To the Jungle

tree frog

“Jayden! Jayden! Come back, we’ve got to get out of here.”

I pull my dip-net out from the stream where I have been fixated on watching a pool of florescent bi-colored frog tadpoles. I begin to walk back upstream, a little sad to be ending my natural ‘pedicure’ provided by the same fish species (garra rufa) used in specialty spas. My initial thought was that my fellow researchers had caught an interesting frog but it turns out the species we were dealing with was much bigger. “We’ve gotten word from locals that a wild elephant is less than a kilo-meter away heading towards the stream. Their behavior can be unpredictable so we should head back to camp.” 

In the heart of the land of the king cobra, black panthers and over thirty species of tarantulas, it seemed to be that the danger might be in the species I’d expect the least. 

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In the misty hills of the Southern Western Ghats at the Agumbe Rainforest Research station it doesn’t take long to be surrounded by curiousities. A small camp concealed in a banana plantation became our home for the week and we quickly learned it was a home we would be sharing.

Agumbe Base Camp

A malabar pit viper hung out coiled around a bamboo pole in the dining tent, a giant wolf spider lived in the window frame of the library and I quickly fell in love with the adorable bat outside of my cabin door.

In this area a strong sense of coexistence with nature was evident. One characteristic of almost any culture around the world is an intrinsic fear of snakes that often leads to their death. I initially thought this would be major concern for the snakes living in and around the Western Ghats alongside over 300million people.  Possibly the greatest lesson I learned at Agumbe was the power of spirituality in protecting nature.

Sringeri Temple

As you travel throughout South India there are countless shrines of cobras carved out in stone at ancient sacred groves depicting the sacredness of such animals. The local people who find livelihood in the richness of the area around Agumbe honour the snakes despite the dangers they pose.

Malabar Pit Viper

Malabar Pit Viper

After a few days exploring the jungle of Agumbe we had great sucess in finding unique species of snakes (sometimes too close for comfort at night), a great number of birds and freshwater wildlife. So, we decided to stretch our luck in search of the notorious, and very rare, lion-tailed macaque endemic to this forest region. Along with a Colombian and Luxembourgish friend we hiked to a nearby village to find a rickshaw to bring us to near a location where the primates can sometimes be found. Without any proper knowledge on the region or experience with the local Karnataka language, we crossed our fingers that we would make it down the steep road alive in the unsteady three-wheeled vehicle.

Bonnet Macaques of Agumbe Village

Bonnet Macaques of Agumbe Village

As we approached the site our uncertainty turned into  anticipation. Before long, we heard sounds in the  canopy above and we were greeted by not one but six  lion-tailed macaques! The fascinating monkeys hardly  acknowledged our presence and almost posed as they  would hang from the branches. Our expectations  already succeeded many times over, the experience  was completed in the essence of project week – in  wonder.

A beautiful lion-tailed macaque

A beautiful lion-tailed macaque

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