11 January 2006

Trying to catch up

The last (and only) email I sent out to friends and family was pictures from town...the mad mad city life in India. So now is the time to show a bit of the Biligiri Ranganaswami Temple Wildlife Reserve, or the BR Hills for short, about 80 km SW of Mysore, in the state of Karnataka, where I've been spending the majority of my time.

When I say I'm working in the forests of southern India, most would envision a hot and humid jungle. (As a biologist, I have to state that while the word "jungle" does get the imagination firing, science has long abandoned it for terms like "rain forest" or "humid tropical forest"). Actually, where I'm working much of the forest is nothing like the "jungle" one would tend to picture.

(dry deciduous forest)

The forests of the BR Hills look closer to temperate woodlands than anywhere else I've worked in the tropics. And it feels like a temperate forest...more open and dry with lots of deer and elk...that is until you come across a herd of gaur (Indian Bison) or elephants in the woods or spot fresh tiger tracks in the mud.

(Indian bison-came across it injured one day near our study site...
the next day it had died)

Its really the elephants that we have to worry about. I've wandered near bison herds, seen a leopard close by and listened to a tiger attacking a gaur a 100 meters off in the woods. But one of the problems in the BR Hills is the invasive weed, Lantana camara, which grows in huge thickets in many parts of the reserve. Beyond halting regeneration of forest trees, it makes it very difficult to spot wildlife until you are right on top of them, or in the case of elephants, right underneath them.

(steps leading down from the temple)

But its not all wilderness and encounters with birds and beasts. There's an old Hindu temple built on a hilltop near the field station (hence the name of the reserve) so plenty of people from the surrounding towns come to visit. Even within reserve itself little podus (villages) of the local indigenous people, the Soligas, dot the hillsides. The contrast between here and the cities...the cleanliness, the pace of life, and the beauty of the landscape...is pretty stark. All in all I try to make the trek down to Mysore or Bangalore as little as possible.

More to come soon...

(~5000 ft. elevation...the BR Hills!)


Anonymous said...

Hey, I like this page and I like how you can post a picture with comments next to it.

Tot Ziens,
Christopher Cummings

Anonymous said...

Love the post. Looks like it would translate well to a document. Clay if you should read this.... Pat Ogawa, our ex-neighbor on Mercer Island, travels to Banlagore for business every quarter. I will forward this on to him.
Amore - Aunt Cathy

Anonymous said...

yeah clay
nice way of showing the travels,,but im gunna pick ya on your photography...make me look for more than a couple of seconds,not bagging ya just wow me with some WOW-E images would ya buddy?
Christopher Walken(WOW-E,WOW,WOW-E)

Anonymous said...

Weeve in India .... - nice pics / story ...

Whats the plan / schedule -

Let me know


Anonymous said...


Quiero ver mas fotos de tus viajes. Cuando vas a devolver a los Estatdos Unidos. Hasta la vista, te Vayas bien.

Anonymous said...

Wow Clay!! Beautiful pictures and interesting stories.