The Monarch of the Anamalais: Monitoring Nilgiri Tahr Populations to Inform Conservation

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In India, the words, Mountain ungulates- Wild sheep and goat of the subfamily Caprinae-, often invokes the images of flamboyant species like  the Ibex (Capra sibirica), standing atop a crag in the snowy Himalayas. Aptly titled “Mountain Monarchs” by the legendary conservationist Dr. George Schaller, given their elaborate horns (particularly on males), mountain ungulates of High Asia are mesmerizing species.  However, beyond the Himalayan heights, there is also the Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius), a mountain monarch … Read More

The Forest Cane Turtle, Anamalai Hills, Tamilnadu

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Originally appeared in Pollachi Papyrus.

During one of my recent bird surveys in the Anamalai Hills, I had the privilege of sighting the rare (Cochin) Forest Cane Turtle. Forest Cane turtle is one of the rare reptiles of our fragile rainforests in the Western Ghats chain of mountains. It is a forest-dwelling species and found mostly in the dense forests, and, unlike many other turtle species, they avoid perennial water bodies like streams and ponds. The distribution of the … Read More

Ecological Restoration Increases Tree Diversity and Carbon Storage in Degraded Rainforest Fragments

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Our research article that appeared recently in the journal, Ecosphere, asks: To what extent can a degraded rainforest be ecologically restored to resemble an undisturbed and mature rainforest? This is the first study that attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of a long term rainforest restoration project in the Anamalai Hills of the Western Ghats in peninsular India.

The results of the study suggest that ecological restoration of degraded rainforests – by controlling invasive weeds and planting native tree saplings – … Read More

Crested Hawk-eagle with Loris Kill, Anaimalais, Tamil Nadu

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On November 15th 2015, my brother and I were driving back from Valparai in Tamil Nadu after a productive wildlife trip in the Anaimalais. On slowing down near one of the hairpin bends, we spotted a Crested Hawk-eagle with a Slender Loris in its talons. We spent about 15 to 20 minutes observing and photographing the scene, as the eagle dismembered the loris and fed on it, not at all bothered by our presence. The slender loris (Loris tardigradus) is … Read More

Capture of Coimbatore’s Crop-eating, Peaceful Elephant, Chinna Thambi

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Chinna Thambi, a 25-year old tusker from the Anaikatti region in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, was relocated to Anamalai Tiger Reserve on 26th January, 2018. This was done following repeated complaints by a section of farmers from the region that the elephant was raiding crops and breaking into houses for food. These agricultural lands are adjacent to Thadagam Reserve Forest and Anaikatti South Reserve Forest of Coimbatore Forest Division. Perhaps because this particular bull had never attacked anyone, the indigenous community … 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

Tahr Alert in Tamil Nadu

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The Nilgiri Tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius) is an endangered ungulate found on remote mountain slopes in the southern Western Ghats. Found in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, their current range has been greatly reduced to a mere 400 kilometers. These animals are found among the rocky cliffs of montane grasslands, and it is estimated that around 3000 individuals are distributed evenly between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Eravikulam National Park and the grassy slopes of the Anamalai hills are the only … 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

New Location Record for Sri Lanka Frogmouth in Anamalai Tiger Reserve

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On our recent birding trip (Feb 13th 2016, The Great Backyard Bird Count) along the buffer zone of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve in Sethumadai, we chanced upon a lucky sighting of the rarely seen Sri Lanka Frogmouth (Batrachostomus moniliger), a bird that is high on the wish list of many birders and photographers.

Closely related to Nightjars, this nocturnal bird was feeding on the ground and flew across our vehicle and sat perched on a tree root overgrown over … Read More

Purple Frog, Anamalai Hills

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The Purple Frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis) is a rare and recent addition to the frog world. With its closest relatives in the Seychelles, the purple frog is thought to have evolved separately for millennia. Its discovery also adds to the evidence that Madagascar and the Seychelles separated from the Indian landmass sometime well after the breakup of Gondwana had started. Described to science as late as 2003, the species is now known to be quite widely distributed in the Western Ghats. … Read More

Mobile-wildlife conflict

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The increasing trend of mobile photography can be extremely stressful to animals and potentially dangerous for those taking the pictures. Here in the Anamalais, people started approaching this sambar stag with mobile phone cameras while he was waiting to cross the road. The situation is similar with all animals, including elephants. No wonder then that animals attack people! Of course they then get blamed for it. … Read More

Elephants and Dhole, Anamalai Tiger Reserve

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This image was taken on June 3rd, 2014 at Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) in Tamil Nadu. We were driving from Aliyar in the foothills to Valparai and a group of around 50 tourists were cheering and screaming, we got down to see what was going on. An amazing drama was unfolding in front of us — a herd of elephants (7) were chasing away a pack of dhole (around 20) along the banks of the Aliyar reservoir!

As this road … 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

Large-scaled Forest Lizard, Anamalais

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The Large-scaled Forest Lizard (Calotes grandisquamis) is an agamid lizard endemic to the forests of central and southern Western Ghats of India.

Western Ghats has lost over two-thirds of its original forest cover in the last several decades and only 3,200 square kilometres, or 15% of the intact area, is protected. This loss of habitat is mainly due to conversion of forests for various plantations as well as development. Even though few species struggle to adapt to newly altered environments, … Read More