Andaman and Nicobar Islands


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December 2019 to March 2020

March 2020

Interview surveys in North and Middle Andaman

Duration: 1st to 23rd March 2020

Location: North and Middle Andaman

Stratified interview based surveys were conducted across a gradient of age of fisher folks, ethnicity, and gear and crafts used with fishermen in North and Middle Andaman to identify dugong trouble spots with respect to overlap of small scale fisheries and dugong habitats, and to understand distribution of dugongs and sea grass habitats. These surveys were conducted at Pokkadera, Webi, Tugapur, and Karmatang, in Mayabunder region, and Durgapur and Shibpur of Diglipur region. As these villages are occupied by fishermen of varied ethnicity, we were able to understand differences in their fishing practices as well as their perceptions towards dugongs and sea grasses.

Mr. Sumit Prajapati conducting interview survey with Karen fishermen in Karmatang
 

Sea grass meadow characterisation and associated fauna estimation in Ritchie’s archipelago

Duration: 8th to 15th March 2020

Location: Swaraj and Shaheed Dweep, South Andaman

We collected data to understand sea grass meadow characteristics like species composition, cover, extent and associated fauna in Swaraj Dweep. We explored dive sites near Shaheed Dweep to locate new sea grass meadows and to try and find their approximate extent.

LIT surveys for sea grass meadow characterization (Researchers- Ms. Swapnali Gole and Ms. Esha Gokhale)
 

Temporal threat mapping in Critical Dugong Habitats, Ritchie’s Archipelago.

Duration: 25th Feb to 7th March 2020

Location: Ritchie’s Archipelago, South Andaman

We carried out boat based surveys in Ritchie’s Archipelago in 2019 to estimate the density of threats (vessel traffic and plastic debris). Near shore and off shore grids of 2km x 2km were selected randomly for this purpose and sampled.

These grids were resampled in March 2020 to note the temporal changes. This will give us a better understanding of the changes occurring due to tourist influx in this region. As many of the grids fall in and around the Rani Jhansi Marine National Park, this data will also give a comparative account of density of threats inside the Marine National Park and outside.

Trawler operating in critical dugong habitats in Ritchie’s Archipelago
 

February 2020

Documenting Sea grass associated fish fauna in the Ritchie’s Archipelago

Duration: 23rd to 27th February 2020

Location: Ritchie’s Archipelago, South Andaman

Fish diversity associated with sea grasses was studied by point count method across five meadows of Ritchie’s Archipelago. As presence of observers might cause disturbances and might lead to changes in fish behaviour, cameras were set up considerable distance away from observers as control to collect data on fish behaviour. Comparative account of these methods will yield data related to fish diversity as well as for habitat usage of fishes in sea grasses in Andaman Islands.

Ctenogobiops maculosus in Thalassia hemprichii meadow

 

Interview based social surveys in South Andaman to understand habitats used by dugongs and distribution of sea grasses

Duration: 1 January to 10 February 2020

Location: South Andaman

Interview surveys were conducted with fishermen across 11 villages of South Andaman to understand the perception of fishermen towards dugongs and sea grass habitats and document their traditional knowledge about the species and habitat. These interviews were conducted at Wandoor, Guptapara, Kodiaghat, Burmanallah, Panighat, Junglighat, Swaraj Dweep and Shaheed Dweep. The primary objective of these surveys is to understand dugong and sea grass distribution and delineate sensitive areas with negative interaction of small scale fisheries and dugongs.

Mr. Adithya Pillai conducting interview with a fishermen in Shaheed Dweep
 

Drone training workshop for frontline Forest Department staff of Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park

Duration: 22 to 26 January 2020

Location: Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Wandoor, South Andaman

As a part of the capacity building program of CAMPA_Dugong project, 11 frontline staff members of Wildlife Forest Division, Wandoor were trained to operate Mavic Pro aerial drone for patrolling and monitoring inside the Marine National Park. This involved an indoor session on setting up the instrument and safety precautions followed by demo flight. Each member was trained to fly and practice with the instrument multiple times from Department office as well as one session on Boat Island of the MGMNP.

Mr. Sagar Rajpurkar demonstrating operation of drone for MGMNP staff
 

Follow-up with Government Secondary School, Bambooflat

Date: 16 January 2020

Location: Government Secondary School, Bambooflat, South Andaman

We conducted Dugong Awareness Program for 80 students from class 6 to 10 of Government Secondary School in Bambooflat. We introduced them to various marine ecosystems and adaptations of animals in them. Basic ecology of marine mammals with special emphasis on dugongs and threats they face, was also explained.

Ms. Esha Gokhale and Ms. Swapnali Gole explaining biology of marine mammals
 

Threat mapping in Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park

Dates: 23- 24 December 2019 and 7-8 January 2020

Site: Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Wandoor, South Andaman

We carried out boat based surveys in Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park in Wandoor in 2019, to estimate the density of threats (vessel traffic and plastic debris). Near shore and off shore grids of 2km x 2km were selected randomly for this purpose and sampled.

These grids were resampled in December 2019 and January 2020 to note the temporal and seasonal changes. The grids were situated inside and around the Marine National Park giving a fair idea about threats present.

Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park

 

December 2019

Follow-up with ‘Dugong Informant Network’ in Swaraj Dweep and Shaheed Dweep

Duration: 1st to 20th December 2019

Location: Swaraj Dweep and Shaheed Dweep, South Andaman

The Dugong Informant network is a more than 100 volunteer strong database which was formed to pool citizen science knowledge on dugong sightings over a spatio-temporal scale. This network covers a vast stakeholder group right from fishers to SCUBA divers, forest department frontline staff, glass bottom boat operators, sailors and defence bodies.

