Monkey Business in the Forests of Agumbe

Before your imagination runs wild, I went to the forests around Agumbe in the Someswara Wild Life Sanctuary range as part of a volunteering exercise assisting the Forest Department of Karnataka in a monkey census. This was to assess the population status of the endangered lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus) in the rain forests of Kudremukh in Western Ghats. The lion-tailed macaque is classified as endangered because of its highly selective feeding habits, limited range of occupancy (ca. 2500 km2, majorly in three southern Indian states namely Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala), delayed sexual maturity, long interbirth intervals, low population turnover, and a small remaining wild population. The population census is also crucial because comprehensive information on surviving numbers in the fragmented rain forests is not readily available.

The census had faced a roadblock earlier owing to the severe resource crunch, an acute shortage of field staff, in the forest department of Karnataka. The department, however, has found a novel way to tackle its resource crunch. The Forest Department of Karnataka and the Ecotourism Board are enlisting civilians into its fold as volunteers, tapping into the pool of willing enthusiasts to forge long-term partnerships and provide a rare glimpse into the department’s wildlife conservation efforts. Owing to the successful programs conducted earlier to enlist volunteers, the department can afford the lion-tailed macaque survey without any glitch to its existing resources.

agumbe view point
agumbe view point

I attended the Volunteer Training Program (VTP) conducted in May and was certified as a eco-volunteer. When announcement for this census came up, I jumped at it though I was back from a rather long trip only recently. After all, who wants to pass up on an opportunity to trek in the forests everyday (otherwise inaccessible for civilians), looking for an endangered monkey?

a stream inside the forests
a stream inside the forests

So armed with a GPS (the readings of which I botched up a first few days) and a local forest guard named Santosh, I walked in the forests braving leeches, mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies looking for the elusive monkey. I didn’t find one until the last day of the survey. But instead, I breathed fresh air, saw giant malabar squirrels skittering in the high reaches of tall trees and numerous birds. The exercise only lasted for a few hours in the early morning so I had the rest of the day for myself.

Creatures like this are found in and around the forests of Agumbe.

the malabar gliding frog - hibernating
the malabar gliding frog – hibernating
white bellied blye flycatcher
white bellied blye flycatcher
a butterfly
a butterfly
a spider catch
a spider catch
a damsel fly
a damsel fly
another butterfly
another butterfly

We made complete use of the better part of the day by exploring the nearby towns and villages. The fish curry meals at Hebri, the neeru dosa at the Ganesh Hotel at Agumbe, the charming Udupi, malpe’s sunset and the numerous walks we took inside the campsite (Seetanadi Nature Camp) made the entire trip worthwhile. Here are a few images.

the Udupi Krishna temple
the Udupi Krishna temple
the malgudi days house at agumbe
the malgudi days house at agumbe
the jain temple in Kalasa
the jain temple in Kalasa
thatte idli
thatte idli
sunset at malpe beach
sunset at malpe beach
isnt this guy really handsome?
isnt this guy really handsome?
children march along the temple entrance
children march along the temple entrance

You could be part of the Volunteer Training Program (VTP) run by the Forest Department and Ecotourism Board of Karnataka as well. Leave a comment and I will keep you posted on when it happens.

Ruins of Karnataka – Part II – Badami – Aihole – Pattadakal

Badami

The cave temples of Badami are jewels of the past. Beautifully crafted and artistically sculpted, they glow luminously in the sun. The intricate carvings, sometimes incomplete and defaced, are remnants of the spectacular craftmanship of the Chalukya dynasty belonging to the 6th Century AD.

Grain Storage, may be?
Grain Storage, may be?
Lattice Window. Sunlit Window?
Lattice Window. Sunlit Window?
An entrance.
An entrance.
The temples from a distance.
The temples from a distance.
Cave sculptures
Cave sculptures
A tomb.
A tomb.
The sun sets behind the Badami caves.
The sun sets behind the Badami caves.
Partially constructed stonewall.
Partially constructed stonewall.

Aihole

Aihole’s ruins are charming. A cluster of them, the watch towers and other temple ruins, are walled and protected by the ASI and other are habituated by humans and cattle alike. Some of Aihole’s temples are beautiful. The cave temple of Shiva, drilled into a black rock has to be the most elegant of them. There is hardly any living temples in this region.

The renowned Durga temple, Aihole
The renowned Durga temple, Aihole
Partially restored temple
Partially restored temple
Another reconstructed structure
Another reconstructed structure
A cave temple carved into a rock.
A cave temple carved into a rock.
Ariel view of Aihole
Ariel view of Aihole

Pattadakal

The cluster of ruins inside a complex in Pattadakal also houses a living temple, again walled and protected by ASI. The Virupaksha temple of Pattadakal attracts hordes of tourists throughout the year.

Group of monuments, Pattadakal
Group of monuments, Pattadakal
Pattadakal is a world heritage site
Pattadakal is a world heritage site
A cluster of temples
A cluster of temples
Another cluster of temples, Pattadakal
Another cluster of temples, Pattadakal

Among the other ruins of Karnataka, the famed Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur is high on my wishlist. I hope to visit Bijapur someday.

Have you been to any of these places? Do leave a comment and let me know.