Hello All, apologies for the absence - illness and a bit of enforced rest have kept me away for a while, but enough about that. I am delighted to announce that Season of the Spirit Bear will be premiering in this part of the world (Asia and South East Asia) on 26th November.
Internationally, it'll be airing on the 18th November in the UK and Europe, and on the 26th in Australia and New Zealand. It will also be airing in Latin America during November, but I still don't have dates for that region. Anyway it'll be repeated several times during the month.
Unfortunately the show is not being aired on Animal Planet US, as their schedule seems to be fully booked for the foreseeable future. But maybe if any of you in the States would like the opportunity to watch it, you could make a request to the nice people at AP! Again my apologies, as I know quite a few people over there who have been waiting patiently to watch it...
I have already spoken of the organization 'Deep Griha', The Lighthouse - a charity that is looking after over 50,000 people living far below the poverty line in the slum cities of Pune, India.
Deep Griha is a multi-faceted organization, looking after these people's needs - everything from promoting self-sufficiency, all the way to HIV counselling and treatment. I have spoken at length about their efforts and struggles and successes.
But I am just an admirer from afar.
Better to hear about Deep Griha's work from one of their own.
He blogs regularly on Deep Griha's blog site - one of his entries sums up what it is to work at Deep Griha - and what it is to work with people who shine so brightly, in spite of circumstance, suffering and hardship...
My name is Hans Billimoria. My role at Deep Griha Society is currently threefold - Project Manager for DISHA - Deep Griha's Integrated Service for HIV/AIDS, Volunteer Coordinator and member of the recently set up Events and Fundraising Team.
Over the next few days, weeks and months... possibly years. watch this spot 'The Chaos Within' to read of what life is like at Deep Griha Society, for me, and those I work with, and those we serve.
Why chaos within? Because 'The Fall of the dancing star gives birth to the chaos within.' That's not me, that's Nietzsche. It has resonance however with the work I do, and why I do it. I work with dancing stars, people who live with HIV/AIDS, people that burn brightly in the perceived night that surrounds so many that have HIV/AIDS. I have met and worked with people that amaze me, humble me, and on occasion make me cry... They make me cry in frustration as much as they do in sadness or joy.
I hope that through the 'The Chaos Within' you will get an idea of what it is like to work at a grassroots NGO. It is hard... if you want it to be hard. There are no Mother Theresas here, just people working for other people. We've had our share of Mother Theresas, the bleeding hearts I mean, not those who care genuinely for the poor and afflicted... and even 'afflicted,' a strong word... we work with people in the slums, are they afflicted? Well, aren't we all afflicted in some way?
A message to tell you about a new group celebrating the work of the Deep Griha Society, a charitable organization in Pune, India that is transforming the lives of thousands of people living in Pune's slums.
Since 1975 Deep Griha - meaning Light House - has grown from one employee to over one hundred staff. They have three main centers operating in the Tadiwala Road, Ramtekadi and Bibwewadi slums, which have a combined population of more than fifty thousand (50,000) people.
By providing free health care, education, nutrition, self-help groups, orphan placements and HIV and AIDS counselling, therapy and treatment, Deep Griha has cast a wonderful ray of hope for India's forgotten people.
Their dedication is tremendous, their achievements amazing -and I invite you all to come join in and meet the staff of Deep Griha, learn of their work, their stories, their successes and their heartbreaks - I'm sure it will have an impact on you as it has done on me.
The group is brand new - I'm just 'arranging the furniture' for the folks at Deep Griha, who'll be dropping in soon. Until then feel free to look around, watch a film about the Society, and learn how their incredible story started.
Its a funny old world, isn't it? The circumstances that keep the human race united under the common ties of community- and yet poles apart in terms of commodity.
A couple of weeks ago a sleak black Lamborghini pulled up along side me in town. This admittedly gorgeous piece of machinery is probably one of the most recognizable statements of privilege and wealth on four wheels that you're likely to come across in public. And although my salivary glands were about to go on overdrive, my thoughts suddenly switched to the absurdity of what was sitting there, growling quietly in front of my eyes.
