green Pope and his message of ecology is what we all can embrace. This is fantastic on behalf of the Pope because it’s not about religion or politics any more, it is now all about proactive awareness on a war footing to help save our planet from climate change.

I think it is the renewal of the green faith, a call to embrace the moral imperatives of everything from car pooling to temperature control, check consumption, planting trees, animal rights to solar panels.

I am all set to embrace this ecological conversion, Christian or not, the earth needs you to be her faithful! The Pontiff goes on to call the earth his sister, “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.”

Pope Francis could not have chosen a better time with countries gathering this year end to chalk out a plan of cooperation on climate change this December in Paris, rightly saying- "Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years."

What wrong have the ‘poor’ done to suffer from climate change? Food shortage, hunger, disease, sickness and inequality, all because the careless contribute towards climate change.  We are all children of the same God, aren’t we??
[About the writer-Founder of the Young Environmentalists Programme trust Mumbai India and Climate Reality Mentor trained by former VP USA Al Gore. Elsie is also a writer for the last 18 years on environment education and has authored a book called Get Out Get Going Outdoors which promotes bonding with nature outdoors. She is also a certified Green teacher and post graduate in environment law. She lectures on climate change and EVS in academic institutions. ]


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Amazon forest jungle..swimming with the Piranhas....Elsie Gabriel

Amazon forest jungle..swimming with the Piranhas....Elsie Gabriel
Oh to be alive!!! In the Amazon forest jungle…these boys know more about rainforests than scientists who have studied rainforests for many years! Various tribes still live much as did their ancestors hundreds of years before them. Everyday they organize their daily lives very meticulously; their food, medicines and clothing come primarily from the forest. They hunt…for food….and  I went hunting with them….fishing for Piranhas and swimming with Piranhas….outrageously adventurous..I was so over whelmed with elation,…I kept grinning like a Cheshire cat at one time and  sometimes just stood with awe and silence at the wonder of nature…….like I keep telling you after every forest trip…...I simply wanted to curl up and die……same feeling occurred in the Nepal forests, Indonesian jungles, African wild spaces, and the North eastern forests of India…….the forest is what keeps us alive, keeps us breathing…..

I wasn’t exactly the Jane in the Tarzan series in the forest, you know….but researching, documenting and simply letting the forest take over…was what  I did…..

You can reach Manaus in about 6 hours from Rio, while touring Brazil, you should not miss out on this Amazon jungle experience. In South America, Manaus is in the north, which is located on the left banks of the black water Rio Negro river and about 18 km from meeting with the waters of the claylike white water Rio Solimões, at which point both rivers join into the great Amazon river. Thicketed jungles and green forests are the gateway to the inner Amazon region and has been of significant importance for the conquest of the whole region, a fact for which, the jungle theater and the harbor among others, deliver rich testimony. Founded by the Portuguese military during the 17th century, the significant economic development of Manaus took place at the end of the 19th century, with the worldwide demand for rubber or caoutchouc, at an all time high. At that time Brazil had the monopoly for the commodity which was extracted from the Hevea brasiliensis rubber tree.

Gosh there are Rubber trees every where in plenty, thats where all the trade must have started and broken the forest peace.I guess.

If I must share, Manaus is a Brazilain city of about 2.5 million, but the actual Amazoan jungle is through the river boat rides way inside the jungles.  Actually Manaus is located on the Rio Negro a few miles before it meets the Rio Solimões to form the Amazon River proper. The two rivers flow side by side for many miles, different in color, mixing in eddies: the "Meeting of the Waters." Legend has it that they never mix. You get to see all of this during your cruise.

Our expeditions to the inside and deeper Amazonian environment started with various river trails. The miracles of the Amazonian forest and river systems came alive. I was in awe, nirvana and a state of quietness all in one, one of the last great natural environments of the planet and cradle of the species is here. So if you ever ask me ..have I been to heaven , Id say YES to heaven and back.

