Diversity… The Spice Of Life
Sanctuary presents the work of one of India’s most accomplished wildlife photographers, Ramki Sreenivasan, who has made it his life’s purpose to document wild India for posterity. His images are on display at www.wildventures.com. Also, he is a key co-ordinator of www.conservationindia.org, a one-of-a-kind, non-profit initiative to facilitate conservation action by providing access to reliable information and tools for campaigns to defend vulnerable landscapes and species.
LOWLAND RAINFORESTS OF THE NORTHEAST, NAMDAPHA
The lowland moist evergreen and Dipterocarp forests of the Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh can only be accessed by hikers. The last port of call for vehicles is Deban, the park’s administrative office that serves as a base camp.
This is where the Austen’s Brown Hornbill Anorrhinus austeni revealed itself to me.
The Eye-browed Wren-babbler Napothera epilepidota is a delightful skulker found in tropical lowland forests.
FLOOD FORESTS OF THE CAUVERY DELTA, KARNATAKA
The Cauvery Fishing Camp is located on the banks of the beautiful Cauvery river in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary (which recently doubled in notified area to 1,027 sq. km.). I have camped in this remote, rugged and primitive forest several times.
The riparian, mixed, moist deciduous, forests are home to a bewildering diversity of bird life, including this Blue-bearded Bee-eater Nyctyornis athertoni.
DESERT FLATLANDS, KUTCHH, GUJARAT
A week-long visit to the Little and Greater Rann, Banni and Naliya grasslands, tropical thorn forests at Phot Mahadev and the Modva coast turned up incredible sightings of the Asiatic wild ass Equus hemionus khur.
The desert fox Vulpes vuples pusilla. More carnivorous than the Indian fox, it preys largely on gerbils and rodents.
The Indian desert cat Felis silvestris ornata.
HIGH-ALTITUDE MOUNTAINS, SELA PASS (13,800 feet), ARUNACHAL PRADESH
The high-altitude habitats of the Eastern Himalaya come alive to the sound of amazing birdsong in summer, when the birds breed in coniferous and alpine forests and even above the tree-line.
I was fortunate to be able to photograph this Monal Pheasant Lophophorus impejanus.
Gould’s Shortwing Brachypteryx stellata, which I saw on the Dirang-Mandala road. Other birds here include the Fire-tailed Myzornis, Fire-tailed Sunbirds, Finches, Grosbeaks, Grandala, Leaf and Bush-warblers and more.
EVERGREEN NORTH-EASTERN FORESTS, NAGALAND
Though Nagaland is little birded, several speciality species are to be found in this small northeastern state. Heading the list is the state bird – the enigmatic Blyth‘s Tragopan. But there were several other rarities on show including the Chestnut-vented Nuthatch, Cachar Wedge-billed Babbler, not to mention the recently split.
Naga Wren Babbler Spelaeornis chocolatinus, of which few pictures exist. I shot this frame in the Khonoma area which still sports pockets of northern tropical semi-evergreen forests.
The Hill Prinia Prinia atrogularis is found across Bhutan, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam.
EVERGREEN AND BAMBOO FORESTS OF THE EAGLENEST SANCTUARY, ARUNACHAL PRADESH
Tucked away in the western bend of Arunachal Pradesh lies a truly enchanting and magical land of captivating mountains, mists and beguiling wilderness. Here I spotted two of my lifers – the olive-green (with a flash of red in its tail) Bugun Liochicla Liochicla bugunorum.
Rediscovered by Ramana Athreya who named the bird after the local tribe, and the Ward’s Trogon Harpactes wardi – a denizen of the cloud forests of Bompu.
With its rich mix of habitats – lowland evergreen, bamboo, broadleaved evergreen, coniferous and also rhododendron forests, Eaglenest is notable as a prime birding site of international repute.
FORESTS OF THE WESTERN GHATS
Classified as Southern Western Ghats Montane Rainforests, these are the most species-rich habitats in peninsular India, and are home to numerous endemic species including the lion-tailed macaque Macaca silenus.
Critically endangered, these slow breeding primates are often seen in the degraded sholas near Valparai as well as in the rest of the Anamalais (‘elephant mountains’) in Tamil Nadu.
This leopard Panthera pardus hurriedly got off a tree in the BRT Sanctuary in Karnataka.
JUNGLE AND GRASSLANDS OF MANAS
The combination of Sub-Himalayan bhabar and terai ecotypes gifts Manas its unique biodiversity.
It was here that I found the Chestnut-capped Babbler Timalia pileata a grassland speciality found all over Southeast Asia.
I visited Manas to photograph the world’s rarest bustard – the Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis and ended up spending a week exploring this haven for endangered species.
Text and Photographs by Ramakrishnan (Ramki) Sreenivasan, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXXII No. 3, June 2012