Shaheed Dweep and Swaraj Dweep are two crucial islands which fall in the critical dugong habitats and our informants provide regular updates on dugong sightings, aided with photographs and videos of dugongs in this region, which further helps us in planning our research activities and increase our understanding of dugong movements in this region. We conducted various programs with each of our informant group and collected recent data.

Follow-up with Dive Schools in Shaheed Dweep
 

Awareness program with Dugong Ambassadors of Shaheed Dweep

Dates and location: 4th December 2020 (Shaheed Dweep)

Dugong ambassadors are students belonging to fishing community which are selected on merit basis to receive a scholarship of 500 INR/ month in schools throughout the islands.

We conducted follow up awareness programs in Government Secondary schools of Shaheed Dweep to involve Dugong Ambassadors as well as other students from class 6 to 9th. We explained various marine ecosystems in the Andaman Islands and explained marine mammal biology, with special emphasis on dugong biology and threats the population faces.

Dugong awareness program in Government Secondary School, Shaheed Dweep
 
May and June 2019

Social surveys with local fishermen

To understand the local community’s perception towards Dugongs, seagrasses and marine life, we carried out questionnaire based social survey with local fishermen. We covered 25 villages from three critical dugong habitats- Middle Andaman, North and Middle and Little Andaman for this survey. 

 

Capacity building of forest department staff for Aerial drone surveys.

Date: - 18/05/2019 – 28/05/2019

Venue: - Chidiyatapu, Wandoor, Swaraj dweep, Shaheed dweep, Lohabarrack wildlife sanctuary

As aerial surveys can form an important tool for monitoring marine ecosystems, our team trained the frontline forest staff for drone operations. We did few trial based aerial surveys in Chidiyatapu, Wandoor (MGMNP), Swaraj dweep, Rani Jhansi Marine National Park, Shaheed dweep and Lohabarrack wildlife sanctuary. During these operations we sighted turtles, sting rays, eagle rays, needle fish and zebra shark.

WII team with Andaman Forest department in drone training workshop, Havelock
 

Workshop on Marine mammal stranding response for frontline forest staff.

Date: - 1/06/2019

Venue: - DFO office Mayabunder.

We conducted workshop on Marine mammal stranding response for frontline staff of Mayabunder range. 20 forest department staff members were participated in the workshop. Presentation started with the introduction to Dugongs and their biology. We explained them how to handle the live and of dead strandings, methods for clicking photographs of stranded mammals, morphometric measurements and techniques for sample collection for genetic analysis.

 

Awareness program with Indian Coast Guard Mayabunder Substation and Diglipur Head quarter 9

Date: - 29/05/2019 & 3/06/2019

Venue: - Mayabunder & Diglipur

We conducted one day orientation workshop on Dugong awareness and monitoring program for ICG officers. 70 officers including both stations were participated. Presentation started with introduction to Dugongs and their biology, we explained them about distribution of dugongs in islands and briefed them about the data collection methods for dugong and other marine mammal sightings. We involved ICG Mayabunder substation and Diglipur headquarter in dugong monitoring program.

Dugong monitoring program expanded to Indian Coastguard, Mayabunder
 

Threat mapping of critical Dugong habitat and seagrass assessment in North and Middle Andaman.

Date: - 13/05/2019 - 30/05/2019

Venue: - Mayabunder, North and Middle Andaman

To understand the threats to Dugongs we expanded our surveys for threat mapping in North and Middle Andaman. We conducted boat survey for threat mapping of critical Dugong habitats in North and Middle Andaman. We documented various threats like boat traffic, plastic and other threats present in critical dugong habitats. During the boat survey we also documented few marine mammal sightings from the area. Seagrass meadow assessment was also conducted in the same regions. We carried out mapping and characterization of two seagrass meadows in the area.

Threat mapping in critical dugong habitat at Mayabunder, North Andaman
 

Dugong awareness program with Kendriya Vidyalaya students.

Date: - 1st May 2019

Venue: - Kendriya Vidyalaya 2, Minnie Bay.

We conducted Dugong awareness program involving 60 school children belonging to class 8th & 9th from Kendriya Vidyalaya 2 Minnie Bay, Port Blair. We sensitized them about the marine life and islands. The program included a presentation and interactive session introducing them to marine life. We explained them about various marine ecosystems and their importance with the main emphasis on Dugongs, their biology and threats.

Students with WII dugong team at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Port Blair
 

April 2019

Dugong awareness program in Navy Children’s School

Date: 29th April 2019

Venue: Minnie Bay, Port Blair

We conducted one awareness program in Navy Children’s School situated in Minnie Bay, Port Blair. 150 Students from class 8th to 11th were sensitized about marine life, Islands and dugongs and seagrasses. The presentation started by introducing the three important marine ecosystems, namely coral, mangrove and seagrass ecosystems. Further, the students were introduced them to marine mammals and dugongs. We also explained them about the biology and threats dugongs face and conservation constraints.

 

Seagrass habitat characterization in Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park.

Date: 23th to 25th April 2019

Site: Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, Wandoor (South Andaman)

Our team in collaboration with Wildlife Forest division, MGMNP Wandoor conducted seagrass habitat characterisation in 4 islands of the Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, namely, Tarmugli, Boat, Chester and Twins Islands. These islands support lush seagrass meadows and fishermen have spotted dugongs in these meadows frequently. This MNP forms one the critical habitats for dugongs and thus seagrass and associated fauna characterisation will give a better insight to researchers and management authorities for conservation.

