- 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!
- Book Chapter2009Tiger reintroduction in India: conservation tool or costly dream?Pages 146-163 in M. Somers and M. Hayward (eds.) Reintroduction of Top-order Predators. Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK.Download
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The tiger (Panthera tigris), like many other large carnivores, has experienced serious declines in its global distribution and abundance. Reintroduction is one of a suite of important conservation tools developed to reverse such declines in a range of species across the globe. Most experience with large- carnivore reintroductions comes from North America, Europe and South Africa, where carnivore declines have ensued from their direct persecution by humans. Once the factors responsible for the original extirpation of a large carnivore have been removed, reintroduction has proved a viable conserva- tion option given the backdrop of low human densities, extensive land avail- ability and the commitment of adequate financial and socio-political support for the reintroduction project. In this chapter, we examine the role of reintro- duction in the conservation of the tiger in India, where the species has been extirpated from many parts of its former range—not only through direct persecution, but also due to prey depletion and habitat loss. Given the complex socio-cultural, economic and political factors that drive habitat loss and prey depletion for the tiger, we review the feasibility of reintroduction as a conser- vation intervention. In the Indian setting, which is characterized by the per- sistence—even aggravation—of conservation threats to tigers, we argue that the prudent course of conservation action is to first invest in effective means of reducing threats to tigers and their habitats before exploring the option of tiger reintroduction.
- 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
- Journal Article2009Endangered markhor Capra falconeri in India: through war and insurgencyOryx 43(3): 407-411Download
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The flare horned markhor Capra falconeri occurs in northern Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Most of the species’ range is along volatile international borders and limited information is available, especially for the population of the Pir Panjal or Kashmir markhor C. f. falconeri in India. From October 2004 to April 2005 we therefore conducted the first range-wide survey of the species in India since independence. The markhor's range has shrunk from c. 300 km2 in the late 1940s to c. 120 km2 in 2004–2005. Our surveys and interviews with key local informants indicate that 350–375 markhor may yet exist in the region. All the populations are small (usually < 50) and fragmented. International conflicts, developmental projects, the needs of an increasing human population and poaching, along with lack of awareness, are the primary threats to the species. The largest population in India, in Kajinag, may have potential for long-term survival if immediate conservation measures can be implemented.
- Popular Article2009In troubled watersHindustan Times, 21st January
- Journal Article2009Effects of rodents on seed fates of hornbill-dispersed tree species in a tropical forest in north-east India.J. Tropical Ecology 25: 507-514.
- Newsletter2009The future of the dugongs in the Indian sub-continentSirenews, Newsletter of the IUCN Sirenia Specialist Group, Vol. No. 52.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Art & Literary2009Who gives a fig?The Hindu Magazine, 26 July 2009, page 5.
Trees are being slaughtered in large numbers in the face of urbanisation. A reflective piece on what is happening to our landscapes from a conservation perspective.
- Popular Article2009Act before it is too lateThe Telegraph (Calcutta), 13 August 2009
- 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.
- Popular Article2009Hope burns bright for state’s tigersDeccan Herald, 3 November 2009
- 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.
- 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/
- Popular Article2009Musician of the monsoonThe Hindu Magazine, 6 September 2009, page 5.
The Malabar Whistling Thrush is a flautist of unbridled creativity but, given the wanton destruction of its habitat, how much longer will we hear its music?
- 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.