Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Faunal survey of Agasthyamalais throws up surprises!

Malabar Pied Hornbill - Dr. Anop Rajamony
The major wildlife sanctuaries of Trivandrum Wildlife Division namely the Neyyar and Peppara sanctuaries were surveyed for fauna after a gap of 8 years. The exercise was done as a part of the faunal inventory preparation for the Management Plans of these critical wildlife areas. The four-day programme was conducted jointly by the Kerala Forests and Wildlife Department and the Trivandrum based NGO, Travancore Nature History Society (TNHS).100 delegates and 60 forest staff participated in the event. Besides experts from TNHS, KFRI Trichur, TNBS Coimbatore, ROAR Rajapalayam, Belvai Butterfly Garden and KOVAS Waynad took part this scientific assessment. Students of various research institutes and colleges also volunteered in.

The survey took place simultaneously in all the 20 basecamps spread across the Trivandrum Wildlife division covering the unique geographical segment of Agasthyamalais from Bonaccord in Peppara to Ananirathy in Neyyar. These camps were selected covering all the altitudes and habitats of the region. The survey started on 9th January with the teams sent to the various basecamps. The formal survey was on 10th and 11th January. The teams were called back to Kottur for the data compilation on 12th January.
Nilgiri Four ring - Dr. Kalesh S
With respect to avifauna, Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary topped the bird list with 174 species while Peppara had 171. The state bird- The Great hornbill was seen in both sanctuaries in good numbers. The rare Lesser Fish Eagle was recorded from Neyyar reservoir. The fastest bird –The Peregrine (Shaheen) Falcon was yet another attraction from Neyyar. Endemic birds like The Ashambu Sholakili, Blanford’s Laughing Thrush, Broad tailed Grass Warbler, Travancore Long-billed Pipit and the Black and Orange flycatcher was seen in all the high-elevation camps in the region. Other notable findings are The Black Baza, Nilgiri Wood Pigeon, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Malabar Trogon, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher, Ruby throated Bulbul, Black Bulbul and the migratory Osprey.
In case of butterflies Neyyar has 215 species in comparison with Peppara, which had 171 species. The Striated Five Ring, Short Banded Sailor, Blue Nawab, Small Leopard were the top findings. Endemic butterflies like the Red Disc Bushbrown, Malabar Raven, Madras Ace, Tamil Dartlet, Nilgiri Tiger, Nilgiri Grass Yellow, Travancore Evening Brown and Malabar Rose were also recorded. The Southern Birdwing was seen in all the camps in both the sanctuaries. The state butterfly-The Buddha Peacock was seen throughout the region in the lower elevations.  Other interesting records are of the Nilgiri Four Ring, Palni Four Ring, Maculate Lancer, Yellow Based Treeflitter, Vindhyan Bob, Small Palm bob, Purple spotted flitter and the Red Admiral.
Red Disk Bushbrown - Dr. Kalesh S
The delegates also recorded 25 species of Odonates, 21 species of ants and 3 species of Cicadas as well.  The Agasthyamalais also has a sizeable number of reptiles of them the sightings of the King Cobra at Peppara was notable. A total of 25 species of reptiles and 15 species of Amphibians were also documented. The survey team also came across presence of good numbers of Tigers, Leopards, Nilgiri Tahr, Elephants, Gaurs, Bear and Small mammals like the Malabar Spiny Dormouse.

The Forest department side was spearheaded by the Wildlife Warden Mr.JR. Ani, Range officers Mr Satheeshan and Mr J. Suresh. The research team was led by Dr Kalesh.S, Jayakumar.K, Ramesh Iyer, Toms Augistine, Dr Anoop Rajamony, Dr Sam Chandran, SRK Ramaswamy, Sammilan Shetty and the forest wildlife Assistant Mr Aswathy Raj.

Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher - Dr. Anoop Rajamony

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