 

Threat mapping of critical dugong habitats in Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, South Andaman

Date: 16th to 18th April 2019

Site: Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park, South Andaman

We conducted boat surveys in Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park to map the threats in terms of boat traffic and plastic pollution as few islands in the region are known to have healthy seagrass meadows forming important habitat for dugongs. The information generated through these surveys will highlight the areas where boat traffic and dugong habitats overlap, giving us an idea of critical areas.

 

Follow up awareness program with Indian Navy- INS Utkrosh

Date: 15th April 2019

Venue: INS Utkrosh Headquarters

Our team conducted follow-up program with the Navy unit at Port Blair, INS Utkrosh. Around 30 officers attended the program that fly regularly for patrolling in South Andaman region. We briefed them about basic dugong biology, threats and critical areas for dugong distribution. INS-Utkrosh has been involved in our dugong volunteering program.

Talk on dugong monitoring program in the Islands

 
Officers from INS-Utkrosh in orientation workshop
 

Threat mapping of critical dugong habitats in Ritchie’s Archipelago, South Andaman

Date: 15th March to 30th March 2019

Site: Ritchie’s archipelago (RA) in South Andaman

Ritchie’s archipelago (RA) in South Andaman forms one of the critical dugong habitats in the islands and understanding threats to dugongs and their habitats here is essential, as the RA harbors two primary tourism hotspots in the islands, namely Shaheed dweep and Swaraj dweep. Our team carried out systematic grid based boat surveys to assess the threats to the relict dugong population here in terms of boat traffic, fishing pressure and plastic pollution. Parallel seagrass habitat assessment was carried out to characterise the seagrass meadows in the region.

Fig 1: Boat surveys for threat mapping of critical dugong habitats in Ritchie’s archipelago

 
Fig 2: Seagrass habitat assessment at Henry Lawrence
 

Social surveys with local fishermen

Date: 8th march to 25th March 2019

Site: Shaheed dweep and Swaraj dweep Islands

Fishermen form the primary stakeholders to understand the Ocean and marine life, and tapping this traditional ecological knowledge will help us to understand the marine communities and their socio-economic importance to this community in a better way. With the same approach, we carried out questionnaire based surveys with the local fisher communities to understand their perception towards dugongs and seagrasses, gain secondary information on their distribution and fisheries aspect of their profession.

Fig 3: Social surveys with fishermen in Shaheed dweep and Swaraj dweep Islands
 

Dugong Scholarship felicitation program in government schools, Rangachang and Bambooflat.

Date: 27th & 28th February 2019

Place: Rangachang & Bamboo Flat.

The Dugong scholarship program implemented by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun in the Islands, as a part of CAMPA_Dugong recovery program; has expanded its reach by selecting two new government schools from Rangachang and Bambooflat, which support large number of fishermen kids. These awareness programs aim to sensitize students about their state animal dugong and its importance in the Islands. 72 fishermen kids from Government Senior Schools (Rangachang and Bambooflat) appeared in the dugong scholarship examination, out of which 32 students from both schools were selected as dugong ambassadors, making the total count of students receiving the dugong scholarship to 103 in the South Andaman region.

Felicitation programs were conducted on the 27th and 28st February 2019, to congratulate the selected students who will be participating in awareness programs on dugongs and seagrasses, in future. The program was successfully conducted under the supervision of headmaster Mr. Ashok Kumar Tiwari (GSSS, Rangachang) and headmistress Mrs. Sobha Roy (GSSS, Bambooflat) and school teaching staff. Mr. A. K. Singh (Range officer, Headquarters, Chidiyatapu Biological Park) was the chief guest who encouraged the students to participate in dugong awareness activities conducted by WII team, in the Islands. This program is basically targeted to financially aid fishermen kids studying in government schools in the Islands.

Fig 4: Dugong Scholarship felicitation program in government schools, Rangachang and Bambooflat.
 

Orientation workshop on Dugong monitoring program with the Glass bottom boat operators, Swaraj dweep

Date: 22nd February 2019

Venue: Panchayat Hall, Swaraj dweep

In wake of tourism sector flourishing in the islands, it is important to sensitize these personnel about marine life around them and its importance. Glass bottom boats form one such segment of the tourism industry who ventures out in the waters with tourists. Most of these trips are initiated to spot a dugong in the waters, especially in places like Swaraj Dweep Island which harbors few resident dugongs. Currently 45 glass bottom boats are been operated in Bharatpur beach in Swaraj Dweep, which forms important dugong feeding ground. In addition to this, 4 jet skis have begun to operate in the same region, which stands out as potential threat to dugongs, owing to the speed of the boats. With the same rationale, an orientation program was conducted with the glass bottom boat operators, to sensitize them about the importance of this stretch for dugongs in terms of controlled boat speeds when a dugong is spotted. Further, these operators were included as a part of the dugong monitoring network.

 

Orientation program with the Indian Navy -INS UTKROSH.

Date: 12th February, 2019

Venue: INS Utkrosh, Port Blair quarters

Aerial surveys are the most recommended

Aerial surveys are the most recommended way to carry out marine mammal studies, although the same is still not being initiated in Indian waters. Thus, to fill this gap we have been expanding our dugong monitoring program with defence bodies like Indian Coastguard which are regular sea farers. Taking this initiative ahead, we involved Indian Navy in our volunteering network by conducting a short orientation workshop with them, on dugongs and seagrasses. 15 Indian Navy officers from INS- Utkrosh participated in the program where CAMPA_Dugong team (ANI) briefed them about basic data documentation on sighting a dugong and other marine mammals in the logbooks distributed.

Fig 5: Orientation program with the Indian Navy -INS UTKROSH.
 

Stakeholders meeting for Rani Jhansi Marine National Park management plan.

