Saving giant trees in the Western Ghats of India

by Applied Environmental Research Foundation(AERF) Vetted since 2016 Site Visit Verified
Bandipur Giant Tree 1
Bandipur Giant Tree 1

Dear Supporter,

We are excited to share the news about our partnership with JungleScapes- a non-profit working on ecological restoration in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and surrounding region in southern Western Ghats.

Through this partnership , we are especially focusing on scaling up the campaign of saving giant trees in the southern Western Ghats. In the last quarter, AERF team visited the partner organization to understand their work and discuss opportunities to expand the Giant tree campaign. We are of the opinion that partnerships with like minded organizations will play key role in mainstreaming the cause of saving large trees in the Western Ghats. Moreover, considering the sheer expanse of the Western Ghats mountain range, it is imperative to collaborate with other organizations and individuals for spreading the work of conservation. 

During the visit, AERF and JungleScape team identified some 10 large trees in Lokere reserve forest area. The trees have been marked with GPS and survey on social importance of these trees has begun. 

We are sharing pictures of giant trees in Bandipur region and map of these trees. From the map, it will become very clear why we need to push hard for saving the large trees in otherwise ecologically degraded and heavily modified forest landscapes of the Western Ghats.

We are very happy that JungleScapes is keen and committed to saving Giant trees in the southern Western Ghats. 

All this would have been impossible without your continued interest and support to this initiative.

.

Thanks and regards

Jayant Sarnaik

Bandipur Giant Tree 2
Bandipur Giant Tree 2
Bandipur Giant Tree 3
Bandipur Giant Tree 3
Bandipur Giant Tree 4
Bandipur Giant Tree 4
Giant Tree map-Bandipur
Giant Tree map-Bandipur
Antiaris Toxicaria-Giant tree
Antiaris Toxicaria-Giant tree

Dear Supporter,

While we mapped many giant trees to understand biodiversity associated with them , reasons behind their current conservation status and threats posed to their survival in the quarter gone by. what has struck us the most is the interdependence between a giant tree and big frugivorous birds such as hornbills.

The botanical name of this giant tree is Antiaris toxicaria that we came across during our survey in village Devole ghera Prachitgad in Sangameshwar block of Ratnagiri district. Antiaris toxicaria is large tree sparsly distributed in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. This tree has also been recorded in African countries such as Uganda and in South East Asia.

It is believed that leaves, bark and seeds of this tree are toxic so much so that people sleeping under the tree had experienced congestion in their chest. Similarly, some tribes used paste of leaves for hunting birds in South east Asia. Recent discoveries in medicine have provided evidence for the use of its seeds for treatment of diabetes. 

As regards the ecology of this tree, it is an emergent tree that means it competes for light and reaches the canopy very fast in a forest and can grow upto 50 meters. Thus it provides the necessary landing space for big birds and also allow lot of shade loving plants to grow under the canopy. In other words, this tree creates an ecosystem around itself once it reaches its optimal growth stage. The less known and very important part of the story is dependence of this tree on frugivorus birds chiefly Hornbills for its survival. We have documented that fruits of this tree are savoured by all the four species of Hornbills found in the Western Ghats- Indian gray hornbill, Malabar pied hornbill, Malabar grey hornbill and Great hornbill.

We were quite fortunate to photo document all the four hornbills on this particular tree during the fruiting season this year. These birds consume the flesh of the fruits and disperse the seeds as wide as possible depending on the home range in the surrounding landscape. We have noted the saplings of this tree under the nesting site of Great hornbill at one of the locations about 15 Kms from the tree. That establishes this beautiful relationship and mutually supportive co-existence of both the species. 

What is little bit surprising is that there is no mention of this tree as an important source of food for hornbills in scientific literature for India. This once again underlines the importance of on the ground conservation work for saving the giant trees in this case in filling this critical knowledge gap.

We are now in process of rewarding the community members for conserving this magnificient giant tree.

We believe that you will enjoy reading this story and also the photos taken of the tree and the charismatic birds attached to this report.

We would like to thank you all once again for your continued interest in and support to the giant trees conservation campaign.

Best regards

Antiaris Toxicaria01-Giant tree
Antiaris Toxicaria01-Giant tree
Malabar grey hornbill-seed dispersal agent01
Malabar grey hornbill-seed dispersal agent01
Malabar pied-seed dispersal agent02
Malabar pied-seed dispersal agent02
Antiaris toxicaria-fruits
Antiaris toxicaria-fruits
Great hornbill-dispersal agent03
Great hornbill-dispersal agent03
Protection of giant trees in Village Sangave
Protection of giant trees in Village Sangave

Dear Supporter,

Greetings from AERF!

In the last quarter, AERF field team made some good progress in putting in place a long term measure for protecting 4 large trees in village Sangave. The team after due consultation with local community members erected  barbed wire fence around 4 large trees. Out of these 3 trees are of Terminalia bellirica species and one is Ficus religiosa.

The primary purpose was conserve the undergrowth, understand the divesity of the plants growing under these trees and role of big birds such as Hornbill or other frugivores in dispersal of the seeds of these plants. Till last year , all the small and medium grown plants were grazed or trampled by cattle from the village and there was no other way of saving the regenerated plants. This experiment will help the supporters of this initiative to understand how saving giant trees can contribute to growing and conservation of other plants and the relation of birds and other animals with these giant trees.

