In 2019, I made yet another visit to the Palni foothills in Tamil Nadu, and this visit took me to the catchment area of Kuthiraiyar Dam. I walked around, observing birds, discussing with the locals, and thinking about the ongoing reclamation process that could hold a lot of promise to the Kuthiraiyar.
The Palni hills, including this area, are some of the last remaining habitats of the grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura). Of the four giant squirrels in the world, India is home to three, with this being the smallest of those found in the Indian subcontinent. Sporting a grizzled look with its white flecks, this squirrel has the unique distinction of balancing itself on its two hind feet unlike its relatives, which balance with their tails. The grizzled giant squirrel is not as abundant as the Malabar giant squirrel. It is hunted for its meat, and its habitat is being degraded and/or destroyed due to logging, farm industry, human settlements, and forest fires. Linear intrusions such as roads are a big threat too, and speeding vehicles take their toll. I found this dead squirrel on the Palani Kodaikanal Ghat road on July 1, 2021. The government should regulate the movement of vehicles, which could at least bring down such unfortunate incidents.
Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
Roads spare no wildlife. Grizzled giant squirrels are extremely arboreal and rarely come down to the ground. But with forests increasingly fragmented by roads, they are sometimes forced to cross them, with tragic consequences.