For the last four years, two researchers from the city — Anish Pardeshi and Sachin Punekar — have been working on a project, chronicling Amboli’s rich biodiversity. The ongoing project documents flora, fauna, ambhibians, reptiles, fungi and mammals of Amboli, which is a hilly place on the crest-line of Northern Western Ghats in Sindhudurg District of south Maharashtra and an important biodiversity hotspot blessed with verdant valleys, lateritic plateaus, waterfalls and lush green forests. The aim of the project, said Punekar, is to produce a baseline data required for the conservation of Amboli forests and surroundings. The lush green forest canopies and undergrowth, he says, is a treasure house for many newly-described plant and animal taxa. “This area is an important abode for world’s most unique and dwindling flora and fauna,” said Punekar.
“Since this area is having pristine habitat diversity which receives enormous rainfall that supports cryptic biodiversity, it is an important corridor for Royal Bengal Tiger and other major fauna. Considering the myriad biodiversity therein and an important corridor for many taxa, it is necessary to declare Amboli and surroundings as a protected area,” said Punekar, adding that other than documenting data revealed in the research work, the duo has also compiled data related to Amboli’s bio-diversity covered by various people over the last 15-20 years.
The duo worked in close association with Kaka Bhise, who has been working in this field for last 15 years and is president of Biodiversity Management Committee, Amboli. Bhise also established sustainable tourism in Amboli. Revealing more about the project, Pardeshi, who is also the founder member of Malabar Nature Conservation Club in Amboli, said, “Interestingly, we roped in nearly 20 locals of Amboli to work on the project. In the last four years, they have got well-versed with various varieties of flora, fauna, amphibians, reptiles and so on. This enabled them to make a living as nature guides through nature trails and share knowledge with the visitors. Another unique thing about this research project is that for the first time camera-trapping technique was used to document mammals of Amboli.”
He added that 37 species of mammals were recorded, which also included four endangered, six vulnerable and one near-threatened species of mammals. The mammals recorded included leopard, sloth bear, barking deer, sambar and so on. Meanwhile, the bird survey recorded 215 bird species, which included 11 endemic species to Western Ghats and 32 migratory species. The project also documented microhabitats of amphibians, such as where they lay their eggs, where they live, feed and so on. “The mud, puddles, ponds and even leaves are important for amphibians,” added Pardeshi.