Status and Distribution of Malabar Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica in Western Ghats of Maharashtra, India



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6.4 Thane District




Location

19010’N-20’ N;720 50’E- 730 15’E

Areas

Thane Wildlife, Malshej Ghats, Tansa WLS, Tokwade Forests

Average Elevation

200 to 700 masl

Forest Type

Moist mixed deciduous with teak plantations

Protected Status

SGNP and Tansa are PA and rest all RF

Within Thane District, there are 4 divisions’ viz., Dhanu, Jawahar, Shahapur, and Thane Wildlife. Giant squirrels are not reported from Dhanu, Jawahar and Shahapur divisions mainly because they support drier forests with teak plantations (Borges et al 1998). Within Thane Division, exploratory visits were made around forests of Badlapur, Mandvi, Murbad and Kalyan Ranges. The forests were dry, scrubby and degraded and not found to for giant squirrels.


There is no record of giant squirrels from SGNP, Tungareshwar and nearby forests. This was confirmed with Forest officers of SGNP and naturalists from Mumbai also. There are no giant squirrels now in Tansa Wildlife sanctuary but some old villagers mentioned seeing it around mid-1970s around the forests of Vaitarna lake.
Forests on the hills of Tokwade, Nagjhurim Dareghat, Ramdeoli and Madrai areas have presence of giant squirrels. Nane Ghat, Ambe Rai, Malshej Ghats are in relatively undisturbed conditions and support giant squirrels.
Table 6.4: Count of R. indica in Malshej Ghat in 1992 and 2012





Total Effort (km)

Sightings

Calls

Nest (Old + New)

Borges et al (1998)

NA

6

NA

46

This survey

30

2

-

67


Table 6.5: Encounter Rate of R.indica in Malshej Ghats in Thane Division


Sighting

Calls

New Nest

Old Nests

0.05(0.04)

0

0.98(0.29)

1.28(0.18)

Figure in parentheses represent standard error.

6.5 Pune District




Location

18010’N-190 25’ N;730 20’E- 730 50’E

Areas

Bhimashankar Sanctuary, Pune, Junnar and Bhor Divisions

Average Elevation

650 to 902 masl

Forest Type

Moist mixed deciduous with teak in the valleys, semi-evergreen, subtropical broad-leaved

Protected Status

Except Bhimashankar all are Reserved Forests


Topography and Vegetation: The region is located towards eastern slopes of Western Ghats Range and includes river valleys of Ghod, Bhima, Mulshi, Mutha, Amba and Andhara and also catchments of Panshet, Khadakwasla, Shirota, Varasgaon, Bhira lakes. The area has semi -evergreen to moist deciduous forests with patches of dry deciduous patches including many tropical thorn forest and grasslands. Due to many disturbances in the near past many patches are secondary in nature and dominated by scrub forests. The major tree species include Mangifera, Terminalia, Syzigium, Ficus etc.
Status of R. indica in Pune Division: Within Pune Forest Division, survey was carried out in Wadgaon Range (Pimpri, Dangergaon, Tungi, Lohagarh), Shirota Range (Kunewadi vill, Pimpri, Kashakule windmill, Rajmachi), Paud range (Tamhini, Dhaukhind, Plus valley, Deepdhara, Temgharh vill), Malgaon Range (Lavasa, Khandala, Lonavala).
In last 10 years, there has been a spurt in developmental activities in this region in the form of luxury townships, resorts, private farmhouses, and hotels. Lavasa and Amby valley are mega-township projects developed by acquiring forest lands. The dynamiting of roads, increased vehicular traffic, sound pollution and air pollution has disturbed the once serene ecosystem in the area. Besides, there are large to small scale projects for highways, railways, mining leases, windmills, irrigation canals, hydro-electricity and commercial tourism which has led to substantial fragmentation of habitat. Rajmachi area is also witnessing increased tourist inflow because of the new motor able road.
Another serious concern in Pune Division is constructions on the hill tops. Presence of JCB earth-movers, and rock crushing machines on hill tops for removal of rocks and debris indicates initiation of concrete constructions on hills. Labour camps are established for working in the sites has led to an increase in lopping, firewood collection in the area. Gradually the intact and inaccessible forests of the slopes are coming under the axe of construction pressures.


Upcoming Resort and tree cutting on Forest Land at Kalika Matha Pune Division


Evangeline Arulmalar
The villages in the region are dominated by Katkari communities though other communities like Maratha, Dhangar, and Thakurs are also present. The locals are well-known for hunting small games. The local people are hired by tourists to supply fresh meat from the forest. There is substantial trade for meat to major cities of Lonavala, Mumbai and Pune from this region. Hunting of birds, mammals and giant squirrels is reported from Lonavala, Tamhini and Mulshi region. There is information on squirrel trade from this area. The squirrels are captured for keeping as pets in luxury resorts in Mumbai and Lonavala (TRAFFIC Office, pers.comm).

Forest Fire on the the boundary of Ajjiwali Sacred Grove, Paud



Evangeline Arulmalar

Forest areas around Tamhini Ghat are relatively better preserved but the area has problems of increased tourism, lopping and hunting. Forests in Wadgaon are largely undistributed except for signs of livestock grazing. However there are reports of hunting of squirrels in this area by stoning of nests and killing with catapults (Mali et al.1998).


