Pecteilis gigantea, the butterfly orchid

Countless insect species display an amazing variety of colors and patterns.

Malabar Pit-Viper, Trimeresurus malabaricus, a Western Ghats endemic.

Ashy Drongo, Dicrurus leucophaeus.

A lizard of the genus Calotes.

Philautus luteolus - a new frog to science, first described in 2009.

The ecosystem at the Rainforest Retreat , nestled in between the villages of Galibeedu and Kaloor, is best described as low altitude ‘Shola’ forest. Sholas are tropical montane evergreen forests nestled in the folds and valleys of mountains covered with grasslands (typically above 1700m). These shola-grassland eco-systems are unique to the Western Ghats of India and harbor a great diversity of flora and fauna not found elsewhere. Their importance and uniqueness is now recognized by ecologists.

Turdoides subrufus, the Rufous Babbler - endemic to the Western Ghats.

The grasslands act as a sponge absorb the monsoon rains and release it slowly thereby recharging the groundwater. Here one can see an abundance of evergreen and semi-evergreen rainforest trees, ferns, shrubs (many which have medicinal properties) and over 40 species of endemic wild orchids. At 1100m altitude, we received 3500-5000 mm rain annually (mostly between June and September).

Re-discovered in 2000 afer over 100 years, a healthy population of Rhacophorus lateralis breeds on the Mojo Plantation property.

The annual rains coax an incredible array of amphibian and reptile life out into the open. Our plantation harbors healthy breeding populations of many endangered frogs, including the Malabar Gliding Tree-frog, Rhacophorus malabaricus, and its cousin, R. lateralis. An endangered species, lateralis was just rediscovered in 2000, after a gap of over 100 years of presumed-extinction.

Malabar Gliding Tree-frogs during their yearly mating rituals.

Most of the large animals have been eliminated due to excessive hunting and other human disturbance but this area has a very rich ‘small animal’ diversity. Among the animals occasionally spotted here are wild boar, jackal, civet cats, squirrel (including Malabar Giant), mongoose, porcupine, slender loris, and from time-to-time, a barking deer. More common are many species of snakes (rat snake, vine snake, wolf snake, cat snake, Malabar pit viper, water snake, and even a king cobra sighting) and lizards, scorpions, and many rare amphibians such as cecelians and tree frogs (including the Malabar gliding frog). We have an incredible diversity of birds (see list) and some of India’s most beautiful butterflies and moths (including the Luna moth and Atlas moth- largest in the world). There is also an incredible range of spiders and insects (dragonflies, beetles, wasps, and fireflies), many of which are yet to be identified.

 

 

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A giant leaf-insect of the genus Phyllium.

Ahaetulla, a green vine snake.

A stinkhorn mushroom of the family Phallaceae.

A ground-orchid.

Ichthyophis beddomii, a caecilian - limbless amphibian.