A faunal survey of birds, butterflies and odonates conducted in the Vazhachal reserve forests in Thrissur has yielded several interesting finds.
The four-day exercise jointly organised by the Forest department and various non-governmental organisations, including the Thiruvananthapuram-based Travancore Natural History Society (TNHS), recorded nearly 400 species.
As many as 138 species of birds were spotted during the survey. Twelve teams, comprising researchers and forest personnel, participated in the scientific exercise that covered all the major habitats and elevations in the region. The State bird, the Great Indian Hornbill, was recorded in all of the low to mid elevation camps, indicating a healthy population in the region.
The Malabar Pied Hornbills were seen in low numbers, while endemic species such as the Wayanad Laughing Thrush, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Legge’s Hawk-Eagle, Grey-headed Bulbul, Ceylon Frogmouth and Malabar Parakeet were also recorded. The survey found very few water and common birds.
153 butterfly species
The researchers were able to spot 153 butterfly species though the region witnessed heavy rain during the course of the survey. Endemic species such as the Malabar Banded Swallowtail, Malabar Rose, Paris Peacock, Malabar Tree Nymph and Coorg Forest Hopper were found during the survey. Species that fed on reeds such as Travancore Evening Brown, Southern Duffer, Tamil Catseye, Bicolor Ace, Unbranded Ace and Madras Ace were also common.
The delegates also recorded 58 species of odonates, including Protosticta antelopoides, Macromia ellisonii, Agriocnemis keralalensis, Indolestes gracilis, and Orthetrum triangulare from different elevations.
According to TNHS research associate Kalesh Sadasivan, the high numbers of generally rare species such as Indosticta deccanensis, Ceriagrion rubiae, and Epithemis mariae were interesting phenomena possibly associated with the timing of monsoon rains. The higher reaches of the region recorded lower numbers of odonates. This phenomenon was commonly observed after heavy monsoon showers, he said.
Besides tigers, leopards, elephants, dholes and gaurs, the researchers also documented around 15 species of spiders, 40 species of ants, six species of cicadas, and 12 species of mantis.
Vazhachal divisional forest officer R. Lakshmi said the exercise was the first in a series of faunal surveys planned to enumerate the rich faunal diversity of the Vazhachal forests.