Thursday, June 7, 2012

Biodiversity Hotspots of India

Biodiversity hotspot – the term is frequently heard but less commonly understood. I would like to explain.

A Biodiversity hotspot is an area anywhere in the world, which is biologically extremely rich, characterized by a lot of plant endemism and is under threat of habitat loss due to human encroachment. Well, to be a bit more precise, these biodiversity hotspots of the world host at least 1500 species (more than 0.5% of total world’s population) of vascular plants as endemics, nearing 60% of world’s plant, bird, animals, reptiles and amphibian species (many of them being endemic ones) and are under tremendous threat having lost more than 70% of their primary habitat. Endemism refers to an ecological state of any life form being unique to a particular geographical location. Endemic life forms are the most vulnerable to become extinct due to their restricted geographical distributions.

Globally, a lot of conservation efforts have been initiated for the protection of the endangered soecies in these biodiversity hotspot regions. World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, Global Wildlife Conservation, National Geographics, IUCN etc are amongst the world’s leading conservation organizations.

India has two such major biodiversity hotspots and they belong to the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats. Major threats of this enormous biodiversity is logging of the forests, conversion of forests to agricultural lands and other plantations. This amounts to severe habitat destruction. Now above all, these vulnerable regions are further threatened by a number of developmental activities such as roads, railways, dams etc.

The Himalayas stretch over an arc over 3000 kilometers across Pakistan, Nepal, Bhuan, Northwestern and Northeastern states of India and covers an enormous 750,000 km2 of area. The hotspot includes all of the world’s highest peaks (more than 8000 meters including the Everest) and also few of the deepest river gorges. Both the Eastern as well as the Western Himalayas are home to diverse ecosystems and thousands of different life forms.

Western Ghats is a 1600 km long mountain range running through the west coast of India. It covers the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharastra and Gujarat. These mountains cover approximately 1,40,000 sq km and is home to a number of endemic plants, animals, birds, amphibian and reptilian species. The Western Ghats is considered as one of the top ten global biodiversity hot-spots. The Western Ghats has over 450 species of birds (35% endemic), 140 mammal species (around 20% endemic) and 260 reptile species (over 60% endemic). The range also has a number of fresh water fishes and a number of invertebrates most of which are endemic to the region. Similarly, a number of amphibians are endemic to the Western Ghats and the area has become a hotspot of discovery of new species of frogs in the last decade. In the northern part of the Western Ghat range, which falls in Maharashtra, about one-third of the plants, almost half the reptiles, and more than three-fourths of the amphibians known in India are found in this narrow strip of rainforest just off the west coast.

After decades of research, scientists have not been able to discover even 15% of all possible forms of life on Earth. While we know about 1.7 million species on Earth, the estimated figure of possible life forms is 10 millions. Thousands of species will get extinct even before they could be discovered, identified or catalogued.

Question arises, how conservation photography can help? Conservation photography is a blend of art of wildlife photography and the science of natural history documentary photography. Conservation photography can work as a tool for the non scientist and non biologist community to contribute enormously for building up a rich database. “India’s Most Wanted” is an offshoot of this project and is now live !!! Dr Caesar Photography is inviting all photographers across India to contribute photographs of the most endangered species of the country to this platform. We also have regular expeditions being conducted in the Western Ghats and also in the North Eastern rainforests and Eastern Himalayas.

We are just facilitators for a worldwide movement, doing our little bit.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Raymond's visit to India - a report

Raymond’s visit to India was an enlightening experience. It was a massive multi-city project planned which needed rigorous groundwork of almost 6 months to ensure that the project brings in nearing 300 Indian Wildlife photographers together and also helps them to understand the international standards and patterns of creative wildlife photography. The project was crafted with an objective to evaluate our own skillsets against the International benchmarks which was well demonstrated during the series of seminars that we conducted. We are happy to understand that this project has established a platform for all Indian wildlife photographers to escalate their work to the next orbit.

Panasonic Experience Center, Mumbai, witnessed hundred plus wildlife photographers from
Maharashtra and Gujarat, pouring in on 29th of April 2012. Mumbai was immediately followed by Kolkata and then Delhi, where again we got amazing responses from the participants. We were speechless to realize that participants had travelled for thousands of kilometers to attend this workshop. I don’t know whether we could match upto everyone’s expectations, but the feedback received so far says in 99% of cases – bravo !! So… we are happy !

