April 1, 2013
We walked along a coastal trail that wound through lush vegetation, while small flocks of singing starlings came and went from the trees. The locals, whose houses were clustered in small groups along the way, were very welcoming and some even accompanied us on the walk, filling us in on what life here is like.
With eclectus parrots occasionally flying overhead, we cut through open woodland before arriving at the steam and sulfur-smell of a hot spring. Some fumaroles gurgled while others shot boiling hot water out of the ground, only to fall back down upon the sparsely vegetated moonlike landscape. A small pile of snail shells sat on the edge of one of the hot pools, left there by locals who had gathered the snails and cooked them directly in the boiling water for a quick meal.
On the hike back down, we were walking along a steaming stream when a group of birds called curl-crested manucodes flew into a nearby tree snag. These large glossy black birds are actually members of the bird-of-paradise family, a specialty of the New Guinea region, and we admired them up close through the spotting scope before resuming our course along the sulfur-smelling stream back down to the beach.
March 25, 2013
To see a tiger requires infinite patience and perseverance, but the sight of your first tiger is one of life’s great moments. They are the essence of power and beauty portrayed in an unhurried, silent walk or a charge towards a herd of chital.
In recent times the tiger has become a symbol of India’s wilderness, a striped ambassador that, sadly, is in serious decline. At the turn of the 19th century, there were thought to be over 40,000 tigers in India alone; by 1972, they numbered just 1,800. According to the latest tiger census report released on February 12, 2008 by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, the current tiger population of India has fallen further (as a result of poaching) and is now within the range of 1,165 to 1,657 individuals. Nevertheless India continues to support more than half of the world’s tiger numbers.
Larger and more powerful than lions, tigers are solitary hunters and rely on their exquisite camouflage to approach prey closely before pouncing. Each tiger has a unique paw print, set of stripes, and facial markings, allowing them to disappear from view in the forest or on the plains, like a phantom. They are hunters of immense and awesome power with the speed and agility to catch a peacock in mid-flight and the strength to bring down a mature gaur (bison). A 330-pound tigress was once seen dragging a one-ton gaur over 50 yards into cover. On average, they kill three times a week.
Fossil evidence suggests that the tiger originated in Siberia and then spread southward. In present times they are equally at home in Himalayan high altitude, cold coniferous forests, and the steaming mangrove swamps of the Sunderbans Delta. Unlike most cats, tigers enjoy water and are good swimmers. Some tigers hunt mostly in the water and feed on fish, sea turtles, and water monitors.
The tigress produces a large litter of up to six blind, helpless kittens, but only two will normally survive. The gestation period is just 110 days and the youngsters can stay with their mother until they are two-and-a-half years of age.
India is to be applauded for its bold initiative in tiger conservation, which began in 1972 with the launch of Project Tiger. Only time will tell if this magnificent predator will once again thrive or sadly, go the way of the dodo.
March 25, 2013 | Tags: asmat villages, best of indonesia, ewer, rich pagen, Zodiac
Written by Rich Pagen.
Our flotilla of Zodiacs sped upriver in the direction of the small Asmat village of Ewer, on the edge of a huge flooded mangrove forest with little change in elevation for miles and miles. The village seemed quiet, but when we looked with binoculars, it became clear that there were hundreds of people lining the shore watching our approach.
Then, without warning, wooden longboats shot out from the shore, paddled by men dressed in straw skirts made from sago palm. Their bodies and faces were decorated in white, and they wore headdresses ornamented with fur and feathers. While they banged their paddles against the sides of their longboats, they came alongside us, with the lead man on each boat leaping onto the front of each of our Zodiacs, all the while gyrating to the rhythm of the chanting.
Soon they led us into the small inlet that hosted their community, and brought us to a rickety pier where we left the Zodiacs behind and headed into the village itself on foot. There was no doubt that we had arrived in the Asmat.
March 19, 2013
Zegrahm cofounder, Peter Harrison, was recently interviewed by Ireland’s Olan McGowan regarding his latest bird identification. Peter, along with 12 others, discovered the Pincoya storm petrel off the coast of Chile. To learn about this fascinating discovery, listen to the radio show, here.
March 14, 2013
Written by Rich Pagen
With the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance, we wandered a muddy trail through dense vegetation with palm trees towering overhead. Anticipation hung in the still air as we were hiking within the range of the Komodo dragon, the largest lizard in the world. We paused briefly to watch a group of yellow-crested cockatoos fly noisily overhead, their white plumage strongly contrasting with the dark green foliage beneath them.
We then rounded a bend before arriving at a small clearing in the forest. As we walked closer, it became clear that the three large brown logs lying in the clearing were in fact not logs at all. Three Komodo dragons, each more than 9 feet long and weighing several hundred pounds, were sprawled across the muddy ground. One sensed our presence and stood up, flicking its tongue in and out, tasting the air to determine what we were. We watched in awe for several minutes before moving on in silence, leaving this particular clearing to the dragons.