If you have a wild streak, go to Agumbe

The ARRS provides a perfect respite to carry uninterrupted research work Especially on flagship species like the King Cobra, the lion-tailed macaque, leopards etc. Photos: courtesy Vaibhav Mupadi  

The Malabar pit viper must have been mildly amused and wondered what all the fuss was about. In his quaint corner over the dining table at the Agumbe Rainforest research station (ARRS), he would have witnessed 26 pairs of eyes watching him with interest, chattering excitedly about his lovely camouflage.

We are at Agumbe, a part of the Western ghats in Karnataka that transforms into a paradise in the monsoons. We are volunteers from Bangalore-based organisations, Aviratha and Oracle, to assist in the rainforest restoration project at ARRS. With a small detour through green grass and wet mud, with leeches wriggling about hopefully to have a go at our feet, we reach the homely ARRS visiting centre.

Not even an hour has passed, and boy, do we see wildlife! All within 20 yards from the visiting centre.

A green vine snake ignores us in his royal perch atop a tree, A scorpion stands poised, ready for action with his curved tail; We spy a pair of flying lizards on the Areca trees and a Brahminy blind snake wriggles comfortably in the palm of my hand.

Not to mention the Malabar pit viper, who almost became family and a dog that followed us from the bus station.

There were those in the group who were none too comfortable with wriggling things like snakes and leeches but there is something about this place that makes you feel it is natural to have a snake watch you while you eat!

If you were to place a video camera just outside ARRS and let it run for about half a day, you would find a mind boggling variety of species, flora and fauna, endemic to this beautiful reserve forest. ARRS, founded by leading Indian herpetologist, Romulus Whitaker, is run by a team of conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts working throughout the year to study the delicate ecosystem of one of the few remaining lowland rainforests in India.

Romulus Whitaker and his colleagues were not far off the mark, when they decided to make Agumbe the field station base to run the very first snake telemetry project in the world, to study the elusive king cobra.

It’s quite a milestone considering just how shy and reclusive this king of snakes can be. Their breakthrough research has debunked many myths about this enigmatic snake, contributing to better management and handling.

The ARRS is off the grid, with a self-sustained solar and hydel unit that powers the station.

It quietly carries out its vision of conservation and management in a small forest clearing with a central farmhouse and three huts that accommodates volunteers.

Agumbe has a warm and humid tropical climate that makes it one of the wettest places on earth. The ARRS provides a perfect respite to carry uninterrupted research work, especially on flagship species like the King Cobra, the lion-tailed macaque, leopards, the barking deer, the Pied hornbill, Mahseer, the blue mormon butterfly and the ant lion.

With the discovery of many new species of amphibians, reptiles and fungi, their efforts to create a local biodiversity database has really taken off!

The ARRS also focuses on community outreach so that people in the villages and the surrounding regions make informed decisions when it comes to interaction with wildlife.

If you are interested in field based research and conservation and are serious about ecological study, ARRS has a well-integrated volunteer and research intern programme to put you right where the action is! It’s a great opportunity to get involved in projects irrespective of your background.

As Anup, field director of ARRS puts it, ARRS offers something for everybody. And it’s never too late to start pursuing your passion. Anup switched professions from IT to wildlife conservation after a course at the National Centre for biological sciences and reiterates it is worth the plunge.

The volunteers were from all walks of life - from IT employees to doctors and artists and it just goes on to show that all you need is the desire to learn to be a part of ARRS.

Some current projects that may be of interest to you are pertaining to rainforest restoration, the reproductive ecology of endemic amphibians, breeding behaviour of grassland nesting birds and conservation drives to mitigate man-animal conflicts.

Volunteers typically stay on campus for a minimum of two weeks. You could extend your stay depending on your involvement.

You will be guided by the field director in the manner in which you would be assisting them. You need not have a formal training in research. All that is required is a willingness to learn.

Volunteer and take back with you knowledge and memories to last you a lifetime!

For more information, contact Anup, the field director. You can reach him at +91 94803 34613. You can also email to

Aviratha, which jointly organised this program, is a Bangalore based NGO with a vast network of volunteers involved in Civil society campaigns, humanitarian work in the field of health, education, environment and the performing arts.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 7:02:17 AM |

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