Date: 11th February 2019

Venue: Vanya Prani Bhawan, Port Blair

A stakeholders’ meeting was organised to revise the draft management plan of ‘Rani Jhansi Marine National Park’ (RJMNP) at Vanya Prani Bhawan, Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands under the chairmanship of the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW). RJMNP situated in the Ritchie’s Archipelago, South Andaman, spread over an area of 319.53 sq. km harbors unique terrestrial as well as marine flora and fauna. All concerned stakeholders were invited for this meeting to provide suggestions to revise the draft management plan. It was unanimously agreed by all attendees, to deliberate upon the final draft of the management plan after incorporating all the suggestions provided by stakeholders by the end of April 2019. The meeting concluded with vote of thanks by Dr. K. Sivakumar to the Chair.

Fig 6: Stakeholders meeting for Rani Jhansi Marine National Park management plan.
 

Community workshop with fishermen community, Wandoor.

Date: 7th February, 2019

Venue: Community Hall, Wandoor

To involve the fishermen communities in Wandoor in the Dugong monitoring program, a community workshop was conducted with the fisher folks to emphasise on the importance of dugongs and current issues in conservation. Fishermen showed their support to inform sightings of Dugong and other marine mammals. Logbooks were distributed to fishermen

Fig 7: Workshop with fishermen community, Wandoor

 

Dugong Scholarship examination in Government senior secondary school, Bamboo Flat

Date: 6th February 2019

Place: Government senior secondary school, Bamboo Flat

To expand the Dugong scholarship program in South Andaman district CAMPA_Dugong team (ANI) conducted the dugong scholarship program with Government senior secondary school (GSS), Bambooflat. GSS School, Bamboo Flat is the 7th school of the South Andaman region to participate in this program. The students were briefed about geography of Islands, its biodiversity and endemism as well as dugongs and marine life. Further, a merit based written examination was conducted for the students in which 35 students from class 6th to 12th appeared.

Fig 8: Dugong Scholarship examination in Government senior secondary school, Bamboo Flat

 

One-week refresher training course for Indian Forest Service Officers on    

“Management of Coastal and Marine Biodiversity in India: Challenges and Prospect”

Date: 04/02/2019 to 08/02/2019

Venue: Port Blair

Wildlife Institute of India facilitated another training course for IFS officers who focused on Management of Coastal and Marine Biodiversity. 27 officers participated in this course. The course was directed by Dr. K Sivakumar (Scientist, WII) along with Dr. Alok Saxena WII (Scientist Emeritus) who guided classroom sessions and field visits. The field visits to Wandoor (Grub Island), Havelock and Baratang were accompanied by respective and department of environment and forests, ANI officers Mr. Naveen Kumar (DCF-DFO WL, South Andaman), Mr. Shaji Ibrahim (DFO, Havelock Range) and Ms. Vanjula Vali (DFO, Baratang Range).  The CAMPA Dugong team was involved in arrangement for logistical support.

 

When Dugong meets the kids! (Dugong scholarship felicitation program)

Venue: Guptapara and Wandoor

Dates: 30/1/2019 and 31/1/2019

With latest addition of 21 fishermen kids as dugong ambassadors, the total number of students receiving the dugong scholarship has reached 71 in the South Andaman region. With an aim to expand the dugong scholarship program from the Ritchie’s archipelago to other regions supporting dugong population, two schools from Guptapara and Wandoor namely; Government middle and senior schools, were selected respectively. After the CAMPA-Dugong team (ANI) conducted dugong awareness programs in these schools, scholarship examination was conducted followed by selection of 21 students on merit basis. Felicitation programs were conducted on the 30th and 31st January 2019, to congratulate the selected students who will be participating in awareness programs on dugongs and seagrasses, in future. The program was successfully conducted under the supervision of headmasters Mr. Sushanta Biswas (GMS, Guptapara) and Mr. S. K. Mukherjee (GSS, Wandoor) and school teaching staff. Mrs. S. Simi (Range officer, Wildlife Division, Wandoor) was the chief guest who encouraged the students to participate in dugong awareness activities conducted by WII team, in the Islands. Lastly, the surprise element of the program was a dugong mascot meeting the kids, which was received cheerfully by everyone as the program concluded with kids running around the dugong. 

 

Awareness program in Pondicherry University

Venue: Pondicherry University, marine campus (Brookshabad)

Date: 28/1/2019

For channelling our sensitization programs to suitable stakeholders, an awareness workshop was conducted for 50 marine biology students from the Pondicherry University, Port Blair. CAMPA_Dugong team (ANI) interacted with the students about their research activities carried out in the Islands and shared their research findings. An extremely enthusiastic audience came up with questions of dugongs and seagrasses and offered volunteering in our project. Our colleague, Ms. Sohini Dudhat, an alumna of the same university presented the implementation of recovery of dugongs in the islands program, which was well received with appreciation.  

 

Dugong scholarship program with fishermen kids

Venue: Government Senior secondary school, Rangachang

Date: 21/1/2019

A dugong scholarship program was conducted for 37 fishermen kids, studying in the government senior secondary school, Rangachang which happens to be a habitat for dugongs. An interactive session with kids on dugongs and seagrasses was followed by a quiz competition and scholarship examination.

 

Expanding the horizons!

Venue: Pranab Kanya Sangha, Date: 19/1/2019

Our awareness program on marine life with special emphasis on dugongs, reached a new level when CAMPA_WII team (ANI) conducted a short interactive session on marine life and dugongs with 31 girls from the Pranab Kanya Sangha, Port Blair. After realising low level of awareness about islands and marine life, we conveyed the importance of the islands, marine life, dugongs and endemism to the kids. The program was followed by a colouring competition with ‘Marine life’ as a theme.    

