River Terrapins Making a Comeback in Asia

Rick Hudson, President of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) updated SOS with a quick review of nesting successes from Bangladesh for several river terrapin species in the Batagur genus including Batagur baska. Multi-coloured and charming in their own right, the future is looking brighter for Batagur baska and relatives.  

Today is World Turtle Day, May 23rd when turtle lovers everywhere will gush over stunning pictures of marine turtles sharing them on social media platforms and supporting these most charismatic of reptiles. But spare a thought for lesser known, similarly threatened turtles such as those river terrapins of Asia of the genus Batagur which are making a comeback thanks to the efforts of  TSA; an SOS Grantee and IUCN Member. 

Throughout Asia nesting season has just finished for river terrapins of the genus Batagur, where five of the six known species struggle to survive. All species have been reduced to remnants of their former numbers, and intensive recovery programmes are now necessary to ensure their survival. And in Bangladesh, one of the world’s rarest turtles, the Sundarbans river terrapin (Batagur baska), is having another good year. At facilities in both India and Bangladesh, thanks to a successful bi-national conservation programme, rapidly growing captive populations are strong indications that this rare turtle may well be on the road to recovery…

(read more: SaveOurSpecies)

Newly Discovered Frog Mates Doing Handstands, Makes Pottery
by James Owen
A new species of frog with some bizarre mating rituals has been discovered in India, a new study says.
Found in swampy forests of the Western Ghats (map), the Kumbara night frog (Nyctibatrachus kumbara) mates while doing a handstand and then daubs its eggs with mud to protect them—the world’s only known frog species known to do so.
Hence the new frog’s name: Kumbara means “potter” in the language of the Uttara Kannada region of western India where the species lives, according to the research, published May 16 in the journal Zootaxa…
(read more/see video: National Geographic)
Photo by Kotambylu Vasudeva Gururaja

Newly Discovered Frog Mates Doing Handstands, Makes Pottery

by James Owen

A new species of frog with some bizarre mating rituals has been discovered in India, a new study says.

Found in swampy forests of the Western Ghats (map), the Kumbara night frog (Nyctibatrachus kumbara) mates while doing a handstand and then daubs its eggs with mud to protect them—the world’s only known frog species known to do so.

Hence the new frog’s name: Kumbara means “potter” in the language of the Uttara Kannada region of western India where the species lives, according to the research, published May 16 in the journal Zootaxa

(read more/see video: National Geographic)

Photo by Kotambylu Vasudeva Gururaja

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Thai/Eastern Cat Snake | ©Diganta Gogoi  (Assam, India)
Boiga siamensis (Colubridae), commonly named Gray Cat Snake or Eastern Cat Snake, is a rear-fanged, Asian snake, found in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India [1]. 
Boiga cyanea is mainly found in the flat lands. They live in bushes and trees in woods and plantations. These snakes are nocturnal. Young animals are orange/red in color, and changes into brown and then green after approx. ½ year [2]. 

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Thai/Eastern Cat Snake | ©Diganta Gogoi  (Assam, India)

Boiga siamensis (Colubridae), commonly named Gray Cat Snake or Eastern Cat Snake, is a rear-fanged, Asian snake, found in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India [1]. 

Boiga cyanea is mainly found in the flat lands. They live in bushes and trees in woods and plantations. These snakes are nocturnal. Young animals are orange/red in color, and changes into brown and then green after approx. ½ year [2]. 

Scientists Release Odd Looking Critically Endangered Crocodilans Back Into the Wild

by Shreya Dasgupta

Among the largest and most endangered crocodilians in the world, the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is on the verge of extinction today. This harmless fish-eating crocodile has fewer than 200 adult breeding individuals in the wild, their numbers having plummeted rapidly over the past few decades due to destruction of their riverine habitats, entanglement in fishing nets, and hunting.

But among this gloom and doom, conservationists have been working tirelessly to reinstate the wild populations.  In one such attempt in April this year, a team from the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Bihar Forest Department released six satellite-tagged gharials into a stretch of Gandak River (a tributary of the Ganges) lying between Valmiki Tiger Reserve and Sohagi Barwa Wildlife Sanctuary. The six individuals included five adult females and one male, bred in captivity at the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park in Patna (or Patna Zoo). ..

