Project Croak
calotes versicolor garden lizard feeding eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar

The hot, dry, wonderful savannahs of India: a photo-essay

An insight into the understudied, little-known hot savannahs of India. These landscapes are home to some incredible forms of life with unique adaptations to the distinct environmental conditions of the region.

The Department of Atomic Energy recently got in-principle approval to allow for survey and exploration of uranium within the Amrabad Tiger Reserve. This is one of the largest tiger reserves in the country and is home to not only the tiger but also, some of the most incredible life-forms on the planet, here is a brief overview:

praying mantis eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
A praying mantis camouflaged against the bark of a tree
sitana fan throated lizard eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
A fan-throated lizard boldly perched on an outcrop- they extend a fold of skin on the underside of their neck in order to attract mates and mark their territories. They are very bold, refusing to move even when I was just 3cm away!
wild dog dhole eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
Leela, an exceptionally-talented field assistant from the Chenchu community watches a wild dog watch him
eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
The green is representative of where there is the most water. The hills are made of layers of sedimentary rock called shale.
praying mantis displaying eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
Another smaller species of praying mantis displaying its bright forearms probably to attract mates or mark its territory.
invertebrate eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
An insect that I do not know the name of yet. Please let me know if anyone has any leads! Interesting, a lot of insects here possess similar patterns- most likely an example of convergent evolution; that is, independently converging to a similar structure best suited to the environment that they exist in. Here, this blotched, irregular grey, brown and dust coloured colouration would be a great camouflage.
savannah fly eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
river ravine eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
A sea of green in these ravines formed due to years of erosion by natural forces such as the sun, wind and rain.
fire deciduous forest burning smoke eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
Fire. There are a bunch of opinions on the impact and influence of fire in these ecosystems- with some scientists’ work suggesting that fire is an essential phenomenon to these dry deciduous ecosystems which have been shaped by years of fire while others, especially forest managers and officials are of the opinion that it is a human-created process causing detriment to the landscape.
fire deciduous forest burning smoke eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
The undergrowth burned off in the fire
seed predation eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
An Indian giant squirrel gnawing on the thick outer layer of seeds to reach the nutritious oily seed inside. This is Terminalia bellerica, a fruit extensively used in Ayurvedic medicine- it tastes delicious too!
leopard eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
Apex predators in the savannah
sloth bear eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
Another large mammal inhabiting the landscape, the sloth bear
pterocarpus marsupium eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
Pterocarpus marsupium: a wind-dispersed seed.
porcupine poop seed disperser eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
Porcupine-dispersed seeds of Limonia crenulata. What better way to kickstart your life than wrapped in a packet of nutritious shit?!
chenchu hut appapur eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
The hut of a Chenchu community at Appapur, Telangana
calotes versicolor garden lizard feeding eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
Calotes versicolor chomping on an invertebrate
calotes versicolor garden lizard feeding eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
calotes versicolor garden lizard feeding eastern ghats telangana amrabad tiger reserve arjun kamdar
Some of the whackiest animal behaviour that I have observed- termites banging their heads to create this loud rattling sounds! Some theories suggest that this is to communicate the presence of a threat to their peers.

You can read more about the work done in these landscapes by Imran Siddiqui and the team at the Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society here.
Additionally, Sachin is studying on seed dispersal by mammals, more on Shashank Ongole working on the long-term ecological monitoring plots with Mahesh Sankaran’s lab can be found here. The dynamics of fire and the savannahs can be understood through Jayashree Ratnam’s work.

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