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     THE IWCS QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER. January-April 2003

     In the summer of 2002, IWCS received a grant from the American Himalayan Foundation for a continuation of Peter Byrne’s Water for Wildlife Project which, scheduled for the winter of 2002-2003, would include two new projects. These were to be THE HIDDEN SPRINGS PROJECT and THE GROUND WATER PROJECT.

    

THE HIDDEN SPRINGS PROJECT

     Readers of previous IWCS newsletters will recall what the Hidden Springs entailed which was, essentially, the rehabilitation of a congested waterhole in the heart of the Sukila Phanta Wildlife Park, (in English, the White Grass Plains, or WGP) a waterhole the banks of which were to high to allow animals to come to drink and the bed of which was filled with tons of debris, including huge rotting logs and their branches.

     Work on the renovation of the waterhole began in November, 2002 and continued through to March, 2003. A work force of twenty-five local men, with Peter Byrne working as designer and general supervisor, were employed for the project. All of the debris was removed from the hole, using manual labor, including many dead trees, some of which weighed in excess of one thousand pounds. All this debris was stacked in the immediate vicinity and, as soon as it was dry, was burned. The work was concluded with the cutting of four walkways via which wildlife, coming to drink, could gain safe access to the water. No live trees, many of which fringe the banks of the pool, were cut; surface plants, such as water lilies-which help to control evaporation-were left undisturbed. The work was concluded at the end of March 2003 and almost immediately wildlife started coming to the hole to drink. Among them was a large male tiger, a local herd of Cheetal (Axis axis) and a fine tusker, seen here.

Hidden Springs 1
Hidden Springs 4
Hidden Springs 2
Hidden Springs 5

Elephant Named Hio

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THE WGP GROUND WATER PROJECT

Cormorant 3      When ground water was discovered at a moderate depth during the work of the Nilghai Waterhole Project, in 2002, it was decided to investigate the possibility of obtaining access to this promising water source with a view to using it for wildlife. To this end, starting in November, 2002, and using a twenty-five man crew, exploration was carried out in several of the dry areas of the north and central part of the WGP. Fifteen attempts were made to find water at a level that would allow it to be contained in waterholes, which same would then be enclosed with earthworks designed to both hold the ground water and at the same time prevent silting of the depressions during monsoon flooding. All searches and attempts to find water at a feasible level failed and after thirty days of digging, the plan was deemed impractical and abandoned.

     NOTE: The possibility of searching for artesian water in these areas, at greater depths, was considered but postponed because of the high cost of drilling that would be involved.

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WILDLIFE UPDATE FROM THE WHITE GRASS PLAINS

     During the winter a single male tiger was found dead in the park. An autopsy determined that it had died of natural causes, probably of old age. A single Russell’s Viper was encountered during the work of cleaning out the Hidden Springs waterhole, a rare finding for the park. The reptile was removed by Peter Byrne and released unharmed into the Andaneha, the great swamp of the WGP. A rare Fishing Cat, (Felis viverrina) was seen and photographed near the Hidden Springs waterhole. One very large tiger has taken up residence near the project’s jungle camp; its pug marks indicate that it is close to 10 feet in length and might weigh as much as 500 lbs. A male elephant, in musth, or estrus, caused considerable alarm in the park when it began to rage around the park’s guard post, at Singpur, where two domestic female elephants were housed. When shouting and fire failed to drive the big tusker away, the two females were released to its custody and this calmed the-until then-unrequited passion of the big pachyderm; all three animals went into the forest together and stayed there for a week, after which the females returned to their quarters at Singpur. Two poachers were caught with a Cheetal they had killed. They were arrested and fined and released to the custody of the headman of their village. Bauni Tiger
Fishing Cat

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PLANS FOR THE COMING WINTER

     This coming winter, work will continue on Water For Wildlife projects in the White Grass Plains. Four major projects are anticipated. The first of these will be the construction of three new waterholes in the Hirapur area of the park where three, unusually strong sources of water are available. These are from deep, artesian bores via iron pipes that go down 300 feet; this was the water supply of the villagers of Hirapur before they were relocated to allow for the expansion of the park. These bores will be the sources of water for the three new waterholes.

