- Journal Article2010Behavior of Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) in a land-use mosaic: implications for human-elephant coexistence in the Anamalai hills, IndiaWildlife Biology in Practice 6: 69-80.Download
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Understanding behavior of elephants in human-dominated landscapes can facilitate creation of management tools for conflict resolution and help foster human-elephant coexistence. We studied behavior of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in the Valparai plateau, a 220 km² landscape matrix of rainforest fragments, tea, coffee, and Eucalyptus plantations in the Anamalai Hills of the Western Ghats of India. We studied the nearest neighbor distance among elephants within the herd and their feeding behavior in habitat mosaics. We also recorded reactions of elephants to human proximity and number of people in the vicinity. We employed scan sampling for data collection. Feeding by elephants was lowest in open canopy habitat of tea, and it gradually increased in canopy covered plantations of coffee and Eucalyptus and in densely covered natural vegetation. Vigilance behavior of elephants was lowest in forest fragments and riverine vegetation as they could avoid encountering humans. This behavior peaked in tea plantations due to intense human activity there. Elephants maintained closer inter-individual distances in tea and this distance gradually increased in canopy habitats of coffee, Eucalyptus and natural vegetation. More humans in the vicinity and closer proximity to elephants reduced feeding and increased agitation in elephants, while proximity to settlements did not have any influence. We, therefore, suggest that protection and non-conversion of canopy habitats, restoration of rivers with native species, and maintaining distance from elephants would foster normal activities of elephants and help promote human-elephant coexistence in such landscapes.
- Popular Article2010Lure of the wildFrontline 27(5): 64-73
- Popular Article2010Cry in the WildernessFrontline 26(26): 64-74
Many conservation issues need to be addressed to ensure the future of the wildlife in the Cauvery forests.
- Popular Article2010Saving SahyadriFrontline 27(24):64-72Download
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Tigers are on the retreat from the Sahyadris and the predator’s preferred prey, the sambar, is on the decline.
- Popular Article2010The diverse economy of natureDeccan Herald, 19 January 2010
- Journal Article2010Effects of plantations and home-gardens on tropical forest bird communities and mixed-species bird flocks in the southern Western Ghats.Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 107: 91-108.Download
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Conservation scientists and policy makers are increasingly aware of the role countryside habitats play in supporting tropical fauna in modern landscapes. We studied the value of different land-uses by examining composition of tropical bird communities and mixed-species bird flocks in human-altered landscapes of Thattekad and the Anamalai Hills, situated in two different altitudes, in the southern Western Ghats. Sixteen line transects distributed across tropical rainforests, shade plantations of coffee and cardamom, timber monocultures of teak, tea plantations, and home-gardens were surveyed for bird flocks, vegetation structure, foliage profile, and canopy attributes. Results indicate that tea plantations were extremely altered habitats, supporting few rainforest species and were devoid of mixed-species bird flocks. Teak monocultures had high species density but were less conducive for rainforest species that require a well developed and structurally more complex habitat. While bird species richness varied little across land-uses, there was significant variation in community composition, with some sensitive bird species absent from all altered habitats. Coffee plantations with surviving rainforest fragments and cardamom plantations with more native shade trees that mimicked a forest habitat supported more rainforest bird species both in communities and flocks. Maintenance of these shade plantations and restoration of forest fragments is recommended, while their conversion into a poor, more open habitat (tea, teak) is strongly discouraged for bird conservation in fragmented landscapes.
- Journal Article2009Effects of herbivore species richness on the niche dynamics and distribution of blue sheep in the Trans-Himalaya.Diversity and Distributions, 15, 940–947.
- Newsletter2009The future of the dugongs in the Indian sub-continentSirenews, Newsletter of the IUCN Sirenia Specialist Group, Vol. No. 52.
- Journal Article2009First underwater sighting and preliminary behavioural observations of Dugongs(Dugong dugon) in the wild from Indian waters, Andaman Islands.Journal of Threatened Taxa 1 (1): 49-53.
- Popular Article2009Mountain rainforests. Quest for large mammals in the southern Western GhatsSanctuary Asia 29 (April): 48-53Download
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The jeeps forming a crescent beside the forest stream switched on their headlights almost simultaneously, brightly illuminating
the drama unfolding before my eyes. Fifteen wild elephants were approaching the water from the forest beyond, unfazed by the presence of a horde of humans less than 20 m away. I was in Anakulam, a remote village in the rainforests near Eravikulam National Park in Kerala. During a field survey in the southern
Western Ghats, reports had filtered through of a fabled spot where elephants have been congregating since living memory to drink at a natural mineral spring. To ascertain the veracity of these stories, the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) team, led by Dr. A.J.T. Johnsingh, braved the rough, mountainous roads to Anakulam (meaning ‘elephant pond’) through dense Ochlandra reed brakes, arriving at dusk, only to find the locals playing cricket beside the stream!