We all know that the distribution of wealth is spread unevenly across the world - and never more so than here in South East Asia. Where else would you find such conflicting scenes of sprawling urban slums sitting shoulder to shoulder with mansions and manicured gardens? Millionaires and misery living side by side. I've lived in this part of the world for almost ten years and I'm still not used to it.
Just three months ago I was in Sri Lanka, and although a beautiful country, its still got enough economical and political obstacles to keep it from reaching its full potential for many decades to come.
I recalled another unusual street scene from back then - a working elephant marching along a dusty back street, while closeby a street child begged deliriously for food.
What a contrast to the sleek machine purring at the traffic lights back here in Singapore...
I quickly calculate that the small fortune paid for this car could easily: finance research on an endangered species, restore the livelihoods of entire communities destroyed by the tsunami, and even help fund any number of medical breakthroughs - the list goes on. Of course I'm talking humanitarianism here - a bit of an antique concept these days.
As we evolve as a species, so our notorious Selfish Genes have become more dominant - it seems to be the way of things, across the board. Now don't get me wrong - this is not a jibe against the owner of said supercar (oh yeah... you can almost see the sour grapes spilling from Charith's mouth) - rather its what he stands for; a symbol of where most of the human race would like to be. Its all about possession and prestige - an almost instinctive need that plagues us.
Although my aspirations don't include owning a million dollar sports car, I still want that new camera, that computer upgrade, and eventually a nice little farm in the country. There's always something we want, on any given day.
But if we could just manipulate that little piece of DNA - mutate it, make it more malleable - turn it into an altruistic gene with all traces of selfishness spliced out... yes that's all sci-fi - but what if? What if?
What would it take for us to address the realities of poverty that plague our race even in this so-called enlightened age? What would it take for the millionaire to swap his Lamborghini for a more practical SUV and divert some of his fortune to aid the less fortunate? No, that's not going to happen is it? That's not the way we're built...
So, in Singapore's thriving business district a stockbroker drives into the sunset on his wheels of fortune and a thousand miles away in a forgotten street corner, someone is trying to figure out how they're going to be able to make it through another day.
And someone like me will vent their futile frustrations, knowing only too well that ultimately they have no solution for this contagious human condition.
Two more Iberian Lynx cubs were born in captivity March 23 at 21 h 39 to the same mother, Saliega, as last year's cubs. The cubs were born at El Acebuche lynx breeding facilities in Doñana. So far the sex is unknown. It is possible that another of the five captive females (Esperanza and/or Adelfa) may be pregnant and may give birth in the next few days. This cannot be confirmed as the lynx workers take a hands-off approach. Both lynxes have put on weight but this may be a psychological pregnancy. The Acebuche centre is considered too small and this spring a second centre is to open in La Aliseda in Jaen which will take the new cubs and new captures.
Saliega and her cubs
The latest lynx count by the Junta de Andalucia estimates that at the end of 2005 there were a minimum of 38 females with territories, a basic unit for counting lynx populations as in a male's territory there can be one or several breeding females. These female territories were divided between Sierra Morena (26) and Doñana (15), an increase of three over last years (all three in Sierra Morena), and the highest detected since 2001. The minimum number of cubs confirmed (older than six months) is 36 (10 in Doñana and 26 in Sierra Morena.) The total population of the Iberian lynx, including this year's cubs is estimated at 169, up from 2001 with less than140. The Sierra Morena population is now thought to be expanding, while Doñana is stagnant, though for the first time in three years a brood of lynxes have been born within the National Park's reserve proper, a sign perhaps that the rabbit pens are starting to work.
Lynxes to be reintroduced in three new areas in wild by 2009. It has also been announced that the cubs born in captivity are to be released in three initial areas: Sierra Norte (Sevilla) and Despeñaperros (Jaén) and Hornachuelos / Guadalmellato (Córdoba). The reintroduction will be done by “soft releases” in fenced areas of 15-20 hectares which will later be opened up. Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha and Portugal have been asked to determine possible areas for reintroduction over the next few years, Undoubtedly the role of the lynx as a flagship species will be a spur for conservation in all these areas.
Read more about the amazing work of the El Acebuche lynx breeding facility (and photos of last year's cubs!) at Shadows and Light.
