ABOUT MCBT >>

                            


INTRODUCTION :
 

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust is both a registered Trust and a recognized zoo under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The MCB/CFH comes under the purview of the Central Zoo Authority, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. The National Zoo Policy (1998) states several objectives that zoos should pursue including education, publications, and breeding rare and endangered species. The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust’s objectives are consistent with those of the Central Zoo Authority.

 

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust :

 

Since its inception in 1976 as a non-profit charitable trust, the MCB/CFH has consistently worked towards the conservation and study of crocodilians and other reptiles and amphibians. The Trust’s stated objectives are:

1.      The conservation of nature and natural resources in the broadest sense, with particular focus on the conservation of herpetofauna and their habitats.

2.      To establish breeding, research, educational, dissemination and transfer centers, field stations, and other establishments focusing on ecological and environmental issues.

Research within MCBT and in the field has covered a wide range of herpetological topics since 1976, which has resulted in over 600 scientific publications, reports, books, newspaper and magazine articles, and films.

One main strength of the facility is that it functions as a large outdoor laboratory, in which over 2750 reptiles of various taxa live and breed. Select enclosures are wired to record all the basic environmental parameters to facilitate studies on the biology of the reptiles here. The animals are habituated to the presence of visitors, so the facility affords a unique opportunity to observe and document behavior, social interactions, and breeding biology at close range, many of which are rarely, if ever, seen in the wild.

Research focusing on conservation of endangered species and groups of herpetofauna and their habitat has been conducted at MCBT since its inception. In addition to hosting numerous international meetings of the IUCN Specialist Groups dealing with reptiles, the Crocodile Bank has served as a regional source of status information for the World Conservation Monitoring Centre and, since 1978, has also hosted numerous local and international specialists.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team (ANET), a division of MCBT, continues to conduct a variety of original biological research programs towards developing a sound understanding of the diversity, distribution, and ecology of the islands’ fauna and flora. ANET’s research provides the necessary information for the development of effective conservation strategies to help ensure the survival of endangered species and habitats. Another research priority of the Team is to understand the requirements of the islanders, especially those of the threatened aborigines, to help develop practical and sustainable means of utilizing the islands’ natural resources. ANET’s Environmental Education programmes aim to teach local people about the fragility of island ecology and help them understand the dangers of putting too great a pressure on its resources. Towards this, the Team supports and trains local teachers, school children, people from the armed forces, and naturalists to add momentum to its conservation efforts in the islands.

 

RESEARCH :

 

Research within MCBT and in the field has covered a wide range of herpetological topics since 1976 and has resulted in over 300 scientific publications (a list of these is included in the appendices).

 A main strength of the facility is that it functions as a large outdoor laboratory, in which over 2,400 reptiles of different taxa live and breed. MCBT houses 14 species of crocodilians, over 20 species of freshwater turtles and tortoises, water monitor lizards and 4 species of snakes including king cobras. Select enclosures are wired to record all the basic environmental parameters to facilitate studies on the biology of the reptiles here.  The animals quickly habituate to the presence of visitors, so the facility affords an especially excellent opportunity to observe and document behaviour and social interactions at close range, many of which are rarely, if ever, seen in the wild.

 Research focusing on conservation of endangered species and groups of herpetofauna has been conducted at MCBT since its inception. Both in captivity and in the wild in north and south India, as well as in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In addition to hosting numerous international meetings of the IUCN Specialist Groups dealing with reptiles, the Crocodile Bank has served as a regional source of status information for the World Conservation Monitoring Centre and since 1978 has hosted numerous local and international specialists.

 Freshwater turtle and tortoises research started in the early 1980s, when Prof Edward Moll of Eastern Illinois University accepted an Indo-American Fellowship for a year long sabbatical, and based his studies and surveys conducted throughout India, at MCBT; several students served as research assistants / scholars, mainly J. Vijaya and S. Bhaskar, on the project and ultimately pursued further studies on reptiles.  Dr. John G. Frazier, Smithsonian, and Dr. Michael Ewert, Indiana University were collaborators on continuing turtle reproduction studies. MCB research biologists have studied freshwater turtles in the Chambal river in Uttar Pradesh on a WWF -India grant.