We were a team of 12 at Pangot and Sat Tal – the birding heavens of India. We had a rocking 4 days there with the Himalayan small beauties. The beautiful resorts at both places along with the amazing avifauna of the sub Himalayan coniferous forests kept us mesmerized for 4 days. Raymond’s one to one interaction and personalized guidance for each participant on creative wildlife photography were highly appreciated. One our participants recorded nearing 70 species of birds during her stay – the list as she mailed us is as follows

Ashy Bulbul
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Asian Koel
Asian Paradise Flycatcher
Bar tailed Tree creeper
Black Bulbul
Black Drongo
Black faced Warbler
Black headed Jay
Black lored Tit
Black throated Sunbird
Blue Throated Barbet
Black throated Tit
Blue throated Flycatcher
Blue whistling Thrush
Blue winged Minla
Chestnut bellied Nuthatch
Collared Owlet
Common Hoopoe
Eurasian Blackbird
Eurasian Jay
Fire tailed Sunbird
Gray Bushshat

Gray Headed Canary Flycatcher
Gray headed Warbler
Gray Treepie
Great BarbetGray winged Blackbird
Green backed Tit
Hill Patridge
Hill Prinia
Himalayan Bulbul
Himalayan Crested Kingfisher
Himalayan Griffon
Himalayan Woodpecker
House sparrow
Jungle Myna
Khalij Pheasant
Koklass Pheasant
Large Billed Crow
Lesser Coucal
Mistle Thrush
Orange Headed Thrush
Oriental Cuckoo
Oriental Magpie Robin
Oriental Turtle Dove
Oriental White eye
Plum Headed ParakeetPied Bushchat
Plumbeous water Redstart
Red Billed Blue Magpie
Red Junglefowl

Red billed Leiothrix
Russet Sparrow
Siberian Stonechat
Slaty Headed Parakeet
Speckled wood Pigeon
Spot winged Tit
Spotted Dove
Streaked Laughing Thrush
Striated Laughing Thrush
Ultramarine Flycatcher
Verditer Flycatcher
White Crested Laughing ThrushWedge tailed Green Pigeon
White throated Flycatcher
White throated Laughing Thrush
Yellow Wagtail

We are extremely happy about the overall response though it wasn’t a cakewalk. We are planning for more ‘on field’ projects in future in India along with Raymond Barlow.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wildlife photography as a career in India

Wildlife photography as a career in India, used to sound like a dream a couple of years back. Lucky had been those who could persuade their profession and passion simultaneously. For most, wildlife and wildlife photography remained as a childhood passion and one amongst the many lost dreams condemned by our professional pursuits.

Today the trend is visibly changing. More and more people have started thinking differently; many have started taking serious interest in learning photography and adopting wildlife photography as a full time carrier. Today, we can see endless opportunities for a wildlife photographer from print media to graphic designing, from exhibitions to stock photography, from photo tours to guided expeditions, from organized camps to sponsored projects, from natural history to conservation photography, from research to film making – options are too many.

However, building a career in wildlife photography definitely demands the photographs to stand out amongst thousands and hand holding and personalized knowledge sharing helps one to improvise and excel – and hence this effort.

In the country, there are maestros in wildlife photography who have taken Indian wildlife photographers to an international platform. These masters are making their best efforts to disseminate knowledge amongst the new comers. Budding photographers and amateurs are enthusiastic about it but limited resources and the cost of it becomes a major challenge.

www.drcaesarphotography.com is now a strong team comprising of established wildlife photographers, naturalists, conservationists, biologists and veterans in the field of digital photography. Having travelled through the same road, we understand the hurdles and challenges faced in taking this hobby to the next orbit. We, as a team, are putting our honest efforts to make photography learning available to the enthusiasts and amateurs at an affordable cost.

We have initiated a country wide chain of Wildlife Photography workshops, Photography tours and expeditions in multiple locations across Indian geography and hence we are looking for naturalists, biologists, conservationists, skilled wildlife photographers and other experts who would be interested in associating with us. We have an existing platform and a well recognized brand which has been doing exceedingly well in the field of wildlife photography and we aspire to be the best in the country. If you are interested in associating with us, do send us a mail to jobs@drcaesarphotography.com