     Next will come the continued construction of new water catchments, using the successful dry river bed method designed by Peter Byrne and used for the 2002 Nilghai Waterhole Project. This consists of taking old river beds that are waterless during the dry season-seven months of the year-widening and deepening them into catchments, and then sealing these with small dams, topped with spillways. The catchments fill with water during the monsoon months-June through October-and then hold this water through the dry season. This provides drinking water for wildlife in areas where there was previously none. It also draws wildlife, including tiger and their prey, back into what, with water, is perfect habitat, deep in the safe heart of the park.

     The third project for consideration will be an expansion of the jungle lake of Rani Tal. Supporters of IWCS work will remember how, with a generous grant from the American Himalayan Foundation, this beautiful lake, at one time dry and abandoned, was completely restored to its former state, with water to a depth of two meters spread across an area of one and a half square kilometers. In years gone by, however, the lake was twice this size and the new plan calls for a look at the possibility of expanding it to its previous size and then, if the plan proves feasible, and funding is available, to carry out this work.

     Lastly, in an area where tiger are on the increase, an area that the recent expansion of the park brought within the new park boundaries, the rehabilitation of yet another lake is planned. This is the eastern park lake of Bhat Puri. Some years ago, perhaps due to manmade intrusion, the lake broke its southern banks and lost almost all of its water. Today it is mostly a shallow swamp, almost waterless at the end of the dry season. The rehabilitation plan calls for the rebuilding of the southern bank, the deepening and expansion of the lake’s natural exit drainage and the construction of a concrete dam, with a spillway designed to both control the lakes outflow and at the same time allow it to replenish and maintain its water at its original levels.

Cheetal Herd

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IN APPRECIATION

     Through the winter of 2002-2003, a number of people generously contributed their time and expertise to the work of our society, both in the White Grass Plains Wildlife Reserve and in the search for funds to build the new, not-for-profit White Grass Plains Safari Lodge. These include…

     Cathy Griffin, of Los Angeles, whose sterling efforts as Treasurer of the society have not only kept its financial head above water but have actually begun, after many years, to render it fiscally healthy.

     Mr. Tom Dadras, of Brentwood, Los Angeles, for the generous contribution of his time and expertise to the society’s website.

     Mr. Leonard A. Fink, of Washington DC, for his assistance in IWCS legal matters and his wife, Amelia, for her interest and proposals in regard to the upcoming White Grass Plains Safari Lodge.

     Ms. R.R. Ohrstrom, of The Plains, Virginia, for her kind efforts on behalf of the society in the matter of the new WGP Safari Lodge.

     Mr. Terrance Berrecloth, of Queensland, Australia and Mr. Phillip Fry, of Auckland, New Zealand, for many hours spent in the field, in the WGP, assisting and advising on the society’s Water for Wildlife projects.

     Mr. Robert (Bob) Peirce, of Portland, Oregon, for keeping us informed of events in Nepal through his excellent newsletter, NEWS FROM NEPAL, events and happenings of which we might otherwise be unaware.

     Mr. Tikka Ram Adikari, the new warden of the WGP, Sukila Phanta, whose intelligence and vision will contribute much to the work of the society in the coming years.

     The Department of National Parks and Wildlife, Katmandu, for supporting the society’s work in south west Nepal.

     Colonel H. B. Bisht, of Mahendranagar, Nepal, for unstinting assistance in the multitudinous logistics of the field work of the society through his Nepal based Society for Nature Conservation and Rural Development. And his daughter, Mrs. Sangita Bandhari, and her husband, Rajan, of Katmandu.

     We are once again indebted to the American Himalayan Society of San Francisco, to its Chairman, Mr. Richard Blum, its Secretary, Ms. Erica Stone, its staff member Ms. Eileen Moncoeur, its Katmandu, Nepal based representative, Bruce Moore, and its Board member, Stan Armington, also of Katmandu.

     And last but not least, the resilient and hard working men of the villages of Radapur and Jilmillia, at the edge of the White Grass Plains, whose dedicated field work and loyal services have contributed so much to the continued success of our Water for Wildlife projects.

     To all of the above we wish to express our thanks and our deepest appreciation.

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Water Hole Look for our next newsletter, with details of our ongoing wildlife projects, in August 2003. Until then, your support and you interest in our work is greatly appreciated.

Peter Byrne.
Executive Director, IWCS.

pb@internationalwildlife.org

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