(read more: MongaBay)

photographs by Samir Kumar Sinha/WTI

TSA Turtle Tuesday:  Travancore Tortoise
The Travancore tortoise (Indotestudo travancorica) was thought to be synonymous with the Forsten’s tortoise, but has since been recognized as its own distinct species. This forest dwelling turtle is omnivorous, with a diet consisting of fruits, leafy greens, worms, slugs and carrion. Found only in the Western Ghats, a lush mountain range in Southwest India, this shy species is active during the twilight hours before dawn or just after sunset. 
Photo by Cris Hagen
(via: Turtle Survival Alliance)

TSA Turtle Tuesday:  Travancore Tortoise

The Travancore tortoise (Indotestudo travancorica) was thought to be synonymous with the Forsten’s tortoise, but has since been recognized as its own distinct species. This forest dwelling turtle is omnivorous, with a diet consisting of fruits, leafy greens, worms, slugs and carrion. Found only in the Western Ghats, a lush mountain range in Southwest India, this shy species is active during the twilight hours before dawn or just after sunset.

Photo by Cris Hagen

(via: Turtle Survival Alliance)

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Indian Bullfrog
The Indian Bullfrog, Hoplobatrachus tigerinus (Dicroglossidae) is a South Asian frog found in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. It also has been introduced to Madagascar and Maldives [1].
The Indian Bullfrog was once heavily collected for the international frog legs trade. Legal export of this species from the range states of India and Bangladesh has been banned since the mid-1990’s [1].
Some of the most striking aspects of this species are its size (up to 170 mm), the bright yellow coloration of breeding males, and their blue vocal sacs located on sides of the throat (pictured) [2].
Photo credit: ©Fahim Hassan | A couple of Indian Bullfrogs mating at Dhaka, Bangladesh, India.

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Indian Bullfrog

The Indian Bullfrog, Hoplobatrachus tigerinus (Dicroglossidae) is a South Asian frog found in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. It also has been introduced to Madagascar and Maldives [1].

The Indian Bullfrog was once heavily collected for the international frog legs trade. Legal export of this species from the range states of India and Bangladesh has been banned since the mid-1990’s [1].

Some of the most striking aspects of this species are its size (up to 170 mm), the bright yellow coloration of breeding males, and their blue vocal sacs located on sides of the throat (pictured) [2].

Photo credit: ©Fahim Hassan | A couple of Indian Bullfrogs mating at Dhaka, Bangladesh, India.

Osteology of Kryptoglanis shajii, a stygobitic catfish (Teleostei: Siluriformes) from Peninsular India with a diagnosis of the new family Kryptoglanidae  [2014]

Kryptoglanis shajii was recently described from a public well in Kerala, India. Its systematic position among catfishes has remained unresolved partly due to lack of morphological information. We present here a detailed osteological description of the skeleton of K. shajii and discuss its unusual skeletal features.

 The phylogenetic position of Kryptoglanis remains unclear, even though the reduced condition of the palatine may point to a closer relationship with the Siluridae. Our osteological analysis of Kryptoglanis demonstrates that this genus cannot be accommodated into any known catfish family and we therefore propose the new family Kryptoglanidae for it…

(read more: Nova-Taxa - Species New to Science)

'Mafia' Cuckoos Rule By Fear, Foisting Young On Other Birds
by Douglas Main
Great spotted cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, and the host does all the work of raising the impostor. But if the new foster parent doesn’t cooperate and ditch the new arrival, the  the cuckoo sometimes retaliates, destroying the poor birds’ other eggs. Brown-headed cowbirds behave similarly. Whaddaya gonna do about it? 
Scientists have puzzled over this behavior. This retaliation doesn’t at first appear to improve the chance of the cuckoo reproducing, and is slightly risky in that it could lead to a confrontation. One theory to explain it is that the cuckoos are acting like “the mafia,” as described in a study published in Scientific Reports—if the host birds fear retaliation, they may raise the cuckoo because it’s better than having all their eggs broken. The same reasoning explains why a shopkeep might unwillingly pay for protection from the mafia, for fear of being roughed up. 
In the new study, researchers mathematically modeled the cuckoo-retaliation and the “mafia” hypothesis, and found that this theory does appear to explain the behavior, as long as two conditions are met: that the cuckoos visit the same nest repeatedly, and that the host birds are capable of learning. The cuckoo makes an offer that can’t be refused, as it were…
(read more: Popular Science)
photo: Yathin S Krishnappa via Wikimedia Commons

'Mafia' Cuckoos Rule By Fear, Foisting Young On Other Birds

by Douglas Main

Great spotted cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, and the host does all the work of raising the impostor. But if the new foster parent doesn’t cooperate and ditch the new arrival, the  the cuckoo sometimes retaliates, destroying the poor birds’ other eggs. Brown-headed cowbirds behave similarly. Whaddaya gonna do about it? 

