Month: January 2011

Veni, Vidi, wiki!

Veni, Vidi, wiki!

In the little Tamil village that we know so well, it was just another day. The coffee was flowing like potion and the local Geriatrix had just set up lamps to prevent wild boar-human conflict. The village had just welcomed Cacofonix who brought with him an extended phenotype of electronic lyres to garnish the horrendous volume of what he called ‘song’. Impedimenta had just finished reflecting on civets while the chief had had a long night appreciating the mellifluous notes emanating from the august pharynx of Biligirix. All was well in the village we know so well.

The Valparai TEN
The Valparai TEN

But this 15th day of January was the day, ten years ago that an unplanned miracle occurred. Four years after a failed docom, on this day, Jimmy along with a few others dreamt of creating an encyclopedia on the internet, an eternal work-in-progress; merely because a new software, mediawiki allowed it. What followed is history – how a ragtag band of amatuers created over 3 million articles in english alone with 277 other encyclopedias in other languages including Maori, Kannada and Swahili among others.

Wikipedia today has a great potential to create equity in knowledge, to overcome the somewhat natural tendency of information to concentrate among few. From articles about esoteric programming languages to Gravity Hill and government-forbidden prime numbers, the encyclopedia has taken the transmission of information very seriously.

So, here was the day. Ten years of wikipedia, some hard(ly)working scientists and a few Bangalore Wikipedians was all it took to announce the Valparai Wikipedia TEN celebrations.Screen shot 2011-01-17 at 10.21.06 AMWe had a respectable 11 participants including the Thrush of the Malabar, whose previous night was traumatised by the songs rendered in perfect disharmony by the local photographer. A presentation and discussion on the idea of wikipedia, the five pillars on which it is built and the possible ways to contribute followed. Breathtaking photos languishing in the dark hinterlands of the scientists’ computer found their way to the much accessible commons on wikimedia’s servers, now available to the ragtag group for illustration on articles. Obscure fungi that would have rotted within the electronic backyard of another’s hard drive were uploaded for identification and spiders that weave a silken trap were strung on to the world wide web. Articles were edited and commitments were made – 7 new editors were born!

As our species get more and more cornered in patchy rainforests and animals get smoked into claustrophobic fragments of jungle, the importance of knowing, appreciating and learning about nature remains among a privileged few. The internet, new media and projects like wikipedia are a boon for naturalists, scientists, educators and such to share the knowledge that they accumulate. Be it a photo of a tree or a plant or a paper that we write or read; imagine the possibility if we could all use that to improve an article or illustrate a behaviour on wikipedia. Some have gone as far as to suggest that it is even a professional responsibility, not merely an educational opportunity! That is a journey that some of us began here. Hope we will keep it alive!

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.

Brijesh Jha’s Diary – unreliable, unnecessary, unsolicited

Brijesh Jha’s Diary – unreliable, unnecessary, unsolicited

By P. Jeganathan & Swati Sidhu

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The date: 31 December 2050

The scene: Late Brijesh Jha’s grandson Bunty is flipping through Brijesh Jha’s diary for the year 2011.

Buntyyyyyyy, what are you doing?”

Nothing ma, just going through grandpa’s diary. It has news clippings of 2011 with his personal notes. Curious to know the happenings in that year.

Alright. Just put it back in a safe place once you are done.”

January 2011

Finally… my friend managed to capture one of his first Nilgiri Martens. In coming months he will be tracking this species. This is great! We will now learn something about this elusive species.

Tycoon Majay Villaya, owner of herbal tonic ‘The Crow’, released this year’s calendar at a big press event. Several leading models and actors have posed for this calendar. The money generated from sales will go towards damselfly and dragonfly conservation in India.

February 2011

It was an amazing day as finally photographic evidence for presence of ivory-billed woodpecker arrived. This pays-off for the hard work that went into years of searching for the species.

A new species of frog and a millipede are discovered in the biggest ever mega-hydroelectric project site in Andhra Pradesh. The Minister for Forests has announced that this area will be diverted towards conservation of the newly-discovered species.

