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Agumbe – Paradise On Earth

Agumbe – Paradise On Earth

Romulus Whitaker with the King Cobra at Agumbe

Janaki Lenin Photo: Janaki Lenin.

An appreciation – In 2005, Romulus Whitaker set up the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS) after he spent time exploring these amazing rainforests, where he saw his very first wild king cobra. Using money bequeathed to him by his mother Doris Norden, he bought six acres of land surrounded by the Agumbe Reserve Forest and refurbished an old farmhouse into an office-cum-residence for staff and researchers. ARRS is now linked to the National Center for Biological Sciences in Bangalore and is one of the world’s finest forest research bases.

“We have to keep wildlife alive long enough for better stewards to take charge of the natural world that sustains us all.”  – Romulus Whitaker

Malabar pit viper Trimeresurus malabaricus

Photo: Saurabh Sawant.

The rain-drenched, foliage-dense, Agumbe forests provide the Malabar pit viper Trimeresurus malabaricus with the perfect home. Nocturnal, and more commonly sighted in the monsoon, it can nevertheless be spotted resting on rocks or trees close to waterbodies during the day.

Tortoise beetle Cassidini sps.

Photo: Monish Matthias.

Invertebrates, especially insects, form the best part of the diversity of wet evergreen forests such as Agumbe. Each leaf supports life and throws up unexpected surprises such as this tortoise beetle Cassidini sps. whose larvae will feed on the very plants that make up their home.

Moss-laden pool in the Agumbe rainforest

Photo: Monish Matthias.

The Agumbe rainforest feeds and is fed by innumerable, small, moss-laden streams and pools that support a variety of living organisms. Tarantula spiders nest near such waterbodies, which offer them a steady source of food.

The water-catcher

Photo: Monish Matthias.

Every plant, tree, insect, reptile, bird and animal is adapted to deal with the torrential downpour during the monsoon in Agumbe. With an annual rainfall of up to 8,000 mm. Agumbe is often referred to as the Cherrapunji of south India.

Blue-eyed bush frog Philautus neelanetrus

Photo: Monish Matthias.

Some 157 species of amphibians are found in the Western Ghats, with new species being discovered almost every week. The photographer encountered this blue-eyed bush frog Philautus neelanetrus, first described by science in 2007, when out exploring the rainforest after dark.

Golden-backed ants Camponotus sericeus

Photo: Monish Matthias.

Wet and lush – the Agumbe rainforest located 560 m. above sea level in Karnataka is washed by the Indian monsoon, which offers sustenance for a diversity of flora and fauna that range from tiny golden-backed ants Camponotus sericeus, seen here, to the magnificent leopard.

Millipede of the order Spirobolida

Photo: Monish Matthias.

This round-backed millipede, spotted by the photographer on a twig near a stream belongs to the order Spirobolida. It is distinguished by a vertical suture on the lower front of the head. This slow-moving millipede found in the tropics feeds on decaying leaves and other dead plant matter.

Leaf insect of family Phylliidae

Photo: Shashank Dalvi.

An exceptional leaf mimic, this leaf insect, Phylliidae family, is usually green in colour. Its camouflage is considered one of the best in the natural world. Unusual yellow and red morphs resembling dry leaves are also observed like the one seen here with its abdomen raised, a response to the perceived threat from the curious photographer.

Common green forest lizard Calotes calotes

Photo: Monish Matthias.

Moss clothes the tree bark next to a stream and plays host to a common green forest lizard Calotes calotes. The reptile’s bright green body has fi ve or six white, cream or dark green transverse stripes that extend to its tail and help it to hunt and hide as it plays out a deadly game of  survival.

Fast-flowing brook behind Agumbe Rainforest Research Station

Photo: Saurabh Sawant.

The habitat just behind the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station is an amphibian haven. Standing in the water, the photographer used a slow shutter speed to freeze the water flow of this fast-flowing brook.

Reservoir of life

Photo: Monish Matthias.

A fallen leaf acts as a reservoir of life in which all manner of creatures will be born and die. This water eventually flows downstream, supporting human communities that are oblivious to the fact that this complicated mesh of life is key to their water security.

Indian bullfrog Hoplobatrachus tigerinus

Photo: Monish Matthias.

More common in freshwater wetlands and paddy fields than forested areas, this Indian bullfrog Hoplobatrachus tigerinus repeatedly ducked underwater, only to reappear to check the photographer out moments later. Like most frogs, this amphibian breeds during the monsoon.

Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXIV No. 1, February 2014.


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