Palni Hills visit… ever so briefly
Snapshots from a fleeting visit to the Palni Hillss in April:
(Above) This ladyslipper orchid (Paphiopedilium druryi) is arguably one of the rarest flowers in the Western Ghats. It is an amazing example of intriguing biogeography, since it is isolated from other members of the genus by 2,000 km or so of land and sea! I trekked all over Agasthyamalai looking for it on three occasions. Here it is in bloom finally! Refer to S. Theodore Baskaran’s Hindu article for an excellent description of the orchid’s discovery and natural history.
(Above) Gaur (Bos gaurus) have taken up residence in the township of Kodaikanal. A herd of eight or these large bovines has been living within the township (in Bombay Shola) for several months now! This contrasts sharply with the 1980s when we considered ourselves fortunate to see them in the outer Palni hills and there were whispers of occasional poaching.
These sorts of warning signs have now become a common sight in Kodai! The presence of gaur in Bombay Shola, as well as that of endemic birds and plants is another good reason to better protect this amazing patch of forest that is becoming an ecological island amidst bungalows and new developments.