Just an overnight bus ride away from Bangalore lie the “Palani Hills” , an eastern spur of the Western Ghats, a region recognized as one of the top hotspots for biodiversity in the world. Spanning an area of 2068 km2 , altitudes ranging from 400 – 2500m and rainfall levels from 600 – 2000mm, The Palani’s are home immensely diverse habitats, flora and fauna. These include endangered species endemic to the Western Ghats such as the Nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius), grizzled giant squired (Ratufa macroura), Dhole[Cuon alpinus]and numerous others. These hills also form vital watersheds that supply water and other crucial resources to millions of people living in the plains surrounding them.
In 2013, the Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary [KWS], a 609 square sqare km portion of The Palani’s was officially declared protected by the government ,however, there is insuffient research to to draw even basic conclusions like whether conservation efforts are succeeding or not . This lack of information combined with increasing human activity threatens to seriously degrade this fragile ecosystem. In late 2017, a small group of individuals came together with the mutual intent of remedying this situation in some way. So here I am today ,conducting a baseline survey of mammal presence, distribution and abundance and this blog is an attempt at sharing this rare oppurtunity a glimpse into a pristine and ancient ecosystem which is right in our backyards.
I am Dhruv Athreye and I have been working in and around the Palani hill for the last five years. I worked in the Palanis as a teacher, farmer, cowherd and sustainable waste management facilitator among other things. Since September 2017, I have been working as a Junior Research Fellow for FERAL [Foundation for Ecological research, Advocacy and Learning] an auroville based research entity concerned with conservation and related issues.
dAs of February 2018, I began the mammoth task of surveying this 609 sqare kilometer area for signs of mammal activity . So far I have surveyed approximately 180 square kilometers in the last two months and have seen signs of several different mammals such elephants, gaur, various deer species, porcupines, boar, dhole and many others.
Seen above are fresh elephant dung and
a drying stream bed showing tracks of the Indian gaur and sambar deer.
In my time here I have come to realise that the animals, though vital, form but a part of an intricate web of systems that affect all life in the area and beyond.
So come and join me in the deep jungle and lets see what nature has to teach us.
1. Dhruv Athreye in February 2018 began a survey of mammals in the Palani Hills and is publishing notes of his field work.