 

Fishermen kids visit Chidiyatapu Biological Park
Venue:  Chidiyatapu
Date: 18/1/2019

Fishermen form one of the crucial stakeholders in marine conservation programs owing to the depth of knowledge they have about the ocean and their dependency on its resources. This knowledge is then passed on, by these fisher folks to their children who also contribute to be an important stakeholder. Engaging these children in environmental friendly activities by disseminating knowledge about Islands and marine life has always been a mandate of the CAMPA_Dugong recovery program, implemented by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in the Islands. With the same approach, 37 children of fishermen folks were sensitized from the Government senior secondary school, Rangachang on 18th January, 2019. An outdoor session was conducted at Chidiyatapu Biological Park, to brief about the Island biodiversity and ecological importance of the Islands in supporting endemic species. The Nature trail was led by Mr. Saibabu (Forester, Chidiyatapu Biological Park) under the supervision of Mr. A. K. Singh (Range officer, Headquarters, Chidiyatapu Biological Park). During the nature trail students learnt about endemic animals in the park. The outdoor session was followed by a presentation by WII researchers on Dugong and marine biodiversity which covered general biology, importance, threats and need of conservation. During the discussion students were actively sharing their experiences regarding the wildlife and the marine life. In future, these students will be engaged in various activities like beach clean-up and intertidal marine walk.

 

Marine awareness program in Coast Guard Kindergarten School
Venue: Coastguard kindergarten school, Panipath road, Port Blair
Date: 16/1/2019

Taking our awareness program to the Kindergarten level, a ‘Dugong Awareness Program’ was conducted on the 16th January, 2019 in the Coastguard Kindergarten School, Port Blair. The program organized by the CAMPA_Dugong team (ANI) received an overwhelming participation of 200 kids with 6 school teacher staff led by Mrs. Vidya (Headmistress) and Coastguard administrative officers.

The program commenced with a short interactive session with the kids, on marine animals followed by a colouring competition based on ‘Ocean life’ as a theme. Students enjoyed colouring various marine creatures like octopus, starfish, turtle, fishes, etc. Lastly a documentary session was conducted on dugongs for 30 students of Upper KG. Few copies of the student friendly story book ‘My Friend Dugong’ written by Mr. Chanchal Roy (Wipro Earthian National Award winner/School Teacher GSSS Kadamtala) was handed over to the principal and administrative officer for library. 

 

Standardizing fish survey methodology to be implemented in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Tamil Nadu field sites.
Date:
18 to 23 December 2018
Study site: Havelock Island

Surveys for assessing the fish fauna associated with seagrasses are being conducted at Andaman and Tamil Nadu field sites. There is a need to have a standard method to ensure that the data collected is comparable between the sites. The team dived at few known seagrass meadows and decided upon doing random point counts for assessing diversity and habitat use patterns. In this duration, the team dived at some meadows near Havelock and henry Lawrence to see how the method needs to be modified in cases of meadows having differing characters. Camera trapping method was also discussed and the teams are planning to implement the same to get an idea of fish behavior and movements in absence of disturbance caused by presence of observers.

Seagrass associated fishes-methodology standardization (Researchers- Ms. Sohini Dudhat and Ms. Chinmaya Ghanekar)

 

Fish market surveys to understand commercially important fishes associated with seagrasses, Havelock Island
Date:
12/12/2018 to 14/12/2018

Seagrass associated fish fauna is understudied from the Islands and to understand the dependency of fishermen on seagrass habitats, fish market surveys were conducted in Havelock.  On interaction with the fisher folk; information on type of crafts and gears used, island specific fishing ranges and fishes found in seagrasses and corals was studied.

Fish market surveys to understand commercially important fishes associated with seagrasses, Havelock Island (Researcher: Prasad Gaidhani)

 

Beach Cleanup activity with Dugong Ambassadors
Duration:
16/12/18
Location:
Havelock, South Andaman
Attendees:
Dugong ambassadors- Havelock, CAMPA_Dugong team-ANI, Havelock Forest Division

A novel initiative taken up as a part of the CAMPA_Dugong Recovery Program implemented in the Islands is the Dugong scholarship program which supports 50 fishermen children (Dugong ambassadors) from government senior secondary schools of Neil and Havelock Islands with 500 INR/ month for two years. One of the mandates of this program is to disseminate awareness about dugongs and in general marine life among the students and inculcate importance of conservation in them. With the same approach a beach cleanup activity was conducted on 16 December, 2018 with Dugong ambassadors of Government Senior Secondary School, Havelock Island.  The beach cleanup activity got an overwhelming response from the school authorities with 17 Dugong ambassadors accompanied by 2 teaching staff and volunteers from Dive India and SCUBA Love participated. The program was supported by the Havelock Forest Division under the supervision of Sh. Shaji P. Abraham (Divisional Forest Officer, Havelock Division).  A total of 25 bags of garbage were collected which comprised of plastic bottles, straws, fishing nets, Thermocol buoys, lighters, alcohol and medicine bottles. Students were explained while collecting garbage on how use of single use plastic like straw should be avoided as it hampers marine life. In one instance, students had to dig out garbage buried under the sand, as the beach profile keeps on changing which might affect activities like turtle nesting. The nature of garbage is also a reflection of the activities for which this stretch of beach is been used and highlights the collective responsibility and immediate need of all resort owners, dive shops and tourists to take up regular beach cleanup activities on at-least their part of the beach. All collected garbage was handed over to the forest department for proper dumping. The dugong ambassadors being the youngest volunteers for this kind of activity can set an example for public to keep their beaches clean.

