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

People

Publications

  • Popular Article
    2016
    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

  • Journal Article
    2016
    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
    2016
    Rātriñcaranmār [In Malayalam: Night rangers, article on small carnivores].
    Koodu, October 4(5): 70-72.
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    PDF, 496 KB

  • Popular Article
    2016
    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
    2015
    Landscape scale habitat suitability modelling of bats in the Western Ghats of India:Bats like something in their tea
    Claire F R Wordley, Mahesh Sankaran, Divya Mudappa, John D Altringham
    Biological Conservation 191: 529-536.
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    PDF, 1.92 MB

    To conserve biodiversity it is imperative that we understand how different species respond to land use change, and determine the scales at which habitat changes affect species' persistence. We used habitat suitability models (HSMs) at spatial scales from 100–4000 m to address these concerns for bats in the Western Ghats of India, a biodiversity hotspot of global importance where the habitat requirements of bats are poorly understood. We used acoustic and capture data to build fine scale HSMs for ten species (Hesperoptenus tickelli, Miniopterus fuliginosus, Miniopterus pusillus, Myotis horsfieldii, Pipistrellus ceylonicus, Megaderma spasma, Hipposideros pomona, Rhinolophus beddomei, Rhinolophus indorouxii and Rhinolophus lepidus) in a tea-dominated landscape. Small (100–500 m) scale habitat variables (e.g. percentage tea plantation cover) and distances to habitat features (e.g. distance to water) were the strongest predictors of bat occurrence, likely due to their high mobility, which enables them to exploit even small or isolated foraging areas. Most species showed a positive response to coffee plantations grown under native shade and to forest fragments, but a negative response to more heavily modified tea plantations. Two species were never recorded in tea plantations. This is the first study of bats in tea planta- tions globally, and the first ecological Old World bat study to combine acoustic and capture data. Our results suggest that although bats respond negatively to tea plantations, tea-dominated landscapes that also contain forest fragments and shade coffee can nevertheless support many bat species.

  • Popular Article
    2015
    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.
    Download

    PDF, 1.36 MB

  • Popular Article
    2015
    Restoring the fabric
    Sanctuary Asia, June 2015, 35(6): 53.
    Download

    PNG, 339 KB

  • Journal Article
    2014
    Bats in Indian coffee plantations: doing more good than harm?
    Claire Wordley, John Altringham, T R Shankar Raman
    Current Science 107: 1958-1960.
    Download

    PDF, 3.64 MB

    Many bat species occur in Indian coffee plantations and despite sporadic reports of damage to commercial coffee crops, the literature shows little evidence for these claims. Measures that have been proposed to ‘control’ fruit bats are likely to be ineffective and even counter-productive. Instead, insect-eating bats should be encouraged by planters as they help control herbivorous and disease-carrying insects, while fruit bats pollinate flowers and disperse seeds of many useful plants and shade tree species. More research is needed to quantify any crop damage caused by bats and to look for sustainable solutions where necessary.

    PDF also available here: http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/107/12/1958.pdf

  • Popular Article
    2014
    How green is your tea?
    Blink: The Hindu Business Line, 27 September 2014, pages 10-11.
  • Journal Article
    2014
    Acoustic identification of bats in the southern Western Ghats, India
    Claire F R Wordley, Eleni K Foui, Divya Mudappa, Mahesh Sankaran, John D Altringham
    Acta Chiropterologica 16: 213–222
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    PDF, 347 KB

    Bats play crucial roles in ecosystems, are increasingly used as bio-indicators and are an important component of tropical diversity. Ecological studies and conservation-oriented monitoring of bats in the tropics benefit from published libraries of echolocation calls, which are not readily available for many tropical ecosystems. Here, we present the echolocation calls of 15 species from the Valparai plateau in the Anamalai Hills, southern Western Ghats of India: three rhinolophids (Rhinolophus beddomei, R. rouxii (indorouxii), R. lepidus), one hipposiderid (Hipposideros pomona), nine vespertilionids (Barbastella leucomelas darjelingensis, Hesperoptenus tickelli, Miniopterus fuliginosus, M. pusillus, Myotis horsfieldii, M. montivagus, Pipistrellus ceylonicus, Scotophilus heathii, S. kuhlii), one pteropodid (Rousettus leschenaultii) and one megadermatid (Megaderma spasma). Discriminant function analyses using leave-one-out cross validation classified bats producing calls with a strong constant frequency (CF) component with 100% success and bats producing frequency modulated (FM) calls with 90% success. For five species, we report their echolocation calls for the first time, and we present call frequencies for some species that differ from those published from other parts of the species’ ranges. This exemplifies the need for more local call libraries from tropical regions to be collected and published in order to record endemic species and accurately identify species whose calls vary biogeographically.

    PDF also available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.3161/150811014X683408

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