Since 1976 crocodilian research has always been a priority and in 1984, a major project on the reproductive biology of the mugger crocodile was initiated by Dr. J.W. Lang, University of North Dakota, in collaboration with MCBT. Dr. Lang was a Guest Scientist at Madras Christian College, and lectured in the MCC’s Department of Zoology.  Funds for this project augmented the research infrastructure at MCBT.  In particular a well -equipped laboratory was established and collaboration started with the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.   This project was continued every year between 1984 and 1994 by Harry Andrews and Dr Lang has made periodic visits to supervise developments.  Its current focus is reptile reproduction, egg incubation, and temperature-dependent sex determination. A three- year survey and study on the biology and conservation of the mugger crocodile in the wild was carried out. A field station was established on the Moyar River near Bhavanisagar in south India.  Harry Andrews and research assistants R. Arumugam and M. Anandhanarayan were involved in the study of one of the last viable populations of mugger in a completely wild natural habitat in South India. Incubation studies and surveys are been continued by Harry Andrews, Ravi Kailas and N. Whitaker. 

Lizard studies, on breeding biology and growth, particularly on the larger monitor lizards, have been conducted since 1987 by Harry Andrews in collaboration with researchers in the United Kingdom and Germany.  MCBT researcher Jayshree Ratnam continued the monitor behavioural studies and joined Syracuse University, USA, for her Ph.D.  

Amphibian studies were conducted in MCB from 1989 - 1991 by Dr. Indraneil Das, Scientific Officer at MCBT, leading to a doctoral degree at Oxford University. The topic of research was the world’s only leaf- eating frog, Rana hexadactyla.  (This was featured in BBC Wildlife Magazine in 1996).

 Again with the encouragement of the TamilNadu Forest Department, the Crocodile Bank undertook a feasibility study on captive breeding and behaviour of the four common venomous snakes of India for venom production. Romulus Whitaker conceived the project and Farida Tampal carried out the field and lab work along with students of herpetology.   Similar captive breeding study are ongoing on pythons and king cobras, which are threatened species. These and veterinary studies are being continued by P. Gowrishanker, S. Aiyasammi and N. Whitaker.  

In 1992, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team (ANET), a division of the MCBT, was constituted.  A base was set up by Harry Andrews in South Andaman for herpetological and other ecological studies in these islands.  Staff was hired and a grant enabled construction of a well- equipped base for conservation, research, and education.  Meanwhile, sea turtle expert Satish Bhaskar had been working on surveys and studies of turtles in these islands since 1977 and assisted the Forest Department with management recommendations.  In 1993, crocodile, wetlands and remote area sensing surveys were conducted out by Harry Andrews.  Other herpetological surveys by Indraneil Das led to the discovery of eight species and several new records from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.  Extensive studies on sea snakes, the flora, marine turtles, herpetofauna biogeography, bats, other small mammals, resource use, land use, rain water harvesting and coral reef socio economics have been undertaken. Other activities include protected area management planning; besides ecologically suitable management planning is being carried out and recommendations made.  ANET has an ongoing environment education programme and has helped produce a teacher- training manual in English and Hindi of the schools in the island. 

 In addition, MCBT has served as a regional service centre for South Asian herpetological studies. Indian and foreign scientists have frequently visited to utilize the facilities, especially the library and resource centre.    

In 1990 the MCBT newsletter was transformed into a scientific journal, with an international editorial board and a rigorous peer - reviewed procedure for the acceptance of technical papers for publication.  Approximately 5 - 10 such papers, including notes are published in each issue.  This method has substantially enhanced international scientific awareness of MCBT as a regional and international herpetological centre and led to additional professional scientific ties within India as well as throughout the world.  

A Scientific Committee consisting of scientists and trustees was instituted in 1992 and is charged with directing and coordinating research.  Immediate future plans include the addition of a Research Scientist to conduct herpetological research as well as train and advise students.  MCBT also plans to expand the laboratory and library. Workshops have been conducted on captive reptile management for the benefit of zoos.   

 

CONSULTATION :

 

Madras Crocodile Bank staff have been consulted on reptile management and conservation issues by a wide range of organisations including: Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Wide Fund for Nature, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, National Geographic Society, and the governments of Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, Mozambique, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bhutan, Brunei, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal.

Advice and help has been given regarding captive maintenance of reptiles, status surveys in the wild, setting up crocodile farms, trapping nuisance crocodiles, conservation and management plans, research projects and filming/photography of reptiles. 

