All about mongoose, in Tamil

FOR MANY of us, the word ``mongoose'' will bring to memory the street corner trickster who produces a cobra, the mongoose, but never allows the reptile to fight the carnivore.

But in the wild, there are at least six to seven species of mongooses.

Well, here is an opportunity for the Tamil readers to learn more about these small carnivores including some of the rare species, endemic to Western Ghats. A group of research scholars has come out with a publication, that explains the mongoose varieties found in south Indian forests.

Thirteen species of small carnivores belonging to three families in the order Carnivora have been selected. Information on their distribution, ecology, behaviour and conservation status of these animals have been explained in the publication, which runs to 20 pages.

Small carnivores are important players in the dynamic forest, assuming distinct roles - as predators and prey. They are also vital dispersers of plant seeds, which helps in regeneration of forests.

These tenacious animals have survived a multitude of challenges such as loss of habitat, poaching and persecution, the most dreadful among them. Collective efforts are the need of the hour to quell these challenges, which push the animals to the brink of extinction, say the researchers.

Along with the book, a poster has been brought out, that explains about eight species of mongoose in the Western Ghats including the common palm civet, Nilgiri marten, stripe- necked mongoose, brown or Jerdon's palm civet, small Indian civet, brown mongoose, common grey mongoose and ruddy mongoose.

The forests of south India are home to nearly 17 species of small carnivores. Malabar civet, a highly endangered species, the jungle, rusty-spotted, fishing and leopard cats, three varieties of otters and the Ratel are the other animals found in the Western Ghats.

Ms. Divya Mudappa of Wildlife Institute of India and Mr. P. Jeganathan of Bombay Natural History Society, have authored the book. Though several scientific papers have been published in journals, there has not been much effort to cover the subject in Tamil, as comprehensively as the present work.

Like other animals, several myths surround these small carnivores also. For example, bodies of these animals are believed to have aphrodisiac qualities for which they are hunted in large number. Compared to other forest areas in the country, the Western Ghats are a safe haven for these small animals, as many are not aware of their presence in the region, according to the researchers.

It is common to see these animals dying in sanctuaries due to movement of vehicles. There is no clear information about the kind of disturbance these animals face from human beings. Common palm civet and the mongoose can acclimatise themselves well to the changing habitat conditions, but Malabar civet, brown or Jerdon's palm civet and Nilgiri marten live in places which is conducive to them.

``Conservation could be achieved successfully with the co-operation from people and only for this purpose, the book has been published in Tamil'', the authors say.

The publication is the outcome of a collective endeavour of the Wildlife Institute of India and Wildlife Conservation Society.

-By P. Oppili