A weekend with the NCF team in Valparai. In mid-June (16-18), I made a 3-day trip to Valparai to spend time with the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) folks plus do a little birding in the nearby sholas of the high ranges.
NCF is a fine scientific organization that has pioneered various innovative wildlife conservation initiatives across India. Operating out of their field station in Valparai for over a decade, the team, spearheaded by Dr. Shankar Raman and Dr. Divya Mudappa, has been engaged in a series of conservation-related projects. The most ambitious and the most successful has been the pioneering work they have done on rainforest restoration in the Valparai plateau in the heart of the Anamalais in Tamil Nadu. Over the years, NCF has successfully demonstrated how denuded rainforests can be restored, with the dual objective of biological conservation and creating a transit corridor for animals. NCF started out with the strong conviction that conservation goals cannot be met only by the protection of already existing rainforests. An active effort to restore rainforests in areas where they had been denuded due to human occupation also needs to be made. NCF’s restoration methodology does not follow the ‘leave nature alone and it will come back’ philosophy but rather scientific and data-based intervention techniques of planting specific endemic trees in specifc areas while actively controlling weed expansion. While the work is fascinating and trail-blazing, it is also very tough and physically challenging. But the methodology certainly yields results – as amply evident in their restoration plots across the plateau. Please read here about NCF’s efforts in rainforest restoration: 1. http://www.ncf-india.org/proj-desc.htm#westernghats 2. http://www.hindu.com/mag/2005/07/17/stories/2005071700090200.htm In addition, I visited nearby sholas for some wildlife watching. Inspite of the degraded nature of the sholas in the Valparai plateau the biodiversity was breathtaking. Several troupes of Lion-tailed Macaques, Niligiri Langurs (both endemic and endangered) were encountered in addition to Barking Deer, Gaur, Malabar Giant and Jungle Striped Squirrels. Birding trips produced Malabar Grey Hornbills, Lorikeets, Malabar Parakeets, Rufous Babblers, Malabar Whistling Thrushes (plentiful!) and Streak-throated Woodpeckers. Hope you enjoy the images! Cheers, –r@mki Bangalore | June 2006