Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tree Walk @ Melagiri

Tree walk is an initiative to understand and catalogue the tree species in Melagiris.  Our member Sheshadri who is an expert on trees is leading the walk which has been very informative to say the least.

In his own words Sheshadri puts down the following on flora and on the Tree walk project
"Trees dominate the landscape in the rich Forests of South India. Every species of Tree makes possible the existence of hundreds of other members of  Biological community.

We need to acquaint ourselves with these harmonious lifeforms. They evolved from 250 to 350 million years ago. Humans are only 1.5 lakh years old !

Tree walks are the first steps needed for Tree conservation. Accurate Field Botanists and Effective Foresters are the need of the Hour.

It is important to identify Forest trees and discover their various functions in supporting biodiversity. The botanical names, local names of Trees and Shrubs.. Their various Shapes, Sizes, Forms and occurrence in the Wild will be explored in detail. In this way we can relate to them and learn to conserve them.All other species of Flora and Fauna shall follow....

In-Situ conservation measures are -  protecting their habitat and minimizing Human activity ( except some ancient tribes who have always lived in harmony with the forests ). Special protection for Rare and Endangered Trees.

Ex-Situ conservation measures are Collection of Seeds, generating Tall Saplings in local TNFD Nurseries or Nurseries and Farmlands in adjacent locations. Planting them in appropriate locations on the periphery of forest areas to Improve Natural Forest Cover. Thus attracting a wide variety of Local Fauna."

We have completed 2 sessions on the tree walk session so far that began first in May 2011.

We came across to a variety of trees from the evergreen trees like Mimusops elengi to scrub jungle varieties like Capparis sepiaria. We even documented a few Eastern ghat species like Givotia rottleriformis. This verily proves that Melagiri indeed is this unique landscape, where the the eastern and Western Ghats meet!

Sometimes we came across rare varieties like Wrightia arborea.

There were trees like Mitragyna parvifolia where we witnessed several hundreds of common crows and plain tigers busy nectering reminding us of the ecological services these trees provide.

Please find the documentation on the tree walk here, https://sites.google.com/site/aboutmelagiri/main/flora and images at the KANS picasa album https://picasaweb.google.com/ka.naturesociety/FloraOfMelagiri

Documenting Flora is an ongoing project.  Please get in touch with Karthik (karthikguna@gmail.com)  for more details regarding participation during the tree walk and other details.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Grizzled Giant Squirrel and Four Horned Antelope re-discovered

The grizzled giant squirrel (Ratufa macroura) is a large tree squirrel in the genus Ratufa found in the highlands of the Central and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka, and in patches of riparian forest along the Kaveri River and in the hill forests in the Tamil Nadu and Kerala states of southern India.The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as near threatened due to habitat loss and hunting.

The (GGS) is a previously un-recorded species for the Hosur forest division (HFD). Specific search for GGS was made by researchers of Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) after Mr.Ganesan former DFO of HFD expressed his deep conviction that this animal would surely be found along the riverine tracts along the Cauvery river. Sure enough, a number of nesting sites and a handful of individual animals have been recorded at various places by Dr.Bhaskaran, Saravanan and Senthil Kumar from ANCF through record shots of a single GGS in 2009.

Recently KANS member, Mr. Prasanna was fortunate to spot and obtain some good  images of the GGS.  Thus the GGS presence has been verified again.


Another species found in this region, the Four horned antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis), also known as Chousinga is listed as vulnerable under the IUCN Red list of threatened species. It is usually found near to perennial water sources since it needs to drink water regularly. Its preference to dry deciduous forests has exposed it to a lot of biotic pressure from MFP collection and livestock grazing.

Both these rare species have discovered in the Urigam and Anchetty ranges of the Hosur Forest divisions during the year long bio-diversity survey carried out by KANS with ANCF along with the TamilNadu Forest department.

A recent Frontline article by Dr.AJT Johnsingh recently conjectured that the four horned antelope was probably extinct along the Tamilnadu side of the Cauvery.   A dead specimen was also
recovered a few years back from the Udedurgam area of the Rayakota Range of Hosur Forest division.

 It is a cause for celebration that they are found in good numbers with as many as 30 defecation sites spotted along the banks of the Cauvery river.  The four horned antelope usually a solitary creature is regularly sighted in the Hosur Forest division as small herds of upto 3 individuals.

Recently  Dr.Ravi Raja Singh, son of the late Mr.Raja Singh who was the DFO of these parts in the 70s, also a KANS member sighted FHA.

 Its a matter of deep concern that these bio-diversity rich areas are under pressure from cattle penning, fire wood collection and Minor Forest Produce collection . The current DFO, Mr. Ulaganathan has taken a positive step by creating checkposts at points of entry to GGS habitat.  He has stepped up vigil and posted watchers, which was not there earlier.

 However, villagers and city folks alike have found these forests to picnic and hold social gatherings. Loud music, vehicle horn, human presence and littering of plastic and beverage bottles have continued to disturb the last refuge of the GGS in HFD. 

The common Langur is nearly extinct in this range and GGS and FHA may follow suit. The cry of the hour is  to take immediate steps to secure the future of these endangered species by addressing the immediate threats posed by cattle penning and human disturbance.

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