Society

From trees to terra firma

Arboreal, the Asian Palm Civet and Asiatic Long-Tailed Climbing Mouse are inclined to viewing their worlds along vertical lines. However in urban spaces, they tend towards adaptations without compromising on their essential nature.

Mahathi Narayanaswamy, a resident of IIT-Madras who records the fauna and avifauna on the campus, draws attention to how now and then, a Palm Civet (paradoxurus hermaphroditus) would invite itself to a terrace or balcony of a house (on the campus). The bolder ones — usually, the juveniles — would even attempt to decamp with vegetable peels. With a proliferation of palm trees on the campus, Palm Civet presence is a given. However, even in this scenario, Palm Civet sightings will be received with surprise every time it happens.

A Palm Civet saunters around the IIT-Madras campus. Photo: Mahathi Narayanaswamy 

A Palm Civet saunters around the IIT-Madras campus. Photo: Mahathi Narayanaswamy    | Photo Credit: Mahathi Narayanaswamy

Says Preston Ahimaz, author of A Guide to Some Urban Fauna of India, and forest consultant for TVS Motor Company: “Palm Civets have this amazing ability to live completely unnoticed. They would be living right next to you and you would not know, unless you find a dropping or two somewhere.”

However, this ability is being tested in urban spaces due to increasing density of human population and galloping development. With more buildings, they tend to set paw in human spaces, and be seen more often that they otherwise would be. “Palm Civets will be there provided you allow them to. They will use any abandoned place. For example, ventilators that are never used, with the niche on the outside. Arboreal, they would however want to be away from the ground. They will not roost or hang around on the ground. It has to be in an elevated place. They are used to being in the trees. So, any elevated place that is inaccessible and undisturbed is good enough for them.”

The Asiatic Long-Tailed Climbing Mouse (vandeleuria oleracea) also looks for similar substitutes in high places, while in urban spaces, where it is hugely uncommon.

An Asiatic Long-Tailed Climbing Mouse when it fell off a mango tree and entered a house in Indira Nagar. Photo: Vikas Madhav Nagarajan

An Asiatic Long-Tailed Climbing Mouse when it fell off a mango tree and entered a house in Indira Nagar. Photo: Vikas Madhav Nagarajan   | Photo Credit: Vikas Madhav Nagarajan

Preston has had the experience of encountering a female Asiatic Long-Tailed Climbing Mouse with her two babies, in the false ceiling of a building. Vikas Madhav Nagarajan, a naturalist and a Madras Naturalists Society member, relates an episode involving this rodent, which sticks to trees until push comes to a headlong fall. Vikas narrates: “This mouse is not a pest, as it does not depend on what we eat. It is a completely wild species, not dependent on humans. However, it invited itself to our home in 2018. At that time, we were staying at Indira Nagar and the property had a mango tree whose branches were jutting into the house. Having fallen off the tree, it was clueless about getting back onto the tree, and came into the house. Inside, it went into the room that had a lot of wood furniture, and started climbing on everything. We managed to catch it, and when we released it on the ground, the first thing it did was go for the tree.”

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 8:42:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/from-trees-to-terra-firma/article34005766.ece

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