Devi Singh never missed his mark. He is a well-to-do Moghiya tribal who runs a shuttle jeep to district headquarter Sheopur in Madhya Pradesh. He has two wives, a motorcycle, and two houses in two adjacent villages, Dhamni and Angora. His elder son has been to the local school before he was big enough to look after his father’s agricultural land.
Devi Singh loves the challenge of his muzzle-loading gun. It gives him just one chance at a time. During last two years or so, he used it on tigers on five occasions. Be it twilight or moonlight, he never needed to fire one extra round. Five striped skins were his for just five country-made bullets.
Like most men in his community, Devi Singh hunted for bush meat. For Moghiya and Bagri tribals, it is a way of life. Traditionally, farmers hire them to protect their crop in the night. And the Moghiyas kill whatever comes their way—usually deer and wild boars. Devi Singh’s second wife belongs to Rajasthan but more than the hospitality at his in-law’s place in Uliana, he loved the bounty the adjacent forests of Ranthambhore National Park offered. His shooting skill made him a hero of sorts and he often camped at Uliana for months together, hunting spotted deer and wild boars.
Then, one evening, he met Azad. The villagers never knew much about Azad, except for the fact that the man used to visit them with promises of what seemed to them big money in exchange for tiger or leopard skin and bones. Once Devi Singh felt greedy, there was no stopping the man revered as the shikari in his community.
Devi Singh targeted the Pilighati area, about a kilometer from Uliana. With his brother Mukesh, sister-in-laws Rup and Bhola and nephew Bablu, he used to comb the jungle for pugmarks and hunt tigers from trees after sundown. The first one was a 7-foot male. Devi Singh still remembers he was on a Jamun tree. The bullet pierced the heart and the animal died within minutes.
“Pasli me, kandhe se char anguli piche, dil pe marna parta. Sher awoon awoon karta rehta hai jab tak pran na nikal jaye (Aim for the heart four fingers below the shoulder, the tiger cries till it dies),’’ he explained to The Indian Express. No tiger survived more than 15 minutes after being shot. Sometimes, Devi Singh and his team had to wait for hours atop trees. Sometimes, the tiger showed up within minutes of taking position. The men usually returned in the morning to skin the carcass. They disposed off the flesh, carried the skin and bones and dug the booty in the village field. Then Devi Singh used to call Azad from the nearest telephone booth at Kundera village. The code (bolibhasha) to guard the message from the booth operator was simple: “Bada kar diya (Done a big one).’’
Next he used to pack the skin in a bag or suitcase and take a bus to Sawai Madhopur, about one hour from Uliana. Another bus and a little over two hours would take Devi Singh to Sheopur. Here he would board the afternoon train and reach Tentra by seven in the evening. The handover would take place near a nallah outside the village.
Why Tentra? “Thoda out si hai, log nahin hota us jagah,” he explained. Bulk of the payment was made on the delivery of the skin. Devi Singh would again return with the bones — by now treated with salt etc — in a few weeks and collect the rest.
Besides killing five tigers himself, Devi Singh also guided other poachers in the trade. He was the person Kesra contacted after killing his first tiger. Devi Singh took the skin from him for just Rs 38,000 and sold it to Azad for Rs 60,000.
Kesra, a Moghiya tribal, was lured to the trade by his in-laws, all Bagri tribals, and made base south of Ranthambhore. Once he personally came to know Azad, he used to deliver skins to him directly at Sawai Madhopur railway station, usually near the ticket counter. A poor landed Moghiya, Kesra admitted he was tempted by the lure of easy money. “Das-das hazar ek ek ko milta tha. Mushkil nahin tha marna. Baas thoda time lagta tha,” he told The Indian Express.
Pirthia, a small-time hunter, killed his only tiger after coming in contact with Kesra and passed on the skin to him. While both Devi Singh and Kesra claimed that they didn’t hunt in recent months, they didn’t rule out the chances of others still continuing in the trade. But didn’t they feel bad killing tigers? Kesra softened up a bit: “Teen bachcha hai, paisa chahiye tha. Aadmi se galti ho jata hai" (Had three children, needed the money. People do make mistakes). But Devi Singh looked surprised: “Paisa milta hai to achcha lagta hai, dukh thodi lagta hai (You feel nice when you get money, there’s no sorrow).”
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