Natural memories

Updated: Mar 19, 2020, 09:36 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

Ahead of International Day of Forests this weekend, three wildlife experts share a defining moment from their visits to the green hub

Bugun liocichla. Pics courtesy/Asif N Khan
Bugun liocichla. Pics courtesy/Asif N Khan

The view of a forest is a dying reality. In 2012 by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, March 21 was declared the International Day of Forests to raise awareness on the importance of forests. To remind you, dear reader, of the joy these ecosystems bring, three wildlife experts recollect their fondest moment spent in one.

Shy at sight

Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh
Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh

Last year, I took a group of BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) members for a walk inside the Eaglenest wildlife sanctuary [a protected area in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng District]. There, you can find the Bugun liocichla (Liocichla bugunorum), a critically endangered bird that is found nowhere else in the world, and isn’t easy to spot. As we were walking, we were on the lookout for it but doing other birdwatching, too. We thought of keeping an eye out for other birds that usually accompany it, like the parrotbill, and we eventually spotted it. The rainforest is beautiful and a visit during the months of March and April is best as the rain is minimum and leeches are limited.

Asif Khan
Asif Khan

Asif Khan, programme officer, Bombay Natural History Society

A moth to remember

Attacus taprobanis. Pic courtesy/Shardul Bajikar
Attacus taprobanis. Pic courtesy/Shardul Bajikar

Little did I realise that a short walk at Shilonda Trail inside SGNP (Sanjay Gandhi National Park) back in 1999 would have such a big impact on my life. I read about this nature trail during the monsoon season, organised by WWF (World Wildlife Fund) with Kedar Gore as the resource person. More than anything else the forest cast its spell on me like an enchantress. We walked through crystal clear streams and the cool water proved to be therapeutic. To top it all, at some distance on the trail, we encountered the world’s largest moth, an Atlas moth (Attacus taprobanis) that had barely emerged from its cocoon. The beautiful moth was huge and mesmeric, yet appeared fragile; something inside me changed forever after that moment. It has been over 19 years and there barely has been a week in which I have not found myself walking the Shilonda Trail.

Shardul Bajikar
Shardul Bajikar

Shardul Bajikar, naturalist

Magical escape

Small-clawed otter
Small-clawed otter

Small forest streams in the Western Ghats are magical habitats. These streams essentially sustain entire ecosystems, eventually feeding into larger rivers. Small-clawed otters live along the banks of these streams, while foraging in them for crabs predominantly, and sometimes amphibians. They are extremely elusive. I try and go to the Ghats every couple of months. I’ve never seen a small-clawed otter in the wild, only their poop, dens and other evidence of them being there. That’s what’s magical about it — the excitement of just knowing they are there.

In the Western Ghats; (right) Fernandez collecting the poop of a small-clawed otter
In the Western Ghats; (right) Fernandez collecting the poop of a small-clawed otter

Dr Katrina Fernandez, ecologist and director, Wild Otters Research

Dr Katrina Fernandez
Dr Katrina Fernandez

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