Commentary; John Nielsen commentary; Chitwan National Park; Indian Rhinoceros; Asian Elephant
Chitwan National Park
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
27 Mar 2001
- Chitwan National Park; The Nepal Conservation Research Training Centre
- 27.5 84.33333
Stereo=1; Dual-Channel Mono; DPA 4060 Omnidirectional Microphone
Log of DAT #: 1
Date: April 2001
ng = not good
ok = okay
g = good
vg = very good
JN'S STAND UP ¿ ON BACK OF ELEPHANT
(seems to be all in left channel only)
2:03 JN ¿ Anil, tell me again how to say your last name?
AM ¿ Ma-nan-dar
2:09 JN: these are the trucks?
AM - These are the truck, and you can see the crates there. (off mic)
JN ¿ oh yeah, my gosh. You can't look at those things w/out thinking of Jurassic Park
AM ¿ off mic
JN - Great big double axel trucks, painted with a lot of funny things on the back. Horn please. Ok.
AM ¿ they have constructed 4 sledges and 4 ? but they will be using??? MORE AM TALK
3:22 JN: sometimes they demolish those cases. Are they wooden? Are they made out of sal? (AM ¿ yes) and sal is the strong hardwood tree from Nepal.
4:03 JN ¿ are elephants larger than rhinos?
AM ¿ yeah
JN ¿ so elephants are the world's largest land creature. And the rhino is probably the world's second largest creature. It would figure that is what you use to capture it!
4:17 AM ¿ most of these (?) used for capturing and darting them, rhinos.
JN ¿ the rhinos
AM ¿ we use for tourist purpose today.
4:31 ¿ JN and Bill McQuay ¿ talking about using those mics ¿ not working for getting AM¿..trying to figure what to do
8:09 JN ¿ ok,well, the best known base camp in Nepal, maybe in the world is one that is half way up the Himilayas, but here at the base of the Himilayas we are at another base camp and we are about to set out on an expedition ¿ well some people think it is more exciting and definately more important than going to the top of the world's tallest mtn. We are going to capture some rhinos. We are sitting around a fire with a bunch of rhino drivers ¿ or we are sitting around a fire with a bunch of elephant drivers, believe me, that is a skill. The elephants are right near by ¿ 5, 6 of them. We are going to use 16 of them. We are going to go ¿ we are going to leave the King Mahedra (?) Trust Research Center, where we are now, head off into Chitwan Natl Park in Nepal, surround rhinos, shoot them with a dart that knocks them out ¿ I hope, load into a truck and drive it off to another park ¿ we will explain why later, but at this point we are just drinking coffee trying to get up enough energy so that we are prepared when all hell breaks out later. 9:23
9:37 JN ¿ I will leave you to your devices.
10:01 JN the elephants have name?
AM ¿ the elephants have names, but I don't know them¿
JN ¿ Fred, Bob, Ringo?
AM ¿ mostly what they do is that when it is female the last name ¿ is always Kali. Kali is always female.
JUDY ¿ asking AM about schedule
10:53 JN ¿ 2,000 lbs? More?
AM ¿ I think the rhino weighs 1500, more
11:42 JN - well, I guess it is kind of cliché to say you feel like you walked into a time warp ¿ my gosh!
Talk back and forth with Judy¿.
13:11 JN ¿ these elephants all have handlers, and it looks like the handlers put them through a little bit of calisthenics in the morning. The great big guy about 5 feet from me, just rolled over, had the dirt kicked off him ¿ now they are putting the saddle off him ¿ actually they are not ¿ they are knocking off all that dust. (can hear this is in the distance). You know, it is a real cliché to say like you feel like you have walked into a time warp, but man we are living a cliché right now ¿ actually it looks like the elephants walked out of a time warp and it only gets more so. 14:11
15:05 JN - man, it is a real cliché to say that you feel like you have walked into a time warp, but now that I am standing 10 feet from one of the elephants that we are going to use to head out into the park today, and capture a rhino ¿ cliché is not the word any more, actually I feel that it is the elephants that walked out of the time warp. Generally speaking if you get as close to elephants as I am now, wild elephants, there is a good chance you will be dead a few second later. But these are trained animals. These animals are doing important research work. 16:15
16:16 - JN talking with Bill about set up ¿ and some talk with Judy
23:08 JN ¿ looks like these handlers are pretty tight with these elephants. Ah, we have to go.
