A Conflict Tale from Valparai, Tamil Nadu

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On 26th August, 2017, we were roaming around Valparai looking for wildlife, we came across an incidence of Human-Elephant conflict. We could sense some commotion near the sheds of some estate workers, and saw people running here and there. Upon checking, we heard that a female elephant had entered the premises of one of the workers and was polishing off a plantain tree.

There appeared to be two groups of people at the scene – one, consisting mostly of youth, … Read More

Lights on for Elephants

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Technology offers solutions for Human-Elephant Conflicts.

The dark hulks ambled in a single file across the stark green landscape of thigh-high tea bushes. Without a pause in their stride, the elephants made their way towards a tiny patch of forest. Save for the tree crickets, there were no other sounds. Had it been daytime, the elephants would have been harassed by people behaving like neurotic monkeys. On such occasions, despite their size, the elephants seemed so vulnerable, with nowhere to … Read More

Brown Mongoose, Valparai

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The brown mongoose (Herpestes fuscus) is restricted to evergreen forests, plantations and even human habitations in the Southern Western Ghats and Sri Lanka. Not much is known about this species compared to other mongooses.  Camera trap surveys suggest that they are less diurnal and more crepuscular than other species of mongooses.

During a recent visit to Valparai we came across a brown mongoose in a small stream amidst tea plantations. Valparai is possibly the best place to observe … Read More

Science-based Approach to Promote Human-Elephant Coexistence — Lessons from Valparai

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Understanding human-elephant interactions is critical for conservation of elephants outside Protected Areas. One of the intriguing questions is how can a person weighing 50kg and a 5000kg animal coexist with no barrier between them?

Conflict incidents frequently lead to use of reactive measures such as chasing elephants, capture and translocation, or retaliatory persecution, but these often fail to resolve conflicts on a sustained basis, empower communities to implement solutions, or help conservation of elephants. Long-term research on behavioural and ecological … Read More

Gaur Crossing, Beware!

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As though to justify a road-side sign warning vehicles to go slow, an Indian gaur crosses the road in front of a motorcyclist. This image was taken late in the evening on the outskirts of Valparai, Tamil Nadu.

Valparai has vast tracts of tea estates that are surrounded by forests. As the day comes to an end, gaur move from the forest patches to graze on the grass growing within tea estates. This is the time at which they are … Read More

Elephant Rescue, Valparai

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It was that time of the year again, when elephants slowly started marking their presence. Like every year, there were incidents of households getting hit here and there, thankfully, nothing major though. What is always interesting to note every year is the consistency they maintain in terms of their movement patterns, and also in the damage sites they choose! Early that morning I decided to take off from my daily routine in front of my Macbook’s hypnotizing screen. I went … Read More

Living with Elephants, Valparai, Tamil Nadu

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In the human-dominated landscape of the Valparai plateau, abutting the Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu, this is the peak annual elephant movement period, which lasts till the end of February. Given the mosaic of landscapes the herds have to navigate, they encounter curious onlookers, passing tourists and heavy vehicle movement. The elephants normally choose to move once human activities reduce after sundown.

This herd had a hard time traversing through tea estates interspersed with degraded forest patches because of … Read More

Bridging the Gap

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In the Anamalais, highways and the resulting fragmented canopies, are a huge threat to lion-tailed macaques. The highways department has been widening and improving the quality of roads to cater to the growing tourist population. There has been a sharp increase in the number fairly silent cars that speed through such roads. Macaques have also been emboldened by tourists feeding them, and thus hang out by the roadside. All this has led to a growing number of roadkills to this … Read More

Survival

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In July 2012, I was witness to a story of survival in the wild, and how, despite the best attempts of humans, nature has its way. I was in Valparai and we got news that an elephant herd that we were tracking had given birth to a calf. The mother was a young elephant and an older one was observed always staying by her side. A few days later, while I was at Bangalore, I heard the startling news that … Read More

Lion-tailed Macaque with Ice Cream, Anamalai Hills

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We came across some Lion-tailed Macaques (LTMs) at Pudhuthottam estate near Valparai. While some of the LTMs were feeding on fruits and shoots, this one was feeding on Ice Cream irresponsibly discarded by tourists. This species is in constant conflict, with some of the males even entering the main town of Valparai. Ice Cream should be the last thing this endangered species needs.

The Lion-tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus) is an endangered and endemic macaque found only in the … Read More

Bonnet Macaque With Liquor Bottle

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We saw this scene en route to Valparai in Tamil Nadu. This Bonnet Macaque had caught hold of a bottle of White Mischief Vodka, and was trying to open it. We don’t know if the sun was playing tricks, but the bottle did seem to have some liquid remaining. We hope the monkey failed in his endeavor. Tourists often visit hill stations such as Valparai with the aim of having a ‘good time’. Valparai is a hotbed of bio-diversity and … Read More

Stripe-necked Mongoose Rummaging Garbage

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This image was shot in Valparai, Tamil Nadu. A Stripe-necked Mongoose was rummaging through garbage for waste food. He seemed like a regular and frequent visitor as he knew the time at which people there threw out the waste food. But sadly, the mongoose may not know much about the plastic and other harmful things discarded along with the food waste.… Read More

A Tiger’s Pain

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On the 28th of April 2012, I was in Valparai in the Anamalais, Tamil Nadu and was surprised to hear a report of a tiger near human habitation. Leopards are common in Valparai, and a tiger, that too close to houses, was extremely rare. The tiger was sitting in the far end of a garden near a house, and appeared exhausted and unable to move. A large crowd had already gathered, and the forest department and police did a commendable … Read More

Indian Wild Dog (Dhole) in Tea Gardens, Anamalai Hills, Tamil Nadu

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A pack of dhole on the prowl in a tea plantation near Valparai, Tamil Nadu.

The Western Ghats hill range in India contains spectacular landscapes and an incredible array of wild species, many found nowhere else in the world. One among the world’s 34 most biologically diverse “hotspots”, the region has representation of a wide variety of natural ecosystems from grasslands and dry forests to rainforests, rivers, and streams, threatened by a multitude of human activities such as industrialisation, agriculture, … Read More

NCF Recommendation for Elephant Corridors in Valparai Plateau

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The Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) has submitted a recommendation to the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, titled, “Elephant Corridors in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve”. The report identifies the unique location of the Valparai Plateau in the Anamalai hills, where the gently undulating terrain is suitable for elephants to move from one forest patch to another. The NCF report identifies the Ryan division belonging to the Tamil Nadu Tea Plantation Corporation as a suitable candidate for bringing under the control of Anamalai … Read More