Thursday, March 8, 2018

Faunal survey of Munnar Wildlife Division brings cheers - Press Release

A 4-day rapid Biodiversity Assessment of Munnar Wildlife division concluded here with interesting findings. The survey was conducted as a joint exercise of Munnar Wildlife Division of Kerala forests and Wildlife department and experts from various NGO’s and Institutes in southern India.
The survey was conducted at in all the National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of the Munnar landscape. Around 120 volunteers and almost 60 Forest staff participated in the 4 day programme. The survey was attended by volunteers from Travancore Nature History Society (TNHS)Trivandrum, KFRI Peechi, ZSI Calicut, Kerala Agricultual University, Ecologists and staff from Kerala Forest Department, Birders Sans Borders Thrissur, Green Roots Alleppy, Ferns Waynad, MNHS Calicut, SEEK Kannur, BBC Bangalore, TNBS Tamil Nadu, Rajapalayam Butterfly Club , Wynter-Blyth Association, Centre For Wildlife Studies Wayanad, KVASU Wayand, and Pondicherry University.
The event was inaugurated at Munnar Forest office on 22nd Feb by the Wildlife Warden Mrs Lakshmi Arun. “Management plans of most of the Protected areas in Munnar Landscape lacks an updated faunal checklist for example birds and butterflies” said Mrs Lakshmi Wildlife Warden. She stressed the need for systematic assessment of biodiversity where the data is directly handed over to the park managers for improved practices, in the inaugural address. 
Mr Siby, Range Officer of Shola NP stressed on the importance of these citizen science initiatives and expressed the need for training the field staff at the grassroot level. Mr Sandeep, RO Eravikulam NP briefed the participants about the logistics of the programme and the arrangements.Mr Prabhu RO Chinnar, expressed his views on Rapid Biodiversity Assessment and need for more such citizen science initiatives for better management of our PA’s. 
Dr.Kalesh.S from TNHS explained to the participants the Survey methodology in the preliminary session. The delegates were assigned to smaller teams composed of experts and volunteers into 24 basecamps in the protected areas. Eravikulam National park had 7 survey blocks, Mathikettan Shola NP was divided into 2 blocks, Anamudi shola national park into 3, Chinnar into 7, Pampadum shola into 3 and Kurinjimala Sanctuary into 2 blocks. 
A total of 220 species of birds and 186 species of butterflies were recorded over 4 days, it must be kept in mind that Kerala has about 515 species of birds and 320 species of Butterflies. 
Interesting findings among birds are Shaheen falcon, Legge’s Hawk eagle, Chiffchaff, and endemic birds like Nilgiri Pipit, Black and orange Flycatcher, Nilgiri Flycatcher and Broad tailed Grassbird. 
The Southern Birdwing, the largest butterfly in our country as well as the Grass Jewel the smallest butterfly in India were recorded. Other interesting species recorded were the Western Ghats endemics like Red-disc bushbrown, Palni bushbrown, Palni four ring, Palni Fritillary, Nilgiri clouded yellow, Nilgiri Tiger and Palni Sailor. 
The participants also found direct and indirect evidences for presence of good population of Tigers, Leopards, Elephants, and other mammals. Eighteen species of frogs, 15 species of Odonates and 15 species of ants were also recorded in this off-season survey. Among the ants, one new genera and 5 new species are expected after rigorous study. 
Dr Kalesh said “We need to undertake such Citizen science initiatives were data is generated by close collaboration between Forest Department, Nature conservation NGOs’, and other stakeholders, where this data is directly passed on to the Managers (Forest Department) for conservation and management at the loco-regional level”. He emphasized on the need for establishment of National Databases under Government of India and national jurisdiction, as envisaged in GBIF where India is a signatory. “This data can be classified or declassified by our government and then later shared on international platforms as per agreements” he said. 
Strong concerns were raised against the recent trend of indiscriminate and unscrupulous use of ebird tool inside sensitive areas like National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries of Kerala, where our sensitive Biodiversity data is being rampantly drained into server in a foreign country controlled by a foreign agency not under our jurisdiction. The Munnar survey, in striking contrast, was conducted based on Pre-printed Checklists and Transect Methodology, instead of the electronic or mobile platforms, there by suggesting this as alternative tool for systematic faunal surveys of birds, butterflies and Odonates and other faunal atlases. 
The data generated from this massive exercise will be used by the Forest Department for use in the Management plans of the National Parks and sanctuaries. The programme concluded at Munnar on 25th Feb presided by the Warden and Range officers from Kerala Forest Department.

News Article - Winged beauties find Munnar home - Deccan Chronicle - February 27, 2018

Photo by Ajith Kumar S

Black and Orange Flycatcher - Photo by Raghu Ram
Photo by Apsal Shereef
Palni Fritillary - Photo by Kiran M R
Photo by Kiran M R

Nilgiri Thar - Photo by Kiran M R

Photo by Raghu Ram
Photo by AjithKumar S


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