CAMPA_Dugong team (ANI) with Dugong ambassadors in beach cleanup activity, Havelock

 

One week compulsory course on ‘Illegal Trade in Wildlife and Role of Wildlife Forensics in Dealing with Wildlife Crime’ for IFS officers
Duration:
03/12/18 to 07/12/18
Location: Port Blair, South Andaman

To train the IFS officers on understanding the illegal wildlife trade, a one week compulsory course on ‘Illegal trade in wildlife and role of wildlife forensics in dealing with wildlife crime’ was organized by the Wildlife Institute of India in Port Blair, South Andaman. The organizers were Dr. Sandeep Gupta, Dr. Vinod and Sh. C.P. Sharma accompanied by the CAMPA_Dugong Andaman team Ms. Sohini Dudhat, Ms. Chinmaya Ghanekar, Mr. Prasad Gaidhani and Ms. Swapnali Gole. Aspects like how to identify wildlife crime, use of forensics in validating the crime and field based practical on the same were demonstrated during the course. On the last day, a talk on the implementation of Dugong recovery program in the Islands was given by Ms. Swapnali Gole.  

Talk on Implementation of Dugong recovery Program in the Islands by Ms. Swapnali Gole

 

SCUBA diving and underwater marine biodiversity monitoring training for frontline forest staff
Duration:
24/11/18 to 29/11/18
Location:
Havelock, South Andaman
Attendees:
Forest Ranger, Foresters, Head Forest Guard, Forest Guards, WII team

To strengthen the capacity of the frontline forest staff of the Andaman and Nicobar Forest department, a training program of ‘SCUBA diving cum underwater marine biodiversity monitoring’ was organized in the Havelock Island from 24th December to 30th December 2018 by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun as a part of the CAMPA_Dugong recovery program being implemented in the Islands. The course was attended by 11 frontline forest staff members (Forester/ Forest Guards) of three regions viz; the Havelock range, Wandoor Range and Mayabunder division. The participants were given hands on training to use basic field Equipments, conducting boat surveys and mapping seagrass habitats using random quadrat method. Later they underwent SCUBA diving training in collaboration with DIVE INDIA, Havelock where seven participants were trained for open Waters, one participant for advanced open water and one for specialty training as an underwater naturalist.

The overall program was facilitated by Sh. Shaji Abrahim, Divisional forest officer, Havelock division and received an overwhelming response. The primary objective of this course was to sensitize the staff about the importance of marine life in the Islands and its conservation implications. This program is a step towards involving the frontline forest staff in research and monitoring activities as they form a crucial stakeholder in marine life conservation.

Orientation workshop on importance and conservation implications of marine life in the Islands

Fieldwork training for frontline staff

 Participants trained for boat survey methods and handling equipment (Researcher- Ms. Swapnali Gole)

Participants being trained for seagrass mapping by random quadrat method (Researcher- Ms. Sohini Dudhat)

 

Consultation meeting with Mr. Jon Day for revising the management plan for Rani Jhansi Marine National Park
Place
: Port Blair, Andaman
International Expert:
Mr. Jon C. Day (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)

The meeting with international expert Jon C. Day was held principally for ‘Rani Jhansi Marine National Park Management Plan Revision’ consultation. In this meeting, existing management plan of Rani Jhansi Marine National Park from year 2015 to 2021 was discussed in detail and relevant changes were suggested by Mr. Day. Habitat characterization of the entire marine national park, including information about human habitation, land use patterns, water resource use patterns in and around National park, highlighting management concerns of fishing pressures, salt water crocodile areas, water currents, gleaning activities, pollution, boat noise and most importantly emphasizing management concerns and management actions were few of the crucial recommendations made by Mr. Day.

Consultation meeting with Mr. Jon Day for revising the management plan for Rani Jhansi Marine National Park (Researchers: Prasad Gaidhani, Swapnali Gole, Chinmaya Ghanekar and Sohini Dudhat)

 

IMMA meeting report writing
Date:
17th to 19th November 2018
Venue:
Neil Island
Attendees:
Dr. Tundi Agardy, Mr. Jon Day, Mr. Erich Hoyt, Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Ms. Swapnali Gole, Ms. Mahi Mankeshwar and Ms. Dipani Sutaria

After the successful IMMA meeting held on the 16th November, 2018, the IMMA team headed to Neil Island to draft a report on the suggestions/ recommendations given by the stakeholders involved for effective management of Southern Andaman IMMA. The IMMA team collectively discussed to identify the immediate pressures on the marine mammal species, the issues these pressures are causing and the priority of actions and recommendations to respective stakeholders which needs to be taken/ given. Research, management and governance were emphasized on as immediate measures to fill the research gaps and involve multi stakeholders in protection of the IMMA sites. 

IMMA meeting report writing, Neil Island

 

South Andaman IMMA stakeholders meeting
Date:
16th November 2018
Venue:
Coastguard Headquarters, Port Blair

The Southern Andaman Islands has recently been recognized as an Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) for dolphins, whales and dugongs. Acknowledging this importance, a meeting of key stakeholders was held in Van Sadan; Port Blair on 16th November 2018 jointly organized by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and key local research experts.  Attending the meeting were representatives of the Department of Environment and Forests, Indian Navy, Indian Coastguard, Chamber of Commerce, Directorate of Shipping services, Port Management Board, Directorate of Fisheries, Nature Conservation Foundation, Andaman and Nicobar Environmental team, Botanical Survey of India, Zoological Survey of India, Dive shops and game fishers. The international IMMA task force (Mr. Erich Hoyt, Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Dr. Tundi Agardy and Mr. Jon Day) were visiting the Andaman Islands to work with the local experts and were represented at the Port Blair meeting by Mr. Day. The primary objective of this meeting was to inform stakeholders about the IMMA and discuss the future sustainable use of the area. The meeting strongly acknowledged the importance of marine mammals and the need for effective management to maintain these important values.

