A safe haven for rare dragonflies

Kerala’s Silent Valley is home to 82 species

The buffer zone of the Silent Valley National Park here is emerging as one of the largest havens of dragonflies and damselflies with a recent survey confirming the presence of 82 species, among which 14 are extremely rare.

The survey, conducted jointly by the Forest Department and odonate enthusiasts under the Indian Dragonfly Society between September 28 and 30, found that Thudukki, Pathanthode, Thathengalam, and TK Colony in the buffer zone are providing them a conducive atmosphere for foraging, feeding, and breeding. Proximity to the core areas of the national park, with high-altitude shola grasslands and different types of forests, availability of water, and good habitat diversity, are also the contributing factors.

Eight teams

“This is the first time that an exclusive survey was conducted in the buffer zone. Hitherto, they were focussed on the core zones of the national park. We had eight teams comprising experts and officials,” Samuel V. Pachuau, Wildlife Warden, Silent Valley, told The Hindu .

“Since the buffer zone shares boundary with human habitations, habitat diversity was ensured in the survey. The same reflected in the diversity of odonates. Among the 488 species of odonates found in India, the Western Ghats are home to 193,” said V. Balachandran, secretary of Indian Dragonfly Society.

The rare species found include Indosticta deccanensis (Saffron Reedtail), Burmagomphus laidlawi (Plain Sinuate Clubtail), Macrogomphus souteri (Pigmy Clubtail), Onychogomphus nilgiriensis (Nilgiri Clawtail), Euphea dispar (Nilgiri Torrent Dart), Indionyx travancorensis (Travancore Daggerhead), Megalogomphus hannyngtoni (Giant Clubtail), and Lestes dorothea (Spreadwing).

“It is a matter of concern that the number of several common species of damselflies found in the region is alarmingly low. This could be owing to the recent floods,” Mr. Balachandran said.

The floods might have carried away the larvae of damselflies downstream, he said. Odonates are amphibiotic (having aquatic larval form and terrestrial adult form) insects.

“The teams took remarkable efforts. The national park will conduct regular surveys in the following years too,” Mr. Pachuau said. A total of 25 experts from the Indian Dragonfly Society coordinated the survey. Well-known odonate watchers of the State, including V. Balachandran, V.C. Balakrishnan, C. Sushanth, Sujith V. Gopalan, and Muhammed Sherif, formed part of the survey.

More surveys

“We have very little knowledge about the odonate diversity in the Silent Valley and its surroundings. There will be more coordinated efforts in the future,” Mr. Balachandran said.

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