The Governments of several Asian nations signed a MoU for setting aside 80,000 hectares of area in their respective countries for snow leopard conservation.

March 2011

In a dramatic incident in Malgudi, the poacher responsible for one of the tiger deaths in this region was found captured in a jaw-trap set by himself. The gory photograph of the poacher, showing his left leg caught in jaw-trap, appeared in front cover of Posmocoliton magazine.

April 2011

Finally, the Government of Gujarat has accepted to donate five pairs of Lion Finches Leo fringilla to the Kenyan government, where these finches went extinct in wild, in 2009. A new population of Lion Finches, which were earlier believed to be only found in Africa, was recently discovered in remote part of Gujarat. Keeping in mind the causes that could lead to the extinction of a single, isolated population of Lion Finches, the government generously agreed for this translocation.

May 2011

The Government of Tamil Nadu announced that Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary has been upgraded to Anamalai Impatiens Reserve. Every month the Reserve will be renamed after different taxa. The taxa will be chosen using inky-pinky-ponky system, a selection procedure which has stood the test of time. It will be performed by government department officials, local NGOs, and public.

Today, the honorable Prime Minister has announced a bold decision to block all highways passing through Protected Areas at night-time after 6 pm. This is essentially to reduce road mortality of wild animals and disruption of their movement routes.

A new population of Jerdon’s Courser is discovered in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh.

June 2011

Varyan Karma, was announced the best photographer for year 2011 by FTV, for his lovely portrait of a female hippo swimming in a mud-pool.

Two Indian scientists finally solved the Malabar Civet mystery. Their study on genetic analysis of civet skins (supposed to be of Malabar Civet) revealed that all the specimens belonged to Large Spotted Civet.

Rani Manthram, the famous Indian film director, won an Oscar for his movie ‘Gliding wanderer’. The movie is on the life-history of Wandering Gliders. During his acceptance speech, he mentioned that he started this movie in memory of the wandering glider that acted (and later died on spot during the film shooting) in one of his earlier movies.

July 2011

My friend won the The Weekly Wildlife Nature and Conservation Photography Challenge, a contest on Facebook, with a huge margin. He told me over the phone that this is the first time he won without campaigning or tampering for votes! It’s a big secret.

The entire film crew of the movie ‘In the Place of Butterfiles’, which was being shot at Lalbaug, Bangalore, was arrested. They caught several butterflies to decorate the leading actor’s hair, and while doing so, disturbed the prime micro-habitat of several species of butterflies. The forest department officials filed a case against the film crew, while, the district magistrate ordered life imprisonment for the film director and producer. He also imposed a fine on members of the entire crew for their irresponsible behavior towards these beautiful creatures and important pollinators of the ecosystem.

Five pairs of vultures, reared in the captive breeding centre, were released in the wild. The Director of the Centre, who released these vultures, mentioned that these vultures were fitted with microchips having GPS facility. This will enable the research team to monitor movement of the vultures.

August 2011

The tigers in Indian Tiger Reserves have gone on a strike demanding for fewer tiger shows and more time to relax per week. Their main complaint is that there is a lot of pressure to perform the whole day, which leaves them with less time to eat and mate. This has lead to signs of depression and ill-health. The government will have to now take this seriously; otherwise, it might lose a lot of money coming from and for tiger-centric tourism.

Gharial population shows signs of recovery. This was made possible by local community participation involving sand miners.

……Buntyyyyyyyyy, what are you doing? Come for lunch.”

I am still reading the diary, mama. “

Enough for now. Read later.”

I will come after sometime. Only four more months left. “

No. Come immediately.

Alright. I am coming.”

Bunty closes the diary and goes for lunch.

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Disclaimer: All names and characters mentioned in Brijesh Jha’s diary are fictional and bear no resemblance to any person dead or alive. Any resemblances are merely coincidental. The views represented in this blog post are based on pure imagination of the authors and do not represent the prevailing view in the scientific community.