Trekking through deep virgin rain forest, canoeing through lonesome Igarapes, fishing Piranha or Peacock Bass, watching dolphins, birds, monkeys, alligators, snakes and spiders.Be ready to walk and be ready to rough it out.Not a place for delicate darlings mind you... 

The schedule of the excursions is depending on the weather condition, changes can be made according to your wishes. Learn how to identify trees that produce fruits and nuts you can eat -- like açai palm berries, passion fruit and Brazilian nuts -- as well as vegetation to avoid. Spot medicinal leaves and roots; learn how to find sources of clean water; and practice building traps for small animals. Afterward, enjoy lunch and take a scenic canoe ride before discovering local village life with a visit to a real Amazonian home.

Boat transportation is available in yacht with air-conditioned cabin, regional boat or motorized canoe.Included in the packages are all transfers, lunch, mineral water, bilingual guide and insurance. So choose wisely, cover as much as you can, enrich yourself, you may never come back here, so don’t cringe at the price, remember you are helping promote an ecological site.

All my cow boy and red Indian stories came alive right here!! I got to live inside the geography book pages.Biss!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Lets go Dutch! The Netherlands is a nation known to have a good framework for sustainability. Elsie Gabriel

Lets go Dutch!

Orange it is! The Dutch are painting the town Orange alright in Mumbai!! The Holland meets Mumbai festival 2015 is bringing in a lot of culture, dance and food. Truly a good exchange of ideas and  events. I was happy to witness and  kick start the Holland festival in Mumbai with Consul General of Netherlands, Geoffrey van Leeuwen at Foodhall, India’s premium lifestyle food superstore– enabling its patrons to experience the culinary flavours of Dutch.!

Dutch foods of the Netherlands may not be as well-known as French or Chinese cuisines but it is worth experiencing the delight at least once. The Dutch cuisine has gained popularity amongst food connoisseurs across the globe owing to its simple and straightforward flavours. This food festival will take you to the Orange land with some of its most enjoyable savouries such as StroopWaffles - a waffle made from thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling and world famous cheeses such as Edam and Gouda.

The ever popular Stroopwaffles, delectable Dutch apple tart, bread and butter pudding and Dutch pancakes with blueberries were some of the delicasies laid out .The Dutch pea soup that serves as a substantial and healthy meal in this cuisine was added.Cross Maidan Garden from 5th-7th June and experience what the Netherlands has to offer you! One of the attractions is a live clog demo conducted by  Dijkman Klompen-atelier.

The mouth watering Stamppot which is a delicacy made out of mashed potatoes, chopped kale and carrots were sighted as the consul genrals favourite.You can indulge in some exotic Heksenkaas (a flavoured cream cheese or sandwich spread) with Rye bread toasties and White Asparagus with Hollandaise saucealong with mashed potatoes at the demo counter and of course say  Cheese with varieties such as Edam and Gouda.

The Holland Village at the Cross Maidan Mumbai  brought Holland to Mumbai, also hosted  a performance of Kleintje Pils , a very popular Dutch group!  You simply have to check out their footwear. Visit Holland in Mumbai and travel to the land of tulips, windmills and Dutch food.
The street art tucked away in a small bilane in Dharavir Mumbai was striking, so orange to say the least,wish the art works adorned more accessable streets, frequented by the appreciative public and art entusiasts.
Standing below the treet art in Dharavir Mumbai.

The country boasts of  pro-active environment friendly industry-led advocacy groups. Public civic awareness is also high, with sustainability issues integrated into the college and school curriculum. The Netherlands is a nation known to have a good framework for sustainability. The country’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions and investing in renewable energy sources is very high and consistent. A conscious and active civil society, coupled with consistent business-friendly government departments help the Dutch keep sustainable actions on top priority.
I have visited Holland and know first hand, living in the most eco friendly hotels, large tulip gardens and parks, miles of green cover,windmills and water management are just some of the areas which a common tourist is witness to, but Netherland has a powerful commitment to check pollution in every aspect of life, which are also unseen by the travel and tourism industry, like legislation and green policies.

Lets go Dutch,for a change right here in Mumbai.