 

CONSERVATION :

 

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, the first crocodile breeding centre in Asia, was founded by Romulus Whitaker in 1976 to conserve crocodilians and establish programmes for the conservation and propagation of other species of endangered reptiles. Since 1979, over 1500 crocodiles and several hundred eggs have been supplied to various State Forest Departments for restocking programmes in the wild, and for setting up of breeding facilities in other states in India and neighboring countries. Several species of crocodiles, monitor lizards and king cobras have been supplied to several zoos in India and abroad. MCBT researches have also conducted crocodile surveys for states in India and other countries.

MCB started the first sea turtle surveys and conservation programme in India, including a sea turtle hatchery. Its reports and recommendations have played a major role in the conservation of Indian reptiles. Surveys, field studies and management planning are still continued.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION :
 

 MCBT has an on going EE programme for the villages and schools that include nature camps, training workshops for teachers, youth from fishing villages and other resource personnel. Frequent mobile exhibition cum awareness programmes for the fishing villages along the East Coast Road are also conducted. Other activities include field trips, education programmes for the nature clubs from the rural schools and competitions. MCBT has a multi ‘Puppet theatre’ which is being used as part of the programme to generate awareness among children. This age old traditional art form is used as an innovative communication tool that has tremendous scope to develop individual skills and innovations. The EE programme is coordinated by R. Bhanumathi and conducted by P. Gowrishanker and D. Shekar.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION :

Ove

200 popular articles, including several books for children, by MCB staff, in  newspapers and magazines on reptiles and amphibians, and conservation in general

       The following films, in collaboration with other organisations/individuals:

 

a)       Irulas, Hunter-Gatherers in the Space Age. 18 minute U-Matic video programme for Oxfam India Trust, about the Irula snake-catchers.

b)       Periyar. 23 minute 16 mm colour documentary for Sanctuary Films, about Periyar Tiger Reserve.

c)       Banking On Crocodiles. 20 minute U-Matic video programme on crocodile research and conservation. 

d)       Snakebite. 16 mm, 27 minute colour, docudrama in English and Hindi on the common venomous snakes and the proper treatment of snakebite

e)       A Cooperative for Snake Catchers.. 16 mm, 20 minute colour documentary on the Irula tribal in Tamil Nadu, India, in English, for CAPART, Government of India.

f)        Seeds of Hope. 16 mm, 23 minute colour documentary on why and how to grow a forest nursery, in Tamil, English, Hindi, and Telugu for Swedish Intentional development Authority.

g)       The Boy and the Crocodile. 16mm / 35 mm, 105 minute wildlife adventure feature film set in a village and forest pond in South India in Tamil, English and Hindi for the Children’s Film Society, India.

h)       Silent Valley.  53 minute documentary on one of India’s last rain forests, saved from a hydel project; English, Malayalam, and Tamil.  For the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).

i)         Rat Wars. For National Geographic Society.  16 mm. 34 minute colour documentary on the mixed fortunes of rats in India.

j)         Treasured Islands. 15 minute colour video film on the work of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Environmental Team in the islands.

k)       Nagaraja - King Cobra. 16 mm 53 minute colour documentary on natural history of the world’s largest venomous snake (National Geographic).

l)         Forest = Water.  8-minute video film for the Tamil Nadu Forest Department on the need to protect forests.

m)      Keralensis. 3 minute award winning spot of images of the wildlife of Kerala.

n)       Thunder Dragon. 54 minute colour documentary on the natural history of the water monitor (National Geographic).

  • The over 450,000 annual visitors to the Crocodile Bank are given talks and demonstrations.  They read information signboards about crocodiles, their conservation and about general ecological issues as well. They are encouraged to talk to MCBT staff and ask questions and clear doubts.  School and college students get a special talk by the Education Officer and other MCBT staff. 
  •  

    LOCAL ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION  :
    1. The Crocodile Bank is the site of the Irula Snake Catchers’ Cooperative Society, which is an adivasi self-help project and supplies all of India’s snake and scorpion venom needed for the production of anti-venom and for medical use. 

     

    1. MCBT personnel also initiated the Irula Tribal Women’s Welfare
      Society which is primarily a society for reforestation of wastelands and income generation projects for Irulas women.

     

    1. Collaboration with World Wide Fund for Nature and other environment
      agencies, involving thousands of school children every year in education and practical work in this field. 

