Valparai is a great place for the endemic mammals, that is, the ones that are found only in this area. “Malabar” is the ancient name for Kerala, and this name is attached to many of the birds and animals found here. (Eg. Malabar Trogon, Malabar Whistling Thrush, and so on.)
And just outside Valparai town (you have to come through it if you are driving down from Coimbatore) is the Puthuthottam Tea Estate area, which has fragments of the original forest here and there…and this area is a virtual Noah’s ark for sightings!
Well, as soon as we entered the Puthuthottam (Puthu Thottam =”new garden” in Tamizh and probably also MaLayALam) area, the sight of this MALABAR GIANT SQUIRREL stopped us in our tracks. Hurriedly, we stopped the Qualis in which we were travelling, and tumbled out with our cameras in haste….
But the squirrel tarried long enough in the boughs of the tamarind tree for us to get a few closeups, too…
Here's a video of the animal having fun chasing breakfast in the tree!
The other animal which the Puthuthottam area, especially, is a great place for, is the LION-TAILED MACAQUES....
At other places, like Periyar, these animals are very difficult to sight, as they are almost entirely arboreal; but here they are used to human beings and are a great subject for photography, too.
Here's my video of one great film star, posing comfortably for us on a tree-stump (making me wonder if his goolies are not being impaled) after shaking his head to ensure that his hair do is just perfect!
Why they are called lion-TAILED is beyond me, when they are so much more obviously lion-FACED! But that's typical of nomenclature in the bird and animal kingdom I suppose...
We saw a couple of BARKING DEER in the tree plantations; here's one in the distance:
The squirrels in the Valparai area look rather different from the ones we have here. Their faces are considerably more rufous, but I don't know whether they are different, or just a slight difference...
On the way to Valparai, we hadn't seen any NILGIRI TAHR at all. was rather surprised when we said this. "Oh, they are generally standing around on the hairpin bends!" he said. So on the way back, I decided not to waste too much time in trying to get a shot of the Malabar Whistling Thrush, and hoped that we would see the Tahr. And sure enough, as if to validate Kallu's words, one of the Tahr was, indeed, standing on the stone that marked the 13th bend from the beginning of the road!
They are such beautiful creatures, endemic to this area:
It was heartening to see a baby frolicking around, too!
Of course, I cannot close the post without including the mammals that actually made the trip; here are Garima, Ranjeet, Jainy and , all ready to see what arrives next before our eyes:
And that most precious mammal of all, Homo sapiens kmensis, with his camera and lenses:
Will be doing a post on the various places, and flora, in Valparai, too; it will be useful if, one day, you want to visit this wonderful place, too.