Bio-diversity documentation

A list of notable fauna observed by a French environmentalist during a one day visit to Sarang hills. This shows the tip of the ice berg. We invite interested people to volunteer and help us in documenting the entire flora and fauna of Sarang’s regenerated watershed area and natural farm.

Amphibians Malabar flying frog Rhacophorus malabaricus 12 individus
Amphibians Bronzed frog Hylarana temporalis 1 individu
Amphibians Ornate Narrow-mouthed Frog Microhyla ornata 2 individus
Amphibians Beddome’s Toad Bufo beddomii 2 individus
Bird Common Flameback Dinopium javanense 4 individus
Bird White cheeked Barbet Megalaima viridis 2 individus
Bird Malabar grey Hornbill Ocyceros griseus 6  individus
Bird Common Hoopoe Upupa epops 1 individu heard
Bird Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus severals individus
Bird Green bee-eater Merops orientalis 1 individu
Bird Greater Coucal Centropus sinensis severals individus
Bird Asian fairy Bluebird Irena puella severals individus
Bird Golden fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons 2 individus
Bird Rufous Treepie Dendrocitta vagabunda severals individus
Bird Large-billed Crow Corvus macrorhynchos severals individus
Bird Black Drongo Dicrurus macrocercus 1 individu
Bird Red-whiskered Bulbul Pycnonotus jocosus severals individus
Bird Red-vented Bulbul Pycnonotus cafer severals individus
Bird Yellow-browed Bulbul Acritillas indica 2 individus
Bird Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii 1 individu
Bird Purple-rumped Sunbird Leptocoma zeylonica 6 individus
Bird Purple Sunbird Cinnyris asiaticus 1 individu
Mammal Bonnet Macaque Macaca radiata 2 families
Mammal Wild boar Sus scrofa Tracks


Biodiversity Conservation

In 1982, Gopalakrishnan and Vijayalekshmi came to work as government teachers in Attappady region in Kerala, India. Attappady was once home to dense rain forests just like it’s neighbour, the evergreen Silent Valley, but it had been rendered arid by man’s over consuming activities. Seeing the man-made desert around them, they realized that watershed management, biodiversity conservation and natural farming were essential to the education system they envisaged. With this realization they searched high and low in Attappady for a suitable place where they could started their experiments on land. Their search was for a micro watershed area with degraded land without easy access from outside. They were also looking for potential to harness wind energy in the future.

The land that they finally settled on was situated at about 800 m height on the slopes of three hillocks. It had been abandoned because due to denudation and erosion agriculture was impossible. The only source of water was drying up.

Poachers caught red handed. Real field experience is the highlight of our presentations

Poachers were photographed so as to threat them. Camera was a scary thing at that time

Regeneration of the water source and ‘cultivation of soil’ became the prime priority. All the family’s energies were channeled towards this. Several percolation pits were dug throughout the land to retain the rain water in the ground. Check dams were built to restrain the run-off of rain water. Bamboo was planted to prevent gully formation. The land was mulched using available biomass. The neighbours were asked not to allow livestock to graze on their land, explaining to them the reason for such a request. The family guarded the land from poachers many of whom were caught red-handed and scared off. They had to face another problem, man-made forest fires. It was almost a custom in the region to put fires during festivals and during the summer. Many a times they had to run out in pitch dark to put out fires. The Sarang family went to all corners of Attappady with slide shows raising awareness about the harms of forest fires. They also planted a live fire boundary on the land, a boundary of agave plants.

All these efforts slowly bore fruit. Grass became more abundant in the beginning. Later the grass gave way to small shrubs and trees. Gopalakrishnan and Vijayalekshmi did not plant more than half a dozen trees on their farm and once there was no human or animal interference, forests started growing naturally. Birds and wind helped to spread the seeds. The seeds sprouted and grew under the protection of the shrubs and small trees.

The water table of the valley rose as a result of retention of rain water by percolation pits, check dams, mulching, bamboo plugging and afforestation. Six years later the dead spring was reborn!

Water lillies grow in the valley where it was just dust in 1983

Water lillies grow in the valley where it was just dust in 1983

Today, thick deciduous forest covers much of Sarang. Dry leaves form a thick forest floor and prevent erosion and enhance percolation. Below this mulch, soft fertile soil is being naturally rebuilt. Presence of weeds like lantana and eupatorium, still rampant in neighbouring farms, almost vanished.

Along the water channel, a riparian forest began to grow and even moss thrived in the valley. Many evergreen species put in their appearance. It was also noticed that species that had been long unseen were coming back to the area. This is true about Rhacophorus Malabaricus, an evergreen frog species and a particular fern plant growing in the valleys that had vanished from that area 13 years previously.

The rich biodiversity of the Sarang campus has not yet been fully documented and it would be a worthwhile effort to take up this work.

Sarang’s campus has been developed into a live textbook for Sarang’s dynamic curriculum. Here our children open their minds, eyes and hearts to nature’s wonders and live in tandem with it’s rhythm. The most important lesson they learn here is that man need not fight with nature in the name of development. Strengthened with these lessons let our children work towards cultivating sustainable energy from wind and water just as soil and water were cultivated.