Western Ghats, India

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Jazz
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Western Ghats, India

Post by Jazz » May 20th, 2017, 10:03 pm

Myself and my partner were lucky enough to spend 2 weeks road tripping around the Western Ghats volunteering with a researcher describing new species. Our target genus was Cnemaspis, a small but surprisingly colourful clade of day geckos. We were there in November, which is the off season for India.

Unfortunately our trip didn't quite go to plan as were were refused entry to most national parks because we were Western and the correct permissions hadn't been arranged. We did get a couple of days of herping in at the end though and found quite a number of our India targets.

We also did find a number of Cnemaspis which look promising to be a new species (not hard in the Western Ghats).

You probably aren't supposed to say this but all up I found India to be an extremely frustrating country to travel to. I enjoyed it the least out of the countries we were able to visit on our 3 months herping/volunteering overseas. I'm keen to hear of other peoples experiences who have traveled through this area.

We did manage to meet some amazing locals though who were extremely hospitable and really made the trip worth it!

Anyway here's some photos.

ImageCnemaspis sp. by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr
Our target genus.

Our first stop was Ooty, a picturesque (but absolutely freezing) town in the mountains of the Nilgiris. We met up with a local, Nitesh, who was kind enough to show us around.

ImageHorsfield's Spiny Lizard (Salea horsfieldii) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageNyctibatrachus major by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageCross-backed bush frog (Raorchestes signatus) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageFemale cross backed bush frog (Raorchestes signatus) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

We did a bit more driving around the Western Ghats, being denied entry to various areas so I'll skip ahead to Amboli.

ImageKerala wart frog (Fejervarya keralensis) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr
Except for this cool guy from Silent Valley.

ImageMalabar pitviper (Trimeresurus malabaricus) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageAsian vine snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageMalabar Pit Viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

When we went to photograph the frogs of Amboli we found a large male Gaur standing in the stream. No frogs for us :(

By far my favourite area we visited was the Kaas Plateau.

ImageSaw scale viper (Echis carinatus) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageIndian chameleon (Chamaeleo zeylanicus) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageSpectacled cobra (Naja naja) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageGreen Keelback (Macropisthodon plumbicolor) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageRed sand boa (Eryx johnii) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageBamboo pit viper (Trimeresurus gramineus) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

ImageTrinket snake (Coelognathus helena) by Jasmine Vink, on Flickr

In the end we did find some cool species but I think our next trip to India will be on our own terms :)

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John Martin
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Re: Western Ghats, India

Post by John Martin » May 21st, 2017, 12:43 am

Nice pics of some cool herps, looks like you did well considering. Sorry to hear of your bureaucratic hindrances.

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Paul Freed
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Re: Western Ghats, India

Post by Paul Freed » May 21st, 2017, 9:37 am

Outstanding photos, Jasmine! Yes, the Western Ghats is an amazing place especially for amphibians and reptiles. I spent three weeks there (in 2014) and was fortunate to see numerous species of amphibians and reptiles (approximately 80 species). Knowing that the region is a bit difficult to get around, I had arranged a guide (a herp specialist) to make all the necessary arrangements far in advance (six months) of the trip. Doing so allowed us into all the National Parks without hassles. That in turn yielded us a large diversity of herps . I also spent some time in and around Ooty, as well as Agumbe and a few other places. I timed the trip to coincide with the onset of the monsoon rains (late May/early June) which is one of the reasons for the high number of species we found. The other reason was having a local guide. Although somewhat pricey, it made all the difference in getting around efficiently and safely and without problems. And since our guide was a herpetologist, he was able to pinpoint specific target species in each location. I would recommend getting such a guide to anyone planning a trip to this incredibly herp-rich region.
-Paul

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Jazz
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Re: Western Ghats, India

Post by Jazz » May 21st, 2017, 3:25 pm

John Martin wrote:Nice pics of some cool herps, looks like you did well considering. Sorry to hear of your bureaucratic hindrances.
Thanks John! Bureaucracy is a frustrating aspect of that part of the world!
Paul Freed wrote:Outstanding photos, Jasmine! Yes, the Western Ghats is an amazing place especially for amphibians and reptiles. I spent three weeks there (in 2014) and was fortunate to see numerous species of amphibians and reptiles (approximately 80 species). Knowing that the region is a bit difficult to get around, I had arranged a guide (a herp specialist) to make all the necessary arrangements far in advance (six months) of the trip. Doing so allowed us into all the National Parks without hassles. That in turn yielded us a large diversity of herps . I also spent some time in and around Ooty, as well as Agumbe and a few other places. I timed the trip to coincide with the onset of the monsoon rains (late May/early June) which is one of the reasons for the high number of species we found. The other reason was having a local guide. Although somewhat pricey, it made all the difference in getting around efficiently and safely and without problems. And since our guide was a herpetologist, he was able to pinpoint specific target species in each location. I would recommend getting such a guide to anyone planning a trip to this incredibly herp-rich region.
-Paul
Sounds like you had a great trip Paul! Unfortunately we had to time ours during the off season because of other destinations on our overall trip (Madagascar and Borneo). In a similar scenario, our researcher was also supposed to organise all of the required permissions but his permits had expired.
To be honest I personally really don't like using guides. This trip was for volunteering so we had locals with us acting as guides. As a general rule though I get a lot more satisfaction out of doing my own research and finding animals myself. Of course there are exceptions, especially in places where they require you to have a guide to access an area.
I understand everyone's different though and a lot of people would just rather have the peace of mind of finding bulk species with a guide and there's nothing wrong with that :)