23:27 JN ¿ the vets are going through the drugs here
23:44 JN - ok, that was not a rooster, they tell me. That was actually the rooster descended from
25:55 JN ¿ the research team is gathered in front of me ¿ basically ¿ round the corner from me ¿ round the corner form me, members of the research team are preparing to load their weapons. Their weapons are dart guns, the cartridges are full of morphine derivative that is powerful enough to knock out a rhino. It is called M 99. This particular drug ¿ it is possible to counter act it. It is possible to give a second shot that will wake it up, which is essential 26:41
27:08 JN ¿ M99? Morphine. Hum.
27:47 JN ¿ they are saddling up the elephants around the corner
28:27 JN ¿ I think I am going to turn myself off now (Bill ¿ that is a good idea)
29:07 JN ¿ there they are. Hum, here is your radio expedition ¿ it is the rockettes. (da, da, da, da). Hi, good to see you. I am thinking it is the rockettes here. (some hindi in bg)
30:55 JN ¿ break a leg (Bill ¿ instructing JN to get on the elephant)
31:22 JN ¿ 15 elephants lined up in a row ¿ this is a once in a life time site ¿ I will never ¿ I didn't think elephants could actually do what I am seeing them do right now ¿ 15 lined up in a row, on the edge of a natl park about to go round up a rhinoceros. Each of the RHINOS has a driver on top ¿ a saddle. I am about to get on top on one of those saddles. 32:10 some of the rhinos have some of those little platforms on them, that the riders sit on, others have little burlap saddles. 32:28
32:33 JN ¿ the amazing thing about elephants to me - It is hard to believe that anything this big can just turn and gracefully disappear in to the woods. That is exactly what is happening right now. 33:09
34:23 JN ¿ unbelievable! Look at you
34:44 JN ¿ there is a 10 foot wooden platform you have to get up to get on top of these things
35:01 JN ¿ oop!
35:19 JN ¿ I was thinking I was going to have flashbacks of my youth ¿ going to Disney World, but¿.
35:09 JN ¿ (getting on the elephant) ok ¿ ah, ok ¿ (talk in Hindi) 36:45 ok, like this? Ok, a little more. I have got you enough space? (some fast talking in Hindi).
37:13 JN ¿ the guy next to me is holding an ax. What is that? No, here, what is that for? (to beat the elephant) JN ¿ no. ¿well that will get us attention. I assume you hit it with the dull end. (JN ¿ laughter) 37:50 JN ¿ namaste.
38:13 JN ¿ ok. Like that. Is that the big wheel? The minister. This is almost a sacred event. The dignitaries come out to watch the elephants. Sometimes they even ride on the elephants.
38:49 JN ¿ let me tell you. I am way up in the way now. 15 feet? (yeah). There is the shooter. He has got that gun loaded up with the M99. Aah. Well, ok. John Wayne has got nothing on me.
40:02 JN ¿ Asian elephants are actually really rare.
40:13 JN - 15 Asian elephants, saddled up with 2-3 riders on each one. 2 of the elephants have shooters. Hasta La Vista baby. These elephants know exactly what they are doing too. (some fast Hindi talking in bg). JN ¿ who is that guy? A state minister? Oh, he gets a platform. He gets the tusker.
41:59 JN ¿ yes sir. That is a good idea.
42:48 JN ¿ you know the name of this elephant? (some back and forth in Hindi)
43:34 JN ¿ what is the name of this elephant? Assuri. That mean anything? So we are on the queen mother. This elephant is named Assuri, which is the name of the queen. 44:09 (big horn in the bg)
44:43 JN ¿ when people talk about base camps in Nepal theyusually talk about the base camps that are in the Himalayan Mtns, but there is another kind of base camp here at the King Mahedra Trust Research Ctr near the edge of Chitwan Natl Park, and out of this base camp (car ? in bg) . Here we go. (car in bg?)
45:41 JN ¿ these boys can move. We are moving into the forest now. The elephant has a little trot, and I have a death grip on the rope in front of me. The team came out last night to make sure they had a general idea of where the rhino was. The idea now is to have the 15 elephants to surround the rhino, gradually collapse the circle and then the shooters hit the rhino with a dart containing, well a huge amount of well, it is called M99, it is a little bit like morphine, it knocks the rhino out.
46:56 JN - We are about 15 feet up in the air looking down. Vegetation in this park in very dense, very scrubby. Couldn't see a thing here if it was sneaking up on you. Not the kind of place you want to go for a walk. There is the sun coming up. Giant red, orb. The sky is hazy bc it is the burning season. If it wasn't hazy we would actually be able to see the Himalayas right behind us. We are actually about well no more than 400 feet above sea level. This is the upper part of the flood plain of the Ganges river. very very fertile area. 48:21
49:10 JN ¿ elephants are surprising light on their feet ¿ pick their way across the muddy ground w/out really missing a step, and they are only really walking now, but it is fairly comfortable.