IMMA meeting at Van Sadan with Multi stakeholders

 

Meeting with the DIG Ashish Mehrotra, Indian Coastguard (ICG) to deliberate the role of ICG in conservation of marine mammals in the Islands
Date:
15th November 2018
Venue:
Coastguard Headquarters, Port Blair
Attendees:
Ms. Swapnali Gole (WII), Ms. Mahi Mankeshwar, Ms. Dipani Sutaria.

Indian Coast guard (ICG) is one of the most potential stakeholders identified for the IMMA meeting, as conserving the marine life is one of their mandates. To explain the crucial role of the ICG in filling the existing research gaps in marine mammal research, a meeting was held with DIG Ashish Mehrotra, at the Indian Coastguard headquarters in Port Blair. The role of ICG in supplementing the researchers with marine mammal sighting records while patrolling the Island waters was explained in the meeting. This data will add to the present database on marine mammal species richness and distribution. The DIG gave a positive feedback on the same and agreed to help in the marine mammal monitoring program. The meeting was attended by Ms. Swapnali Gole (WII), ecologist Dr. Dipani Sutaria and marine mammal researcher Ms. Mahi Mankeshwar. 

 

Meeting with Mr. Aatish Kumar, Directorate of Tourism to deliberate the role of Tourism department in the IMMA meeting
Date:
14th November 2018
Venue:
Directorate of Tourism office, Port Blair
Attendees:
Dr. Tundi Agardy, Mr. Jon Day, Mr. Erich Hoyt and Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Ms. Swapnali Gole (WII), Ms. Mahi Mankeshwar, Ms. Dipani Sutaria.

The tourism activities in the Islands are known to be able to negatively impact marine mammal populations. To address this issue, a meeting was carried out with the Directorate of tourism (DOT) Mr. Aatish Kumar, to invite him for the IMMA meeting and deliberate the role of the tourism department in the IMMA meeting and know their perception of Andaman as an IMMA. The DOT briefed on the recent Restricted Area Permit relaxations for Indian and foreign nationals and the issues pertaining to tourism in the Islands. The meeting was attended by the IMMA taskforce, along with Ms. Swapnali Gole (WII), ecologist Dr. Dipani Sutaria and marine mammal researcher Ms. Mahi Mankeshwar. 

 

Meeting with the IUCN IMMA Task force
Date:
12th November 2018
Venue:
Port Blair
Attendees:
Dr. Tundi Agardy, Mr. Jon Day, Mr. Erich Hoyt and Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Ms. Swapnali Gole (WII), Ms. Mahi Mankeshwar, Ms. Dipani Sutaria.

Owing to the productive waters of the Southern Andaman Islands with respect to marine mammal species richness and habitat importance, this region has been awarded as an Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) status recently. On the other hand, the vulnerability of the islands to natural and anthropogenic pressures poses threats to these marine mammal species. Considering this scenario, the experts on the international IMMA Task Force Mr. Erich Hoyt and Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara along with Dr. Tundi Agardy and Mr. Jon Day visited the Islands to conduct a day long consultation programme, to meet with Administrators and island-based stakeholders. WII team visited the taskforce to discuss their role in the meeting scheduled on the 16th November 2018. Researchers were briefed about the selection criteria of IMMA, importance of Andaman and Nicobar Islands as an IMMA site and role of researchers in filling the research gaps in marine mammal studies

Team IMMA (left to right: Dr. Tundi Agardy, Mr. Jon Day, Ms. Swapnali Gole, Ms. Mahi Mankeshwar, Ms. Dipani Sutaria, Mr. Erich Hoyt and Dr. Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara)
 

Dugong Ambassador Refresher Course held at Government Senior Secondary School, Neil Island (27 August 2018)

The team organized a Refresher Course for the 16 dugong ambassadors of the Neil Island, at Government Senior Secondary School with a similar approach used in Havelock.

Fig 1 - Dugong Ambassador Refresher Course held at Government Senior Secondary School, Neil Island
 
Orientation Workshop for Dugong Stranding Response (24 August 2018)
The team carried out an Orientation Workshop for the frontline staff of Neil Island, where in training was given to handle dugong stranding, sample collection and preservation techniques using standard protocols.
 
Dead Dugong stranding at Laxmanpur Beach, Neil Island (23 August 2018)
A stranded dugong was reported by forest department at Laxmanpur beach, Neil Island on the 23rd August, 2018. With the co-operation of the Forest Department, Camp Officer, Neil Island, Mr. Halder, frontline staff and the veterinary Dr. Baljeet Kaur, the team carried out the necropsy of the dugong. Dr. Baljeet Kaur performed the necropsy of the stranded dugong. Photographic documentation, morphometric measurements and sample collection (tissue and blubber) samples were collected using standard protocols.
Fig 2- Mr. Sagar Rajpurkar and team inspecting the stranded dugong with the Forest and Veterinary department.
 
Dugong ambassador Refresher Course held at Government Senior Secondary School, Havelock Island (16 August 2018)
The team organized a Refresher Course for the 17 selected Dugong Ambassadors of Havelock Island, at Government Senior Secondary School, Havelock. This program was held to follow up with the students who are receiving the dugong scholarship and refresh their knowledge. The dugong ambassadors performed an exercise to identify threats to the wildlife around them and asked to suggest ways to mitigate the same and also about the role they can play in conservation as dugong ambassadors.
Fig 3- Dugong Ambassador Refresher Course, Havelock Island, South Andaman.
 
