Ecologist - Writer - Photographer

India: the Colours of Kerala

Temple by Peechi Dam: Silhouette
I made my first trip to India and the Asian continent with the brief, alongside colleague Dr. David Smith (Veterinary Nursing), of networking on behalf of Edinburgh Napier University and making contacts of future research and teaching collaboration value for the Animal and Plant Sciences Subject Group. We split our time between visiting campuses and clinics of the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, and forest/wildlife conservation and management units in the Kerala region (south-west India).

India and Kerala have amazing wild places and wildlife; Indian elephant, gaur, giant grizzled squirrel, and tiger, to name just a few species. Sadly, we did not have the time to seek them out; as our visit was short and our remit required spending our time meeting the relevant contacts – mainly in town offices. Nevertheless, I still explored with my camera when the opportunity arose. It was a stimulating visit, and throughout I was struck by the vibrancy of Kerala. Colours, noise, busy-ness, people.

We gained insight into the conservation and management issues of the region. Human-wildlife conflict is the principal concern. India has a a high and increasing human population density. This means that wildlife is losing habitat and that habitat is becoming increasingly fragmented. In such circumstances, large mammals are usually the most threatened (the first to suffer) and often the most threatening to humans. Crop raiding by Indian Elephant, and livestock predation by tiger are major worries to people around protected areas. Both these large mammals also, on occasion, kill people. In the western world, 'wildlife management' usually means population control (cull and/or neuter) but killing of wild animals is mostly unacceptable to the Indian culture, including individual animals that pose a persistent threat to the livelihoods and lives of rural populations. Managing problem-animals is therefore a major challenge.

My thanks go, in particular, to the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Project Tiger and the Kottayam Wildlife Circle, Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department, Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University who all provided a warm welcome and were both impressive and informative in sharing their knowledge and experience with us.

A Kerala gallery of images will post shortly. For now, the images below provide a flavour of the trip.

Colours of Kerala I

Colours of Kerala I

Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary

Dave Smith with members of the Peechi-Vazhani Wildlife Sanctuary staff.

Kerala Forest Research Institute

Dave Smith at the Kerala Forest Research Institute.

Colours of Kerala II

Colours of Kerala II

To learn more about the aforementioned organisations, and more, click on the links below.

Kerala Forest Research Institute

Periyar Tiger Reserve

Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University

Asian Nature Conservation Foundation - Action Plan for the Mitigation of Human-Elephant Conflict in India

Why are India's tigers killing humans? (BBC News)