49:36 JN ¿ I am going to have to start being a little bit quieter. We are at the very end of the dry season, and a month from now it will be raining non-stop, as the clouds that bring the monsoons bump up against the Himalayas and dump endless amounts of rain for several months. Streams like the one we are now forwarding will become completely impassable. 50:14 (ambi ¿off mic of the stream?)
51:26 JN ¿ our guy picked up a little breakfast while we were crossing that stream. A big bamboo shoot. Munching away. There are 15 of these elephants in all, walking one by one down a narrow pathway into the grasslands.
51:58 JN ¿ ok, we have come out of the other end of the forest, now into a big, grassy plain. This is what rhinos eat, this grass. So we are probably close.
52:28 JN ¿ these are the grasses like the rhinos like to eat?
53:14 JN - the elephants have fanned out as we move out of the forest into a plain of elephant grasses that have recently been burned. They are 5 or 6 feet tall, these grasses. Well, maybe up to the elephant's knees before they were burned. Well, we wouldn't be able to see where we were going they are so tall. This is prime rhino land.
53;54 JN ¿ looking for the greater one horned rhino. Known in other parts of the world as the Indian rhino, but not here, not in Nepal. This is a Nepali rhino.
54:35 JN - Rhinos and elephants used to range all up and down the flood plains of the great rivers of south Asia, but over the years they have been all but wiped out. There are only about a couple of 1000 left, and here in the Chitwan Natl Park in Nepal, there are rhinos of the rhinos < Anil ¿ counted in last April> according to a count conducted last April. 612 in Nepal. Which is more than you had just a couple of yrs ago In the 60s. Rhino numbers have been brought down in Nepal by ¿ well, many yrs ago this was a hunting ground. This is where the king < horn in bg> < Anil - this is one of the major parks of Terai Arc> There are many parks in the world in terrible trouble, but this is not one of them. It is my understanding that this park has today, well, more rhinos than any other palce in the world.
57:28 JN ¿ they used to have great hunts here a long time ago ¿ the royalty, and the British. ¿ what would they do¿ it wouldn't be unusual to kill several in a day So we are either lucky or unlucky if we run into one of those. Land sharks, they call them. < I think the most beautiful animal in the Arc ¿ tiger.>
TALK ABOUT POACHING with ANIL ¿ off mic, but interesting ¿ I won't log now, but can go back to it if need be
59:38 JN ¿ one of the finest best maintained parks in the world, right here. Actually, several of the finest best maintained parks in the world are in Nepal, in the Terai Arc (Anil talking in bg). And the Terai Arc is basically the alluvial plain at the base of the mtns, yeah?
1:00:04 Anil ¿ it covers mostly the Terai, the plains in the shadows of the Himalayas. So it starts in the east ¿more talk about this¿..
1:00:40 JN ¿ up until the 50s I am told that a lot of the arc ¿ a lot of the lands at the base of the Himalayas where looked like this ¿ a lot more of this¿bc there was a lot of malaria, and it was very difficult for people to come and visit w/out getting sick, but what happened was ¿ they came through and sprayed with DDT -
1:03:47 JN ¿ a tiger won't attack an elephant?¿well, that is nice to know¿.i could see a deer walking in the brush ¿ wouldn't see it coming
1:04:27 JN ¿ Anil Manadar of the World Wildlife Fund is riding behind me on theis elephant, and our driver ¿
1:04:53 JN ¿ the brush is getting much higher, occasionally ripping at your skin. Ow.. I tell you at this point I would not be surprised to see a Tyrannosaurus Rex walk out of the woods. The rhino is from a different time of course. It is from the Pleistocene, and technically, it is a kind of a wild cow ¿ a 2000 lb wild cow.