Table 6.5: Count of R. indica in Pune Division in 1992 and 2012





Total Effort (km)

Sightings

Calls

Nest (Old + New)

Borges et al (1998)

NA

-

NA

5

This survey

115

14

4

464

Data from very few areas in Pune Division was available in Borges et al
Table 6.6: Encounter Rate of R. indica Squirrel in Pune Division


Ranges

Sighting

Calls

New Nest

Old Nests

Khanapur

0.30 (0.25)

0.03 (0.03)

1.01(0.66)

0.06(0.06)

Paud

0.13(0.12)

0

4.09(1.55)

1.31(0.62)

Shirota

0.06(0.05)

0.06(0.04)

4.57(1.17)

1.99(0.53)

Wadagaon

0.69(0.56)

0

2.57(1.01)

0.63(0.33)

Figure in parentheses represent standard error.
Junnar Division
Topography and Vegetation: The division lies along the eastern boundary of the Western Ghats crest-line. The area supports sub-tropical montane broard-leaved type forests comprising of Memecylon-Syzygium-Actinodaphne, Bridelia-Syzygium-Terminalia-Ficus and Tectona-Lagerstroemia-Terminalia species. There are eight ranges within the division namely Junnar, Otur, Narayangaon, Manchar, Ghodegaon, Rajgurunagar, Chakan and Shirur. Tall forests are present mainly in Junnar, Khed and Otur ranges while the remaining areas support scrub open forests.

Status of R. indica in Junnar Division: Junnar and Khed Ranges had more signs of squirrel presence than Otur Range. In Phlagun-Gavan and Bikerode, tall forests are present in a 2 km narrow stretch on higher slopes of the hill. Many new nests were seen in these forests and unfortunately many people were seen cutting trees in this area. Khutadwara and Hatveez area in Junnar Range had patchy forests with grasslands and trees. Human presence was seen all over the area. Relatively lower squirrel presence was observed from this area. Amboli in Junnar Range had many privately owned forests. The area had high intensity of human use as signs of NTFP collection, firewood collection and livestock grazing was recorded from everywhere. No sign of squirrel presence was recorded from the area. The forests in Khed Range are dense and thick. There are many windmills on the plateau but overall human activity and disturbance was much less in the forests. 53 new nests and 2 individuals were seen in this region. Vandre in Khed Range is located near southern boundary of Bhimashankar where windmills are installed. Nests of squirrels were observed below the windmill location. There is a proposal for building a highway around this region. In Kohlewadi and Kaudmali of Otur Range, no signs of squirrels were observed. Tree felling was observed in this area. Two nests and two individuals were recorded from a small sacred grove on the Otur hill.
Table 6.7: Count of R.indica in Junnar Division in 1992 and 2012





Total Effort (km)

Sightings

Calls

Nest (Old + New)

Borges et al (1998)

NA

10

NA

124

This survey

59.15

14

27

371



Table 6.8: Encounter Rates of R.indica in Junnar Division


Ranges

Sighting

Calls

New Nest

Old Nests

Junnar

0.25 (0.09)

0.20 (0.11)

4.87(2.11)

2.55(0.05)

Khed

0.21(0.01)

0.64

6.50 (1.55)

4.93(0.52)

Otur

0.07(0.06)

0.75(0.54)

4.14(1.34)

1.35(0.15)

Figures in parentheses represent standard error.

Bhor Division



Topography and Vegetation: Undulating terrain with steep slopes and plateaus of Raireshwar mark Bhor sub-division. The forests are in advance stage of degradation. In small patches one can still see tall trees of Randia, Syzygium, Mangifera, Terminalia, Actinodaphne hookeri and luxurious growth of Carissa species. Most areas have heavy canopy breaks and habitat fragmentation. Around Raireshwar plateau, ferns and epiphytes were recorded. This area receives high rainfall and is very windy. Plantations of Grewelia robusta (Silver Oak) and Actinodaphne were seen in most areas.
Status of R. indica in Bhor
Giant squirrels were not encountered in Bhor sub-division. However, villagers in the Raireshwar temple area reported having sighted giant squirrels 10 years ago when the forests were tall and contiguous. There is a serious problem of forest fire in the area. In Mhalay forest of Velvand round in Rajgarh, forest guards informed that during 1960-70, the forests in this region were clear-felled and burnt for shifting cultivation for millet crop by local people. The forests are largely secondary forests. There is a proposal for dam construction around Bhor region and many private resorts are coming up in the area. Bhor sub-division has moist forests as seen by presence of ferns in the understory but the quality of habitat is totally degraded due to biotic pressures and does not support giant squirrels.
Patchy and degraded forests of Bhor sub-division, Pune


Evangeline Arulmalar

Remnants of Closed Canopy forests

Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary
Topography and vegetation: Bhimashankar WLS lies in the northern part of Maharashtra Western Ghats. Situated in the crest of main Sahyadri range and includes steep terraced western slopes running in to Konkan region and spurs running gradually into the eastern plains. The sanctuary displays a range of different habitat such as steep slopes, plateaus, uplands, gorges, valleys and cliffs. In the heart of the sanctuary is an old temple of Shiva at the origin of Bhima River.
Typical vegetation shows semi-evergreen, moist deciduous and grassy forest. A few uncommon specie of Western Ghats such as Memecylon umbellatum, Atlantia racemosa, Xantolis tomentosa are seen here. Carvia callosa is wide spread here (Ghate et al. 1994).Bhimashankar has two Ranges, namely Bhima 1(Slope and Plains in Konkan side) and Bhima 2 (Crestline forests of Bhimashankar, Ahupe, Bhorgiri and Kondwal).There are 8 villages inside Bhimashankar WLS. People cultivate rice, wheat and corn. The main community is Mahadev Koli and there are a few settlements of Thakkar and Agri.
Giant Squirrel habitat in Bhimashankar


Jayant Kulkarni
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