Scientists have puzzled over this behavior. This retaliation doesn’t at first appear to improve the chance of the cuckoo reproducing, and is slightly risky in that it could lead to a confrontation. One theory to explain it is that the cuckoos are acting like “the mafia,” as described in a study published in Scientific Reports—if the host birds fear retaliation, they may raise the cuckoo because it’s better than having all their eggs broken. The same reasoning explains why a shopkeep might unwillingly pay for protection from the mafia, for fear of being roughed up. 

In the new study, researchers mathematically modeled the cuckoo-retaliation and the “mafia” hypothesis, and found that this theory does appear to explain the behavior, as long as two conditions are met: that the cuckoos visit the same nest repeatedly, and that the host birds are capable of learning. The cuckoo makes an offer that can’t be refused, as it were…

(read more: Popular Science)

photo: Yathin S Krishnappa via Wikimedia Commons

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itsmeritesh:

While driving toward a particular rocky hill in the Greater Rann of Kutch, we saw this magnificent raptor sitting right on top. The Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis) is a big bird, about  60 to 80 cms in size, and is hard to miss. These raptors are migratory birds who spend their summers in the Steppes and then head south for winter. The ones that reside in the Mongolian and Russian region, migrate to India during the winter, crossing the mighty Himalayas in their journey. It generally prefers dry desert like surroundings and its diet consists mainly of small mammals and birds. 

Birdlife states that their population is decreasing and puts estimates of around 1 bird per 100 sq km radius. The best place to sight them is in their migratory path, where they form flocks of hundreds while crossing tricky terrain or feeding sites. 

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astronomy-to-zoology

astronomy-to-zoology:

Greater Painted-snipe (Rostratula benghalensis)

…a species of Painted-snipe (Rostraulidae) that occurs in parts of Africa, India, Pakistan and Southeast Asia. Like most waders greater painted-snipe are typically found close to marshes, ponds, swamps, reed beds, streams, and other wet areas. They feed mainly on aquatic insects, crustaceans, molluscs and occasionally seeds which are obtained by probing through mud. Greater painted-snipe are fairly shy and secretive, typically seen close to/in vegetation either solitary or in small groups.

Classification

Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Charadriiformes-Rostratulidae-Rostratula-R. benghalensis

Images: Charles Lam and J.M. Garg

Protecting the Northern River Terrapin

Our next field report comes from the Bhawal National Park in Bangladesh where the Northern River Terrapin (Batagur baska), one of the rarest turtles in the world, is having another good year!

Five of the six known females in the area have already nested, laying a total of 101 eggs! TSA is hopeful that the sixth female, which was discovered in a local pond and joined the breeding program in October 2013, will also produce eggs. All nests have been moved to a caged protected area on the beach for incubation, and temperatures are being carefully monitored in an effort to produce more females.

As in some other reptile species such as crocodiles, river terrapin sex is determined by environmental temperature after fertilization (Temperature dependent sex determination). Lower temperatures produce male hatchlings while a higher temperature will usually result in females. More females mean more eggs and a brighter future for this critically endangered species…

(read more: Turtle Survival Alliance)

Arundhati Roy:  Capitalism - A Ghost Story

Acclaimed novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy used the release spoke at New York City’s New School on Wednesday night about her new book, “Capitalism: A Ghost Story.” The work, which will be released in April by Haymarket books, examines the “dark side of Democracy in India,” according to its publisher.

Roy’s debut novel, “The God of Small Things,” won the esteemed Booker prize in 1997, and she’s since established herself as one of the world’s important political activists. 

The New School talk was a conversation with Indian author Siddharta Deb and was livestreamed in front of a sold out audience.

(via: Colorlines.com)

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itsmeritesh:

Classified as critically endangered, the social lapwing (Vanellus gregarius) is a wader. Gregarius signifies that they move and function as a group. These birds are easily distinguished by their black crown and dark eyestripe. Their summer and winter plumage differs in the intensity of black on and gray on their chest and back.

In 2004, this bird was categorized as critically endangered with less than 600 recorded individuals, but a discovery of a super flock near Turkey (an unknown migratory destination for this bird) has bumped up its latest number to about 3000 individuals. The current categorization states that the population could decline by about 80% in 10 years. Reasons for the decline of this bird’s population is largely unknown. 

We drove for about 2 hours to find this bird in the Greater Rann of Kutch, which is the western coast of India and is the furthest migratory destination for this bird. We found a good bunch of them feeding on the ground, and in company with a group of Golden Plovers.