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: Western Ghats, India

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » May 22nd, 2017, 10:34 am

Your photos are (again) so nice! Too bad it's no picnic to herp there, 'cause I'll just have to go there someday myself......

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tomharten
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Re: Western Ghats, India

Post by tomharten » May 22nd, 2017, 10:57 am

I'm heading to India in a little over a month for an educational exchange program. Unfortunately, the organizing group has been a little sketchy on specific details, beyond our ports of entry and departure (Bangalore and Delhi) I'm not even sure of the specific region that I'll be spending most of my time.

I'm hoping to get out a little bit during any down time that we get during the program to herp and to do some birding. Your fantastic photos got me stoked for the trip! If I come across a cobra it would be a thrill of a lifetime.

Thanks for your post!

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Ribbit
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Re: Western Ghats, India

Post by Ribbit » May 22nd, 2017, 2:06 pm

Amazing photos as always. That Salea horsfieldii is a wonder. I also am particularly fond of the eyes of the Raorchestes signatus.

John

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Chaitanya
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Re: Western Ghats, India

Post by Chaitanya » May 23rd, 2017, 1:21 am

tomharten wrote:I'm heading to India in a little over a month for an educational exchange program. Unfortunately, the organizing group has been a little sketchy on specific details, beyond our ports of entry and departure (Bangalore and Delhi) I'm not even sure of the specific region that I'll be spending most of my time.

I'm hoping to get out a little bit during any down time that we get during the program to herp and to do some birding. Your fantastic photos got me stoked for the trip! If I come across a cobra it would be a thrill of a lifetime.

Thanks for your post!
In next 1-2 weeks monsoons will be hitting India. As for herping its will be fruitful but you can forget about birding in western ghats(GaneshGudi, Agumbe, Thattekad WLS and Ooty are the best spots in Southern ghats for birding but birding season starts from October) during monsoons. Only option will be going to Foothills of himalayas(Chopta, Sattal in Tungnath region of Uttarakhand near Delhi) before late august -early sept timeframe. For herping near Bangalore, I can send you contacts of herpers from Bangalore whom you can join on weekends. Also I would highly recommend you carry good leech socks as it rains leeches and you have to be prepared to remove 100s of leeches from your body. Also tiger reserves are closed off for tourists during monsoons.

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Jazz
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Re: Western Ghats, India

Post by Jazz » May 23rd, 2017, 10:11 pm

Jeroen Speybroeck wrote:Your photos are (again) so nice! Too bad it's no picnic to herp there, 'cause I'll just have to go there someday myself......
Thanks Jeroen! Yeah it definitely requires a bit of planning but I think it would definitely be worth it in the monsoon :)
tomharten wrote:I'm heading to India in a little over a month for an educational exchange program. Unfortunately, the organizing group has been a little sketchy on specific details, beyond our ports of entry and departure (Bangalore and Delhi) I'm not even sure of the specific region that I'll be spending most of my time.

I'm hoping to get out a little bit during any down time that we get during the program to herp and to do some birding. Your fantastic photos got me stoked for the trip! If I come across a cobra it would be a thrill of a lifetime.

Thanks for your post!
That sounds a little bit dodgy, I hope it all works out for you. A cobra shouldn't be too much too ask for at this time of year! Even if you get a couple of days off you should be able to find a few things. We were averaging 4 new snakes a day during the off season.
Ribbit wrote:Amazing photos as always. That Salea horsfieldii is a wonder. I also am particularly fond of the eyes of the Raorchestes signatus.

John
Thanks John! The Salea was a very unique looking agamid and one of my favourites. The signatus were stunning!

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Porter
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Re: Western Ghats, India

Post by Porter » May 23rd, 2017, 10:50 pm

Jazz wrote:You probably aren't supposed to say this but all up I found India to be an extremely frustrating country to travel to.
I think it's probably ok to say it as long as it's not in their language ;)

The eyes on those Bush Frogs look cool! Really like the cobra and keelback shots :thumb:

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