The sambar is the sambar-rice for tigers

The sambar represents one of the most complex divides between north and south India. In the southern states, sambar (pronounced saam-baar) is a liquidy lentils-based thing that you can mix with rice, idli or dosa. In fact, we southern conservation biologists are so passionate about sambar (actually, so poorly funded) that we eat sambar rice three times…

Snakes!

I was driving up to my field station (trying to keep a low profile to avoid the poochandi who haunted the hairpin bends). As I turned on one of the hairpin bends and started accelerating, I saw some kind of a gigantic black thing on the road ahead of me. I slammed on the brakes, and in the headlights through the mist I saw a huge king cobra – eating a monitor lizard.

Leopard attack

What would you do if you felt a heavy weight and sharp claws digging into your chest in the middle of the night, opened your eyes and saw a leopard’s face a couple of inches away from yours? You would probably scream very loudly. And thats exactly what a colleague did many years ago.

Masala dosas, microorganisms and field work

I swear they are all related. The first masala dosa I ever ate at a commercial establishment in Edmonton looked like it had been trampled by an elephant, smelt like tandoori chicken and had an astonishing resemblance to the taste of the cardboard boxes that camera traps come in. It left me so traumatized that…

Conservation biology: its all about crap!

Crap has a profound influence on the lives of us conservation biologists, and thats a true fact. My papers are based on scats. People I know  are reminded of me when they see someone in a movie examining elephant dung in the field. Whereas in reality, I get more excited when I see a fresh…

Do tigers drink elephant milk?

My field assistants have an interesting belief. They say that tigers are very fond of elephant milk, because it is nutritious. So when there is a young calf in an elephant herd, tigers follow that herd, in the hope of getting some milk from the lactating cow elephant. Though I think that if a tiger…

“How does your research help baby elephants?”

“How does your research help baby elephants?” I thought it was a slightly strange and somewhat misplaced question to ask me. As conservation biologists, we focus on saving populations of animals and groups of species, rather than individual baby animals (though I would consider an exception for elephants – see the photos below and you’ll…

The headless horseman of the Shencottah Gap

OK fine, I dont know if he is really headless or not. In fact chances are he does have his head, because he was staring at me. But it seemed like a good title… Ghostly visits are often a part of field experiences, especially when your study site consists of lonely surroundings, few artificial lights…

The most confused bird on the planet

The Sri Lanka Frogmouth is definitely the funniest bird that I have come across (I cant quite decide whether it is also the ugliest).  It is a nocturnal bird, found only in the Western Ghats of India and in Sri Lanka. It’s pretty difficult to spot, so I got very excited the first time I…