Dugong scholarship and awareness Program at Government Middle School, Guptapara, South Andaman (2-3 August 2018)
Expanding the novel dugong scholarship program initiated last year, our team organized the scholarship and awareness program at Government Middle School, Guptapara, with the active cooperation of the Forest Department, in South Andaman.

A total of 75 students participated in the program where the students were first sensitized about dugongs and seagrasses along with marine life of the Islands through documentary screening and later candidates were shortlisted through a written test. Drawing competition was also organized for all the students of the school. Since Wandoor is a critical dugong habitat and team has had a dugong sighting around the area, this program would help increase awareness as well as community involvement in dugong conservation

Fig 4- Dugong scholarship and awareness program at Government Middle School, Guptapara, South Andaman
 
Dugong scholarship and awareness Program at Government Middle School, Wandoor, South Andaman (26-27 July 2018)
A similar approach as in Guptapara was used to conduct the scholarship and awareness program in the Government Middle School, Wandoor, South Andaman in which a total of 77 students participated.
Fig 5 – Dugong scholarship and awareness program at Government Middle School, Wandoor
 
Consultation Workshop To Develop An Action Plan For Mitigation Of Human Crocodile Conflict in Andaman Nicobar Islands (1-3 July 2018)
The Team helped organize the “Consultation Workshop to Develop an Action Plan for Mitigation of Human Wildlife Conflict in Andaman Nicobar Islands” held at Port Blair, which aimed to mitigate the human crocodile conflict issue in the islands. Several renowned national as well as international crocodilian experts attended the meeting, along with the officials from the Andaman and Nicobar Forest Department and shared their inputs to develop an action plan. Field visits to human crocodile conflict zones, consultation meetings with stakeholders etc. were conducted. The action plan will soon be developed to mitigate the conflict.
Fig 6- Consultation Workshop to develop an action plan for mitigation of Human Crocodile Conflict in Andaman Nicobar Islands
 
Presentation at World Seagrass Conference 11-17 June 2018
(Swapnali presenting ‘Study of seagrass habitats from Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India’)
(Workshop on plant-animal interactions by Dr. Brigitta Tussenbroek and team)
 
Our researcher Swapnali Gole working in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands recently attended the World Seagrass Conference followed by ‘The 13th International Seagrass Biology Workshop’ (ISBW-13) held at the National University of Singapore from 11th-17th June, 2018. The theme of this conference was to 'Translate Science into Action’ by providing a platform for all seagrass researchers working in different bioregions, to share research ideas to conserve these extremely ecologically important 'uncharismatic habitats'. In the conference, she presented the seagrass habitat characterization work done by the Andaman team in the Ritchie’s archipelago, Andaman Islands. Further, she attended workshops in the ISBW-13 conducted by Dr. Brigitta Tussenbroek and Dr. Maricella Torre-Castro and team to understand the importance of plant-animal interactions in seagrass habitats and gender role in seagrass conservation respectively.
 
Orientation workshop for handling marine mammal stranding for Forest Department (Havelock range) 16 May 2018
(Swapnali Gole presenting the protocol for handling stranded marine mammals)
 

Around 15 members of Forest Department, Havelock range participated in a workshop conducted by Wildlife Institute of India researchers regarding handling of stranded marine mammals. The Havelock Range Officer Mr. Ramchandran along with frontline staff received a protocol on how to deal with live as well as dead strandings, how to collect samples for genetic analysis and how they can better document a stranding so that maximum information is recorded till researchers reach the spot. Vials for collecting and storing genetic samples were distributed. Researchers also distributed logbooks which they can use to record the sightings during patrolling activity of the range.

 
Seagrass surveys in Havelock and neighboring islands. (May 2018)
(Seagrass near Henry Lawrence island- sp. Halophila ovalis)
 

The team sampled intertidal and sub- tidal areas around Havelock, John Lawrence and Henry Lawrence islands for seagrasses. Representative sampling around each of the mentioned islands was conducted using Line-Intercept-Transect method. Species of seagrasses, the kind of substrate/sand they are growing in, invertebrates and fishes found in the meadow which are associated with seagrasses are recorded during the survey. This information can be added up to know the status of seagrasses as compared to previous records, their health, distribution and how they are utilized by organisms dependent on them. All this information in turn will be helpful knowing the productivity of seagrasses and in mapping critical areas for dugongs.

 
Coastlining boat survey around Neil and Hugh Ross (30 April 2018)
(Sohini Dudhat noting the water parameters during the survey)
 

The team conducted a boat survey around Neil and Hugh Ross island (also called ‘Çhhota neil’ by the local fishermen). Dugongs are spotted in shallow waters many times while they are feeding on seagrasses. This survey was an attempt to map areas where dugongs are spotted to get an idea about the areas usually occupied by them. Water parameters like temperature, pH, salinity are recorded along with the depth of the location. Floating litter around the island is also recorded to know how it overlaps the range of marine mammals like dugongs. Boat traffic and the kind of boats (fishing vessels, glass bottom boats and speed boats for recreational activities) present in areas where dugongs are sighted are also noted down so that researchers get an idea about the threats to dugongs in their most frequented areas.

 
Seagrass surveys around Neil and Hugh Ross (April 2018)
(Swapnali Gole during data collection)
 

The team intensively sampled areas around Neil island in April using Line-Intercept-Transect method. Representative sampling was also done near Hugh Ross island which is located to the south of Neil. The deepest point where seagrasses were found in Neil was 21m, where Halophila ovalis and Halophila decipiens were found. A seagrass meadow composed of species Thalassia hemprichii present in the intertidal zone was also intensively sampled. The team also keeps tabs of dugong activities by forming Dugong Monitoring network which includes SCUBA divers and fishermen. They inform sightings of dugongs on a regular basis helping to map critical areas.