Friday, July 18, 2014

Being a Zoologist

The question I get a lot is
"So you're a Zoologist" Is it GEO or ZOO logist?
"Ohh Zoologist, so what does a Zoologist do?"

And I think for a while before telling them what a Zoologist does, basically I act as if I think, but the only thing comes to my mind is this photo:

So, what's it like being a Zoologist then? Do I ever do things as mentioned in the picture above? Or its just playing around with toy's as the girl is doing? 

I'd love to be like Jeff Crowin though! Big fan!! Used to watch him on TV, always thought I wish I could be this guy! I loved the episode where he came to Nepal, he went to Chitwan and rode an Elephant, I remembered his documentary when I was inside the jungle! He was my childhood inspiration on becoming a Zoologist 

Basically to start with, if you have enough grants or personal financial source to fund your trips then Zoology is the best subject in this universe! All you ever do is travel here and there looking for animals! Most of you, well all of you have seen the documentaries in Natgeo or Discovery and wondered I wish I had a life like that. And when were in the field, We, the Zoologist do have that life. Its exciting and frighting at the same time, depending upon where you are!

Its exciting as long as you get to travel do some bird watching, some photography on the side walks, trek to the Himalayas but then you actually start to work on your desired species its pain in the back.

I've got this beautiful butterfly shot, every one compliments me on that photo being good, the shot was just a fraction of seconds short but that butterfly dragged me on its random dancing trails for more than 20 minutes! Same with the dragonfly, both are equally mobile. It not just that, even with less mobile species as the Himalayan Langurs along the Langtang river, you observe one, and one small mistake and the whole group moves and then you're left with nothing.

                                  This guy gave me a hard time
I remember when we reached Langtang, we were taking rest, and far ahead into the largest rock in front of us, a small rock was moving. I thought it was debris falling down, but there were lots of them, it just looked like a small rock falling, we were far from that, almost 20 minutes walking distance, but then one of the friend handed me the Binoculars and once I looked through it I realized it wasn't a rock but it was a Himalayan Tahr. We were so excited, for almost every one it was first time seeing a Tahr in the wild. Few of us, who weren't tired of two days walk decided to get closer, the closer we got the farther they started to move. So we started to hide behind every bush and tried getting closer but those tahr who have been surviving Snow Leopard attack were far to good for us, they knew that we were coming, we chased them away. We crawled towards them and it was like one of those shows on tv where the cameraman and presenter crawling up on their knees, may be they're better because they get a good shot, we weren't, a rookie mistake somewhere may be. But then we had lost all hope of seeing one closer, suddenly we heard something towards our right, there were more than 15 Tahr grazing, and one of them saw us and started to run again, but did see one from a pretty close distance, the best surprise of that was, a Beautiful Male Danphe (Lophophorus). To finally see the National Bird of Nepal was quite a treat.

Himalayan Langur 
One time we were on bus, the area looked like a possible Vulture habitat, we were on a high alert that we might see one. But the hope was fading, by the way you guys must remember that in "every tv documentary regarding animals, the presenter looks for the animal and doesn't find one and gets hopeless and suddenly sees one and runs towards it?" That kind of happens in the field too, its pretty hard to find animals in the wild and when you do, you get so damn excited about it that you forget the basic things of tracking an animal. So we had lost hope and suddenly we saw 3 vulture on top of a rock, I asked our driver to stop the bus and got off with my camera on hand and slowly started walking up the rock, most of the others were down on the road trying to take photo. I quickly climbed up the rock and I had realized that there were other vulture behind this big rock that I was hiding against, but as I moved ahead of that rock, I saw this huge vulture flapping its wing right in front of me, it was scary but exciting at the same time. Things like this are pretty interesting.

Had chased two Assamese Macaque in Langtang as well for about 30 minutes may be, the dragged us up and down the hill but it was fun, it always is.

But the thing is, its fine as long as your in a friendly animal habitat, well there's no such things called friendly animal habitat in the wild but my point is you're good as long as there's no big cats or wild Elephant or Rhinos around. Back in Chitwan, which was the best wildlife experience I had, one that would beat mediocre documentary on Animals. Field work at its best, 15 days of field work in one the places with highest Tigers and Rhino density. The work was interesting learned lots of things regarding wildlife interaction as well as field work. One the days, when were going into one of the plots, out ranger was in front of us, we were walking on a line, as school children then ranger shouted Rhino Rhino!! All of us were crazy scared, suddenly the Rhino started chasing us for a while, how long, we have no idea because we ran with all the life's energy, it was scary, deep inside a grassland, typical Rhino territory and getting attacked by a full grown Rhino, so then we ran for a while, and since we were in Grassland there were barely any trees, we had to run the the whole field to reach the forest, and the grass was so tall that we couldn't see if there was another Rhino 10 feet ahead of us, we just ran into the oblivion. When we finally reached the forest we climbed up to the trees and look at the grassland, the Rhino was right there , we stayed in the trees, hoping that the Rhino would go away and we'll go back to the field, put down the traps, collect any animals if found one and then get back, but the Rhino had other things in mind, he was in no mood to walk away and he didn't care if we weren't able to do our work in the field. While we were on the trees, this guide came with two foreigners, we told them that there's a Rhino few meters away, they were actually excited because it was their first time seeing a Rhino in the wild so instead of getting to safety they moved towards the Rhino, the Rhino had moved almost near to the forest with few trees around, then the guide took them in front of one of the trees, it wasnt that big, then male tourist, climbed up the tree right in front of the Rhino and started taking photos, the wife (may be) , the girl went ahead of them and found another small tree as she moved the Rhino moved as well, she then hurriedly climbed that small tree it was so small that the tree couldn't hold her weight and she fell down right in front of the Rhino about 10-15 feet, she fell so violently that the Rhino was scared and charged off in another direction, if the Rhino had charged at her, she had no where to run but she was saved that day, she should have listened to us and stayed where we were, we were the expert there and scared to death of going near the animal and they walked as if they knew that animal forever. No matter how confident you are you should be cautious around the animals. One of the days, the other group were charged by an wild elephant, which destroyed the field, and most of the equipment, one of the guy hurt his legs while running away from the elephant. Its a dangerous business, not just fun, there's fun in it but its something to be serious about. You could get trampled by an Elephant, attacked by a Tiger or Rhino, on a bad day, anything can happen, the forest is crawling with snakes. Its a risky job being a Zoologist.
                       This close to a Rhino

                                       Tiger pug mark

 Its fun that you get to travel a lot and be in nature but it can go bad at the same time, but the risk is worth it!
You get to learn a lot about animals, observe them, you get a different look at life, how life works in wild, how it was for us thousands of years ago. Its Awesome being a Zoologist.

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