- Journal Article2009MigrantWatch: Changes and Results from the Second YearIndian Birds 4 (4): 122–126 (2008)
- Journal Article2009Observations on Rufous-necked Aceros nipalensis and Brown Anorrhinus austeni Hornbills in Arunachal Pradesh: natural history, conservation status and threats.Indian Birds 5: 108-117.Download
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Among the five species of hornbills that occur in north-eastern India, the least studied are the endangered Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis, and the Brown Hornbill Anorrhinus austeni, which has a restricted distribution in India. Based on field surveys conducted in Namdapha National Park, and several forest divisions in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, during 1996–1999 and 2002–2004, I present information on their distribution and relative abundance. I also present some information on diet, flock sizes, canopy levels used, breeding biology, and nesting records for both these species.
- Journal Article2009Restoring rainforest fragments: survival of mixed-native species seedlings under contrasting site conditions in the Western Ghats, India.Restoration Ecology 17: 137-147.Download
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Historical fragmentation and a current annual deforestation rate of 1.2% in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot have resulted in a human-dominated landscape of plantations, agriculture, and developed areas, with embedded rainforest fragments that form biodiversity refuges and animal corridors. On private lands in the Anamalai hills, India, we established restoration sites within three rainforest fragments (5, 19, and 100 ha) representing varying levels of degradation such as open meadow, highly degraded sites with dense Lantana camara invasion, abandoned exotic tree plantations (Eucalyptus grandis and Maesopsis eminii), and sites with mixed-native and exotic tree canopy. Between 2000 and 2004, we planted annually during the southwest monsoon 7,538 nursery raised seedlings of around 127 species in nine sites (0.15–1.0 ha). Seedlings monitored at 6-monthly intervals showed higher mortality over the dry season than the wet season and survival rates over a 2-year period of between 34.4 and 90.3% under different site conditions. Seedling survival was higher in sites with complete weed removal as against partial removal along planting lines and higher in open meadow and under shade than in sites that earlier had dense weed invasion. Of 44 species examined, survival across sites after 24 months for a majority of species (27 species, 61.4%) was higher than 50%. Retaining regenerating native species during weed clearing operations was crucial for rapid reestablishment of a first layer of canopy to shade out weeds and enhance survival of shade-tolerant rainforest seedlings.
- Popular Article2009Death on the highwayThe Hindu Survey of the Environment 2009: 113-118.
Read here: http://blog.ncf-india.org/2009/10/10/death-on-the-highway/
- Journal Article2009Corrigendum: mammal persistence and abundance in tropical rainforest remnants in the southern Western Ghats, India.Current Science 97: 612-613.
- Journal Article2009Winter Ecology of the Arunachal Macaque Macaca munzala in Pangchen Valley, Western Arunachal Pradesh, Northeastern IndiaAmerican Journal of Primatology, 71: 939–947Download
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The newly described Arunachal macaque Macaca munzala occurs largely in sub-tropical to temperate environments at elevations of c. 1,800–3,000 m in Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India. We studied its over-wintering strategy by comparing the diet, ranging, and behavior of a troop of 24 individuals during winter and spring (December 2005 to May 2006) through instantaneous scan sampling (3,002 records, 448 scans, 112 hr of observation). We also monitored the phenology of food plants. The macaques spent more time (41–66%) feeding in the winter than in spring (33–51%), whereas time spent moving and resting was greater in spring. The diet composed largely of plants, with animal matter being eaten rarely. The number of plant species in the diet increased from 18 to 25 whereas food types rose from 18 to 36 from winter to spring, respectively. Although only two species formed 75% of the winter diet, seven species comprised this proportion in spring. Availability of fruits and young leaves increased in spring; the troop moved more and utilized a larger part of its range during this time. Seasonal changes in behavior could be explained by the scarcity of food and the costs of thermoregulation in winter. Our study suggests that the Arunachal macaque inhabits a highly seasonal environment and has an over-wintering strategy that includes subsisting on a high-fiber diet by increasing the time spent feeding, and minimising energy expenditure by reducing the time spent moving.
