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Friday, July 12

Six injured Slender Lorises rescued from Bangalore city, black magicians suspected

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Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerianus)
Image Courtesy: Kalyan Varma

Wildlife smuggling rackets and black magicians are on the prowl in Bangalore, hints recent wildlife rescues from the city. Officials were able to save six severely injured Slender Lorises- a slow-moving, nocturnal primate- in the last two months. All of them are suspected to be smuggled into the city and were tortured by black magicians.

According to People for Animals (PFA), an NGO involved in rescuing animals, all the rescued Lorises were injured in a specific way. The activist of the NGO alleges that the nature of the wound found on these rescued animals show that they are being used by black magicians. Kishan C H, General Manager of the Bangalore chapter of People for Animals told the media that the animals are injured in the most barbaric way. According to reports, the animals were in bad shape with their arms or legs crushed or cut off.

This smallest primate, found only in India and Sri Lanka, is targeted by black magicians and folk medicine practitioners for the belief that the animal has special powers and medicinal properties.  “The belief is that whatever is inflicted on the animal will in turn happen to the person's enemy," said Kishan.

The NGO was able to spot the animals from different parts of the city. While some of them were reportedly found from a farm house near Nelamangala, one was taken to a veterinary hospital first and later reached PFA. Rescuers were able to find two of the animals at Shivajinagar. Despite the rescue efforts, three out of the six rescued animals were not able to survive. The other three were later returned to the wild with the help of forest officials, said PFA sources.

Smuggling Slender Loris

It is suspected that the trucks carrying wood from the outskirts of the city would have been used to smuggle Slender Loris at least in Shivajinagar, since it is the major center for carpentry in the city. According to M Nagaraj, Forest Range Officer, South Bangalore, the forest officials have noted that the use of Slender Loris for black magic is turning rampant in the city. “We have already come across six instances in two months. We have not made any arrests yet but are keeping a close watch on it”, he said.

Experts suspect that tribes are being paid for catching the animals and handing over to smuggling rackets. It was earlier reported that tribes are paid by photographers to catch Slender Loris to photograph it.

Wednesday, July 3

Rare butterfly, The Empress, rediscovered from Debang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh after 88 years

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The Empress, (Sasakia funebris) spotted from Debang Valley District in Arunachal Pradesh
(Photo Courtesy: JOTT/Arun P Singh)

All he was able to get were two quick pictures. It never came back, despite patient wait for long hours. But the pictures were worth it, since they are the first of a live Empress to be recorded from the country.  The moment was simply unbelievable for the researcher who accidentally met The Empress, (Sasakia funebris) from Upper Debang Valley District of Arunachal Pradesh, since it was going to be the first record of the rare butterfly from India after 88 years.

Arun P. Singh of Ecology & Biodiversity Conservation Division, Rain Forest Research Institute, Jorhat, Assam was carrying out a survey on ‘Reassessment of forest types of India’ in the Upper Debang Valley District of Arunachal Pradesh when he chanced upon this rare butterfly on the side of the Anini-Mippi Road. During the survey, “this species was incidentally photographed on the road side and later identified”, says the research correspondence regarding the rediscovery published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa. The butterfly “preferred to remain in cover but came down to an eroded mud patch along the road to drink during bright sunshine for a minute or so before disappearing again into thick cover above”, says the researcher in the correspondence.

With a wing span of 125 to 130 mm, the butterfly is comparatively larger and very distinctive with its black colour and red eyes. The forewing cell (the middle portion of the butterfly wing) has a red streak while the hind wing has red markings in the base. The outer halves of the wings of this butterfly have dim white streaks in V shape also.

Historical Records of The Empress from India
Though the butterfly is also found in parts of China, records from India are very scarce. Considered very rare among the winged beauties, The Empress was last reported from India in 1924, when British entomologist O C Ollenbach collected a male specimen from Jakhama in Naga Hills which is now preserved in the National Forest Insect Reference Collection at the Forest Research Institute in Dehradun. Earlier, four specimens of the same butterfly were reportedly collected at Jakhama in Naga Hills in 1911 and 1912. In both the cases, it was reported from altitudes higher than 1500 meters.

The Empress, (Sasakia funebris) spotted from Debang Valley District in Arunachal Pradesh.
(Photo Courtesy: JOTT/Arun P Singh)

The present rediscovery has high conservation significance since extensive surveys of butterfly population in neighbouring states of North East India and Myanmar in the recent past have failed to record the presence of the species. The new record is also an extension to the range of this insect since the place is approximately 200 kilometers away from Naga Hills and is situated in a different hill range at an altitude of 1657 meters. According to the researcher, the area of the rediscovery was mixed sub-tropical broad-leaf forest. The species is protected in India with inclusion in the Schedule I of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

The place from which it is recorded is less disturbed by human intervention, says the research communication. “Biotic interference were low although threats to the forests in the area include shifting cultivation, grazing, fuel wood and timber extraction on a minor scale”, it says. However, the insect is a much sought item for insect smuggling rackets since it costs up to $15 dollars for a single individual in the international curios markets.