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Assam farmers welcome ‘friend’ barn owls with artificial nests to keep rodents at bay

Snippets from the vibrant Northeast that capture politics, culture, society and more in the eight states.

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New Delhi: Agricultural scientists in Assam are helping farmers fight back and manage rodents with the help of a natural pest control — the humble barn owl.

Scientists at the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), of the Assam Agricultural University, have been distributing artificial wooden nest boxes among farmers across several districts for these birds to roost. Known as ‘farmers’ friends’, barn owls act as natural pest control agents since they feed on over 20 types of mammal species, including rodents.

It all started in 2012 when Prabal Saikia, an ornithologist and chief scientist at RARS, heard about a man named Dilip Konwar, from Assam’s Lakhimpur district, who housed a family of owls inside his rice mill to keep rats at bay.

Saikia soon began an experiment and developed artificial nests for barn owls to roost near farms. The experiment was a success, and soon Saikia along with a few other scientists began distributing these nests to farmers.

“Natural insect, pest, and rodent control is crucial in the current times because the market value of organic products has increased exponentially,” Saikia told Mongabay.

He also said that 90 per cent of rodent control is usually done by the barn owls.

Manipur athlete ‘breaks’ world record for fingertip push-ups

Thounaojam Niranjoy Singh, a 24-year-old athlete from Manipur, reportedly broke the Guinness Book of World Records Friday for the most number of push ups with fingertips in one minute. He is believed to have broken the record of 105 push ups with fingertips in one minute set by the UK’s Graham Maly in 2009.

Singh’s performance of 109 push-ups was recorded during a Guinness Book of World Records attempt organised by the Aztecs Sports Manipur in Imphal.

Thangjam Parmananda, founder of Aztecs Sports Manipur, has been quoted as saying that they will now send their videos to authorities of the Guinness Book of World Records in London to verify the record.

Singh had earlier broken world records for the most one-arm leg push-ups in one minute (2019) and the most one-arm knuckle push-ups in a minute (2020).

Also read: Assam researcher and her team discover ‘exotic’ radio stars that are hotter than Sun

Guwahati engineer behind Assam’s first biomedical waste plant

As part of his college project, Partha Pathak from Guwahati had studied waste disposal management at a city hospital during 1993-94. Over a decade later, he founded Assam’s first biomedical waste plant.

The 47-year-old had quit his job at a Mumbai-based oil sector company in 2003 to address the issue of biomedical waste in his home state.

“Being located at a higher geographical altitude, the city’s (Guwahati) waste disposal system was not at par with other low-lying metro cities like Mumbai…With my experiences and observations from living in a metro city, I anticipated that my hometown would grow in the coming years and require an efficient waste management system. I began working on it, but kept the focus on the biomedical waste,” he told The Better India.

In 2009, he started Fresh Air Waste Management Services Pvt Ltd. that offers a ‘common system of setting up an incinerator’.

“It was an entirely new concept, and I found it challenging to procure loans. There was no proven or existing model to present to the bank. A service to dispose of the waste came as a surprise to the bank officials,” he added.

His firm today caters to multiple hospitals and treats around 2,000 kg of waste.

Scientists spot clouded leopard in Nagaland hills for the first time

A team of researchers have spotted the elusive clouded leopard for the first time in Nagaland. The animal was camera-trapped at an elevation of 3,700 meters inside a community-owned forest near the Indo-Myanmar border. It was also one of the highest clouded leopard sightings in India.

The animal was spotted during a survey conducted by the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), a Delhi-based conservation NGO, in collaboration with residents of Nagaland’s Thanamir village, between 2020 and 2021. Reports of the findings have been published in the winter 2021 issue of Cat News, a biannual newsletter of the IUCN/Species Survival Commission Cat Specialist Group.

The clouded leopard is categorised as ‘vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Also read: World’s first ‘Chai-infused gin’ from Edinburgh has Assam connection


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