All in all we had to spend about USD 600 on barbed wire fencing of the 4 large trees which comes to average USD 150/ giant tree! Now this is what we learn when we actually start working on the ground and understand real challenges of conserving these giants. That we are asking only USD 50 per tree is not the point of discussion here. It is about reporting facts. 

In another village called Kalambaste, AERF field team discussed protection of large specimen of Terminalia bellirica.

This tree has a GBH ( girth at breast height) of 5.2 meters and its height is 22 meters. It needs to clarified that by putting in place a mechanism for conservation of such giant trees, we are avoiding the natural history and cultural practices associated with such trees being wiped out. This is in addition to the ecosystem services offered by such trees for example offering habitats to many number of birds, bee hives and canopy dependent mammals such as monkeys. We are happy to report that the local community members have shown interest in participating in protection of this large tree and area around it. AERF team is in process of documenting the natural history of this tree in consultation with loca knowledge holders.

Just a small addition, all these trees that we are now protecting have been mapped and tagged with GPS in the previous quarters.

We all know by now that conservation of each giant tree comes up with a new challenge and it reminds us about the value of patience and slow but steady progress.. Thus we need to devise different mechanisms and ensure that our communication about the goal is very clear across board for making it happen on the ground.

In the next quarter we will be reporting on how we are using insurance scheme for immovable properties for avoiding felling of giant trees. So please stay tuned!

We are nearing thanks giving week in the USA and thus it is our duty to express gratitude towards nature for its untiring yomen service to human beings.

We should always remember that healthy environment is critical for ensuring better quality of our life.

Best regards

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Protection of giant trees in Village Sangave-2
Protection of giant trees in Village Sangave-2
Protection of giant trees in Village Sangave-3
Protection of giant trees in Village Sangave-3
Kalambaste giant-01
Kalambaste giant-01
Kalambaste giant-02
Kalambaste giant-02
Tree insurance-01
Tree insurance-01

Greetings!

In the last quarter, the AERF field team chartered into an unknown territory for saving giant trees- insurance.

Our experience and interactions with local communities have made one thing clear- a very convincing arugment behind felling a giant tree is that it will cause serious damage to the owner's property and potential harm to his life.

The fact that such incidences are very uncommon is often overlooked. In order to deal with this formidable challenge, AERF team discussed the idea of insuring the house of the giant tree owner against damage to his property from the tree. This was additional support offered by us in addition to the incentive for his decision to keep the tree standing. That seem to have worked wonders!

The owner didn't anticipate that we would go that far to save a tree . It all happened in village Vanzole in Sangameshwar block in Ratnagiri district where a marginal farmer and a giant tree owner- was all set to chop down his tree for it would cause damage to his house and harm to his family.

AERF team has thus not only saved a giant tree of Terminalia bellirica but also pilot tested the use market based mechanism- insurance for biodiversity conservation through this initiative. This could be first of its kind of an effort where an insurance scheme is directly contributing to conservation. This approach needs to be further explored and more evidence needs to be created for its promotion on larger scale. 

In addition, a group of students from Earth Expeditions India program of Miami University, Ohio visited the Key biodiversity Area from village Kirbet in Sangameshwar block to see a population of giant trees currently being saved through GlobalGiving project. Some 6 participants of Earth Expedition India program 2016 have supported the Giant tree campaign. Thus it was reassuring for the Earth Expedition students and instructors to see the work that is being done to save the giant trees on the ground in the Northern Western Ghats.

While we are making slow but steady progress on the ground for saving the giant trees, we would truly appreciate your further support to this high impact initiative. As the initial enthusiam in the campaign in terms of support wears out, we want you to make your commitment stronger.

Best regards

Jayant Sarnaik

Tree insurance-02
Tree insurance-02
Incentive distribution-Giant tree
Incentive distribution-Giant tree
Earth Expedition visit-01
Earth Expedition visit-01
Earth Expedition visit-02
Earth Expedition visit-02

AERF team carried out community surveys and habitat study of 50 giant trees from Sangameshwar block in Ratnagiri district in Northern Western Ghats. The study clearly shows the immense ecological value of the big trees. As many as 82 different bird species were documented that are using these trees as habitat, 20 species of butterflies were also documented.

Some of the trees documented were as old as 300 years! The social surveys revealed that quite few owners were understanding the importance of these giant trees while some of those are bit uncertain and were thinking of selling the trees. Through rewards and incentives the project will be able to deal with those confusions and misunderstandings effectively.

In the next quarter we will approach the community representatives and individual owners for felicitating them for keeping those trees standing over generations. Your small support will prove yet again vital to keep those giants standing for ever. Thus do consider supporting this campaign as we have a target of saving 1000 trees.

Last but most important, 3 of our individual donors - Mr.Shyam Kane, Mr. Eduard Niesten and Ms. Ann Armbrecht all of them from USA visited our project region and actually saw the Giants and understood first why we need to preserve them.


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Organization Information

Applied Environmental Research Foundation(AERF)

Location: Pune - India
Project Leader:
Jayant Sarnaik
Pune, Maharashtra India
$9,133 raised of $50,000 goal
 
110 donations
$40,867 to go
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