Category: Western Ghats (page 2 of 2)

14 to 41: where I had always wanted to be

There are times in your life, when, in an unexpected moment, you come face to face with yourself. It could happen anytime, to anyone. It could happen over your breakfast as aroma and sound—hot coffee swirling in your cup and a dosa sizzling on the stove—suddenly release a sensory cascade of recollections as history intersects happenstance. It could happen in a memory or a dream, where past and present merge into a fused and frozen time indistinct, even, from the future. It could happen while you walk down a street and momentarily catch your own full-length reflection in a shining, shop-front glass. In that moment, the person who you were confronts the one who you have become. Chances are, it might catch you unawares.

… This post first appeared in my blog on the Coyotes Network on 15 November 2013. Read more in the Prologue of The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.

The pigeon’s passengers

There is a modesty in their conquest of mountains. From tall trees on high ridges, they scan the landscape, their heads turning on long and graceful necks. They have scaled peaks, even surpassed them. Yet, they speak only in soft and hushed tones that resonate among stately trees. For, the imperial pigeons are a dignified lot, keeping the company of great trees.

… This post first appeared in The Hindu Sunday Magazine on 6 May 2012. Read more in The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.

New booklet on rainforest restoration

What is rainforest restoration? Why do we need it? If we wish to restore degraded rainforest, what should we do? How do we go about it? Where is it needed? And when? Motivated by these and many other questions, we have put down our thoughts and experiences gathered over the last decade in the Anamalai hills, in relation to those of other restoration ecologists and practitioners into a beautifully-designed and richly illustrated 40-odd page booklet:

Mudappa, D., and Raman, T. R. S. 2010. Rainforest Restoration: A Guide to Principles and Practice. Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore.

Download from here: PDF 6.7 MB

Or from the Website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, India, here.

The cover

The booklet aims to present concepts of ecological restoration along with guidelines and suggestions for practice and on-ground implementation in a simple, easy to understand manner. Attractively designed by Pavithra Sankaran and richly illustrated with beautiful photographs, the booklet is a visual treat. Here’s a sample:

Inside pages

Take a look at the contents:


The booklet was brought out with support from the IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands, Ecosystems Grant Programme (IUCN-NL EGP). The text of the booklet may be used under a Creative Commons licence.

Take a look and let us know what you think. Here’s looking forward to your feedback!

This post first appeared on the Rainforest Revival blog on 10 August 2011.

The caricature monkey

The road points like an arrow towards the hills. Amidst fallow fields and coconut farms, flanked by rows of grand tamarind trees, it takes a curve at a little rise. From here, the wide panorama of hills ahead is blue-grey and inviting.

… This post first appeared in The Hindu Sunday Magazine on 10 July 2011 and on the Rainforest Revival blog on 27 July 2011. Read more in The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.

A red flush of leaves

By T. R. Shankar Raman & Divya Mudappa

Splashes of red dot the evergreen canopy, like blood on green canvas. The canarium, stately white and tall, holds a red flush of new leaves above verdant, multi-hued forest. Skimming spectacularly over the trees, a great hornbill brushes grandeur onto the canvas. In the company of hornbills, a new year dawns on an unsuspecting rainforest.

… This post first appeared in the NCF blog, EcoLogic, and as ‘Rhythms of Renewal‘ in The Hindu Sunday Magazine on 2 January 2011. Read more, with updates, in The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.

Death on the highway

This article was published in The Hindu Survey of the Environment 2009 (pages 113 – 118) without the supporting footnotes. The original article with footnotes and photographs, appeared on the NCF blog, EcoLogic on 10 October 2009. For a revised and updated version, read the Chapter in my book: The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.

Crunch! Splat! Thud! A daily massacre is occurring under the wheels of our vehicles. Thousands of lives are snuffed out tragically, instantaneously, and yet, we hardly notice.

Around India, as in other parts of the world, millions of animals risk daily encounter with increasingly fast vehicles plying on an expanding meshwork of roads and highways.

Read more in The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.

Earth-scar evening

The road winds through a disfigured landscape of tea plantations. It skims the contours over the open reservoir with its sloping banks of naked red earth. It passes the checkpost with the inevitable tea stall, and only then does it plunge down. Down towards the rainforest, our destination for the evening. The Nilgiri langurs, on the tree near the tea stall, watch us go.

There is a hint of rain in the air. And the clouds hang dark over the landscape.

The fallen trees by the road.

We come upon the fallen trees a short while later.

Read this essay in The Wild Heart of India: Nature and Conservation in the City, the Country, and the Wild.

This post first appeared in the NCF blog, EcoLogic, on 4 May 2009.

Blowin’ in the wind

The dipterocarp tree

Looking up from the road, I see the blue arc of the sky slicing through the forest canopy. Into the arc, the dome-like crown of a tall dipterocarp tree emerges from the dark rainforest. The tree is over a hundred feet tall, its straight bole emerging from a spread of stout roots that snake along the ground to meet and form supporting buttresses. Two-thirds of the way up, the bole is encircled by a ring of bird’s-nest ferns. Further up, the branches are held out, firmly, confidently, and hold clusters of two-winged fruit. The fruit await a gust of air to disperse across the forest with their valuable package of seed.

The scratch-mark of man and seeds in the leaf litter

I am at a place where the foothills of the Western Ghats hills begin to merge with the plains. The great Periyar river is not far. The rainforest around me is testimony to the amount of rain this place must receive every year. This is a small fragment of the humid tropical wet evergreen forest that once covered vast stretches in the foothills and plains of Kerala. I am sweating in the humidity, and the shade of the tree is welcome. The road and the village nearby mark the presence of people in the landscape. The tree itself carries the mark of people, too. A row of bamboo stakes are driven in an ascending line into the tree—driven many months or years ago by a honey collector who needed to ascend to reach a hive of bees on a high branch. At the base of the tree someone has scratched for the ooze of resin, too.

I hear the call of the Malabar Grey Hornbill and the Fairy Bluebird, and hidden amidst the leaf litter are two-winged dipterocarp seed.


The spathodeas by the road

Its a few days later and I am in a little town in the hills—a wannabe tourist town of little distinction and much crowds, garbage, and noise. Loudspeakers blare songs extolling the virtues of various political parties—perhaps they feel that the election is all song-and-dance. The street is full with the press of people, cars and buses, carts with fruit and vegetables, pavement hawkers, and the passers-by. Some goats eating vegetable waste and a woman who is sitting and spitting, chewing betel leaf, appear to be the only calm creatures amidst the bustle.

The seed-strewn street

Its a blistering hot, sweaty day. The sun is scorching. I look up at the wide expanse of blue sky flanked by the untidy cluster of buildings on each side. There is little shade. There would have been, perhaps a little over a hundred years ago: a dense canopy of cool, dark rainforest. Now, I see few trees close by: two spathodeas or African tulips, backed by a dour line of Australian eucalypts behind the buildings. On the spathodea, the bright red flowers of the year gone by have turned into brown spike-like pods that are dehiscing open with the dry weather. With a gust of wind, little seeds with their disc-like wings take to the air and drift all around, over the street, onto the buildings, and into the ditches.

I hear the sound of the car-horn and the election-song, and the ground is littered with African tulip seed.


Another famous song comes to mind:

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

From Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the wind“, 1962

This post first appeared in the NCF blog, EcoLogic, on 18 April 2009.