Wildlife in rainforest fragments

Life in the treetops and undergrowth in rainforest remnants

The animal life of the Western Ghats rainforests is rich and unique, with hundreds of vertebrate and thousands of invertebrate species, including a large fraction found only in the region. Even when continuous forests are reduced to fragments, they act as refuges and animal corridors and need to be conserved.

  • False vampire bat (Megaderma spasma)

  • Small-clawed Otter (Ayonyx cinerea)

  • Short-nosed Fruit Bat (Cyanopterus brachyotis)

Effects of forest fragmentation

Many animals of the Western Ghats, such as the endemic primates lion-tailed macaque and Nilgiri langur, are mainly found in the tropical rainforest habitat. Besides occurring in continuous forests within protected areas, many species in the Western Ghats have significant populations in rainforest fragments outside protected areas, such as within tea and coffee plantations. Over the years, we have tried to understand how forest fragmentation affects various animal groups in the Anamalai hills. This includes:

  • diurnal larger mammals, such as deer, squirrels, and primates
  • small mammals and carnivores, many of which are nocturnal
  • bats
  • birds
  • spiders

Our research has shown that fragments continue to play an important role as refuges for many species, besides acting as animal corridors. Even small fragments have conservation value, as persistence of many species is related to availability of suitable habitat or resources, rather than just the size of remnant. This suggests the need to also target fragments for protection and ecological restoration in order to expand conservation into wider landscapes.

Ltm with infant

Lion-tailed macaque with infant



  • Book
    Pillars of Life: Magnificent Trees of the Western Ghats
    Divya Mudappa, T R Shankar Raman, Nirupa Rao, Sartaj Ghuman
    Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore.

    For millions of years, the forests of the Western Ghats mountains have been home to a host of extraordinary trees. These range from the peculiar conifer, Nageia, whose family origins can be traced back to the age of the dinosaurs, to the grand trees in the rudraksh family, to the jack and fig trees that occupy a familiar presence in India’s forests and countryside. This book showcases thirty remarkable tree species through beautiful illustrations and artwork. It conveys the wonder arising from the beauty, the diversity, the individuality, and magnificence of trees in the Western Ghats, and evokes a greater sensitivity to the diverse values and enrichment that trees bring to our lives.

    Foreword by Pradip Krishen
    Botanical Illustrations
    by Nirupa Rao
    by Sartaj Ghuman

    Available here: https://www.instamojo.com/NCF/pillars-of-life/

  • Journal Article
    Herpetofaunal survey in rainforest remnants of the Western Ghats, India
    Surendran Harikrishnan, Divya Mudappa, T R Shankar Raman
    The Herpetological Bulletin 146: 8-17.

    PDF, 3.85 MB

    We undertook amphibian and reptile surveys in six rainforest remnants of the Anamalai Hills in the Western Ghats, India. Over a two-month period, 36 species of herpetofauna were recorded from these remnants, including one species of caecilian, 19 frog species, 8 lizard species and 8 species of snake. Six species were either critically endangered or endangered. We also recorded one species of frog (Nyctibatrachus acanthodermis) outside of its type locality for the first time since its original description. The study demonstrated the presence of several threatened species of herpetofauna in these small forest remnants, the protection and restoration of which are important for the conservation of biodiversity in the Western Ghats.

  • Journal Article
    Understanding perceptions of people towards lion-tailed macaques in a fragmented landscape of the Anamalai Hills, Western Ghats, India
    Primate Conservation 32: 11 pp.

    PDF, 2.24 MB

    The fragmentation of the rainforests of India’s Western Ghats mountains has left the endemic lion-tailed macaque sur- viving in numerous forest patches in a mosaic of commercial tea and coffee plantations. On the Valparai Plateau, Anamalai Hills, some macaque groups have evidently altered their behavior, becoming habituated to people, suffering from frequent roadkill, and facing problems related to people feeding them and their use of open waste dumps. We carried out a questionnaire survey around three rainforest fragments (Puthuthottam, Korangumudi, Old Valparai) and the town of Valparai to understand people’s percep- tions towards macaques, and to identify appropriate conflict-mitigation measures. Macaques near Korangumudi and Old Valparai rarely ventured near residences, and most people were unaware of their presence. Respondents in and around Puthuthottam were aware of the macaques, and most (68%) had negative perceptions of them because the macaques often visited houses in the area. Most respondents (87%) believed that macaques visited houses in search of food and garbage, and 84% reported that macaques were doing this only over the last 10 years. Housing conditions influenced people's perceptions: people living in tiled-roof houses that were vulnerable to incursions by the macaques had higher negative perceptions (84.5%) compared to people living in asbestos-roof and concrete structures. To reduce negative interactions with people and promote harmonious human-macaque co-existence, we suggest implementing a combination of measures that would involve plantation management, conservation orga- nizations, and the state forest and municipal authorities. The measures include cost-effective monkey-proofing of houses, regular garbage collection, preventing open waste disposal and the feeding of macaques, mitigating the effects of roads, and promoting people’s awareness, rainforest restoration, and the use of native shade trees in plantations.