     

    SYMPOSIA/WORKSHOPS HELD AT/BY MCBT :

     

        1.        First Meeting of the IUCN/SSC Snake Specialist Group

        2.        Meeting of the IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist group 

        3.        First Indian Sea Turtle Specialist Group Workshop

        4.        Crocodile Conservation and Management Workshop

        5.        Herpetological Symposiums

        6.        Meeting of the IUCN/SSC Indian Crocodile Specialist Group

        7.        IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group- Western Asia Regional Conference

        8.        A & N Islands- Biodiversity Conservation & Protected Area Management Planning

        9.        Coral reef  socio-economics workshop

       10.     Coral reef environmental education workshop

        11.     Field techniques, data collection & analysis training workshop

        12.     Captive management of the king cobra

        13.     Environmental education teachers training workshop

     

  •                   GRANTS RECEIVED :

    Year

    Source & Purpose

    1974

    World Wildlife Fund (USA) for establishment of MCBT

    1975

    New York Zoological Society for crocodilian  survey

    1978

    Tamil Nadu State Department of Tourism for development of MCBT

    1978

    Fauna Preservation Society of London for IUCN/SSC Crocodile Specialist Group newsletter

    1979

    West German Reptile Leather Association for  development of  MCBT

    1981

    World Wildlife Fund- International, for fresh-water turtle survey, north-east India

    1982

    World Wildlife Fund- International, for crab-eating macaque survey, Great Nicobar

    1983

    Wildlife Preservation Trust International for  freshwater turtle breeding enclosure

    1984 to 1990

    Smithsonian Institute, USA Rs 5,04,491 from National Science Foundation, USA

    Rs 1,17,455 from National Geographic Society, USA for project : “Reproductive biology and conservation of the mugger crocodile in India”

    1985

    World Wildlife Fund-  USA,   vehicle for activity support

    1989

    Wildlife Preservation International for freshwater turtle breeding enclosure

    1989

    Indo-German Social Service Society (IGSSS) for  purchase of computer

    1990

    Graham Webb for development of  MCBT

    1990

    Conservation International for development of MCBT

    1990

    M/s. Audco India Limited for development of MCBT

    1990 to 1994

    Smithsonian Institution for the project “Reptile Reproduction and Egg Incubation : studies of crocodilians, turtles, and lizards at the Madras Crocodile Bank”

    1990

    Chicago Herpetological Society-  production of king cobra posters

    1991

    World Congress of Herpetology- Study on the distribution and behaviour of the Andamans Day Gecko  (Phelsuma andamanensis) in the Andaman Islands

    1992

    Asian Wetlands Bureau for survey of the wetlands and mangroves of the Andaman Islands

    1992

    The Asian Wetland Bureau for survey of the wetlands of the Eastern Ghats

    1992

    World Wide Fund for Nature - India, for  a feasibility study for developing the MCBT as an Interpretive Centre

    1993

    Conservation International, USA for purchase of land for setting up a conservation, research and education base in the Andaman.

    1993

    Serum Institute, Pune for the project “Captive breeding of medically Important snakes of India”

    1995

    World Wide Fund for Nature-India, to conduct research and photography for a snake field guide

    1997

    Peoples Trust for Endangered Species, U.K. to conduct a Regional IUCN/SSC/CSG Workshop in India

    1997

    Darwin Initiatives, UK for the FFI / ANET  undertaking towards conservation of biodiversity in the Andaman and  Nicobar Islands

    1998

    Trust for Endangered Species, UK (same as in 1997).

    1998

    Royal Netherlands Embassy, New Delhi for construction of the education centre and the ANET base in the Andamans

    1999

    Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi for protected area assessment in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

    1999

    American Association of Zoo Keepers for Crocodile Bank development.

    2000

    UNDP, GOI- National sea turtles project- Andaman and Nicobar Islands

    2000

    DKA Austria for tribal studies in the Andaman Islands

    2001

    UNDP, GOI National Biodiversity & Strategy & Action Plan- Andaman & Nicobar Islands

    2001

    Survival International, U. K. Tribal assessment project in Andaman Islands

     

    2001

    UNESCO, Coral reef socioeconomic studies in South Andaman

    2002

    UNESCO, Reef livelihood South Andaman Island

    2002

    Ford India Ltd, Chennai, MCBT Environmental Education Programme

    2003

    Wanaparthy Education & Charitable Trust, New Delhi- Environmental Education Andaman & Nicobar Islands

    2003

    The Ranee Shankaramma Memorial Trust, Bangalore- Environmental Education Andaman & Nicobar Islands


    1