The hot, dry, wonderful savannahs of India: a photo-essay
The Department of Atomic Energy recently got in-principle approval to allow for survey and exploration of uranium within the Amrabad Tiger Reserve. This is one of the largest tiger reserves in the country and is home to not only the tiger but also, some of the most incredible life-forms on the planet, here is a brief overview:
A praying mantis camouflaged against the bark of a tree
A fan-throated lizard boldly perched on an outcrop- they extend a fold of skin on the underside of their neck in order to attract mates and mark their territories. They are very bold, refusing to move even when I was just 3cm away!
Leela, an exceptionally-talented field assistant from the Chenchu community watches a wild dog watch him
The green is representative of where there is the most water. The hills are made of layers of sedimentary rock called shale.
Another smaller species of praying mantis displaying its bright forearms probably to attract mates or mark its territory.
An insect that I do not know the name of yet. Please let me know if anyone has any leads! Interesting, a lot of insects here possess similar patterns- most likely an example of convergent evolution; that is, independently converging to a similar structure best suited to the environment that they exist in. Here, this blotched, irregular grey, brown and dust coloured colouration would be a great camouflage.
A sea of green in these ravines formed due to years of erosion by natural forces such as the sun, wind and rain.
Fire. There are a bunch of opinions on the impact and influence of fire in these ecosystems- with some scientists’ work suggesting that fire is an essential phenomenon to these dry deciduous ecosystems which have been shaped by years of fire while others, especially forest managers and officials are of the opinion that it is a human-created process causing detriment to the landscape.
The undergrowth burned off in the fire
An Indian giant squirrel gnawing on the thick outer layer of seeds to reach the nutritious oily seed inside. This is Terminalia bellerica, a fruit extensively used in Ayurvedic medicine- it tastes delicious too!
Apex predators in the savannah
Another large mammal inhabiting the landscape, the sloth bear
Pterocarpus marsupium: a wind-dispersed seed.
Porcupine-dispersed seeds of Limonia crenulata. What better way to kickstart your life than wrapped in a packet of nutritious shit?!
The hut of a Chenchu community at Appapur, Telangana
Calotes versicolor chomping on an invertebrate
Some of the whackiest animal behaviour that I have observed- termites banging their heads to create this loud rattling sounds! Some theories suggest that this is to communicate the presence of a threat to their peers.
You can read more about the work done in these landscapes by Imran Siddiqui and the team at the Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society here. Additionally, Sachin is studying on seed dispersal by mammals, more on Shashank Ongole working on the long-term ecological monitoring plots with Mahesh Sankaran’s lab can be found here. The dynamics of fire and the savannahs can be understood through Jayashree Ratnam’s work.