Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Army’s valiant bid to trace Brahma kamal, snow leopard

For a month beginning next Thursday, a group of soldiers will make a rare attempt in the higher Himalayas to trace the legendary Brahma kamal and the supposedly extinct snow leopard.

The Indian Army has set itself a new goal: To research flora and fauna on the high altitudes of Northern Himalayan region, which is practically out of human reach. A band of 15 soldiers from IV Garhwal Rifles, stationed in New Delhi, will undertake the trip to Gangotri glacier, Nandanvan, Vasuki Tal and the Satopanth peak, among other places, to identify and collect proof of rare species of animals and plants still available in the region. According to Commanding Officer Ajay Kothiyal, the research material would be forwarded to the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) and its scientists.

“Due to the area’s inaccessibility and extreme weather conditions, there has been little research on the flora and fauna in the Himalayan region. Flowers like the Brahma kamal, blue poppy, snow lotus and some local medicinal plants find mention in books only (written years ago) and so do rare species like the Ibex (snow goat) and snow leopard. We want to make available some recent data on their availability,” said Kothiyal. He said a group of 15 officers and jawans, all of them Garhwalis born and brought up in the region, will start for Gaumukh - at an altitude of 14,000 ft — on Thursday and then climb from Gangotri glacier to Nandanvan to Vasuki Tal to Satopanth and Chaukhambha peaks. “During this expedition, they will photograph and videograph all the rare flora and fauna they come across,” he added.

The rare species found in this region include the snow leopard (Uncia uncia), brown bear (Ursus arctos), musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), blue sheep or bharal (Pseudois nayaur), Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus), Koklass (Pucrasia macrolopha) and Himalayan snowcock (Tetraogallus himalayensis).

“At the intermediate level, I was a student of biology. I even took admission in B Sc programme but left it midway after I got a call from the Army. The mountaineering expedition will give me a chance to learn first-hand about the flora and fauna. I am sure we will do some pioneering work and pave the way for further research,” Praveen Joshi, one of the expedition members excited with the idea, said.

The Indian Army doesn’t have any particular wing for environment-related research. This effort by the Garhwal Rifles, if successful, may give the nation a pioneering idea on researching areas that have got out of reach for the common man and specialists alike.

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