1:06;37 JN ¿ you have a general idea of where the rhino is now, right? This is the breakfast table ¿ right here ¿ those grasses
How many are you going to try and get today/ 2 or 3? I saw some front loaders¿.talk about how they do it ¿ off mic
1:10:28 JN ¿ I am sitting on top of an Asian elephant, and I am on the south flank of a line of 15 elephants just like it. We are moving through some 10 foot high grass lands in the Royal Chitwan Natl Park in Nepal. I am ¿ and we are looking for greater one horned Asian rhinos. 2000 pound Pleistocene cows ¿ technically that is what they are ¿ wild cows, but believe me, they don't look a thing like cows to me. There are not very any greater one-horned Asian rhinos in the world, but here in Royal Chitwan the animals are thriving for a variety of reasons. As a matter of fact there are so many of them that occasionally these animals are captured, loaded on to trucks and moved on to other parks where rhinos have not faired so well, and that is what we are doing now. 1:11:51
1:11:52 talk with Anil
1:12:18 JN ¿ there are several parks like Chitwan through Nepal, they all have kind various kinds of wildlife, (Anil talking in bg), but the problem is, according to ecologists, like Anil Manadar (fumble on the name) But the problem is these wonderful parks, these jewels are too small to sustain populations of rhinos or tigers in the long run ¿ (this is a bit fumbled ¿ and talking with Anil)¿they would all be equally susceptible if they have the same genes ¿ MORE TALK WITH ANIL
1:14:42 JN ¿ why are the grasses burned? A PEACOCK IN THE BG ¿ JN ¿ sounds like it is saying New York! New York! (note from Jessica: DO WE HAVE A RECORDING OF A PEACOCK IN THE CLEAR? WHAT A COOL SOUND!)
1:16:16 JN ¿ this combination of forests and grasslands used to stretch continuously ¿ or almost continuously along the base of the mtns ¿ the Himalayas ¿ (back and forth w/Anil) in Nepal they call it the Terai plain, the Terai Arc. (Anil ¿ describes difference btwn Terai Arc and Terai Plain).
1:17:08 JN - Look at that giant peacock in that tree! Way up at the top ¿ look at the tail of that thing ¿ it has to be 4 feet long! There are some little creatures over there ¿ what would they be? Boars or something? (Anil ¿ boars). Boars.
1:17:46 JN ¿ every now and then you see little shadows moving around in the grasses ¿ boars, deer, who knows, maybe a tiger. Probably not. Not that there aren't tigers, but they would know we are here and would get away. I am told, fortunately, that tigers don't have much interest in elephants, or people on top of them.
1:18:20 JN ¿ these grasslands, and these forests used to be found continuously, more or less, along the foothills of the Himalayan Mtns, but over the decades it has been interrupted in many places, as people have begun to move down ¿ it has been interrupted as more and more farms have been built here. As DDT spraying eliminated Malaria and paved the way for a lot people to move down ¿ and bc they are very fertile lands. (great bird in the bg ¿ a peacock?) And now what you have is a series of little pockets of land that looks the way it has always looked. And in these pockets you have amazing collections of wildlife. There is a deer ¿ a little deer right there. A spotted deer. Hello Mr. spotted deer. (Anil ¿ hog deer) Hog deer. There goes another one. Boy they are exposed out here in the grassland.
1:20:33 JN ¿ it is very very hazy ¿ it is the burning season I guess. (Anil ¿ burning season is over). So what is the haze? Just fog? ¿..
1:20:58 JN ¿ there is a line of elephants on either side of me ¿ stretching out and disappearing in the early morning fog.
1:21:42 another peacock in the distance. JN ¿ peacock ¿ big peacock
1:22:02 another peacock in the distance
1:23:04 JN ¿ a little shadow moving in the brush about 30 yards ahead of us. A lot of animals around here. Nice prey base. (Anil ¿ that is right)
1:23:43 JN ¿ spotted dear at 11:00 running like mad
1:23:58 JN ¿ when was the first round up?..talking with Anil about the first time he went out to get the rhinos¿..
1:24:43 JN ¿ god ¿ look at them all ¿ hog deer ¿ they look like half deer, half rabbit¿
1:25:33 JN ¿ ok, the elephants on our right flanks have stopped. There it is, there's the rhino (this isn't said with a lot of enthusiasm) 10 o'clock. 40 yards ahead. It is moving very slowly through the brush. There is two! You can see their leathery gray skin, horns¿they are very quiet right now. Which is good bc they can be very loud and very dangerous. I am told I will have to start being quiet really soon. The
1:27:07 JN ¿ the rhinos are snorting a little bit, they don't really want to go where we want them to go. They are pawing a little bit ¿ a little stand up btwn the elephants and the rhinos. Elephants are much bigger. But the rhinos are 1500 pounds, at least. Arched back, big leathery folds of skin makes them look like they are wearing armor. I am told that skin is 2 inches thick, or 1 inch at least. You should see the needle they have to use to punch through their
1:28:09 JN ¿ now, do we move them somewhere? Is it a problem to find 2 at once?
(Anil ¿ no) JN ¿ you shoot them both?
1:29:13 CHANGING THE TAPE ¿ end of this DAT