Aim, shoot for a citizen-science repository of Indian mammals

(In ascending order) Smooth-coated otter, Leaf-nosed bat, Binturong, White bellied rat, Red Serow and the Wild Buff. Photos: Rahul Rao, Rohit Chakravarty, Avijit Sarkhel, Vivek Ramachandran, Amitayu Dey, Krushnamegh Kunte  

When you are out on a trek and spot an animal that isn’t sighted commonly, what will you do? Take a picture and share it on Facebook? Now, you can also contribute to the cause of science by sharing the picture of the animal on a specific website, providing the location of spotting.

Scientists and researchers from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore have come up with a new citizen-science repository on Indian mammals, called Mammals of India (MaOI), which is an online, peer- reviewed, freely-accessible portal that was launched late September 2018. By October 25, as many as 768 images, of 161 species of mammals, were uploaded.

“So far, there was no portal exclusively for mammals. These photographic records will help us in having distribution map of mammals in the country,” Vivek Ramachandran of NCBS told The Hindu.

Dr. Ramachandran said that the photographs will not only help gather information on the distribution of the various species but also interactions between different species of mammals, like predation and mutualism. The website, www.mammalsofindia.org, aims to develop individual species pages for all Indian mammals with information on identification, variation, distribution, breeding and non-breeding ecology and species conservation.

As per current estimates, 426 species of mammals are found in India; of them 47 species are endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Along with well known species, the mammals of 100 species of rats and 126 species of bats and 24 species of whales of dolphins.

In one month, this citizen-science initiative has seen photographs of rare species -- such as Red Serow from Manipur, Lynx a species of wild cat from Jammu and Kashmir, Asian Golden Cat from West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh and Binturong, also known as bear cat, from East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh -- being shared for the benefit of researches and public alike. Researchers said that this initiative will also make more information available about lesser known mammals of the country.

The website provides an opportunity to any person to upload geotagged photographic observations about mammals with information on habitat age of the observed individual. Over time, these observations will be reviewed by subject experts and uploaded on the website.

Along with Dr Ramachandran who is an expert on small mammals, Rohit Chakravarty an alumnus of NCBS who specialises in bats is associated with MaOI. Organisers behind the initiative said that MaOI is a part of the Biodiversity Atlas (India project), which is an initiative of Krushnamegh Kunte, associate professor at NCBS. Under the project, a popular citizen-science website on butterflies of India www.ifoundbutterflies.org had got to 55,000 reference images in eight years. Under the same project websites dedicated Moths of India, Cicacds of India, Odonatas of India (dragonflies and damselflies) , Reptiles of India, Amphibians of India and Birds of India are operational.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 9:09:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/aim-shoot-for-a-citizen-science-repository-of-indian-mammals/article25325705.ece

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