  • Journal Article
    The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) project
    Lawrence N. Hudson et.al, Vena Kapoor
    Ecology and Evolution, Volume 7, Issue 1 Pages: 145–188

    The PREDICTS project—Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems (www.predicts.org.uk)—has collated from published studies a large, reasonably representative database of comparable samples of biodiversity from multiple sites that differ in the nature or intensity of human impacts relating to land use. We have used this evidence base to develop global and regional statistical models of how local biodiversity responds to these measures. We describe and make freely available this 2016 release of the database, containing more than 3.2 million records sampled at over 26,000 locations and representing over 47,000 species. We outline how the database can help in answering a range of questions in ecology and conservation biology. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most geographically and taxonomically representative database of spatial comparisons of biodiversity that has been collated to date; it will be useful to researchers and international efforts wishing to model and understand the global status of biodiversity.

    Link: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.2579/full

  • Journal Article
    Bats in the Ghats: Agricultural intensification reduces functional diversity and increases trait filtering in a biodiversity hotspot in India
    Claire F R Wordley, M Sankaran, Divya Mudappa, J D Altringham
    Biological Conservation 210: 48-55.

    The responses of bats to land-use change have been extensively studied in temperate zones and the neotropics, but little is known from the palaeotropics. Effective conservation in heavily-populated palaeotropical hotspots requires a better understanding of which bats can and cannot survive in human-modified landscapes. We used catching and acoustic transects to examine bat assemblages in the Western Ghats of India, and identify the species most sensitive to agricultural change. We quantified functional diversity and trait filtering of assemblages in forest fragments, tea and coffee plantations, and along rivers in tea plantations with and without forested corridors, compared to protected forests.

    Functional diversity in forest fragments and shade-grown coffee was similar to that in protected forests, but was far lower in tea plantations. Trait filtering was also strongest in tea plantations. Forested river corridors in tea plantations mitigated much of the loss of functional diversity and the trait filtering seen on rivers in tea plantations without forested corridors. The bats most vulnerable to intensive agriculture were frugivorous, large, had short broad wings, or made constant frequency echolocation calls. The last three features are characteristic of forest animal-eating species that typically take large prey, often by gleaning.

    Ongoing conservation work to restore forest fragments and retain native trees in coffee plantations should be highly beneficial for bats in this landscape. The maintenance of a mosaic landscape with sufficient patches of forest, shade-grown coffee and riparian corridors will help to maintain landscape wide functional diversity in an area dominated by tea plantations.

  • Popular Article
    Hornbills: the feathered foresters.
    Mudappa, D. 2016. JLR Explore, 15 May 2016.

    Most of us are familiar with charismatic mammals such as tigers, elephants and apes. And there are charismatic species amongst birds too: bustards, cranes, eagles. But in the Asian and African tropics are birds that gain charisma from their large size, spectacular appearance, and extraordinary breeding habits: the hornbills.

    Read here: http://jlrexplore.com/explore/focus/hornbills

  • Popular Article
    Rātriñcaranmār [In Malayalam: Night rangers, article on small carnivores].
    Koodu, October 4(5): 70-72.

    PDF, 496 KB

  • Popular Article
    Icons of Anamalais: Malabar Whistling Thrush
    Pollachi Papyrus, July – September 3(3): 38-41.

    Shorter, edited version of article ‘Musician of the Monsoon’ that appeared in The Hindu Sunday Magazine on 6 Sep 2009.

    Read here: http://thepapyrus.in/index.php/malabar-whistling-thrush/

  • Journal Article
    Range extension of the endangered Salim Ali’s Fruit Bat Latidens salimalii (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae) in the Anamalai Hills, Tamil Nadu, India.
    Claire F R Wordley, Eleni K Foui, Divya Mudappa, Mahesh Sankaran, J. D. Altringham
    Journal of Threatened Taxa 8: 9486-9490. http://dx.doi.org/10.11609/jott.2796.8.12.9486-9490
  • Popular Article
    Current ecological concerns in the power sector: options to avoid or minimise impacts
    Pages 89-100 in M N Goswami and P Chaudhry (editors) An Epochal Shift in the Idea of India-Meeting aspirations? IPPAI Knowledge Report, Independent Power Producers Association of India, New Delhi.

    PDF, 1.36 MB

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