(Click in the image for a larger view)
The Valparai Plateau in Tamil Nadu's Coimbatore district, is unique in many ways. Located in the Anamalai Hill range of the Western Ghats, the plateau is largely owned by private tea and coffee estates. And yet, Valparai is home to a wide variety of endemic and endangered fauna. Rainforest fragments interconnected by tracts passing through agricultural estates provide habitats and corridors for Asian Elephants, Gaurs, Lion-tailed Macaques and small carnivores, while offering nesting spaces to Great Hornbills, Malabar Grey Honrbills, the endemic White-bellied Shortwing, and a variety of herpetofauna and insects.
Commissioned by the Nature Conservation Foundation, I visited Valparai in December 2017 over this project, visiting NCF's field sites, guided by two of my most admired people in ecology- Dr. Divya Mudappa and Dr. TR Shankar Raman. NCF has been doing extensive and exemplary work in the region, spanning a range of projects such as rainforest regeneration, providing a safe passage for elephants, monitoring hornbill nests, and conserving Lion-tailed Macaques. The project gave me a chance not only to witness the landscape in greater detail, but also learn from the two veterans, as well as Dr. M Ananda Kumar, whose work has been instrumental in reducing human-elephant conflict in the region. Read more about NCF's work here.
NCF has a beautiful interpretation centre at Iyerpadi, Valparai, where two of my projects (including this illustration) are up for display. Make sure you visit the centre the next time you're here; not just because it has beautiful artwork and merchandise but also because it's a great place to see the rare Nilgiri Marten!