- Journal Article2009Observations of small carnivores in the southern Western Ghats, IndiaSmall Carnivore Conservation 40: 36-40Download
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Despite a diverse assemblage of small carnivores in the forests of the southern Western Ghats in India, there is a paucity of information on their ecology, distribution, behaviour and current conservation status. Chance observations generated during surveys for other purposes are therefore useful. Sightings and signs of small carnivores were recorded opportunistically during a study to assess the distributions of larger mammals in the southern Western Ghats. The study yielded sightings of seven species of viverrids, herpestids and mustelids. The Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus and Small Indian Civet Viverricula indica were sighted most frequently. The restricted-range Brown Palm Civet Paradoxurus jerdoni was sighted once.
- Conference Proceedings2009Opportunities and challenges for tiger (Panthera tigris) conservation in the southern Western Ghats, IndiaShifting Trajectories of Ecology and Coexistence: Proceedings of the National Seminar on People and Tigers. Kerala Forest Department, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Thekkady, India. pp. 135-147Download
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The southern Western Ghats is an important ecological subunit of the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. Dominated by moist forests, including tropical wet evergreen forests, it has higher levels of biodiversity and endemism than the rest of the Western Ghats. There are 19 Protected Areas in the southern Western Ghats that cover 36% of its total area, among which Parambikulam, Anamalai and Periyar Tiger Reserves stand out as primary source habitats for tigers. The region is fragmented from north to south into the Anamalai, Periyar and Agasthyamalai landscapes. Given the crucial need for large, contiguous areas to ensure the persistence of wide-ranging large predators such as the tiger Panthera tigris and its prey, it is important to establish and maintain habitat connectivity within and between these landscapes, whereas conservation efforts today are focused on small, insular protected areas. Possibilities for forging connectivity between the Anamalai and Periyar landscapes along Kerala state are nonexistent owing to the loss of Devikulam Range in Munnar Forest Division to cardamom cultivation and developments related to tourism and Kumily Range in Kottayam Forest Division to encroachment. The link on the Tamil Nadu side, along the steep eastern slopes of Theni Forest Division, is extremely narrow and consequently unsuitable for large mammal movement at present. Our surveys, however, point to the possibility of bridging this gap through a corridor at Kottavasal. Recent camera-trapping studies by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun have highlighted the precarious situation of tigers in Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve in the Agasthyamalai landscape. Therefore, establishment of the Kottavasal corridor and the Kulathupuzha Conservation Reserve is a must to secure the future of tiger in the Agasthyamalai landscape. It is important that all endeavours now be made to enable the Anamalai and Periyar-Agasthyamalai landscapes to each sustain a minimum population of 100 adult tigers. Controlling poaching of prey species especially sambar Cervus unicolor, establishment of protected areas such as Kodaikanal, Megamalai and Kulathupuzha, acquisition of failed private estates to facilitate large mammal recolonization and restoration of native vegetation in exotic species plantations are priority tasks that need immediate attention in order to realize the huge opportunities for tiger conservation in the southern Western Ghats.
- Journal Article2009Brewing trouble: coffee invasion in relation to edges and forest structure in tropical rainforest fragments of the Western Ghats, IndiaBiological Invasions 11: 2387–2400
While the conservation impacts of invasive plant species on tropical biodiversity is widely recognised, little is known of the potential for cultivated crops turning invasive in tropical forest regions. In the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot, India, fragmented rainforests often adjoin coffee plantations. This study in the Anamalai hills assessed the effects of distance from edges and forest structure on the occurrence and abundance of shade-tolerant coffee (Arabica Coffea arabica and Robusta C. canephora) in four fragments (32–200 ha) using replicate line transects laid from the edges into the interiors. The coffee species cultivated in adjoining plantations was more abundant than the other coffee species inside study fragments, showing a clear decline in stem density from edge (0 m) to interior (250 m), suggesting the influence of propagule pressure of adjoining plantations, coupled with edge effects and seed dispersal by animals. Significant positive correlations of coffee density with canopy cover indicate the potential threat of coffee invasion even in closed canopy rainforests. Stem density of Coffea arabica (150–1,825 stems/ha) was higher in more disturbed fragments, whereas Coffea canephora had spread in disturbed and undisturbed sites achieving much higher densities (6.3–11,486 stems/ha). In addition, a negative relationship between C. canephora and native shrub density indicates its potential detrimental effects on native plants